Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s twice-monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists. Email us your questions at email@example.com.
Should I Work for a Brand or an Agency?
Dear Content Therapist: I’m at a crossroads in my career and I need some advice. I have been working as a content marketer for a few years now, and I have gained a lot of experience and skills. I’ve been thinking about my career path lately, as well as the economy. And I’m torn between which path is better: Working as a content marketer for a specific brand or for an agency. I know both have advantages, but both also worry me. If I end up at a brand that falls on hard times, I could be laid off and have a narrow body of work. On the other hand, agencies can be tough to balance with so many clients and projects. How can I decide whether a brand or an agency is the best bet for me? — MARKETER AT A CROSSROADS
Paul Chaney: I have been on both the agency and brand sides, and you’re correct: Each has advantages and disadvantages. To decide which environment is right for you, consider your long-term career goals and what matters most. For instance, how important are work-life balance, job stability, skills development and career advancement opportunities? All those factor in.
With that in mind, let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of working for an agency or brand.
Advantages of Working for a Marketing Agency
- Variety: Marketing agencies typically work with a variety of clients across different industries, so it’s likely you could work on a wide range of projects.
- Collaboration: An agency environment allows you to collaborate with other creative professionals, such as designers, copywriters and social media marketers.
- New technologies: Marketing agencies are often at the forefront of new marketing technologies and platforms. You’ll be able to learn about and use the latest tools and techniques.
- Networking opportunities: Working in an agency allows you to network with other marketing industry professionals (an excellent way to learn about new job opportunities).
Disadvantages of Working for a Marketing Agency
- Long hours: Marketing agencies often have tight deadlines, so you may be required to work long hours occasionally.
- Client demands: Some clients can be a challenge to work with. They don’t always have clear expectations and may consider it your job to develop those.
- Less control: You might not be able to control your work as much as you would if you worked for a brand. You may also have to follow the agency’s processes and procedures and work on projects that you find less interesting or challenging.
Advantages of Working for a Brand
- More stability: Working for a brand can offer more stability than working for an agency. Agencies are often more vulnerable to economic downturns, so a client loss could equate to a job loss.
- Greater control: You’ll typically have more control over your work than in an agency. You may also have greater latitude in setting priorities and working on projects that interest you.
- Better work-life balance: In-house roles usually offer better work-life balance than agency roles, something to consider if you like the 9-to-5.
- Deeper understanding of the brand: Working for a brand allows you to develop a deep understanding of the company’s products or services, target audience, and marketing goals. With an agency job, you go wider (more clients) than deeper.
Disadvantages of Working for a Brand
- Less variety: You may be focused on marketing a single product or service. In an agency, you can work on a variety of different projects.
- Lack of exposure to new technologies: Brands may not be as quick to adopt new marketing technologies and platforms as agencies, so you may struggle to learn about and use the latest tools and techniques.
- Fewer networking opportunities: Working for a brand means you may have fewer opportunities to network with other professionals in the marketing industry. Certainly, you can attend marketing conferences to meet others in your field, but you may have to foot the bill yourself.
Other Factors to Consider
- Career advancement: Depending on the brand’s size, you may have a better chance for career advancement. But that’s not exclusive to brands; larger agencies also offer plenty of opportunities.
- Salary expectations: Agencies may pay more than brands, but in both cases, that depends on the organization’s size.
- Job security: I wish I could say working for one or the other offers more job security, but based on my experience, there’s no such guarantee. To quote an old saying, “When times get tough, marketing is the first to go.” Working for a brand may mean proving that marketing helps pay the bills (i.e., showing ROI), and your job security may hinge on doing so. There’s usually less pressure in an agency, where creativity carries greater value.
Which Is Right for You?
Ultimately, the best way to decide whether to work for a marketing agency or a brand is to consider your career goals and preferences.
An agency may be a good fit if you’re looking for variety, collaboration and exposure to new technologies. However, working for a brand may be a better option if you value stability, control, and work-life balance.
Should I Be Making My Own Pivot to Video?
Dear Content Therapist: I’m a content marketer who has been working in the industry for a while now, mostly on written content such as blog posts. But I’m wondering if I should expand my skill set to include videos and other formats. I see the rise of video content and the immense engagement it generates. It seems like a logical step to adapt to this trend. But I know video requires a different set of skills, so I don’t want to set myself up for failure. How can I determine if expanding into video content creation is the right move for me? What factors should I consider when making this decision? — CAMERA-READY WRITER
Paul Chaney: The 1992 film “Glengarry Glen Ross,” based on the 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by the same name, depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen. One of the characters, a sales director played by Alec Baldwin, harshly states, “A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!”
In a kinder, gentler tone, let me paraphrase his statement and say, “Always be adapting.”
Why do I make such a suggestion? Because marketing is constantly changing, and your ability to adapt is paramount to staying relevant.
I gained some notoriety as a business blog consultant a few years ago. However, I almost let my blogging tunnel vision prevent me from seeing another marketing wave hit the shores: social media. Fortunately, I caught the wave in time and pivoted my career to embrace this new marketing paradigm. Later, I saw the need to stake a claim in content marketing. Now, I am embracing generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Claude and others.
While I believe there will always be a need for the written word, let’s face it — consumers like video. So do marketers, apparently. According to one source, 86% of marketing professionals will use video as a marketing tool. Video is expected to account for 82.5% of all web traffic, making it the most popular type of content on the internet.
“The most popular type of content on the internet.” Let those words sink in.
I believe you do yourself a favor by pivoting, even if it means learning a new skill set — which is something you should be doing anyway. Growth isn’t optional in a field like marketing. However, to address your question directly, here are several factors to consider when making your decision:
- Intrinsic motivation. Are you motivated to move in this direction, or is writing where your heart is? The data suggests the need to pivot, but can you motivate yourself to learn the new skill set enthusiastically? Or would it feel like a burden?
- Current skill set. Assess the skills you already possess that could transfer to working with video.
- Resource availability. How much time do you have to devote to learning how to use video? Also, do you have the budget to take courses or purchase equipment and software (if necessary)?
- Job security. Is your present employment at risk if you don’t learn how to use video?
- Career advancement. Do you stand a better chance for career advancement if you move in this direction?
Learning new skills and adapting to recent trends is an ongoing responsibility of any marketer who wants to remain relevant. Every new skill acquired is a feather in your cap that can make you more attractive to your current and future employers.
Talk to some other marketers who pivoted into video and see what they have to say. If possible, shadow them for a day or two and then decide. Who knows, you may like it better than what you’re doing now.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.