Digital Agency Vs In-House: Where are the Best Digital Jobs?

When first embarking on your digital career, deciding between working for a digital agency vs in-house can be a toughie. You may even find yourself much further down the line wondering if the grass might be greener on the other side of the fence?

If you find yourself in either of these situations, this article is for you. We look at the pros and cons of being employed by a company vs external agencies. Hopefully, it will help you decide which one you might be more suited to.

Make Wise Choices Early in Your Digital Career

Leaving university is a super exciting time of your life! So much so that many graduates neglect to do enough research into that all-important first move. Of course, the prospect of earning their first proper grown-up salary is exciting! However, this often tempts newly qualified grads into jumping at the first offer they receive without adequately researching the alternatives.

Accepting an unsuitable job at any point in your career can do untold damage to your CV. Too many moves in a short space of time can result in you acquiring the label ‘job hopper’.

As you get further down the line in your career, you will likely develop a proven track record that demonstrates loyalty. A solid work experience record can make it much easier to recover from bad career decisions. However, without that proven loyalty, too many job changes can make employers wary of hiring you. Make too many mistakes and the job offers may begin to dry up.

That’s why you must do your research and keep your options open for as long as you can until you’re confident you’ve found your ideal role.

Girl playing herself at chess
The best candidates always think about where their next career move will take them long term.

What is Meant by Agency Side vs Client Side?

The only people who refer to working ‘client side’, as such, are individuals who work for agencies. People who work for companies don’t really see themselves as anything other than regular employees doing a job. Of course, people who work in agencies are regular employees too, only the way they do their jobs tends to be very different.

As an example, let’s imagine you’re looking for your first job as a Digital Marketing Assistant. As far as the job title and salary go, you may not notice much difference between the job adverts you see for agency and in house positions. In fact, just by reading the job descriptions, it might be difficult to tell which job ads belong to businesses or agencies.

It’s not until you start doing the job that you realise that you may find that you either love or hate your job. It won’t be until you chat to your ex uni mates to find out how their jobs are going, you begin to realise the difference. Or at least you will if they work on the opposite side of the industry to you. So let’s dive in and look at the main differences between the two.

Differences Between Working for a Business or Digital Agency

Salary

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s unlikely you will find much difference between advertised salaries whether they’re for a business or an agency.

The thing is, digital skills are in extremely high demand, right across the globe. Therefore, companies must set salaries at a level that will attract the standard of applicant they require.

Of course, some businesses may try advertising at a lower rate, to begin with, if they wish to try their luck. Although, this is just as likely to happen within a digital agency as in any other type of business.

Benefits

Within a Business

Well established businesses typically offer more traditional benefits such as health insurance, life cover, free gym membership, childcare, enhanced maternity provisions etc. This is often due to the nature of their business. For example, an insurance company would be more likely to offer reduced rates to their staff.

Working for an Agency

Agencies try to keep running costs to a minimum so that they can price their services competitively. This usually results in offering fewer traditional benefits to their employees. However, working in this kind of environment often comes with other perks that you don’t feel in your pay packet.

For example, you might be more likely to attend relevant conferences if your company has a stand there. You might even find yourself at a glitzy award ceremony if your team receives a nomination for a project.

At the very least, you may find a well-stocked beer fridge in your office. Just keep in mind that this is likely to be used as a sweetener to persuade you to work late on a Friday. For example, if a deadline is due for completion by Monday.

Job Descriptions

Within a Business

There are considerable variations in job roles and responsibilities from one company to the next, even within regular businesses. For example, small tech start-ups may only employ one Digital Marketing Manager responsible for all their marketing efforts. Whereas a large corporate organisation might employ an entire in-house marketing team.

No matter the business’s size, you will only work on its products or services when working for a company. Therefore, you are more likely to have involvement in the full range of digital marketing activities. For example, from building an in-house brand, developing its digital marketing strategies to publishing individual campaigns.

Working for an Agency

An agency team will have well-defined functions that will each have their specific roles, such as, Content Marketing, Social Media Executive, Email Marketing Specialist etc. However, within an agency, the Social Media Executive may manage the social media accounts for up to ten different companies.

In a large agency, the Social Media Team may be broken down further by various social platforms such as; Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Alternatively, they might split the job responsibilities by Paid Social and Organic Social.

From a company’s perspective, it is often cheaper to hire an agency to manage their social media accounts than hire an in house specialist.

Workers in formal office attire in a corporate environment
Some people find comfort and order in a corporate environment with well-defined rules.

Regularity

Within a Business

When you work within a business, you must remain loyal to your employer and work only for them. The longer your employment lasts, the deeper understanding you will have of the intricacies and peculiarities that make your company unique. Over time, you will become an expert in managing company processes, which can be an extremely valuable skill.

Some people become easily bored working on the same thing day-in-day-out and need more variation. While others find great reassurance in the stability this style of work creates.

Working for an Agency

In an external environment, you must divide your attention between the work you do for many clients. The clients you work with can change and often with very little notice. Being exposed to such a variety of different projects can be exciting and provide new challenges daily. However, some people find this level of variety quite stressful to manage and hard to keep up with.

Working Hours and Time Off

Within a Business

Being employed by a company traditionally provided workers with a more stable work-life balance. The hours were more likely to be full-time, 9 am — 5 pm, Monday to Friday with standard holiday allowance. Remote working and flexible working solutions were largely unheard of, and any requests were often refused by HR.

Recently, the coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on employers attitudes to home working solutions. Since we have been forced into a situation where we had to work from home, they now realise the benefits.

Working for an Agency

The majority of creative agencies seemed to have a more relaxed attitude to remote and flexible working. However, the flip side of this is that agency workers are sometimes expected to work longer hours. For example, if a project is nearing completion and a deadline needs to be met, all team members must pull together to satisfy the client.

Agency workers socialising after hours in the office
Creative agencies tend to be fun places to work but that can result in you spending more time at the office after hours.

Level of Autonomy

Within a Business

Companies tend to be more strict about the way they do things internally. For example, within large corporations with marketing teams, every piece of work they produce must adhere to brand standards. In this scenario, your work will often need submitting for approval before a manager signs it off.

Even within smaller organisations where one person does the marketing, the work you produce will likely be under more scrutiny.

Working for an Agency

In this kind of working environment, you are likely to have more autonomy as long as you get the job done. Each client will still have its own set of brand standards to follow. However, as long as that client is happy with your work, they usually give you the freedom to get on with it.

The flip side of this is that agencies often have strict KPIs or service level agreements, which employees must meet for each client. Under these circumstances, everyone working on the project understands what the agency expects of them. On the other, some individuals find working to strict targets and deadlines stressful.

Career Progression

Within a Business

Companies tend to have more explicit guidelines and a better structure regarding performance reviews and career progression. That said, in a smaller company, there may be fewer job roles for you to progress into.

The opposite can also be true in larger organisations, though. For example, working for a multinational organisation can present exciting opportunities for travel abroad to other offices. Having experience working within different cultures around the world can certainly bring a new dimension to your CV.

Working for an Agency

In an environment where you have exposure to various clients and projects, your skill sets are likely to grow more rapidly. That said, the work you do is more likely to be localised in one area. For example, your work may focus on one specific marketing channel. However, you will likely learn all the tools in the box and become a specialist in that niche.

If you’re the kind of person who is willing to put their hand up for new projects and extra responsibilities, you will likely progress quickly in an agency. However, if you’re shy about your achievements and just like to get on with your job, you may go further in a regular business.

Company Culture

Within a Business

Corporate environments tend to be more stringent about what goes on inside their office walls. However, these attitudes are changing as businesses realise that they need to create a positive company culture and a strong employer brand to attract top talent.

For example, many large organisations now have a Corporate Social Responsibility policy. Where a company has this in place, they are more likely to offer time off for charitable work.

Working for an Agency

Agencies tend to have a more work-hard-play-hard attitude. Their workplace culture is often driven by the success of the work they do for their clients. As a result, agency life’s pace is fast and exciting for some, whereas others find this puts them under too much pressure.

Digital agency team mates hi-five each other
Digital agency environments are often designed to encourage collaboration and creativity, which makes them a fun place to work.

Working Environment

Within a Business

Corporate environments have a reputation for being functional and unimaginative. Although, employers realise the need to create more inspiring workspaces, particularly for their creative teams.

Working for an Agency

Agency workspaces are often designed with creativity and collaboration in mind. Therefore you are more likely to find funky breakout areas with gaming consoles and pool tables in these environments. The trade-off is that you may find yourself spending more time in the breakout area after hours.

Which is Best for You?

One working environment is not better than another; it’s just a matter of personal preference. Only you can decide whether you would be better suited to working for an agency vs in house marketing team. After reading this article, we hope you have a better idea of what the two different environments are like and which suits your personality.

If you find you have a clear preference as to whether you would like to work at one or the other, it might be worth speaking to a recruitment consultant. They work with many different clients, on both the agency side and client side. Therefore they are better placed to give impartial advice and can match you with jobs that are better suited to your personality.

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Adria Solutions | IT Digital Marketing Recruitment

Hi there! We are the Marketing Team at Adria Solutions. Here's a curated selection of our articles. You can read more on https://www.adriasolutions.co.uk/