In 2019, I decided to take a leap of faith and start a digital marketing agency. I had no idea where to start, but I knew it was the path for me.
To get things going I read a few blog posts and watched only 1 YouTube video that was mainly used as a sales pitch to get people to buy a course. I respected the hustle, but as an aspiring digital marketing agency owner, it was no use.
What I ended up doing was starting everything I knew a business should have, and then I figured it out from there. But, I left out a lot of crucial elements that I had to figure out the hard way months later. In this blog post, I’m going to give you the no-BS rundown on how to start your own digital marketing agency.
Learn the Skills
I’m part of many digital marketing Facebook groups and so many times I see people posting asking where they learned x,y,z because they started an agency, found clients, but are absolutely clueless.
This is disappointing to me because business owners are trusting you to handle their marketing and have full faith that you know what you’re doing. When you lie about your skills and can’t bring the results you promised, you’re tarnishing digital marketing agencies and causing business owners to be wary of our profession.
The first step before doing anything is to actually learn the skills you need for digital marketing. The good news is, you don’t need to go to college to do this. Read books, connect with agency owners on LinkedIn, listen to podcasts, attend expos, and take free courses.
These days there are so many ways to learn something and it’s in your best interest to use those resources to your advantage.
Work For Someone Else
Once you’ve got some digital marketing knowledge under your belt, you need to go and work for someone else, specifically another marketing agency. This might sound counterproductive but it will work out better for you in the long run.
The benefits of working for another agency before starting your own are being able to see firsthand how things are run, learn what you like and what you don’t like, learn how clients act and get a feel for what you can expect when running your own agency.
I briefly interned for a digital marketing agency and learned a little here and there. I tried so hard to find a digital marketing job full time but they all required you to come to the job with 5+ years of experience.
What I did instead was freelance for about 7 months and dabbled in SEO and content marketing. I didn’t really start learning Google Ads and Facebook Ads until I decided to get my certifications and start working with Drew, my Paid Ads Specialist, who taught me everything I know.
Develop a Business Model
The next step is starting to plan what your business is going to look like and what services you’ll be providing. You can take a look at other digital marketing agencies to get a better understanding of what you’re up against and what services the majority provide.
Personally, I chose to start a full-service digital marketing agency and offer fixed-rate monthly contracts. I did research on agencies that only focus on one side of digital marketing and agencies that charged by the hour. There’s nothing wrong with either of those options but as the CEO of a company, you have the ability to choose!
My suggestion is to do research on the various types of billing methods and how agencies that focus on specific services work.
Choose a Niche – Or Don’t
I don’t want to start a war between digital marketers for saying this but I truly don’t believe you need to choose a niche and stick to it. At the beginning, I had so many people telling me in order to be successful I needed to pick one service, one industry, and get really good at only that to be successful.
Well, I’m here to tell you that my top paying clients are ones that pay me to handle all of their digital marketing. I have many reasons why I decided not to limit myself. .
Strengthens the Relationship
The first reason why I like working with these types of clients is this is that it strengthens the relationship with the client. You’re working with them on everything from paid ads to writing their blog posts. Halyn Marketing’s approach is very personable and we know our clients like the back of our hands, partially because of how involved we are.
If we were only around for paid ads, they might not consider us a member of their team and instead, more of an entity that they send a check to on the 1st of the month. Some people love that, but for me, I’m all about working human to human and forming a bond.
You also become their source for knowledge and have more opportunities to grow with them. Instead of only knowing how to do paid ads, you know everything about digital marketing, so they don’t have to go find someone else that’s willing to handle the whole job.
My second reason is that by having total control over every aspect of their digital marketing, you’re able to keep the consistency. You don’t have to worry about their paid ads having a different message than the blog posts and emails you write for them.
You also won’t experience any conflict between you and another agency. Every agency has its own way of doing things and it’s best if you don’t have to constantly be in a battle with someone else your client hired.
Higher Paying Clients
As I stated before, my highest paying clients are the ones who have me managing every aspect of their digital marketing. I’m able to charge a higher rate because they don’t have to allocate parts of their budget to other agencies or freelancers and I am doing more work for them.
Start the Groundwork
Now that you’ve learned the skills, gained the experience, and developed your business model, it’s time to start doing all the groundwork.
You’ll want to invest in a really good website that is eye-catching and has valuable information for potential clients to see. One of my first mistakes was trying to make one myself on Wix, and it looked like a 5th grader made it.
You should have all social media set up, which includes Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google My Business, and any other platform you feel could help you reach an audience.
Create blog posts and social media content to post, and get connected with other digital marketing professionals on social media. Not only does this help with networking, but you never know who’s willing to pass along your information.
Make profiles on freelancer websites like Upwork and Fiverr and start searching for jobs. This is how I started getting clients, and eventually I moved to a referral program for clients to get a discount if they referred me to someone who started a contract.
Eventually, you’ll be ready to legalize the business and get all your licenses and trademark information. Halyn Marketing is an LLC and I used LegalZoom to help me file all the paperwork.
After all of this is done, it’s time to start getting clients. This is probably the hardest part because you have to learn how to sell your experience without the reviews and testimonials to back it up. I highly recommend reading books and listening to podcasts about connecting with customers and learning how to sell by saying what they want to hear.
There are many great industry experts on social media who have podcasts, books, and websites full of great information.
Hopefully, you’ve gained some insight into what is really required to start a digital marketing agency. Unfortunately, it’s not as fun and glamorous as some make it out to be, but once you get going, you start to love the process.
If you started a digital marketing agency feel free to share your story in the comments below or on my social media. If you’re still not sure where to start with all of this, subscribe to my blog for more free tips and tricks!