Digital agency or client side?

6 August 2017 by Mark Fallon

Digital agency or client side?


Mark Fallon Digital, Career Advice

If you’ve ever worked in an agency, you will always relate to the pressures that come with “agency life”. It’s a fast paced and crazy place but what you take away from the experience is never something you will regret…

In Recruitment, we spend a lot of time talking to candidates about their preference – digital/ creative agencies, or joining those bigger client side teams.

These days the answer is usually client-side (certainly in the digital world anyway!) as the work-life balance is better and we’re in that “transformation age” where companies are starting to realise their need to evolve, so there are more interesting and complex projects to work on (and boundaries to push).

It’s something I definitely understand, however, if you have the ambition to continuously develop, be different and innovate, then realistically does working in-house actually allow you to do that, given companies are trying to change, yet still resistant to it?

If you’re a creative, it’s assumed agency would be the number one choice but it’s also dependent on your own individual career motivation.

Agencies are not for everybody, but if you’re eager enough to handle the cons, they can be the perfect place to develop and grow:


Key Advantages:

  • Agencies create social environments, so building strong friendships with colleagues, makes teams interact with one another more openly and there’s a less siloed feel to collaboration.
  • Music in the office, more casual dress code, work hard but there’s always room to have some fun, creativity, comedy hours, live in dogs and pizza & beer Fridays
  • Agencies are the best place to learn all the tricks of the trade and upskill quickly
  • It’s easy to find an agency that fits your personality – they’re diverse with so many different characters making it easier to adapt
  • You focus mainly on the area that you love and can spend most of your time working on really exciting and innovative projects with some of the world’s biggest brands to add to your portfolio
  • You’d consider yourself to be a specialist


Key Disadvantages:

  • Communication can be tough as you don’t know each brand inside out, so it might take some time to figure out what a company actually wants/ needs
  • You’re expected to work on mundane/ difficult projects with no regard to what you actually think of a specific brand – your personal preference is not a consideration
  • You’re not always rewarded or appreciated for the work you do
  • High volume work, with tight deadlines and high expectations, leads to late nights and a lot of overtime
  • From a business perspective, agencies are not guaranteed jobs therefore, salaries can be lower
  • Being Creative under pressure can sometimes mean rushing, so honestly, you don’t produce what you want to in a short timeframe


Client side, on the other hand is a completely different opportunity. It’s just as appealing and frustrating as an agency, but for different reasons:


Key Advantages:

  • Respectable Portfolio projects: If you work for a “Big Name” corporation, your portfolio with a recognised brand will heighten your reputation
  • You focus on only one brand which allows more direction and ownership over your projects
  • Days are more predictable, allowing you to plan more strategically on project deadlines and responsibilities
  • Company Benefits: Health insurance, pension, retirement package, severance, tends to offset any dip in salary
  • Hours are much better – little to no overtime and more flexitime
  • Depth of knowledge In-house teams might handle a smaller range of products but they get to develop full understanding of the company’s offering and industry
  • You become expert and niche in your field which opens up more rewarding opportunities in future roles, within a similar industry
  • Good companies offer great induction programmes, training workshops and new creative software courses, which means you are consistently up-skilling and don’t need to pay for additional qualifications


Key Disadvantages:

  • Although there are creative opportunities, majority of work is with the one brand and can get monotonous
  • Planning and development is crucial and brand guidelines can be strict, making it difficult to be creative
  • Some more corporate companies can be very  political and bureaucratic so you need to be prepared for dealing with internal stakeholders and be good at negotiating
  • Large brands tend to keep their in-house teams small, therefore you need to manage external agencies, making it more difficult to control and manage delivery
  • Some consultancies are still fairly corporate, but modern day businesses are adapting and the company culture is becoming increasingly more relaxed and casual


Basically, it comes down to your individual preference – personally, I think there are massive pros to both!

Whether your career ambition is to be the most creative and win awards OR still get to do what you love doing with a happier work/ life balance, there are great opportunities for everyone, but know what your career objectives are before deciding… and always aim high!!