When you apply for a role - if you are not in one of the few fortunate ones where the rate is fairly standardised and accepted without question - there is always likely to be the dreaded question of 'what is your current rate?'.
I say dreaded because - in my experience - people generally feel slightly uncomfortable talking about money. I don't think we should - but somehow we do.
If you are going for a production or editorial role you generally know that the others who have applied could potentially undercut you - so you want to give a competitive price - yet equally you feel you have advanced in skill range and thus want to increase your own income. It's bloody tough!
There is also the cat and mouse game of assuming the PM/Exec/etc will offer you a lesser rate than you ask for - and thus you add a 'safe £50' to cover yourself if they do (with a bonus pay rise if they don't!).
Wouldn't it be so much easier if things were standardised I hear you cry?! Well, yes and no.
Lets say - for the sake of discussion - two researchers meet for a coffee: one has just stepped up and one has been researching for 12 months. They discuss pay - the researcher who has more 'on the job' experience discovers she is earning £50.00 less a week than the NQ. This can be super frustrating BUT it is important to remember several things when setting your rate/assuming you are being duffed over:
1. GENRE - the area of TV you work in will greatly affect how much you are paid. As an example - a drama runner will work on average 15 hours a week more than a TV office runner, and as such, it should be reflected in their pay. The factual AP will generally earn less than his/her entertainment AP peers - factual TV tends to have less of a budget (tends - don't start shouting at me).
2. ACTUAL ON THE JOB EXPERIENCE - now, this one upsets some folk. They cry out that they may have other, relevant skills/ a stronger academic record/ produce better results. I understand - I have been there guys - but generally, it is accepted that the more on the job experience you have the higher your rate. So - for example - the NQ researcher gets £450 and the researcher with 2 years experience gets £550, etc. That is life.
As I said - I do understand that this can be frustrating - I remember working on a job with a Coordinator once when I was a Coordinator - she was getting £75 a week more than me... as she had 7 years more Coord experience. Now in my mind I was thinking hang on a minute, if she isn't ready to step up after 7 years she can't be that great (remember this is my personal opinion - not saying you must all have progressed within a certain time frame, this was simply how I honestly felt) - however, she had earned her rate by dedicating time to the role and gaining small increments and that was how it was. Simples.
3. LOCATION - geographically, if you do make the decision to accept a role outside of London you must GENERALLY be prepared to take a small cut in rate. Equally, if you make the move to London - do not be afraid to ask for more. London staff and crew tend to earn more. I am earning less as a PM in Manchester than I do in London - am I working any less? Hell no... it's just how it has worked out.
4. HISTORY - if you have worked at a company before they may be more inclined to up your rate from the last time they hired you - meaning you find it easier to secure a pay rise. This is not always the case - but it can help.
5. CONFIDENCE - when asked your rate (so long as you are being fair and not asking for something insane) hold your head high, look the person asking said question in the eye, smile and say firmly (albeit politely) 'my rate is £xx'. The second you introduce 'I would like it to be...' 'I think I deserve...' etc into the conversation, you open the floodgates for... NEGOTIATION!
So - should you negotiate your rate? YES! If you make a request and it is accepted - jackpot! if however they offer you less do have the safety net of knowing it is ok to try and negotiate somewhere in between. If they don't have the money - they will simply tell you, and then you can make the decision as to whether there are any other advantages to the role and whether you can still afford to live.
Sometimes a £25 hit can be worth it if you can gain new skills - i.e. being taught how to shoot, etc.
GOOD LUCK... go get the rate you deserve!