How to ask for a raise from an invisible boss?
April 27, 2012 7:59 AM   Subscribe

I work as an independent contractor for a very large company. What's the best way to ask for a raise when I have never met my boss?

I interviewed over the phone and was set up with various clients whom I see weekly. All communication with the company is through email--basically I send them my monthly hours and that's it. My boss mentioned the possibility of a raise in a few months (I have been working there since February) if my clients gave me good reviews. I am reasonably sure that they have, and I wouldn't be asking for anything crazy ($25/hr instead of $20), but I am a total n00b to this.

So: how do I compose an email asking for a raise? Or should it be done over the phone? Or is it too soon to ask?
posted by chaiminda to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might start by simply asking your boss what the process is for reviews and see if there's a specific timeline they use. Two or three months seems premature to ask for a raise under normal circumstances.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:10 AM on April 27, 2012

$25/hr instead of $20/hr is a 25% increase. That's almost unheard of without a promotion being involved, though things may be a bit different in the world of independent contracting.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:18 AM on April 27, 2012

If you're an independent contractor, you might schedule a Skype call with the person who hired you, and tell them your rates are going up. You also might want to collect feedback/reviews from your clients. I think it's incredibly important to act like a real contractor, not a perma-lancer/semi employee, and not "ask" for anything. Now, I know this can be a risky strategy, esp. if you're not too experienced, but I think it's worth mulling over and figuring out how you can present this tactfully and professionally.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:26 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

This seems like something you should approach at the six month mark. When people ask for raises after two months, they often don't get the best response. However, there's nothing insane about you asking to go up $5, or in changing the rates at which you freelance.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:41 AM on April 27, 2012

If you are an independent contractor, you don't "ask for a raise." You are in control of setting your own hourly rate.

I don't change my rate often, and I don't do it in the middle of a job; generally I quote the new rate to new clients and bump up the rate for repeat clients only at the beginning of the next job.

Now, if the situation is that you only have a single client and they're setting your rate, controlling the hours you work, etc -- i.e. if it's an employer-employee relationship in all but name -- then you are not an independent contractor and are being taken advantage of.

(Companies love to do this because they get the benefits of a full-time employee without the obligations -- such as benefits -- that come along with it. Massachusetts tried to outlaw this sort of thing a while back, though they wrote the law so poorly that the effect was mostly to complicate the lives of every real freelancer in the state. I'm not sure of the legality of this sort of situation in other states, but it might be worth looking into.)
posted by ook at 8:42 AM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

Seconding Ideefixe.
I am a contractor/consultant and I invoice my clients monthly.
When I raise my rates I put a notice at the bottom of the invoice alerting them that
my rate will be increasing to $ dollars/day as of a certain date,usually 2 months or so beforehand.
As mentioned, if you are truly independent, you should not be asking them but telling them.
You need to know what others are charging in your field and you should remain competitive.
posted by Snazzy67 at 8:47 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like this is an open-ended gig. I wouldn't just declare a higher rate this soon after starting.

If all communication has been through e-mail, then you have a written record of your boss saying a raise might be possible in a few months. And here we are a few months later. I'd call up that e-mail and write a reply along the lines of, "Hi Boss, it's been a few months and I'm curious what the reviews have been like."

Wait to find out if the news is good or bad. If the reviews have been bad, find out what needs to happen to make them good. If they are good, you have justification to negotiate for more money.
posted by Longtime Listener at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2012

Response by poster: Hey, just to clarify a couple of things:
  • My boss mentioned during the phone interview that with good reviews my hourly rate could be raised, which is when he mentioned that some people in my position are able to earn $25-35/hr. I do not have this in an email.
  • My clients do not pay me; the company does. My clients have no idea how much I make and I will not be taking on any new ones, because I have no further time.
  • I forgot to mention that this is a very part-time job. I work about 12 hours a week for this company.
I really appreciate the answers so far. It's hard for me to even know where to start with this kind of thing so I appreciate the clarifications on terminology, etc. I appreciate any other thoughts you might have!
posted by chaiminda at 10:32 AM on April 27, 2012

Yeah, there's some terminology confusion here: to an independent contractor, the client is whoever you're contracting to -- i.e. it's who pays you. They may be paying you to work with third parties, but those third parties are not your clients (they're the company's clients).

Given your followup, you are not an independent contractor, you are an offsite part-time employee (though the fact that it's genuinely part-time does largely negate the "taking advantage of you" part, since they wouldn't be obligated to give you health insurance etc even if they weren't misclassifying you as a contractor.)

And given that, and that the $25-35 was an undocumented "some can earn as much as" recruitment come-on rather than anything concrete, I'd say two months in is probably a little premature to be asking for a raise. But you could certainly start laying the groundwork by asking for details on the feedback from your "clients," as Longtime Listener suggests above (you can spin this as "I just want to know if there areas of my work I can improve upon" or the like), and if it turns out that the reviews are good you could ask about what are the criteria for pay increases.
posted by ook at 11:18 AM on April 27, 2012

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