Episode 279 — Your Next Pay Rise


Episode 279 — Your Next Pay Rise

A lot of us have this myth in our head that if we work hard and stay out of trouble, good things will come our way. That is a mistake. The truth is that it doesn’t work that way. Nobody is paying attention. The other part of it is that we typically wait for our annual review.  

Most people if they don’t get what they want, they build a strategy: To get their reel around and get a better offer, then go back to their current boss with that offer. The reason this doesn’t work is because if the employer gives you that money, they’re rewarding you for blackmailing them.

In this Podcast, Allan McKay shares some strategies that guarantee a pay rise without any risk, including how to make yourself irreplaceable and when the right time is to ask for a promotion.



[01:55] The Most Common Mistakes When Negotiating a Pay Rise

[06:32] “Your Next Pay Rise” Strategy by Allan

[12:37] Allan Breaks Down Your Strategy

[23:52] The Importance of Timing

[31:00] Conclusion



Hello, everyone! 

This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 279! Let’s talk about your next pay rise! You want more money — let’s build a strategy around that! It’s about building a strategy and doing it right. 

This is the last Episode of 2020. What a year it’s been! Hopefully, this is a chance for us to set new goals, including getting a pay rise.

Let’s dive in!



[32:48] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!



[01:55] I want to talk about pay rises. A huge mistake that a lot of us make is that we have this myth in our head that if we work hard and stay out of trouble, good things will come our way. The truth is that it doesn’t work that way. Nobody is paying attention. The world doesn’t revolve around you. If you put yourself in the shoes of the manager, he / she is busy managing multiple people and not waking up thinking, “How can I make someone’s life better?” We aren’t working around thinking about whom we could give more money to. Typically, our metric is that everything is running okay, or if there is a fire, do we need to put out? Those are the things we need to realize and if you’re doing your job, managers just assume everything is running smoothly. On top of that, a lot of us need to realize that when we get overlooked for a promotion, we aren’t communicating our needs, wants or wins either! No one is psychic and no one can read our minds.  

[03:29] The other part of it though is that we typically wait for our annual review. With reviews, it’s not about what you’re doing right but what you need to get better at doing. And typically, reviews are done in groups, at the end of the fiscal year. It isn’t just you, but a lot of other people who are getting those wins. And if everyone is asking for pay rises, it’s a huge amount of money. The managers will want to give the least amount of money because we’re reviewing multiple people. 

[04:43] But it can be different if you approach it differently. Unfortunately, most people don’t do that. Most people if they don’t get what they want, they build a strategy to get what they want: To get their reel around to get a better offer, then go back to their current boss with that offer. The reason this doesn’t work is because if we give you that money, we’re rewarding you for blackmailing us. If we were to give you that money, you’d do the same thing when you wanted the next pay rise: Give me money — or I quit! It’s a pretty concrete policy for me that I will always say no. Inevitably, that person will quit. As a manager, you’re put into that situation where you’re forced to let them go or have them leave. And it’s a shame because you don’t want them to leave. It also costs a lot of time and money to hire and train someone new. But your hand is forced in that situation.



[06:32] So I came up with a strategy years ago that has worked really effectively. I gave it a name: Your Next Pay Rise. There are some strategies that guarantee a pay rise without any risk. This one came out of a necessity. I have a friend of mine who was cutting a new reel because he wanted a pay rise. He did this throughout his 20s and it never worked. But then in his 30s, he had a family and a home which meant gambling with your finances. And the thing is that he really loved where he worked. I had to sit down and have a big talk with him. And this was from my perspective of having to let people go, [as a manager]. Since I gave him my advice, he used it and it worked. Eventually, he left for another company but it worked there as well. This advice also worked for those friends of mine that wanted a growth in their careers, not just pay rises. They wanted to move up to a higher position or to a different department. I’ve also mentioned this in a closed Career Intensive I did with my Mentorship students. As a result, one of my students managed to have 4 pay rises in one year! Another student negotiated a pay rise in his first job interview. I want to break down the psychology of how and why this works.

[09:20] The recipe is simple: 

[09:24] The Number One critical thing is to figure out: What do you want? Where do you want to be? Hopefully, if you’ve been listening to his Podcast, you’re aware of what your Someday Goal (aka your vector) is: www.allanmckay.com/108. But you also need to know what the next step is for you to get there. If you’re a Senior Artist, you want to become a Lead and eventually a Supervisor, then move into being a Director. It’s really important to know what your next step is and where you’re eventually headed, so that everything you’re doing is pointing in that direction.

[10:12] The Second Thing is timing. Timing is everything. You don’t go in and ask for a promotion, if you’re sucking at your job. What have your recent wins been? If you haven’t gotten any, it’s naive to think you deserve a pay rise. If you think this won’t work for you, it means you haven’t been applying yourself and kicking butt. If that’s the case, then looking and applying this method, it will help you align where you need to be.

[11:25] Another Thing is: Do your homework. What is that you want to do and what have you done? If you have a list of all the fires you’ve put out, all the projects you’ve done, you can use those to backup all the wins you’ve been having so far. Like I said, you want the timing to be impeccable. I wouldn’t be doing this after a project but during doing something big, when you know all eyes are on you. That’s the time to do it!

[12:17] So, 

  • One: What do you want?
  • Two: Pick the right time for this.
  • Three: Set the conversation.
  • Four: Do your homework.
  • Five: Convey your wins.
  • Six: Use the r-word (I’ll collaborate on that in a moment.)
  • Seven: Propose the primary goal.
  • Eight: Propose the secondary option. 



[12:37] To get more into this: As I mentioned, it is clear to have defined goals. It’s critical to know what your next big step is. If you aren’t there yet, you can’t say, “I’m a mid-level artist and I want to be a Supervisor.” [Your employer] will push back on that. But you can say that you want to move to become a Senior Artist: attend meetings, have more responsibilities, help the rest of the team, etc. As I said, with Point Two, timing is really important! You don’t want to wait for your annual review where your wins have lost their appreciation. So doing this while you’re delivering a high stakes, high stress project is the perfect time that you’ve created for yourself. That momentum is really important.

[13:45] Three is setting the conversation. Timing is important but it’s also important to approach your boss and say, “Do you have a few minutes later today?” That plants the seed in their mind, “Oh, crap! What does he / she want to talk about?” You are also setting a time constraint, so they will always have a few minutes for you. But the key thing is you don’t want to do this over email or in a hallway. If they say they can talk right then, ask to go talk to a private area. You don’t do this in a casual setting where the manager can escape. Everytime, when you finally do chat, you will most likely hear your boss say, “Oh, man! I thought you were going to quit!” That is the important thing that they go from reflecting on how valuable you are — to sitting down. They’ve had the time to reflect and get nervous about losing you.

[15:23] When you do have the chance to sit down with them and recap everything you’ve accomplished, you’ve made the long laundry list of your wins and all the disasters you’ve avoided. All the bullet points you can list, find them. If you can’t list any wins right now, that means you may not be ready yet. You can’t command a higher pay rise if you haven’t positioned yourself in that place. And all it takes is about 3 months of wins. They will feel it and will want to encourage that.

[16:35] With conveying your wins, now is the time to educate them. Maybe they aren’t the ones that have seen your wins. It’s also important to communicate in terms of benefits: “I learned animation.” “I learned Maya.” You’re mentioning things you’ve done but not the benefits which is more of a sales approach. That’s important. “I’ve saved us three weeks of work by creating a tool that helped our junior artists to be able to work on these shots, which saved in cost.” Or whatever that may be. The more they can see how you’ve benefited them directly, rather than you throwing jargon at them.

[18:34] Step six is: Use the r-word. It sounds a bit illusive. This is all about Relationships. When you mention that you want to have a stronger relationship with someone, there is a twinkle in that person’s eyes. You’ve educated them on everything you’ve done and given them the moment to reflect before you have a chance to sit down with them. You aren’t going to throw that in their face and make demands. Instead, you’re going to make a proposal that lines up with their wants and benefits the entire studio. By conveying that you love to work with them, they get to see the long term potentia; that you want more responsibility and that you want a stronger relationship with them and the company. If you’ve done that right, it’s the exact opposite of what they’re expecting (“Oh, man! I thought you were going to quit.”) 

[19:41] Instead, you’re saying, “I’ve really loved working here. I’ve done this and this. Recently, I’ve been working really hard and applying myself, focusing on how I could be more beneficial for the team. I have bigger goals where I’d like to be. For me to do that, I’d like to know how I can be more beneficial for the team and the company. I’d like to build a stronger relationship with the company.” I just made this up on a whim right now. It is what anyone would want to hear! Not only is it you taking an initiative, it’s a win-win. If you’ve designed tools that skip the manual step, it’s going to save the company hours per week. That makes you more valuable. The more you can convey that and raise your hand to help, the more you stand out.

[22:05] All of that has built up to: What is it that you want? You’re in your peak moment. You have their undivided attention, so they’re waiting for your proposal. Instead of making it all about you, you’re making it about how to benefit them. That’s where it goes back to Step One: What do you want? You can’t be unrealistic about what you’re asking for. If you’re asking for your own space or a $20K rise, the whole thing may fizzle away. If you’re just asking for more money, it aligns with your needs, not theirs. But if you were to say, “I’d like to move to a Lead position, so I can eventually move into a leadership role”, they can understand that and it benefits both parties. Both parties have to agree on that right then. 



[23:52] The other thing you need to say is not only what you want — but when you need it to happen. Timing is so critical! It’s not just about what you want, but the timeline in which you want it. If you aren’t conveying when this will happen, the manager will say yes and then forget about it. This is why it’s important to set time constraints. You can always say it this way, “I’d like to do / have all this — do you think it’s fair?” That’s a psychological thing because people will say yes (unless it is completely unfair). Of course, it’s fair! Why wouldn’t it be? You’ve made it about them and haven’t asked for anything extraordinary. That’s when you can propose: “By this time next month, I’d like to work on these things. I’d like to make it by this day. How about this date?” You’re then setting an actionable date by which they’ll have to follow through. 

[25:29] If they say yes — great! If they say no, you don’t want to leave without getting something that’s going to lead to the next thing. That’s where you can state your secondary goal. You can then state a counter process that they cannot say no to. “I want to supervise a project and if that’s not possible, would you consider allowing me to shadow a Supervisor? Or for me to sit in on the meetings?” You’re putting it out that you’d rather assist a Supervisor. That means they’d be training you and you’re creating a timeline. If money is a thing, you’re not going to move a Supervisor position without a rise. And if you do stay with the same money, you can still negotiate again: “Do you think it’s fair that if I hit these goals in the next 3 months, I can get the financial compensation as well?” At that point, if you’re doing well, they can’t say no. 

[28:30] The key thing is that you’re setting goals. You’ve already set the bigger goal and the timeline. It’s not that unrealistic when it comes to the secondary goal. It’s like when you go to buy a car and they tell you, “Normally, this car is $50K but today, I will give it to you for $17K.” Before, $17K may have been out of your range but suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad. That’s called price anchoring. Some people overuse that. It’s still very effective, unless people use it the wrong way. When we talk about salary, you’re talking about the secondary option that eventually leads to your initial proposal. 

[30:23] Because if you’re just waiting for your annual review, you’re leaving it up to them to decide what you’re worth. Here you’re able to convey your worth and you’re doing it at that moment when you’re delivering — so they see your value and the benefit of keeping you. You’re choosing to be proactive.



[31:00] I always say, “You’ve got to be in it — to win it!” This is where you apply that. You aren’t going to get these wins unless you’re communicating them. You want to invest more in them. I used to call this “the rubber band technique”. You don’t repel, you say, “I want a stronger relationship with the company.” That’s the opposite of what they’re expecting. You are stating that you want to be of more value and you’re heading on a trajectory. And the best thing is that no one else is doing this. By building strategy and putting in the work, they want to invest in you and you get to have opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. 


I hope you enjoyed this last Episode of 2020. I hope next year is a better one!

I hope you’re staying safe and using this time to buckle down and build a strategy: What do you want for next year? Leverage the advice and insight from all the great artists on this Podcast. 

Please take a few minutes to share this Episode with others.

I wish you and your loved ones a better New Year. Continue this journey with me and help others benefit from this Podcast.

I’ll see you next year!


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