The money can be awesome. Like, no more Chinese takeout. You'll be able to grill up steaks a couple times a week on the George Foreman. And not the small one—the big one. However, the earnings for graphic designers depend on where they work and what they do. For example, graphic designers working for an advertising agency or public relations firm may make an annual wage of around $45k. Graphic designers working on computer system designs make upwards of $50k. Not all graphic designers have to sit at their cubicle and plug away while overhearing their co-workers talk about last night’s Fringe. A lot of graphic designers go into business for themselves and offer their services to companies, individuals, and charities. Graphic designers, who are their own boss, charge an hourly rate or a flat fee for projects. An hourly fee can range from 8 bucks an hour to $500 an hour, depending on the scope and difficulty of the project, and just plain how good they are. Take it from us—you want to be one of the $500-an-hour guys.
So how do you know how much to charge? Basically, your experience dictates how much you can charge. The more extensive your portfolio, the more a company is going to trust you. And they will show that trust in the form of greenbacks. Also, landing large clients or having a background working for an advertising agency will give you the leverage you need to ask for more. Experience helps you figure out how long a project is going to take to complete. If a company asks you to create a logo, you may figure that it will take you ten hours to complete. Small projects are typically charged a flat fee. That way, it doesn't matter how much time you spend fooling around on Minesweeper, as long as you get the job done by the deadline.
What a productive day you're having.
Again if you can make your way to a hot industry and have stock or equity opportunities, you can do quite well. Early employees at Yahoo!, Google, and Facebook all had GUI (graphical user interface) experience.
While that may sound great to you, there is a downside to working for yourself. Taxes don't get taken out and it's up to you to keep tabs on how much you'll owe, and to pay estimated taxes four times a year. (Oooh, tax day times four? Sign us up!) Furthermore, you have to pay your own medical insurance. And lastly, most graphic designers hit a dry season once in a while. You can't file for unemployment, because you were employing yourself. It is a grin-and-bear-it situation that can indeed be stressful. If you don't have money coming in or have anything in savings, it may force you to deliver a couple of pizzas until you land your next client. And it's going to drive you bonkers that they couldn't come up with anything more inventive for the logo on their pizza boxes than a stereotypical Italian gentleman flipping dough into the air.