My frugality has served me well. It’s allowed me to live on a budget in one of the most expensive cities in the word. It’s afforded me the opportunity to follow my dreams of professional acting. It’s taught me the importance of conscious consumption and a strong financial foundation.
But a couple of years ago, it hit me that my frugal hacks alone were not enough. My wealth wasn’t growing, and despite my stellar savings strategies, money remained a constant struggle. I had adopted the limiting belief that I was doing everything I could, when in fact, I had been neglecting the other half of the wealth equation – making more money.
Saving money is finite. Even if you were to reduce your monthly expenses to zero, you’d only be saving as much as you were once spending. But money earned has no such limits. You can increase your income well past the point of any potential savings because there is no cap on how much you can make.
As much as I love and live by my frugal tips and tricks, learning how to make more money has been one of the most transformative skills and experiences of my 20s. Frugality by choice rather than necessity is hugely liberating – as is the flexibility of greater resources with which to live life.
But how do you do it? How do you actually make more money?
Start With Knowing
I had been writing about personal finance for nearly two years before internalizing this message of making more. Sure, I’d read stories of other individuals who had successfully increased their earnings, but I continued to feel that my own income pursuits were inherently limited by my lack of experience and relevant education.
To me, making more money could only be achieved in one way- a Broadway contract. With a degree in drama and seven years of professional stage experience, it was the only six-figure future I could envision. It didn’t occur to me that I could be the primary driver of my income endeavors, rather than my experience or my degree or my employer – and that the path to achieving elevated earning potential could take any form.
Eventually, my voracious consumption of entrepreneurial books, blogs, documentaries and podcasts pushed me past the tipping point, helping me take responsibility for my earnings future and transforming my approach to earning more.
The lesson learned?
To truly maximize the opportunity for income growth, take ownership of your income potential. Outside factors are undoubtedly influential, but none are more powerful than your own resolve and follow through.
Ask For More Money
Whether you’re traditionally employed or working freelance, knowing how to ask for more money is a critical component to making more. Don’t limit how much you can earn by falling into these common negotiation traps.
- Making It About You. The house you want to buy, the baby you’re expecting or the medical bills you’re struggling to pay off may be compelling reasons for you to seek out a pay increase, but they are no way to ask for one. Your personal circumstances have no bearing how much you should be paid – at least from your employers’ or clients’ perspective.
- Making It About Time Served. Just because you’ve worked for an employer or client for a certain period of time, doesn’t mean you deserve a raise. Don’t walk into a negotiation with the passage of time as your only reference point for why you should make more money. On the flip side, don’t let limited time served keep you from asking for more when you deserve it. Proven performance is far more compelling than a set period of time.
How do you successfully negotiate when you do deserve more?
- Make It About Them. What value are you offering your client or employer that extends above and beyond your current compensation? Come with a list of added responsibilities or tasks you’re willing to take on or have already taken on. The conversation should be about how you’re fulfilling the employers’ or client’s needs, not about how a pay increase will fulfill your own.
- Make It About The Numbers. It’s nearly impossible to argue with the bottom line. The more you can distill your contributions down to concrete numbers and metrics, the more compelling your case.
Tonya Rapley, founder of MyFabFinance, negotiated a $20,000 salary increase over two years at her former community outreach position by leveraging her impressive performance record. “I exceeded expected revenues by $11,000 and made mention of it [during a performance review]. How can you resist someone who makes money for you?” she told GoBankingRates.
Asking for more money doesn’t have to be limited to established relationships either. Even first-time job seekers can and should get in the mindset of asking for more.
How to Make More Money From the Start
According to a NerdWallet survey of 8,000 college graduates entering the job market between 2012 and 2015, only 38% of new grads tried to negotiate their pay upon receiving their first job offer. The study also surveyed employers, finding that three-quarters of hiring managers had room to increase their offers by five to ten percent.
Make more money in the long run by positioning your earnings well from the start. More often than not, there is room for negotiation.
According to NerdWallet, “an employee who successfully asks for a 5 % salary bump on a $40,000 job offer when she is 22 […], will make an extra $170,000 by the time she retires at 65.” (Based on an annual 3% salary growth.) Though today’s high school and college graduates probably won’t be at the same job for forty plus years, learning to negotiate from day one is still good practice and helps kickstart earnings growth ASAP.
Rather than making specific salary demands with no previous experience or past performance to reference, grads entering the workforce can approach negotiations professionally by posing questions like, “Is there any flexibility?” when the money conversation is initiated.
Researching comparable salaries for the position, location and organization on sites like Glassdoor and Payscale can also give first-time (and long-time) negotiators helpful context for appropriate income ranges and targets.
How to Ask For More Money – With Confidence
Whether you’re negotiating with your boss of ten years or a brand new employer, asking for more money can be nerve wracking; but executing your negotiation well can be the easiest money you ever make. Let that prospect motivate you to follow through in spite of your nerves.
To keep your negotiation anxiety at bay, follow these guidelines for asking for more money with confidence.
- Be Prepared. Don’t walk in and ask for more money without having spent some time thinking about how much you’d like to earn and what you can do to get it. Do your research, identify your contributions, know what value you provide and be able to articulate all those things clearly.
- Practice asking for more money with a period – no question mark, no ellipses, no apologies.
Even if you plan to open the door to negotiation with a question, practice it in such a way that you command the answer you’re hoping to get.
- Let the Silence Lie. Once you’ve posed the question or confidently stated your desired salary, let the silence lie. Don’t undercut your ask by trying to justify it.
In an article for The Atlantic, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write, “Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.”
Find The Right Employer (or Client)
If all of your negotiation prowess leaves you short of your desired earnings, it might be time to consider a new employer (or client). According to Forbes, “staying employed at the same company for over two years on average is going to make you earn less over your lifetime by about 50% or more.”
A new job gives you the opportunity to re-anchor your salary at a level that’s in line with your desired income. Rather than being relegated to a traditional two or three percent raise, you can ask for a 20 percent income increase or even 100 percent – they won’t know. As long as you have good reason and can back it up, you can ask for just about anything you want.
I went through this process rather recently in my freelance career. I had started writing for other bloggers for around $30 per post – asking for the occasional $10 or $20 pay increase every so often. When a potential corporate client reached out, I decided to be bold and ask for a full $50. They came back to me with a contract offering $1 per word. For those of you unfamiliar with the blogging space, most posts fall between 500-1,000 words.
That experience shifted my perspective entirely. I knew my fellow personal finance bloggers probably couldn’t afford to offer me a thousand percent plus pay increase, but somebody could. I spent the following year slowly seeking out those “somebodies” and in the process, grew my earnings in ways I never even considered possible.
Sometimes, the key to making more money isn’t to steadily continue along on your current path, but to completely disrupt your current status quo by seeking out greater opportunities elsewhere.
Rethink Your Offering
Knowing how to ask for more money and find the clients and employers willing and able to pay you what you want, are critically important skills, but if you still find yourself coming up against an income ceiling in spite of all that, it may be worth rethinking your offering.
As a professional artist, this was something I personally struggled with. Rather than simply giving up or abandoning the work I loved and the skills I’d developed, I spent some time reconsidering where my talents and passions overlapped with market demand.
Walk into an audition for a Broadway show or tune into an episode of American Idol and you’ll find there’s more than enough supply. What I had failed to realize though, was that there was a largely unmet demand for my skill set in other industries and settings.
Sure, no Fortune 500 company would be too pleased if I walked into their lobby and started performing a one woman rendition of West Side Story (though they might be amused) – but they would and do value my ability to connect with an audience, tell a story, think creatively and speak confidently.
If and when you hit an income ceiling, rethinking your approach and leveraging your skill set to meet a more profitable market demand can provide the diversity of income that enables greater earnings, which in turn enables the flexibility to pursue your passion driven and personal endeavors on your own terms.
Making more money provides freedom and flexibility that even the most disciplined savings techniques struggle to match.
Keep spending smart, but don’t forget that making more money is the only pathway to financial freedom with unlimited growth potential. By negotiating confidently, finding the right audience for your work and discovering the best medium for your skill set, you can bust through any perceived constraints on your income and command the salary that serves your goals and dreams best.