Money Talks


Negotiating is scary. Unsuccessfully negotiating compensation literally affects your entire lifetime salary, as it sets a baseline for every negotiation in the future. The difference between starting at 45k vs 55k is a million dollars over a lifetime! I failed miserably in my first salary negotiation, it was so bad that I actually suggested a lower salary. But now, with some experience in the practice, let’s step back and consider the process.


You’ve successfully interviewed at a firm and they made you an offer (congrats!)

Now it’s time to talk money. As hard as it was for you to get that job offer, it’s even harder for a firm to extend the offer. They’ve received hundreds of portfolios and after an extensive interview process, and they chose to work with you. Hopefully this is where the realization sets in, you’ve become a coveted asset.

First of all, do not try to negotiate salary via email. Negotiations are conversations that must be had verbally. At the end of this post are a few sample emails to initiate the conversation. Pro tip: you’ll likely be having the conversation over the phone, so keep this post open in the background while you talk.

Step 1: Give praise, appreciation, and interest

Reference your interview / conversation and thank them for the opportunity to join the firm. Mention something interesting that you discussed in the interview. Research a project on the firm’s website that could add to the conversation. Also be genuine and thank them for considering you; it’s hard and complicated to add another employee and you should be excited for the chance to work there.

Step 2. It’s all about you

Reinforce your skill-set and how it will help the firm immediately, AND in the future. Reiterate why they are hiring you and how you will contribute right away. Discuss your goals and how they align with what the firm needs in the future.

Step 3. Be a little coy

Tell the firm that you are speaking with other offices, but prefer the opportunity to work with them. Even if you’ve only sent a few emails back and forth that still counts as you talking to other firms. Use that as leverage to suggest this firm is not the only one looking for your talent. Flattery helps — by suggesting you’ve picked them over others, you’ve endeared yourself to them.

Step 4. Aim high

Don’t be afraid to ask for a seemingly large salary. Once the offer has been made, the firm wants to hire you. It takes so much effort and internal agreement for a firm to issue a job offer, that rescinding the offer is pretty much unheard of. No matter what you counter with, the worst they can say is no and not “oh that’s how much you want, never mind we don’t want you anymore.” Be bold and be assertive! For example if offered 50k; asked for 70k! You may ultimately be offered something in the low 60s. We know colleagues who’ve successfully negotiated similar figures.

Sample Emails

NY mid-size firm

Thank you very much for your offer at [redacted]. It was great talking last Friday – our conversation made me excited at the potential of joining your firm. I think my experience doing project management and serving as a competition lead gives me several ideas for how I can help the firm improve project delivery. I have received interest in a few other offices but again I prefer your firm’s design projects and I feel like we’re great fit. Because the firm is looking for with my particular skill sets, I’d be interested in negotiating an offer closer to the other offers I have received. Please call me when you have a chance to discuss.

The firm offered $5k more.

To an LA boutique firm

I first wanted to thank you for the offer. I believe I would be a good fit at your firm and I really admire both the work and office culture you have developed. Although I have been speaking to other offices—I feel a strong connection to your practice and in particular the emphasis on design and quality work. Based on my skill set and experience, I would love the chance to discuss the offer letter at your earliest convenience.

The firm offered $4k more in the next email, she ultimately negotiated 8k more from the initial offer.

An earlier version of this post was originally posted on reddit. See the full conversation stream here. I’m always up for helping young architects negotiate.

Reach out to me on twitter @moeamaya

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