Response to a LinkedIn Thread on Pay Rates for UXers

22 February 2019

Note: I exceeded the character limit on a LinkedIn comment for this thread, but I don't know by how much (terrible messaging LI...) and instead of editing it down to meet their likely arbitrary character count, I'm responding here. Which means it's less likely to be read, but hopefully will be read by the person to whom I am responding. Hi, Isabella!


This is a good question and something that almost kept me from posting in the first place. But I figured it would be better to have the conversation than not. I can only speak for me, but, yes, I still have a job. I am still able to find work because I have the perspective of 20 years of experience (and I am aware of how that benefits me).

My first job in UX started back in 1999. They said, "We'll pay you 30k a year." I made $600 in 1998 and was about to be evicted from my apartment in early 1999, so 30k/yr (basically $15/hr) was an incredible opportunity that I immediately said yes to.

I had no concept of the idea of negotiating or asking for what I want. Even if I did, would I have? I was coming from a place of extreme (to me) low income and personal risk. I had no leverage to negotiate even if I'd thought to do so.

What I am asking for here is that we all realize we do have leverage to ask for what we want. If we're accepting offers like this, without question, that (to me) is where the longer-term harm lies.

That was 1998-99. What about 2018-19?

For me, I am in a better position financially. But I do say no to work. For lots of reasons, not just level of pay. I choose to turn them down because I have a line I've defined for myself. As such, I've gone into a bit of debt to get through each month because I've turned down work. I turned down too much work in 2017. In that year, I made 5k (adjusted for 1999 money) less than I did in 1999. 2017 was also a slow year, not just for me, but I was likely too stringent with my line.

Everyone's line is going to be different, but drawing one is the point. If you (one) choose to take the job that prompted this post, as-is, you do hurt your future self and others. It may help you in the short term, but my hope is that we can all start thinking a little broader than that.

Thank you for bringing this up, Isabella.

~Matthew.


Now, go back to the LI thread. Or stick around and read a bunch of too-long posts.