How One Publicist's Salary Changed Over 10 Years

Illustrations by Abbie Winters.
In our series My Salary Story, women with at least 10 years of career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions, and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way. Interested in contributing your salary story? Email us here.
Last week, we spoke to a 34-year-old nurse practitioner in New Jersey, who reflected on learning to negotiate. Today, we hear from an account executive in public relations who boosted her income and expertise with a side-hustle.
Age: 32
Current Location: Michigan
Current Industry & Title: Senior Account Executive
Starting salary: $12/hour
Current salary: $103,000
Number of years employed: 10 years
Biggest salary jump: $20,000
Biggest salary drop: $9,000
Biggest salary regret: "Like many of my career regrets, it's simply not speaking up for what I want. I failed to negotiate my salary for a couple of positions, and it's a regret I won't repeat again."
Best salary-related advice: "Do your salary research and be prepared to defend your salary requests, whether it's a job interview or an annual review. I always struggled with understanding my value at the beginning of my career. As I've moved through several job changes, doing my research has helped me better understand my value and what I should be asking for."
1 of 14
"After I graduated from college in 2008, I started working full time for a nonprofit and I also took on PR responsibilities. I had worked there part time during my senior year of school and it was a smooth transition once I graduated."
2 of 14
"I started looking for a full-time position that was a better fit. Later that summer, I was hired as the communications assistant for a government agency with incredible health and retirement benefits that I didn't appreciate or understand at the time. This employer would 100% reimburse the cost of continuing education and afforded its employees plenty of paid time off.

"I locked in this job just as the recession hit, and while my peers had a difficult time finding work or keeping their jobs, I had the most job security working for a federally-funded agency that assisted the unemployed and underemployed populations.

"I didn't negotiate my starting salary. As a first-generation college student and then graduate, this was more money than many of my family members were making and I was quite satisfied with the offer."
3 of 14
"By 2011, my salary increased to $33,500 as the company provided annual bonuses instead of raises. I had quite a bit of autonomy and spent a lot of my time writing, working on social media, and event planning."
4 of 14
"While working at this job, I also worked for a photography studio to photograph weddings and started a blog in 2010. I made around $5,000 extra a year for photography but I didn't make any cash from blogging yet."
5 of 14
"I was desperate for a change, so I accepted a position in 2011 as marketing assistant for a small business in Chicago. I negotiated to at least get my starting salary from my previous job, however, with this new position, there were no health or retirement benefits. I was able to negotiate vacation time and even a small stipend to help with my relocation.

"Although I was hired for one position, there was an unknown expectation to nanny and serve as glorified personal assistant. I was micromanaged and found myself doing my boss' laundry and babysitting her children more than working on marketing efforts. I quit after two months with no job lined up."
6 of 14
"I was in a mad dash to find a job and I received an offer to work as an account executive for an advertising agency (within two weeks of irresponsibly quitting my previous job). I loved the people, but advertising was not a good fit. I was there for around eight months when I learned that my previous supervisor at my first job was moving on to a new opportunity. I was interested in returning to Michigan to take on that role and return to public relations work."
7 of 14
"While in Chicago, I continued to photograph weddings and started to make money through my blog. I made around $10,000 in additional income in 2011. At this time, I worked on some of the most fun projects of my blogging career since it was easier to gain work as a style blogger in a larger city at the time."
8 of 14
"In 2012, I returned to my first employer out of college. It was a position I previously never felt confident to take on, but after surviving a year in a big city gaining experience in account and project management with strong personalities and difficult clients, I had much more confidence. I became the spokesperson for the agency, regularly speaking on local news stations and local, state, and national media, which was another huge challenge for me. But we started to lose more funding as the economy improved, and I wasn't feeling as challenged.

"I also decided to no longer photograph weddings as my career started to demand more of my time. I continued to photograph families and take on blog projects, making around an additional $10,000 a year."
9 of 14
"In 2014, I accepted a public relations director position for a healthcare company in the Detroit area and split my time working remotely and traveling around southeast Michigan. They needed everything — a new web site, brand refresh, and all the communications basics I learned at my previous employer.

"I worked on many projects I was proud of, but ultimately, I felt severely undervalued and found it difficult to connect with my colleagues. I started working retail part-time on the weekends as a way to feel more socially fulfilled. After a year and a half, I quit the PR position with the plan to work full-time freelance and take up more hours at the retailer as needed. When I left, my salary was $74,000."
10 of 14
"I made around $15,000 through retail work and blogging during this time."
11 of 14
"Even though I was happy with my growing freelance work, I decided to apply for and accept a position in 2015 at a public relations agency after a couple of months of working for myself. At the end of the day, I realized I needed more public relations experience if I were to be successful on my own. I also knew what it was like to not have healthcare benefits — and I didn't want to experience that again.

"I negotiated my salary as much as I could and we came to an agreement that after three months, if I was performing well, they would bump my pay up to $67,000."
12 of 14
"By the end of the year, just four months into the job, I received the raise and a $4,000 bonus. I also quit my retail job, as it was difficult to balance a much more demanding job and the retail work.

"This position has been the most difficult, but the most rewarding. There's an entrepreneurial element: If I bring in new clients and bust my ass, there's an opportunity to increase my earnings and make the job what I want it to be."
13 of 14
"The following year, I received $11,000 in bonuses and another $2,000 raise. And in 2017, I received about $16,000 in bonuses and earned another $2,000 raise, bringing my salary to about $88,000."
14 of 14
"I made an additional income of $15,000 through blogging, freelance photography and social media consulting, bringing my total 2017 income to $103,000."