By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

My client, Sarah, came to me with a dilemma: she wanted to be making more money at her job, but had no idea how to ask for it. When I asked her if she had ever negotiated her salary before, her eyes got wide and she slowly shook her head.

“I didn’t know how to,” she confessed.

It’s a problem I see all the time — employees, especially women, yearning for more money but having no clue how to go about asking. In fact, studies show 44% of workers never bring up the subject of negotiating salaries at their performance reviews.

…Even more shocking? Only 7% of women make attempts to negotiate salaries at their first jobs, in comparison to 57% of men. Clearly, salary negotiation isn’t something many people feel comfortable with, or know how to do.

I’ve compiled five of my favorite secrets for masterful salary negotiation, so you can make as much money as you deserve.

1. Know your value.

Don’t underestimate yourself! Take the time to research what the average market compensation rates are for a position at your responsibility level… The golden rule is to remember that the first person to give away a number loses, so needless to say it’s key if you’re asked for your salary requirements to throw the ball in their court. For example: “well, I’m negotiable depending on the range you’re offering—is there a range you have in mind?” If they push you to share a number after this point, it’s great to have your own research-backed number.

2. Ask for a precise number.

Research from Colombia Business School shows using a specific number in negotiations is more effective than a round number. Why? Asking for $62,945 rather than $63,000, for example, tends to indicate you’ve done extensive research into the market in order to come up with a number. The more informed you appear, the fewer rounds of negotiation you’ll have to go through. This isn’t to say that you should pretend to be prepared—heed #1 so that you’re actually prepared and informed!

3. Don’t hesitate to walk away.

You’re negotiating your salary for you. If the number offered doesn’t work for you, you have the power to walk away. Before going into negotiations, know where your cut off point is, and consider that your walking away point.

4. Use timing in your favor.

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to salary negotiation. It can be tempting to wait until your performance review, but it’s likely by that point they’ve already decided on (and budgeted for) your pay raise. If you really want your best shot, try going to HR or your employer a few months before the performance review, while they’re still setting budgets. As a career coach, this conversation is something I discuss deeply in my courses. Know how to show up and show your management that you have reached their goals for you, and demonstrate a compelling vision for the future you want to create as an employee.

5. Practice.

Practice makes perfect, and salary negotiations are no exception. Especially if you’ve never done any negotiating before, practicing what you want to say will help boost your confidence. According to the Harvard Business Review, preparation is key to building confidence. And confidence improves performance at work, which could definitely translate into your negotiations. Ask a friend to sit across from you, record yourself, or practice in the mirror to really get your confidence across.

I know negotiating your salary can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time doing so. But most employers expect you to, and you’re not putting anyone out by asking for more. And most importantly, you deserve the optimum salary, so don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and ask for what you’ve earned!

Just ask Sarah—she took these tips to heart, and she negotiated a 35% pay hike.

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  • I'm a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you're excited about and aligned with. This may look like coaching you 1:1, hosting you in one of my courses, or meeting you at one of workshops or keynote speaking engagements! I also own CAKE Media, a house of ghostwriters, copywriters, publicists and SEO whizzes that help companies and influencers expand their voice online. Before being an entrepreneur, I was an award-winning counterterrorism professional who helped the Pentagon in Washington, DC with preparing civilians to prepare for the frontlines of the war on terror.