A designer friend of mine has just taken a job with a crap agency.
Really crap. He knows they're crap and they probably know it too. Doesn't everyone know when they're crap? He's quite happy, even excited about the prospect. Sure the money's good and it's a slightly different version of crap than before, but it's still crap. I was just looking at said firm's website and some of the stuff looks about 10 years old. And that's the decent stuff.
So why does he work there? He's not crap, in fact he's really talented. Bursting with ideas, great personality, the confidence to make things happen. Presentable enough to take to client meetings. But the problem is he's caught in the trap I've seen so many friends get caught in. Essentially their pay demands restrict where they can work and in the long term hold them back. So let's talk about salaries.
If you want to make money, money like this, then quit design. Go and sell your soul to a hedge fund. For most designers remuneration is a 'decent money / nice work' axis. Pay me just enough to live and throw me just enough nice projects and I'll be happy. Alternatively, pay me loads and I'll churn out rubbish all day long, or pay me nothing and I'll be grateful I'm in Creative Review each month. Yes, there are exceptions but they are the ones that get off their arses and do something different. The one percenters you get in any walk of life.
Certain types of design (some publishing, some pharmaceutical stuff and all porn for example) deliberately pay you a little bit too much. Why? It makes it really hard to leave. Sure, you could go and work for that trendy hot shop in Shoreditch but you've got to take a 25% pay cut. Sounds OK on a blog, but when you've got two kids, a divorce and the caterers for your fortieth birthday want paying - things look a little different. Consequentially you get stuck with the crap work at the crap firm for the good money.