Happiness and Agency Life


Life at any agency can be tough. Clients expect amazing work and it's our job to meet those expectations. This results in heavy responsibilities – and pressure.  Turnover is high in our industry (30% per year according to one study) and burnout is a common problem. However, those who not only survive, but also thrive in agency life can hold their heads high as they are truly among the elite marketers in the world.

Some might think it’s all about talent or drive, and those do help. But, it’s also about perseverance and outlook. Below are just a few tips I’ve shared with colleagues to find happiness in agency life:

1. It’s not personal. It never is. Clients can be fun at times and irrational at times. Co-workers can be the same way. You have to take into account that different people conduct business in different ways. Regardless, never take anything personally. It’s business. Do your best to hold your head high, and never let others’ troubles or behaviors drive down your morale.

2. Focus on doing the best work, period. Even if you present the best designs, write the most amazing copy, and execute an award-winning campaign, clients don’t always understand or appreciate your work. Do the work for yourself first, not them. Do the best work that can be done. The law of averages will balance out what clients love or hate. Be your own worst critic. Let your litmus test be the “Guy in the Glass” poem below.

3. Don’t burnout.  Don’t be a victim. Don’t be a martyr. Take your vacations. Don’t work until midnight every night. Work hard, really hard, while at the office. But, don’t become the colleague who is just there; who is miserable, unhappy, and uninspired. Being a good employee is directly related to being good at life.

4. Create a good work and personal life balance. Speaking of being good at life, you have to have a good work / life balance.  Everyone is different and has different needs. But, if you only care about getting ahead you’ll lack the perspective to actually get ahead, much less lead. Creativity doesn’t come from simply hacking away on your laptop. It comes from learning – and learning once again involves all of life, not just work.

5. Remember you’re one of the elite. Thriving at an agency already puts you in an elite group. When the best companies in the world want your ideas, your work, your designs, and your campaigns, then you’re part of a club that very few can join, much less thrive in. Remember that it’s healthy to pat yourself on the back every once in awhile --- you deserve it.

As I mentioned above, never fail the “Guy in the Glass” test. Put forth the effort to create work you are truly proud of, and happiness will follow.

The Guy in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self,

And the world makes you King for a day,

Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that guy has to say. 


For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,

Whose judgment upon you must pass.

The feller whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the guy staring back from the glass. 


He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,

For he's with you clear up to the end,

And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test

If the guy in the glass is your friend.


You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,

And think you're a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you're only a bum

If you can't look him straight in the eye. 


You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears

If you've cheated the guy in the glass.

By: Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934



Written by Brian Easter on June 5, 2012


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Having worked in marketing, with two great agencies, I do feel like I am in an elite league. It can be difficult to 'keep the faith' at time with such high turnover, but as you said I work hard for myself first and I have a passion for what I do. Without that passion it is easy to loose yourself in being a good employee instead of a great person. Great post!

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Brian Easter