The current economic climate doesn’t exactly lend itself to asking for a raise.

With all the talk of bailouts, budget cuts and layoffs (not to mention undue bonuses), many an employee is wary of asking for more money. But what if you deserve a raise?

According to some experts, you are in luck. Now could actually be the best time to start negotiating.

“Companies are trying to figure out how to do more with less,” says Lane Transou, a human resources manager for a drilling company in Houston, Texas. “Management is willing to listen more so than ever.”

But before you march over to your boss with a list of new salary demands, make sure you’re fully prepared. Here is what experts say you need to know before you ask for a raise:

1. Assess your company’s financial health. Understand the goals of your company and the challenges it is trying to mitigate. Take into account your company’s standing in the industry. A quick Google search (Stock Quote: GOOG) and a copy of the firm’s latest annual report can reveal what the market conditions are like. If your company is struggling to stay in business, it is probably not the best time to ask for a raise.

2. Assess your skills and accomplishments. Make a list of all your accomplishments and write down how you contribute to your company or professional team. Be specific. “It’s important to articulate what you’ve done for the company,” says Robert Chope, president of the National Employment Counseling Association. “That’s the most important thing you can do and people are always too shy to do it.”

Transou suggests approaching management with some return on their investment calculations. “Show them their cost-savings by promoting you over hiring a new employee,” she says. “If you can explain how the company can save in the long-term by promoting you, you’ve put yourself in a good position to get a raise.”

Above all, make sure you know where you stand compared to others in your industry. Chope says to compare yourself to other people in the organization and to people with the competition as well. Are they doing the same tasks as you and getting paid more money to do it? Or are they doing more for less?

Another important question to ask: Can you be easily replaced? “If there is a lineup of 100 people who can do what you do better, then you probably don’t have much bargaining power,” says Chope.

3. Be flexible. At the end of the day, a company either has the money to give out a raise, or it doesn’t. Salaries are often considered fixed costs and can be difficult to change.

If your employer is not open to a salary increase, don’t be discouraged. There are other forms of compensation that you can negotiate. Chope suggests asking for additional vacation days or a more flexible work schedule. You can also negotiate your benefits package to add value to what you bring home from work.

Transou says to think practical. Consider asking for a new Blackberry (Stock Quote: RIMM) or an upgrade on your computer. Many companies will also pay for continuing education (provided the course is related to your field). “These are all one-time expenses and not fixed costs,” she explains. “They’re a lot easier to give out from an employer’s point of view.”

While money may be tight these days, Transou says companies are open to negotiating incentives, in order to boost employee loyalty and moral.

Adds Chope: “A promotion or raise is not necessarily related to the current economic crisis. It should be tied to performance, and people should always feel like they’re getting paid what they’re worth."

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at