As a junior designer, working for less than you’re worth may seem wrong but there could be long term benefits for your career, especially if you’re exposed to rich and valuable experiences. We’re taught to only work for an amount relative to the industry standard but simply getting a solid foot in the door may be more important than a bank cheque.
I was 18 when I fell into my career as a web designer. Ten years and several jobs later, I’ve somehow survived. I interviewed for a job as a salesperson for a large music retailer but was offered a job to maintain, design and develop their online instrument catalog as I mentioned my Photoshop skills accidentally at the end of our meeting. The job itself was incredibly diverse and I found it exciting to work alongside talented musicians and salespeople alike. I did everything from layout design to print design to managing online auctions to photographing products for 3 years and only made a pitiful (and possibly illegal) $10 an hour.
While earning $10 an hour, I started to educate myself on what makes for good design by trial and error. I learnt to make adjustments to designs based on the limited website analytics available to me. When I experimented with designs based on what I thought made for a better experience, we had more enquiries come through the website. I found out the influence metrics could have on design almost by accident.
As I was cheap to employ, my managers let me choose the hours I wanted to work and gave me freedom to work on tasks that I saw value in. I put together a pitch to redesign the product catalog from scratch in order to track inventory better and I was surprised to find management greenlight the project.
High school teachers love to drill into you that the working world is hard and dismal. Working in a field that interested me proved that you can get paid while still enjoying the work you do. Earning more was just cream.
I understand now that design is a job and designers should constantly scrutinise and reflect on their earning power, even when they have little experience. I eventually moved into a role that paid better but I still appreciate what I learnt about design and technology from working in a small music shop.