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Firstly a little background, for the question, skip to the last line:

I have held an internship position at a mechanical engineering firm. I was placed into a department that mostly did very routine data entry. Within a few days I was picked up by a manager for skills in VBA, and moved on to developing VB.net quite rapidly, which is a skill I acquired whilst working there.

I am more than 6 months in and have now written a few applications by myself. These apps are my "hostage"; code that I know back to front, and nobody else in the company could understand. I should make it clear at this point, I haven't intentionally created confusing code, it's just that coding is not part of the company skills base. It's reasonably well commented and structured. A VB.net contractor could continue with it.

I am now going back to university. The company has just offered me work after my internship but at a staggeringly low rate to my mind (< $12/Hr). The contract is 3 months provisional at 10Hrs/Wk to fit around university.

I think they may not realize that the average pay grade is higher. Although they do seem to be aware that nobody internal can replace me.

I don't know if at this point I should point out that my code is "Hostage" and push for a higher salary. I've already said $12/Hr is not good enough, and that I want a minimum of $18/Hr, to which no eyebrows were raised or questions asked. I then told them I would figure out what I wanted and tell them later in the week, which again didn't seem to cause any trouble.

So what should I do here? The obvious options to me are:

  • Squeeze them for a large amount (circa $50/Hr) on the grounds that they need me, but risk losing the contract or causing friction.
  • Settle for somewhat higher (The $18/Hr I already mentioned).
  • Try for some midpoint (about $25/Hr).
  • Accept the $12/Hr (I won't do this, it's not worth my time).

So: How can I determine what I am worth, and how can I go about convincing them I'm worth my stated figure? I'm perfectly happy to walk away, since I have enough to live on at university anyway.

Clarifications:

I am not about to walk into the bosses office and say "My code is hostage pay me more", I would be more likely to say "It would cost x amount to hire a proficient coder externally so I must be worth (x - n)"

I am aware I could be replaced externally, I'm not claiming to be amazing, just the best the company has to hand.

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    We don't do "what should I do" questions here, but I'll tell you one thing for free: if you walk into my office and threaten me with your "hostage", I'll be walking you out the door about 30 seconds later and making sure you never set foot on my property again. – Philip Kendall Jun 20 '17 at 17:40
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    You're junior developer so the code may seem sophisticated for you but not necessarily to other. – Justas Jun 20 '17 at 17:56
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    I hope to hear you used a translation software to write the question here. I would be pretty disappointed to hear a software developer call his own code a "hostage", if he fully knows what the words means. – Masked Man Jun 20 '17 at 18:13
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    What insane cost of living do you deal with that with less than a year of coding experience gained solely on-the-job you feel that $12/hr is "not worth your time"? – Ethan The Brave Jun 20 '17 at 19:48
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    Work on your phrasing of things. Don't say: my code is my hostage. Say: I have intimate familiarity with the code and how I can make it deliver business value. – Brandin Jun 20 '17 at 20:17
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The part about hostage code is not only irrelevant but a dangerous topic. The company can easily figure out your code or replace it with better code. That aside, if you try to use something like hostage code it will permanently place a bad mark on your name and make job hunting in the future more difficult if not impossible.

You should look up the average entry level position with your education and skill level and base your salary range off of that.

If you ask for some absurd amount you might just be laughed out of a job.

At the same token don't just settle for less than you are actually worth.

Update:

Per your commnet:

There are many factors when judging what your salary should be.

Some of the basics are cost of living in your place of residence, your overall knowledge of the subjects in your job, and your education level all play a factor.

Here are a couple links that will assist you in looking for a range for you and your area.

payscale.com

Glassdoor

Edit:

To clarify the below term qualified people. I am talking about people who have graduated with a Bachelors or are certified on the positions skill set.

Keep in mind this is an average entry level for qualified people. You may range between 45k to 65k USD a year in some places and 65k to 85k USD a year in other places. Just spend some time googling pay rates in your area for the entry level position in your job title and you will have a good idea of the rates you should request.

  • It would be great to see an estimate of what I might be worth as part of this answer, I would be happy to provide further details if needed. – Dubber Rucky Jun 20 '17 at 17:55
  • @DubberRucky An actual estimate of what your worth is going to be very specific to you and not helpful to anyone else, so it's off topic here. See this question for some pointers though. – David K Jun 20 '17 at 18:06
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    Since the OP has not completed college (and has little to no experience) asking for the going rate would be too high (at that rate they turn around and hire a professional contractor to do it at the going rate). So you have to take into account that you will not get the "going rate" but below it. – Martin York Jun 20 '17 at 20:51
  • @LokiAstari: I did say Keep in mind this is an average entry level for qualified people. Qualified people being the key term there. I updated my answer with a clarification on Qualified people – Sierra Mountain Tech Jun 20 '17 at 20:53
  • 6 months of vb.net coding, learned by himself (with all the problems that entails) in an internship does not make him a qualified junior developer. It's a nice start to becoming a junior developer some day, but not enough to be one. – Florian Schaetz Jun 21 '17 at 6:56
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This is what is called the classic BAD IDEA

You don't ever, EVER want to be known as even THINKING of anything like this. Even the threat of this will get your name out in the industry as being unethical and untrustworthy.

These shenanigans went out of style in the 1990s, and people have been sued for less.

Here's some tips from someone with a few decades of experience.

  • You never make your code difficult to follow, that's not skill, that's lack of skill. You'll never earn a good rep that way.
  • you don't make yourself more valuable by engaging in bad practices.
  • ANYONE can be hired to clean up VBA, and then do it better. The "indispensable" coders at my present employer learned that when I was called in
  • You increase your worth by being a disseminator of information, not a hoarder of it
  • Code is most valuable when it can be understood by the most people.
  • NO junior is worth 50 dollars an hour.

You'd be lucky with 15. You still have no appreciable work history and are not marketable right now. Literally anyone can code in VBA and very few can code WELL in VBA, unless you're highly skilled and can make it do things that nobody else can, you're simply not worth the money.

  • You have misunderstood a few things. I have not coded badly intentionally at all, if anything I think it's fairly clear. I know someone could replace me. I wouldn't try and bargain for higher than I expect a replacement to cost. It's vb.net, not VBA; Similar but not equal. – Dubber Rucky Jun 20 '17 at 18:19
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    @DubberRucky I'm familiar with both. the same applies to .net as it does VBA. That skillset simply isn't worth that much. If you want to up your value, get into C# or another C based language. Right now, I'd say you're probably worth 15. 18 is a stretch, but 12 is a bit low. – Old_Lamplighter Jun 20 '17 at 18:22
  • If you're familiar with both, then you know that the code-behind for VB.net is not VBA, it's either full-on Visual Basic (which is quite different) or C#, already. VB is, in some markets, the higher wage position because everyone is learning C# but so many system are legacy ones that need support from the dwindling coding-expertise base. I agree that it's a bad idea to shoot for $25 or more, though. If he mentioned $18 and they seemed okay with the trial balloon, I'd say the rate is probably already set. Coming back much higher would be a bad idea. Overall, like the answer. – PoloHoleSet Jun 20 '17 at 21:27
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Whoa. You've already set the expectation at $18/hr. Stick with that. If you try to go in for more, you will probably be shown the door.

If you want $50, you'll have to go someplace that isn't accustomed to getting the exact same work for $12 - but most likely, the professional standard is going to be much higher!

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    For 50/hr, you need to be able to save the company millions. – Old_Lamplighter Jun 20 '17 at 18:11
  • @RichardU $400/day rate is not extortionate is it? for someone with no experience, its obviously not realistic, but for a large company that is pretty competitive. – user29055 Jun 21 '17 at 9:25
  • @Midas for the VB family of languages, it's pushing it. you're looking at closer to 35-40/hr. Low level languages are at a premium though. – Old_Lamplighter Jun 21 '17 at 12:20

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