Few places are as ideal for graphic designers as Washington State. Here, numerous big-name companies — particularly those in the technology industry — have called Seattle home, attracting creative professionals and eager college graduates from across the globe.
Of course, the graphic designer salary in Washington must be sufficient to cover the cost of living if one hopes to relocate to this stunning corner of the Pacific Northwest. Essential goods are much higher in Washington State than in other places. Graphic design professionals may need to supplement their income with additional work to meet their needs.
Washington State: A Booming Technology Hub
With a rich landscape and cities delivering endless possibilities for work and play, it’s no wonder that many businesses and people settle in Washington State. Seattle, in particular, is the top destination for college graduates in creative fields looking to launch their careers — 12% of which plan to enter the technology industry.
One doesn’t have to look hard to figure out what attracts so many to the state. For one thing, Washington has embraced sustainability and climate resilience. Young people especially appreciate the robust art and music scene in its capital city — the birthplace of grunge — and the tight-knit punk rock community in Tacoma, Spokane and Olympia.
However, when it comes to careers, the Greater Seattle area boasts some of the most recognized brand names, including the following companies:
- Getty Images
- The Omni Group
- Expedia Group
Seattle’s booming technology industry especially has remained most impressive, despite COVID-19 lockdowns. Even as other technology hubs have witnessed an exodus of digital creative talent, the Emerald City has held firm. In 2021, the Seattle metropolitan area garnered a spot in the top 10 regional economies in the U.S., knocking Atlanta into 11th place.
How Much Is a Graphic Designer Salary in Washington State?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers earn between $30,310 to $98,260 annually, depending on career level and expertise — the average income for median earners is $50,710.
Fortunately for job seekers, the graphic designer salary in Washington is higher than the national average. Salary.com estimates that an entry-level graphic designer can make about $62,101 — however, that number may range from $55,401 to $71,001.
Hone in on your graphic design skills and work your way up the career ladder, and you could be making six figures. Washington-based graphic designers in the 90th percentile have an estimated annual income of $124,690 at around $59.95 per hour.
How Much Is a Graphic Designer Salary in Seattle, Washington?
Talented graphic designers are needed across broad industries, not just technology. Whether revamping a hospital website or designing product ads and communications for one of the many coffee brands based in Seattle, graphic designers are crucial for companies.
Although Payscale says that graphic designers in Seattle earn between $42,000 and $79,000 — lower than other estimates — the median salary still hovers around $60,000. Of course, there is always the potential for higher wages with bonuses, commissions, and promotions.
Cost of Living in Washington State
Ample employment opportunities are well and good, but is the graphic designer salary in Washington enough to cover the exceedingly high cost of living? Washington’s major metropolitan areas are known for pricing out residents.
According to Zillow, home prices have dipped 1.5% — yet market value for single-family homes averages about $562,936. Meanwhile, Seattle renters may pay $1,437 to $3,163 monthly, depending on whether they get a studio or two-bedroom apartment. That means rent alone could eat up $17,000 to $38,000 of your salary.
Prospective Washington residents will likely get sticker shock from the price of goods, services and amenities, too. Washington’s prices are much steeper than the rest of the U.S., with residents paying more than the national average for several cost of living factors.
For example, a family of four might spend $10,525 on food annually, making Washington the 11th most expensive state for groceries.
Those living in Seattle must also contend with gas prices at $4.43 per gallon — many people choose to take public transportation — and a trip to the doctor costing you about $166.86.
You must weigh your graphic designer salary with the cost of living to ensure you can afford your most basic necessities. Washington’s cost of living could make it challenging to get your footing financially, even with an excellent career.
6 Ways Graphic Designers Can Boost Their Earnings
Hopefully, you can make ends meet with a graphic designer salary in Washington State. Unlike places like Arkansas, which has the 11th lowest cost of living in the U.S. — you could find yourself on an extremely tight budget.
Consider supplementing with these six career strategies to increase your earnings and ease the blow of unexpected expenses.
The graphic design field is quite popular for freelancers — and you can make a pretty penny delivering design services on the side. According to freelance work marketplace Upwork, most of the website’s graphic designers have an hourly rate of $15 to $35 per hour — some even charge $150 per hour or set a fixed rate for projects.
There’s no hard and fast rule for setting freelance fees for graphic design work. If you have the skills and experience to create exemplary digital design work, you should get paid for it reasonably.
2. Pitch to High-Paying Clientele
If you’ve played your cards right, you’ve managed to nab a job at an impressive firm or large corporation. With experience, your graphic design role should allow you to produce work for high-paying clients.
Email companies you’re interested in working with and include your website, portfolio, and a few examples of how you would improve their brand design. You never know if they’ll require your services.
Additionally, you could develop brand packages for companies that include logos, fonts, color schemes, photography, illustrations, and patterns that help them stand out. Expert graphic designers could make thousands of dollars per package.
3. Sell Work on Stock and Print-on-Demand Websites
Uploading your photographs, templates and illustrations to Stock websites is another excellent way to earn extra money for your work. Stock sites — such as Adobe Stock or Creative Market — sell your images and art to users for various projects.
Likewise, print-on-demand websites allow you to turn your designs into products like t-shirts, stationery, and mugs. Popular websites like RedBubble, Society6, and Minted are examples of print-on-demand services. These sites handle everything from orders to production to shipping.
Although whatever website you use will make a small profit from your sales, you won’t have to do much except let your work earn money on its own.
4. Teach a Graphic Design Course Online
Have you ever considered sharing your graphic design knowledge with beginner creative professionals? Creating an online course for platforms like YouTube, Udemy, and Skillshare helps other graphic designers hone their skills and earns you some side cash. You could also write an e-book on graphic design if you have time.
Like print-on-demand and Stock websites, many online educational platforms have you upload your course once without worrying about teaching live or repeating the process.
5. Consult Companies
Design consultants share their thoughts and opinions on branding, color schemes, and overall business design. Companies can pay you for coming to speak with them one-on-one for a couple of hours.
In some ways, you may consider yourself a graphic design coach, advising in-house design teams on the best design strategy. Graphic design consultant work is available throughout freelance job marketplaces for creatives.
6. Seek a Higher Degree or Certification
When all else fails, seeking a higher degree in graphic design or obtaining certifications could lead to a higher salary. Most graphic designers only need a bachelor’s degree to enter the workforce. However, they must stay abreast of the latest design trends, new design software programs, and the latest graphics.
A master’s degree, multiple certifications, and continuing education will ensure they have the expertise and skills to succeed and demonstrate deserving a higher salary.
Washington State Is a Great Place to Be a Graphic Designer
Although expensive, no one can deny that the number one technology hub in the U.S. is an excellent place to work in graphic design. If your dream is to land a graphic designer position in the Pacific Northwest, there are plenty of well-known companies seeking new talent. As for the cost of living — you can always start a side hustle to increase your income.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.