How to land an agency role?

6 months ago from Joseph Barrientos, Sr. Visual Designer

  • Ryan MiglavsRyan Miglavs, 6 months ago

    Wow, lots of really negative comments here about agencies. Those are fine opinions, but having worked both internally on products and quite a few years for agencies (both contracting and full-time) I think both are fun and challenging and worthwhile — and each has its pros and cons! I'd be happy to expand on that another time.

    For getting hired at an agency: Be willing to start as a contractor. Having hired many designers (mostly as contractors) at the agency where I led design, I'll be honest, the #1 qualifier is "Can this person actually, literally do work, and do it in the time they said, and more specifically the time we need right now?" So for that, I'd say start reaching out to agencies, grab some coffee, send them interesting postcards. I received a postcard every few months from a designer, and each one made me laugh — when I needed a designer right away, he was on the list to call.

    Hiring at an agency is insane — it's all based on projects and contracts, so an agency will often suddenly need either contractors or FTEs, and they need them this week. That's why it's so important to build that relationship ahead of time, because when an agency has that problem, suddenly you're their solution. Don't wait for an opening on LinkedIn and apply, just meet them. In my experience, a huge percentage of agency hires are based on "I know this person is available and someone has vouched that they got work done".

    If you build that relationship, and you hit your deadlines, they'll come back. Someone who can deliver is gold in the agency world.

    Once you're in, it's your job to make sure you do good work in the agency world. The owners are busy worrying about other things (business), so don't expect them to care too much, though it's a great idea if you occasionally find something that the agency owner thinks is really cool and just play to that hard — nothing wrong with being remembered.

    Be sure you're open to working the way the agency operates — if they want Sketch files, use Sketch, if they say they want it all on a team Dropbox folder do that, use whatever the plugins they do, etc.

    Finally, don't waste anyone's time. Owners or creative directors or UX directors or whoever are crazy stupid busy. Name a client or two they know you've done work for, share your work, listen to their problem, then negotiate on how to solve it. Boom, you're in.

    Good luck, and I hope the agency world is fun and exciting for you!

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