Good Advice #8: How to Negotiate a Raise

Ever wanted to negotiate a raise in your day job or with a client and not known what to say? This week’s Good Advice column is for you!

Ack! Help!

I’ve been going back and forth with my biggest client (~80% of my business) about raising the rate he pays me. I get paid a flat fee on a monthly basis, which works really well for me, but the amount I’m paid each month hasn’t changed in the last two years.

He’s finally come around to the idea that I need a raise. He just called and wants to meet over coffee to negotiate a number. I’ve done my homework, I know what I want and what my BATNA is but I have no idea what to say!

Do I talk first? Does he? Do I just tell him what I want? Help!!

Congrats on pushing for a conversation about a raise! Getting the other person to agree to negotiate can often be the hardest part of negotiating. So: Congrats! You rock!

Here’s what you’re going to do to get the raise you want:

Spend the first ten minutes just listening to what he has to say.If he only has two minutes of pomp and circumstance to kick things off, ask questions to keep him talking. Your #1 job is to listen to his point of view.

By micmol  via


You want to do this for a few reasons. The first is that it will give you a chance to calm down. We’re often most nervous at the beginning of a negotiation conversation. If you make your job focusing on what the other person has to say, you give your anxious brain a job, and anxious brains with jobs have an easier time of calming down.

The second reason you’re going to do this is to let him blow off steam. He’s nervous too, even if he doesn’t show it and he’s more likely to share information if you just shut up and listen.

Humans are social beasts and too much silence from the other person makes us nervous. So we talk to fill that silence up. When we talk to make noise instead of to communicate we often say things that we wouldn’t if we were thinking a bit more clearly.

The third reason to listen and not talk is that you want to give him enough time to anchor. You want him to throw out the first number. If he doesn’t anchor in the first ten minutes, do not throw out a number. Wait him out.

Anchoring is good when you know a lot about what something is worth; it is bad when you don’t have a lot of information about the value of what you’re negotiating over.

Since I assume the rate you are currently making is adequate to meet your day-to-day needs, the value in this situation is how much he values your work. If you anchor first, you run the risk of underestimating how much he values your work.

If you anchor in this situation you set the ceiling of how much the raise will be; if he anchors first, he sets the floor. You want to start out at the floor and work your way up, not vice versa.

But what if he backs you into a corner and tells you point blank to give him a number?


“David, I want to respond, but I need to understand your point of view a bit better. Can you help me understand…

By drp via

…how my work is contributing to your company’s goals?”

…how much work you anticipate needing from me over the next 18 months?”

…how your business has used my work over the last 12 months?”

…what factors are going into this decision for you?”

What this does is make him explain to his logic out loud. What can sound perfectly reasonable in the privacy of his own office may sound a little thin to him when talking to you. And if it does, he’ll likely start negotiating against himself.

Even if his logic sounds perfectly reasonable to him when he has to tell it to your face, you’ll get helpful information about what’s important to him. And that can help you craft your response.

Plus, if you have a tendency to talk when you get nervous, asking questions will give you the release of being able to say something, but it’ll limit you from pontificating.

You’ve done your homework and you know what your BATNA is, so get through those first ten minutes or so of conversation, and the negotiation will start to flow naturally. Read these posts before you head out to the cafe, and be sure to listen to your “I’m Awesome!” song a few times.

You’ll be great! Good luck!

Do you have a question for the Good Advice column? Ask me!

Featured image by hellojenuine. via

Categories: Good Advice, Good Advice Posts

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