Should I work in an agency before I start my business?

Aug 21, 2017

You’re not in this business to be mediocre. You’re in it to swing your hips with the best of the best and craft compelling designs that leave ‘em breathless. So, naturally, to be one of the best, you should work with the best.

Which means you should work in a proper design agency before you go off on your own, right?
Weeeeell … this is actually a toughie.

You see, I do think there is merit in working for someone else before starting  your own design business. I took it too far though and designed real estate ads for ten years when one year would have been ample. So does that mean you should do agency work for a year?

It’s still not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. But to help you make up your mind, let’s weigh it up.


+ Access to mentors
One of the best things about agency work is that you’ll be surrounded by leaders and experts with years, if not decades, of experience. It’s an intensive learning environment and can be the perfect support structure to help you learn and grow. My boss/mentor taught me waaaay more than art college ever did. 

+ Co-workers
Okay, let’s be real: You’re not going to like every single person you work with. But personally some of the best friends I’ve ever made were from my days working for someone else. In addition to being great friends, co-workers are also brilliant to learn from and be inspired by AAAAND sometimes it is just nice to have someone to chat to about last night’s episode of The Bachelor. 

+ Exposure to a variety of tasks
Most agencies get a myriad of work, which means you can pick and choose the projects that light you up (or your boss can pick and choose the projects they think you’ll enjoy doing). This is brilliant for building a well-rounded portfolio and helping you decide what you’d like to specialise in.

+ The buck stops with … someone else
If you eff up a project (it happens to the best of us) the good part of working in an agency is that your boss will take final responsibility for any screw-ups. No angry clients. Just a – moderately – disappointed boss.


+ You can still have a mentor
Just because you’re working for yourself, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on mentoring … you just have to pay for it yourself. BUT, you do have a lot more choice! You can work with anyone (LIKE ME), not just somebody within a specific agency.

+ You can work in your pjs
Or your adorable orange and black Tigger onesie. You can also work wherever the heck you want. Café, library, beach, the world is your workplace. #currentlybraless 

+ You can work on what you want
No drawing the short straw and working on the campaign nobody else wants to do … you decide who you work with and what you work on. Pretty good for living a life you love, if you ask me.

+ Solitude 
The peace of solitude has it’s pros but also it’s cons. Sometimes working on your own is LONELY. Thankfully though there is such a thing as the internets and if you are lucky you will find a group of people that feel like your tribe. My private facebook group has over 600+ members and is filled to the brim with inspiring designer boss-ladies, just like you and me. This group is LIFE and they even talk about The Bachelor sometimes. Join here. 

+ The buck stops with you
You’ll also take full responsibility for the success or failure of any project you work on. This can be liberating and empowering but also more than a little frightening. Nobody grows when they stay in their comfort zone though!

So, what do you think? Will you be heading over to an agency for a year or two or venturing out on your own? The choice is yours. 


What if you could book you design biz in for a health check-up … and then give it a little nip and tuck while you were at it too? The ‘Figuring Sh*t Out’ Challenge is a free five-day challenge specifically designed to help you get clarity in your design biz.



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