3 Key Factors That Determine Your Worth When Negotiating Salary

In light of the raging discussion around salaries and exploitation, let me share insights on how you can know/measure your worth, in order for you to negotiate better next time.

Your worth is largely determined by 3 factors:

  1. Experience
  2. Networks/Clout
  3. Qualifications/Innovation

It is hard, but not impossible to have all of these 3 factors in play – but it takes work. Lots.

1. Let’s start with EXPERIENCE:

This is a question of what do you know? How long have you done this work? The longer you have stayed perfecting a particular craft, the stronger your negotiating position will be.

You know what works or doesn’t, and bring this to the table. Employers usually know that at entry-level, most people don’t have enough know-how under their belt so they take advantage of that.

But it’s not enough to amass years of experience if there is no demonstrable record of achievement and excellence to back it. Do you track your numbers? Can you show what you did with your previous role? For example “I took over this account with 1 client and after 8 months we’d signed up 3 more.”

You could also show experience through your ability to lead – teams and initiatives. Someone who can explain that they have lead a campaign or team and show what successes were registered might get ahead of one who simply says “I’ve been doing this for 10 years.”


This is a question of who do you know? Business/work isn’t simply about your ability to write a great concept, copy or analysis. It also involves lots of sideshows like schmoozing and building and using social capital, name/brand recognition, etc. People who know people with money can sell bullshit ideas while those with great ideas but no social capital will continue walking the streets.

If you were a law/audit/etc firm and had the choice between hiring a brilliant graduate with no connects, or an average one, whose father is the Chief Justice or the Kabaka. Who would it be? And if you were the average guy with filial connects, how would you negotiate?

It’s the same reason Mzungus earn more. First of all, the organization is funded by taxes paid by their countrymen, who don’t trust you to do a good job of managing it. But also they have the ability to raise more -which you don’t – because of this racial thing. We trust who we’re like.

A guy with 50,000 followers or one who knows that they are a respected voice (thought leader) in the industry negotiates different from someone with 3000 followers or one whose opinions on a subject don’t count for much. The two don’t bring the same networks and clout to the organization.


These might be real or implied. Some are academic–degrees & certifications – while others are career based –fellowships/association with top brands. People aren’t getting into Masters Programmes in Ivy League universities or into Fellowships for nothing.

The higher and more prestigious, the smaller the pool of competitors, and therefore the stronger your negotiating power gets. Someone who has worked for top 2 or 3 players in a sector, even with dodgy quality of their work will still likely negotiate for more-associated confidence.

Lastly: Never, ever go into an interview/negotiation without a number in mind. In fact, two numbers – your wish and your baseline. Ask friends and your networks who have done similar work for rates and use that to determine what to ask for. 

Remember that your employer/contractor is looking to give you as little as possible. Not knowing your worth makes their job easier.

But also remember that with work and pay, things aren’t always black and white; and employers don’t think like employees.

Happy negotiating!


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Written by Benjamin Rukwengye (1)

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