Back in October of 2017, I created an anonymous salary sharer in partnership with an organization called Ladies, Wine, and Design Nashville (LWD). It was live for a little over a year and we now have 160 submissions and counting.
Why we created a salary sharer for Nashville creatives
In October 2017, LWD hosted a panel discussion on the pay gap and invited three women, including me, to share their stories on stage and be part of a Q&A all about money.
Talking openly about salary and negotiation—along with things like imposter syndrome and all the other emotional baggage that comes along with money—was an incredible experience. So many people came up afterward to tell me how refreshing it was to hear frank, candid responses to some of their biggest money-related questions.
One of the most common things we heard during the Q&A was: “How do I know what I should be making?” This came up again and again. Most people weren’t even sure where to start.
The fact is, in salary discussions, there is inherently a huge knowledge imbalance: the employer will always have more information than the job candidate. That’s one of the reasons that it can be so difficult to know what to ask for or how to evaluate an offer.
As an added wrinkle, much of the existing salary data out there is based on national averages yet salaries are often location-dependent, varying wildly from city to city. We had all experienced this data deficit at some point or another—so, we decided to put together our own database.
How we built and promoted the salary sharer
I created a simple Google form with fields for the basics: salary, job title, years of experience, etc. (Side note: We’re still accepting submissions!)
We shared the link with the LWD community and asked them to spread it to their peers and professional networks. We opened it to all creative fields in Nashville (including design, marketing, UX and more) and encouraged both men and women to contribute.
Right after we released the link to the survey, responses came pouring in. I was overwhelmed by how eager people were to contribute to this resource. Now that the survey has been running for a little over a year, it’s time to take a look at what we found.
A couple caveats about the data
The survey ran from October 2017 through October 2018 at the time of this publishing.
Our sample size was 160 creatives, all based in Nashville, TN. Though I can’t identify the exact number of creative professionals living in Nashville, it’s safe to say that this is not a statistically significant sample size. Instead, I recommend treating it as a helpful anecdotal resource that reveals what other Nashville creatives in jobs like yours are earning.
The “company size” question was added after the survey went live, so several entries are missing this information. We realized that company size is very closely tied to salary so we wanted to capture that information moving forward.
The data skews mostly female and white. As a result, I do not recommend drawing any strong conclusion about about the relationship between race and salary or gender and salary as a result of this survey. Fortunately, plenty of resources on the gender and racial pay gaps have already been created! I’d encourage you to start this 2018 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
I’ve embedded a scrollable version below, but here’s the direct link to the survey results. That way, you can sort by things like job title, age, years of experience, etc. Play around with the data and let me know what jumps out at you!
Okay, now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, let’s get into the data!
What 150 creatives are getting paid in Nashville
Key takeaways from the survey results (so far)
So what have we learned a year after creating this database of self-reported creative salaries? Here are a couple interesting takeaways from the survey results so far.
In our survey, we found that Nashville salaries tend to fall either slightly above or slightly below the national average, despite Nashville’s cost of living being 10 points higher than national average (due primarily to housing costs).
According to Payscale, the national average for a designer with less than 5 years of experience is $40,439. In our survey, the average was $44,201 (40 reporting).
The national average for a UX designer with less than 5 years of experience is $69,551. In our survey, the average was $69,105 (19 reporting).
The national average for a marketing manager with less than 5 years of experience is $55,199. In our survey, the average was $52,077 (26 reporting, including content and media).
According to a 2018 analysis, it takes a household income of $80,548 to live comfortably in Nashville—making it more expensive to live here than in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Chicago, Portland and Sacramento. Just to name a few.
At the time of the study, the actual median household income in Nashville was $49,891, making it lower than the median household income of all of the cities listed above.
The benefits of pay transparency
The data above isn’t necessarily surprising. It doesn’t reveal anything earth-shattering about Nashville or its creative industry. But what it does tell us is that people are hungry for information.
This little experiment has shown me that people, particularly women, are eager for a safe space where they can discuss money, hear from their peers, and arm themselves with knowledge.
I personally know people from the LWD group who have taken this knowledge and used it to negotiate their starting salary. Or bring up a raise with their boss. Or make the decision that it’s (finally) time for them to start looking for a new job.
Whatever your reason for making it to the bottom of this article, I hope you’ve found this data helpful! Below, I’ll include a few additional resources for salary research. But remember that one of the best ways to begin understanding your market rate is to talk to other people in your field! It can feel a little uncomfortable at first (I’ve been there) but it will equip you to make informed decisions about your job, your career, and your value.
After you’ve gotten a chance to explore the data on your own, leave me a comment below—I’d love to know what some of your takeaways are.