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How to increase your salary without changing your job

Let’s not delude ourselves: You’ll have to do or be more to increase your salary.

But you don’t have to change your job. Handy if you love what you do!

Understand that anyone senior to you must be able to justify your raise to someone higher. Therefore, whining or pleading won’t work (not for long). And if your boss is the owner of the company, he or she will be the hardest person to convince – they know that every penny counts.

You do a great job, but you’ve previously been underpaid? Tough, it’s too late to moan now. You lost that fight when you signed up.

I’m serious! You’ve already been pigeonholed and to get the pay you deserve you have to show you can fly – either for the company, or if you must then away from the company.

While I was employed I consistently earned at least 25-50% more than my peers in identical roles, even ignoring bonuses.

Here are my ten top tips on increasing your salary.

1. Believe you’re worth more money

The most important step. Sounds very self-help-ish, but it’s true.

You need to radiate a belief that you’re a higher earner, and you need to believe it. If you do, more responsibility will come towards you, which is the key to earning more.

2. Know what your job is

When I’ve employed someone, I’ve had a very clear idea what they critically need to achieve. They may do other stuff, it may be great, but if they’re not doing what I’m watching then they could be baking donuts.

Companies can be bad at communicating this stuff. Find out what your job really is, then make sure you’re doing it.

(Hint: your job is not to sit in front of a PC every day. That’s a side effect).

3. When at work, live and breath for your boss

Forget yourself for a moment. Think hard about how to improve the daily working life of whoever decides your salary, and then improve it.

I don’t mean pathetically sucking up, which anyone sensible hates. I mean making their work more effective.

This works!

4. Do the dirty work

Is there a role you’d like and/or you’d be good at, that’s vital, and that nobody wants? Take it – or make it up and then take it.

Sales is a good example; most people don’t want to sell, and selling ultimately makes the money.

5. Find out what you’re really worth

Don’t daydream or get bitter over a fantasy. Cautiously shop around to discover your going rate.

Fact: big raises come when you move. But you don’t want to issue an ultimatum or appear disloyal, if the aim is to keep and improve your current position. You just want to show you’re ready for more, and to be equipped with the facts to set your targets.

(If you discover you’re not actually worth more, take emergency action!)

6. Follow the money, if you can

If your work isn’t a vocation, then try to align your role with profit centers (sales or product delivery) rather than costs (support or product development).

I know, I know, it’s products and services that ultimately make the money. But this is a pragmatic guide. It’s far easier to get more money when you’re bringing it in, compared to when you’re another outgoing.

7. Understand the money if you can’t

If it’s impossible for you to move into sales or management – you’re a star programmer or a graphic designer, say – then befriend the sales team to discover how your output makes them money.

Take an interest in your role in the grand money-making side of things; most of your peers won’t. Use this knowledge to make more money for the company, and parley that into a raise!

8. Be unique

Don’t compare yourself with your colleagues. For a start, it looks bitchy.

More importantly, you’re telling your boss you’re in the same bracket as lazy Rachel or over-paid Bob, even if your point is you’re better.

Sorry, that’s just the way our brains work.

9. Anything else they can do for you?

Perhaps your company really can’t pay your more money right now. Your research from steps 6 and 7 should tell you if that’s true.

Is there some non-monetary benefit that’s of equal value to you personally?

Pension contributions, or extra holiday time, working from home time, or maybe a 4-day week provided you deliver? Something will be negotiable.

10. Find out what’s wrong with you

I’ll admit hearing even constructive criticism is the thing I found hardest when I was an employee. But if you’re not getting a raise and you’re not going to follow my escape pod and go freelance (which solves a multitude of problems) then you need to ask and be prepared to hear what’s stopping you getting the income you desire.

This is after the negotiating phase, so don’t whine or argue back. Listen, learn, fix, out-perform, then go back for more – money, preferably, but failing that more advice until the money eventually follows.

Go for it!

Trust me, good people who deliver what they say they will are incredibly rare.

Most people are half-arsed. Become a good person who delivers, and the money will follow.

If you think I’m wrong, then you’re not good enough yet – or your job is beyond saving and you need to move after all!

Readers: Do you have any more tips on how to increase your salary without changing jobs? Share them below!

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • 1 Financial Samurai February 27, 2010, 4:54 pm

    Great tips… and I believe the #1 thing is to make your boss look good if I had to choose just one!

    Maybe I will write a post and “dance” with you on this subject.
    .-= Financial Samurai on: The Curse Of Making Too Much Money And Not Pursuing Your Dreams =-.

  • 2 Len Penzo February 27, 2010, 8:07 pm

    Awesome tips, Investor! However, it is my experience that the quickest path to higher pay is #4: Do the Dirty Work!

    It’s worked for me. I am the go-to guy at my place of employment for jobs nobody else wants, or are willing to learn to do – and it has paid off for me handsomely – it also adds a bit of comfort in the job security arena.

    All the best,

    Len Penzo dot Com
    .-= Len Penzo on: Drive-By Movie Review: Zombieland =-.

  • 3 The Investor February 27, 2010, 8:26 pm

    @Len – Yes, job security is a great side benefit of doing the dirty, unless it’s so loathed that it gets outsourced (but even then I’ve seen people become contractors and take it as their first client).

    @Sam – A dance? Intriguing!

  • 4 Ted February 28, 2010, 6:17 pm

    Awesome tips. I always heard it said that you need to be invaluable. I am in sales, so my bottom line says a lot about how I am doing. I surprised my boss (also my father) by outselling his projections by about 10%. So this year, I got a bonus and a raise- woo hoo. Off to keep up the pace!
    .-= Ted on: The shame of debt =-.

  • 5 Evolution Of Wealth March 1, 2010, 4:18 am

    Be your own boss then you only have to impress one person. I definitely think it is about differentiation whether it be in your workplace or your own services, you need to be different then everyone else. How are you doing that? Why are you better than the guy next to you? That’s what you need to know the answer to.
    .-= Evolution Of Wealth on: Pricing Your Disability Insurance =-.

  • 6 Ken March 1, 2010, 11:56 am

    Great tips. I would say make sure what you’re doing affects the core business of the company. If is doesn’t, volunteer for a task (dirty work) that does so you can be recognized.
    .-= Ken on: Weekend Edition =-.

  • 7 Bret @ Hope to Prosper March 1, 2010, 11:20 pm

    I have always done well with #4 Doing the Dirty Work.

    I like to work for smaller and medium-sized companies. And, they appreciate someone who can get the odd jobs done. For example, I took over as the head of the Safety Committe (which everyone knows is a thankless job) and my boss responded with a promotion and an 8.5% raise. It can definitely pay off, as long as your company appreciates your efforts.

  • 8 The Investor March 2, 2010, 12:02 am

    @Bret – Absolutely, you’ve earned every penny by being on the Safety Committee as far as I’m concerned! (I’m a committee-phobic). Great point too that you have to make sure the company notices what you’re doing; a conversation can help set the scene.

    @Ken – Yes, once I sat on the management side of the fence I quickly appreciated that the other places where I’d worked must have pegged me down as core or a nice but not essential extra!

  • 9 Brian March 7, 2010, 10:11 pm

    1. Believe – dress for the job you want, socialize with people at the level you want be with, and set attainable goals to reaffirm your worth daily.
    2. I have had jobs where review time comes around and then you find out how you are being graded against your peers. Don’t let this happen, review your promotion goals quarterly with your manager so they see your progress and know where you need help. A good manager will love your initiative.
    3. Going with #2, learn how your boss is getting graded and help them out achieving their goals.
    4. Do the dirty work but also make sure someone sees you do it so if you have a bad boss they don’t take all the credit.
    5. There are lots of websites that can help you here. Keep your resume up to date and take those calls from recruiters. If you are seeing a downward trend in your worth find out why and fix it. Ask for a class, seminar, etc. to stay current.
    6. Business is about the bottom line. The more you can contribute the more you are worth (back to #5)
    7. Again, business is about the bottom line. Try to find efficiencies in how you do your job that can save the company money or increase sales. Have your manager explain to you the department budget (what they can) and where the costs come from. It is usually easy to make little changes but you might have a great idea.
    8. This goes back to #2. Ensure you can do everything in your job and then start to learn the jobs of other people so you can fill in for them when they are out or on vacation. The more you know about the business the further you can climb on the ladder.
    9. This goes back to #5. Ask for some additional training to help make yourself unique or better, your competition less unique. Disaster preparedness is a big topic in businesses today and it also applies to personnel.
    10. If your department does not do peer reviews ask if they can be added to the mid-term review process. It is amazing how many trivial problems can be solved this way contributing to team building and effectiveness. Once you find out what people are saying work hard to fix those problems. Remember, it is a perception of a problem that is key here.

  • 10 The Investor March 8, 2010, 2:29 pm

    @Brian – Thanks for your excellent suggestions. They speak to me of considerable cubicle-warrior experience, and as I say I fled the corporate world so your insights on structured progression are a very useful addition here.

  • 11 Stephen September 23, 2010, 11:15 pm

    It’s a good article, but it’s no guarantee of an increase (I know I tried). I would to follow the tips from this guy too: http://jeremy.chatelaine.name/salary. He basically recommends doing a great job as well, but to negotiate the salary for your next job instead.

  • 12 Kevin February 13, 2011, 6:41 am

    This is a good article and I have read similarly in the past. I have tried to make my boss look better and help him, I do the dirty work. But after a year now, it is apparent to me that my boss gets his ego hurt if I start to shine because I do a good job, this is in Information Technology. He has a problem with people knowing more and doing better than him. When I have attempted to transfer my knowledge to him, he ignores it but actually listens, he doesn’t recognize my efforts, and then at a later time, he will present the knowledge to others as though he knew, thereby steeling my efforts, I have tested this. He is a horribly inexperienced manager that is related to the owner of the company. In addition, given my security clearance, I am very certain that every once in a while, he would fabricate a serious IT disaster and then recover it, he is very self conscious of his image. How do I deal with this? I am already looking for a new place to work, I’m certain he has psychological control issues.

  • 13 The Investor February 13, 2011, 9:52 pm

    @Kevin – Hm, tricky. The problem may be that he’s in where he is because of relations, not because of his career. Perhaps this gives him less reason to want to do well, and less experience of earning and learning his way up. The technique of supporting your boss has worked for me, but never in a nepotistic environment like that.

    Always best to have a job when you’re looking for a new one, so stick it out as best you can and find somewhere that recognizes your talents, perhaps?

  • 14 SB(One Cent At A Time) June 16, 2011, 2:07 am

    Yes I do want to share my own tactics, which I wrote down in my blog. This is my personal methods, which brought success and are still bringing.
    Here you go


  • 15 Surrender Now May 8, 2014, 3:59 pm

    All this precludes the necessity of your boss being a person with integrity. I have found the empty slots and filled them. Job functions that are no where even remotely close to what my core hire-on function is. Yet, years go by, and no salary increase. When sole proprietors decide that reviews and evaluations are no longer necessary, and there is no HR dept, they create this crooked slimeball methodology of forcing the employee to have to justify a raise. Even if you can fill a page with job descriptions, it is ultimately up to the level of integrity and honesty of the person you work for. Some men have no business being a business owner.

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