A while back the twitter hashtag #talkpay went for a viral spin and people were encouraged to post their job titles and salary in an attempt to showcase pay inequality. And more than enough people were more than happy to post theirs up and it got people talking. Companies like Buffer joined the cause and posted all of their employees salaries and they even shared the formula that they use to determine those salaries. And to be honest, it all seemed incredibly fair. You had people with the exact same titles who had tens of thousands of dollars separating them, but then you looked at the formula, and it just made sense.
I wish more companies used Buffer's formula, or some formula, any formula really. For the most part when I get a job as a web developer, I'm really just shooting darts in the dark when it comes to picking a salary. It's either too high for that particular type of company, or so low that I get the job on the spot. Or I fall somewhere in between, in which it takes another 3 weeks of negotiations while they interview other potentially "cheaper" candidates. So let's talk about how much I've made in my relatively short career. Because why not.
How Much Do I Make?
1st Job (Noob)
When I first started working as a programmer, fresh out of college with absolutely no previous job experience, my salary was about 42k as a Windows app developer. Which to me was just fine, as I had little idea what I was doing for a while. I was at that company for a couple of years, and ended my salary in the 45k range with title of Web Developer. I was fine making what I made and if the company wanted to recognize my hard work and bump me up than they were certainly for than free too.
And if they didn't then obviously I'm free to go somewhere else. Which I did.
2nd Job (2 years experience)
At this point in my career I had worked on some pretty complex business applications and a few high traffic websites. I had left my last job with a salary of 45k and was asking for something in the 50's. Which was doable I thought. But in the end that was a fail. I took a job for the exact same amount that I was making at my previous job. It was my fault, as my negotiating skills were non existent. But the casual work environment and name your own hours scheduling made it a desirable job. After 4 years at this company my salary was around the 55k mark, which was below the median average for a web developer with that many years experience. But again, this was a very large company with hundreds of developers and hundreds of websites. Developers were a dime a dozen here and everyone pretty much made around the same.
After about 5 new managers and no raise in site, it was time to make that move again.
3rd Job (7 years experience)
By the time I got to this job I had already made a few dozen websites that I own and operate now and had worked on even more high traffic sites. I knew what I was doing pretty much. My salary requirements were still on the low side however. Mainly because I had heard that it was a good company to work for and there were a few other candidates that were fighting for the position, and I don't really do this for the money. I took this job for about 70k yearly, which was way lower than what the guys with 30 years of experience were asking. I know, as I sat and chatted with them while we waited for our interviews.
There's definitely a ladder to climb to make a high salary in web development. I've never been in a hurry to get to the top as I find the work more entertaining than anything else. But obviously there needs to be a fair element to whole process. If you're the sole developer of a million dollar a year website, and you're making 35k a year, then there's a problem.
You can earn much more, and you can earn much less. I've worked with people that have made much more doing much less. But so far in my career I've gotten paid what I've wanted to get paid. I can take a job for 90-100k for a banking firm or a law office, but I wouldn't be happy working in those environments. I interviewed for a law firm once, and if I had gotten the job, I would of quit. I enjoy working on websites that reach people and I enjoy working in casual environments with like minded developers.
In the end, it really does come down to your expertise and how much you're willing to charge for it. You can be an amazing developer and spend your time working for non-profit organizations for a fraction of what you would make somewhere where you would hate every day of your life.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.
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