Jobs aren’t sexy anymore.
A lot of people are initially drawn to their personal finances to escape their jobs. They have dreams of running their own companies, retiring early, and spending their days on a beach.
But can I be honest with you for a second?
A job is one of the most reliable and consistent ways to earn more and build wealth. Unless your net worth is already high, a job is the quickest way to earn more money and increase your net worth. As long as you save and invest, you will eventually buy your freedom. There are other ways to get there, but don’t feel at all bad about working to get there.
And if you love your job, great. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your job and career and growing in it. When you reach a level of financial freedom, you’ll have the added security of being able to survive a layoff.
Now that I’ve talked about how important a job can be, I want to share tips, tricks and tactics I’ve used in my life to earn more money. The financial freedom I have now was earned through years of salary earnings. I’m happy to say the last paycheck I earned before Wealth Noir was about 5x my first corporate job paycheck.
One thing I will share about me … I work. I got my first job at Six Flags at 15. Before that, I made an AOL website and earned money with ads. Later, in college, I did internships and worked part-time throughout the year, even going to school a week early to hook up kids’ internet for a quick $1,000 temp job. And now, with the ability to control my lifestyle and start this site, I’ve seen the fruits of my labor.
Right now, I currently enjoy three jobs and a side hustle. I run Wealth Noir, work for a diversity-in-tech non-profit, /dev/color, and I raise my 6-month-old son (it counts, trust me). I also enjoy the side hustle of owning rental properties and another website. As I said … I work.
So, below are the best pieces of advice I’ve received over the years that helped increase my earnings. I hope to help everyone learn how to earn more money along their journey to wealth.
Research your Salary Online and with Friends
For whatever reason, it’s inappropriate to talk about your salary. This sucks.
The truth is, understanding how your salary compares to the averages in your industry tells you if you are valued properly. A job is trading time for money, and you want to make sure your time is not being undervalued.
This is important because it will guide your decisions needed to earn more money. Should you ask for a raise? Is the company contacting you worth your time? How much more will you make after being promoted?
Here are a few of the resources I’ve encountered over the years.
Online salary comparison sites
Wondering if your company’s competitor pays more for the same position? Considering a change in function and want to see if it’s worth it? Just curious how much more you would make in San Francisco compared to Baltimore?
Glassdoor is a site where people can submit anonymous salary information and also look it up. While at Facebook, I would look up Google, Amazon, etc. salaries just to make sure I wasn’t underpaid. They cover a lot of jobs and make it easy to find a specific role.
Indeed is also another site offering salary comparisons with good information and covering a lot of different jobs.
Anonymous company apps (Blind)
This may be specific to tech, but I’ve heard of some similar underground networks for lawyers, consultants, and those in finance.
I used an app called Secret to get inside information about my job. It was an app where they verified your company, but let you post anonymously. It became a big thing at Facebook and would often lead to threads about compensation. Secret is no longer around; Blind has apparently taken its place at some big companies. Just looking into the results of their anonymous polls has some interesting findings.
In a few cases, there are secret google sheets floating around with salaries put in by employees, but these are elusive and hard to find. I’ve seen them, and they do exist, so feel good if you come across one.
Ask a friend
Friends still make great resources, once you get over the awkwardness. If you are interested in a friend’s company and don’t want to force them to divulge their pay, just ask “What do they pay over at [Insert Company]?” and buy them a drink. It does work.
Ask HR (Human Resources)
Some companies will share with you a pay range or pay band for your job. This range will help you understand if you are at the top or the bottom, and if you need to leave or get promoted to get a raise.
In the end, your goal is information. Also, be honest with yourself about your experience and how you compare to others. Someone may be earning more than you because they have twice the experience or a specialty you don’t possess. Blindly looking at pay scales can lead to unhappiness and jealousy, which will not help you in building wealth.
Leave Your Job for a Better One
One of the quickest and most consistent ways to boost your income is to leave your job for a higher paying one. Changing jobs can help you increase your salary according to Student Loan Hero. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve always been able to command a higher salary when changing jobs … even when that change came after a lay-off.
A friend said she aims for a new job offer every two years. This helps keep your interviewing skills strong and tests the water constantly. Even if you have no reason to leave, you will meet some interesting recruiters, learn about new companies, and make contacts for future opportunities to earn more money. It does take time and effort, but if it leads to a better job and higher pay, it’s well worth it.
Negotiate your Salary to Earn More Money
If you do decide to change jobs, please please please negotiate your salary!
If you have a job offer that you plan to accept, at a minimum, call and ask for more money. The worst they can do is say no and leave you in the same position. When done properly, it can lead to large increases. The last time I negotiated a job offer I ended up getting an extra $12,000 a year. Here are some basic tips to negotiating a job offer.
Get multiple offers
If you can, try and interview at several companies at the same time and generate multiple job offers. Often, if there is one opportunity that comes along for me, I’ll immediately start working on finding another job offer just to make sure I have a competing offer. Sometimes just mentioning final round interviews at a competing company can work.
The goal here is leverage. You want to be able to tell your target company that if they don’t want to raise your proposed salary, you have another offer waiting.
Only negotiate if you want the job
This rule has served me well. I only negotiate compensation if I know I’ll take the job if they agree. You don’t want to be in a place where they offer you everything you want, spending time on their side getting approvals, only for you to walk away. This is a quick way to ruin relationships with recruiters and HR professionals.
If you were able to get multiple offers, don’t start a bidding war. Just negotiate with the company you want directly. If they can’t meet you, then you can start negotiating with your second choice.
Focus on total compensation, not just base salary
I see this mistake made all of the time. Everyone wants to only focus on their base salary. I understand why … it’s the base. It will be the base that all raises come from as long as you are at the company. But, the company also knows this. They will fight very hard on your base salary because they know it’s a long-term commitment for more money.
Honestly, money is money. Whether it’s your base salary, stock options, a signing bonus, or additional benefits, it’s all just a line on the balance sheet. Sometimes a company won’t give you $1,000 a year in base salary but will agree to a $10,000 signing bonus. You can do the math; it’s ten years of a bonus in base salary. If you can’t get them to move on the base, get them to throw in extras.
In my last two jobs, I was able to get increased signing bonuses and stock options when the company wasn’t willing to move on the base salary. And given how long I stayed and the appreciation of the stock, it was the right move. In one case, my equity change was worth over $110,000 over four years.
Don’t Reveal Your Salary
As you negotiate, it’s not important how much you earn now… it’s all about how much you want to earn. What’s important for your would-be employer is they pay you your worth. That is not based on your previous salary. There are many ways to avoid answering this question, this is mine:
Before an interview, prepare a salary range. Using the sites mentioned before, try and estimate what this company would pay you. I like to take the top end of the range and add-on 20%-40% more. It will be high, but it shouldn’t be too high to disqualify you and will train them to think high for your compensation. When asked about your current salary, just mention what you are expecting. If they push, say that you respect your current employer and don’t want to divulge information that could hurt them.
The one time to break the rule is if you know you are highly compensated. There was a time when I was upfront with my salary because I knew it was much higher than the job would offer me. This ended up getting me a significantly stronger job offer with extra compensation usually reserved for executives because I was clear about what it would take for me to leave.
Just Ask For It
If you want more money from your current employer … just ask for it.
Track Your Wins to get a raise
Make sure you are keeping a running list of the accomplishments you are making at work. I’ve done this to stay on top of performance review time and make it easier to write my self-performance review.
More importantly, when if you decide to ask for a raise you will have a
small volume of accomplishments to justify the increase and prove your value.
Time it Right
Did you just land a big client? Did you just successfully launch a big project? Having a better than usual quarter?
Try and pick the right time to get a raise. If you can time it after a big personal win for you or your team, this will increase the chances of you getting a yes. It can also help you feel more confident as you make your request.
Research Salaries and Be Realistic
The number you ask for should be justified … and maybe a little aggressive. You don’t want to ask for 2x the market rate and earn an easy no. I talked about understanding your worth above, and remember Glassdoor, Indeed and your network as ways to determine the right number.
Plan, Prepare, Execute
Don’t just randomly walk into your manager’s office asking for money.
“John! I NEED MONEY! You know it’s time for a raise.”
Don’t do this! Setup a meeting, Come prepared with your talking points and evidence. And make sure you have a clear and direct ask! “Hey, I was thinking more money would be cool” will not get you a raise. Be confident and make it hard for them to say no.
And if you are at the point where you are considering leaving, present competing offers you have and let them know you are serious. Only do this if you will leave the job. Otherwise, it could be a bluff that goes wrong.
Get a Side Hustle to Earn More Mone
I am a firm believer that it has never been easier to make extra money than it is today. Depending on your time, personal skills, and commitment, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Sell your Skills Online
In the gig economy, there is an ever-growing workforce of freelancers and part-time workers. This site operates with a team spread out across the US (eventually the world), many of us with multiple jobs online and offline.
If you have a skill, you can monetize it. If you write, do freelance writing. If you know money, offer coaching and advice. Work in HR, help people with their resumes and interview prep. Know how to cook, make paid cooking classes. Data entry, copy editing, graphic design, photography, coaching and more are all valid ways to make extra income.
Upwork is a large repository of online freelance jobs, along with Freelancer.com. You can create a course for something you know well and sell on Udacity. And don’t forget Craiglist, where I’ve personally found web programmers in the past.
Keep it Simple and Offline
If you just have some spare hours on the weekend or at night and want to earn more money, you now have plenty of options.
You can deliver people for Lyft or Uber. Deliver food for Uber Eats, Postmates, or Instacart. Walk dogs or just watch them on Rover. Pick up some random job on TaskRabbit, such as putting together furniture or help someone pack. And don’t forget Craigslist, where anything can go.
Don’t start a blog
I’ve been blogging since 2003, and “professionally” since 2007. The idea of starting a blog for fun and making a bunch of extra money is not true. It’s work, and you need to be serious about it. The blogger graveyard is littered with friends and old partners from my early days of running a Dating & Relationship blog.
If you are the type of person who will be successful at it, my warning won’t stop you. For everyone else, it’s not the simple side hustle you think. If you are serious about it, it is a fulfilling and great side hustle, but most people want to write once a month and make a few extra bucks.
Get a Degree or Certification
One way to help earn more money, whether you are negotiating a job offer or asking for a raise, is to increase the education and certifications listed on your resume. To make it better, your job may pay you for it.
I have a PMP (Project Management Professional) certification, a Sun Java Certified Professional (SCJP) certification, and a Six Sigma Green Belt certification … along with two bachelors and a master’s. I paid $0 for my certifications as my first employer offered them to me.
All of these aren’t relevant every day, but there are negotiations and job offers where I’ve been able to compete because I have shown a desire to continue my education.
Talk to co-workers and research your industry to understand what will make you more competitive. Also, talk to your employer to see what they already offer. They will usually find programs you can do part-time and may have discounts or accelerated programs available.
*link to sites with lists of professional certifications*
Invest your Extra Money
Regarding your wealth journey, all of these tactics and tips will be wasted if you just use them to buy more stuff. Ensure you are investing in a diversified mix of assets and making this extra money work for you. Extra income, consistently saved and invested, will make you wealthy, guaranteed. My favorite is Wealthfront and robo-advisors, but it’s important to find a solution that works for you.
Have a tip or trick we’ve missed? Is there a resource you want to share with the community? Got a question? Leave us a comment and start a conversation.
Damien is a Personal Finance Nerd and former Facebook Product Manager who started Wealth Noir to help others find wealth. He actively invests in stocks, robo advisors, and cryptocurrency … but loves real estate investing. He holds an MBA from MIT and a Comp Sci & Econ degrees from Unv. of MD. He’s a proud dad, which is his biggest accomplishment.