Are creative people undervalued?


by John Fountain.

Welcome to 2013 and to the same old furies. Have you seen the survey on industry salaries published last week in Creative Review? What gets my goat is the findings. Particularly with the question "Are you earning the right amount?"

Here it states that a senior designer based in the UK, would on average receive a yearly salary of £50k. A middleweight would be earning £30k. A junior £22k, and on the top of the pile, a Design Director would be on £80k. That's what it says and I can't argue with it. What bugs me is that could have been written 20 years ago. In fact I'd doubt that salaries in the traditional creative fields of design have increased any since the 1980's.

Yes, these are difficult times and I can hear you saying that we are lucky to be employed, and that we shouldn't be looking for more money right now, and maybe we could always do a bit of freelance to add a few extra quid. Right?

But put all that to one side and ask yourself - are creative people undervalued? Indeed should we even have the gall to ask for more dosh? Well here's a clue. Creative Review also tells us that the current average graphic design hourly freelance rate in UK is £20. Which is so small it's almost shocking.

But it's not just the UK creatives that are taking a hit.

Around the world, the average amount a freelance creative will get is around £20 an hour - apart from India where you'll receive £3.40* an hour and a smack in the mouth.

£20 An hour is what my window cleaner makes. We have a guy who cleans our oven once a year - he makes a touch more than £20 an hour. A woman down my road tells me that she would walk my dog, (if I had one) for £10 an hour.

And then Creative Review reveals that The Design Business Association has worked out average hourly charge-out rates for UK design businesses - and the hourly figures they charge to clients come in or around £100 a pop with advertising: £93 an hour, corporate identity/branding: £103, digital: £103 and literature/print: £92 etc etc.

Let's just ponder that for a moment. Creative agencies are charging clients about £100 an hour. Is this true? If it is we are simply giving it away. £100 an hour is what my car mechanic charges me to service my old Passat.

How come we've let this happen? Can we do anything to change it? Or is the problem that we don't value our own creativity high enough?

John Fountain is a writer and blogger.
Twitter: @fountainjohn

Graphics by Mark McLure and Caroline Leprovost of the Guardian Digital Agency
*Source: 2011 Colorflot design salary guide


More Features



The benefits of the employee-owned business model

It was just at the beginning of March that BrandOpus announced its shift to the employee-owned trust model. I welcomed the news with much enthusiasm, if anything because I love everything those guys do and believe an employee-owned model can only...

Posted by: Antonino Lupo