By Women Who Money
You’ve stopped living beyond your means and committed to taking control of your finances. After creating a financial mission statement, you’re laser-focused on your goals and why you want to achieve them. A secure financial future is ahead by building wealth over time.
You know carefully tracking your expenses, sticking to a budget, and paying down debt are essential first steps. Growing an emergency fund to cover at least 3-6 months of expenses and increasing retirement plan contributions also needs to be at the top of your “to-do” list.
While cutting back on spending can help you get out of debt, and boost your savings and investment account balances, you’ll also want to think about ways to maximize your income.
The powerful combination of spending less and making more is the key to reaching your financial goals faster.
Boost Your Income by Increasing Your Value as an Employee
Depending on your career field, there may be several things you can do to increase your value as an employee. Keep in mind: the more valuable you are to your company, the more likely you’ll see your income rise over time.
Consider your responses to the eight questions below about the value you bring to your employer:
1. Can you explain your organization’s history, mission statement, and vision for the future?
Whether you’ve worked for your employer for many years or are a more recent hire, it’s important to understand the background of the organization and how the business has changed and grown over the years.
Your company’s mission and vision statements describe its objectives, their approach to meeting goals, and define their future.
Consider how your job responsibilities support your organization’s mission and vision. If you have questions about the alignment of your work to company objectives and core ideals, speak with your supervisor about your professional priorities.
2. How would you grade yourself at work?
Your formal review at work may only happen once a year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a conscious effort to self-evaluate your job performance regularly.
While your boss expects you to complete the work responsibilities in your job description, do you go above and beyond when it’s possible for you to do so?
Think about how your position helps your company make money. Are there ways you can help the business eliminate costs and increase profits?
Stay focused on productivity and results at work. There’s a big difference between being busy and adding value to your employer.
3. What are you doing to improve your knowledge and skills in your field and industry?
As an employee, you’ve probably attended employer-sponsored workshops and professional development offerings. But what are you doing to grow professionally on your own?
Reading literature or taking classes to stay current in your field is important, especially if you have to maintain professional certifications or licenses. But if your interests lay in moving into a management position or pivoting to a different role, how are you actively seeking out knowledge and skills to land those jobs?
Find out if your employer pays for continuing education for employees and take advantage of that when possible. Consider whether earning an advanced degree makes sense. It may be a win-win that advances your professional goals and is valuable in meeting the needs of your organization.
4. How are your communication skills?
You may not realize how often you communicate with others during the workday. We often think about communicating as only being the verbal conversations we have with others, but it’s more than that.
While speaking is a key part of communicating, listening, reading, and writing are also vital to effective communication. Are you guilty of listening just until you can speak, or do you listen to learn and understand?
Your communication style and skills are visible to others when you ask questions, respond at meetings, and send emails or messages to supervisors, colleagues, or customers.
When you’re consistently respectful and focus on building relationships through your communication with others, you’ll increase your value as an employee.
5. What kind of attitude do you have at work each day?
We all have “off” days at work when we may feel distracted, frustrated, overworked, or even bored with our job. But if you did an attitude “check” most days while on the job, how would you describe yourself?
Are you generally optimistic, open-minded, accepting of others, and a good team player? What about your attitude toward change?
Are you able to adapt and move forward? Or are you someone who clings to past practice, even if it hinders your organization's progress?
Employees who add value to their companies aren’t expected to be cheerful every day at work or be enthusiastic about every assignment. But they do have a high degree of emotional intelligence. They’re self-aware, understand the needs of others, and manage conflict in healthy ways.
6. How much do you focus on personal wellness?
When you want to prove your value at work, you may put in extra time and energy completing assignments ahead of schedule, taking on more projects, or volunteering for additional duties. But that shouldn’t be at the expense of your personal wellness.
You need to ensure the extra effort you put into your job isn’t replacing taking care of yourself. If you aren’t eating right, exercising, or getting enough sleep, there’s a good chance it will catch up to you and eventually impact your performance at work.
If you aren’t able to establish boundaries between home and work, make that your first priority. It’s hard to add value to your company if you’re sick or get burned out.
Even if you have to decline some opportunities at work, your consistent effort won’t go unnoticed when you need to focus on self-care.
7. Do you regularly take on challenging tasks, pitch new ideas, or challenge the status quo?
There are plenty of employees who show up and do good work for their employers. However, they may not be people who are willing to take personal initiative and work to advance the organization's goals.
Are you seeking and accepting difficult or more challenging tasks? “Go-to” employees make productive suggestions and are willing to try new ways of doing things. Rather than complain about problems, they seek solutions.
To be more valuable as an employee, don’t be afraid to fail.
Consider areas of growth on your annual review and implement changes. If you respectfully challenge the status quo, be prepared to defend your ideas with research. When you accept compromise, you’ll be able to influence decisions in your organization.
8. Is your behavior at work in alignment with how you act at home and online?
If you follow your employer’s policies and have respectful interactions with others while working, your behavior is likely appropriate for the workplace. But how do you act when you aren’t at your job?
Your conversations with family and friends might be more casual than your discussions with colleagues or clients. But do you make comments or share jokes about people you wouldn’t say directly to them? This can be a slippery slope when it comes to how you treat other people and how others perceive you.
Also, consider your use of social media. What you do outside of work can have serious negative consequences on your employment. To boost your value as an employee, be authentic, honest, and trustworthy in all aspects of your life.
Asking for a Raise or Changing Jobs & Negotiating a Higher Salary
After reviewing your answers to the questions above, you might realize that even though you’re a good employee, there are some ways to increase your value to your employer. This might also be why you haven’t received a significant raise or bonus, and you aren’t considered for leadership positions.
However, maybe you already bring a tremendous amount of value to your employer. The question you want to ask now is: are you adequately compensated for your work?
It may be time to ask for a raise or change employers to maximize your income and reach your financial goals faster.
If you enjoy working for your employer, consider making an appointment to talk with your supervisor about compensation. Armed with comparative salary data and glowing annual reviews, make a case for why your salary should be increased.
If your request is met with resistance, it may be time to look for a different position. You may be able to negotiate a higher starting salary at another job or employer of interest to you.
Increasing Your Value as a Business Owner
As a business owner, there are also steps you can take to increase your value to clients and customers. Making strong connections with the people you serve will increase your bottom line as they pay more for products and services, along with referring others to your business.
- Create a mission and vision statement for your business. Spare time is precious when you run your own business. But don’t make the mistake of thinking these statements are just for big corporations. Take time to decide exactly what you want to accomplish and what you want for the future of your business. Then, let the words in your mission and vision guide your business decisions.
- Seek feedback from your employees and customers. You may already get feedback on your business through social media. But you’ll also want to make time to actively seek information from not just the people who buy from you, but also those who work for you. What do your employees enjoy? What do customers want more of? How can you improve? Their suggestions might even help grow your business.
- Let data drive your business decisions. You’re in business to make money. If you’ve marketed a product or service well and it still isn’t selling, look at the numbers and use them to make a change. Sometimes great ideas aren’t great sellers. Tweak your offering or go back to the drawing board and come up with a new solution.
- Work from your position of strength, but address weaknesses. You establish great relationships with your clients and the people who work for you, but your record keeping continues to be an issue. Instead of stressing out over paperwork, use your connections to find someone to support that part of your business.
- Seek out a mentor or coach. There’s a reason top leaders and professional athletes have mentors or coaches. To increase your value, you want to learn and grow continually. Find someone who can teach and push you to improve and meet your professional goals.
- Train your employees well and empower staff. Don’t expect your employees to “figure it out” or “take your lead” on the work you want accomplished. Have a written job description for each person you employ. When appropriate, model how you want things done and monitor progress. Earn the trust of your staff and respect and trust them in return. Strive to be the boss you’d want.
- Take care of yourself. As busy as you are running your business, you’ll find it hard to be successful if you fall ill or become burned out. Your health can’t come at the expense of your financial wellness so make sure you find some time to exercise, eat right, and spend time with family and friends.
- Network with and support other business owners. You’ll also benefit from talking to other business owners and sharing ideas and strategies. When you know other owners, you can refer business to them, and they’ll likely return the favor. The resulting synergy from a strong network of small businesses will be worth the time and effort you put in.
Add in Part-Time Work or a Side Gig
If you have the time and energy outside of your full-time employment, you might consider working a part-time job or taking on a side gig. As long as it doesn’t affect your wellness, this can be a great way to maximize your income and reach your financial goals faster.
Part-time jobs with some schedule flexibility or seasonal employment are great options for many people. Working even 5-10 hours a week can bring in at least a few hundred dollars each month.
Can you consult on the side in your career field? Maybe you have a passion project you can monetize too. There are many opportunities to make some extra cash when you set your mind to it!
Increase the Profit of Your Salary
Now that you’ve found ways to increase your income, consider ways to profit more from your salary. Save on taxes and earn money on your money through saving and investing!
Are you contributing to retirement accounts up to any employer match that’s offered? You don’t want to miss out on “free money” that your employer will add to help fund your future. If you’re already receiving the match (or even if you don’t get one), consider increasing your contributions today.
By putting more money into a 401(k) or traditional IRA, you may save money on taxes because contributions typically come out of pre-tax income.
According to the IRS website, in 2020:
“The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $19,000 to $19,500. Also, the catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in these plans is increased from $6,000 to $6,500.”
Making More Money to Reach Your Goals Faster
If you’re busy with work, family, and life, you may not take time to consider your long-term professional and financial goals. But doing so will keep you focusing on a secure financial future.
When you begin taking control of your personal finances, you might think about putting money-saving tips to use and being more frugal. While that’s a good way to keep more cash in your accounts, reigning in spending and increasing your income will accelerate your progress toward meeting financial goals.
Vicki Cook and Amy Blacklock are the co-founders of the award-winning personal finance website Women Who Money. Vicki, a 30-year educator, and Amy, an administrative professional and entrepreneur, joined forces in early 2018 to pursue passion projects in the personal finance and health & wellness spaces. Together they've launched two new websites and are currently plotting numbers 3 and 4.