In the past two decades, internet usage increased by a whopping 1,226%. As of now, 63.2% of the global population uses the internet regularly.
These stats tell us one thing: as consumers, most of our activities moved over to the internet, like shopping, entertainment, talking with other people, working, etc.
And where consumers go, businesses have to follow.
In other words, the golden days of traditional marketing are long gone. They are now overshadowed by digital marketing.
That makes it the perfect time to start your own digital marketing agency.
But, this is not as simple as setting up a stall and waiting for customers to drop by. It involves a lot of prep work, skill, and maybe a little luck.
So, what do you need to do to start your digital marketing agency successfully?
Let’s take a look.
1. Build the necessary skill set
Maybe you’ve worked in digital marketing before, and you’re now looking to escape the 9 to 5 environment. Or maybe, you don’t have prior experience within the field, but digital marketing seems like a lucrative industry to you.
Either way, you’ve still got a lot to learn.
Digital marketing is a vast field. If you want to take on the role of an expert, you’ll have to know the ins and outs of this industry.
Sure, you’ll learn the ropes mainly as you gain more experience, and you can always hire people who specialize in a particular field within the industry once your business grows.
But, you’ll still need to get your feet wet in everything that includes digital marketing. This includes SEO, Google Advertising, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing, and more.
Besides, since you’ll be running a business, you’ll need to know how to manage it properly. This is a different kettle of fish.
You could nail the basics via online courses, but note that you’ll also need to put your knowledge into practice.
That said, consider becoming an employee in a digital marketing agency before opening up your business. This will sharpen your marketing skills and help you understand how a digital marketing company works.
If you’ve already worked in the industry, consider doing freelance work for a while.
Think of freelancing as being the middle ground between being an employee and a business owner.
You don’t benefit from the security a 9 to 5 job brings you, but you won’t expose yourself to all the risks that come with running a proper business either.
With freelancing, you’ll learn a handful of valuable skills that you could use later in your business ventures, like pitching yourself to clients, negotiating rates, managing your projects, your time, and more.
Besides, you’ll get to build a portfolio that will help earn the trust of future clients.
2. Find your niche
After you’ve got familiar with everything digital marketing has to offer, it’s time to find a niche and specialize in it.
Digital marketing is a competitive environment, and clients are looking for the best services available.
So, instead of becoming a jack of all trades and master of none, you should rather establish yourself as an expert in a specific field, at least in the beginning.
Usually, a full-service digital marketing company offers web design and development, SEO, PPC, content, email and social media marketing, and conversion rate optimization.
That said, take a look at all of the services mentioned above and choose the one that fits your skill set the best.
You should also focus on certain types of clients, like SaaS companies, for example.
This way, you’ll get to understand your clients’ needs thoroughly. Consequently, you know what their expectations are and how to meet those expectations.
This also gives you an advantage over your competitors. Clients prefer working with people who are familiar with their niche. So they’ll likely choose you over someone that works with whoever they can find.
Although you may have to turn down a few offers, keep in mind that you should keep the costs at a minimum and rely on your skills when you’re starting.
Otherwise, you might get overwhelmed and likely mess something up in the process.
3. Establish how you’ll operate
You’ve got three options: rent an office space and work with an in-house team, work from home and hire remote teams or a mix of both.
The first option might be suitable if you’re targeting local clients. A physical presence in your area will help your branding and draw in clients from your local community.
However, if you target a global clientele, you should instead work remotely. Renting a physical space wouldn’t bring you any noticeable advantages and will increase your running costs.
But, when working with a remote team, communication will be a challenge. That’s where the third option comes in.
You can still hire employees within your local area but not require them to come to a designated office space.
This way, you’ll manage to increase productivity while maintaining the costs at a minimum as well.
4. Create a business plan
Next, think about how you’ll charge your clients. You could either be paid by the hour, per month or based on commissions.
Charging hourly might seem like the most viable option. But, that’s not always the case.
Although it may work on a specific task for a certain client, keeping track of the hours will become a headache once you branch out.
Besides, when you get better at something, you’ll often spend less time on it. So why be paid less for being efficient?
Getting paid monthly is the most straightforward option. The clients know how much to pay for your services, while you’ve got a steady source of income.
Charging a percentage of what you spend on digital marketing is a popular choice between marketing agencies.
That’s because the higher the client’s marketing budget is, the more money the agency will make.
But, as a start-up, this pricing plan may not work for you. You’ll likely work with smaller clients at first. Thus, charging them a percentage of the spent amount is not feasible.
You should opt for monthly payments instead.
Finally, there are commission-based payments. In other words, you’ll get the money once your client makes it first.
This option is great for earning the client’s trust. After all, you won’t earn anything unless you manage to bring significant results.
But, when working with companies that have complex sales funnels, commission-based payments are not the way to go. That’s because quantifying the effects of your efforts can be difficult.
5. Establish an online presence
After that, it’s time to do a little digital marketing for yourself.
Firstly, you’ve got to create your website. This is where potential clients will find you, get to know more about you, and decide whether to work with you or not.
That said, your website has to be top-notch. So it’s better to leave it to the experts. Nobody will trust you to do digital marketing for them if your site looks like it’s straight out of the ’90s. In that case, consider working with a custom web design company.
Furthermore, don’t forget about social media. Create business accounts on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. That’s because potential clients will check your social media to find out more about you.
What’s more, you might acquire some clients directly through social media.
6. Choose your tools wisely
Finally, a digital marketer could hardly do without his tools. But, that doesn’t mean you should fill up your arsenal with everything you can find.
Some are pretty expensive, so you’ll have to pick the essentials, especially at the beginning.
For example, if you plan to focus on SEO, Ahrefs or Moz are good options. Whereas for email marketing, consider taking a look at Mailchimp or Drip.
Also, it’s best to familiarize yourself with these tools before you begin working with clients. This way, you might spare yourself a few headaches.
7. Showcase your expertise
We’ve talked to a few web developers in Houston, and they said that the experience you showcase on your website could either make or break the deal.
That said, don’t skimp on this thinking that it may appear as you’re bragging.
Make sure to create an “About Us” page, where you’d tell your story and achievements.
Also, spend some time creating case studies of the clients you’ve worked within the past. Display reviews, testimonials, and logos of reputable companies you worked with.
If you don’t have any prior experience, ask a friend to let you do some work on his website in exchange for a review.
Also, look for work on online job boards, like Upwork, for example.
Or, consider writing blog posts. This allows you to showcase your knowledge, increasing credibility.
You can post these blogs on your website, but while you’re at it, write a few guest posts for well-known sites as well. This way, you might bring some traffic to your website.
After all of that, it’s time to get your first client. It might take a while, so don’t get discouraged. Start by asking friends or family if they need any help. You’ll gain some experience while they get a shot at growing your business.
Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.