Finding a job with a web design agency can be a great move at any stage in your career.
- If you’re fresh out of design school, agency work can provide valuable experience in a design-focused work environment.
- If you want to leave the corporate world for a new environment in which to grow your design skills, an agency might benefit just as much from your perspective. You may understand processes or have skills or connections that can strengthen the agency’s work.
- If you’re a freelancer eager for coworkers or a steady paycheck, an agency may offer you some of the freedom of working for yourself while connecting you to slightly larger business where you don’t have to do it all.
Whatever your experience or goals, the following tips can help you connect with agencies and find one where the work and the office culture fit your needs and expectations.
Syncing with your style
Look for an agency with a design aesthetic that clicks with your own. If you love edgy commercial design, you’ll likely be frustrated working for an agency that excels at creating romantic or nostalgic web designs. If you have a great sense of humor, you want an agency that will appreciate your visual gags — and that attracts clients that will, too.
Similarly, look for agencies that develop websites using technologies in which you want to develop your skills. If you are (or want to be) a WordPress developer, look for an agency that’s keeping up-to-date with the latest in WordPress web design.
When you see work that you love, find out what agencies are creating those designs. You can connect with agencies you admire (and their clients) on Twitter, Dribbble, Behance, or wherever they are online. Look for ways to begin or contribute to meaningful conversations they’re having online as a way of introducing yourself and making them aware of your appreciation for and understanding of their work. Even if these connections don’t lead to a job, making connections with your niche of the design community is a great way to discover other agencies and build your professional contacts.
Stabilizing your work life
If you’re switching from freelance to agency work because you’re looking for a stable paycheck, make sure the agencies you’re considering can provide the stability you seek. Just because an agency has an office and a staff doesn’t mean the business side is shipshape.
Although you can’t absolutely know the financials of any business unless you have access to that information, you can look for clues through the agency’s online portfolios and employees’ LinkedIn profiles:
- How many clients does the agency have and what’s its reliance on those clients? A stable business typically isn’t overly reliant on one client. If half or more than half of the business comes from a single business, the agency may have to layoff employees immediately if that client ends its contract with the agency.
- What does the client mix look like? In addition to the number of clients, consider how big or small the clients in an agency’s portfolio are. A stable agency likely has at least one or two national or international clients that can provide a reliable amount of work.
- How long have current employees worked for the agency? Employees might stick around through a bumpy period but generally won’t remain at an agency long-term if it isn’t making payroll or treating its employees well.
Connecting with your community
Consider whether you value an agency’s connection to the local community or the design community. If you’re passionate about a personal or professional cause, an agency with a similar mindset will not only be a good fit, but also be more likely to support your work for those causes.
For example, look for an agency that donates its time to developing or maintaining websites for nonprofits or supports a cause that’s meaningful to you.
If you’re interested in connecting with the design community, look for agencies that are attending conferences and contributing to thought leadership in your area of the web-design world.
Working your way
When you begin interviewing or having conversations with the folks at an agency you’d like to join, ask about how different employees work together and with clients and consider whether the agency’s style fits with yours.
Whatever your work experience, you likely have a few clues to the way you like to work. As a student, did you seek out study partners or talk to other students to help develop your ideas? If you’re in the corporate world, are your cubicle neighbors a helpful sounding board? If so, you may benefit from an agency where employees work at least somewhat collaboratively.
However, if you prefer to cut the chit-chat or skip the meetings, you may prefer an agency where everyone values working independently. You might be a good fit for a remote position that enables you to work from home either full-time or a few days per week.
Remember that when you’re looking for work, the want ads aren’t the only place to start. Think about your professional style and your goals. If you can take time to find an agency that’s a great fit, you’ll find a place that’s more than just a job, but a community that can support your career.