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Agency or Client Side - Where is the grass really greener?

When making a choice to work in Digital & Creative marketing, there are two ways you can go – working for the marketing department on a brand or product, or servicing clients on the agency side.

As recruiters in digital marketing, we often get asked by talent which side is greener, agency or client side?

Both have their pros and cons. From our Digital Marketing team, Jasmin Alyes looks after agency and I, Emma Graham, look after client side.

So here’s a breakdown of the differences I have noticed when placing digital talent in agency or client-side, so you can make an informed decision:


Client Side:

• Accountability – seeing the effects and results of your work.

Being client side means you get to focus more on one key specialty with less need to be across every single detail of every project, meaning you can see your specific task from start to finish and get to witness the effects of the work you do.

What’s more, having the luxury of being able to measure a campaign properly over time means getting to know the business side of marketing and truly being held accountable for business results, so you can see first-hand the impact of different marketing decisions.

• Better Pay

Research seems to indicate that pay is slightly more for client services than agency side, and with closer to 40 hours in a work week. However, keeping in sight your long-term career objectives and taking into consideration the skills you need to learn to get you there should be more important than what you put in your pocket.

• Structured Career Progression

Typically, client side is more corporate with a clear structure placed around employee promotions and career opportunity with ongoing employee reviews. The benefit with this structure is that you can see clearly where you want to go within the organisation and how to get there. But if there is a senior person already in this position, progression can be difficult with new positions coming up infrequently due to less staff turnover.

• Focus more on one brand

The beauty of working closely on one brand or service means you get to develop the brand to support overall business objectives. You can fully immerse yourself in that brand, but you need to have patience to be able to work with senior stakeholders to convince them that your ideas are right for their business.

Work for a client if:

You like to work in a more structured system, where you know who the key stakeholders are and how to deliver their objectives. You work at a steady pace, where you can engage longer term strategic thinking and don’t mind being dedicated to the same client over a long period of time.

Skills required:

• Commercial skills to sell ideas to key stakeholders

• Planning & Development skills

• Influencing skills


Agency Side:

• Diverse Exposure

No two days are ever the same. You’ll work on an ever-changing workload that comes in thick and fast and you’ll be working on multiple projects and across a variety of brands simultaneously at the same time and for various clients (which is great for increasing your knowledge and contacts).

But with this comes long hours required to meet deadlines. That’s not to say that agencies don’t ensure work life balance still exists, but just be prepared to do the hours required to get the project finished should an urgent deadline arise.

• More Opportunity

With so many projects running at once and the fast nature of agency side, employee turnover can be high, meaning more positions are available more frequently than client side. But don’t be mistaken, competition can still be fierce.

• Relationship Management Required

You’ll need to be able to work closely to bring on new clients and to manage existing clients, making sure they are happy and always putting this client relationship as a top priority.

• Innovative, Fun Culture

The environment in an agency is more creative and fun as you are surrounded by creative people who work together to foster new ideas. That’s not to say it’s not a competitive environment though. Game of table tennis anyone?

Work for an Agency if:

You like working in a less hierarchical environment. You thrive from working with the excitement of multitasking and juggling several projects at once, and are willing to work within the confines of a client’s needs.

Skills required:

• Multitasking

• Relationship Management

• Time Management

• Pitching and Presentation skills


These are just a few pros and cons we have noticed when placing digital talent in agency or client side, but that’s not to say that there aren’t companies out there that break the norm from this list.

The reality is, there truly are advantages to experiencing and learning from both sides of the fence. And the grass may seem greener on one side based on a person’s creative needs and end goal.

So be sure to consider what creativity means to you and what your longer-term career goals are to find a sweet spot in your digital marketing career.


Emma Graham is an Associate Director and specialist recruiter in the Digital Marketing & Creative space working with Melbourne's top talent across Digital Marketing, UX Design, Digital Design, Content Producers and Social Media to name a few.

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