Good money in design?

Good money? Good question, and one that I received recently from a friend who wanted to know whether there was good money in design. The conversation went like the below;

Is there good money in design as I’m fed up wtih my job and want a change?

I replied;

I didn’t think you were in to design?

Which they replied;

Well I dabble a bit so thought it would be good if the money was in it.

This really struck a nerve. Not in a bad way, Drew and I get on really well, and I know his current job situation but more because there is obviously a perception that you can jump in to a career in design on a whim because you may ‘dabble’ in design.

Let’s get over using the word design for a moment and concentrate on the creative industry on a whole. Creativity isn’t something you can dabble in, either you’ve got it or you don’t. Granted you can be creative in different ways but I firmly believe it’s certainly something that is ingrained in your blood from the first time you threw paint at an easel with paint brush to the time you sent your last design to a client for approval. Creativity is there from when you are born and throughout your entire life. You will hone your skills to make sure you can produce the design you’ve been wanting to create.

Is it about the money?

Everyone has to pay their way and everyone has to live. Unfortunately for the world, designers and creatives cannot be paid with boxes of chocolates and jammie dodgers no matter how often we are sent them. We do need money, but is money the only thing we want? Me personally, I’d like to be paid for my time. We don’t learn our skills over night and it can take years and years to get to where we are now and we should be paid accordingly. With any job in the world there are levels to how much we get paid depending on our skill sets and ‘time served’ in a career.

Do we design for money? Do we design to see our clients smile? Do we design to see the users using our design smile? Do we design to stroke our own egos? It would be interesting to see a ratio of how many designers design because they live it rather than it being just for the money. Our jobs aren’t like working in a retail industry where you go to work in shifts, do your hours and go home. We designers can end up working silly hours just because we enjoy what we’re doing.

It’s hard putting an ‘amount’ on it

It’s hard working out how much to charge for something you love doing but it has to be done. We can’t work for nothing and I’d like to think that we do not design just for the money. Yes you can make a good living from design, but it takes a huge amount of effort and a massive amount of creative skill to get to where you are comfortable financially.

I’d also hope that some people do not join the creative industry just for the money, especially when they’re not creative in the first place. Love what you do, do it because you would do it anyway and get paid for the privilege.

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Head of Interaction and Service Design at DigitalDWP.

5 thoughts on “Good money in design?”

  1. I worked at a supermarket for a short while when I was 18. I did so not because I wanted to, but for the money. As a result, I was miserable. Yes, it gave me spending money, but I wasn’t interested.

    From my early teens, I’ve loved the web. By the time I finished secondary school I knew I wanted to work in the web industry. I loved crafting websites in Photoshop, and then seeing them start to interact when I’m putting them together with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP etc. I’m happy.

    Notice how I didn’t include money in that above paragraph? The reason being, I’d be just as happy if I were on a salary of £20,000 or £200,000.

    Just like you, I want to be paid for my time. But I’m happy doing what I’m doing and being able to negotiate money in return for my skills and services is just icing on the cake. There is good money to be made in the web industry, but only if you yourself are good at what you do.

  2. Gavin
    that does sounds familiar… I have to say I always cringe a little when someone speaks of doing webdesign purely for the money…

    Whenever I start a new webclass – there tends to be one or two in the class which straight off ask how easy it is to learn, how quickly they will get to the big bucks… These tend to be students who would try to find shortcuts purely for speed of production, abuse – rather than use – online resources – generally have hardly any love for design or pride in their work… I’m finding it hard to deal with this sort of student, I have to admit. As I drive my students quite hard, handcoding etc – these students usually don’t last very long and tend to drop out – as they didn’t expect it to be hard work – thought it was a magic formula to get rich quick.

    I personally would not do it if I didn’t love it – it’s all about producing good work, making your clients (and their clients) happy – I feel lucky though to get paid for something I love doing 🙂

    I don’t think you can become successful in webdesign if you don’t love what you do – with all its ups and downs. It is hard work – and you should love it, do your best and get paid well for your expertise, talent and final product.
    That’s my humble opinion anyway 🙂

  3. If only it were that simple. Just “dabbling” a way to a good job. Design takes many years to learn. Just as soon as you learn something, technology changes. I think lifelong students are the only people cut out to be designers.

  4. What Prisca said about the certain type of students dropping out of class, I remember when I was learning and I noticed those types of students who didn’t take pride in there designs and who weren’t interested in the processes etc, I could pick them out. After the course I know that those students did not pursue a career on the creative industry.
    I guess if you love what you do, you will pursue it and not be persuaded.

    I wonder if your dabbling friend went ahead with the design career change?

  5. As a freelance designer even though I love what I do the reality is I am exhausted trying to hitch the next client. When there aren’t a lot of design firms to work for depending on your location or if your not what they looking for (which is a graphic designer, web designer, flash, programming, etc. combined) you continue your craft by freelancing. It takes a whole lot of other skills like marketing, advertising, seo, word of mouth to get to that client and get paid. I am now researching other careers related to design that maybe I can return to school to get my masters because as a small biz owner(freelancer) the roller coaster of clients is just exhausting and just not stable. Now this is just my story so far and don’t want to discourage other designers because you can become successful if you get with the right company or good at marketing yourself a.k.a. “a people person”. If you have design buddies try to go into business together and you can help each other on your weaknesses.

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