Consider yourself due a raise?
We've all been there. The palm-sweating dread of facing a Mr Bumble-type boss, to ask: "Please sir, can I have some more money?"
I can remember it all too well. As a junior, I would debate with my partner for weeks about going cap in hands to get a few extra shekels. It was like a marathon session with the EU on fishing quotas.
I argued we had good cause. Everyone wanted us on their briefs. We had won pitches. Even picked up some tin. In short, we had proved our worth.
My partner thought otherwise. His tongue-tide, young pride wouldn't bare our group heads saying no. And so, he countered with a "Not now. After we've cracked the next brief."
When we did finally gather our collective balls together and went in, the bosses tap-danced around the subject, doing more ducking and diving than the Artful Dodger. And then came those four stinging words that were curtains for any hope of a salary increase:
"What have you done?"
The truth is, it doesn't matter what you've done, creatives are the last in line for any money, training, or, come to think of it, a fully mapped out career progression.
Living in London as a junior is far from a fine life. According to Glassdoor, a typical Junior Creative salary is £25,286. That's £2,104.83 per month. But average rents are between £2,130 and £2,280, (unless you don't mind living in some Dickensian hovel in the arse end of Hackney.) Then there's the burgeoning cost of travel and other living expenses like food, glorious food, to factor in.
On top of this, we tell them to fill their sponge-like minds by going to galleries, the theatre, travelling the world, having side hustles, and checking out the underground North Korean movie on at the Curzon. All to inspire and feed their creativity.
Years ago, one team tried a different tack to up their wages. At an agency party where the theme was comedy and jokes, they provided the biggest joke of all - their wage slips. Blown up to A1 size, they wore them as their costumes. The ploy worked; they got their raise. But should they have to resort to drastic measures (as creative as it was), to get a fair wage?
As a new CD at one agency I worked at, in my first month I got five people raises (shockingly, one hadn't been reviewed for almost three years). Not because they had won awards, but because it was the right thing to do. They were doing the job, solving complex problems for clients, pushing them bit by bit to buy better and better work.
The next month, I got three more.
Sometimes you need to give before you get. Quick wins, like reviewing salaries, can show your commitment to treating people fairly. That you respect and value them. If you can help keep their minds free from worrying about how the hell they're going to pay their rent, you're more likely to keep them focused on doing great work.
So, for any young creative or account exec reviewing their situation, don't let nerves hold you back - ask! You've at least earned that. And remember, if they can't give you a pay rise, pounds and pence aren't the only currency. More annual leave, flexible working hours, or outside training may benefit you just as much.
Good luck! I hope it goes your way.
And if you're a manager of people, remember what it was like standing where they are now. Take the review seriously. It's not a tick box exercise just because it's an HR requirement. Listen to what they have to say. Know exactly what they've done (you should already!) And have an honest and grown-up conversation with them.
Without the song and dance, please.