If you’re just starting your Internet marketing career, you’re probably wondering which is the best route — in-house, agency or freelance. Having done all three, I’ll pass on a few things I’ve experienced in the hope it will help you make the right choices.
In-House Marketing Careers
- Income security
- Opportunity to learn one industry inside and out
- Career path clearly laid out
- Scope of work can be limited
- Harder to keep up with marketing best practices
- Company politics
Of course, all companies are different. Some have great training programs and exciting work teams; others will be quite frustrating to work for and won’t help you advance in your career. Interview carefully, talk to current staffers, and read reviews of current and former employees to get an accurate impression of the work environment.
Agency Marketing Careers
- Ability to learn from successful marketers
- Some income security
- Exposure to different industries and companies
- Challenging work
- Burnout potential
- Working with frustrating clients
- High pressure
Agencies are the best place to learn the trade, because you will work with experienced people in many areas of Internet marketing. This is especially useful if you are not sure which area you want to specialize in (branding, SEO, PPC, etc.). Even if you are an entrepreneur at heart and want to freelance, a few years at a top agency will give you a great foundation for working on your own. As with in-house positions, it is crucial to vet agencies carefully — they are not all alike.
Freelance Marketing Careers
- Lots of freedom to determine your work and hours
- Autonomy (but less than you might think)
- High earning/work satisfaction potential
- No income security
- No benefits
- Very high pressure
- Must wear multiple hats (sales, accounting, etc.)
Freelancing is not for everyone. It requires an inexhaustible supply of discipline, commitment and versatility. It can also be rather lonely. On the other hand, freelancing can be more rewarding than any other type of work, especially for people who want to make a unique mark.
If your ultimate goal is freelancing, working in-house or at an agency first can help, not only because of the training, but also because it may help open doors to potential clients — companies and agencies often hire former staffers for contract work.
Know Thyself and Prosper
Many of us are more comfortable and effective working in teams, and working for someone. There is nothing wrong with being such a person — what is really important is to understand what motivates you and what makes you happy. There’s nothing inherently better or worse about an in-house, agency or freelance career. If you’re good at it and like it, you’ll know for sure in about a year.
Over to You
What advice do you have for people wondering about freelancing, in-house and agency marketing careers?