Pay Transparency: Real Salaries for 150+ Creative Jobs in Nashville, TN

Uncategorized

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 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.

Additional resources

How to Know When It’s Time for a New Job

Uncategorized

I have always been curious about how people know when it’s time for a new job. 

This question became especially relevant for me last year, when I started to wonder about my next step. Though I really enjoyed my job working at a technology marketing agency, I knew that staying somewhere just because it was comfortable wouldn’t ultimately get me where I wanted to go. 

But wait, where did I want to go? I’d always been an ambitious person when it came to my career but I’d really only thought about it in vague terms: I wanted to do meaningful work, I wanted to be financially independent, I wanted a job that I enjoyed doing (after all, the average person will spend one-third of their life at work). Beyond that, I was clueless.

When I found myself wondering how I could possibly know if it was time for a new job — much less what that new job should be — I realized that I couldn’t make the leap until I figured out exactly what I wanted from my career.

Career Conversations

Up until this point, I had always made my career decisions during times when finding a job was my top priority, like when graduating college or moving to a new city, so I had never quite had the luxury of sitting down to contemplate what I wanted out of my career long-term.

Around September of last year, I had begun listening to the Radical Candor podcast. That’s where I first heard about the concept of Career Conversations: a technique for managers to help their team members grow by facilitating structured conversations about their professional goals, desired areas of growth, and how they can work together to make it happen. It sounded like the perfect way to get some guidance and perspective on my next step. The only problem? My supervisor had never heard of Career Conversations. 

So I decided to adapt the technique to help me map my own career goals.

If you feel like I did, a little unclear about how to determine what you want for your career or how to get there, then this technique is for you. These three exercises will help guide you through career planning so that you can learn what is important to you, understand where you want to go, identify the stepping stones you need to hit along the way and build the best possible plan of action for getting there. 

Step 1: Themes from the Past

The most important thing I did at the start of my search was to map my career path. I started by creating a timeline for my personal career history. Under each year, I listed what job I had held, my main responsibilities, the industry, and what my trigger was to leave. 

For example, I started my career doing editorial writing, then worked as a marketer in higher ed, nonprofit, small business, and freelance capacities before joining the agency world. I also created the same timeline but for my non-professional pursuits: the things that occupied my time outside of work, including hobbies and volunteering — things that I would do even if no one was paying me.

I noticed that across all my paid and unpaid pursuits, some common themes emerged: writing, learning, technology, and strategy. I quickly recognized that the time I’d spent in the tech industry had been the most engaging and challenging work so far. I also realized that I thrive when I am able to deep dive into a single brand and build a strategy from there, rather than working with multiple clients or simply doing tactical execution.

Write down the big themes that appear in your own timeline. Ask yourself: What didn’t you like about each of those roles? What did you love? Hone in on those major pivots and transitions — why did you make them? What did those transitions teach you about your work? This should help you start to understand your motivations and values, the things that drive you. They should be a core part of your decision-making process when thinking about your career.

Whether your timeline feels like a clear, linear path or a zig-zagging journey, pause to ask yourself where it is taking you. Your career will continue to move forward whether you’re thinking critically about it or not. If you don’t start to actively shape the path you’re taking, you’ll still get somewhere eventually. It just may not be the place you wanted to go. I had gotten some great experience and refined my skills during the three years at my current job — but if I continued down that path, it would take me further from (not closer to) my ultimate goal.

Step 2: Vision for the Future

You know that question that sometimes gets asked in an interview: where do you see yourself in 10 years? Before the start of this process, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do for a living. The purpose of the “Vision for the Future” exercise is to clarify those dreams, bring them into focus and then create an action plan.

I started with research. I invited friends, colleagues, and people I admired out to coffee to learn about their career paths, job histories, and where they saw themselves in 10 years. I started thinking about my own future in more detail: Where do I want to be at the peak of my career? What job title do I want to hold? What industry and stage/size of company do I see myself in? What will I be working to achieve? I wrote down the answers to these questions and a picture started to form of where I was going:

I wanted to transition from agency to in-house.
I wanted to work for a bigger company.
I wanted to become more immersed in the tech industry.
I wanted a chance to focus on strategy, not just tactics. 
I wanted to work alongside a team of smart, inspiring people. 
I wanted room to grow, in both terms of responsibilities and leadership. 
I wanted to learn and be challenged in my day-to-day work. 

All of the exercises above helped reveal a few important things, both about my next job and my career as a whole. The next step was to take those goals for the future and figure out how present-day me was going to get there.

Step 3: Plan for The Present

“Themes from the Past” showed me the path I’d taken so far, “Vision for the Future” helped me identify the destination ahead — and “Plan for the Present” is where I charted out the stepping stones that will would help me get from here to there. 

In Step Two, I’d figured out what job title I wanted to hold in 5-10 years, so I brainstormed a few variations and looked up job descriptions for that role. I went to the Linkedin pages of people who currently hold that title and see what steps they had taken to get there. 

Based on this research, I started compiling a list: What skills are required that I am missing or not as strong in? What experiences do I need to be getting now to prepare myself for a decade from now? Are there new responsibilities I can take on? On-the-job certifications I can work toward? I identified concrete skills I want to grow in, training I want to pursue, and conferences I should attend. I still keep this list up-to-date, reference it on a daily basis and continue to add to it when I identify new gaps or opportunities that I could work on.

Once you have your own list, it’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily need to get a new job to start marking things off. Many times, you can get that experience right where you are. That was the case at my last job when I shared all of this with my boss and invited him to be a part of helping me achieve my goals. His response exceeded my expectations: once he understood my career goals, he enthusiastically offered his mentorship and guidance. He became my advocate and sponsor at work, completely transforming my job description and day-to-day responsibilities so that I could get the experience I needed to set me up for my next step.

I know from my own experience that it can feel a little daunting to share these goals with your boss, especially when it means admitting you have ambitions beyond your current company. But having ambitious, engaged employees who are focused on their personal and professional growth will benefit the entire company — and any good leader will recognize that.

The Outcome

After completing all three of these exercises, I had a vision for where I wanted to go and I also had a clear idea of what my next move would need to be to get there. It made the prospect of leaving a comfortable, enjoyable job make sense in the context of my larger career. So I started interviewing.

Even during the job search process, having a clear idea of what I wanted made interviewing and decision-making so much easier. I’m happy to say that after considering a few different options, I landed a new job that is perfectly aligned with my career goals!

I’m curious: if you’ve quit a job before, how did you know it was time? If you’re just starting to think about your next step, what questions do you have? Let me know if you try out any of the modified Career Conversations exercises above. I would love to know what you got out of them.

Women in Tech: Four Communities That Transformed My Career

Uncategorized

When I started my first job out of college, working for a nonprofit organization in Texas, I was completely lost. My education had prepared me for the responsibilities of my role — but not at all for the experience of my first 9-to-5 and everything that came with it. How should I structure my days? What should I wear? How can I progress in my career? How much should I be making? How will I know if I’m on the right track? Turns out, the secret to answering all those questions started with one simple step: Find other women and learn from them.

When a group of ladies gets together, something magical happens. But that kind of female community doesn’t happen just by a stroke of luck. It needs to be cultivated, nurtured, and invested in. I’ve been lucky to find it in many different forms: online, in-person, one-on-one and in groups, locally and internationally. It’s been transformative to surround myself with smart women doing amazing things with their talents — particularly in an industry like tech, where it’s not uncommon to be the only woman in a room full of men. 

Here are four ladies-only groups that have helped me grow personally and professionally. They’re all open groups that I would highly recommend that you join, apply to, or attend! 

1. #PayUp Slack Channel

This group walked me through asking for — and receiving — my last raise! PayUp is a private, Slack-based community dedicated to fostering conversations about the gender wage gap. It is a thriving, organic online community of women who are working together to help each other earn more. PayUp largely functions as a chatroom: we help each other work out the specific wording to ask for a promotion, share thoughts on what to wear when all the men around you are in t-shirts and hoodies, host organized Q&As with negotiation experts, and more. It’s an ongoing, roundtable discussion about the things that matter most to us as women in tech. Most importantly, it’s a place where you can ask questions and know you’ll be greeted by a community of like-minded ladies who genuinely want you to succeed. Apply here.

2. Ladies, Wine & Design 

Ladies, Wine Design was started by designer Jessica Walsh (of 40 Days of Dating fame) after writing this article as an initiative to foster female creativity. Only 3% percent of creative directors are women, and LW&D wants to help change this through mentorship circles, portfolio reviews, and creative meet-ups. In practice, LW&D is a monthly salon night for a group of creative women. We wine, dine, and have intimate conversations about topics relating to creativity, business, and life. The good news: they have spread to chapters in over 75 cities all over the world, so there’s probably one close to you! The events I’ve attended in Nashville have lead to some of the best conversations I’ve had over the course of my career — not to mention all the smart, creative ladies that I’ve gotten the chance to meet through the group! Find your chapter.

3. Hire Tech Ladies

The tech industry’s lack of diversity has become notorious, and it’s no secret that women are underrepresented. Allison Esposito, founder of Tech Ladies, believes the gender gap results from a lack of support for women entering (or hoping to enter) the industry. That barrier is why she started Tech Ladies: to provide women with the resources and community they need to become tech leaders. Tech Ladies has grown into a community that includes 15k+ ladies who work in product, engineering, design, marketing, business development, ops, and more. The group connects women with the best jobs and opportunities in tech — and they connect companies with the best women tech-makers. When you join, you also get access to a secret jobs page, members-only newsletter, and closed Facebook group. Apply here.

4. Women in Technology Tennessee

Women in Technology Tennessee (WiTT) is shaping the future of tech in Middle Tennessee. WiTT connects women with a community that believes in and advocates for them through education, networking, scholarships and community outreach. This group is an example of how a group of people committed to seeing more women in tech can start to effect real change in their local community. Our marketing agency is currently helping to rebrand WiTT and I’ve worked closely with them in the development of their messaging platform. It’s been an honor to help amplify their message since it’s one that I am deeply passionate about, so keep an eye on their website over the next few months! Learn more.

I’m discovering new groups like this all the time so I’d love to know where you go for career advice, how you approach mentorship or answer any questions about the groups I mentioned. 

My Four-Piece Summer Uniform

Uncategorized

 Photo via Nisolo

Photo via Nisolo

You know how they say that you forget the pain of childbirth after experiencing it, otherwise you would never want to do it again? That’s how I feel about summer.

I quite literally lose my ability to imagine HEAT from about October through May. When I daydream about summer during those months, I imagine breezy days at the beach, loose curls, sundresses, and eating dinner al fresco. Then June rolls around and reality hits: summer in the South looks a lot more like frizzy hair, showing up sweaty to every event I attend, and wondering how necessary a bra is (verdict: not at all necessary).

As of two weeks ago, the weather has crept up past 90º and the humidity makes me feel like I need gills to breathe, which has brought up the perennial question of summer survival: WHAT DO I WEAR? I’ve always found summer to be such a difficult season to dress for, for three reasons. First, the actual weather: finding something that helps me stay as cool as possible is key. Second, the exposure element: I don’t mind showing off a little bit of skin, but I hate it when I’m constantly tugging at too-short hems or needing to readjust my neckline. Third, style: in the cooler months, you can add layers until you nail the look you want; in the summer, you only have one chance to get it right.  

Ultimately, I want to have clothing that makes it easy for me to get ready in the morning, feel comfortable and look cool. And I’m happy to announce that after years of hating warm weather style, I think I’ve finally cracked the code. Here’s the four-piece, foolproof outfit recipe that I use every single day during the summer:

1. Nisolo Serena Sandals

I’ve had these sandals for over three years and they are still going strong. When I bought them from Nashville-based Nisolo, I was specifically looking for a sandal that had some support in the heel rather than the completely flat, flimsy sandals that most retailers sell. These have 3/4-inch rubber wedge at the back that works magic when it comes to absorbing impact. I’ve walked for 10+ miles in these and they are more comfortable than my sneakers. Maybe more important than the comfort factor: they’re minimal, gorgeous, durable, and high-quality. I throw them on with every outfit in the summer (they look equally good with pants, shorts, and dresses) and don’t have to give it a second thought. P.S. If you’ve never shopped at Nisolo before, you can use my link to get $25 off!

2. Warby Parker Sunglasses

I’ve had my Warby Parker sunglasses for over three years— exactly as long as I’ve been married, since I lost my last pair of $15 sunglasses on our honeymoon. Thomas, who is as weird about protecting your eyes as I am about using sunscreen (see below), encouraged me to replace them with a nicer pair. I was hesitant because I was so prone to losing my cheap ones but I took the plunge with Warby Parker’s Downing frame, which I also have as regular eyeglasses. I could not believe what I’d been missing with polarized lenses. Turns out, I’d been squinting behind my cheap sunglasses this whole time! With my Warbys, I can actually enjoy being out in the sun. The “whiskey tortoise” frames have beauty honey-colored accents and the blue lenses (now discontinued) look super cool.  And even though I used to lose my cheap sunglasses all the time, I’ve hung on to these for years. 100% worth the investment.

3. Leather Bucket Bag

I am not a “different bag for every outfit kind of girl.” I have three bags in total (a tote bag for work, a bucket bag for casual outings, and a crossbody for evening events). They cover just about every occasion and I love the simplicity of functional, beautiful accessories. For summertime in particular, I always turn to my bucket bag. This is the one I’ve had for over two years is sold out but I love the look of this BAGGU one in brown. It’s lightweight yet surprisingly roomy and the open-top, drawstring look perfectly complements breezy hot-weather outfits. Bonus: mine also perfectly matches my Serena Sandals which makes any outfit look intentional and styled, even if I just threw it on (which is the case this morning). If I were headed to the beach or pool, I would definitely consider swapping it out for a straw bag like this one.

4. Simple Summer Dress

In the blazing heat, I always opt for a breezy dress that touches my skin as little as possible. This is the missing ingredient to my summer uniform right now. Arguably the most important, since the rest of my uniform consists only of accessories. I love wearing lightweight dresses during the hottest months of the year (pants are out of the question) but I haven’t found a good one for this summer yet. I prefer natural fabrics like cotton or linen because they are incredibly lightweight and breathable. When shopping, you’ll spot me unabashedly flipping every garment upside down and inside out to check the fabric composition tags. I find that I only need one or two of these dresses each summer since I end up wearing the same outfit every weekend anyway. I currently have my eye on something like thisthis, or this — but I’m still looking, so please send me any and all of your summer dress recommendations!

Bonus: Glossier Sunscreen

I’m crazy about sunscreen. I sent Thomas off to camp last week with SPF 100 and he returned looking like he hadn’t seen the sun in weeks. Mission accomplished. First of all, a brief but important PSA on protecting your skin: 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. It’s happened to multiple people in my own family. On a more cosmetic level, sun damage is the number one cause of visible aging (and the most preventable). That’s why it’s so important to use sunscreen — not just on the beach, but on a daily basis. 

The problem is that it is horribly inconvenient and most facial sunscreens are greasy, chalky, and leave behind a white cast and noticeable smell. I bought Glossier’s new sunscreen (a sunscreen for people who hate wearing sunscreen) to test. It’s a gel formula that goes on before your makeup and instantly absorbs into your skin with no greasy residue and zero white cast. At $34 for a one-ounce bottle, the price is a little steep, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to get into a daily SPF routine. It’s the perfect gateway drug into sun protection. You can get 10% off your first purchase using this link!

It might not be a perfect system (it doesn’t work in more professional settings — I have a separate strategy for that) but this uniform approach has solved my weekend-wear questions nicely. For those of you who struggle with warm weather style like I do, I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any tips for staying cool in this blistering hot weather. For those of you who thrive in the heat: explain yourselves.

My Top Technology Purchases of 2017

Uncategorized

I’m an incredibly cautious (and somewhat indecisive) shopper.

Our UPS guy knows me by name thanks to all the packages I order and return. I think Nordstrom has me on some sort of blacklist for the same reason. Amazon has resorted to refunding my money and telling me to “just keep” whatever under-$10 item I’ve most recently been disappointed by (most recently: cedar sachets for storing my winter clothes). Bottom line: I’m a difficult lady to impress.

I hold all my purchases to an absurdly high standard, so when I feel confident recommending something, I’ll shout it from the mountaintops. That’s especially true when it comes to gadgets that have made my life significantly easier, safer, or more enjoyable.

In that spirit, here are three of my most recent technology obsessions:
 

1. BeatsX

For people who: Have experienced excruciating pain of accidentally dropping your phone and having your headphones yanked out of your ears. 

My experience: I can honestly say this was my best purchase in the past 12+ months. As you may have guessed, I consume hours of podcasts and music during the week and I like to multitask while I listen. I hated being tethered to my phone, especially if I was trying to work on a project at home that required me to move between rooms a lot — like when I’m vacuuming, although you’ll learn below that I have discovered a different solution for that. The BeatsX solve all of those issues: they sound great, they’re lightweight, they pair with (and remember) all of my devices automatically, and hold a charge for eight hours. Best of all, I can hit play and wander away without losing my connection or having my headphones unceremoniously ripped out. 

Any downsides? They may negatively impact your relationships: I don’t think I talked to Thomas for the entire first week I had these because I was enjoying them so much. They’re also on the expensive side ($150) — definitely the most I’ve ever spent on headphones — but after having them for a few months, I now believe they were worth every penny.
 

2. Eufy RoboVac 11

For people who: Have always dreamed of living in the Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House (1999).

My experience: Here’s the thing. Having a clean and tidy home is important to us, but not so important that we’re willing to spend ANY time cleaning. Our solution? A robot vacuum. The future is here. I am an obsessive researcher when it comes big purchases, so I hopped onto The Sweethome (I recommend bookmarking it right now). It’s a website that ranks the best gadgets and gear after weeks or months of exhaustive research and stress testing. Their Best Robot Vacuum ranking, for example, involved enclosing each robot vacuum into an area cluttered with several chairs, stray USB cables, a sock, a medium-lightweight area rug with tassels, and a tall threshold, plus 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/8 cup ground coffee spread across the floor and rug. Eufy was their top pick so we promptly ordered one on Amazon and our floors have never been cleaner, despite the exact same level of effort on our part.

Any downsides? As you’ll see from the Sweethome article, Eufy isn’t the smartest — it doesn’t get every room, every time — but it’s got a great battery life so as long as you keep running it, she (yes, we call it a she) will eventually get there. We also had a little trouble with it getting stuck on ~1″ surfaces like the base of our kitchen table, so we just added some low-profile feet to the table and that solved the problem. Also, Thomas has grown weirdly attached to Eufy, and has been known to follow her from room-to-room — which kind of defeats the purpose of having a robot vacuum.
 

3. SimpliSafe Home Security System

For people who: Listen to too many true crime podcasts.

My experience: There was a brief crime spree in Nashville that had me convinced we were going to be robbed, assaulted, murdered (or all three) at any moment. That, combined with their incessant advertising on This American Life, led me to invest in a SimpliSafe home security system. Fortunately, we’ve never had an intruder, but we have seen this system in action: Once, when our friends next door were out of town, Thomas went over to their shady front porch to sit in a rocking chair and read (he’s an old soul). Within 10 minutes, a police car had pulled up and officers were questioning Thomas while I watched through our curtains. Apparently, he’d managed to set off their motion sensors through one of the windows. Bad news for him — after a call to the neighbors on vacation, the cops let him go without too much of a fuss — but a great test for the effectiveness of the alarm system!

Any downsides? Our place is small and it’s only one floor, so I’m constantly worried about setting off the alarm when I get up for water in the middle of the night. Luckily, the way we’ve set up the motion sensor means that we can walk from bedroom to bathroom without a problem. (Please don’t tell any would-be murderers about that, though.)

Let me know if you have any of these gadgets yourself or any you would recommend! Also, was anyone else as deeply affected by the movie Smart House as I was? I’ve honestly thought about it at least once a week since 1999.