There is no doubt that many of us think that we deserve raises. Who wouldn’t want to make a little more money for what they do? However, there is more that goes into figuring our whether or not you are getting what you deserve in terms of payment, whether you are talking about a salary from an employer, or whether you are a freelancer looking for fair payment on a project. As you figure out whether you should get a raise, or how to set rates for your professional services, here are some things to keep in mind:

What Are Others Making?

The first consideration is what others are making. You can get an idea by using various comparison tools online, including Payscale.com and checking the salary and work information for a similar job on the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site. You should also do research about average wages/salaries in your geographic location, and take into consideration the practices of your company. If you are freelancing, or if you are self-employed in some other way, you can check into the “market rate” for what you are offering.

If you work at a company, though, it’s not always the best idea to speak with co-workers about their pay. Asking around can get you in trouble, and, if you find out that you and a co-worker make different salaries, it could cause tensions. Instead, try to stick to looking around at outside sources, or speaking with someone about “pay ranges” for a promotion. I’m hesitant to tell fellow freelancers exactly what I get paid for my writing; when they ask, I generally give a range, and then point out that it is individually negotiated, based on factors including traffic bonuses, social media promotion, revenue sharing and frequency.

What Can You Offer?

When you ask for a raise, negotiate your salary, or set your freelancing rates, it is important to make sure that you highlight what you can offer. Part of my standard package is that I try (I don’t always succeed) to submit posts I write to three niche social media web sites. I almost always tweet the post as well.

You need to make sure you show some sort of value. Whether you have increased sales at your company, improved efficiency, or accomplished some other task, such as taking on more responsibility since one of your co-workers left, you need to show that you are adding to the company and that you actually deserve what you are asking for.

Focus on What You Bring to the Table

As you determine what you deserve in terms of pay, you should stay focused on the job at hand and what you bring to the table. You don’t “deserve” more money just because you are having another child, or because you are in debt and want to pay off a loan faster. While these are circumstances that matter to you, and in your life, they are not related to your job performance (unless a new baby is keeping you up at night — in which case your performance might suffer). You are in a stronger position if you can show your value and contributions, rather than complaining about how you “need” the money.

In some cases, after reviewing the situation, you might find that you are actually getting paid a reasonable amount of money. Even if this exercise does nothing more than provide peace of mind about your compensation, it’s well worth it.

What do you think? Are you being paid what you deserve?