There comes a time in every professional’s life when they bump up against the mountain that is negotiating their salary. Perhaps it is that time for you, maybe for the first time or dozenth time. You know what you need to earn in order to have a comfortable and profitable life, and you know the value you bring to the table, including the hard work you’re willing to devote to your position. And yet, 44% of workers in America have ‘low-wage’ salaries of around $18,000 a year according to a study done by the public policy organization The Brookings Institution.

This raises the question of why so many workers would settle for a wage that is so clearly below their worth. Unfortunately, many people feel as though this reality is their only option, or fear of the confrontational conversation holds them back. Also, a lack of understanding of the industry standards can play a role as well in workers never knowing how they’re underearning. Of course, much of the hope for wage increases depends on market factors like minimum wage conditions for low-wage workers and industry standard salaries.

The truth is that those with low-wage jobs and those earning considerably more should be broaching the topic of salary negotiations with their superiors, but most of us are afraid to enter that conversation. In fact, Payscale found that 63% of workers haven’t asked for a raise at their current employment. The reasons vary, from not knowing the market value to fear of the conversation to not wanting to be perceived negatively, but they all have the same result: no raise.

Who Commonly Negotiates Their Salary?

Unfortunately, the demographics of those receiving salary increases are less than even. White males are the most likely to receive the raises they both ask for and the ones they do not have to. People of color are the least likely to receive raises. Where they are in their career also daunts some people to the point where they don’t ask for a raise they’re within a reasonable timeline to request. The book Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock shares that only 7% of women try negotiating their first salary compared to the 57% of men who do. Clearly, the statistics show that many of us are hesitant to discuss the topic of earnings.

How to Effectively Negotiate for Higher Pay

The good news is that you don’t need to fear negotiating your salary because of the plentiful resources and advice on how to effectively enter into that tough conversation and receive results. Overall, 70% of those who ask for raises do receive them according to the same Payscale study. We’ve spoken with top executives and business owners on how you can ace your salary negotiation conversation at work. They were happy to offer their best suggestions and bits of advice. So before you write off the idea of ever broaching wages at work, read their tips first.

Approach the Conversation With Facts, Not Feelings

“To get paid what you’re worth, approach the conversation with facts, not feelings. Research the market rate for someone with your experience and identify tangible examples of results you’ve achieved so you can present your case like a lawyer. I also take note of candidates who ask questions, because then it feels like a collaborative effort to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. For example, instead of saying, ‘I need another $5,000,’ you should ask, ‘Is there any flexibility? I would be more comfortable with $5,000 more.’ Practice ahead of time so you can come into the negotiation confident, neutral and friendly but firm. Don’t negotiate over text or email, where miscommunication can easily take place.

“Most employees want to be paid more without becoming more valuable. But leaders want results, and tenure doesn’t equal return. Find ways to upgrade your skills and bring more value. You’ll get paid more because you deserve it, not because you demand it. If needed, identify what it would take to reach your goal and paint a picture of how you will exceed those expectations. Then ask to revisit the conversation after you’ve had time to do that,” says Dan Lok, Founder and CEO of

Explain Your Worth Based on Your Organization’s Standards

“To be paid what you’re worth, you first have to fully understand your worth to the organization. Most employees don’t know the standards they are being measured by, so they determine their value based on their own ideals. Clarify the contribution you were hired to make and how you can exceed those expectations. The more you solve problems and create incremental value that impacts the bottom line, the more you can confidently ask for. You’re entitled to more money because of your impact, not because you work hard or long hours. When my team members create more value by solving a problem, I’m more likely to share the resulting profits. I’m also more likely to reward them because they are focused on results,” says Brandon Dawson, Founder and CEO of Audigy.

Complete Industry Salary Research Before Your Meeting

“Your market value is what you deserve to be earning based on your experience, skills, years at your position, and what that role is. In order to know what a person with your position deserves to make and enter the salary negotiation meeting prepared, you must first have a solid understanding of the industry salary trends. These will show you what other professionals with equivalent skills and positions are earning. You want to make sure you’re earning a similar wage that aligns with the industry standard, so it’s important to do your research. You also want to understand the facts because you don’t want to ask for a pay raise far outside of what your position generally earns; you can bet your superior knows the industry standard too, and they are not going to appreciate an out of line request for a raise. Both Payscale and Glassdoor are data companies that offer salary comparisons and industry research to help you with your preparation,” says Russell Lieberman, Founder and CEO of Altan Insights.

Practice What You Are Going to Say

How to Effectively Negotiate Your Salary

“Whoever first said that practice makes perfect must have understood the way pressure can inhibit your judgment and presentation skills. Have you ever entered a meeting or speaking event prepared to do what you’ve always done, use the skills you’ve perfected and never struggled with before, and found yourself tongue tied and buckling under the weight of the moment? This is something we all become accustomed to in the business world, but we also have come up with strategies to overcome our faltering. As a successful worker or executive, you simply cannot be buckling under the pressure of each important meeting and conversation. Practice really does help counteract nerves and ‘stage fright.’ You might feel incredibly silly practicing simple skills you’ve already aced, like public speaking, maintaining an even breathing pattern, or shaking hands, but when the big moment comes you’ll be much more invincible against slip-ups. A conversation about a salary negotiation is one of those big moments you’re going to want to ace, so make sure you practice exactly what you want to say, and run through the answers to some of the questions your employer might ask you,” says Zach Letter, CEO of Wonder Works Studio.

Ask for Top Pay Rather Than the Middle of the Range

“Before you go into your meeting with your boss to talk about adjusting your salary, you need to understand the industry trends for your position based on your experience. With every position and profession, there is going to be a range of salaries in the trend; it’s not as though every person in the world or even in the country who has your job is making the same amount of money. The reasons for the range varies depending on multiple factors like each company’s success, their stance on raises, where in the world they operate, etc. When you negotiate your salary with your boss, ask for a salary equivalent to the top pay rather than the middle. Why? You should always set your sights high and ask for what you believe you deserve. You can explain your case on why you deserve top pay, as well as what you will do to further show your worth at the company. And asking for top pay then opens the conversation up for negotiation. Your boss might only be able to offer you the middle range, but at least you’ve laid out your case for higher pay and come to an understanding of why it isn’t possible at the moment. Also, take this time to ask your boss what steps you could take to be at the level of a top pay earner and set a loose deadline for when you can revisit the conversation after you’ve taken the further steps,” says Michelle Arnau, CEO of Rowan For Dogs.

Confidence Is Key

“Confidence can unlock many doors for you that previously seemed inaccessible. Showing confidence in all areas of your life can help you to understand what you deserve and demonstrate your understanding of your worth, but it is also especially crucial at work. Whether your role has you leading conferences and meetings, or you feel like more of a background independent worker, be confident about who you are and what you’re good at. Even for positions that aren’t at the forefront of the company, situations will still arise where you’ll be watched and addressed; those are your key moments to shine in your confidence about what you offer. When it comes time to negotiate your salary with your boss, be sure to carry that confidence into the meeting with you. Even if you don’t get the answer you were looking for, remember that the conversation was a valuable experience that will help you the next time a similar situation comes up. And remember that although you may still need more skills or work experience before you can receive that raise, it doesn’t reflect on your worth as a person or employee, as you’re still learning and growing always–especially in those hard moments of pressure,” says Tavis Lochhead, Co-Founder of Looria.

Cite a Precise Number

“When you ask your superior to raise your salary, it’s best to come into the conversation with a precise number you’d like to earn. Back your number with industry research and explain why this salary is the one you believe you deserve. Rather than rounding up, be as specific with your cited number as possible. Then, try to open up a communication with your boss about how that number would make a difference for you; view your skills as number values and explain how the number comes together based on your research and what you bring to the table,” says Riley Burke, Growth Marketing Manager of Ohza.

Know What You’re Willing to Settle For

“You’ve done your research on the industry standards for your position with your experience in your area. You’ve prepared how you’re going to present your case to your boss. Maybe you’ve had this conversation before and been working on implementing the changes you were told to apply to your role before revisiting the conversation at a later date. You’ve had the meeting where you explained your request. One more thing you need to prepare for is your understanding of what you’re willing to settle for. Yes, this could mean what salary you’re willing to settle for if your boss is not able to meet you at the number you’ve requested. But it also refers to what you’re willing to allow to be your work reality. If you’ve asked for a raise multiple times without success, or if you are currently making less than the industry trend, these are details to really consider. If you’ve been taking on more responsibility in preparation or anticipation of a salary negotiation that seems to be unforthcoming, you might also want to reassess your situation. Of course, if you negotiate your salary and don’t receive exactly what you asked for, that certainly doesn’t mean you should quit your job. However, if you feel there has been a pattern of burnout or unfulfilled expectations at work, what you’re willing to settle for should be something you ask yourself,” says Max Schwartzapfel, CMO of Fighting for You.

Prepare by Showing Your Hard Work Beforehand

“The time before you ask for a raise is not the time to lay back, slack off, or let your work ethic slip. Instead, as you prepare to broach the subject of a salary negotiation with your employer, remember that one step of getting ready is showing the value you bring to the team. Demonstrate your commitment beforehand by working hard, even going above and beyond. Trust me, these things never go unnoticed by those in charge, especially around the time of year when raises are implemented,” says Haim Medine, Creative Director of Mark Henry.

Bring Recommendations and Performance Metrics to the Meeting

“When you open up the conversation about a salary negotiation with your boss, you’re presenting your case for why your value is worth more than you are currently making. Therefore, you need to back your point with actual metrics about your skills and experience. While you may have an idea about your qualities that make you a hard worker, your boss is probably going to want to see more concrete evidence as well. Bring in recommendations from past employers and executives you’ve worked with and show your performance metrics. But do remember that experience and skills only go so far–equally as important is your dedication and teachability, your passion and perseverance, your positive attitude, because these things show who you are as a worker, not just what you’ve accomplished. Who wouldn’t rather honor a determined and hardworking individual over someone with plenty of references but no passion for their role?” says Datha Santomieri, Co-Founder and Vice President of Steadily.

Consider Budget Cycles Before Asking

“While you may feel fired up about approaching your boss about a raise as soon as you realize how long it’s been or that you’re earning less than the industry standard for your position, there is actually a right and wrong time to ask. Your organization will have established budget cycles when the CFO revisits the forecasting targets. It’s generally thought to be good timing to approach the topic of a raise one to two months before this process. If you ask outside of the timing your company has already established, your efforts might seem pointless because chances are that your boss will ask you to reapproach the conversation at a later date to align with the budget cycle. Remember not to wait until the last minute, but make your request known during the period when salaries and expenses are being reassessed,” says Rabah Rahil, CMO of Triple Whale.

Don’t Ask for an Unreasonable Increase

“Preparing to ask for a salary negotiation will probably feel like a big deal, and nerve wracking, so you don’t want any issues with the conversation once you’ve finally worked up to making your request. For this reason, it’s crucial that you do your research beforehand to ensure that your ask aligns with the industry trends and market value. If it’s far outside of what you could reasonably expect to earn, you and your boss will probably leave the meeting unsatisfied with the conversation. Typically the average raise increase is within 3-5%. Of course, if you do your research and find that your current salary is far below the industry standard for someone with your position and experience, then it’s probably time to enter into a negotiation with your boss about your value to the company and desire to earn a competitive salary for your role,” says Alan Ahdoot, Founder and Partner of Adamson Ahdoot Law, LLP.


How to Effectively Negotiate Your Salary

Although the statistics undeniably show the low percentage of those in the workforce who negotiate their salaries–with where they are in their career and their demographic being big factors in not asking–you can help break the cycle of fear around conversations about salaries at work. All you need to do is arm yourself with these results-proven suggestions from executives and CEOs and thoroughly prepare ahead of time. Then, you can enter into the conversation about earnings with confidence. Whatever the answer you receive–whether it be a Yes! or a reason why you should try again later–remember that you’ve done your research so you’re now aware of your worth and the market value, which will help you make an informed decision about how to best proceed.

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