Two Salary Secrets for Flexible Job Applicants

You already understand the time and flexibility appeal of a part-time or telecommuting job. But pay is important, too, right?

Here’s what you need to know to get both flexibility and a fair—or even fabulous—salary.

Salary Secret #1: Negotiate Salary Based on the Job Requirements, Not the Flexibility Factor

Job flexibility is not a substitute for a fair wage, even though you put high value on it.

Once you have a firm job offer, negotiate your starting salary recognizing that, while flexibility is a desirable part of the job, it’s not a replacement for a fair wage.

Otherwise, if you’re not careful, you could fall into the trap that trades money for flex and time freedom.

The trap sounds like this:

  • “The pay is lower than average, but I get to work from home two days a week.”
  • “I’m not sure what the going rate is for the position, but the hours are great.”
  • “When I worked full-time at a similar job, the hourly pay was 12% higher. But I’m okay with less because it’s a part-time position. Working three days a week is a gift.”

Sound familiar? You have plenty of company. In one survey, close to half of employees said they would be willing to give up some salary for more flexibility at work.

But don’t do it.

No matter your schedule or where you get the work done, the value you bring to your job should be rewarded in wages which reflect the fair “market value” for the position.

Let me explain.

If you have a used car to sell, the Kelley Blue Book is the familiar third-party resource that both buyer and seller use to determine the car’s fair market value. The dollar range is based on the car’s year, make, model, condition and even geographic location. It’s not an arbitrary figure; there’s market demand to support it.

Likewise, the job position you’re applying for (or currently in) also has a market value, a salary range based on demand, job requirements, training, experience and geographic area.

Your particular background and achievements influence where your market value stands within that range. Which brings us to the second salary secret.

Salary Secret #2: Know and Use the Job Position’s Market Value Range When Negotiating Your Salary

Determining it is one of your critical job interview research tasks. You’ll use it when engaging in salary negotiations.

The market value serves as a starting point or an anchor for negotiating your total pay package.

That pay package may include some attractive employee benefits. Knowing your market value range allows you to be flexible in negotiating to a final salary figure—giving due consideration to employee benefits—without dropping below the bottom of the range. In other words, you can compromise to a degree without conceding too much.

If you don’t know your market value, you have virtually no basis from which to negotiate because the anchor point is missing.

Why is this so important, especially for women?

Women are not socialized to negotiate and are quicker than men to accept the first figure offered without negotiating it to reflect market value. This behavior is explored fully in the book, Women Don’t Ask (affiliate link).

When a starting salary offer is made within the market value range, women have been shown to concede a final figure too early even when their experience would warrant the higher end of the range. This costs them thousands of dollars and impacts their earning power for decades!

Hiring managers of both genders know this about women and it’s not unusual for them to extend offers below or at the low end of the market value range. Ouch!

The remedy? Researchers have found that women can improve their negotiation results substantially when they use third-party market information to set their goals.

That’s why it’s important to know your market value numbers before negotiating! Then use the information during your salary negotiation.

How to Estimate the Market Value Range of a Job

To get the figures you need, I recommend you use the following:

The Salary Wizard found at and other helpful tools found at PayScale, and Glassdoor.

Market value information that might be provided by your professional association. Inquire of the local, regional and national offices for any salary data they have.

The salary figures you find generally reflect a full-time position as an employee, with benefits.

So if, for example, you’re applying for a part-time position of 24 hours a week, first figure the pro-rated 60% amount, or the corresponding hourly rate of the full-time salary, and negotiate from that anchor point.

(Note: A  different set of negotiation guidelines apply if you’re a freelancer, contractor, or part-time employee with no or few benefits.)

Flexibility is Not a Perk; It’s a Business Strategy

We are past the days of flexible work arrangements being considered an accommodation or  “perk” for parents. They appeal to all types of people, and savvy employers recognize workplace flexibility as a smart business strategy driving employee recruitment, retention, engagement, productivity and even health improvements.

Remember that when negotiating your salary at a flexible job. Focus on the market value of the job position and the merits you bring to it. With that combination, you can have flexibility and a fair wage.

This article was originally published as a guest post on

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