The old agency vs in-house debate has been around for years, so as the newest member of the Paradigm Creative family, here are my ramblings about moving to agency life after nearly ten years working in-house. See if you agree.
Variety: Working in-house is an awesome way to become an expert on one brand/organisation, whereas working for an agency gives you exposure to a number of clients across different sectors, all with their own communications challenges that need your support.
Culture: Corporate culture differs greatly depending on the organisation or sector. Some (like my last employer) can be really lovely and encourage things like flexible working. On the flip side, agencies like Paradigm are often small but rapidly growing, and as a result, feel lively and exciting, more like a start-up.
A different way of learning: In-house usually allows more time for things like personal development and training courses. Agency life is fast-paced and you learn on the job, mainly from other members of the team.
It ain’t 9 – 5: One of the big differences in agency life is that every day is different. You may have to work long hours on a proposal, respond to late night client requests or be on your feet at back-to-back events. It’s definitely a work hard, play hard culture.
The thrill of the pitch: One of the best things about any agency is pitching for new business. This is the potential start of a new client relationship where you show you’ve listened to their problem and come up with the best way to help achieve their objectives. And if you win the contract, it’s time to celebrate!
The waiting game: This is the kicker. Once you’ve pitched an idea to a client, it’s out of your hands. Sometimes it’ll get signed off, sometimes it’ll get binned. Sometimes, it’ll get given to another agency for them to deliver. Whatever happens, understand that this is part of agency life. There’ll be plenty more opportunities if you’re good at what you do.
Easier to get stuff done: Usually, when clients ask you to help them, it’s because they’ve already jumped through the relevant internal hoops to get their project prioritised, budget signed off, and initial ideas agreed, so you don’t have to.
Keeping in touch: Once you go agency side, you’re one step further away from the client, so you need to stay connected to them as much as possible. Regularly check in with them over the phone, or better still, over lunch, to understand what’s happening in the business and where you can add value for them.
Staying alert: Agencies are always looking for new clients and opportunities can come from anywhere. Always carry your business cards wherever you go. You never know when a random conversation in the coffee shop could lead to a new contract.
Working in an agency has great benefits, but so does working in-house. At the end of the day, they’re different sides of the same coin. And as a creative comms professional, they’re both great to have on your CV at some point in your career.
Have you made the move from in-house to agency, or the other way round? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.
Iain Lumsden joined Paradigm Creative as Client Services Director earlier in 2015 after heading up O2’s content and channels team. He brings almost 10 years experience working in internal communications and PR across telco and financial services organisations in the UK. He also loves collecting hats.