Let’s Talk About Money

Now that we have taken a look at choosing where to work, the next big question you need to answer is how do you want to be employed? In this lesson we are going to take a look at 3 different options, freelance, contracting or permanent. The difference may not be obvious to you at the beginning of your career but understanding how the industry works will give you a better choice in the future when deciding what’s best for your family. 

A freelancer is just someone who is self-employed and they usually offer their design service to multiple clients at a time. If you’re looking for a more independent lifestyle freelancing could be a great fit for you. 

An almost surprising amount of people, 55 million Americans–35% of the workforce–have freelance careers according to the Freelancers Union. This flexible lifestyle means you can set your own hours, choose what projects you work on and only approach clients you’re interested in working with. 

Because you’re the boss you can set your own rates which are normally higher than a permanent team member would receive. You also have more control over how the project is delivered and the company usually lets you get on with your task and give you a little bit of creative freedom. 

In the last few years, freelancing has become ever increasingly popular because of dedicated short term job websites popping up. These websites with task-based projects are great to organize your work and save you from doing the leg work of going around the company to the company.

The downside to freelancing is, of course, security. One week you could have a couple of projects on the go and next week none. The work incoming isn’t guaranteed and you need to be more business savvy to make this lifestyle work for you. On the plus side, the flexibility is great and the pay can be very rewarding.

A contractor is a little different from a freelancer. In the digital industry because of the pace of change companies find it hard to hire a full team of designers. Also because some special projects may only last a couple of months it’s not worth the companies time bringing in a full-time designer for this role as afterward they may not have anymore guaranteed work.

In this case, a contractor will step in. Usually, on a short term, 3 or 6 months deal a contractor will become part of the team and fill the role for the specific project. Contractors are usually based in-house unlike freelancers who have at least some guaranteed work for the timeline of the contract. Sometimes in large companies, a contractor could stay up to 2 years working on a project.

Because a contractor runs their own limited company they are not technically an employee and can be hired a lot quicker than a full-time member of staff. The company does not legally need to give them any of the entitlements that an employee receives like health insurance and sick pay. As a contractor, you are also not paid for any days of annual leave and can sometimes feel a little on the outside of the team that you are actually a part of. You are expected to complete all of your taxes as if you are a company and things can get a little complicated depending upon the rules of your country.

Why bother with this you are probably thinking? Well, the answer is easy, money. A contractor can sometimes come into a company, perform the same task as an in-house designer, do the same hours, take home less stress and get paid 3 times as much. You charge by the day as a contractor and these figures can get very high depending on your seniority and experience.

To get into contracting you should be quite an experience, have an excellent portfolio and keep a level of detachment to your current job. Things change fast a contractor could easily be given a one week notice or be left until the final days of their contract to find out whether an extension might be on the cards.

If you’re looking to increase your income, are a bit more experienced and ready to take a chance then contracting could be the best way to go. It may be a little tricky to set up but once all the paperwork is out the way then the rewards can be truly life-changing.

The final and most common type of employment we’re going to look at is permanent also known as full time.  This is your average 9 to 5 salaried position. For most people and especially juniors this is the way to go. You’re going to get security, mentorship, and investment into growing your skills. Working and being part of a consistent team cannot be underestimated, especially if you are junior. Most large companies will go out of their way to invest in expanding your skillset and allow you to grow as a designer.

The main financial benefits of this position are your bonuses. Normally your salary will be the lowest out of all the different types of employment we discussed. To make up for this you may be given an annual bonus of up to 20% in some organizations. To qualify for this it’s totally up to the discretion of the employer and it’s by no means guaranteed.  

Other extras on top of this such as health insurance close the gap and security in your role will give you peace of mind. Making this choice is really important to your career and each one offers different levels of income and flexibility.

Now that we have discussed the different types of employment and employers, we are going to look at who you will work with. Being part of a team is very important as a designer and understanding what everyone does is crucial. It can be quite intimidating when put into a project team for the first time, knowing what everyone does is a brilliant head start. In the next section, we’re going to check out the wider digital team and find out who you will be working with on a day to day basis!

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Kristian Macchia
Kristian Macchia

It has been some years since I freelanced as a Graphic Designer, what are some rates a freelance UX/UI Designer charge?

Hashim Maqbool
Hashim Maqbool

I think…as a young designer its good to start on permanent basis first. But… I am kind of free bird person, travelling and all those activities
.. what should I do?