Compensation FAQ

5 minutes, 6 links


Updated August 25, 2022
Land Your Dream Design Job

You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

What Do I Say when I Get a Call Congratulating Me?

Stay positive and convey your excitement for the role. The next step is to get the offer in writing so you can pore over it in detail. The employer wouldn’t expect you to commit on the spot, and it’s reasonable to ask for time to think things over.

I’m Not Sure if I Want to Work Here…

If you’re still on the fence about taking the job, get answers to your questions first by interviewing your future teammates. As part of your interviewing, you can also ask about job expectations and career ladders. What does success look like? Who is a good example of a strong designer there? Return here when you’re mostly certain.

I’m Lucky to Even Get This Job—Should I Negotiate?

Yes! It pays to ask.

important According to Comparably, only 52% of all designers negotiated their salary. Not negotiating is a guarantee that you won’t get more. Studies also show that women also take the first offer at face value whereas men see it as negotiable. At least starting the conversation opens up the chance that you’ll get a bump, and you won’t regret leaving money on the table. Your subsequent promotions and raises will be in part based on that number. There’s no shame in asking and no shame in later accepting the original offer.

How Do I Get More?

Aside from polishing your skills, the next step is to collect data to understand the market rate for designers. The goal isn’t to squeeze every penny out of the company. Rather, you want to make sure there’s a good match between your level of skill and the money that you’re getting. You don’t want to end up in a place where you drive a hard bargain, get the money, end up not performing, and get let go as a result.

How Do I Find Out How Other Designers Are Compensated?

The best resource is real compensation from other designers. Ask your friends or even friends of friends to get a rough estimate. Hired’s Salary Calculator and W2 filings are also good resources for actual salary data. If you’re going the startup route, take a look at AngelList, as jobs come with transparent equity and salary ranges. is a good resource, as it has a granular side-by-side comparison of salaries across (mainly large) tech companies. Similar to Hired, Levels is starting to verify salaries through official documents. It also graphs ranges for tech salaries based on level, helping you better understand how different companies do compensation. Less reliable info comes from self-reported salaries on sites such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn Salary, and Comparably. Your best bet is to look at aggregate salary per level.

Snapshot of Your Written Offer

Your compensation package will consist of multiple levers you can pull:

  • Compensation. Combination of cash, equity, and sometimes a starting bonus with a promise of a performance bonus.

  • Title. A series of levels that determine your salary range.

  • Benefits. Medical and voluntary insurance. This is a major perk that can help you save major money compared to buying it yourself.

  • Vacation. Some companies offer unlimited time off, others allow you to sell your time off, and some tie vacation to employee band.

  • Perks. These can be some nice-to-have extras, such as free lunch at the office, flex work, learning budgets, and so on.

If you have multiple offers, it helps to do a summary of all the financial benefits that you get in order to do a side-by-side comparison.

Remember though, the most important things (for example, industry experience or access to expertise from mentors) won’t be stated in your offer and are hard to quantify. These are personal, so be sure to take stock of intangible benefits that are valuable to you. Small things like a culture of remote work or a flexible working-hour policy add up quickly.

That’s why when you’re looking for work, it helps to start with the end in mind. Have a north star for the next step in your career—it aids you in narrowing down options and making tough calls based on factors critical for you while not getting distracted by shiny but meaningless add-ons.

The Compensation Package Breakdown

When you receive your compensation package, you’ll be leveled at a band, which comes with a range; for example, associate product designer makes $100K–$110K base salary compared to a product designer who might make $110K–$125K. In general, the company that you’re considering should have an objective standard for determining salary ranges, and you can always ask how they’ve arrived at their decision.

Years of design work serves as a rule of thumb when it comes to compensation, but years of experience doesn’t always equate to expertise. Ability to ship products that led to phenomenal outcomes does. Prove that you can perform at a certain band and have deep expertise that the company doesn’t have—you’ll get compensated appropriately.

Base Salary

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