Should You Take a Job that Pays Commission?

You’ve been offered a job that pays commission, but you’re not sure if you should accept it.  Is this type of position really a stable source of income?  Is it fair for employers to pay you in this way?  The truth is that not all jobs that pay commission are the same.  In some cases it is fair, appropriate and could be a great opportunity for you.  In others it is a no-win situation.  Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering a job that pays commission:

How are they presenting the job?  You’ve read enough job advertisements to know what is normal.  After reading the job description or talking to the employer, do you feel like they are trying to sell you something?  In this tight labour market, the employer should not have any trouble filling a sales position if it is fairly compensated.

What percentage of the compensation is commission?  The employer may throw numbers at you like, “Our top salesperson earns $2,000 a week”, or “You can easily make $200 a day in this job”.  Ignore those numbers as they are meaningless and don’t mean anything to you.  Instead, look at what percentage of your income will come from commission and what percentage will come from the base salary.  Remember that the base salary is the only part of your pay that is guaranteed.  Realistically, is it enough to live on?

Have you had the chance to talk to somebody who works there?  Sometimes the way that the position appears is very different from the actual reality of the job.  Try to talk to somebody who works at that company to see if you can get a sense of what the day to day job is like, and how much you can really expect to make.  Look at the people in your network and see if you know somebody who works at that company.  You can even do a company search on LinkedIn to see if any of your connections work there.  You can also talk to other people who work in the industry or live in the area to see if you can get a sense of the level of turnover at the company.  Most people will be happy to share their experiences and knowledge with you.

Do you enjoy sales?  Sales is the kind of job that you are not going have any success with unless you genuinely enjoy it.  Do you like talking to people?  Do you feel comfortable making sales calls?  Are you good at it?  If you are are wondering if sales is really for you, then it’s probably not.

Because of the nature of sales positions, it makes sense that the employer would compensate them at least partially through commission. This is not always a bad thing, and it could even be an opportunity for you to make a lot of money.  The key is to ask the right questions and to make sure that the compensation system is set up in a way that allows you to be successful.  Don’t reject a position just because it pays commission, but also keep your eyes open and make sure that you can live comfortably on your take-home pay.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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