What kind of cash are we talking about?
Image from Crane & Co. for Kate Spade personalized stationary
I get some stock questions as a DCA advisor. One I don't hear that often is, Straight up, Karen, tell me how much money am I going to make? Perhaps people consider it gauche, but it's legit. As someone who is receiving a lot of depressing emails about pay reductions and furloughs, I know making a living is an integral part of making a life.
What you're going to make depends on what you're designing and who you're designing it for. What jobs you go for say something about who you think you are, what you think you can offer, and where you want to go. I don't believe that we all have to strive to be the best ever, and be at the top of the industry and all that hoopla. I know it's un-American, but hey, there are countries to visit, foods to cook and grassy parks to enjoy.
But if you can be selective, be. As someone new to the field it can be tempting to say yes to any job, especially in this economy. Consider though that you likely want to work with people who respect graphic designers as integral to the branding and presentation of a product, not as just decorators. Many people can open Photoshop and create something that looks sorta cool. Not many people can create a system that speaks to a target market based on research and process, culminating in a beautiful execution. If you can do the latter, value it and the market will value you.
There are always anomalies. There are some super duper Photoshop retouchers who are so good and so in demand that they make serious bank. There are also plenty of people who make a good living doing decent but boring or even crummy work. Value is not just a negotiation with your client, but also with yourself.
AIGA puts out annual salary surveys, if you'd like to see the numbers out in 2009.