Graphic Designers Part Four – Salaries
Wrapping up on this series on Graphic Designers, I thought I'd make some comments about job titles and salaries. Perhaps not surprisingly, salaries in the design world in Japan are quite low because of the large number of people who want to be in the industry. Apart from the obvious need to be competent in design, there seems to be very little interest in recognizing experience or even artistic ability. Instead, most salary differentiation appears to be for either technical skills when coupled with design ability, or for management and/or business development skills.
In a sense, you need to have literally graduated from design work in order to get recognized financially.
The best way to get a sense of job titles and salaries is a visit to the various job sites. Of course I checked out www.daijob.com, as well as several other Japanese-only sites. Perhaps it's a function of the technical nature of the Internet, but as I have mentioned in an earlier article, the number of designer jobs being offered are significantly less than technology jobs. For example, on one major site besides www.daijob.com, I found about 60 web designer listings and over 250 web software developer listings. Conceivably either job could be done by the same person, but if you are willing to be known as a coder who does design, you have a lot more scope than a designer who does code.
The basic salary range for a designer with 3+ years experience in the field is about JPY3m-JPY4m per year. This is for a full-time employee. If you are a contractor, then you can expect this range to be at least 20% more. If you have some scripting or other technical skills, then you can probably expect the salary range to be around JPY4m-JPY6m per year.
Where the money starts to kick in is when you are doing some form of business development. We found a number of so-called "web producer" jobs, which involve pre-sales, client management, and project management of a team of designers, photographers/art people, and writers. Salaries in this category run JPY5m-JPY8m per year.
Now, keep in mind that these rates are for people first joining a company, so naturally they're a bit low. Once you've been with a firm for a number of years, you can pretty much expect the 3-5% annual salary review to help you ratchet up to a higher level. This means that providing you have stayed with the same company, you can expect your salary after 5 years to be around JPY4m-JPY5m, and after 10 years around JPY6.5m. While these amounts may still sound low, remember that your cost to the company is another 20% or so, factoring in shakai hoken, holidays, commutation, and any staff benefits.
If you want to make more money than this, then your only real option, and many take it, is to start your own design studio. You don't need to have a company to do this, and instead you can just register with the tax office as a Kojin Jigyo (self employed person). As a free agent, your income is not regular and of course you have to sponsor your own visa, but your ability to make money is significantly enhanced. Most self-employed designers I know have some regular accounts that help them get regular income and pay the bills, then they do project work, which may be priced in the hundreds of thousands through to millions of yen per job. For example, a brochure project may run JPY300,000 while a small web site may pay JPY500,000 or more.