The Great Marketing Dilemma: In-House Vs. Agency?

If you’re looking for an honest and realistic list of pros and cons, you’re in the right place.

23 Jun 2023

In-house vs agency

The choice between working in an agency vs. in-house can be a tough one – whether you’re already in one environment and looking to switch to the other, or if you’re just starting out in your career. But luckily for you, we’re here to help you weigh up the pros and cons of both.

Before we dive in, it’s worth keeping a couple of things in mind. 1) All of the pros and cons are totally relative. Something you consider to be a pro might be a con to someone else. 2) All agencies and in-house employers are different! For example, if you’ve had a bad experience working in one agency, it doesn’t mean that you’ll hate working in another one. So, with that in mind, here are the pros and cons.  

Working for an agency pros and cons

Generally speaking, agencies provide bags of variety, diversity, and the opportunity for rapid professional growth – but there are some downsides too. Let’s start with the pros though.


Variety and diversity

A huge advantage of working in an agency is the level of variety on offer – and you know what they say, variety is the spice of life! You’ll be exposed to a massive range of clients (some will be more glamorous than others) and all kinds of industries. Plus, you’ll get the chance to work on a real mixture of projects. So, it’s fair to say that no day will look the same as the next. 

Creative environment

The creative energy in a great agency is infectious! Note that we’ve said ‘a great agency’ because some agencies are more creative than others – so you need to pick wisely. You’ll be encouraged to push boundaries and embrace new approaches because your clients will turn to you for innovative ideas and solutions. 

Accelerated learning opportunities

No client is the same, so you’ll constantly be exposed to fresh challenges – which will no doubt accelerate your learning curve. You’ll need to stay ahead of trends and embrace emerging technologies which will push you to continuously learn and upgrade your skills. Plus, you’ll have a great network of people to learn from.

Dynamic atmosphere

If you’re the type of person who loves a fast-paced environment, you’ll love working in an agency. The deadline-driven nature of agency work creates a sense of excitement and urgency, and the constant flow of new projects generates a truly dynamic atmosphere. 

Freedom for experimentation

The agency environment encourages experimentation. With a wide range of clients and projects, you’ll have the opportunity to explore unconventional approaches, test new strategies, and try out emerging technologies. 

Collaborative environment

In an agency, you’ll have plenty of people to bounce your ideas off. You’ll get to work together on projects, pooling your expertise and perspectives, to generate innovative solutions. So, you won’t have the pressure of working alone or in a small team like you might in an in-house position.  


However, working in an agency also has its challenges. We’re not here to scare you off, but we do want to be realistic about the cons. Because, how can you make a decision without having all the information?

Lack of long-term ownership

You’ll see short-term results for the campaigns you’re working on, but you’ll probably miss out on the satisfaction that comes from seeing consistent growth over time. Your personal contribution to the long-term success of a brand might feel diminished and that can be really frustrating.

High pressure and tight deadlines

We’re not going to sugar coat this – the agency environment is well known for its demanding nature. You’ll be responsible for juggling multiple projects simultaneously and will need to consistently deliver great results, often within tight timescales. Some agencies are massively understaffed too, which can intensify the feeling of ‘the grind’. If you thrive on pressure, you’ll likely LOVE this element of working in an agency. It can be exciting and challenging – but, we know that not everyone enjoys this environment. 

Long hours

Some agencies have a culture of working long hours or late in the evening, which doesn’t seem to be as typical in in-house roles. Of course, this totally varies depending on the agency! Most good agencies are completely aware that long hours lead to burnout, and won’t expect you to work ridiculously long hours. If you’re going for an agency role, make sure to pick one with a culture that you’re happy with. 

Lack of brand immersion

You’ll have a limited amount of time allocated to each client, so realistically, you won’t have time to completely immerse yourself in each brand. You’ll likely be working with multiple clients, so you’ll need to adapt to each of their preferences and brand guidelines which can sometimes feel like you’re spinning plates. 

Slower salary progression

Salary progression tends to be slower in the agency environment. If you’re looking for quick salary progression, it might be worth exploring in-house options.

Ailis CampbellAilis on agency life

Our Marketing Manager, Ailis, has worked agency-side and client-side. Here’s what she says about agency life:

“I’ll be forever grateful for my experience working in an agency. It’s fair to say that it was hard work and I was thrown right into the deep end… on a daily basis! But there’s no doubt in my mind that it accelerated my career and I had a lot of laughs along the way.

If you’re considering an agency role, my advice would be to go for it if you’re happy with the prospect of a challenging, fast-paced environment – because you can learn a lot.”

Working in-house

Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of working in-house. You can expect brand immersion and stability, but there are of course some cons too. Starting with the pros makes sense though, so here they are:


Proximity to the brand

This is one of the best things about working in-house (in our opinion)! You’ll have the opportunity to really immerse yourself in the brand and absorb every little detail. From getting to grips with the company’s values, culture, and long-term aspirations, to developing an in-depth understanding of your target audience, market trends, and competitors. You’ll be able to dive in headfirst and really get stuck into what makes the brand tick. When you’ve got this level of understanding, it becomes easy to craft authentic campaigns that truly capture the spirit of the brand – and that’s pretty exciting! 

Better benefits and perks

Generally speaking, in-house jobs offer well defined perks and benefits. Things like private medical insurance, income protection insurance, flexible work arrangements etc. So, if you’re looking for a well-rounded remuneration package, go for an in-house role. 

Long-term ownership

Agency life can feel a little transient, but when you’re in-house you’ll witness the direct impact of your efforts on long-term growth and success which is so satisfying! You’ll get a greater sense of long-term ownership over projects and will actually be able to see the fruits of your labour (a luxury which you don’t always get in an agency). As the brand evolves, you’ll be able to evolve alongside it, which is pretty rewarding too. 

Salary progression

Most in-house roles offer a well-defined trajectory for salary progression. Compared to agency positions, the progression in-house is often more structured and predictable. So, if you’re looking for a clear pathway for salary advancement, you’re best off opting for an in-house role. 


However, there are some potential drawbacks to working in-house:

Internal politics and red tape

Before we launch into this one, it’s important to remind you that all organisations are different – not all in-house positions will be bound with red tape! But, lots of large organisations will be up against slow-moving teams or departments and might have to battle with bureaucracy and hierarchy. All of which really slows down the decision-making process and stifles creativity. This lack of agility and responsiveness is really discouraging if you’re used to working in a dynamic environment. 

Less budget for resources

You’ll likely have limitations on budgets, resources, and experimentation, which can feel a little restrictive. If you’re switching from agency to in-house, this can come as a bit of a surprise and can be frustrating if you’re used to working with the latest tools and big budgets. 

Limited exposure

Your exposure to a diverse range of clients and industries will be limited which can hinder your professional growth and limit your experience. Of course, there are other ways to get this exposure when you’re working in-house (networking events, formal training etc.) but you’ll just have to work a little harder to get it. When you’re working in an agency, this exposure is essentially a by-product so it’s not something you need to work on. 

Ailis Campbell

Ailis on working in-house

Here’s what our marketing manager has got to say about working in-house:

“I LOVE working in-house. This environment really suits me as I’ve got so much autonomy over my work and I can really get stuck into the detail of the brand, which is exciting! It’s still fast-paced as there’s no corporate red tape here, so we make decisions quickly and get things done.

I’ve actually experienced the red tape in a previous in-house role though and it wasn’t for me!”


Hopefully you’re feeling a little clearer on agency vs. in-house. Honestly though, it’s all about where you’d feel most comfortable and where you’d be able to add the most value. But, if you’re still not sure, it’s probably worth trying out both options to see which you prefer! 

While you’re here, it’s worth checking out our guides on how to write a knockout marketing CV and common marketing interview questions. If you’re looking for a bit of extra reading, Social Chameleon have written all about a day in the life of a London social media agency – it’s worth a read! 

Make the right move

Whether you want to work for an agency or in-house, we’ll connect you with the right role. Take a look at our live opportunities – we’ve got all sorts of roles to tempt you!

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