Agency versus in-house

Nikki Samson of Hanson Search MENA tackles the dilemma of working agency versus in-house

For many people, moving from agency to working in-house seems like a natural progression. Having cut their teeth in the hothouse world of client-servicing, a move into a more specialised role where there’s only one boss to please can seem very appealing. But is it for you?

We spoke to Nikki Samson, Principal Consultant in our MENA office, about the common misconceptions of moving to a client-side role.

Going in-house doesn’t mean saying goodbye to clients

“Many people want to go in-house because they are fed up of the number of client accounts they are expected to handle in an agency,” explained Nikki. “They often feel that with their resources stretched so thin, they end up highly stressed and unable to service clients to the best of their abilities. Moving to an internal position, with no clients and only one company to focus on can seem like the ideal solution and one which offers both improved work/life balance and the chance to do better quality work.”

Contrary to popular belief, moving in-house doesn’t mean that you won’t have clients, says Nikki. “Internal clients – your boss, line manager and internal stakeholders – can be just as challenging as anything you have faced in agency life.

“The fact that you are ‘on the same team’ can mean that they put even more pressure on you to deliver and, of course, it’s much more difficult to hide! The ‘I want this done, yesterday’ attitude is certainly not exclusive to agency life and neither is the accompanying stress.

“People think managing is bound to be easier than being managed but that is not the case,” she explained. “You will need to work with multiple external partners and ensure that you are able to work together to reach your mutual goals. Softer skills and relationship management are just as necessary in-house as they are in agencies.”

Increased responsibility

“Working in-house also means that you, personally, are more responsible for a company’s strategic vision and have to deal with things such as budgeting, forecasting and prioritising where resources should be allocated,” said Nikki. “These are all specialised skills and there is often limited scope to develop these while working in delivery. For many people, moving from agency to in-house, this can be a steep learning curve.”

Improved perspective

There are however big advantages to moving in-house. “When working agency-side, it can feel like you only have time to develop superficial knowledge of the various accounts you are working with, and this can be unsatisfying.

“Client-side, you get to see the mechanics of the business or product you are marketing and this often means you are better placed to develop strategies that work.

“And if you have gone from agency to in-house, you have the advantage of being able to communicate in a way that will resonate with external partners. You will know how to pick out and share the forecasts, figures and products that your agency will be able to market well and how to work with them productively.”

And the move from agency to in-house is definitely the right order, believes Nikki. “Moving from in-house to agency is more difficult. Agency life is fast-paced and we would recommend building up at least six years of experience before trying to make a move client-side.

“Undoubtedly, there are certain personality types that are more suited to working in-house or agency, but the only way to find out what would suit you best is to try both.

“I should know, having moved from client to agency, back in-house and then back to agency again!” I must admit I love both sides with their pros and cons. Two key learnings would have to be : an ability to pre-empt what the client would want/or say on such a project and be one step further than them sometimes and on the client side appreciating how long it does take the agency to do the work for you!”

How can we help?

To find out more about Hanson Search’s current opportunities in MENA or for a confidential chat about your career, please get in touch with me.


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This article was written by

Nikki Samson

Nikki has over twenty years of experience in marketing and communications, having worked both in-house and in agencies for international groups. She is bi-cultural English-French, and relocated to Dubai from Paris six years ago. Passionate about communications and with vast experience in the RUMEA region, she joined the Hanson Search Dubai Office in 2016 as a Principal Consultant working across all markets.

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