The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the graphic design industry is expected to grow by nearly 10 percent through 2016, and so now seems like a prime time to think about moving ahead to make way for the “junior” designers coming on-board.
I wanted to find out what the best graphic design jobs would be during the next 10 years, so I conducted a bit of research and then tossed it all aside to reflect on reality. The way I see it, you have three options: 1.Work your way up through a design firm, striving to become a design director or partner and cash in at around $100K to $120K. 2.Work for a firm and settle at a position somewhere between $30K and $80K. 3.Go freelance, be the wild card, and work your tail off and land somewhere between $30K and $120K. Bonus – start your own firm and potentially make millions. To me, the decision is easy. I choose to be the wild card, because I value career and creative freedom. However, I don't get the support, camaraderie and recognition afforded to employees of firms and agencies. I don't miss them, either, but if you crave attention you might find options one or two more appealing. A lot of people talk about the benefits of being with a firm, but we can toss those out the window. In today's tumultuous economic climate, nothing is guaranteed. Freelancers can save for retirement and purchase health insurance on their own. When you look at the economics of the firm/agency environment, the employees are also purchasing these things on their own – these things are worked into employee salaries “off-paper” and then stripped from the final “salary offer” figure. An employee who makes $20 an hour really makes $32 an hour, but the additional $12 goes toward benefit expenses. A freelancer making $40 or $60 an hour can do twice as well. I'm not saying you should go freelance, but I am saying that for many people (myself included) the life and the economics of being a freelancer are rather appealing. I can make my own hours and take on the projects I enjoy. The BLS says that 25 percent of all graphic designers in the United States are freelancers. I doubt there are many other jobs where one in every four workers is self employed, and I suspect that the number of employed graphic designers who wish they freelanced is much higher. In the next 10 years, I won't be surprised if as many as half of all American designers are self employed. Maybe more. For my part, I'll find it interesting to see if there are any correlations between the upcoming health care vote and the number of freelancers across all industries nationwide. Image usage via Creative Commons license from Flickr.