I was inspired to write this post after reading about the pros and cons of Agency life vs. working client-side. Whilst I haven’t worked client-side I have experienced life in a small agency and a large one and there are some noticeable differences which might be of interest to others. This post will cover some of the main benefits to each type of agency but first I’ll explain what qualifies me to write this.

My Experience

My first Digital Marketing job was at an agency who were founded in 2000 and benefited greatly from being ahead of the game when it came to SEO and Digital Marketing. When I joined (a few months after they were bought by a media company) we had about 20 staff. I worked there for about 5 years during which time the company changed a great deal. First we were bought by a global marketing and technology agency then we merged with one of our biggest competitors. In 2012 we were bought (again) by a French multinational agency who later merged us with another giant advertising company.

In just over 5 years we went from being a small agency with some pretty big clients to being part of the 5th largest digital agency in the world. Not long after that I left to join Optix Solutions who had about 12 full time employees at the time – we haven’t yet been bought by any mega-agencies although we have grown a lot in the past 3 years.

Large Agency Benefits

  • Parties – Small agency staff parties are great but big agency parties were something else – I recall one having burlesque dancers and snake handlers although there was a free bar so my memory is a bit hazy.
  • Big Name Clients – When I was looking for a new job I noticed that dropping the name of a well known company whose account you have worked on caught people’s attention much more than talking about skills and experience. Small agencies can have big name clients but there is more scope for this at a large agency.
  • Career Development – The career development route is often clearer in larger agencies as they tend to have a more hierarchical structure. If you have a line manager, a team leader and a head of department you can start to see the ladder in front of you.


Startup Stock Photos

Small Agency Benefits

  • Broader Job Roles – In a smaller agency there is more scope to take on work outside of your main role. When you have under 30 employees everyone needs to multi-task and it’s easier to carve out a niche for yourself.
  • Closer Teams – In a smaller agency you’re going to get to know everyone and you won’t find yourself working alongside someone from a different office who you’ve never actually met irl.
  • More Input – Early on in your career at a larger agency you’ll find yourself further away from where decisions are being made. At a small agency there may be more scope to have input on how things work.
  • More Autonomy – In a smaller agency you may find that there is more scope to fit the service to the client rather than provide a less flexible service in order to keep things scalable.
  • Adaptability – A smaller agency is in a better position to adapt to rapidly changing industries like SEO. A larger agency may struggle to roll out changes and this can cause issues.

There are other pros and cons of course (I haven’t even mentioned pay and bonuses) but these are the main ones I’ve noticed. Feel free to let me know your experiences in the comments below or on Twitter.

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