Agency expert round-up

Agency Burnout: Insights from 40 Agency Owners

What does agency burnout look like and how can it be avoided? We surveyed global agency leaders to get their first-hand insights and expert advice.

From full-service marketing agencies to SEO, and creative agencies, we wanted to get a full picture of how burnout has or is currently impacting agency owners and staff alike.

Hear from thought leaders like Carrie Rose, Ryan Stewart, Jonathan Dane, and Rachel Jacobs.

Agency burnout is real. It’s so real that 9 out of every 10 agency owners believe it’s going to get worse as a result of the current economic climate.

To better understand burnout, we surveyed 40 agency owners from around the globe to get their perspectives. The survey included questions on personal experiences with burnout, the potential impact of economic conditions, and the types of agencies that may be more vulnerable. Critically, we also asked agency owners for their expert advice on how to prevent burnout and recognize the warning signs.

Every agency owner has a different story to tell about burnout – from having to wear multiple hats to working 18 hour days – but one commonality is an acknowledgement that burnout is preventable.

We’ve broken down the responses from our experts based on four key questions:
(Select a question to jump to the responses)

Have you ever experienced burnout while working at an agency?

Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer

Orbit Media Studios

Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media Studios

“Burnout is real, and it’s the main risk in this job. Marketers have no risk of industrial accidents, but as you read this, a lot of agency folks are slowly losing their minds. I’ve known people who have built agencies, then walked away from everything and took on a full time job, just to get away from the grind. Usually there are two reasons for agency burnout: (1) Sales burnout – exhaustion from the questions, the rejections, the free consulting, and (2) Service burnout – exhaustion from the endless requests, working with low-experience clients, and getting approval for creative deliverables.”

Founder & CEO

Rise at Seven

Carrie Rose, Rise at Seven

“I suffered burnout when I was spending my time doing things I wasn’t good at. Often, we step into roles that are out of our comfort zone and it can either be a magical move of progression or time of burnout by trying and failing at something you weren’t born to do. I believe burnout comes from not doing enough that makes you feel alive. Knowing yourself and having boundaries will help you overcome this.”


Wiideman Consulting Group

Steve Wiideman, Wiideman Consulting Group

“I experienced burnout while working for an agency in 2007. I was Head of Search Marketing and didn’t have the resources I needed to deliver 100% to high-paying clients. I found myself working 18 hour days and despite being paid well, I was exhausted. As a personal brand myself, these hours did not permit me to follow my passion in writing, speaking, and continuing to master my craft. I felt like I was being left behind my peers and caught up in a repetitive cycle of work overload.”

Agency Coach

Agency Mastery 360

Jason Swenk, Agency Mastery 360

“I got to a point where I had a job interview and I wanted to close down the agency. Then they asked me two questions that changed my mind and this made me realize I could implement the right systems to make me love the agency again.”

Founder & CEO


Travis McAshan, Glide

“Absolutely, I've experienced burnout while working at an agency. I came across a graphic called "The 12 Stages of Burnout" and I can say I've gone through all 12 stages, from compulsively trying to prove myself to experiencing full-on burnout syndrome, multiple times over the past 20 years. However, since I own the company, my perspective on burnout might be a bit different from others. To provide context, here's a brief overview of the 12 stages: 1. Compulsion to Prove Oneself 2. Working Harder 3. Neglecting Needs 4. Displacement of Conflicts 5. Revision of Values 6. Denial of Emerging Problems 7. Withdrawal 8. Odd Behavioral Changes 9. Depersonalization 10. Inner Emptiness 11. Depression, and 12. Burnout Syndrome.”

Managing Director

Leafe Consultancy

Jonathan Leafe, Leafe Consultancy

“Sometimes it’s relentless. Client complaints, client departures, staff leaving, new hires not working out, a lost pitch. The plates need spinning, but it can get too much sometimes.”

Agency Consultant & Executive Coach

Sakas & Company

Karl Sakas, Sakas & Company

“As an agency's Director of Operations, I was working long hours to help the owners grow the business. To help my boss create their ideal future, I wrote a document describing my ideal future, where I'd be supporting them to have more time for their priorities. They confirmed receipt of the document... and never mentioned it again. I finally realized that I was more committed to their success than they were, and I found a new job within a month.”

Co-Founder & CEO


Ben Dankiw, NAV43

“Absolutely. I was three years into building my agency and was starting several other companies in tangent. With my focus spread far too thin I started seeing all aspects of my projects and agency suffer and knew I needed to re-align, and also take a break. I ended up heading to Panama and worked part-time which gave me the time to think about what I wanted and focus my time where it needed to be.”

Founder & CEO

Visual Marketing Australia

John Bond, Visual Marketing Australia

“Due to the lack of skilled staff available at present we are currently working way longer hours than we should. While not at the burnout stage, we often feel exhausted but the priority is to ensure our customers' needs are met.”


RightFitz Consulting

Luke Fitzgerald, RightFitz Consulting

“Yes, working long hours on too many projects for too many clients catches up on even the most energetic digital marketers at times. I've personally experienced this on several occasions and the knock-on effects ranged from the minor to the profound - whether it was eating unhealthy takeaway food on long graveyard shifts to meet tight deadlines, or developing facial skin conditions from lack of sleep and too much stress - burnout is very real in agency-land!”

Given the current economic climate, do you think employee burnout at agencies could become more prevalent?

Co-Founder & CEO

Ignite Visibility

John Lincoln, Ignite Visibility

“No, if they don’t have the right approach, anyone working in an agency can burn out at any time. It can happen during a recession or when times are the best they have ever been. It is probably more likely to happen when an agency is really busy, but it’s important to realize you are always going to have busy weeks and slow weeks. It’s all about organizing your time, energy, and projects in a way that works best for you and your clients.”

Advisor & Ecommerce Agency Coach

Ecommerce Agency Growth

Rachel Jacobs, Ecommerce Agency Growth

“Yes, due to the unpredictable nature of ecommerce agencies, and challenges around recruiting experienced employees that won't require remortgaging your house or selling an organ, it means agency owners are forced to keep teams as lean as possible until there is more visibility in the pipeline. This ultimately puts pressure on the team, especially the A-players who go above and beyond to make sure things are done to the best standard. And this in turn leads to burnout, and when that starts happening it's often like dominoes with your best players starting to display performance issues largely as a result of burnout.”

Founder & Managing Director

Adhere Digital

Paul Walsh, Adhere Digital

“Yes, but it depends a lot on how bad things get. If agencies start losing a lot of clients as a result of the current climate, panic and desperation can start to creep in. This can then impact how the agencies deal with their current clients. Having worked in agencies and now running one myself, I know there can often be a sense of agreeing to do work outside of the original agreed scope. Agencies can overdeliver and agree to do more services without getting paid for it, simply to appease clients. This can put unrealistic expectations back on the team and cause more stress in an already stressful situation.”

Founder & CEO

Ethic Advertising Agency

Jeff Swartz, Ethic Advertising Agency

“Yes, burnout is caused by a mixture of long hours, high demands, and pressure. The current economic climate and shrinking advertising/marketing budgets will cause stress at many agencies’ leadership level. This financial stress will often trigger a recipe for leadership to trigger a burnout environment within an agency unless the agency’s culture is protected and a strategic plan for success is put into place and executed.”

Founder & Managing Director


Muriel Foley, MGFD

“There are many reasons why I said yes here. I think now more than ever agencies are under increasing pressure with the economic downturn and the improvements in the tech space. AI is proving to be an attractive method of outsourcing tasks that agencies provide. I'm not saying that it's reliable or better, it's just moving at such a pace that is putting pressure on agency owners to either adapt or get left behind.”

Founder & CEO


Trevor Longino, CrowdTamers

“Yes, with tighter budgets comes the need to do more work with fewer hands. Agencies all over the place are running on leaner budgets than they did 12 months ago.”

Founder & CEO

Refuel Creative

Ryan Jones, Refuel Creative

“No, at our agency, employees are somewhat shielded from this. So I think the current economic climate will lead to increased burnout in management or founders, but I don't see this flowing to staff in most agencies.”


Miller Ad Agency

Erik Radle, Miller Ad Agency

“Yes, the agency space is in a change mode, moving towards systems and automation. It won't slake the thirst of TRULY creative people much longer. Their outlet might be gaming, pure art/design...but the agency world is becoming so data-driven that the complexion is changing.”

Co-Founder & Director

Craft Digital

Eoin Dixon Murphy, Craft Digital

“Yes, I think burnout will become more prevalent in the current economic climate due to job security fears. With job cuts and increased competition, employees will be eager to show that they're invaluable to the agency, working longer hours and taking on more projects to prove their worth. Not only that, but with budgets getting tighter, customers will become more demanding and expect more work for less.”

Founder & CEO

The Art of Business

Amanda Nelson, The Art of Business

“Yes, I believe stress plays a big factor in burnout and right now there is a lot of stress with post Covid ramifications, a downturn in the economy, and the growing popularity of AI. Adapting to this alongside a shaky political climate affects marketing agencies’ success, which all contributes to burnout.”

Do you think certain types of agencies are more vulnerable to burnout than others? If so, what types and why?

Founder & CEO

Lucy Bingle

Lucy Bingle, Lucy Bingle LinkedIn Experts

“I am guessing smaller agencies are particularly vulnerable as they don't always have the processes or structure to delegate and compartmentalize. As a leader of a SME you are across many parts of the business which can be very demanding and draining. I also think digital agencies probably suffer - it is a 24/7 game, the industry is changing constantly so ROI is often tricky, tech knowledge is also a constant battle and therefore meeting client expectations can be very stressful.”



Johnathan Dane, KlientBoost

“Creative agencies that have more subjective opinions than data-driven decision making. The more cooks you allow into the kitchen, the more hair you'll lose. It's that simple.”

Managing Director & Head of Paid Media

The Evergreen Agency

Aaron Rudman-Hawkins, The Evergreen Agency

“Not necessarily, depends entirely on the agency and their set up. Smaller agencies often see the MD spinning too many plates, which can lead to burnout. Bigger agencies generally have more seniority and that can lead to intense financial stress, which if not managed well, can lead to burnout. It's all a balance.”


Represent Agency

Rory O'Regan, Represent Agency

“I believe agencies offering a large scope of services to a wide range of businesses in both size and industries are more prevalent to burnout, that is if they haven't implemented the right systems and frameworks to manage their current and future work-load/client accounts etc.”



Garry Grant, SEO Inc

“While burnout can occur in any organization, some agencies may indeed be more susceptible due to the nature of their work, industry dynamics, or operational structure. Agencies operating in high-pressure industries, such as advertising or public relations, may experience higher levels of stress and workload due to tight deadlines, constant change, and intense competition. Small or start-up agencies often have limited resources, which may require employees to wear multiple hats or work longer hours, potentially increasing the risk of burnout.”

Managing Director

Baldwin Digital

Mark Baldwin, Baldwin Digital

“Start-ups or small agencies offering a host of services (full-service agencies) such as web design to social media to a wide range of businesses in both size and niches are the most vulnerable when it comes to burn out as they tend to take on any or all projects that come along which can lead to working long hours to meet the demands and agreed deadlines set out. Efficiency and good communication with your team is vital as you don't want to create a state of confusion at work, set out the daily tasks and weeks' priorities with your employees, Also, agreeing to realistic deadline dates with your clients is very important, under promise and over deliver.”


Trend 7 Media

Jack Regan, Trend 7 Media

“I think social media has a burnout rate that is high. Many social media managers are always online and have a direct connection to metrics such as likes, views etc. When content isn’t performing well, they feel that they are also not doing well. The fast paced environment of social means they are always online.”

Marketing Agency Coach & CEO

Tim Kilroy Agency Growth

Tim Kilroy, Tim Kilroy Agency Growth

“No, there are management teams that are more likely to create burnout. Management teams that don't invest in 1) Understanding who the right fit clients are 2) Who don't invest in creating clear processes for each team member 3) Who don't communicate the goals of the company, the expectations for client management (communication, strategic goals, how we communicate results), and 4) Who don't understand that it is a privilege for the company to have the employee, not the other way around.”


Gaenzle Marketing

Anthony Gaenzle, Gaenzle Marketing

“Full-service agencies and newer agencies are the most vulnerable when it comes to burnout. In the case of both, they tend to take on any and all projects that come along. These can often have numerous pieces and parts moving all at once, which can sometimes make your head spin if you don't have the right processes in place.”

What do you think agency leaders could do to help manage and prevent burnout with teams?

Managing Partner


Ryan Stewart, WEBRIS

“There’s a book called 'The Five Love Languages'. It’s about finding the right method to communicate with your love partner. The same concept needs to be applied to business leaders with how we manage people. Every person is different – they have their own wants, needs, and goals when it comes to work. It’s the leader’s job to get to know each person and find out what they care about, and manage each person individually based on that. Pretty much any conflict can be avoided with great, open, and empathetic communication. People are human beings – treat them as such and your business will grow.”



Lauren Oakes, Megaphone

“Having a conversation about it and recognising it as a first point of call. We offer a "Healthy" day at Megaphone which is a day once a quarter to take off, no questions asked, to reset. Offering services that people can speak to outside of your HR department is important. We offer coaching and counseling services. It is also important to make sure you have things for people to work on outside of their day to day role. Like company vision days, learn days (we all work on big projects for the company in groups) and social events with no work involved. Offering flexibility in and out of the office with hours, leave and work from home options.”

Head of Search

Legacy Communications

Mícheál Brennan, Legacy Communications

“I think two things are most important. Accurately tracking tasks and planning resourcing clearly using a project management system allows leaders to truly see the expectations they are setting for their employees and can help them avoid burnout. I think it's also important for employee's to accurately report the time spent on tasks so that leaders have a clear view and can make business decisions accurately, ensuring they aren't assigning a workload that is too heavy, or underestimating the resources needed.”

Founder & Managing Director

Yo Media

Nathan Harding, Yo Media

“Take breaks. Rest and recuperate. So many people think that they have to outwork everyone to be successful and that's just not true. I know people who work 80-90 hour weeks, have no life and are nowhere near as successful as people working 30-40 hours a week. It's not about how hard you work, it's about knowing what your highest leverage tasks are, and only working on those while delegating everything else. Focus on the high value tasks for an extended period of time and huge shifts can happen.”

Co-Founder & CEO

Ten Speed

Nate Turner, Ten Speed

“What we're doing, and I would encourage other agency leaders to do, is keeping an eye on team capacity, staying focused on our ideal clients, prioritizing teammates utilizing PTO, and ensuring that folks are working on things that allow them to keep growing personally and professionally.”

Founder & CEO

B Squared Media

Brooke B. Sellas, B Squared Media

“I try to offer 1-on-1's to my team to talk about anything (not just work). We try to enforce "being OFF" on their days off or not checking in while they're on vacation. Some break those rules, but from our side, we know those days are precious.”

Chief Executive

Agency Inc

Matthew Morgan, Agency Inc

“Agency leaders need much more frequent and open lines of communication - support, prioritization, capacity planning. You cannot just throw the problem at teams and expect them to work it out for themselves. Work has to be rewarding and fun, especially in hard economic times. Teams need purpose, structure, patterns of work, a sense of togetherness (even working remotely), and a very clear progression plan.”

Company Director

Digital Funnel

Ian Carroll, Digital Funnel

“We need to keep looking for ways to streamline business processes, automate admin tasks and other non essential tasks. In an effort to give our employees the flexibility to take their time with important tasks, and spend more time working on jobs they love doing.”

Co-Founder & CEO

Drive Marketing

Sheldon Poon, Drive Marketing

“Try to find ways to automate in order to increase efficiency and take the pressure off development and content teams. Make sure you don’t oversell projects and make the hard calls to drop problem clients.”


Update Digital Marketing

Eoin Kennedy, Update Digital Marketing

“Communicate rather than dictate. Manage client expectations better and place a greater emphasis on team wellbeing in a meaningful way, rather than paying lip service to it.”



Shauna Nuckles, Advocation

“Two of the best strategies to combat burnout are honesty and clarity. When team members feel like they have transparency and honesty from leaders, it creates a sense of security and stability. The absence of both can fast track employees to burnout. The same is true with clarity. We can’t all have 100% clarity at all times, but provide employees with more clarity at every opportunity and level – be it in their job duties, status of their performance, daily tasks or the week’s priorities. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting for employees to be in a state of confusion at work.”