Posted 19 September 2023

What is account management and how do you get into it?

As the lesser-sung heroes of creative projects, account managers are the glue that binds the client and agency relationship together. But what do they do exactly, and how does the work differ from project management? To get some answers, we look to one of our Company Partners – independent creative agency Jones Knowles Ritchie. Here, the company’s very own account director, Anna Skaret-Ball, shares her expert advice on getting into this varied role.

🤔 What is account management?

Account management is an integral role within any creative agency. Put simply:
Account managers provide the valuable link between external client and internal agency.

Unlike design, sonic or copywriting work, it’s difficult to see account management work in action, as it’s everywhere! However, you can think of them as orchestra conductors, ensuring everyone is moving, flowing and set to the same rhythm.

In essence, good account managers:

  • Develop relationships with clients and make sure that their business challenges are heard
  • Ensure that clients feel like true partners with the agency
  • Translate a client’s challenges and needs into inspiring briefs for creatives to get their teeth into
  • Serve as the voice of the client within the agency
  • Manage the operational side of a project, ensuring the work is on-brief, and that timings and budgets are respected

📂 What kinds of projects do account managers work on?

Generally, all projects that flow in and out of the agency will have account management involvement, which means that they get exposure to a broad range of work.

Regardless of the project type, the account manager will work on the following throughout a project:

  • Pitching new work to the client
  • Involvement in the initial client conversation prior to kick-off, including workshops
  • Running brand and client workshops
  • Being responsible for briefing the creative challenge into the studio
  • Presenting the work back to the client
  • Seeing the project all the way through to delivery

Then, in terms of specific types of projects, this could include:

  • Brand world, identity and brand voice
  • Packaging design
  • Spatial design
  • 3D and product design
  • Interface, UX/UI
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M&M’S rebrand by JKR is an example of a project where account management was vital to its success

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🔨 What skills or traits are required?

Interestingly, most account managers come from varied backgrounds with no specific training or qualification, so there is not one linear route to the role.

For entry-level roles, it would be more beneficial to be able to demonstrate more specific soft skills such as the below, which will go a long way.

A passion for creative
The most important element! It’s the heart of the job, so a love and appreciation for design is a must.

Problem solving
Projects can sometimes be bumpy and not always smooth sailing, so a positive and tenacious problem solving mindset always helps.

No project is the same, plans change and clients look to us as a reliable partner, so being able to mould and adapt is key.

Being organised
Account managers wear lots of hats across sometimes complex projects, so being able to juggle a few balls at once and being able to get into the detail is imperative.

Good communication skills
All arms of the role require clear, succinct and considerate communication skills – from presentations to tough client conversations or just team bonding.

Being a team player
It’s a role (and industry) that involves being able to build solid and trusted relationships with not just clients but internally within the agency too. If you can flex strong collaboration skills and be a true team player, it’s invaluable to driving the team through the highs and lows.

💼 What tasks does it involve?

Account managers wear many hats and get involved across all parts of the creative process, which means they interact with pretty much every department within the agency. A snapshot of tasks includes:

Client comms
Including emails, calls and face-to-face time with clients to check-in, hear briefs and run through status updates.

Working collaboratively with internal teams to create proposals for clients based on their brief. The proposal will usually includes an engaging playback of the client’s challenge, the proposed process, budget and timings.

Distilling client challenges or feedback into clear, digestible and inspiring briefs for internal creative teams.

Reviewing work
Finding the right balance of being the voice of the client and brand guardian plus the biggest advocate for the agency creative work in internal creative reviews.

Collaboratively building presentations with internal teams to help weave the narrative for the client and bring the creative to life.

Commercial acumen
Capturing accurate project forecasting based on the project budget and plan.

Project management
Working closely with the programme management team and internal resource managers to oversee plans and ensure requirements are clear, realistic and all ticking along.

Continued learning
Proactively expanding the agency’s client base, brand and industry knowledge to strengthen client partnerships. This is done through research and Google alerts; then observations, trends or news is shared with internal teams or the client to potentially spot opportunities in line with business ambitions.

Working on the behind-the-scenes work to ensure work is foldered [filed correctly], POs [purchase orders] are in place and timesheets [documents to record workers’ hours] are completed.

An example timeline of tasks

Although the breadth, scale and type of output for all projects are different, an account manager will work on the below throughout a project.

Stage 1: kick-off
  • Connect with the client at the beginning, to understand the crux of the challenge and therefore the brief
  • Scope, budget and plan with internal teams
Stage 2: Creative and strategy
  • Immersing internal teams into the brand and the challenge, with inspiring briefs
  • Reviewing and inputting into strategy and creative with a point of view
  • Presenting work to the client, together with internal teams
  • Hearing feedback and communicating it to internal teams, to keep work moving and developing
Stage 3: Delivery
  • Bringing the client-approved creative to life through high resolution assets, such as motion assets, videos or logos
  • Working with marketing and PR teams to get the work out there and talked about!
Beyond: Continuing the client partnership
  • Keep the conversation going
  • Maintain the client relationship to see what else they can work on together

🗺️ What kinds of companies hire account managers?

Most creative agencies hire account managers, due to the value they bring.

Sometimes, the role an account manager plays might flex based on variables within the agency, such as its size.

For example, within larger agencies, the role might feel more defined and structured, as you’re needed to really get under the skin of a few key clients.

Whereas within smaller, younger agencies, the role may be a little more fluid, span across more clients and you might need to dip your toes into broader responsibilities – though every agency is of course different, which is the exciting bit!

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JKR’s personal branding for Olympic gymnast Courtney Tulloch was another example of where account management was invaluable

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❇️ What jobs sit within account management?

  • Account executive (entry-level)

  • Account manager (midweight)

  • Senior account manager (midweight)
  • Account director (senior)
  • Group business director (senior)

It's also good to note that, some agencies interchange “account” with “client” or “brand” too; e.g. account manager becomes brand manager or client manager.

💰 What can I expect to be paid?

Entry-level roles tend to start around £25,000 to £30,000 and naturally increase with experience.

🧫 What are the culture and hours like?

In terms of hours, you can expect regular working hours. Although certain projects may require travel or additional hours, pending on the brief (for example, a nighttime shoot or working on location).

The role is incredibly collaborative, with a small proportion of the week spent solo. You can expect to work incredibly closely with programme managers and resource managers, finance specialists, strategists, creatives and copywriters, whilst of course keeping in regular contact with client teams.

At Jones Knowles Ritchie, we’re lucky to have a few key clients based in London, so often can be found working from their offices or grabbing a coffee to catch up in-person.

We’ve just moved into a shiny new office in Shoreditch, where, like many agencies, we benefit from flexible working. But we also encourage regular, in-person meetings to strengthen communication, brainstorming, team socialising, and help with the speed of managing complex projects – all of which elevates the creative output.

💬 Any last words of advice?

Bring your authentic self to the role. There are many different backgrounds and experiences that can lead to landing a role in account management, so a curious mindset, a love of creative, interest in brands and a passion for connecting with people is really all you need when starting out.

You might find that you already have a lot of the skills the role requires from previous life experience. For example, if you’ve worked in retail or hospitality, think about how many times you’ve had to have a difficult conversation with a customer who was in a rush, or received an item they were unhappy with. This is a perfect example of using strong and considered communication, that required trust to get to a resolution.

Pair this with showing off your passion for all things creative and a knowledge of industry news (check out our recommendations below) and you’ll put yourself in a strong place for any application. You’ve got this!

Resources for budding account managers

🧑‍🏫 Learning platforms, courses and tools

No training is specifically required, but here are some helpful links from the broader JKR team which could help on the journey:

The Marketing Academy is a non-profit organisation which inspires and develops talent at every-level in marketing, media and communications, from emerging leaders to CMOs (chief marketing officers).

Up World is always helpful to understand the marketing landscape and roles of our clients, especially if new to the agency and branding world. Up World offer courses for careers in marketing but always helpful to have as much context as possible.

The Creative Lives Opportunities Board is a central hub for entry-level opportunities.

The Distinctiveness Report from JKR and Ipsos unpacks the importance of brand distinctiveness in today’s world.

D&AD offers some online and in-person training, many of which are relevant to account management.

📚 Online magazines, TV series, podcasts

The below are great websites for refreshing every now and then, to help you keep an ear to the ground – specifically in branding, design and advertising – to stay updated on trending, innovative or newsworthy stories:

The Drum

Fast Company

It’s Nice That


The Brand Identity

Brand New

Creative Review

Design Week

Marketing Week



The Start podcast from The Guardian is an interesting listen as it details the projects that were important at the beginning of ten creatives careers.

Abstract is a great series on Netflix, which showcases an eclectic mix of different creatives, taking you through their journeys and inspiration.


Jones Knowles Ritchie is a Creative Lives in Progress brand partner. Every year, we partner with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Creative Lives a free resource for emerging creatives. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]

Mention Jones Knowles Ritchie
Written by Anna Skaret-Ball