Isn’t it to talk about how much we get paid And that’s exactly what I Want to do in this article, because I don’t think that money talk should be a thing that we avoid The more we talk about how much we earn the more we can help each other To be paid, what we’re worth So right now, I want to take you through my design career, so Far and my history of raises and negotiations and talk, About the different changes that led to my different salary increases over the past eight years, ( upbeat electronic music ).
A few disclaimers that I want to make before we get into this article fully. I am going to be sharing Real numbers in this article, because why the heck not But what’s more important, is the context surrounding those numbers. So that’s what I want. You to focus on okay, My career has been in different countries, different currencies and Location has a huge impact on how much you’re paid For certain design jobs, so just keep that in mind when I’m talking about These different jobs, I’m going to tell you where They were in the world and that should help You for context there I’ll be converting all my Salaries into US dollars, though, just so we’ve got a constant Going throughout this Different areas and Disciplines within design can also be paid very differently.
So what I’m sharing with you here is my personal experience as A web and graphic designer. I also want to note that the only reason I feel comfortable talking about this now is because the company I currently work for has standardized salaries, so I feel confident that I’r being paid fairly, but I haven’t always felt that way. So please don’t take any of these numbers that I’m sharing with you as a benchmark or as my advice on what you should ask for in certain stages of your career Cool.
Alright, With that out the way, let’s get into it, My first ever full-time job as a designer was working as a graphic designer on the marketing team at a reseller of Mitsubishi Electric Products in New Zealand – I worked there part time. While I finished my studies and basically as soon as I finished, my last university classes, They offered me a full-time job for 35,000 New Zealand dollars. I did not negotiate that salary at all, which spoiler alert is Unfortunately, a common theme throughout my career history, But honestly I was just thrilled to be earning a full-time Living doing design work After I’d been there a few months.
They gave me about a 14 % raise, and I can’t remember if I had any other raises, while I was at that company, but the next big jump I had in my salary was when I left that job To start my career in tech, So this first job in tech, Was a marketing design role at an accounting software company based in Wellington? New Zealand called Zero. The company had, I think, around 350 400 employees worldwide.
When I started there And I was making this transition from print to web and when they asked me my salary expectations, I said that I wanted to make over $ 50,000 and what they offered me was 60,000. So well over what I offered. I was obviously undervaluing myself and I appreciated that Zero Didn’t take advantage of that I took that offer again. Without negotiating, because it was a 50 % Increase on the salary, I was earning at Mitsubishi Electric, and so I was stoked with that.
I know now that I should’ve negotiated because one it can’t hurt to try Right Might as well And two when you get a raise at a company. It’s usually based on the percentage of the salary that you are on. So when you come in you’re sort of setting this baseline for What you’re getting paid and your raises that You get on top of that will be building on that initial salary, So the higher you can negotiate for that initial salary to be the more you’ll get in Your raises essentially, But you live, and you learn So not negotiating when You first start out can limit your potential earnings.
At the company as a whole, which is unfortunate so Learn from my mistake: Zero was also a company Though that offered bonuses, both in the form of a catch bonus yearly where it was like a set amount, and then you get a percentage of it based on how well the company did So, you might get like 80 % of your cash bonus for that year, for example, And they also had what they called a long-term bonus in the form of shares, because Zero was a Publicly traded company, So I’ve got some Zero shares.
For my time working there I’m not going to go too deeply. Into benefits in this article, but it’s important to note that the overall package is What you should look at when you’re evaluating a role, not just the pure number of salary? I’ve got a couple of Raises at my time at Zero through just performance reviews and as the company grew my 10 year, there sort of became more and more valuable and I ended up being paid.
73,000, New Zealand dollars by the time I left New Zealand and moved to London Now the cool thing about This move to London was that Zero had an office there, so I was able to transfer Within the company, and not have to look for a Job in London, which was cool, But my biggest mistake here, was that I treated this move too much like Zero was doing me a favor and not enough, like I Was filling a vacant role at the design position? In the office in London They didn’t have any Designer there anymore, when I moved over, to fill that Zero didn’t help with any Relocation costs for this move because they said it was A self initiated thing, so that’s why they Weren’t going to pay for it And yea.
Basically, just I have some regrets about how I handled that situation. It was all very complex but yeah. I think there were some things. That I could’ve done better Anyway. I didn’t know that living in London, I was going to have a higher cost of living and Zero knew this too, and So what they offered me for this transition for this move to do the same job, essentially that I was doing in New Zealand, but based in London, They offered me 42,000 Pounds as my starting salary, So that was about a 15 % increase from my salary for the Same role in New Zealand, Now I’ve done my research and found that the cost of living in London was about 27 % higher than in New Zealand.
And so that’s what I was Hoping for in a raise and what I did speak To my manager about, but this is what we ended up on and I took it and I don’t regret that. Because it did allow me to move to London pretty seamlessly to turn up in a country on The other side of the world with a job was pretty great. My next salary increase Came about six months later, when I actually left that job at Zero to start working at a London-Based tech company Now in this role, the mistake that I made in this process was Actually answering them when they asked me what I was earning currently.
This is something that A potential employer is always going to ask you in an interview, And I would advise you not to be the person who says a number first, When they ask you what you’re earning or what you want to earn. It’s always good idea to ask them for what the range is for this role, and then you can give Your answer, based on that, If you go in there and lay a number down on the table first, then you are setting that benchmark and it’s potential that the company could take advantage of you in doing that.
Honestly, what you are currently earning should have no impact On what your value is in a role at a new company, It shouldn’t play a part, So don’t be the first one to say a number Anyway, I told them that my salary package, I was earning currently At Zero was 45,000 pounds and they said well, you’re, probably actually getting paid pretty well for where you’re at in your career, and they ended up offering to match that.
In a stroke of boldness, though, I decided I was going to try and negotiate, and I asked them for a Whole thousand pounds extra, I asked for 46,000 pounds and they agreed pretty much immediately. And that’s when I knew that I obviously should’ve asked for way more than that in the negotiation I know I tried. This is what I hate about this whole salary negotiation process. Is that you end up being Paid a lot of the times based on your negotiation skills, rather than your design.
Skills which I think is lame, But anyway, this ended up being about a 9.5 % increase on my base salary from my role at zero, But because Edited didn’t offer any bonuses or all that sort of things. As part of the salary package, I was ending up being Paid around about the same, which was a good salary to allow me to live comfortably in zone two in London. Sadly, I did not get any sort of raise or even a performance Review that I remember in the whole 18 months I was there, I don’t know the company wasn’t great at career development.
I will say that, But so my next change in salary. My next increase came when I changed roles to my current job that I Have now at ConvertKit, This is my first remote role and it’s also a US-based company so theres a whole lot of Different factors in there The company was about twenty something people. I think when I started Oh and for context, Edited was maybe about 40-ish when I started just to give you some context for that.
Salary that they offered me Anyway, I was really excited with this new job offer to be working remote and to not be having to Commute every day in London, because that was taking up a lot of time. But I did want to make Sure that I was being paid enough to sustain my lifestyle in London and to keep up with the Cost of living there I ended up starting at ConvertKit on just a few thousand dollars more than I was making at Edited, But ConvertKit is a company that also has some great that benefits Like they do.
A vacation Bonus they do profit sharing you get to share on the Profits of the company, So I felt confident that It was a smart decision, salary wise and that I Was going to be making more, as well as having a Better work, life balance with this whole remote thing, In stark contrast to that previous role, where I had no raises I’ve, had quite a few increases in salaries since I’ve been at ConvertKit, I ended up getting an 8 to 10 %, raise every six months for The first little, while until the company did Something that I really like and introduced those standardized salaries that I talked about in the beginning.
So this is based on data Collected by Radford, They put together a report on the industry for lots of different roles within Tech. They give you an idea of Where the market is at, what the market range is for different roles at Various different levels Companies can purchase access to this data and choose what percentile Of the market rate they want to meet when Paying their employees So when this got introduced, I was set as a Level Three Web UX designer and my salary increased To 85,000 US dollars Now, like I said, negotiation, Hasn’t really been much of the through line in This salary history has it, But I got a chance to practice some negotiation skills earlier this year, when I decided to advocate for myself to be moved up from Level Three to a Level Four, Each level within these Standardized salaries has a description of the Skills and responsibilities that you are expected to have and be responsible for at Each different level, So I essentially took a look at what the Level Four ones were.
And made a case for myself and talked to my manager, and he agreed that it was time to move me up a level. This resulted in a 23.5 % Increase in my salary, which is very cool and I was proud of myself for having advocated for myself. You know We just recently got in a new Years worth of Radford data and they remapped all the Salaries in the levels and that sort of thing – and so I ended up getting a little bit of an increase there, because the market rate For my job has increased So right now my salary Is 115,000 US dollars, which is 9.
5 increase on what I was earning previously And because those Salaries are standardized. I can expect that I’ll stay at that level, either until the market Rate for my role changes until the company decides To change the percentile at which we’re meeting of These industry averages, or until I get a promotion To be moved up a level again, This way of doing things means that I’m not getting those 8 to 10 % regular every six months raises like the ones before But I like a lot better, because I know that I’m being paid fairly and I know that everyone else on my team is being paid fairly as well.
And that’s important to me: I don’t know if these numbers Are surprising to you at all, either surprisingly low Or surprisingly, high, depending on where you’re Coming at this from, I know that I could be Earning a lot more for my role, if I wanted to work at A bigger tech company, or perhaps one of the hot start ups with the low VC funding That sort of thing You can get some some very high salaries at those sorts of companies.
But, what’s more important to me, is quality of life working For a mission driven company that I believe in and doing work, I love So yeah, I’m happy with Where I’m at the moment, I hope this is interesting to you to hear about my career history. From the salary perspective, Keep in mind, like I said at the start, that none of these numbers should Really be used as a benchmark, There is location and experience and inflation even to consider But yeah.
I hope it was interesting for you to hear about. Nonetheless, Thank you for reading. I’ve left a link in the description to a podcast episode, because if you didn’t Know I have a podcast called Design Life with a cohost, My friend Pamka, who works at Uber she’s a product designer And we did an episode where we talked about compensation and negotiations. So if you want to dive more in depth on all that stuff be more about, it then go give that a listen.
Through the link below Thanks for reading and I’ll See you in the next article Bye, ( upbeat electronic music, )