Client Side vs Agency Side: Which Career Path is Right for You?
What does it mean to work "client side?"
To work client side is to work for a particular brand or company that sells a specific service or product. It's another way for saying, work "in house." These in house jobs are often with brands you likely know. Walmart, Glossier, or American Eagle would all be considered client-side retail companies. Working client-side gives you the opportunity to really dive into your industry or brand. It also usually comes with higher pay, as company revenue is easier to divvy up between employees.
What does it mean to work "agency side?"
To work agency-side is the other flip of the coin. Instead of focusing on one company (and that company writing your paychecks) you could be working on several brands at a time, spanning from a range of industries and products.
Your company’s product is the service or platform, and ultimately the value it provides to clients (people on the client-side... get it?). This is often seen as much more, and fast paced, work because you’re not only working for your boss, but also real brands as “clients.”
It’s usually assumed that roughly 1 year working at an agency translates to about 3 working for a particular brand on the client-side. This is because the work is significantly more difficult, and often spread across several brands/clients at a time.
A popular career path for young people in tech is to work at agencies for 5-10 years, then jump to a “cushier” role client-side.
Which career option is best for me?
We recommend taking in both the pros and cons of working for an agency vs. brand, and weighing them against your desired lifestyle.
CLIENT SIDE PROS
- Higher pay up front
- Better work life balance (often)
- Often translates 1:1 to work experience on job descriptions
CLIENT SIDE CONS
- Slower promotions & progression
- Less knowledge around other brands and industries
- Often similar daily work
AGENCY SIDE PROS
- Exposure to more brands and products
- Job experience can translate as much as 3: to 1 in work years
- More variety in daily work
- More exit opportunities
AGENCY SIDE CONS
- High stress work environment
- Lower starting pay
- Steep learning curves
While this might seem obvious, learning on the job is one of the fastest ways to get familiar with new topics, and showing is much better than telling. After spending time exploring different job types and requirements, set your sights on 1-2 job paths to pursue. Set a timeline for yourself to achieve skills by a certain date.
At the end of the day, we recommend taking the job that gives you an offer and working on skills that will help you succeed on either side. No job is permanent, so try all the new things!