Moolah Palooza: On Tour in San Francisco

Who's ready to rock?! Moolah Palooza – TCG's 2015 Salary Guide – is your exclusive backstage pass to current hiring and compensation trends in the creative field.

Whether you're looking for your next gig or you're in search of talent that will bring down the house, we're on tour to explore the job opportunities and earning potential for the hottest creative roles in cities across North America. First stop? San Francisco.

The Creative Job Market

Did you know the Grateful Dead and Journey are both from San Francisco? Combine the Grateful Dead's free-lovin', psychedelic machinations and Journey's take-no-prisoners intensity and you just summed up San Francisco in a nutshell. But that's just two-thirds of the nut.

San Francisco is not only the City by the Bay, but it also represents an entire region (the Bay Area) that has become synonymous with creativity, energy and, in more recent years, technology – the third part of the nut. As an extension of San Francisco, Silicon Valley (which extends as far north as San Francisco to as far south as San Jose) has spawned many start-up companies that were born in home garages. Some have since become multimillion-dollar – and even multibillion-dollar – corporations.

The phenomenon continues to grow as tech companies recognize the Bay Area as a region that fosters innovation and creativity – and Bay Area salaries reflect that. (It's why Mark Zuckerberg moved Facebook from Boston to Silicon Valley.) Technology is certainly one of San Francisco and the Bay Area's strongest industries. But it's not the only one. Creative talent is needed in retail, financial services and healthcare sectors as well. Despite the demand, creative roles aren't as straightforward as they once were – and job seekers must adapt.

"Teams are working more cross-functionally than ever before," said Karin Katselis, branch manager of TCG's San Francisco team. "As a result, we're seeing an increased demand for hybrid skill sets, including web design and development, and visual design and user experience. Candidates with mobile and application design experience are also highly sought."

What is this activity being driven by? An explosion of all things digital, explains Katselis. "If you think about the fact that most households own a TV, computer, laptop, tablet and mobile phone (often more than one), you can easily see the need for designers with diverse digital skills. Visual design and user experience are not mutually exclusive, so it's key for candidates to possess skills across multiple disciplines."

Below are five in-demand creative jobs in San Francisco, including a salary comparison of the national averages and San Franciso ranges. These figures can give you an idea of how the local job market, cost of living and other variables affect Bay Area salaries.


National Average Starting Salary

San Francisco Starting Salary

Front-End Web Developer (1 to 3 years) $50,750-$72,000 $70,035-$99,360
Marketing Analytics Specialist (3+ years) $72,750-$96,000 $100,395-$132,480
SEO/SEM Specialist (3+ years) $72,500-$97,750 $100,050-$134,895
User Experience (UX) Specialist $82,500-$124,250 $113,850-$171,465
Web Designer (1 to 5 years) $54,000-$84,000 $74,520-$115,920


Creative Job Candidates in San Francisco

So, what does this mean for creative job seekers?

"Candidates must round out their skill sets," said Katselis. "For example, it pays to acquire development skills if you're a web designer. If you're a graphic designer, you'd benefit from gaining experience with usability and user experience."

A broader skill set isn't limited to designers. It's relevant to those in advertising, PR, social media and content marketing. The point is if you want to stand out in a competitive creative job market like San Francisco, you shouldn't limit yourself to one specialized discipline.

What can creative job seekers do to heighten their visibility? Katselis offers these three tips:

  1. Create a digital portfolio, preferably on a tablet or laptop so that you can easily show it in person.
  2. Do your homework. Research the company and people you are interviewing with. It might be the very thing that sets you apart from the competition.
  3. Follow up. Send a personal note card post-interview. In this digital age, the handwritten note has become a lost art. It's a nice personal touch that few people bother to do.

Get Your Moolah Palooza Tickets

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For more trends affecting the creative hiring landscape, download The Creative Group's 2015 Salary Guide.

You can also sign up for the TCG Buzz Break webinar on Thursday, November 20, 2014. TCG executive director Diane Domeyer will discuss salary trends and tips for negotiating the best pay.