No matter how far away the perfect moment is, there’s always something you can do to make your raise request go more smoothly. We’ll start a year in advance.

A year before raise time

The first and most important step is to make sure you have a clear idea of the work your boss expects you to do, says Kit Warchol, former editor of the career advice site Career Contessa.

Before asking for a raise, “you have to know for sure that what you’re currently doing goes beyond your job description,” Warchol says. “You can take charge of that yourself by regularly asking your boss for feedback. The more feedback you get, the easier it is to say, ‘You told me you needed these three things and I did them.’”

Warchol says this is also a good time to befriend your colleagues. “Get to know coworkers who have been there longer so they can give you advice,” she says. “In an ideal world, you could ask them how much they’re making and how often they’ve gotten raises. The more you know the better off you’ll be.”

Two months before raise time

When you’re ready to ask, schedule an appointment to talk to your boss about your salary, and be upfront about your purpose for the meeting request.

“Let’s not dump this on them,” says Newman. “Send them an email saying, ‘I’m hoping to have a conversation about my performance and compensation. When can we do this?’ That way you’re not taking them by surprise.”

Before the meeting, gather up every scrap of evidence you can about your stellar performance: statistics, production numbers, snippets of feedback from clients and coworkers, etc. “Give them a piece of paper that documents why you’re valuable,” Newman says.

Documenting your achievements will not only make your case more compelling, it’ll also help your boss go to bat for you. “You have to do the heavy lifting to make it as easy as possible for them to make it happen,” Newman says. “It’s very rare in corporations in America that a raise is up to your boss. Often they have to get approval from their boss.”

Finally, Warchol recommends taking a piece of advice she heard from Ladies Get Paid: Go into the meeting with three different salary figures in mind. “Think of an ideal number, where if you get it you’ll pop champagne; an in-between number that will make you feel respected; and then think of a number where if they wouldn’t give you this much, you’d think about finding another job.”

Asking for the raise

Treat the conversation like a sales pitch. Kate White, former editor-in-chief of Cosmo and author of The Gutsy Girl Handbook, says that when asking for a raise, you want to keep the focus on your boss’s needs, not yours. “People will ask for raises by saying their partner just took a pay cut or they just bought a condo. Your boss doesn’t care—she only cares about what you’re doing for her,” White says.

Newman sketched out a simple script for the pitch you should give your boss: “Last year your expectation was to deliver X. I delivered X plus. I overdelivered, and in the next 12 months I believe I can overdeliver, and because I deliver more than expected, I believe this is a good time to think about how I can be given a raise.”

When it’s time to name your salary, White recommends taking the lead. “It used to be thought that when you negotiated a raise, you let your boss name the number,” White says. “Now the theory is, you name the amount because then they have to talk you down from that point instead of you talking them up from their number.”

If the boss says no

Newman says you should be prepared to ask several times. “They’re going to say, ‘Not right now, I need to think about it.’ Then be persistent. Bother them,” she says. “If they say it’s not a good time—okay, then when is a good time? Is three months a reasonable time? Six months? How can we get this accomplished?”

If there simply isn’t room in the budget to bump up your salary, consider asking for other perks, like extra vacation time, the ability to work from home on Fridays, the chance to attend a professional conference, a better desk or parking space, a gym membership, or a title change. “Bosses like title changes because they don’t cost any money,” White notes.

But White says her most important piece of advice—for anyone, but especially for women—is to avoid talking yourself out of asking again. “They know it’s important to ask, but because asking might make them uncomfortable, they come up with reasons why they shouldn’t—this isn’t a good time, I don’t want to rock the boat, my last raise was really great and no one else is getting a raise and I don’t want to be selfish,” White says. “If you hear yourself making excuses about why you don’t want to ask, you should ask yourself: Are those excuses just my fear of asking talking?”

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