Moving from agency to client side marketing

Crossing the divide: Moving from agency to client side

It’s becoming increasingly common for marketers to switch from agency to client-side roles – it’s estimated that nearly 40% of senior level marketers now come from an agency background, compared to only 25% a few years before. However, many agency marketers still find that when they ask recruiters about making the jump, they are told that it’s simply not possible, which can be very frustrating.

As a previous marketer who moved from client side to agency side and back again, I know that it’s not easy to make that switch. Let’s have a look at the reasons for this trend and then I’ll tell you how I managed it.

Why are more agency staff making the switch?

This trend is primarily being driven by employers. As marketing budgets are getting tighter, there is a tendency to bring services traditionally supplied by agencies in-house. A recent report from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) shows that nearly 80% of their members now have some form of in-house agency.

In order to bring these services in-house, employers are having to upskill their marketing teams, leading to a change in the people they recruit. Where previously brands were almost exclusively looking for marketers with deep sector experience, now they are increasingly asking for professionals with a wider industry perspective. Employees from an agency background can bring in their creative and customer-centric skills and help build up a more diverse marketing team.

Many agency marketers choose to make the switch when they are looking for a better work-life balance and the chance to be solely focussed on one brand that resonates with them, rather than stretched across many different campaigns and clients.

So there’s obviously a demand for agency-side marketers from clients, but why are some professionals still finding it so difficult to transfer?

My top tips for getting a client-side job

Fill in the gaps

The candidates who are going to be most successful are those who understand the differences between agency and client-side roles and are taking steps to fill in the gaps between the two. Agency marketers tend to specialise in a specific area of marketing, whereas client-side marketers have to cover many different responsibilities. If you are contemplating moving to client-side in the near future, concentrating on one specific client and operating in as similar a way as possible to a client-side role are going to give you a big advantage. You may even be able to get seconded to a client business.

Work on your CV

When you’re looking for a client-side role, your CV needs to focus on completely different things than for an agency job. Agencies care about the work you and your previous agency produced and your ability to pitch and win new business. Clients will only be interested in the results you’ve delivered for the brands you worked on. The big advantage agency marketers have is their understanding of and focus on customers, so make sure you stress that and the specific results your approach delivered.

Choose your sector

It’s much easier to transfer to client-side in some sectors than in others. Retail, travel and automotive are still difficult sectors to transfer into, as they tend to look for marketers with specific skills and experience for their type of products. Media and finance are more open to agency marketers, as these sectors focus primarily on brands, rather than specific products, so they need their marketing team to have broader brand marketing skills.

If you’re looking to move into FMCG, our checklist of skills and experience you need to get an FMCG Brand Manager job will help you find any gaps in your current skillset or CV.

Build your network

It’s still true in marketing that who you know is nearly as important as what you know. Once you’ve decided on the sector that’s right for you, focus on building up your network of contacts in that area. Attend industry events, join membership associations and networking groups and use your existing clients – make sure your contacts know you’re looking and hopefully someone will give you a go.

When you think you’re ready to make that leap to client-side, get in touch with the Tarsh Partnership on 020 7849 6875 or We will be honest with you and tell you straight away if we’re able to help or if you need to get some more experience.

How to hire a Digital Marketing Manager guide
Share this page

Career Advice