How to Ask for a Raise

Like many creatives over the past few years, receiving a raise was probably not high on your list of worries; you were just happy to have a job. But now that the economic news is improving, you may want to request a salary increase. Perhaps you’ve taken on additional responsibilities in your job and, after researching the pay of those in your industry with the same level of experience, you’ve found your salary is on the low end.

While it’s important to earn the pay you deserve, compensation is a complicated issue, and some rewards don’t involve money. You may have more vacation time than is standard, for instance. Or your employer might provide tuition reimbursement when you pursue educational courses that allow you to acquire new skills.

Before requesting a raise, consider the bigger picture: Given your work environment, earnings and perks, do you believe you’re adequately compensated? If not, it may be time to build a case for higher pay. Here’s how:

Track your successes. It’s not likely you’ll receive a raise simply because salary data suggests your earnings are below average. While compensation information can be a valuable tool when discussing pay adjustments, it shouldn’t be your only one. Your workplace contributions also are a factor.

Keep an ongoing list of achievements that you can refer to when discussing your compensation with your manager: Did an ad campaign you designed win an industry award and bring in more business? Do you regularly meet tight deadlines? Have you gone from managing two people to six? Have projects you managed come in on time and under budget? Citing specific accomplishments that had a bottom-line benefit on the business will help you make a stronger case for a raise.

Time it right. The economy may be improving, but how about your firm’s business? If your company has undergone recent budget cuts or layoffs, it’s not the best time to ask for a raise, unless you’ve recently been promoted or have assumed additional responsibilities. Even then, you may want to wait a while before proposing a pay adjustment. Instead, begin building a case for increased compensation. Then, when your company is on firmer financial ground, you’ll be prepared to present a compelling argument.

Keep the conversation professional. Avoid getting too personal when trying to justify a pay increase. You may be asking for a raise because you want to buy a home or your car has 200,000 miles on it, but these aren’t valid reasons for your company to provide additional compensation. Stick to your professional merits when discussing the issue.

Be flexible. Before you approach your manager about a raise, know specifically what you want and be open to other forms of compensation: If you ask for a 10 percent pay increase, and you’re told there’s no money in the budget, perhaps you can negotiate an extra week of paid vacation or more flextime. If all else fails, ask your boss if you can discuss a raise six months from now when the company is in better fiscal shape.

Asking for a raise is never easy, even in the best economic conditions. But by conducting research, considering your entire compensation package and making sure the timing is right, you’ll be better positioned to ask—and receive—the pay you deserve.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.