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5 Things to Do Differently if You Want to Earn More Money

U.S. News & World Report - Money logo U.S. News & World Report - Money 04-10-2016 Alison Green

Ever wonder if you could be earning more money if you handled salary negotiations and raise discussions differently? Salary is one of those things that most people feel incredibly anxious about discussing with their employer — despite how crucial it is to your everyday quality of life. 

Here are five things that you should consider doing differently if you want to earn more money.

Negotiate when you get a job offer

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Interestingly, many people know that the conventional wisdom is that you should try to negotiate for a higher salary when you get a job offer, but people still don't do it. They don't do it because they're nervous they'll be turned down, or that they'll overshoot and ask for too much or even that the offer might be pulled. But getting more money in your paycheck is never easier than when you're negotiating the salary for a new job. Once you're working in the role, your raises are likely to be relatively small (3 percent is the national average), but when you're negotiating before accepting an offer, you can often increase the amount by significantly more — sometimes by 10 to 20 percent.

Ignore your salary history 

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If you use your previous salary as a base for deciding how much to ask a new employer for, you're unnecessarily tethering yourself to a figure that may no longer be relevant. Instead of basing your salary negotiations on what you've been making in the past, start from scratch and look at what the market rate is for the role that you're applying for now. You might find that it's actually much higher than your old salary. And if you don't limit yourself by assuming you can only ask for a small jump over what you made previously, you might end up with a significant increase in your new paycheck.

Don't wait for your boss to initiate a conversation about your salary

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Some companies still do salary adjustments every year, or talk about raises at the same time that they're doing annual performance evaluations. But lots of companies don't, and at those companies there may never be a natural or easy opening for you to ask for a raise. Because of that, you should generally assume that you'll need to initiate the conversation yourself. That means that when you're ready to talk about your salary, you should assume that you'll need to schedule a meeting with your boss, raise it during a regular check-in meeting or otherwise take the initiative to make the conversation happen. If you wait around for your boss to give you an opening, you may end up waiting forever.

If you want a larger than usual raise, give your boss some advance notice

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If your company tends to give raises at the same time every year – often in December or around work anniversaries, tied to performance evaluations – you may need to speak up earlier if you want a raise that's larger than what's typical at your organization. If you wait until your boss announces your raise for next year at the same time they're distributing them to others, you might have missed the budgeting window for them to secure you a larger amount. Instead, if your company adheres to a pretty regular raise schedule, talk to your boss at least a month or two before they're due to announce any raise to you.

Know your worth

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For many people, one of the reasons that negotiating salary is so nerve-wracking is that they don't have a really solid sense of what the market rate is for their work. That leads to fear of asking for too much or unknowingly accepting a lower salary than you should. The best way to combat that is to better educate yourself about the worth of your work in the job market. Talk to recruiters who recruit for positions similar to yours, check with professional associations in your industry (they often do salary surveys) and bounce figures off of others in your field. Once you know your market value, you'll be a lot better positioned to make sure you're earning what you should be.

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