How Much Do People Cost in China

I started out designing and developing flash websites in London, worked my way up through a media agency until escaping in 2003. Freelancing paid for my travels until curiosity eventually lead me to China. In 2006 I co-founded Thread Design, now one of the best known independent foreign agencies in Shanghai. I get asked a lot what’s it’s like to create and run a design firm in China, the answer changes every week.

Before I start blogging on the day to day of a design firm in Shanghai, or things that I think the internet may be interested in, I’m going to address a couple more of the big troubles/differences of conducting business in the middle kingdom.


In the UK wages for all levels are pretty much defined, but here I’ve given up guessing and just ask people outright, how much do you expect? I generally don’t get the answer I’m expecting.

Here’s an example a few years ago of two people I know.

Friend A. Graphic Designer, university graduate with 2 years experience. fluent English and fluent Chinese.

Friend B. Graphic Designer, university graduate, with 2 years experience, fluent English and can just about order pizza in Chinese.

It’s worth mentioning that person B is a better designer, but he found himself at a big advertising agency bringing home £2500 a month after tax. While our local friend with her inside knowledge of the market had only just made £2400… in the whole year.

Like all things in China this is rapidly changing, there is such a huge influx of foreigners who are looking for any excuse to come and work, with the increasingly difficult visa regulations, foreign wages are dropping. On the flip side, new graduates whom have grown up in a more westernized world have a greater understanding of the industry concept, more and more of these kids talented on an international level. This with mounting employer fees are starting to level the previously mountainous bamboo forest playing field.

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