For anyone feeling stuck in a rut at work and considering chancing their arm in the freelance world, the word is out, you will need to develop your “user experience” skills to earn top dollar, with UX strategists trousering over £600 a day.
So says Aquent, the specialist recruitment firm for creative, digital and marketing talent, which has just published its inaugural freelancer salary guide, based on 2019 UK placements the company made for professional marketers, creatives and digital specialists.
As those who have already gone it alone – either through choice or necessity – will recognise, operating as a freelancer can be a tricky business, balancing work with managing your own finances and seeking new contracts.
The introduction of IR35, legislation to crackdown on tax avoidance by off-payroll employees, has added to freelancers’ headaches. Aquent freelancer salary guide is designed to help ease the workload for self-employed professionals by doing some of donkey work for them.
The rise of UX strategists reflects a growing demand for user experience talent in the industry with employers increasingly offering high wages to secure it. People today are used to intuitive, seamless service as delivered by Netflix, Amazon and Apple. And it pays. A principal UX consultant told Aquent “for every one dollar invested in UX research, you save $10 in development and $100 in post-release maintenance”. UX specialists were also the highest paid among full-time staff, with the largest wages of entry- and mid-level positions.
They also have have a significant lead on their closest challengers: freelance creative directors, who still earn a healthy £525 a day. The next five best paid freelance positions are all involved in UX and development: UX designers (£515), UX architects (£500), user researchers (£500), mobile app developers (£500) and front end developers (£425). In fact all six UX roles measured in the research finished within the top ten, highlighting the sector’s demand.
However, the same cannot be said for those in design and creative roles, which are now on the lower end of the pay scale. Seven of the ten lowest paid positions are designers. Coming in last place are freelance junior graphic and digital designers, with an average day rate of £205.
It is not great news for former trade journalists, either, with those seeking freelance writing and content roles occupying the remaining three places on the bottom ten. Freelance copy editors are earning £275 a day; only junior graphic and digital designers are paid less.
When looking at the roles overall, its still bad news for design and content specialists. Content has the lowest average daily rate at £331.88, with design faring little better at £338.75.
The report states: “Perhaps with traditional aspects of design there are plenty of people who have the necessary experience so rates are subdued. Content salaries have been depressed thanks to the decline in print media, resulting in many former journalists bringing their writing talent to a copywriting career, and these entrants are accustomed to lower pay.
“This would explain why the highest average daily rate goes to UX and development (£506.67). This is still a relatively new field, so there is not a wide pool of UX talent yet. As a rare breed, UX specialists can charge a lot more for their services than other professionals. In fact the second best paid sector, marketing, is lagging far behind at £389.17 a day.”
Aquent UK managing director Aliza Sweiry said: “The economy is ever-evolving, as new technology and practices are introduced, meaning companies’ required skillsets are constantly changing. The research reflects that, as pay packets of traditional talents fall by the wayside those with new skills, such as UX, are enjoying a meteoric rises.
“Looking to the future, companies could need to rethink their freelancer hiring strategy. The added complication of IR35 could make off-payroll staff reconsider their decision to avoid permanent roles. Another issue is people’s motives for going freelance.
“According our research 80% said they did so due to a desire for a healthy work/life balance. We’re seeing changes in benefit packages beyond pay, with more brands’ and agencies’ offerings including increased flexible and remote working. Don’t be surprised if the tide of marketers and creatives moving to freelance turns in the near future.”
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