Young designers battle with job instability and remote work challenges in 2021

The results of Dribbble’s survey of over 13,000 designers reveal attitudes towards job stability and career advancement.

Designers faced increased job instability and loneliness from remote work as the pandemic continued into 2021, according to a wide-ranging career survey.

Design-focused social network Dribbble has revealed findings from its 2021 community survey, which surveyed over 13,000 respondents from around the world.

The majority of respondents are aged 26-35 (46%) while 13% are between 36-45. A younger group aged 18-25 make up 35% of the survey.

Of the total group, half are employed full-time in-house or at a consultancy. 18% are students and a further 17% are self-employed. Some 64% of respondents are male, while 34% are female.

Almost half are UI/UX designers, while around 30% cover graphics and branding. Around 4,800 designers were located in Asia, while 2,900 were Europe-based and 2,300 in America.

About 70% of respondents have been working in the industry for under a decade, while around 15% have been working 10-20 years.

Negotiating the pandemic job market

On average, designers graded their job stability at 6.5 on a scale of “not stable at all” (0) to “extremely stable” (10), a fall from 6.7 in the 2019 survey.

Job satisfaction scored lower with an average rating of 6.2 on a scale of “not at all satisfied” (1) to “completely satisfied” (10). Around a fifth of respondents are “working hard to find a next job” while 23% are “open to opportunities, but not actively looking”.

When it comes to the job search, competitive pay ranks as the highest priority for most designers (55%). Opportunities for flexible work hours – a trend consultancies have explored throughout the pandemic – comes in second (52%). Company culture (45%) and creative freedom (51%) also ranked highly.

How might designers achieve those next steps? Around 60% of respondents said that they had pursued a video course in the past year, while 37% had pursued a design course between 4-6 weeks long.

Workshops, either virtual or in-person, were popular among a quarter of respondents. Around 17% of designers had pursued one-on-one mentorship. More formal education, such as a university degree, was less popular – the route for only 12% of designers.

Earlier this year, we reported on university alternatives for graduates looking to break into the industry.

Business skills are a top priority for designers

A third of designers said that business skills would be critical for career advancement in the next 2-3 years, while 30% said that motion and animation would also be important.

Communication (29%) and illustration (22%) were other focuses for designers. While talk of the metaverse and NFTs have dominated conversations of late, only 9% of designers said that AR would be critical, while 8% of respondents said VR would be critical.

How designers communicate with clients and colleagues has been a theme of the pandemic, as virtual collaboration took off. Among respondents, 45% still favour emails while 41% are also using remote design tool Figma as a way to communicate. Slack was another popular option, used by almost 30% of designers.

The verdict on remote working

One of the pandemic’s enduring consequences has been the shift to remote work, which has been a mixed bag for designers. The ability to set your own schedule was the highlight for 64% of designers. Other lifestyle bonuses such as no commuting, work-life balance and a casual dress code were also highly-rated benefits.

On the flipside, 38% of designers found it hard to separate work and personal time while 29% listed communication issues as one of the worst points of remote work. Almost one fifth of designers reported loneliness as an issue.

In an average week, almost 40% of designers said they were working between 31-40 hours. However, just over a quarter reported a working week of between 41-50 hours. Around 10% said they worked over 50 hours.

Freelance rates and the importance of social media

30% of freelancers surveyed charged between $10-$20 per hour, while 20% charged a higher fee between $21-$40. Around 2% charged the higher rate of $101-$130.

Most freelancers found their last opportunity through in-person contact (36%) or direct emailing (21%). Social media is a growing part of working life however. Around 7% of freelancers had been contact on LinkedIn or Instagram. A further 7% were contacted through their website portfolios.

You can view more survey highlights in Dribbble’s trend report

Banner image courtesy of Shutterstock

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