I’ve spent most of my career working in-house as a social media manager for fashion brands; that is, until recently, when I took the plunge into the agency world. There are definitely major differences between agency and in-house roles, with pros and cons attached to each. Which begs the question — which one is better? To which I would answer: that’s all up to you. And to help you figure it out, here are the major differences I’ve found between working in-house and working for an agency:
In-depth knowledge of a single brand vs broad exposure to multiple companies
As an in-house marketer, you have the luxury of focusing all of your energy, talents, and passion into a singular focus: the brand. You become an expert in your brand and your brand’s specific category. From a business perspective, getting an up close and personal look at the functions of other departments gives you a big picture understanding of how each area of expertise works together to grow and maintain company success. As part of an agency, however, you have the unique opportunity to work with a portfolio of brands across multiple categories & industries. Since each client comes with their own unique goals, target audience and branding, you acquire a wide range of skills and knowledge as you tackle all different kids of projects.
Coworkers with similar experience and expertise vs being the only one
One of the most glaring differences between working in-house vs. an agency is the culture and working environment. At an agency, you work alongside like-minded people who all work within your same field (PR, social media, digital, etc). Working in-house as a PR & Social Media expert, some people in your organization may not even understand what it is you actually do. That being said, in-house may offer more of that illustrious work-life balance, as agency life can extend beyond typical working hours.
Insane pace at work vs slightly less insane pace in the office
They say variety is the spice of life, and if that is your mantra then you may enjoy agency life because there is certainly no shortage of variety! I’m sure this won’t come as a shock to you; agency life is busy. You must have the ability to complete projects at a fast pace; and then do that again and again and again, in order to keep clients happy and accounts billed. In my experience, in-house marketing moves at a much slower pace. You can take your time researching. You can really dig-in to a strategy, and spend some time mulling over why you’re doing what you’re doing. As a social media manager, working in-house gives me the opportunity to spend time in our communities, assessing who our audience is and spending time engaging with them consistently, because the brand is 100% my focus.
All in all, one is absolutely not “better” than the other. An agency will offer its own unique work environment and an in-house position will offer a different work environment. Different personalities and different career goals will be able to thrive and learn within both environments. The best advice I can give? Try them both, and see for yourself!