Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists.

Help! All I’m Asking for Is a Raise

Dear Content Therapist: I’ve been a copywriter with this company for almost two years now. When I took this role, I also took a pay cut for two reasons: I was ready to leave a toxic work environment, and I believed in the company’s mission and values. At first, the pay cut wasn’t too much of a challenge, as I’m used to living on a budget while still enjoying things outside work. However, after two years, I’m doing the work of a senior copywriter without the title or pay. And thanks to inflation, my salary isn’t cutting it. The problem? My boss has either brushed people aside for asking for a raise or found some way to fire them. I need the raise and this job. How can I ask my boss for a raise without getting fired?  — THE BUDGET MARKETER

Paul Chaney: It’s understandable that you would want to leave a toxic work environment, and I applaud your willingness to take a pay cut to do it. But if you want a raise, you’re going to have to ask for it and be willing to accept the risks. Hopefully, the following advice will help.

Do Your Homework

You will need to make a strong case when talking to your boss. So, thoroughly research industry standards for salaries in similar roles, and gather any available data on the company’s salary structure.

Document Your Achievements

Compile a list of your accomplishments, positive feedback from clients or colleagues, and any additional responsibilities you’ve taken on (you mentioned doing the work of s senior copywriter). Such documentation can bolster your case and help you be more confident when making the request.

Time Your Request

When’s your next annual performance review? That’s the ideal time to ask for a raise, particularly if you get a good review. Another time might be after you’ve completed a successful project and received accolades from your boss.

Explain Your Circumstances

Inflation has hit everyone’s pocketbook, including your boss’s and the company’s. That doesn’t negate the fact that you’re having difficulty meeting expenses on your current salary. Be respectful but honest in explaining your circumstances in the hope they’ll have an open mind and be considerate.

Practice Your Pitch

Rehearse what you want to say in advance. This will help you feel more confident and allow you to communicate your points more effectively. Practice in front of a mirror, and have a pleasant smile.

Know Your Numbers

If your boss asks you how much you think the raise should be, have a figure in mind. Based on your research, you’ll have a good idea of what others in your position earn. Be open to compromise. Showing that you’re flexible might tip the scales in your favor.

Consider Your Options

What happens if you make your best pitch but the boss says no? It’s time to consider your options.

Ask for Feedback

Ask your boss for feedback on why they were unwilling to honor your request. Is it related to performance, the company’s financial status or another reason? It’s a fair question that deserves an answer.

Revisit the Issue

Just because you were unsuccessful this time doesn’t mean you can’t broach the issue again later — perhaps at the next performance review or another opportune time. Don’t give up after one try. Persistence pays.

Research Other Opportunities

If your current job isn’t paying the bills, look for other opportunities within the company that offer higher salaries. If none are available, it may be time to look elsewhere.

Evaluate Your Priorities

Reflect on your career goals, personal priorities and overall job satisfaction. Determine whether staying in your current role without a raise is sustainable or if it’s time to consider other options.

Develop New Skills

Continue investing in your professional development. Learn new skills, earn certifications or pursue additional education. Increasing your value will help you either in this job or the next.

Consider Freelance Work

If you can’t make a living on your current salary, do what many others do: freelance. Taking a few side gigs could fill the salary gap. Check your employment contract or employee handbook, however, to ensure you aren’t prohibited from freelancing. Don’t perform any work where there could be a conflict of interest.

Regardless of what you do next, maintain a professional demeanor and continue to do your job to the best of your ability. Your integrity, character and reputation are worth far more than any amount of money you could make.

Hello. It’s A Job I’m Looking For …

Dear Content Therapist: I am a content marketer with over five years of experience and have worked for big names in media. I have certifications in skills such as SEO and have helped lead marketing campaigns. But despite all of that, I can’t find my next role. I’ve been unemployed for the past seven months, and I’m getting nervous. I’ve picked up some freelance work here and there, but I’m looking for a permanent gig. With the job market being what it’s today, I’m up against at least a 100 people who are in a similar position. I think I need to change my approach, but I’m not sure what to do. Can you share some tips that you have that can help me land my next role? — THE OPEN-TO-WORK MARKETER

Paul Chaney: I understand your dilemma, believe me. Even though I freelance full time, when I apply for a contract or part-time role, I often find hundreds of others have, also. If full-time freelancing isn’t something you’re willing to do, consider these action items:

Update Your LinkedIn Profile

I’m taking for granted that you’re keeping your resume updated, but what about your LinkedIn profile? Make sure it’s updated with your accomplishments, certifications and relevant experience. If you’re unsure of how to project the right image, look at what others are doing. (LinkedIn offers 20 tips for creating the perfect profile.)

Fill Your Employment Gap

Employment gaps on your resume can be glaring to a potential employer. However, there are ways to fill the hole, such as listing your freelance work, focusing on skills development and mentioning any volunteer work. Another idea is to use what’s known as a functional resume format, which emphasizes skills and achievements over chronological work history. Lastly, explain any employment gap in the cover letter. Above all, be honest. Trying to cover up the gap won’t help.

Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

Many companies use applicant tracking system (ATS) software to automate hiring by filtering and ranking resumes. To improve your chances of getting past the initial screening, include relevant keywords from the job description and avoid using images, tables or non-standard fonts.

Tailor Your Application

Customize your resume and cover letter for each job application, focusing on the specific requirements and responsibilities mentioned in the job posting. This will show potential employers you’ve put thought into your application and are genuinely interested in the position.

Network, Network, Network

If you’re not already doing so, reach out to your professional network, including former colleagues, friends and acquaintances, to let them know you’re actively looking for a job. Attend industry events, conferences and webinars to meet new people and stay updated on industry trends. Networking can lead to referrals or job opportunities that may not be advertised publicly.

Enhance Your Online Presence

As a content marketer, showcasing your skills and expertise online is crucial. Start a blog, contribute to relevant online publications or create a portfolio website to display your work. This will help you establish credibility and demonstrate your value to potential employers.

Leverage Social Media

Actively engage with companies and professionals in your field on LinkedIn. Share insightful content, comment on industry news and participate in relevant group discussions. Connect with others in your industry and like, share and comment on their posts. This can increase your visibility and demonstrate your industry knowledge.

Learn New Skills

Use this time to update your skill set by taking online courses, attending workshops and exploring educational opportunities. Stay current with industry trends and content marketing tools. Continuous learning makes you more marketable and demonstrates your commitment to professional growth.

Keep Freelancing

Continue freelancing. Not only is freelancing a way to keep your job skills sharp, but you also never know when a freelance gig could turn into a full-time job. (As I said, it’s also a way to fill the employment gap on your resume.)

Never Give Up

Right now, your job search is your job, so be persistent and don’t give up. Keep applying for positions and follow up with the hiring manager to let them know you applied. If possible, send a handwritten note to add a personal touch.

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.