Considering becoming a graphic designer? Your salary will likely vary a lot depending on where you live. Here’s what you might earn in Texas.
The Mean Graphic Designer Salary in Texas
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the average graphic designer salary in Texas is $47,430 to $52,940 per year, at least when looking at 2021 reports. Those are mean wages, meaning the salaries of all graphic designers in the Lone Star State were added up and divided by the total number of graphic designers in Texas.
That’s a slightly lower-than-average salary for a graphic designer. The mean annual wage for graphic designers anywhere in the U.S. was $59,970 in 2021, with the bottom 10% of earners making an average of $31,310. But this figure varies enormously depending on where you live — or where your job is based — in Texas.
In far West Texas, a sparsely populated region comprised mostly of rural land and oil fields, the mean graphic designer salary is $26,530 to $44,290. However, jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex pay $49,280 to $53,670 to reflect the higher cost of living in the area.
Around the state capital of Austin, the annual mean wage is $53,700 to $85,310, which is the highest average graphic designer salary in Texas. But bear in mind that Austin also has 18% higher housing costs compared to the national average. If you can find a remote graphic design job based out of Austin but live somewhere with lower housing costs, you’ll probably enjoy a higher-than-average standard of living.
In fact, a job based in San Jose, Sunnyvale or Santa Clara, California could land you an annual mean wage of $85,310, which equates to $41.01 per hour. Coupled with the lower cost of living in rural Texas, working remotely for a California-based employer — even if you commuted to headquarters a few days a year — would help you earn a much higher salary than average for a graphic designer in Texas.
How Many Graphic Designers Are There in the U.S.?
The BLS estimates there are 204,040 salaried graphic designers employed in the United States, with Texas boasting the third-highest number of graphic designers at 13,450 in the state. That’s around 6.6% of the total. However, that’s by sheer numbers only — the state with the highest total percentage of graphic designers is Washington, D.C., paying an annual mean salary of $85,070. This number also does not include self-employed graphic designers who do freelance work.
To Freelance or Not to Freelance?
In general, freelance graphic designers earn more money than staff who work for an agency. That’s because freelancers typically have extra expenses and less reliable sources of income than full-time staff.
Cons of Freelancing
As a freelancer, you will likely earn a greater salary as a graphic designer in Texas than if you worked a 9:00 to 5:00 job, but you won’t receive paid time off, paid sick leave or a retirement plan. An unexpected hospital stay could cost you your clients. Self-employed freelancers also pay much higher taxes in Texas than full-time workers, and you’ll need to pay them quarterly.
Additionally, freelancers have to find their own clients and handle the accounting and administrative side of things. You might have to set up your own website or work through a freelancing agency that takes a percentage of your earnings.
Plus, it’s up to you to set your own hours. Although that might sound like purely a benefit, some people struggle not to work nights or holidays if they have free reign over their schedule. Other people have a hard time working when they aren’t in the mood. Being your own boss also means having to discipline yourself.
Pros of Freelancing
However, there are obvious benefits to freelancing, which is why 19% of U.S.-based graphic designers were self employed in 2021.
First, you can set your own schedule — no more asking for permission to take a day, or even a few weeks, off of work. You can work from home or take your career on the road as you travel the world with your laptop. If you want to work from a Florida beach for a week, then you can do it, no questions asked.
Plus, if you’re a caretaker or have young children, you have the freedom to start and stop working when you need to. This flexibility is also valuable if you have a chronic illness, since you can’t predict when you’ll need to take a day off.
You can also choose who to work with as a freelancer. If a client undervalues you or has unreasonable demands, you can simply decline their request and find someone more agreeable.
Lastly, you can set your own rates, which is the biggest benefit for many graphic designers. You won’t be working for an agency that takes the majority of the profits from each client. Although there will be times of feast and famine, on average, freelance graphic designers earn an average of $58,437 per year in the U.S.
How to Become a Graphic Designer
Graphic designers typically need a Bachelor’s degree to get started. That means four years of attending school, the cost of which varies depending on the university.
However, not all companies require employees to hold a Bachelor’s degree, and if you’re freelancing, you may be able to get started right away. A well-rounded portfolio of graphic designs can go a long way toward attracting clients or creating a solid resume.
It’s About More Than Money
If you’re thinking about becoming a graphic designer, consider more than just the salary. Will the job make you happy? Can you see yourself doing it long term or do you view it as a stepping stone to a different career?
Ultimately, although it’s crucial to make a living wage, it’s also important to make a living. If being a graphic designer is your dream job, you’ll find a way to make it work.