Marketing is a vast field, it encompasses online and offline marketing and has a lot of overlap with other creative and digital jobs, such as graphic design, PR and web development.
Two marketers’ jobs will never look the same – some will be more focused on Social Media, some will focus more on content marketing and SEO and offline agencies will be more interested in events and networking opportunities.
It’s important for those wanting to enter the sector to recognise the difference between working in an agency versus working in-house. Whilst day-to-day task might be similar, each offers a very different environment, and both have their own challenges and perks.
Some individuals will simply be more suited to the fast-paced high responsibility agency environment, whilst others might prefer to be fully immersed in the marketing materials of one company, in a sector they are interested in.
I’m lucky enough to have worked in both environments so can make some general comparisons to help you decide which path is more suitable for you.
Of course, my experiences are unique to me, but from talking to some other marketers who have stepped foot in both environments, there are some general conclusions we can draw.
Working at an Agency
An agency refers to a company which specialises in a service, and often sells it B2B.
Sectors which frequently have agencies include marketing, PR, web design and events. In these companies, you’ll probably be producing marketing collateral for several clients of different industries.
Working in-house refers to carrying out a function within a company instead of outsourcing it to others. This means campaigns are all concentrated on one company (the one you work in).
What are the differences?
1. Agencies are less isolating
This point is of course dependent on company size and is more the case if you are working in-house in a very small marketing team.
I have found working in an agency slightly easier socially. You are sat in a team with people doing the same, or similar, tasks to you.
If you are stuck or need advice on a campaign, you can ask a colleague who understands the goal and execution of campaigns. Sometimes, you might even work in pairs or teams on campaigns or conduct brainstorm meetings.
In-house, many of your colleagues simply won’t have a clue what you’re doing.
In an in-house setting, the marketing team could be very small (unless it’s a huge company!) but in my case, I am working on a one (and a half) person team alongside my manager who manages two other teams!
This means I must be self-reliant and able to think on my feet in order to solve problems. If SEO rankings are going wrong, it is my job to figure out why independently.
However, I like being surrounding by a variety of roles – from sales, to accountants. It makes the office more interesting having such a mixture of interests and backgrounds.
2. Agencies have better tools in place
When I worked at a marketing agency, there were excellent marketing tools in place. Marketing agencies are more than willing to spend money on software as it benefits the whole company and arguably produces the best results for clients.
Working in-house, you may have some useful tools but it’s likely that the company won’t see the benefit in getting the most high-tech software out there for just one employee, or a small team. This could potentially increase the workload and lower work efficiency.
3. Agencies have a more formal strategy
This again links to the point about shared knowledge. With everyone working to the same aim day-in-day-out, the company has had time and experience to refine their strategy.
This usually results in everyone having a set responsibility and staying in that role. This is beneficial, as results could be better.
4. Agencies have variety
One minute you’re writing a piece on the commercial property sector in Manchester, the next minute you’re writing a lifestyle piece about sustainable makeup products.
It’s safe to say that the work in an agency can be varied, due to the mixture of clients you work with. Some marketing agencies will specialise in industry, but the majority will have a mixture of clients.
Variety certainly makes the role interesting. However, it does mean you might end up working on a campaign for a company you have no interest, which can be dull and turn a great week into a bad one.
On the other hand…
1. Agencies can be restrictive
Working in an agency can feel restrictive. You can sometimes feel trapped in your role with little scope to try out new things.
Working in-house, I’ve been able to wear the strategy hat, content writing hat, as well as the graphic design hat – sometimes all in one day!
2. You become jack of all trades, master of none!
The risk in agencies where you’re working with several clients is that you become a bit of a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. You dip in and out of sectors, never learning about one in-depth.
Your happiness at work is dependent on projects – if you are given a client to deal with that you can’t stand, it can be frustrating.
Working in-house, one of the most important things to consider is industry, if you hate the industry, you won’t care about producing the best results for them.
If you love your industry and are always learning about the latest changes and news, you’ll probably love your job and do very well at it.
3. Agencies are fast-paced, and deadline driven
Agency work is fast-paced, and deadline driven, unlike in-house environments. This makes things exciting yet is not good for people who struggle with pressure and deadlines. I had to get campaigns fully brainstormed, executed and outreached in a week, which was sometimes stressful.
Sometimes, coming up with new and exciting ideas for campaigns can be a struggle and you might spend too much time coming up with ideas, so you are left with little time to carry out the campaign.
Quick changes and unpredictability is common.
4. You might have to deal with difficult clients
A con of working in an agency is the project is never really yours. You are carrying it out to satisfy clients. This can lead to feeling detached from the campaign and feeling a lack of satisfaction once it’s finished. You work with one client, and then quickly move on to the next.
It can be very difficult to sink your teeth into projects due to the fast nature and pressure from clients.
When working in-house, you can carry out a campaign from start to finish, which is very rewarding.
So, the verdict…
The verdict is that neither one is better than the other, it depends on what you want out of a role. Some people will only ever work in agencies, some only in-house, and some are happy to work in either.
Of course, this article is only general, companies vary hugely so you might not know what to expect until you get there!