When my husband and I got married, we knew the only way we would be able to pay off our six-figure student loan debt while also saving for our other goals was to increase our income.
Finding ways to save money is great. But you can only cut so much from your budget. And we knew we wanted to continue to enjoy hobbies like travel, eating out, and seeing live music while paying off our debt.
More and more often, I hear from other millennials looking to find ways to increase their income to help them reach financial goals.
In this article, I’m rounding up a few of my favorite tips for how to increase your income in 2021.
How to Increase Your Income in 2021
Ask for a raise
If you love your current job, then asking for a raise is one of the best ways to increase your income while continuing to do what you love.
While I know trying to negotiate your salary might sound stressful, look at the positives. Increasing your salary now increases your entire career income projection, meaning you’ll make more money over the course of your working life, AND set aside more for retirement.
Before you approach your boss about a raise, there’s some prep work you’ll need to do.
- Start by making a list of your job responsibilities. Write down everything you do in your job, either on a regular or irregular basis.
- Next, collect your recent performance reviews. Chances are, your company has some sort of review process in place. If not, gather other written positive feedback you’ve gotten, both from your boss and others. While you’re at it, make a list of any major accomplishments or successes you’ve had in your job.
- Do some research online about the average salary for your position. How much are other people making in the same type of position as yours? Another step I’d recommend is asking your colleagues, especially your male colleagues if you’re a female, how much they make. Bringing this up might sounds scary. But when I finally got up the nerve to speak to a few of my male colleagues about salary, I found that multiple men were making more money than me in similar roles, and I had more responsibility than they did. Even in 2020, the wage gap is still something we’re dealing with.
Once you’ve done all your prep work, set up a meeting with your boss. I’d recommend telling them upfront that you’d like to meet to discuss a pay raise. That allows both of you to go to the meeting a bit more prepared.
Once you’re in the meeting, sit down with your boss and tell them that after going through your list of tasks, your reviews, and your accomplishment, you feel confident that you’ve made valuable contributions to the team and would like a raise.
Give a specific number of percent increase. Most raises are about 3%, so ask for a little more, like 5%.
If your boss has hesitations, you can talk about the conversations you had with your coworkers and the research you did online, showing that people in your role are being paid more than you are.
You can also ask some follow-up questions, such as what is causing them to hesitate, and how long someone normally works in your role before getting a raise.
During this meeting, keep the conversation focused on the job and your accomplishments in it. Don’t bring your personal finances into the mix. Companies don’t give raises because people are trying to pay off debt — they give raises to people who make valuable contributions.
Ultimately, whatever the final answer is, be gracious and polite and thank them for their time. The worst answer you can get is no. But if you’re rude or don’t take the word no well, then you might damage your reputation with your boss and the company.
Find a new job
Getting a raise in your current job is a great way to increase your income, but it’s not right for everyone. Some people may not be able to earn as much as they’d like in their current company or line of work. And for those who really dislike their job, more money may not be enough to make up for it.
Instead, you might consider finding a new job altogether. Here are a few steps to take:
- Consider the type of job you want. Before you start applying for jobs, spend some time thinking about what you really want. Ask yourself if you want to stay with the same company, and simply apply for a higher-level job. Or maybe you want to switch careers altogether.
- Research the job market. Do your homework about the career you want and the current job market. Learn about the types of jobs available, the top companies, and the salary you might expect to get.
- Update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Update your LinkedIn resume so it will attract recruiters. When it comes to actually applying for jobs, create one that is tailored to each job you apply for.
- Reach out to your network. Once you’re ready to start looking, connect with people in your network. Let people know that you’re in the market for a new job and ask them to keep an eye out for any opportunities.
- Talk to recruiters. Depending on your field, there may be plenty of recruiters who specialize in finding candidates for jobs like the ones you want. You can contact recruiters directly, or connect with them on LinkedIn.
- Apply consistently. Job hunting can be discouraging, especially if you find that it’s taking longer than you hoped. Find a few job boards that you find the best jobs on, and visit those consistently. Eventually, your hard work will pay off!
It’s important to note that if you’re applying for jobs during the pandemic, finding a new job may be a bit more challenging. There are fewer jobs being posted, and more people applying for them.
But don’t let that discourage you! There are still plenty of opportunities for someone willing to be persistent.
Get a part-time job
A part-time job might not sound like the most glamorous way to make money, but it’s effective and consistent. So many people are on the lookout for the next popular side hustle that they forget that getting a normal part-time job is an option.
While my husband and I were starting our debt payoff journey and saving for our RV, I was working full-time in politics while working on my business as a side hustle. My husband, in the mean-time, worked as a bartender a couple of nights per week. It was a fairly easy job, and one that he liked, and he was able to make an extra $1,000 per month.
There are plenty of part-time jobs available in food service and retail. Depending on your skill set, you might also be able to find something more specific to your career and earn even more money.
Join the gig economy
While there’s no technical definition here, the Bureau of Labor Statistics describes a gig as, “a single project or task for which a worker is hired, often through a digital marketplace, to work on demand.”
These types of jobs are contract positions, and most allow you to work whenever you’re available, rather than abiding by a schedule like a part-time job would require.
Examples of gig jobs would include:
- Rideshare opportunities like Uber and Lyft
- Grocery shopping and delivery through companies like Instacart
- Food delivery with Doordash, Postmates, UberEats, etc.
- Pet sitting and walking with Rover or Wag
- Tackling specific tasks with sites like Fiverr or TaskRabbit
These side hustles can be great for anyone who wants to be able to make extra money on demand. With a part-time, you’re usually subject to a set schedule. But these apps allow you to work and make money when it fits with your schedule.
Start a business
The final strategy I want to talk about for making extra money (and my personal favorite) is to start an online business.
Now let me preface this by saying that if you’re just interested in picking up some extra income right now to help you on your debt payoff or savings journey, then this probably isn’t the right choice for you.
Depending on the type of business you want to start, there are likely going to be some start-up costs. Plus, it could be a while before you really start making money.
I can tell you that I put hundreds of hours of work into my business before I made money. At the same time, if you’re looking for something sustainable that you can build over many years, I love this idea.
Starting a business involves selling something, whether you’re selling a physical product, a digital product, or a service. I run a service-based business. I provide money coaching to clients and provide freelance writing services to financial companies.
Starting a service-based business is fairly low-cost, and doesn’t require a lot of upfront work. What it does require is for you to have a specific skill that you’re offering to your clients.
Here are the steps you can follow to start your own service-based business:
- Step one pick a skill. For me, it’s writing and coaching. For others, it’s social media management, photography, ad management, web design, editing, or a million other options.
- Step two is to hone your skill. Depending on the skill you chose, this might be a little or a lot of work. When I decided to become a freelance writer, I already had a degree in journalism and had been writing on my own blog for years. There wasn’t a huge learning curve. But I did have to learn how to freelance write for other sites. But some people might decide to start a service-based business doing something they’ve never done or haven’t done in years. In that case, you may want to take an online course or find an online certification to help boost your skills.
- Step three is to build your portfolio. Once you’ve honed your skills, start putting together work to show potential clients. This might require doing a bit of free work. If you’re starting a business as a social media manager, you could reach out to friends or family members who own businesses and ask if you can manage their social media for a while in exchange for testimonials. When I was starting to freelance write, I was able to use my blog as my portfolio. The bottom line is that you need to find a way to display your work and prove to potential clients that you can do the job.
- Step four is to start marketing your business. You can do this through social media or by directly reaching out to potential clients. When I started freelance writing, I just started emailing sites I wanted to write for and asking them if they needed more writers. It was surprisingly effective. For my coaching business, I do things differently. I don’t just email women and ask if they want a money coach. Instead, I share value on social media by offering personal finance tips and then share information about my program for people who want to work together one on one.
So that’s how you can get started with a service-based business. I’ve found that’s the type of business that was the best fit for me. It’s my favorite way to make money.
If that’s what you’d like to pursue, start by considering what product you’d like to sell. Maybe you’re good with crafts and want to handmake something to sell. Or maybe you’re good with graphic design and want to start selling printables.
Once you figure out what you want to sell, figure out where you’d like to sell it. Etsy is a great marketplace for both physical and digital products. You can also decide to sell your product on your own website using a program like Shopify or WooCommerce.
And just like with starting a service-based business, the final step is to start marketing your product online.
Now, this is obviously a simplistic explanation for how to start a business. There’s so much more that goes into it. If you’re serious about doing this, I recommend seeking out an online course to help you get started.
What to do after you increase your income
Once you actually take steps to increase your income, I encourage you to think about what you’ll do with that extra money.
When your income increases, it can be tempting to spend all of that money. But chances are you’ve got some financial goals you want to save for. Deciding ahead of time how you’ll use the best way to ensure you don’t waste it.
And once you start bringing in money, follow through on your plan. You’ll be happy that you did!
Increasing my income has been one of my favorite ways to reach my financial goals even faster. It helps me to save more without necessarily having to cut everything I love from my budget.