Looking for a bump in pay? Here’s how to ask.

Want to boost your bank balance? If you’ve mastered the art of saving, it may be time to explore increasing your earnings. The most straightforward option: asking for a raise. With a little preparation, this intimidating prospect can be a ticket to a financially awesome future.

Few people want to talk about how much they make, let alone ask for more money. Although the prospect of negotiating a salary and placing a value on one’s worth may be unnerving, the potential upside is invaluable. You could score an overdue raise or promotion, and even if the timing isn’t right, revisiting career accomplishments and goals can set you up for future success.

Do your homework

Before approaching a manager about a raise, do some legwork to see how your current pay stacks up and be ready to show the results of your labor. Online tools can provide a sense of what someone with the same set of skills, experience, education and job responsibilities can earn in your town. Another source of info is job postings; check the listings at local companies with comparable positions, as some may provide a salary range within job descriptions. Additionally, if your industry relies heavily on recruiting agencies, get in touch with agencies active in your area to see if they share salary findings.

Finally, although pay may be an uncomfortable topic to introduce, think about asking colleagues – such as coworkers or peers in a professional association – for their take. You can try the direct route, asking outright what someone makes, but don’t be surprised if people hedge, even if you volunteer to share first. More circuitous routes could be to ask if they make over or under a certain amount, or simply ask what they would expect a pay range to be for a job. Just be sure that, when asking a supervisor for a raise, you don’t discuss the compensation of any particular colleague.

Nail the timing

Most companies have a policy and process when it comes to awarding raises. Some may award them at a certain time of year for all employees, such as coinciding with annual performance evaluations or a fiscal year end. Others may award raises on an employee’s anniversary. It is fair to ask a supervisor or human resources representative about the schedule for compensation and performance reviews.

Once you know when raises tend to happen, you can start preparing a case for an increase. Just remember that the time to make your case is likely a couple of months before raises are announced – in other words, before all available funds are already allocated. Take some time to review your work from the past year, noting new responsibilities, accomplishments, skill development and other contributions to the company. Then, make an appointment with a supervisor to talk about discussing your role.

Be smart about picking your timing to introduce the topic of a raise. If the company is facing issues related to its industry or the broader economy, and the future is likely to hold budget cuts, a discussion about a raise may not go far. Same, if the boss is dealing with back-to-back meetings and is too harried to focus. On the other hand, if the mood around the office is bright thanks to new business or recognition for jobs well done, it may be a great opportunity to start planting the seed.

Make the ask

Once you have an appointment with a supervisor, it’s time to make the ask. Be confident and straightforward in your request, outlining the reasons why a raise is due and how much you believe is in order. One rule of thumb is to ask for anywhere from 10% to 20% of a current salary. The higher you go, though, the more important it is to illustrate and document your performance and contributions.

The best-case scenario, of course, is to be awarded a raise and possibly even a promotion. Or, you may be offered a smaller raise than you desire; it may be possible to negotiate to a happy medium. Worst case, a request for a raise may be rejected outright, but that still leaves some options.

Keep talking to your supervisor to learn what you can do to reach a higher pay tier, whether it’s something like taking on more responsibility or acquiring new skills. Also, ask when the two of you can check on progress and revisit the conversation. Not only can you let your boss know you’re committed to long-term career growth, but you can also learn if you’re at the right company, one that is willing to invest in you and help you achieve your aspirations.