The year is quickly coming to a close, which means companies everywhere are preparing to conduct their annual performance reviews. (I can hear your collective groan from here.)

Like it or not, your review is a great time to touch base with your boss about how things are going. And if you’re like many people, you might also think it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about a bump in your salary.

Are you breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of chatting with your boss about a pay increase?

You’re not alone – pretty much everybody dreads these conversations. Here are four key tips to help you ask for a raise this year (hopefully without needing to breathe into a paper bag):

Consider Timing

As with anything, timing is crucial. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of conflicting advice in regards to when it’s the best time to approach your boss about your paycheck.

You’re not alone – pretty much everybody dreads these conversations. Here are four key tips to help you ask for a salary negotitations (hopefully without needing to breathe into a paper bag).A good time would be during your review. After all, you’re already discussing your performance, accomplishments, and contributions, which can often provide a natural segue into a discussion about your compensation. Plenty of people use their reviews as a launching pad to ask for a raise.

However, some experts warn that waiting until your review might mean you’re a little too late. Lydia Frank, editorial and marketing director for PayScale, suggests squeezing in that conversation before you sit down to chat about your performance.

“If your company has a regular performance review schedule, try to have a conversation about your compensation a couple months in advance so that your boss has time to make a case and advocate for budget ahead of that process,” she explains in a PayScale blog post. “If you wait until the performance review process is underway, often the decisions about salary increases have already been made by the management team.”

The bottom line? The best timing can vary from company to company. So pay attention to when might be an appropriate period to approach your boss, and then go for it.

Come Prepared

Of course, marching into your boss’s office and demanding more money won’t be an effective tactic.

You’ll need to lay some groundwork ahead of time.

Ideally, you’ll have kept track of your major accomplishments throughout the year. (If not, make it a professional resolution for this year!) Put together a list of the things that you’ve achieved and the impact you’ve made at the company.

Remember, you can’t ask for a pay increase without having the justification to back it up. So make sure to prepare yourself with a solid roster of the reasons why you deserve a bump in your paycheck.

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Know Your Worth

Another thing you’ll need to come prepared with? Exactly how much you’re asking for.

You don’t want to get into the discussion with your boss, only to respond with, “Uhhh… more than I’m making now?” when she asks what your salary expectations are.

Determine a figure before you ever sit down with your manager. Whether it’s a percentage increase or a particular flat salary you’re aiming to earn, it’s important that you have a number in mind. Even if your boss doesn’t end up agreeing to that exact number, it will at least give you some grounds to start negotiating on.

If you’re not sure how to go about figuring out what you should ask for, check out a tool like Comparably or PayScale to find out what professionals in similar positions are earning.

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Let’s face it – no matter how well-prepared you are, talking with your supervisor about your salary can still be an incredibly nerve-wracking experience.

This is why practicing beforehand can help to calm some of those inevitable butterflies in your stomach. Rehearse the spiel that you’ll recite to your boss when asking for a raise. Then, run through some of the different ways the conversation could go – whether that’s approval, negotiations, or a rejection. You can even ask a friend to help you out.

It might seem like a totally unnecessary step, but reserving some time to explore potential scenarios ahead of time will help you feel that much more self-assured when you actually approach your boss.

While there’s never a guarantee for how this conversation with your manager might go, following these four steps will ensure that you ask for a raise in a way that’s poised, professional, and polished.

And if you’re rejected this time around? You can take comfort in the fact that you’ve made your wishes and goals known to your boss.