How to negotiate a pay raise (the right way)

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Feel like you should negotiate a pay raise? I mean, who doesn't like more money, especially when you know the market is paying higher elsewhere (or even within the same company)?

In this post you will learn:

  1. What to focus on: It's business, not personal
  2. Do your research
  3. Update your resume

Ready to ask for that higher salary right now? 

Also, one of the best ways to get a pay raise is to switch jobs, or build a side-gig that can grow into a self-employed business. Here is a list of our top work-at-home careers.

Know you're worth more, but afraid to ask for a salary increase? Women are the worst at this!

In Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, the authors show women negotiate 30 percent less often then men and, when we do, we ask for up to $16,000 less.

Low confidence, and lack of female role models in leadership positions are to blame. I also argue women are taught that prioritizing money is unseemly, and the equivalent to greedy. Eff that!

The net result? In 2015, the gender wage gap narrowed by just .4 of a percent. In fact, the pay gap “has not shown a statistically significant annual increase since 2007,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau!

Not surprising, this affects our individual wellbeing.

A recent Payscale survey found nearly 60 percent of workers have never asked for a raise from their employer. It also found 44 percent of those who did discuss their current salary and requested higher pay, got one—and those who asked tended to be happier in their jobs than those who did not.

If you're one of the majority who have not approached your boss about a raise, start a plan of attack now. Here is how to negotiate a higher salary — or fees if you are self-employed or own a business:

A raise is business, not personal

The PayScale survey found employees avoid salary negotiation because they're worried about being fired or appearing too pushy (like women fear being called ‘bossy'?).

But a negotiation is not about whether people like each other; it's a conversation with the goal of coming to a mutual decision which benefits both parties. It can actually be a win-win situation, if you bring up the pay scale in the right manner.

If you are paid fairly, you are more committed to your work and company. Your boss feels more confident you will be a better employee and stay around longer. Bosses HATE replacing workers. It is expensive and time consuming.

Capitalize on that fear!Does your career situation create anxiety, stress or depression? Does a lack of confidence keep you stuck in your job and finances. Therapy can help.

Online counseling sites like BetterHelp (A+ BBB rating) help you connect with one of thousands of certified, credentialed professional therapists, in confidence. You can choose from tex therapy, video therapy, phone calls or emails (or a combination) for rates starting at $65/week, for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. Read our BetterHelp review for more info.

Do your salary research

First, understand your value in the marketplace to see if there is really wiggle room, or if you are asking for a pay raise without a good reason.

Check sites like PayScale and CareerBuilder, look at comparable job postings, ask your colleagues, and inquire with industry associations and recruiters. Then, define your boss's and the company's greatest needs and challenges. Understand how your past performance and current skills address those pain points.

Whenever possible, quantify your success and put a number on it. Prove how your marketing efforts drove this much more traffic to the company's web site, or that you exceeded sales goals, which meant X million dollars in more revenue for them.

If your firm's top priority is to grow a certain segment of their business, show how your deep contacts within the group have already led to the bottom line, and can stand to contribute even more next year. Focus on the other party.

Also, consider timing. If it's been more than a year since your raise or hire, or evaluations are just several months away, now is a good time to approach the boss.

Most companies stipulate a certain sum of money for payroll, raises, and bonuses, and some of that can decided based on performance reviews. That said, even if your colleagues warn you that a raise is not likely, consider going for it anyway. But if there have been massive layoffs or any other kind of financial crises, you probably won't gain anything from going for it.

Before you walk into a job interview (either at a new company, or your current company, do your research, and have an idea about the salary that your position would demand.

If there is a phone interview before an in-person meeting, or if the introduction came through a recruiter or the human resources department, simply ask how much the position pays. You can say things like:

  • “What's the salary range for the position?”
  • “What is your budget for this role?”

If the numbers they share are lower than you'd hoped, but close enough for you to still take the interview, set some salary expectations in the pre-interview with statements like:

  • “My understanding is that this role, with my level of experience, would be closer to $XX,000. We can talk about it when we meet Wednesday.”
  • “Hm, that is lower than I'd expect. Is that number flexible?”
  • “[Dead silence. Let the interviewer fill the awkwardness with a bigger number. Trust me: This is super-uncomfortable BUT IT WORKS.]”

Update your resume

Updating your resume may be required for you to take to your boss or HR department to bolster your request for more money or a new position.

Even if this is not required, updating an old resume, or creating a new resume, is a valuable exercise, in that it helps you understand your own worth and experience. It can be a huge confidence boost to write down all your accomplishments and credentials.

Also: In the event that you do not get the raise or promotion you're after, it is critical to have at the ready a freshly updated resume to start sending out to recruiters.

Ready to ask for a pay raise? Here’s how to ask for increase in 4 steps

  1. Approach your boss about meeting to discuss your salary. Keep communication in line with your normal exchanges.

For example, if your boss is typically very direct, also be direct. If you have frank weekly lunch meetings, bring it up then. If you chat face-to-face throughout the day, it may seem unusually passive to suddenly approach them by email. Likewise, if you're on instant message throughout the workday, suddenly popping into their cubicle could be surprising.

Use this type of language to set up the meeting:

“Can we meet in the next week to discuss my compensation?”

  1. During the meeting, keep the tone light, direct, and non-emotional (it's business, not personal!).
  2. Arrive armed with documents backing your performance, but start with a verbal, top-line summary of your accomplishments, as well as any additional responsibilities you've taken on during your tenure.
  3. Don't forget to position your case to appeal to their interests. And don't take for granted your boss is aware of all of your duties or successes. If your research indicates you're paid below market, mention that, too. Here are some scripts:

“I believe my accomplishments deserve a salary of X, based on what other positions are paying, and my successes for the company.”

What to do when your boss won't give you a raise

In the event you're turned down, ask about other benefits.

For example, see if your company pays a “spot bonus,” a reward for a single project done well. Or counter with a more flexible work schedule, more vacation time, or increased training possibilities.

If find difficulty getting a raise in your current situation, consider looking for a new job. Some of the biggest pay raises typically come when workers switch companies, research finds.

Also, explore career-level work-at-home jobs and side gigs. Here are work-at-home jobs that are great for moms, including virtual assistant, bookkeeper, proofreader and programmer/coder.

Might be time to consider opportunities for promotion within your company or another.

Fact: The biggest pay jumps of your career will most likely be when you change jobs, not from raises and promotions within the same company.

A 2019 study, conducted by payroll giant ADP, reports that employees who accept a new job saw an average pay increase of 5.3% at another company, vs the 4% pay raise their former peers who remained at the company received.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s data found similar trends.

Women need to talk openly about income

Forgive me while I break a writing rule and employ a cliché: Knowledge is power. But, you knew that, right? Then why do you refuse to start talking about money?

Talking about the nitty-gritty of your financial life is one of the most empowering things you can do for your career. Sharing salary information with colleagues arms you with information you can use to negotiate pay, set goals and learn about the market.

Talking about take-home with friends who work in other industries gives you a sense of what people of equal smarts and hustle feel they’re worth. One of the tenets of business is that a product—or service—is worth only what the market will pay for it.

How do you know what you can earn if you don’t have a clue about the marketplace?!

The only way to learn about this marketplace is to talk to other human beings about money.

Specific details about money.

I know, talking about finances is considered impolite in most circumstances. I venture to say it is the last taboo. I can think of no other topic still off the table in nearly all social and even professional circumstances than trying to talk about money.

I find people speak more freely about the inner workings of their marriages, sex and sexuality, religion and politics than their salary, net profits or investment balances.

And these bad habits are worse amongst women — women who are far more often oh-so-shy about being impolite or offending. And women and their goddamned pay gap and yammering about how to close it. We don't even talk about money with our family and children. (Hopefully you're open with your partner!)

I'll tell you how to close in on that 81 cents on a man's dollar: Let’s grow up, ladies, and speak up about cash!

Watch this TEDx talk by my friend Jenn Barrett on how closing the wage and wealth gaps requires women to start thinking and acting like breadwinners, which she turned into a book, Think Like a Breadwinner:

How to talk about salary with your colleagues and friends:

Some wonder if you can you talk about your salary at work — or even if it is illegal to talk about salaries!

In some companies, it is actually against the rules to share your salary with your colleagues. So check with HR if you're not clear.

Otherwise, you are free to talk about your income!

How to break the ice

1. Share first. I make it routine to share financial information–even if I don’t have an agenda for learning someone else’s. I may casually mention how much I paid for my apartment, or the interest rate I got on my car loan, if it works naturally into the conversation. This helps to establish rules for money talk, and puts others at ease about opening up to me.

2. Pay attention to stress points. I learned a lesson about writing long ago: if it makes you uncomfortable to write something – or, in the case of a reporter, to ask a source a question – that is where to good stuff lies. If I find myself holding back or squirming over money topics, it probably means there is some powerful information at stake. It is in these moments when I push myself to break through the discomfort and share.

3. Ask. I recently had lunch with a new colleague. While merrily chatting about contracts over poached salmon salad, I casually asked, “So, how much are you getting for that kind of work these days?” She responded with equal ease. Be courteous, and keep a light tone which allows for the other person to politely decline to share.

4. Act normal. Don’t pad your money talk with embarrassment or shame. Avoid disclaimers like, “If you don’t mind me asking…” or “Don’t tell anyone, but…” or “I promise this is between the two of us.”  Instead, just state the figures as facts. “I got $10,000 for that project.” Or, “I have $15,000 in credit card debt.” Try: “How much is that client paying?” or, simply: “How much did you pay for your sofa?” You may be pleasantly surprised by how candid, normal and relieved your friends and colleagues are in return. Because if you want to know, they certainly want to know, too.

Examples of how I talked about how much I made:

I recently had a fantastic revelation that could not have happened if dollar figures were not revealed.

A business coach I know mentioned a client – a coach herself – who bills $400,000 each year.

According to this client’s website, this young woman was adorable and quirky (not unlike me, right?) and I began to think more critically about my own early notions of launching a digital media business. All my negative thoughts about such an enterprise (it’s a service business model I want to avoid in an industry flooded with hacks) suddenly went out the window and I allowed myself to dream about my own endless potential.

A second example: An established author friend shared with me her latest book advance: $30,000.

Read: How to start investing for women

She also shared her frustration of not owning rights to her own material, which has lacked marketing support from the publisher and as a result sold poorly, which has all but destroyed her ability to land subsequent book deals.

Then last week I read an article by an opinionated blogger (not unlike me, right?), James Altucher, who details how he successfully earned many times my friend’s advance in the first month of publication by self-publishing his work.

If my friend had merely complained in broad terms about a lousy publishing contract, she would have sounded like every grumpy writer who has lived in the past 300 years.

And, if Altucher had merely bragged about his outrageous writing success, he would have sounded just like every egotistical writer who has lived in the past 300 years.

But with hard dollar figures to support their cases, these two professionals made strong points for their cases–and strongly informed my next professional steps.

5 smart money moves to make in 2021

How I urge other women to reach their earning potential

A few weeks ago before heading out I was settling in the new babysitter — a beautiful, sweet and academically brilliant 17-year-old.  “Your mom said you usually charge $10 per hour — does that work for you?” I said.

“Yes, or $8 is fine, too,” she said.

“Never suggest less!” I admonished. “When someone says ‘$10,' you say ‘$12.'”

I find myself yelling at women about money all the time. I learned a lot about money from own mom, (One nugget: “Always negotiate. Otherwise they won't respect you.”) a 1970s feminist who also often said, “Women are women's worst enemy.” Interpret that as you will, but I take it to say that if women aren't earning as much as men, it's because (at least in large part) collectively women don't do enough to further the cause of equal pay. Poke holes in that all you want, but when a promising young woman instinctively suggests fees lower than offered, we have work to do.

Tons of progress has been made in promoting women in education, business, government and pay. Plenty of legislation, research and programs. Yay! But advocacy also happens in little, everyday conversations — conversations we have been conditioned to avoid. Convention tells us it is impolite to a) talk money, and b) tell others their business. Guess what else is convention: Women earning less than men.

Which is why I say you should start yelling. Yell because you care about the women in your life and you want them to succeed and be financially successful. Yell also because you want all women to be financially successful. Because what is good for me is good for you is good for her is good for them. And by “them,” I mean women and people everywhere.

A few more recent examples of how I helped other women to know how much to charge, or ask for a raise:

-My housecleaner Sandra and I were renegotiating our arrangement. I asked her: “How much will it cost now?” Her answer: “Oh, I don't know — tell me how much you want to pay? I hate giving quotes!” I told her: “Sandra, you do awesome work and you know it. Tell me your fee.” She went high and I agreed.

-After speaking at a conference recently, a woman from the audience approached me and complained that she has been in her role as a hospital administrator for six years and been promoted several times without any merit pay increase. She estimates she earns $60,000 less than market value. $60,000!!!! “That's crazy,” I said. “It's your responsibility to get more.” This articulate, professional woman went on to rationalize that her family doesn't need more money, and she likes her boss …. and all the usual crap women say. “You need to turn this around,” I told her. “They're taking advantage of you because they don't respect you.” I volunteered to coach her into a higher salary or new job, but she never followed up.

-A friend is miserable in her job and complains at how poorly she is paid and treated. Finally, yesterday, after sustaining another gripe session, I told her: “You know you have to leave and you deserve more money. If you don't have those things it is your responsibility. I'll help you find a new job but I won't listen to you complain any more.” She finally accepted my recurring offer to connect her with a colleague who can help her.

Tell me: What do women you know do to sabotage their finances? What do you tell them? Share in comments, ladies!

Are you part of the new Facebook group, Millionaire Single Moms? No income requirement, though BIG GOALS and a POSITIVE MINDSET required! Join now!

Learn about our $500 single-mom monthly grant founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.


Hi…I am a single mom and have. Autistic child. I work for a good organization but due to my personal reasons, I want too work independent where I can look after my child and can earn more, leading independent life with financial stability..I don’t know how and where to start..can you guide me

This week I am preparing to ask for a raise. I found out that I am the lowest paid with co workers doing the same exact position as me. The people I serve love me and they always tell me I go above and beyond for them.
I am a single mom with three children. I was so disheartened to hear about my income compared with my colleagues.
Thank you for this article.

Very nice article!
currently i stuck with same situation on how should i negotiate my pay raise, i have searched for many tips on internet but finally came to this great article with best possible tips and guide to negotiate salary hike. Thanks a lot for sharing with us, will be so helpful with this!

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