First, a confession: I’ve never asked for a raise in my life. I’ve only worked for others three times in my adult life. Once for my dad (he fired me eventually) and I was vastly overpaid. The other two times I was primarily on commission. I was paid fairly and earned my raises. So I’ve never actually had to use my own advice here. How are those for qualifications?
But I have been on the other side of things. I’ve been the one approached about raises and I know what works. That’s why you should read this.
To ask for a raise effectively, remember nine key points at the onset:
1. Keep your request short and focused.
I don’t need a seven-page PowerPoint presentation. Think one notecard and a few minutes. Be prepared to make your case quickly and don’t ramble.
2. Keep it fact-based and data-driven.
It’s time to put your emotions to the side. The amount you are paid ultimately comes down to value. If you bring more value, you make more money. It’s a tried and true formula.
3. Be confident in your worth.
Head up, smile on your face…you are worth it. You can be confident without being a jerk. Confidence comes from doing the research and knowing the value you bring. When you truly believe in your worth, confidence naturally flows from you.
4. Make your request out of the normal timeline.
Don’t wait until your “annual review.” I’ve already made up my mind by then. Ask me in a one-on-one meeting approximately two months before your review. If I have the budget, I might just give it to you then. If not, at least I know the numbers. (If you’re not doing one-on-one meetings with your leader, learn how to get more face time with your boss)
5. Tell me what value you’ve brought.
Prove your worth. Bring the numbers. SHOW ME THE MONEY! If you created a new widget that added $500,000 in profits last year, tell me. Take credit for it. See point #3. Tell me why you deserve more money.
6. Be willing to negotiate.
Make a big ask, but not some ridiculously unreasonable one. If you make $50,000 and the numbers say you are worth $60,000, ask for $62,500. This gives me wiggle room to negotiate down. If you’ve clearly brought more value than I thought you would, you will get a raise. Most of the time, how much depends on just how bold you are and how willing you are to negotiate.
7. Never forget: What’s in it for them?
What do they get in exchange for paying you more money?
8. Be willing to get creative.
If you are in marketing and made $40,000 + 5% of department profit for a total of $80,000 last year and feel you were worth $100,000, first tell me why you are worth that. Then be willing to find a way to get to $100,000.
Here are some ways to get creative with your raise:
- Tiered commission structures (5% on the first $X in profit, 6% on the next $Y, and 8% above that, for example.)
- Specific bonuses tied to specific results. If you know what is important to your leader(s), you can tie specific performance bonuses to those things.
- Front-end bonuses. This is very rare, but I have given team members a lump sum bonus proactively (this year vs. next year). Often, at the end of the year, I have a little money to play with and a tax liability I want to lower. I can’t commit to a $25,000 salary increase next year over the course of 26 payments, but I can give you a $20,000 check right now. It’s worked before.
Take the time to think creatively so you both get what you want.
9. Decide what you really want.
Maybe I can’t increase your base but I can give you the ability to work from home two Fridays a month. Why? Because time with family and freedom is important to you. How do I know that? You told me in a one-on-one meeting.
What do you really want? Think about what else you can get that might not be a direct increase. An extra week vacation. A new title. A bigger budget for helping clients (which will result in more commissions for you.) Another assistant to help with projects, freeing up your time to sell more. There are all sorts of creative ways to get what you want, but only if you know what it is.
Take the time to think through these the next time you want to ask for a raise. Spend a lot of time preparing…it will pay off in the end!
What would you add to this list?