GET PAID WHAT YOU DESERVE
From nailing salary negotiations with a new employer to learning skills that will sell, here’s how to increase your slice of the pie
From nailing salary negotiations with a new employer to learning skills that sell, here’s how to increase your slice of the pie as a designer
The design industry is in good health at the moment. In the UK, the creative sector is currently worth £71 billion – and it employs an astonishing one in 12 members of the UK’s workforce. “The market is buoyant right now,” says Adrem Group’s Nikky Lyle, who specialises in placing graphic designers and visualisers. “Lots of companies are crying out for good people. It’s a candidate-led market at the moment. Salaries have shot up and the best people get snapped up very quickly.”
“We’re in a growth industry,” agrees Be Kaler, director and co-founder of digital recruitment specialists Futureheads, who says that the recent climb out of recession has resulted in an employment boom. “There are many more opportunities than there were five years ago. A lot of people are coming to us wanting to earn more and the market will afford that at the moment. There are more jobs than there are good people, and employers genuinely have an expectation that they may need to pay a bit more – but you do need to be able to justify why.”
The Major Players Salary Survey 2015 found that salaries have increased by between 5 per cent and 10 per cent across most creative disciplines. The majority of respondents work in integrated agencies – 27 per cent were found to have received a pay rise of more than 10 per cent in the last year, with more pay increases happening internally than through external job moves. However, over a third (38.6 per cent) of those surveyed were looking to change jobs within the next year, with 64.9 per cent citing better financial remuneration as a motivation.
There is some less encouraging news when it comes to the gender pay gap, however. The Design Week Salary Survey 2015 revealed a gender pay gap of 17 per cent in the design industry. In comparison, data from the Office for National Statistics places the UK’s overall gender pay gap at 9.4 per cent. The Design Week survey found that male creatives are earning £35,809 on average, while females in equivalent roles are getting £30,733. Overall, the average designer in the UK earns £33,443, according
to the Design Week survey. London salaries continue to outstrip the rest of the UK at an average of £36,791, followed by £32,795 in the rest of the South East, £30,599 in the East Midlands and £29,643 in Scotland. The lowest-paid jobs are in Northern Ireland, where the average designer’s salary is £21,818.
“London is still the hub, but Manchester is somewhere to watch,” says Nikky Lyle. “The BBC has moved there, the government is investing money and there are some great studios there that are beating London agencies to awards.” Designers in Manchester earn £27,279 on average, according to Design Week. “The cost of living is much cheaper, but it’s the same quality of work and you can still work with London-based clients.”
“We’ve had lots of openings though in Manchester and we have clients opening offices there as well,” she continues. “We’ve just had an agency from Manchester here in London interviewing people and other clients from Manchester have approached us wanting to meet people.”
Designers are earning more outside the UK than within it. The Design Week research puts the average overseas salary at £41,324, although it is of course worth noting that this will vary greatly between different cities and countries across the world. So, where might you consider looking? “Companies in San Francisco are keen to hire London staff,” says Be Kaler. “And I went out to Singapore earlier this year and was surprised by how many London digital agencies have got satellite offices there now. If you set up in Singapore, you can service 18 other business districts within a two-hour flight zone.”
Freelance designers appear to be earning more than employees, with average salaries of £34,659, although it’s important to take into account the extra costs associated with freelancing. Designers working for consultancies are earning an average of £33,680, while designers working
“THE JOB CATEGORY WITH THE BIGGEST PAY JUMP IS THE INTERACTIVE FIELD, WITH A 4.4 PER CENT AVERAGE RISE”
in-house receive the lowest average salaries at £31,587. Be Kaler says client-side opportunities have increased, though: “Our agency/client split used to be 75/25 and it’s probably 50–60 per cent in favour of client-side now.”
While employers are keen to hire new staff, Lyle observes that they are being more cautious in their selections. “They want to hire people that are keen to develop and push themselves. The main thing they want is for designers to be as creative as possible.” Lyle notes that client-facing skills are always a plus, while, on the digital side, the Major Players survey revealed that the most sought-after candidates are digital designers with frontend development knowledge. Speaking more generally, Be Kaler recommends improving breadth rather than simply becoming a specialist in one area.
In the USA, The Creative Group’s 2015 Salary Guide predicts a 3.5 per cent rise for creative salaries over the next year. “The job category with the biggest pay jump is the interactive field, with a 4.4 per cent average rise,” says Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group. “A number of digital positions are expected to exceed this figure.” For example, mobile designers can expect starting salaries to increase by 6.8 per cent to the range of $71,000 to $109,500.
“Gaining digital and mobile skills will increase your marketability and open doors to new opportunities, no matter what your specialty,” advises Domeyer. “Even if you are applying for positions that don’t require these skills, acquiring them can give you an edge in today’s competitive job market.” Salary gains for more traditional roles, such as graphic designers, will be considerably less, but these professionals can still expect an average increase of between 3 and 3.2 per cent in 2015.
What sorts of employers are paying the best salaries? “Try looking for jobs in corporate, tech, start-ups and charities,” suggests Futureheads’ Be Kaler. “Look for well-funded start-ups that have gone through a round of funding, which usually comes with a timeline for delivery. They may be up against the wall as it will stall everything if they don’t have the resources. They may also be willing to pay a bit more because it’s harder to attract staff without an established brand – or an HR or IT department.”
Start-ups often seek a broader skillset because they don’t have a raft of established teams and departments to call on. “They also understand that someone leaving an established agency or corporation, they’re going to be walking away from more than just a salary but are relinquishing security, a pension and an established career path.”
At the other end of the scale, big-named brands are realising that they can’t attract candidates on name alone, Kaler reveals. “It used to be that the sexier the brand, the less you needed to pay. People are more discerning and brands that take that approach can lose out.” It’s a similar story with charities, she adds. “To attract the right staff, they are having to break their pay scales.”
MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING
Just don’t make the mistake of looking solely at the numbers. “Lots of people take a job purely based on
DIANE DOMEYER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CREATIVE GROUP
salary,” says Kaler. “Think of the 10 things that are most important to you. These will be different for everybody and they might include things like the location, pay, type of work, style of business, company culture and working hours. Look at all of that holistically and take the money out of the equation until last,” she advises. “People can make the mistake of choosing one job over another just because it pays £2,000 more. An extra £150 a month will be nothing if you’re unhappy.”
“Salary is only part of the equation,” agrees Diane Domeyer. “You should know what is most important to you going into the conversation and weigh up all aspects of the offer. One of the biggest mistakes job candidates make is accepting whatever offer comes their way. But you shouldn’t shy away from discussing salary, specially since many employers are open to it.”
How do you go about negotiating a better offer? Whether you’re trying to persuade your boss to give you a pay rise or fleshing out the details of a potential job offer, it’s absolutely vital to do your homework beforehand – forewarned really is forearmed. “The most important thing to do before deciding whether to negotiate is to conduct background research,” says Domeyer. “Review salary guides and speak to recruiters. Try to find out if the company is growing or has recently reduced its staff, as these events can help to inform your bargaining power.”
WINNING AT NEGOTIATION
“You need a solid foundation for any kind of compensation request,” Domeyer says. For example, consider the impact of the projects in your portfolio. “Create a list of your achievements in previous roles and relate your work to any possible contribution to the companies’ revenue. Has your work helped generate business or build visibility? Have you developed more efficient processes and procedures? If you don’t have answers to these types of questions, it will be difficult to make a case.”
Negotiation expert Ted Leonhardt is a specialist consultant to the creative industries and author of Nail It: Stories for Designers on Negotiating with Confidence. He says that the Harvard Negotiation Project (bit.ly/harvardng) is the gold standard for negotiation advice and strategy. “But there’s one thing it recommends that is impossible for creatives and that is to separate your work from yourself. A creative simply cannot do that.”
Leonhardt emphasises the pivotal importance of “bargaining hard, but with respect”, along with the need to remember that potential clients and employers are human beings too. “Creatives are often terribly apprehensive about bargaining for money. They think the client is going to behave as if they are buying a used car and try to drive a hard bargain, when they’re usually very civilised.
Leonhardt is clear on the fact that preparation shouldn’t stop at background research. He says it can also be helpful to rehearse potential scenarios and practise how you might respond. “We can fall back into certain behaviours when we’re under stress, like going into fight
or flight mode,” he says. “The stress of negotiation will cause you to feel some anxiety and fear, and that’s normal. Everyone does it, but we all pretend that we don’t.”
“If you think about things overnight, you’ll have the opportunity to get your frontal lobe fully engaged in the process and to move from an emotional space into a rational one,” Leonhardt continues. That’s why you should plan for the process of negotiation. “Creatives often resist this because they’re uncomfortable with it and are in denial. They can go into the situation unprepared and can find themselves rolling over and giving in because they’re feeling uncomfortable with the situation.”
Clarity is important, too. “We give details of salary expectations from the beginning,” says Kaler. “Otherwise you can reach the end of the process and find that expectations don’t match. The offer may have been signed off with HR and now they’ll have to go back with egg on their faces. There should be no surprises at offer stage.”
What do you need to do to impress potential employers? It all comes back to your portfolio. “Portfolios absolutely matter, says Nikky Lyle. “Clients say they look at them straightaway, often before they open CVs, and creatives can sometimes really let themselves down. If something wouldn’t be good enough to leave their office to go to a client, then why are you sending it through to them?”
Taking care over your presentation – of yourself and your work – can make all the difference, she says. “You get people with brilliant portfolios who can’t be sent for interviews before their overall presentation. Brush your hair and don’t show scruffy print-outs of your portfolio. I always recommend graphic designers show things on an iPad and then bring out printed samples as well.” It’s all about how valuable you make yourself, she says. If you want to earn more, get the maximum value from yourself.