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09.12.2021

6 min read

Life As A Marketer In An Agency Versus In-House

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

When looking for a new job in Marketing (or other disciplines for that matter), you’ll likely come across vacancies across two different functions: agency and in-house. Both avenues come with their advantages and unique ways of working; the right fit for you will be down to personal preference and natural skillset.

This post aims to give an insight into the key differences between agency and in-house life, from someone who worked six and a half years for an In-house marketing function and has recently joined the CRO team at Impression!

What does it mean to work for a digital marketing agency?

Simply put, working for a digital marketing agency means working for a company that specialises in marketing and offers its services to other businesses (clients). When working for an agency, you’ll likely work across a number of different clients, across different industries and verticals, advising them on how to optimise their marketing strategies and working with them to achieve their business goals.

What does it mean to work for an in-house marketing team?

Working for an in-house marketing team means that you’re working for one business that manages its own brand and marketing support – potentially also working on the flip side, and managing agencies that the business partners with. Working in-house usually comes with more autonomy over decision making and where time and effort is spent.

So what are the key differences?

  • Your day-to-day role:

    Every day is different when working for an agency. Not only because of the diversity of client accounts that you’ll be working across, meaning you can spend the morning working on a project for a white goods online retailer and the afternoon working for a client who specialises in renting out of business spaces. As you’ll essentially act as an extension to the clients’ internal team, you’ll also be expected to produce reports on performance, attend update calls/meetings and monitor time spent on tasks to make sure that the client is receiving the right level of support and strategy. This means splitting a good portion of your time between overarching strategy, account management and implementation.

    There’s the internal marketing side to the job, too. Often, agencies will rely on their employees to contribute to the development of the overall marketing plan, helping to generate new leads and pitch to potential clients. This will mean using your knowledge to develop the marketing plan for your area (essentially treating the agency you work for as one of your clients). For example, if you work in SEO you might be asked to look into blogging opportunities to cover keyword gaps and improve organic rankings. You’ll potentially be asked to attend events where you’ll have the opportunity to guest speak and write blog posts for the agency’s website to show that you’re an expert within your field.

    On the other side, when working in-house, your day-to-day will be spent working on the delivery of different projects for the business which will help with driving the commercials. You’ll be attending internal meetings to represent your area and bring new ideas to the table, as well as giving updates to stakeholders on project progress.

    You’ll potentially have to work with or manage agencies that act as an extension of your team. This will mean having regular catch-ups with them to go over progress and performance, checking over/signing off work and liaising with them on priorities to make sure they align with current business objectives.
  • Subject matter:

    When working for an agency, you’ll likely work across a number of different client accounts spanning different industries and verticals. This gives you a great opportunity to broaden your knowledge by taking learnings from the different projects that you’ll work on, and the different people that you’ll work with. No two days are the same when working for an agency. For this reason, if you’re someone who enjoys working on multiple projects, often in a fast-paced environment, then agency life is probably the route for you. 

    When working in-house, you’re working with the same business, meaning you have the opportunity to really get to know your field/industry and become a subject matter expert in that area. Often you’ll work on a project in its entirety, sometimes with less collaboration than at an agency, and will take such learnings forward to the next step in your strategy. This will set you up well to either progress within that business because of how well you’ll get to know the ins and outs of it or to go onto another business within that sector because of the industry-specific knowledge that you’ll have gained.
  • Ways of working:

    When working within an agency, often you’ll have different teams which are offering different services. Within these teams, you’ll have a number of specialists who are working on client accounts. This has its advantages because it means that if you’re stuck on something, you can ask the wider team for help as they’ll also be experts in your area. You’ll find there will be a number of opportunities to learn from your peers when working in an agency, whether that’s through working with them on a client account or from sitting with them in the office and having conversations over the desk.

    When working in-house, often the teams are much smaller and you might be the only person who specialises in your area. This means that if you’re needing help with something, you’ll often have to resort to good old Google to find your answer! It might also mean that you’re working alone more often, rather than working with other people within your area on projects.
  • Time tracking:

    Last but not least, there is the time tracking aspect of working for an agency. When working for an agency, your time isn’t dedicated to one business and is instead divided across multiple clients. This means that there is a requirement to track how much time you spend working on each account. This will mean that throughout the month, you should keep track of how many hours you’ve spent on each client to make sure that each is receiving the dedicated number of hours as agreed.

    When working in-house, because the work you’re doing is for the same business, all of your time is dedicated to them, meaning time tracking in this form isn’t necessary. You’ll still be expected to manage your own time and use it appropriately, however, it’s unlikely you’ll need to log hours spent on tasks like you would in an agency.

The points above summarise some of the main differences that I’ve come across since being at Impression. Which route you go down really is down to your personal preference. If you’re an individual who enjoys different challenges and managing multiple types of projects – then agency might be the way to go. But if you’re someone who’s passionate about a specific industry and really wants to hone in on that specific area, then in-house could be the route for you!

If agency life sounds like something you might be interested in, don’t forget to head over to our careers page to see what vacancies are currently available!