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are you paid what you are worth?

Every March on Equal Pay Day, pay transparency becomes all the rage – and we’re here for it! 

But if you don’t have a trusty colleague to ask, how do you know if you’re getting paid what you’re worth? As a true bestie, Penny’s got your back. 

In this post, we cover:

  • how do you find market rates for your job?
  • how do you ask for a raise? 
  • what to do if your employer says no?
  • does an advanced degree change things?
  • what about freelancers?

Once you’re done reading, hop over to Penny’s community forum and tell us what you thought, ask questions, and share your experience.   

(Disclaimer: Your worth is NOT – and never should be – determined by your paycheck. This information is meant to help ensure you’re not underpaid for all the time and energy you put into your work. But your inherent awesomeness? Nobody can take that away from you!)

👀 7min read

how do I ask for a raise?

📸: Johnny Dufort

How do you find market rates for your job?

If you don’t have a colleague to spill the tea, the next best thing is to ask your good ol’ friend, the internet. 

Do a quick online search. Use the keywords “job salary range” + your specific job title, and you’ll get answers asap.

Ask the experts. Look up trends for your specific role in websites that specialize in compiling this information, such as: 

Job search (sorta). Job postings often include updated salary market rates. If your company doesn’t have an active listing for your role, see if a competitor has similar job postings on search sites like or LinkedIn. 

Once you have this information, you’ve done the first step of the prep work on how to ask for a raise (and successful negotiation).

How do you ask for a raise?

Before you ask for a raise, do the groundwork. 

Step 1: Information. 

This is your key to a successful pay raise negotiation. Don’t just research the market rates for your role; find out what that looks like inside your organization. 

  • Does your company use a scale, tier, or range to pay employees? 

(If yes, where are you on that scale?)

  • Does it match the market rates you found for your role? 
  • Are there clear requirements you have to meet to “move up”? 

Your HR team probably knows this information better than anyone else. But check in with managers and colleagues, too.

  • Has someone you know asked for a raise and succeeded? 
  • How did they do it? 
  • When did they ask? 

Sometimes it’s easier to get a raise if you time it with your company’s budget planning. Learn as much as you can.

Step 2: Set the stage.

Meet with your manager 3-6 months BEFORE you plan on asking for a raise.

It could be a performance review. Or the end of the fiscal year. Whatever the timeline: ask if they can meet with you, so you can set expectations in advance. 

A couple of draft scripts you can adapt: 

Script 1

Hey Manager, I’m interested in growing at XYZ Company. I would love to get your insight on how I can really excel in my role, so I can be considered for a future raise/promotion. Do you have time to discuss next Tuesday?

Script 2

Hi Manager, as you know, I’m determined to advance my career at XYZ Company. However, I noticed my pay is currently below the average market rates. I exceeded expectations in my KPIs and goals last semester, and often get positive feedback from you and the team. Can we set up a meeting to connect on how we can match my salary to the current rates? I’d appreciate it if we could work together to find a mutually-beneficial solution. 

This conversation can be short & sweet, or very detailed. It will depend on who you’re reporting to, and the kind of environment you work in. As women, we have crazy-good intuition. Use your best judgment. 

Step 3: Follow up. 

After the meeting, send your manager a follow-up email with the details you discussed – and get ready to hit those goals! 

Once you’re closer to ask-for-pay-raise-time, remind them of your intent to bring this up and keep that old email close. It makes it easier for both of you to stay accountable to what you agreed on months prior. 


Nobody likes the feeling of being caught off-guard – managers are no exception! You’re more likely to succeed if it’s something you’ve discussed before. But, what if you fail? 

What if you ask for a raise, and they say no?

If a raise is not feasible (and you love your job, so you want to stay) ask about other benefits. What else can they give you? 

  • More vacation or sick days? 
  • Flexibility to work from home? 
  • Better retirement benefits, like a 401k match

You might need to compromise, and that’s okay. Get clear on what’s important for you. What would it take for you to feel compensated appropriately for your hard work? 

At the end of the day, your happiness is what matters most. 

Plus: you don’t need to wait for a pay raise to make more money. 

Sounds crazy? It’s real. It’s what Penny is for.

…First, we show you how to move the needle for your finances – like how to start investing and how to pay off debt quickly. 

…Then, we help you stay true to your money goals with regular check-ins and tailored insights, delivered straight to your inbox. 

Afterall: why wait for a pay raise, when you can learn to pay yourself better today?

Click here to become an exclusive Penny member + get access to it all.

Click here to sign up for the free version. Less tailored advice, still really great.

Does an advanced degree change things?

The most accurate answer here is: it depends. 

If you work in healthcare or education, then yes. Most doctors, nurses, and teachers get a raise when they complete certificates or post-grad degrees. For higher-up roles, it might even be a requirement. School principals and professors often need a Masters in teaching or education.

If you’re working anywhere else… Do your homework, first. If you want an MBA because you think it’ll help you get promoted to manager, find out if that’s something your employer will actually compensate you for. Then, do the math. Even if they help you cover it, is it worth it? Otherwise, you might risk throwing money down the drain.

You’re in this role today. But will an advanced degree REALLY get you to where you want to go? Or is there a different way that's less heavy on your wallet? You’re the only one who knows the right answer for you. 

Should you get a post-grad degree? Read this first.

What about freelancers? 

Sometimes, the negotiation process can be even more nerve-wrecking. But it doesn’t matter if you work on a project-basis or not. There’s an easy way to approach it, with foolproof success.

The secret? 

Help your clients understand WHY you’re increasing prices, and how this will benefit them in the future.

For example: 

  • You need to increase your prices to match market rates for your level of experience; they know they’re in good hands with you.
  • Your price increase might mean you can work with a more intimate group of clients, and provide tailored 1:1 support. 
  • You completed new training this year, and will continue to improve your skills and provide even better work for your clients. 

If you have a long-term agreement in place, you could also include a yearly pay raise as part of your contract. (hello, inflation!) 

Truthfully, you can increase your prices at any time – even if you’re working with the same client. As long as they understand your reasoning and feel supported, these conversations become easy-peasy. Time to put your CEO hat on! 

Share your Equal Pay Day story 

Were you getting paid what you’re worth? Did you try negotiating a pay raise? How did it go? We want to know! Join the discussion or post a question on our community page.

Equal Pay Day is once a year, but we know these questions happen year-round. At Penny Finance, our goal is to provide easy and digestible financial education for women – so you can increase cash flow today, and retire with wealth tomorrow. You in? Click here to learn more.

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