That dreaded question always rears its ugly head during the interview process: “what is your ideal salary for this position?” If you offer too much, you may be cast aside for having unrealistic goals. Management might feel you’ll be unsatisfied in a position that offers far less than you expect. Ask too low, and you just may get your wish. At best, you wind up hired and underpaid. At the worst, you get turned down because the hiring manager takes your low-ball answer as a sign of poor self-awareness or limited skill assets.

It may feel awkward talking about your pay, but you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable negotiating your salary. Jobs are not hand-outs you should bow down and be grateful for because a company extends its saving grace in the form of a W-2. As a professional, you deserve to be fairly compensated, and that means knowing your worth. If you’re planning on interviewing soon and want to make sure you get the best salary for your experience, here are a few tips that will take the pressure off the conversation.

Make Sure You Are Qualified for What You Want

Pay scales according to a person’s skills, education, and experience. Two people in the same position can qualify for different salaries based on differences in credentials. That being said, if you want to ask for the higher-end of your position’s pay grade, make sure you are qualified. Completing the necessary courses to make yourself marketable should be a necessary course of action. You can borrow a student loan from a private lender pay for certificate courses to ease the tuition pain. Higher education comes in different forms, and you don’t always have to fork over a fortune on another degree.

Loans are ideal for professional development because they help you build the most relevant, profitable skills for your niche without having to sacrifice your current financial stability. Having the right credentials also makes you more confident in negotiations. Instead of just listing a high figure, you can tell management why you are a valuable investment.

Practice Before the Conversation

You don’t want to fumble over your words or hum-and-haw when the hiring manager gets to the big question. Rehearse what you’ll say ahead of time, so you feel completely relaxed as you explain your desired compensation and reasons for asking such. You might even consider reaching out to a mentor on LinkedIn or working with a career coach to strengthen your interview skills. You should be able to project a natural air of confidence without coming across as fake or arrogant. The goal is to sound like yourself, not a stock-model business person who lacks any real personality or depth.

Consider Cost Tradeoffs for Other Benefits

Make sure that you don’t focus on figures alone. Maybe this company is trying to build a unique brand and you want to be a part of that. While you should get a good salary for your investment in the company, you also need other benefits for maximum value. Things like remote work opportunity, flexible hours, health insurance, life insurance and retirement savings are all important considerations. Identify your most important benefits from an employer, and ensure that you are evaluating a company just as much as they’re evaluating you.