How to Ask a Small Business Owner for a Salary Boost

by / ⠀Career Advice / October 23, 2019
10 dollars handed over

Asking for a raise is never easy. You may feel as though your work warrants a larger salary — but will the person who signs your checks agree?

Fifty-five percent of workers haven’t received praise from their boss recently. Without a clear understanding of how he or she sees your work, it’s tough to gauge your chances of actually getting a raise. 

At a small business, you’re likely to have a closer relationship with your boss than you would working for a larger company. But cash flow is always a concern for small business owners. Getting the raise you want is about more than making friends; it’s about asking the right way, at the right time, and with the right data to back it up.

1. See the bigger picture.

When asking for a raise, it’s tempting to focus solely on yourself and your accomplishments. Although it’s good to have a strong sense of self-worth, you need to think of the person sitting across the table as well. 

Many small business owners don’t take a salary, payroll firm OnPay points out, and more than 70% work more than 40 hours per week. If your boss is overworking and underpaying herself, suggesting that the time you put in merits more money may not work. Before you ask for a raise, take stock of where the company is at as a whole. Make sure your request is commensurate with what’s going on across the entire business. 

2. Do a self-evaluation.

Nobody knows more about the work you do than you do, but your boss is almost certainly aware of what you bring to the table as an employee. If you’re going to negotiate a raise, you need to have data and examples on your side.

Be ready to cite recent projects and achievements of yours that have helped the company. Use tools like Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth calculator to see what other people in your position are making. Be sure the salary you’re asking for isn’t outlandish in light of your role or job performance.

3. Be flexible.

Salary is certainly important, but it’s probably just one piece of your compensation package. Thanks to factors like benefits, taxes, and office space, the total cost of an employee to a company is thousands of dollars greater than salary alone.

A small business owner who isn’t making much herself might be hesitant to give a straight boost to salary, but she may be open to new perks or tools. Think about what would improve your quality of life. Would a paid gym membership help you along your fitness journey? What about healthy office snacks? Your boss may be willing to meet you in the middle with benefits that cut down on costs like sick days and health insurance. 

4. Get the timing right.

Asking for a raise is all about getting the timing right. Your tenure with the company, the business’s recent financial performance, the broader economic conditions, and even your boss’s mood that day all play a role. 

If you’re new to your position, recruitment site suggests waiting at least six months before asking for a raise. If you’ve been at your company longer than that, make your request before your boss finishes her annual budget. The last thing you want to hear is that your boss would love to pay you more but can’t because she’s already earmarked the money elsewhere.

Be patient. Wait until you’ve landed an exciting new client or had a highly lucrative project go live. Asking after a big professional win is likely to make the business owner more open to your request. 

Prepare for “No”

It’s never fun to be rejected, but it’s always possible. If your request for a raise gets turned down, what’s your next step? If money is tight all around, you might need to start looking for a new employer. Otherwise, set up a side hustle or take on an additional project to further prove your value to the company. Rather than let a “no” leave you feeling defeated, treat it as motivation.

No matter what your relationship is with your boss, asking for additional compensation isn’t going to ruin it. If you feel like your work is worth greater pay, ask for it. Just be prepared to back it up.

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About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.