Considering a career in graphic design, but don’t know what to expect when it comes to your salary? Or perhaps you’re an experienced graphic designer debating on whether to go freelance? This article will offer you all you need to know about the earnings of freelancers and employed UK graphic designers.
What is a Graphic Designer?
Firstly, what does the role of a graphic designer entail exactly? Graphic designers are creatives who create visual and appealing images for advertisement purposes as well as spread brand awareness or general information. They design a vast range of materials, such as logos, social media pages, brochures or even eBooks.
In addition, designers commonly use digital tools, such as design and editing software. Graphic design is almost everywhere we look, even at the supermarket. Getting designs out in the world is what graphic designers are paid to do.
What does a day in the life of a graphic designer look like? Everything these professionals do begins with an idea, and their job is to bring these ideas to life in the real world and online. If you love drawing or find yourself drawn to colourful adverts, then the role might suit you. After all, the world would look much less exciting without graphic designers
Do Graphic Designers need a Qualification?
The short answer is no. Qualifications are not essential, as long as you can demonstrate a strong portfolio of work. There is not a single industry that doesn’t require some type of graphic designer at some point in time.
Although the demand for graphic designers has rapidly been increasing, due to the world moving in a more digital direction, it is still a creative and therefore popular skillset making is a competitive industry to get into.
Building a Portfolio
There’s a lot of competition for graphic design work. You’ll need a portfolio that demonstrates you have creative ideas, skills and work experience to help you get started. A degree isn’t essential to get you into the industry, although it is very useful. There are plenty of resources online that will teach you the basics.
Moreover, It’s important to study basic skills before you begin to grow your portfolio. Building a portfolio of graphic design work is more important than any qualification you can achieve in the field. This portfolio will be useful when applying to jobs to showcase your talents and passion.
Therefore, if you’re thinking of going freelance, then spend time researching your dream clients. Then, go away and think about three projects you can design to put in your portfolio.
On the contrary, if you’re still at the early stages of your career then getting a qualification in a related field will help you build up an initial portfolio of projects alongside teaching you the skills that you can take forward into your career. You could take a foundation degree, diploma or bachelor’s degree in a design-related subject such as graphic design, art and design, communication design or illustration.
Getting work experience during your studies will give you an advantage when you get out into the real world because it will add further to your knowledge and portfolio. Having experience in using desktop publishing software will also give you an advantage.
It’s time to talk numbers. To put it simply, the average salary for an employed Graphic Designer in the UK is £23,911. With that, UK salaries for graphic designers can range from £18,000-£35,000 depending on experience, skillset and location.
Most likely, it will take over twenty years to reach the higher end of earnings above £30,000. On top of that, the average working hours across all levels of skillset for graphic designers can range from 37- 40 hours a week.
Research shows that an entry-level Graphic Designer with less than 1-year experience can expect to earn an average total annual pay of £19,483.
Correspondingly, research based on 1728 salaries, tells us that an early career Graphic Designer with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total of £22,522.
Having 5-9 years of experience earns a respectful average compensation of £25,390 based on research of 1,125 salaries.
Once you reach the advanced level with 10-19 years of experience on your back, you become an experienced graphic designer and can earn an average total compensation of £26,754, based on research of 500 salaries.
Employees later in their career, after the 20-year mark, earn an average total compensation of £27,604, but this can reach up to £35,000.
As a graphic designer, you could find yourself working in a creative studio, in an office or at a client’s business. The location of the company significantly affects your salary. For instance, the same company offers a higher salary in London and a comparatively lower salary in Preston.
Check out some of the graphic design salaries below, for the same role, in different locations.
This demonstrates that your geographical location can impact your earnings as a graphic designer.
Freelance VS Employed
There is an alternative to the salaried route of earning as a graphic designer, hired for a permanent position. The alternative is to go freelance.
A freelance graphic designer is self-employed and usually works on a contract basis. The freelance graphic designer could be hired to work on a specific project, whereas a graphic designer employed by a company would most likely be involved in a wide range of design tasks.
Unfortunately, freelance graphic designers will be responsible for many more things such as finding their clients and sorting their taxes. Whereas a graphic designer employed by a company would not have to think about these things. This will lead to you working more hours than your usual 9-5 job.
According to research, the national average salary for a Freelance Graphic Designer is £36,634 in the UK. Suggesting that once your skills advance, going freelance may be the more attractive option as the average earnings are higher than those who have a permanent position.
By the same token, it is important not to ignore the positives that come with the freelance route. You have more control over your earnings because you can quote your client your preferred price for the project. Working remotely also saves commuting costs, as you can work from the comfort of your own home. This is a huge benefit of going freelance.
With that, it is important to know that majority of freelancers in this role are paid by the hour. Freelance graphic designers can charge anything between £10-£100 an hour, depending on skillset and project requirements. Even university students, in the field, can earn between £15-£50 an hour as a remote freelance intern looking for graphic design experience.
While freelancing might sound like a dream job, there’s one more factor to consider. Sadly, freelance graphic designers don’t get benefits and compensation from an employer, so they have to cover those expenses themselves. Such as sick pay, holidays and bonuses.
Furthermore, there is even an alternative to the alternative. If you’re working in a different profession but have graphic design skills, perhaps you could consider setting up a graphic design side hustle.
Freelance opportunities make it possible to work your usual 9-5 then come home and complete some graphic design projects for extra income to bring up your annual earnings.
A career in graphic design could lead to the potential of even higher earnings, beyond graphic design. Later in your career, you could become a senior designer, creative director or move into management. Another option could be to move into teaching or lecturing.
Equally, If you’re super driven, you could even start up your design agency. To inspire you, below are some potential salaries for different fields.
The average salary for a Senior Graphic Designer is £31,686.
The average salary for a Design Manager is £43,783.
The average salary for a Creative Director is £51,530.
In conclusion, graphic design is a widely appreciated and in-demand job role, so certainly is a respectful and wise career path to head down. However, there is no black-and-white answer to how much you will earn. Depending on your skill set, where you are based and whether you choose to be employed or freelance will widely impact your take-home salary.
To summarise, the average salary for an employed Graphic Designer in the UK is £23,911, whilst for a freelance Graphic Designer, it is £36,634.
Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that most graphic designers start employed until their skills improve. Therefore, jumping straight into freelance may not be a sensible idea but certainly could be something to work towards later in your career journey.