Nicole Fenton is the coauthor of Nicely Said. They design with words.

How to Negotiate a Salary or Raise

Several friends have asked for tips on negotiating pay. Money is an emotional issue for most people; society makes it even harder to talk about than it should be. Here are some tips on getting that overdue raise or negotiating a new salary.

Considering freelance? In the Wild and In the Black includes tips on choosing an hourly rate.

Pick a number

Are you paid fairly? Think about your performance and what you need to be comfortable. is helpful for averages. If you have close friends in the field, it doesn’t hurt to ask them what they make. They might not tell you; you just have to be okay with that.

Ask for what you need

If you haven’t had a review in over a year, ask for one. Most companies max out yearly raises around 10% of your salary, unless a promotion or title change is involved. Prepare brief talking points about your strengths, if you think you might need them. Focus on your skills, feedback from peers and customers, and what you bring to the company.

Shyness can stop you

When negotiating pay, fewer words are better. Don’t be shy or apologize for what you say. Avoid hemming and hawing when discussing the number. Speak plainly and concisely, such as:

  • “I expect $85,000 for this position.”
  • “I need $70,000 to live comfortably.”
  • “Based on my research, I expect to make between $60,000 and $62,000.”

Whatever the number is, try to keep the emotion out of it.

Ask for clear expectations

For a raise, you may have to wait on a review cycle or HR approval. Ask your manager for next steps and when you should hear back. For a salary negotiation, you should get an offer relatively soon. If the offer isn’t good enough, make a counter offer or ask for time to think it over.

When there is no raise

If a company can’t or won’t give you a raise, try asking for other benefits, like comp days or discounts. When you’ve given it all you’ve got, look elsewhere.

More about money