Salary Setting: How to set fair and attractive rates without breaking the bank

By Sara Cheeney on September 2nd, 2023

What to pay, what to pay… the ever-dreaded question.

Setting salaries for your staff can be tricky and political. And if you’ve never done it before you might
not even know where to start. You want to pay enough to get the best talent, but you can’t break
the bank for it. And around in circles you go…

We’re here to help break the circle. It’s all about coming back to the main goal of attracting good
talent, that’s right for your role, and paying them fairly for it.

Firstly, ask yourself what’s the job worth?
In black and white terms, a salary is a business expense. And every expense should generate a
return. Decide what the job is worth to you and ask how valuable this person is to your company.
This will help you to decide the upper most value you’re willing to pay.

For clinic staff, the value is in the money they generate from treatments, so switch the question
around to ‘What would it cost to not have them on board’? How many treatments would be unable
to be fulfilled without them?

If you know a job’s value, you can quickly eliminate candidates who are too expensive and help keep
your options affordable.

Tip the scales the other way
So now you know the most you’ll pay. The next step is to figure out the least you’ll pay.

And that’s where the market comes in.

Check out sites like Salary Calculator for salary ranges sorted by position and geography. You’ll find
out what’s high, low and average for your location.

Make the most of the professionals around you too. Speak to business owners, job agencies, your
local chamber of commerce and networking groups – anyone that you have good access to that you
can swap salary data with.

This should give you the bottom level you’re happy to pay and allow you to start finding somewhere
in the middle.

Treat candidates as individuals
Whilst it would be nice to decide on a salary value and stick with it, it’s not as simple as that. You
need to treat each candidate as their own individual.

For example, if you are hiring an aesthetician with close personal relationships to a bunch of clients
likely to follow them into your clinic, this may be the time to pay above market to seal the deal.
Look at what each candidate can offer and factor that into your offer.

When and how to pay
The next job is to decide how you’re going to pay.

While salary-based jobs are typical for managers and white-collar positions, hourly pay is traditional
for roles like clinicians and aestheticians. Hourly pay is more natural when the work is directly
related to time.

After all, if an aesthetician is working extra hours to cover busy periods of treatment bookings, you
can’t expect them to work for the same amount as before.

Salary-based jobs are another matter. These are fixed, so no matter how much work an employee
does, they’ll get the same amount each week. This becomes “just part of the job” which can leave
staff feeling put out if they are particularly busy.

To help combat this, you can incentivise with things like short-term achievement bonuses based on
number of treatments carried out or number of bookings taken in a given time etc.

Lastly, there’s the option to pay via commission. This is a good solution for jobs that consistently
contribute directly to revenue.

Often, these employees will have a low, base salary with the upside potential of receiving a
percentage of what they sell.

Beware the trap of confusing commission percentages, though. If you believe your commission
percentage is right, let them take home as much money as they can. If you start to cap it, it’ll soon
lose its value to staff.

Keep it flexible
When it comes to hiring well-known names in the industry or those with more experience, lines can
become blurred.

The more they have under their belt, the more they tend to expect in return for that talent.

Think about what else you could add into the offering without breaking the bank. The smaller wins
like flexi-hours, casual dress, home working and annual leave can all entice a certain type of

All of that said, remember that everything needs to be negotiable for the right talent. Try and craft a
deal that contains a fair rate of pay with longer-term incentives to keep employees’ performance
steady and motivated.

There’s more to life than money and the excitement of the basic pay-cheque soon dries up. So, try to
keep it interesting and dynamic with new incentives as you go.

For more help and advice with setting salaries for your staff, contact

Sara Cheeney

Clinic Success