The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 49 – Salary & Fee Negotation with Jim Hopkinson

The Busy Creator 49, Salary & Fee Negotiation w/guest Jim Hopkinson

Jim Hopkinson (@HopkinsonReport) is the author of the book Salary Tutor: Learn The Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You. His website,, offers free resources and online salary negotiation courses to help creative professionals, students, and freelancers increase their confidence, develop a negotiation mindset, and get paid what they’re worth through effective negotiation.

This conversation discusses how creatives can use their natural abilities to get the job, how to negotiate for a top salary or raise, and how freelancers can approach fee negotiations for project-based work.

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Show Notes & Links

  • Jim Hopkinson, The Salary Tutor

  • Salary Tutor: Learn the Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You by Jim Hopkinson On Amazon and On Audible
  • FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt)
  • A previous blog post about The Humble Coloured Folder
  • Jim’s first few negotiations were on the employee side, but while working at a small startup, he had the opportunity to act as the HR side, which gave him both perspectives
  • Jim worked at ESPN and Wired
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss On Amazon and On Audible
  • Jim wrote The Hopkinson Report blog and hosted a podcast for five years (iTunes link)
  • 10,000 hours
  • Creatives don’t necessarily approach negotiation from a different perspective
  • Creatives have advantages built in: standing out through design

“Everyone has the same boring Microsoft Word resume template; designers have an opportunity to stand out visually” –Jim Hopkinson ← Click to Tweet

  • Having “something to show” is a strong negotiation or job-hunting tactic
  • Put your research into a well-designed graphic layout, don’t just do the research or memorize the figures

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” ← Click to Tweet

“If you want to be, do.” ← Click to Tweet

  • On getting a raise for a current job, “it’s about proving your worth”
  • A montage showing “war”
  • Creatives should find the analytics; other folks should make it visual
  • A portfolio example might show adding a Facebook widget to a website, then detailing the before-and-after statistical impact on traffic and revenue
  • Top Performers can earn more than regular employees
  • Verbal hacks: “how can we …”, “let’s look at this together”, “compensation” (instead of fee)
  • Vanessa Van Edwards, body language expert
  • Your benefits can be worth up to 1.4x your base salary (article source)
  • Use an appropriate response for different scenarios (non-profit, new job, big company, etc.)
  • There’s now a culture of “Double your rate!

“It’s not coming up with a specific number, it’s coming up with a framework for how you work with clients.” —Jim Hopkinson ← Click to Tweet



  • Create a website if only to take over your Google search results
  • Use your creative and design skills to make your resume/case studies/portfolio look like a sharp project
  • Work on your mindset before you even attempt to negotiate
  • Use a Past/Present/Future model to address your value for a current job
  • Use goal-setting as part of an overall negotiation
  • Continually gather praise, evidence, portfolio samples
  • Demonstrate that you’re already doing the role of someone higher
  • Make a pie chart or visual reference, especially for a before-and-after
  • Grab newspaper headlines to illustrate the landscape of your industry
  • Bring your design work back to the bottom line. Show that your work has context, not just the work itself.
  • Get the timing right — both during the week, and during the calendar year (know your company’s budget cycle and overall financial health)
  • Do not reveal your past salary!!
  • Never lie!!! (It’ll come back to haunt you)
  • Try hourly billing for new projects or loosely-defined scope
  • For a new client, start hourly and give them a “homework assignment” such as gathering logos, copy, etc.


  • Continually gather evidence of your work; numbers are best, anecdotes are useful as well.
  • Always observe the market and know what your industry is doing

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Jim Hopkinson

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About Prescott Perez-Fox

Prescott Perez-Fox is a New York-based graphic designer and brand developer with 15+ years experience in branding, packaging, graphic design, and web design. He runs The Busy Creator.
  • filmlifestyle

    Great information. It’s brilliant to find another blog that helps creatives.