Last Updated on October 13, 2020
So, you want to learn how to start a digital marketing agency? We are going to focus on the specific action items you need to take to launch a digital agency and will skip over 101 basics on setting a business (things like getting a business bank account or applying for an IRS EIN)
Below are some of the top questions you should be asking to ensure you are heading in the right direction.
Consider this a “How to start a digital marketing agency” 201 lesson.
What Services Should My Digital Marketing Agency Offer?
To best answer this question, you have to determine will you be the one to be conducting the work, or will you be sending this off to a white label digital marketing provider like That! Company? (Not sure what white label is? Read our article “What is white label”)
If you’re going to be conducting the work, are you particularly skilled at SEO? Google Ads? Facebook ads? Social Media Marketing? Email Marketing? We would recommend starting with something you already have skills in.
If you don’t currently have any digital marketing skills, perhaps you are best googling “How to start a digital marketing agency with no skills”, but not to worry we have some recommendations for you, either way, one of the easiest entry points into digital marketing is to learn social media marketing. SEO/Google ads can take years to learn, whereas social media for the most part takes having intuition/empathy, good industry research skills, and a high-level understanding of how to create content/post on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
If you’re going to be outsourcing to a white label marketing firm like That! Company, you can pretty much pick up and begin offering all of the services they offer right away.
When Should I Start Generating Leads?
Our recommendation is to start generating leads as soon as possible. For most that mean putting up a simple 1-page website, creating your branded email address (please don’t send from Gmail addresses, nothing shouts “I’m not professional” as an unbranded email.)
We’ve seen many, many, many new agencies get stuck in making everything “look good” before they start trying to get leads. That’s because for most agencies they have a limited budget, so they’re going to have to make cold calls/send cold emails/begin networking (which for many isn’t something they like doing).
Don’t get stuck in the trap of “I’m being productive” as you build out another page for your blog, or create a video, or try to get all your friends/family to like your Facebook Page.
No amount of “setting up” will make you confident enough. You literally just have to start reaching out to people to have a shot at launching your agency.
Does that mean you shouldn’t ever improve your site? Absolutely not! I’m not saying you shouldn’t work on improving your image/authority, but most agencies run out of cash before they even begin trying to generate leads as the “make it perfect” so they give up on the dream and go get a job.
Please don’t do that. Generate leads. Start working for people. Build your income. Then leave enough time on your plate to keep working on your agency, don’t book yourself up with 100% client work.If you’re going to be outsourcing to a white label marketing firm like That! Company, you can pretty much pick up and begin offering all of the services they offer right away. Click To Tweet
How Much Should I Charge?
So how much should you charge for your services? Many people operate with the belief that they’ll start by charging really low prices and then increase. Let me tell you the truth about what happens.
Whatever price you sell to a customer, more often than not that’s the price you’ll live with for the rest of your time working with your customer.
Very few customers are going to want to pay a higher hourly rate in a year or two. Clients you sell at $150-$500 a month generally stay at that size. What will happen is as you grow, you’ll simply have to find customers who are willing to pay more.
With that said be brave! The average agency hourly rate is $150/hour. Larger agencies charge $200 to $250 hour in many cases.
It’s okay to sell a couple of customers at the beginning for lower rates so you can leverage those to build confidence, get testimonials, build case studies, and ultimately add to your social proof, but do not, I repeat, DO NOT MAKE A HABIT OF THIS. What ends up happening is you sell for really low rates is your plateau and ultimately can’t scale. If you sell for $25/$50/hour it is super hard to find quality talent who won’t cost that, and you’ll make $0 profits or even take a loss. If you’re charging $25/$50 understand you are charging freelancer rates, not scalable agency rates (you’ll have built yourself a job, not an agency).
I encourage you to think no lower than $100/hour so you have a chance to scale, but the closer you get to $150 – $250/hour the better set you’re going to be for the long-term growth/scalability of your firm.
Should I Pick a Niche for My Digital Marketing Agency?
This is a personal question you’ll have to ask yourself. We recommend it for startups, but it isn’t 100% necessary to be successful.
If you pick a niche consider the following – Am I particularly passionate about any specific industry? Does that industry have the budgets to afford $1000+ a month retainers / $150/hour+? Does that industry require what I’m going to offer them? If all of those align, then my suggestion is to go after that industry.
If you are not particularly passionate about any particular industry that’s completely okay. Maybe it’s about the money/building the lifestyle you want/doing work you enjoy. Then consider picking a niche that is localized/big-ticket. What do I mean by localized? I mean they serve particular geography (a city or a couple of cities is best) What’s big-ticket? Big-ticket is where they sell 1 product/service and they make a lot of money and thus can invest a lot into marketing to get 1 customer (these end up being big customers!)
Why a local/big-ticket? Because when you generate results for 1 you can make a case study / get a video testimonial from them and you can build a credibly brand of generating results for their industry, thus picking up new clients in the same industry, but in a different city becomes easier and easier as you add to the pile of case studies/testimonials.
This is a phenomenal method of quickly scaling an agency. Give this some real thought as your startup.
What Hurdles Should I Expect?
First, let me set the expectation.
This isn’t easy.
It’s not exactly hard either, but I’ve talked to too many people who thought they’d start an agency and the money would just come pouring in. It is a competitive marketplace. There are tons of agencies. The average agency is only 2 people, however, so if you can crack the code on lead generation for your agency you’ve solved the biggest problem marketing agencies have, and you stand a very good chance of blowing that average agency size out of the water.
Expect a lot of nos.
The launch is the hardest part. You’re the new kid on the block. You have no credibility. That’s why a lot of new agencies partner with us and take advantage of our strategic partnership plans, so they can in essence borrow our credibility to get their first few clients and then launch their brand with the social proof of generating results for those clients. If you want to learn more fill out a form, schedule a meeting, and video with full details will be sent to you to watch in advance of the meeting.
How to Start a Digital Marketing Agency and Ensure Success!
Well, of course, you can hire us to help (shameless plug).
But outside of that, I recommend the following.
- Start generating leads as soon as possible. Just go for it.
- Pick a niche (it’s a nice differentiator as a new startup it reduces your competition pool because you specialize!)
- Don’t charge too little (common new agency mistake)
- STOP. LEARNING. Read everything you can. Listen to podcasts for agencies. Absorb everything.
- Be prepared to invest in the long term. You absolutely can be successful in this space. But it takes solid investment for 2-3 years generally before you “make it.” There’s a saying about being an “overnight success”, to be an overnight success it takes A LOT OF OVERNIGHTS!
I hope we have successfully answered your question on how to start a digital marketing agency. If we can help with your journey reach out and we’d be happy to see if we’re a fit to work together.