How Much Should I Get Paid?

One very common question I get is around salary and it is usually some variation of the following: 1. How much should I get paid? 2. Should I work for free? 

In this post, I will share a tool for finding salary levels in Sweden, share how you can think about salary and lastly talk about negotiation.

Should I work for free?

It depends. The benefits of working for free is that it can be a good way to get that first opportunity. One thing with Sweden is that there are not many paid internships here. The reason for this is that the Swedish unions are very strong so the companies would have problems with unions if they have some people working for half the pay.

In other words, the Swedish job market is a bit polarized between the extremes working for free and having a contract with conditions approved by the union. The exception being the case where the job hunter have some subsidies from Arbetsförmedlingen (the government employment agency).

Person standing in front of a board with notes, thinking

So, when you are thinking about working for free or not you have to think about – can I produce the same (or close to the same) level of output as the people already working there?

If you answer no, then I would recommend you work for free. Otherwise, I would say yes. If you are experienced in the field and have solid validation of your skills. That is work experience in a very similar job, then you should be having a salary that is in line with the other people at the job. Of course, you should be able to have some time where you get adjusted to the new work, we all need that. But the technical part shouldn’t be an issue.

Don’t say you want to work for free early on

Saying you work for free can also be negative early on. If you from the very beginning tell the employer that you are open to working for free, then they may perceive you as less competent even if you are not. I once helped a candidate that had ten years of experience with a possible unpaid internship and the companies were not willing to have her on board as an intern because it was something that they didn’t do. They didn’t have interns. All people that they hired had high salaries.

When you say you will work for free, employers will think about it as a way for you to learn and they will assume it will take time for them to supervise. You want to shift the perspective to you deliver value for them if possible.

A swing and the coastline

So think about that, too. Are you providing value for you or are you learning from them? Of course, there will always be some mixtures of these in any job. But, if the position is heavily focused on developing your skills, I would be happy to do it for free. If you are providing the same value as the others at the firm, I wouldn’t be happy to do it for free.

How much should I get paid?

You should be having a competitive salary. There are two different databases you can use:

Lönestatistik. This one is self-supplied. So the measurement might not be 100 %. But they salary levels have seemed very reasonable to me.

SCB. This is the government body for statistics in Sweden.

Unions. Talk with the union that people in the same industry are members of.

a hand with a roll of 20 dollar bills

Should I negotiate my salary?

Yes. Negotiation is the top return on investment skills you can have. Think about it this way, what if you can increase your salary with 1 000 sek per month with some negotiation? What is the value for you?

If you are working for the company for 3 years, that is 36 000 sek during that period. If we say that a negotiation takes an additional hour to do, then that is a pretty amazing hourly salary for that extra hour of work. Basically, you just made 36 000 sek in one hour.

person sitting at a table having an argument

So, how to negotiate?

First of all, you need to have some kind of idea about what the salary levels for you should be. If you have been reading until now, then you already have an idea about what your level of salary should be. So let’s say it is 30 000 sek/month and you are being offered 27 000 sek/month. So you are basically 3 000 sek from your target.

The mistake most people would do here is to go for 30 000 sek. The problem is that if you go for 30 000 sek here, the employer might say 28 000 sek and what do you do? Well, the employer just gave in here and one common way to negotiate is for you to also make a concession. Of course, there are other tactics and techniques also like just walking away. But it might be a bit to aggressive in a negotiation like this. You are not at a fruit market. You might want to prevent the situation by raising that first 30 000 sek to a higher amount. Give yourself headroom in the field from above

One very common way to negotiate is to do something called bracketing. Basically, if you want to negotiate something then the first number you are saying is to establish the range in which you will be negotiating later on. The employer is setting the lower bracket by saying 27 000 sek. Then you are saying the higher bracket with whatever number you are saying. So, if you say 30 000 sek, then the salary will not go above 30 000 sek/month and will most likely end up below that number because you will have to make concessions again probably. If you want to read more about negotiation, I highly recommend this book. It has all the common negotiation principles, techniques, and tactics.


Overall, I would say be prepared that there will be a discussion about salary. Prepare for it mentally by looking up salary levels and then think about how the negotiation might turn out. Most likely, you could get at least some extra money from a negotiation in the end.


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