Asking for a raise is terrifying. And overwhelming. And complicated. I mean, no one likes talking money.

You know what’ll make (almost) all of that disappear? Being prepared.

Yup—bargaining for a higher salary will be one billion times easier (that’s a rough estimate, obviously), if you’ve done your homework. And usually, your attempt will be successful if you come to the meeting with hard evidence as to why you deserve it.

Because here’s the reality of the situation: Nobody who earns a raise just wings it in their performance review. They know what to say, how to say it, and what questions they need to answer.

But first thing’s first: You need to decide if you actually deserve a raise. Muse career coach Alexandra Dickinson, who has trained more than 1,000 professionals to negotiate, says that it’s really about what you have achieved in the past and are currently accomplishing in your role:

It’s a good time to ask for a raise when you can clearly articulate the value that you’ve created and saved for your organization. Value doesn’t have to be dollars, especially if you don’t do something easily quantifiable like sales. It could be launching a new program or picking up slack when a team member left who wasn’t replaced right away. It could also be when you’ve made a number of concessions—gone over and above what’s required of you without getting credit for that extra effort. That might be taking one for the team and doing something mundane but necessary, or always being the reliable person who works overtime to make sure you’re ready for the client meeting.

Basically, you need to prove you’re contributing more to the team than your salary demonstrates.

Of course, asking for a raise shouldn’t be something you prepare for a day before you speak with your boss. As Dickinson advises, it’s helpful to keep a weekly or monthly log of everything you’ve successfully completed or initiated, and take note of the things you’re doing that are above your job description or have been especially crucial to your team or company’s success:

“I do this daily, and on Friday afternoons I check in with my list and highlight the items that have most moved the needle for me. I advise people to ask for a raise by striking when the iron’s hot—after a big success, for example,” she says.

In addition to discussing your wins, you should also do the research to make sure that what you’re asking for is in line with industry standards. This advice on figuring out what you’re worth walks you through that process.

Oh! And, because at The Muse we love making people’s lives easier (just call us the career fairies), we’ve made you the ultimate worksheet for keeping tabs on everything you need to state your case to your manager.

Not only will it help you track your progress, but it’ll make sure you’re able to tackle any tough questions your boss may throw at you. As you’ll see, we recommend you use all the information you collect to write out what you’re going to say beforehand (seriously, this will make the ask way less nerve-wracking).

Then, if you’re still a bit unsure if you’re ready to talk money, you may want to work with a negotiation coach who can walk you through what you’re worth and give you the confidence you need to approach the conversation.

Hint: Spending some cash now on a coach will literally pay off later when you’re making more money.

This post was first published on themuse.