Are you earning the right amount?

How does your pay measure up? Recruitment consultancy Major Players has conducted a creative industry salary survey on design and creative jobs, both permanent and freelance

How does your pay measure up? Recruitment consultancy Major Players has conducted a creative industry salary survey on design and creative jobs, both permanent and freelance


The survey, Major Players say, is based on 2,000 completed online responses. Participants were asked for their job title, what they were earning, whether their take home pay had risen in the last year, and also their opinions. Using the data collected and, Major Players say, their own expertise, the consultancy has put together the following guidelines on current UK pay levels:






UPDATE: We’ve had some clarification from Major Players. Apparently the survey was nationwide but a large proportion of responses were from the South East so the results would be skewed accordingly. However, according to the Design Council’s last survey, London and the South East accounts for 40% of all UK design businesses so some ‘bias’ is perhaps to be expected in any survey of this kind. For a more detailed look at pay, check out our On The Money post from last year here


The full survey can be found here

  • Ed Wright

    I’m interested to know what’s their definition of “Design & Branding” vs “Creative & Design”?

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Ed

    I suspect the latter refers to those working in ad agencies or perhaps advertising and marketing but I will try to get clarification from Major Players

  • midweight

    Based on that, no. No I’m bloody not.

    Thanks for this CR. My next appraisal is going to be interesting.

  • Dave O

    Interesting! I am assuming this is not just London and so the average is pulled lower by rates outside the M25. It’d be good to see what the London averages are against UK – and then even more fascinating the US vs NYC etc…

  • Dom

    Amazed that a Senior Digital Designer earns on average 15k less than a Senior Digital Copywriter.

  • Joe

    According to this I should be earning about £35K. I make £23K.

    Is there a big divide between London / rest of the UK? I work in the North West.

  • Matt

    A junior graphic designer in the north of England would be doing extremely well to pull in £16-18k;

  • Aran

    I’m guessing these are London prices? You’d be dreaming if you think you can get that in other parts of England. Qualify your data and stop winding us up lol.

  • tab

    I don’t feel these figures are an accurate representation. If they are not for the London region then they have been massively skewed by salaries inside the M25.

  • Nicola

    I’m being picky, but how does a Junior Art Director/Copywriter in Creative Design have an average salary of £26,000 but a min-max of £20,000 – £24,000?

  • Rob

    I’m Design Director for an agency in London on £45k so they’ve got that pretty close.

    These sound very much like it’s London weighted to me.

  • John

    As a Jr Designer, starting out this is actually really interesting & useful. Nice one

  • Paul

    This survey is too vague – most importantly it doesn’t account for geography. I would also be surprised if they actually got 2000 responses – has anyone reading this ever received the survey hhhmmm.
    Personally, I have always found RedCat Digital and Digital Gurus to be the most reliable recruitment agencies.

  • Midlands Mid-Weight Designer

    Ah yes. Another year – another “Bloody Hell, I’m not earning anywhere near that much!” moment.
    looking at these comments I won’t be the only person, I suspect

    As ever, thanks for showing me how the other (Southern) half live CR.

    Midlands Based (£10K under paid) Mid-weight Designer.

  • Lucky Grad

    I suspect this is definitely London based, being a Graduate Designer in London, Im on 25k ( I started on 20k). I have friends up North who are classed as Junior Designers and earn between 16k-20k. I feel very lucky.

  • Dan

    @Lucky Grad It’s all relative though. Whilst the salaries are higher in London so is the cost of living. Rent is astronomical down here so your extra 5/7k doesn’t go that much further.

  • Tom

    I’m surprised that no one has questioned why Major Players release this and the timing of it…

    It’s Jan/Feb – pretty much the most depressing time of year (and when most people start thinking about moving (agencies) and so Major Players decide to release a ‘survey’ of the design world and sit back and wait for all those people saying they’re being paid less than what the survey says they should be paid to call them up…

    It’s just a lazy and manipulative way for them to expand their creative data base.
    If you’re underpaid, the likely hood is that you don’t need Major Players to tell you that… you should already know your own value.

  • Matt.

    I’m a London based Freelance Mid-weight Designer. My day rate is £320.

    The agency salaries seem fairly accurate, Not sure on the Freelance ones though.

    I’m guessing the data is UK Avg?

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    We’ve had some clarification from Major Players. Apparently the survey was nationwide but a large proportion of responses were from the South East so the results, I guess, are skewed accordingly. However, according to the Design Council’s last survey, London and the South East accounts for 40% of all UK design businesses so some ‘bias’ is perhaps to be expected in any survey of this kind.

  • J

    So I’ve been earning about 4 grand less than I should…

  • Grace N

    As others have mentioned, London clearly weights the average salary towards the higher end. At leads I’m not being had by London rental prices too…

  • Mat

    Earning less than Low-Midweight designer as a Senior Designer at the moment. Joy!! But hey, we work for money and design for love right guys!?

  • Tom G

    I’ve researched into this a bit and found that London and the South East seem to be around 10-15% above average in the UK as a whole… Where as the West Midlands seems to be down 20-30%. Not sure about the rest of the country, but it seems to vary quite a lot from what I’ve seen from other sources though.

    Anyway, Nice to find out that I’m on average according to this (just about)!

  • Max

    It’s fairly spot-on for me; according to this I’m about underpaid by about £2-4k, but I put that down to London weighting (I’m just outside Oxford). Interesting to know this information anyway, I’m never sure what I should be looking for during my reviews and this gives some good guidance.

  • Jimmy

    According to this I’m earning half what I should be for a middle-weight freelancer in London!
    In my 6 years in the industry I have never earned as much as a Junior designers starting salary. How depressing.

  • Alice

    My mum earned £250 a day, freelancing for S&S in the early 80s. She bought our family house in west London for £100k.
    Today, my rate is the same -£250- I am struggling finding a half decent, two bed, flat under 500k in East London.
    Either rates are too low or house prices are too high. Either way: artists, designers, creative types, etc, soon won’t be able to afford London’s house prices! What then…?

  • James

    I’d love to know a junior designer who earns 24k. Where the hell do they get these figures from?! Up north the range is more like 15-18k

  • Catherine

    The conversation thread I’ve just read above is very much, from what I can gather, from an employee perspective so I thought I’d add a little from an employer perspective.

    I think, considering how difficult it is to get ANY job at the moment, unless you are significantly underpaid in the area of the UK you work in and/or are treated badly then surely doing something you love and being paid fairly should count for something?

    As a business owner trying to get through these tough economic times I’d rather be able to keep people in a job than pay silly amounts and have to let them go eventually. We understand the importance of treating our staff right and hope your employers do the same as I realise this can be frustrating.

    If you value yourself then make sure your employer does and open up a dialogue with them, they are human after all.

    Don’t shoot me for my opinion if it doesn’t agree with yours. It’s all said with the best intention but to also say that there is ALWAYS two sides.

  • James

    The salaries highlight above, its all billy b*ollox…. I can pretty much guarantee that everyone outside of the capital has said the same thing and perhaps even had a chuckle with the rest of there team. Yet again, another salary survey based on rubbish.

    Junior designers on 22k… come forward… there must be a few based on the data of the survey.

  • Anon

    I’m a junior graphic designer on £24,000 in London. So yeah, we do exist…

  • Adam

    People here don’t seem to understand that we aren’t all created equal.

    Simplifying for effect — if you’re not a great designer, don’t expect a great wage.

  • Abundance

    I agree with Adam above. These are nothing but numbers . Your own work ethics will put a stamp on what you earn. The era where having a degree or qualification is enough is over,especially in the creative fields.
    I truly believe everyone is talented, like in the parable, but not everyone can handle the same amount of work;by that I obviously mean pay.

    To all those who complain that they are underpaid, count your blessings. By your attitude, you are telling everyone that you deserve what you currently get.

    Now,to all the South East creative people. Yes,you may get more than anybody else. But remember the cost of living there is higher. Your only hope is temperance regardless of where you live. Live between your means and you will always be rich.

  • matt

    I have to agree that the stats would be more meaningful if the region was taken in to consideration but is interesting to see the rough overall average.

  • Paul

    I agree with pretty much everything Abundance says. However, to put such a conclusive stamp on ‘ability of handling work is (reflective of) equal to, and obviously meaning, pay’ and by that then stating that people who then go further to complain that if they think they’re underpaid they’re then telling everyone they deserve what they currently get is pretty dodgy indeed. I’d say it’s actually stepped over the line into the realms of twisted logic.

    To fire a little juxtapose at your statement – I worked for a marketing agency in Leeds for over 5 years as a designer/creative, however you want to define it, (print, digital, illustration, branding and on and on… basically anything and everything) – it was not a “pigeon-holed” role’ – in that time my pay went from a starting salary (junior) of 12k to a finishing salary (senior) of 28.5k. Now, by the time I left (to be completely blunt , throughout the entire tenure) you can bet your bottom dollar that my ‘work rate’ equalled my pay rate and then some… regular 100+ hour weeks, regular passing up holiday entitlements ‘for the benefit of the studio’ according to my seniors;

  • Anon

    I live and work in London, at a top creative agency. In the top 5. And I don’t get anywhere near the average. I get less than the minimum.
    I feel a bit like these guys, being a recruitment agency, have their own agenda and are trying to stir people up and get people interested in looking for a new job.

    As much as I feel like this agency I work for pays below the minimum I also feel like these figures are very optimistic.

  • Anon

    2 years experience.
    Packaging branding.
    Unchanged since graduation.
    top ten agency.

  • Andy

    I’m a senior designer in London. I do web and mobile design work. £52k

  • Anon

    Junior Digital Designer
    3 years experience
    Advertising Agency

  • Anon

    I continually look into what freelance designers ‘should’ be earning as an average in the UK, and generally know that I am being underpaid for the work I do. It is difficult to find a good balance between ‘getting what you feel you deserve’ (or need for ever increasing living costs) and what your customers can realistically afford. A lot of factors need to be taken into account, so my rates fluctuate, depending on who I am working for.

    Due to the influx of graduating designers out there it seems obvious – from the client’s (and perhaps employer’s) point of view that a lot of us are VERY replaceable. When on the verge of unemployment – with over 6 years experience in product, packaging, print and branding design I worked (in the South West) for a company at a rate of £8 an hour (!!!) I shortly left to maintain some dignity. However, they soon replaced me with someone else at the same rate.

    I believe it is our duty as designers to make sure we are not working for too little, especially once we have a good few years of design experience under our belts. Earning too little not only undermines the industry and the skill involved in the work you do – it kills your creative drive and motivation.

    Im finding that the key is making yourself invaluable to the company/client you are working for. So, it is not just the designer they are hiring – but the person.

  • M

    I work as an in-house graphic designer for a global organization based in Yorkshire. I have just shy of two decades of experience. I am paid £23k! If I were ten years younger I’d quit and re-train.

  • my_anonymous_facts

    We could always do our own survey, based on individual facts and not sweeping generalisations? Copy paste below;

    JOB TITLE: mid-weight graphic designer for branding & packaging
    LOCATION: London
    SEX: Female

    go people GO!…

  • MM

    JOB TITLE: junior digital designer
    WAGE AFTER BONUS BUT BEFORE TAX!: £23,000 (bonus? what bonus?)
    LOCATION: London
    SEX: Female

  • Dean

    JOB TITLE: Mid-weight Motion graphics designer
    LOCATION: Manchester
    SEX: Male

  • Anon

    JOB TITLE: Graduate Graphic Designers (just graduated)
    LOCATION: Manchester
    SEX: Male

  • anon

    I am interested to know what people are earning as a freelance graphic designer working through agents, eg: Aquent, become etc.

    I have just over 15 years work experience and am getting 21 to 25 an hour for freelance in London

  • Olly Killick

    If this survey was carried out by a recruitment company of course they’re going to inflate the numbers. Being unhappy with your current job is good for their business.

  • Gareth

    @Olly Haha good point!!

  • A

    Junior/Graduate designer
    6 months Experience
    15k + Paid Overtime

  • Some Designer

    I have yet to see a junior design vacancy for more than 19k and I was even told in an interview I should expect 13 (London as well) These figures are not accurate

  • freelancer

    JOB TITLE: Freelance web designer
    LOCATION: East Midlands
    SEX: Male

    to be honest in my opinion it’s like saying ‘drivers should be paid £X’ – so that includes taxi drivers and Michael Schumacher. It’s impossible to compare. I remember 17 years ago my peers were going to agencies in Yorkshire for 16k straight from college, at a time when we were told to expect around £7k.

    Employers will pay what they need to get someone in to do the job for the vast majority of agencies, if people are happy to work for that amount then so be it. If they can find a better job with more money then go for it. If they aren’t good enough to get those jobs then they’ll have to make a decision. Employees aren’t prisoners of their employers, and aren’t owed a living by them.

    Most design agencies are small and humble and ran by people who don’t have cash sloshing around to pay more than they need to, to keep bums on seats, I don’t blame employers for paying you what you’re all saying you’re earning at all.

    I charge £300-£350 a day and I’m not working for anyone remotely near the south of England, but I bet there’s a ton of people out there charging double that and more.

    Sorry, just had to throw a different angle to it all !

  • 20k Junior

    @Some Designer

    I think you are wrong there, I currently am in a Junior Design position and earn £20k a year, and know plenty of people who earn the same and in some cases more.

  • Liya

    As junior designer with 1.5yrs in London I started at £24k in my current place of work. Six months later I was made head of design managing a team of two designers and now make £27k.

    Could you specify what you mean by digital designers (does that mean coding as well or designing for digital platforms)?


  • anon

    JOB TITLE: mid-weight graphic designer for in-house arts organisation
    WAGE BEFORE TAX!: £22,200
    LOCATION: Glasgow
    SEX: Male

  • Anna

    I’m seriously starting to think I need to spend more time training in blagging rather than design because people will pay what they can get away with and I think a lot of people accept what they can get

  • Kiran

    JOB TITLE: 3D Animator/Motion Graphics
    WAGE BEFORE TAX!: £19,000
    LOCATION: London
    SEX: Male

  • david

    JOB TITLE: Senior graphic designer – publishing, digital, branding…
    LOCATION: Cornwall
    SEX: Male

  • Matthew

    Yeah, so it turns out I’ve been under cut as a freelancer.

  • Nathan

    These freelance rates are through employment agencies (not direct with clients) – so are completely wrong. I’ve only subbed through an agency once and was paid £20 per hour whilst the agency took closer to double that!

    I’m a Senior Digital and Print Designer in Cambridgeshire, Artworking day rate is £250 per day, design £320 and direction/management/training is usually around £380+.

  • Patrick

    Absolutely hilarious !
    As per usual another totally London”centric” so-called survey.
    You’d be very lucky to find these kind of salaries and payments north of the M25 i can tell you.
    As for agents – i refuse to use them these days.
    They don’t offer value for money (they are afterall middleman – merely passing information on).
    Speaking from experience of over 25 years in the industry (north and south) and running my own company I can confidently say that Agents were half decent about 20 years ago but as the market has ballooned so have the number of agents/sharks which has unfortuneatly vastly diluted the quality of service. A great deal of them are fresh faced kids who wouldn’t even know what “kerning” is and think they can play god with many talented designers careers.
    My advice to designers everywhere – go direct to design agencies and cut out the agents.
    If we can’t kick them out we’ll bleed them out.