If 25 years ago you wanted to start a marketing agency, there was a huge barrier to entry. The digital landscape was quite primitive at that time and without an initial investment, it was nearly impossible. In addition to the startup costs that were required, you were also limited to traditional and physical media and all of the headaches that were associated with everything but fabricating something that would resemble ROI for your clients. It was inevitable to stay “in the red” for quite some time.
However, times have changed.
Today, it isn’t impossible to think that a talented small team or individual could start a fully operational marketing firm completely from scratch in just a couple of months (of course, with a bit of help).
These days, companies are spending a higher percentage of their marketing dollars on digital advertising, and everybody is wanting a piece of this action. In our guide, we will be walking you through all of the steps that you need to take if you would like to build your own online marketing agency from scratch.
Develop the Skills You Need
If you have grandiose dreams of being the next Neil Patel right after getting your college diploma, then there is a good chance that you will fail big time.
You can be just as intelligent and creative as anyone out there, but if you are not experienced and prepared enough to deal with all of the nuances that are involved in managing client relationships and account, then you will searching for another gig very quickly. It might take several years for some people to develop the necessary skills, while others might take less time. Either way, I strongly believe you need to have a real job for a while before starting your own venture.
Work environments are much more complicated than we realize when you are grinding inside of it. In addition to the actual work that you do, there is an entire array of politics, nonverbal and verbal communication gymnastics, and expectations. Everything from leadership, product, culture to how an organization is structured all play a role in how your day and career unfolds.
Before you master the digital marketing skills that you need, first you have to experience what it is like working where your clients might work. That will invariably make you a more well-rounded and understanding professional. Whenever your clients are under a lot of stress and potentially projecting this onto you, you won’t take it personally because you will better understand their situation.
That said, it is very important for you to understand that only 50% of you as the final product is based on soft skills. It is essential for you to get really good at the professional services you will be offering. It doesn’t matter how slick and sophisticated your sales game is, sooner or later a client will discover they have been sold worthless snake oil. Instead, you must have the ability to drive results. If you start your career as a Houston SEO expert by managing clients for a bigger agency, I recommend that you start to work on the marketing team or choose a small handful of clients to learn the necessary skills and channels you will be executing on later.
In addition to the pressure to produce, you also need to learn complex systems. Also, if you are working on a small team, you will need to develop various skills to get even basic campaigns up and running.
That involves but is not limited to the following:
- Designing ads
- Building landing pages
- Developing positioning and messaging
- Implementing tracking correctly
- Learning systems like Salesforce, HubSpot, and Marketo
- Great pressure to produce
- Spending hours on promotions that end up failing
The advantage of managing clients is that many of those aspects are handled before getting to you. However, when you have experience working on those things, then you will have the added value of really knowing what you are talking about when you are given something that isn’t working. That will also help you with dealing with the pressure of delivering quality results since you have been there many times before.
Before You Become A Founder, Be A Contractor First
Holding a job that pays you a salary and allows you to have surgery without incurring debt that will last a lifetime is a luxury that many people take for granted. When you take the leap and work for yourself, there is a long list of risks involved. What mitigates much of this risk is developing a foundation for your business before you go full time with it. For various reason, I recommend that you do some contracting work for a while on the side while you are still working full-time. Here are some of the most important reasons why:
It lets you strike out to start your own business without having to assume a lot of risk. It will give you an idea of what the entrepreneurial life is like when you start doing side work. From sending invoices to clients to need to set aside money for taxes, all of the important aspects of operating your own business will be involved.
Also, you will need to manage your time well if you are still working a full-time job. That means working weekends and night when you would prefer to be watching Netflix instead.
As a contractor building relationships is very valuable since it can bring you referrals in the future. If you can pay your bills with the money you earn as a contractor then transitioning into a one-person agency will be much easier than trying to start completely from scratch.
Another aspect that is involved in managing clients on the side is that it enables you to get experience with building contracts. You will need to get used to the process of putting together a proposal, and then a contract, and finally signing all of the necessary documents (NDA’s, etc.). It is all part of the business and you will want to streamline them so that you reduce the amount of time you have to spend on onboarding your new clients.
It makes it possible for you to develop valuable relationships
When you are able to get side work through networking, or from former coworkers or mutual connections, it will provide you with the necessary experience for how to build and maintain client relationships.
Another needed skill that many people tend to overlook early on is how to negotiate the price of your services.
Your expertise and time are worth something no matter how well you know the individual. Developing the skill of being able to ascertain the amount you should charge for specific services or projects will be very valuable in the future.