Starting a digital marketing agency from scratch with little to no experience can be a bit nerve wracking. Especially when new businesses are often looked at as an expert no matter how new they are to the scene. But it’s not impossible, you just need to follow the steps laid out before you from other successful digital marketing businesses.
It’s certainly no easy task, but there is LITERALLY NOTHING stopping you from entering the industry and becoming a successful digital marketer.
Whether you’re making the transition from a part time digital marketing company to your own digital marketing business full time, or just getting started as a part time SEO freelancer…you’ll be riddled with many challenges and OPPORTUNITIES along the way.
While getting started it isn’t going to be perfect, but then again nothing is. Even a lot of our team members have made mistakes during their own digital marketing journeys before finding a model that stuck. But they’ve also learned many important lessons along the way that have helped refined their process, creating a successful online marketing business for themselves.
We decided to write up this “how to start your own digital marketing agency” article so that you could avoid some of the common mistakes beginners make AND streamline your path to success.
In this guide, we will attempt to be as honest as we can so we can to help you figure out if start a digital marketing agency is right for you.
At the end, we’ll show you the exact system we used to build our own internet marketing business to over $40,000 a month in mostly passive income.
This system made me swear off conventional digital marketing for good, because it uses some of the same skills in a much more powerful and profitable way!
Before we dive into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about why starting a digital marketing business is a good idea.
Demand for digital marketing services is growing daily. I’m sure that by now you are very well aware of what 2020 did to a lot of businesses. Almost every industry had to make a pivot in some way, shape, or form that involved getting their business in front of peoples eyes online.
Besides…it’s not like many people were driving around town to see big ole’ billboards were they?
One advantage of starting a digital marketing agency is that it doesn’t require you to be in a certain geographic location. In fact, your whole entire team could work remote. This opens your business up to being able to have more talented individuals to pick from for certain roles.
Another added benefit is that you won’t need any office space to pay for each month, that will help you significantly lower your costs and allow you to invest more into your own businesses social media presence.
Prior experience is also not needed. Even though having some past skills with SEO and digital marketing has its advantages, its not necessary. Did you know that the most successful digital marketers today had no prior experience at all??
This perk is perhaps the most obvious. You are your own boss. You get to escape the prison system that is the 9-5 and finally live life on your own terms as a digital marketing agency owners.
How does unlimited income sound? Great right? Well owning your own digital marketing agency allows you to have a much higher income ceiling than any other business model.
Other businesses are limited geographically, you are not!
Compared to other businesses, your start up costs are virtually nothing. In all honesty you could probably start one for under $100, but most people see success quicker when they throw a couple thousand into it upfront.
Still much better than the $20,000 you’d likely have to throw into a brick and mortar!
Here are the 12 steps to follow when starting your own digital marketing agency. We’ll explore all of these more in-depth later.
One of the best things you can do when you first start is building up all the skills you are going to need to succeed. This doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, but you do need to take massive imperfect action when starting your digital marketing agency. Here are 3 different types of skills you’ll need to learn:
So obviously these skills are going to be what your agency needs. After all, if you can’t fulfill…your digital marketing agency won’t last long.
This means that not only do you need to know what digital marketing is, but you also need to know how it works, how you can increase traffic and sales at will, and how to navigate different digital marketing platforms.
Digital Marketing Definition and Platforms
There are several different factors when it comes to digital marketing. So even though you might not be an expert at everything…it’s good to have a basic knowledge of the following:
As your agency continues to get bigger, you will need to start hiring out. But, when you’re on a shoe string budget starting out…you need to know how to do all these things by yourself.
And this is actually a very critical piece in your business. Starting out, you need to minimize cost and dependence on another person to do your work as much as possible.
Not to mention that when you’re well enough off to hire someone, you can teach them your digital marketing skills directly so that nothing is left up to guesswork.
You know what they say, practice makes perfect, and this is exactly what you gotta do to become an expert in this industry.
Unfortunately digital marketing is only continuing to get more complicated and the basics just don’t cut it anymore. So, after you get those down, it is important to learn high level tactics.
Since you want to start an online business instead of being a freelancer (yes, there is a difference), you need to learn what it actually takes to run a business with yourself and employees.
Even though degrees in business aren’t a requirement to own and run a business…you will need to get good at:
When you’re a business owner, you’ll have to do a lot of these things yourself…and really right up until you have enough income to hire out people you trust to fill those roles.
Businesses that don’t take risks are never successful, they never get ahead. When you decide to run your own digital marketing agency, you will have to be ok with taking risks.
If you start any business without knowing what steps to take, you are going to fail. Even more so if you don’t know what it takes to properly market digitally for your clients.
So, before you even think about landing clients…you need to have some experience with either your own agency or your own websites you’ve worked on in your portfolio.
Not to mention that there are literally thousands of “digital marketing agencies” you have to compete with and separate yourself from. Business owners are hit up daily with proposals and offers, you have to stand out!
By becoming more confident in your skillset you will be able to stand out from all the other “digital marketers” and have to knowledge and skill to dominate the industry.
After you have your confidence and all those skills down, it’s time to decide on the type of digital marketing services you are going to offer. A “full service” digital marketing agency typically offers the following:
As a newbie to the industry, odds are it’s going to be tough to offer all of these digital marketing services…so just start out by picking those of which where your skills are strongest.
Let’s just say that you really have a knack for SEO and that you’re good at the whole process (content, backlinks, citations), then start out by focusing on that service only and add other services as your grow your base.
At this early point in your business remember, you want to keep your costs low and depend on your skills only as best you can. Otherwise if you go too big…you might overwork yourself and burnout.
If you got money on your mind, like most of us do, then it would be good for you to know that the types of digital marketing services that are the most lucrative for you and your clients are SEO and PPC.
And aren’t profit margins the main thing we want to focus on?
If you’re after SUPER HIGH profit margins greater than 90% check out this digital marketing business model!
Next, you have to figure out a business plan and how you’ll implement it.
Here are the three most common choices as relates to digital marketing agencies:
None of these choices are a silver bullet, they all have their pluses and minuses. Your decision needs to be made based on costs and your clients needs.
For example, if you want to serve clients in a specific area…it would make sense for you to set up shop in that specific area to help you pick up more local clients.
But if you really just want to work from home you can do that too! In fact, that’s one of the biggest advantages of owning a digital marketing agency…being able to work from anywhere on a moments notice.
Before you do anything else though…you MUST do the following:
Trust us, it’s better to do this now than to try and back pedal later!
The first thing you need to do here is create a website for your digital marketing agency and establish your online presence.
This website needs to be able to accurately reflect your company, because it is the first point of contact customers would likely have.
Your website shouldn’t look like it was put together in just five minutes, it should clean and professional as well as being very informative.
Aside from just telling them what you do and who you are, really make it clear to them why they will benefit by choosing you over the other guy.
As we elaborate on below (step 9), one of the toughest things you’ll find about running a digital marketing agency is actually landing the clients. That being said, there is much to be said about positioning yourself in a way that makes clients want to work with you.
In practice this means:
If you have no experience, then it may be difficult for you to list some of those things above on your website. However, when you have the opportunity add them asap.
One way you can short cut this is by asking a friend to let you do some work for them for free in exchange for a review of your company.
You can even practice your own services on your own site to be able to display that you can do the same for your clients.
Whenever you list working experiences, reviews, or case studies…be sure you are 100% honest. It is never good to start a client relationship based off of false pretenses.
Just like any other business, you are going to need tools and equipment. Luckily for a digital agency…all your tools will be digital!
You are going to need access to tools that optimize your campaigns for clients, create reports, and more.
There are several tools you’ll have to choose from but…keep expenses in mind. You won’t be able to afford all the best tools at first.
Don’t make the mistake of paying for things you don’t need.
Not only do you need to factor your own personal expenses in, but also the expenses of your clients with the tools your choose to purchase.
We recommend digital marketing tools like ahrefs, majestic, and whitespark.
Tools like these will be able to help you dominate your competition when it comes all facets of digital marketing.
After you purchase your tools, spend some time learning with them and become an expert. After you have a handful of clients, you won’t have as much time to go back and learn the nitty gritty of the tools.
Next decide how much you are going to charge for your services.
The most common pricing models for digital marketing agencies are:
Per Hour: This is where you are paid based on your time involved with a project. However make sure you pick the right rate and consider all other expenses you may have.
Per Project: Prior to the start of the project you total up a price for all the work done and you will be paid that price from start to finish. Make sure all your estimates are accurate so you don’t take a loss on the project.
Monthly Fee: This is the pricing model digital marketing agencies like the most because it is a consistent amount each month for a service. The model is popular in SEO and lead generation.
If you are wondering what the most profitable pricing model is…monthly fee rests at the top while hourly is at the bottom.
So how do land your first client? Here are some ideas that worked for most people and will get you started!
The number one thing you can do is reach out and offer them some free digital marketing value. Just give them some tips about their website or offer to get them on the phone and explain what they can do to improve their marketing presence and get more clients/ sales.
Without coming off salesy, try to explain to them why to see more sales and clients, they’ll need to invest some money into their website / online presence, and what opportunities that they are currently missing that their competitors are currently capitalizing on. And if they understand all that, offer to be their digital marketing consultant.
However, most digital marketing agencies do have high turn over rates…and that’s because clients aren’t seeing the results of more customers directly.
What if you could skip all the bullshit and just hand them the clients directly and not worry about them dipping out on you…is that possible?
You bet your ass it is!
While working with your first client and growing their business, it would also be a great idea to start your own blog and showcase their results. Blogs are one of the best lead generation tools for digital marketing agencies.
This way, once they come across you on Google and see your results, you won’t have to be worried about selling yourself because they already know what you’re capable of.
When writing up all the content for your blog, keep in mind the type of potential clients you want and the keywords you need to rank for to attract them for services you provide.
Once you’ve been in the business for a while and have some clients, you’ll want to create a portfolio for future prospects to see.
If you want to build your portfolio fast, you’ll still have to provide some services at a cost, but having testimonials like this will pay in dividends in the long run.
It may not seem possible now, but trust us..
Once you grow your digital marketing agency up to a certain point, you’ll need to start hiring since you won’t be able to keep up with all the day to day tasks yourself.
Before you hire out however, you need to have processes in place that make it easy to assimilate to.
All we mean by processes is having operating procedures in place that allow someone to jump in and easily perform a task for a client. This could be anything from onboarding to performing the actual services they signed on for.
Building and growing a blog should be one of your goals with in the first year or so of your career. Blogging allows you to attract new clients organically for your marketing team without paid traffic. It can be a huge advantage for your business.
Our review team has come across a program in the real estate industry that is next level!
Although it’s not real estate in the traditional sense, it’s all digital.
Where SMMA falls short is in scalability.
You can’t realistically expect to be able to set up a bunch of different Social Media Campaigns and maintain them throughout all hours of the day.
It just takes too many resources (money included) for any regular person to bootstrap.
But what if you could make even more money off of little local websites without having to spend all your day monitoring different campaigns?
With this digital real estate program, you can profit off LOCAL traffic to your website every single day!
Sound too good to be true? Of course it does! But it isn’t…in fact, business owners wish they had this skill!
All you have to do is build and rank a LOCAL website and forward the jobs off to a business owner in town, you could even email it to them!
This works for literally any service based business, tree service, plumbing, towing, etc.
How do you get paid and how much?
Simple, after you forward the jobs off to a business owner and he makes some money off of them, you simply ask to make the deal beneficial for each other.
A fair price to charge per lead, depending on the industry is 10-20%…let’s just use the tree service industry for example and go by worst case scenario.
Let’s say you build and rank the site and only 10 jobs a month come in. The average tree service job is anywhere from $500-$2000!
That means at bare minimum you have an asset worth $500 a month!
See why they call it digital real estate now? That’s a rent payment.
The great thing is how easy it is to scale. You don’t have to worry about various CPC’s setting off different campaigns in the red at different times.
Back to SMMA, why land a small $500 where $250 automatically goes to ad spend…when you could clear all $500 of that in profit?
This one actually allows you to collect HUGE FLAT RATE DEALS. Truly passive income!
The training program takes making money online to a whole other level. The owner of the program walks you through how to build and rank a site hand in hand, with the occasional voice over when he is sharing his screen.
You will learn the importance of keywords, website name, how to send call notifications via email, backlinking, etc.
Once the training program is completed you will also have access to a Facebook group.
Unlike SMMA, where you’re getting maybe $250 per month, you could be getting 10-20X THAT.
A business will always want more leads and another job. In fact it doesn’t even matter that the job isn’t coming from their website name…they see it as it is…expanding digital real estate.
Unlike SMMA, more people have been able to walk away from their 9-5 job as well.
Now, I know you probably have tons of questions…