Planning to hire UX designers but feeling lost in the murky waters of their salary expectations? You're not alone. Determining the proper compensation for a UX designer can be tricky, especially with all the nuances and factors that affect the labor market. But fear not: we've got you covered.
At Eleken, we offer a unique pricing model for UI/UX services. We studied the industry salary market and tailored our subscription-based strategy to make the lives of our clients easier. We know that choosing the right contractor might be quite a daunting task, so we gathered all the information that can help you with that.
In this article, we'll guide you through the maze of UX/UI designer salaries, helping you to understand the current market rates and how to plan your budget accordingly. And in case you want to learn more about what UX designers do, go read our related article.
Overview of the current UX designer salary market
First things first, is a UX designer paid well? Yes. What’s more, a UX designer is consistently listed as one of the highest-paying entry-level jobs. Great news for those considering a career in the field, but not-that-great for those willing to hire them.
The current UX design job market is highly competitive, and many companies are willing to pay top dollar for talented professionals. The average UX designer salary in the US is around $90K per year.
Still, it’s not time to throw the towel yet. A UX designer’s salary varies depending on multiple factors. Let's break them down.
Factors that can impact UX designer salaries
If you google “how much does it cost to hire a designer” you won’t get any single definitive answer to the question. Quite frustrating, but the final cost you pay will depend on the way you approach hiring. Employing an in-house senior UX designer in San Francisco or outsourcing to a junior freelancer overseas will make for very different numbers.
So, let’s look at the main factors that contribute to the salary expectations of UX designers. We’re going to look at such things as years of experience, the designer’s location, and such.
Years of experience
User experience and user interface design is a relatively new field, so most professionals don't have a formal university degree. Many might have a certificate from a design course, but that's more of a pleasant addition to their CV than actual necessity. What designers are judged by are their portfolio and experience. UX designer starting salary will fall to a median $89K and might get three times higher for someone with managerial responsibilities.
So, let's break down the annual salaries according to the levels of seniority.
Entry level UX designer salary
If you hire someone fresh from a design course, UX designer intern salary averages $62K, while junior UX designer salary will rise to approximately $90K.
But remember that while such an employee will cost you less, you can't expect them to deliver a high-quality product on their own. Junior specialists perform best as a part of a design team, with more experienced designers mentoring them. So, if you are a small startup and looking to hire just one person, better consider hiring a more experienced specialist.
Middle UX designer salaries
It typically takes between 3 to 5 years for a user experience designer to advance to the middle level. At this point their salary ranges from an average of $103K a year to $130K as a highest probable one.
A middle level designer will be no-stranger to design tools, and have the knowledge to design specific features. When you’re looking to evaluate both technical and soft skills of such candidate to make sure they’re the right fit, check out our guide on UX designer interview questions.
If your product needs to be designed from scratch or requires fundamental redesigns, however, you might consider going for an even more experienced professional.
Senior level UX designer salary
For the Seniors who started their career in UX design more than 10 years ago, the salary will vary greatly depending on the factors we'll discuss later. According to various sources, the national average numbers will fall around $127K to $146K per year, with the highest in the most likely range reaching $189K.
A senior designer will be able to work on complex products on their own. However, if your product has grown enough to warrant group efforts, there might come a time when you need to hire a designer with leadership skills. And here enters a design manager.
UX design manager salary
If you need to fill in a managerial position in your design team, get ready to pay between $127K and $204K, with the average falling to $159,857 a year. Here, you'll have to compete with the tech big names. But as they say, no pain no gain.
If you want to hire an experienced UX/UI designer, but are not ready to break the bank, remember that an average annual salary will vary drastically depending on the location, both across the US and worldwide.
Let’s look closely at different cities in the US to get the idea of how the UX designer salary will change. The highest paying cities in the US are usually the hometowns for influential design schools, headquarters of big tech companies, or both. Unsurprisingly, the list includes San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Chicago. However, some of the smaller cities also make the list of the salary leaders due to hosting industry leaders.
If you're interested in breakdown by the states, you can take a look at the following map, with the cheaper states marked pink and the most expensive – in blue.
So, if you want to save a bit, you might consider hiring outside of the Bay area. Or, turn your gaze to hiring a UX designer from outside the US at all.
For the average UX designer salaries worldwide, we have to consult different sources, as there is no comprehensive database at the moment. Still, it's not too hard to get a general picture.
If you are looking to hire a designer from Canada or Australia, you can expect to pay around $55K. In the United Kingdom, as well as in most European Union countries, the average cost of hiring a designer is roughly $50K, although countries like Germany and Norway tend to be on the pricier side.
In Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in China, UX designer salaries typically range from $30K to $40K. For Asia, Singapore and Japan will be the most costly, as the average salary for a UX designer there can reach as high as $66K.
Here's an overview of UX designer salary by country, from highest to lowest ones:
The answer to the question on how much money you can make as a UX designer will also depend on specific companies across various industries. Take a look at this image, where some of the big names are presented.
If we narrow it down to SaaS businesses, you'll find that, for example, Slack offers a median salary of $117K for design roles, while in Intercom the number falls to the median $102K.
Startups in the US tend to offer an hourly rate anywhere from less than $25 to $100 (which translates to $52K to 205K per year), but obviously experience and location will factor into these numbers as well.
The overall expense of hiring a designer can also depend on the type of collaboration you choose. There are several common approaches to working with designers, such as hiring them as in-house employees, collaborating with freelance designers, or engaging with design agencies. Let's talk about all of them.
One of the most commonly considered options, particularly for those who have multiple ongoing projects or anticipate regular updates to their product's design, is to hire an in-house designer. With this approach, you would pay a set salary, and won't have to worry about searching for a new designer, ideally, for quite a long while.
However, you also have to remember about the benefits. Mandatory ones will depend on the country. In the US, for example, as an employer, you'll have to contribute 6.2% of your designer's salary for federal Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare. There is also heath insurance, unemployment insurance and some other benefits to consider. In general, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, benefits account for 29.6% of the average cost per private industry employee.
When hiring full-time employees from other countries, you need to ensure you take into account the mandatory benefits of their respective countries, include them in the contract, and administer correctly.
Unlike the US, where most employers provide paid time off, but it is not required by law, in most European countries, full-time employees are entitled to a specific number of paid vacation days per year.
Talking about Asian countries, workers are typically eligible for a range of benefits including pension insurance, maternity insurance, unemployment insurance, medical insurance, and work-related injury insurance. Meanwhile, in various African nations, employees may receive medical and unemployment insurance, along with a skills development levy. Finally, in Australia, workers are entitled to a variety of benefits such as paid time off, maternity leave, long service leave, paid sick leave, and superannuation. In Brazil and some other LATAM countries, even dental care insurance is mandatory. So, keep all of this in mind when you open up your salary calculator for full-time remote employees.
To sum up, while there are many benefits (no pun intended) to hiring an in-house UX designer, you also should keep in mind all the additional expenses that come with it.
So, what are the alternatives?
Typically, freelancers charge an hourly rate, which can differ based on their level of expertise. It's rare for them to offer lower prices than their full-time counterparts. However, you can save money on benefits.
Platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr, and many others allow you to evaluate the candidate's portfolio, as well as see their ratings and reviews so you can make an informed decision.
Keep in mind that going for the lowest-charging junior freelancer is usually not a good idea. You will save some money on their hourly rate, but might as well lose more on redesigning the product if something goes wrong.
Project-based design agency
The pricing for design firms varies based on the specific project scope, making it difficult to estimate costs without requesting a personalized quote. Although the cost may be higher, working with a design firm can save you time and effort since you won't need to search for, hire, and onboard a design team, or manage the project in-house.
However, as you can see, the costs might be quite unpredictable, and finding the right design agency might take some time and effort, as well as bring with it workflow complications you might be able to avoid when working with someone fully dedicated to your project instead of having to juggle multiple ones.
Retainer design agency
There's another pricing model when it comes to design agencies. It's not quite as wide-spread as a project-based payment, but might just be a golden fit for you.
As a UX design agency specializing in design services for SaaS companies, Eleken offers a pricing model that is comparable to those of SaaS companies. Instead of paying for individual projects or hourly rates, with us, you can pay a monthly fee and have access to a dedicated designer or team working solely on your project. This means that you won't need to worry about insurance or benefits, as we will handle those aspects for you. Additionally, we don't charge any project management fees since we advocate for direct communication between our clients and their UX designers, without the need for intermediaries.
To sum up
There are various ways to approach hiring a UX designer. A junior freelancer might cost you less in money, but more in nerves. An in-house designer in your office would seemingly be in your sight more often, but, except for the salary itself, will lead to hefty expenses on benefits, insurance, as well as their equipment and rent. If you are considering hiring a design agency, though, we can say: look no further!
Eleken offers a subscription-based approach to UI/UX design services that enables you to reduce expenses and employ remote SaaS designer(s) who are fully dedicated to your project at the same time. Additionally, we offer a free trial to ensure we are a good fit for you.
Interested in learning more about how much our top-notch design services will cost? Drop us a line!