Can We REALLY Set Our Own Pay?

In the prior post (We Design Our Life) I commented on the fact that we each have the ability to set our own pay. And, that there are certain vocations where we can increase our pay overnight / every night.

Undoubtedly some think I’m crazy, while others are genuinely curious as to how one could go about doing so.

To answer the question…

Can we REALLY set our own pay?

In a word: Yep!

For those of us in the free world, the amount of income we take in is 100% OUR CHOICE!

Before we get started, I think it is crucially important to remind the reader of a couple of points.

  1. We must not focus on (worry about) the making of money. That is at the completely wrong end of the spectrum. We must focus on the amount and quality of service we provide to humanity. Because, the more service we provide, the higher are our rewards. Cause and effect…
  2. We must be sure to maintain a balance and not make our vocation the central area of focus in our lives. That said, it certainly is NOT a bad place to apply “significant” focus so that we can provide for our family (e.g., put food on the table, clothes on their backs, a roof over their heads, a college degree in their hands, etc.) as well as help those who are less fortunate.

Now that we’ve covered that, here we go…

At a high-level, there are a few categories of vocations we’ll cover, which are listed in the order of least to most flexibility in terms of increasing one’s income. That is, the first items listed typically take the “most” time, while the latter items can offer quite rapid (in some cases, overnight) adjustments in pay!

  • Salaried
  • Hourly
  • Commissioned
  • Self-Employed


In summary, salaried workers are paid the same amount each pay period regardless of whether they work 40 or 80 hours each week. The typical PERFORMANCE review cycle for salaried jobs is annual, which also typically coincides with the opportunity to receive a salary adjustment.

If you didn’t know…Most companies have a set budget as to the total amount of salary increases they plan on providing each year to their employee-base. And, this budget is then rationed across all departments in the company. At some point, this rolls down to each individual manager who has the unenviable task of deciding how their allotted increase will be “distributed” amongst the employees in their department.

The process involves the manager going through the list of employees to determine who DESERVES to get a portion of the budgeted increase, and how much.

You’ll note that there are 2 words immediately above which are in CAPS: PERFORMANCE and DESERVES.

Said another way, no-one deserves a raise just for showing up to work. The people who deserve a raise are those who have demonstrated a marked improvement in their PERFORMANCE since the last review cycle. That is, they have made themselves more valuable to the company and therefore deserve more pay.

For those people who simply show-up: no raise should be expected. They are no more valuable this year, than last. This can also mean they are actually falling behind…As a result, they should expect to be among the first who are jettisoned from the company during the next economic downturn, as the company seeks to shave costs.

To ensure we are in alignment with the opportunities that exist to increase our pay, it is important, during the normal course of working with our boss, to clarify expectations related to:

  • The foundational elements of the role and what we must demonstrate each day for performance and proficiency
  • What is considered exceptional (above and beyond) performance which would likely warrant a raise and future promotions

We simply need to initiate the conversation, if the boss doesn’t…

While we can “choose” to wait for (or more importantly, work towards) the next performance review cycle, we have other options with regards to receiving a more timely raise.

  • If we’ve worked at a particular company, in a specific role, for some time (more than a couple of years) we can consider applying for open internal jobs that provide a higher salary or more growth potential.
  • We can look for higher paying roles outside of our current company.

In summary, salaried workers “can” take measures to increase their pay, but it takes more time (relatively speaking) than some of the other categories of workers, which follow…


Much of what was covered above can apply here, in terms of the hourly rate that a person EARNS. And, like salaried workers, adjustments to that rate can take time. But there are other options, as well!

Given the nature of hourly work, we can always find out if there are opportunities to WORK MORE HOURS! The first person to discuss this with is obviously the boss. However, do NOT approach them from the perspective of: I need to make more money. Can I work more hours? 

That approach is making your goal their problem. Said another way, it is NOT meeting their need, which is two-fold:

  • Achieving higher levels of productivity / output
  • Decreasing the cost per unit of output

So, THINK about how your extra hours will help the boss accomplish these objectives. For example:

  • Are you an expert or high performer on your team?
  • Can you CRANK OUT more productivity during extended hours of work, with fewer people around to bother you?
  • Can you perform end-of-day clean-up or next day preparation that will overall improve productivity and/or reduce team costs?
  • Can you take on the overflow work that isn’t getting down by others?

Think, think, think…

And, if the opportunity doesn’t exist within your immediate department, might it elsewhere in the company? That is, could you put in a few hours for another / adjacent team?

Bottom-line: If there is important work that doesn’t have a negative impact on the department manager’s budget by doing during “overtime”, you will most likely be “awarded” this work. That is, if, and only if, you can demonstrate high levels of performance and productivity.

Said another way, you need to be doing MUCH MORE than just extending the hours between when you punch-in and punch-out. You must increase the amount of service and value delivered during these working hours.


We are now entering that space where it is quite possible to increase our pay overnight / every night.

Another term for “commissioned” workers is, (and don’t be scared off) Sales.

I know, I know. You are not a sales person.


If you are able to convince me that you are NOT “into sales” you have just proven the point that you are! EVERYONE is in sales. You are selling when you try to convince your kids to “do the right thing.” You are selling when you are sharing an idea / approach to getting the job done at work. And, believe it or not, you are in the position of selling EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY while on the job. That is, if you don’t actively sell yourself to your employer every day (by doing the best job possible, regardless of your pay) you may soon have your next sales opportunity (pitching yourself to new / prospective employers).

Did you know that Sales is the highest paid profession on the planet? That is, there really is no limit to how much a good salesperson can earn.

If a salesperson sold X yesterday, they need only sell X+Y today to immediately increase their pay. Yes, it is realized that some products / services have longer sales cycles than others. The point is, the sales person has control of their income, based on how much they produce (sell).

Want to earn more: make that call. And, after that, make another, and so on…


This vocational category can take on many forms, including:

  • A tradesman (plumber, electrician and so on)
  • A professional (doctor, dentist, lawyer)
  • A consultant
  • A small or home-based business

I was recently on the phone with a friend (a plumber) as we had a clogged drain pipe (beyond what a “do-it-yourselfer” wanted to tackle). During the conversation I learned that his business is continuing to do very well (he is out straight with work). He commented: “It is crazy!”

I asked: “Are you grooming an apprentice?”

His response: “No, they only slow me down.”

Tradesmen, Professionals and Consultants do have the option of seeing more customers, patients or clients, to increase their income… to a point. That is, at some point we run out of hours in the day and days in the week. I know, I’ve pushed these limits and thankfully realized when to pull back before destroying myself or my family 🙂

And, I know firsthand that grooming an apprentice (initially) slows us down. However, if we (the self-employed) want to grow our income we absolutely MUST groom apprentices to replicate ourselves. Or, we are stuck at an income level that is directly tied to our own, direct efforts…I hate being stuck 🙂

The reality is that the most difficult part of training-up an apprentice is when we are getting ready to turn them loose on our customers to perform unsupervised “in our good name.” Why? Because they make mistakes, in our good name.

Just remember…We made mistakes (probably some BIG ones) in someone else’s good name (our first boss, for example).

So, let’s not be selfish. Let’s give a novice (or budding expert) a chance to grow under our tutelage and even make a few mistakes in our good name. It happens to be a key approach for the self-employed to generate unlimited income.

Finally, there are numerous opportunities to generate income from a small or home-based business, which may be something we can do in addition to our “day job.” And, this can one day turn into our only source of income. Examples include:

  • Applying our skills as a handyman (or woman). Can we fix, paint or clean stuff?
  • Converting a hobby (making jewelry, etc.) into income (sell it online).
  • Sharing our skills, experiences, interests, etc. online via blogging and/or writing a book.
  • Network Marketing

Case studies abound, for each of the above, where someone turned an extra-curricular activity into a full-time (or better) income.

In closing, setting our pay is directly correlated to the amount of value and service we provide to humanity. Up our service and our pay will, ultimately, go up. It is all, truly, directly within our control.

All we need to do is put our thinking apparatus to work. And, leverage information which is readily available on how others have done it. For example, if you’d like to learn how to:

And, if you aspire to do something else, the vast, unlimited resource known as the Internet is available for research.

All the best!

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