Product Manager — Income and Opportunity

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Before we learn about the money, let’s get this question out of the way:

What Does a Product Manager Do?

A product manager (PM) identifies customer needs and communicates “success metrics” with the internal team building the product. By understanding the customer needs and what a successful product looks like, the product manager is an integral part of driving the project forward and turning a vision into reality.

In particular, PMs drive the physical or digital product strategy including requirements engineering and feature release management (see agile development).

PMs orchestrate the product development with software engineers, data scientists, and designers — and take over the responsibility for the ultimate product outcome.

For organizational and individual success, ownership, accountability, and responsibility are crucial. That’s why great PMs are in demand and highly paid (see later).

You can watch this video as you scan over the post:

This excellent graphic also shows the intersection of business, tech, and UX that is the world of a product manager:

Where Do Product Managers Work?

Product managers traditionally resided in the marketing organizations of technology companies. But in recent years, the role has become much more in demand and PMs now work in a wide variety of companies and different departments in engineering, marketing, and software development. (source)

Here are some companies where you can work as a PM:

  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Magic Lab
  • HSBC
  • PayPal
  • Uber
  • Salesforce
  • Microsoft

Basically, all major companies have lots of work for a PM one way or the other.

What Are Responsibilities of Product Managers?

As a product manager, you need to fulfill the following responsibilities:

  1. Understand customer or user needs
  2. Communicate and represent these needs to the team and the company
  3. Analyze the existing products in the market.
  4. Perform a competitive analysis (traditional: marketing and product ideation)
  5. Find possible features and prioritize them by using your excellent understanding of customer needs
  6. Define, align, and articulate the vision of a product and/or product lines
  7. Quantify priority of product features
  8. Define the roadmap and strategy to implement the product
  9. Manage the product creation phase orchestrating teams in engineering, sales, marketing, and legal departments.
  10. Take on the role of a customer so that customers have an advocate in your organization and the product development cycle remains focused and on track to maximize customer value.
  11. Empower decision making by making yourself superfluous — the ultimate goal of any leader.

Annual Income

How much does a Product Manager make per year?

Figure: Average Income of a Product Manager in the US by Source. [1]

The average annual income of a Product Manager in the United States is between $100,827 and $133,593 with an average of $113,277 and a median of $113,277 per year.

This data is based on our meta-study of eight salary aggregators sources such as Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and PayScale.

SourceAverage Income
Glassdoor.com$113,446
Comparably.com$111,000
Builtin.com$123,624
Indeed.com$100,827
Salary.com$133,593
PayScale.com$100,446
Aha.io$113,000
Talent.com$110,281
Table: Average Income of a Product Manager in the US by Source.

Let’s have a look at the hourly rate of Product Managers next!

Hourly Rate

Product Managers are well-paid on freelancing platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr.

If you decide to go the route as a freelance Product Manager, you can expect to make between $60 and $300 per hour on Upwork (source). Assuming an annual workload of 2000 hours, you can expect to make between $120,000 and $600,000 (!) per year.

Seriously!

Note: Do you want to create your own thriving coding business online? Feel free to check out our freelance developer course — the world’s #1 best-selling freelance developer course that specifically shows you how to succeed on Upwork and Fiverr!

Industry Demand

But is there enough demand? Let’s have a look at Google trends to find out how interest evolves over time (source):

Interestingly, the demand for “hire product manager” grows even faster in recent years (source):

So, becoming a PM may be one of the best career choices for ambitious product people that want to maximize their earnings and value creation potential.

Learning Path, Skills, and Education Requirements

Do you want to become a Product Manager? Here’s a step-by-step learning path I’d propose to get started:

… and never stop learning!

These are some interesting books on PM:

It doesn’t harm to get some computer science and coding skills — because this is how products get made in today’s world!

You can find many additional computer science courses on the Finxter Computer Science Academy (flatrate model).

But don’t wait too long to acquire practical experience!

Even if you have few skills, it’s best to get started as a freelance developer and learn as you work on real projects for clients — earning income as you learn and gaining motivation through real-world feedback.

🚀 Tip: An excellent start to turbo-charge your freelancing career (earning more in less time) is our Finxter Freelancer Course. The goal of the course is to pay for itself!

21 Best Tips for Product Managers

  1. Study the platform and architecture.
  2. Call a few meetings with the team and figure out who your stakeholders are.
  3. Build relationships with the developers and designers. Take them to lunch. Buy them a few beers.
  4. Dig through the data. Start looking at what analytics are in place.
  5. Talk to your best customers and ask them about what they like about the product.
  6. Trust your soft skills and intuition.
  7. Manage your own career and never stop learning.
  8. Embrace visual roadmaps.
  9. Don’t settle for a stale prioritization framework.
  10. Be interesting and address things your customers care about.
  11. Be a story teller.
  12. Create meaning and move the business towards quantifiable goals.
  13. Aim to provide real value to customers and your shareholders alike. Prioritize customers if you need to decide.
  14. People create the product and people consume the product. Be mindful about social factors such as emotions and leave nobody behind!
  15. Find actionable steps that really can be implemented adhering to budgets, timelines, and resource limits.
  16. Be clear in what you want to achieve. Ask yourself whether a child can understand your strategy and product roadmap.
  17. Never forget to test — spend lots of effort designing tests to catch all flaws before shipping the product.
  18. Understand how your customers measure value — and use it to guide your product design. Because if the customer perceives success after using your product, your company will get the credit and reach success too!
  19. Focus on customer delight, not customer satisfaction.
  20. Meet with your team regularly and repeat the vision and your goals. Repeat. Repeat. REPEAT!
  21. Be collaborative. The most important tip of all!

I compiled these tips from my own experience creating products in a role similar to that of a PM, and mixed my own tips with those published by various experts in the field. Feel free to study those excellent resources as well!

Further Reading and Resources:

You can find more job descriptions for coders, programmers, and computer scientists in our detailed overview guide:

The following statistic shows the self-reported income from 9,649 US-based professional developers (source).

💡 The average annual income of professional developers in the US is between $70,000 and $177,500 for various programming languages.

Question: What is your current total compensation (salary, bonuses, and perks, before taxes and deductions)? Please enter a whole number in the box below, without any punctuation. If you are paid hourly, please estimate an equivalent weekly, monthly, or yearly salary. (source)

The following statistic compares the self-reported income from 46,693 professional programmers as conducted by StackOverflow.

💡 The average annual income of professional developers worldwide (US and non-US) is between $33,000 and $95,000 for various programming languages.

Here’s a screenshot of a more detailed overview of each programming language considered in the report:

Here’s what different database professionals earn:

Here’s an overview of different cloud solutions experts:

Here’s what professionals in web frameworks earn:

There are many other interesting frameworks—that pay well!

Look at those tools:

Okay, but what do you need to do to get there? What are the skill requirements and qualifications to make you become a professional developer in the area you desire?

Let’s find out next!

General Qualifications of Professionals

StackOverflow performs an annual survey asking professionals, coders, developers, researchers, and engineers various questions about their background and job satisfaction on their website.

Interestingly, when aggregating the data of the developers’ educational background, a good three quarters have an academic background.

Here’s the question asked by StackOverflow (source):

Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?

However, if you don’t have a formal degree, don’t fear! Many of the respondents with degrees don’t have a degree in their field—so it may not be of much value for their coding careers anyways.

Also, about one out of four don’t have a formal degree and still succeeds in their field! You certainly don’t need a degree if you’re committed to your own success!

Freelancing vs Employment Status

The percentage of freelance developers increases steadily. The fraction of freelance developers has already reached 11.21%!

This indicates that more and more work will be done in a more flexible work environment—and fewer and fewer companies and clients want to hire inflexible talent.

Here are the stats from the StackOverflow developer survey (source):

Do you want to become a professional freelance developer and earn some money on the side or as your primary source of income?

Resource: Check out our freelance developer course—it’s the best freelance developer course in the world with the highest student success rate in the industry!

Other Programming Languages Used by Professional Developers

The StackOverflow developer survey collected 58000 responses about the following question (source):

Which programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year, and which do you want to work in over the next year?

These are the languages you want to focus on when starting out as a coder:

And don’t worry—if you feel stuck or struggle with a nasty bug. We all go through it. Here’s what SO survey respondents and professional developers do when they’re stuck:

What do you do when you get stuck on a problem? Select all that apply. (source)

To get started with some of the fundamentals and industry concepts, feel free to check out these articles:

Where to Go From Here?

Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!

Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation.

To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?

You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!

Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?

🚀 If your answer is YES!, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.

If you just want to learn about the freelancing opportunity, feel free to watch my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and learn how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.

Join the free webinar now!

Appendix

[1] The following code was used to create the figure.

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np
import math

data = [113446,
        111000,
        123624,
        100827,
        133593,
        100446,
        113000,
        110281]

labels = ['Glassdoor.com',
          'Comparably.com',
          'Builtin.com',
          'Indeed.com',
          'Salary.com',
          'PayScale.com',
          'Aha.io',
          'Talent.com']

median = np.median(data)
average = np.average(data)
print(median, average)
n = len(data)

plt.plot(range(n), [median] * n, color='black', label='Median: $' + str(int(median)))
plt.plot(range(n), [average] * n, '--', color='red', label='Average: $' + str(int(average)))
plt.bar(range(len(data)), data)
plt.xticks(range(len(data)), labels, rotation='vertical', position = (0,0.45), color='white', weight='bold')
plt.ylabel('Average Income ($)')
plt.title('Product Manager Annual Income - by Finxter')
plt.legend()
plt.show()