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7 Essential Questions to Ask Before Starting Your Own Agency

Ian Blair

Let me guess.

You love marketing. So much so that you’re ready to start your own agency and make money doing the thing you’re most passionate about.

But are you really ready to start an agency? Have you considered all the hard work and difficult decisions you’ll face?

If not, don’t worry – today, we’re going to go over 7 essential questions you should ask yourself before you start an agency. And along the way, you’ll learn some tips that’ll help you succeed in your endeavor.

 

1. Why am I starting a business?

Let me be blunt:

If your only drive to start a business is making lots of money, there’s a good chance that you’ll fail.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s perfectly fine (and encouraged!) to be motivated by money. But getting rich should not be the main factor driving you to start an agency.

Why?

For one thing, being motivated by money alone will drive you to make bad business decisions. I’m talking about those decisions that’ll bring you some quick cash but harm your business in the long run and cause you to ultimately fail.

On top of that, most business owners fail tons of times before they are able to start a sustainable, profitable business.

What’s the best reason to start an agency, you ask?

Having a passion for helping a specific audience solve a problem they’re facing.

Not only will that passion drive you to keep trying when you face frustration and failure – it’ll help you naturally build a genuine connection with your target audience, which will lead to sales and success.

Having marketing experience or suddenly losing your full-time job could be other reasons you want to start an agency, and both of those are understandable. But you’ll still need a passion for your craft if you’re looking for long-term success and profitability.

 

2. What services will I sell?

As an agency owner, you’ll have tons of options when it comes to the services you can sell. First of all, you’ll probably want to decide whether you’re going to focus on digital marketing (building websites, social media strategy, etc.) or more traditional advertising (print ads, TV commercials, etc.). Once you’ve figured that out, you can consider some of these service offerings based on your choice:

  • Email marketing
  • Landing page creation
  • Blogging
  • Direct mail
  • Branding
  • White label apps
  • Jingle creation
  • Billboards
  • SEO

You can always offer both traditional and digital marketing services if you have the manpower and skills to do so. Just make sure you can deliver high-quality work before you decide to offer something – otherwise, your reputation could suffer and cause you to lose potential clients.

 

3. What kinds of employees do I need, and how can I make good hiring decisions?

If you’re considering starting an agency, you probably have an idea of the kind of employee’s you’ll need. But did you know that the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the individual’s first-year potential earnings? Not only that – hiring someone who is a poor culture fit could affect the morale at your agency overall and cause your employees to become disengaged with their work.

That means you’ve got to be careful about who you trust to work for your business, or you could end up losing tons of money.

Before we talk about how to make good hiring decisions, let’s take a look at the some of the job roles you’ll need to fill at your agency:

  • CopywritersThe success of your marketing efforts will depend heavily on the quality of your copywriters. They’re the ones who’ll use words to sell your clients’ products/services, so choose them wisely!
  • DesignersDepending on what services your agency offers, you may need a web designer and a general graphic designer. Make sure the designers you hire understand modern concepts like responsive design and logo design best practices.
  • DevelopersIf you create websites for your clients, you’ll need developers to bring them to life. Make a list of qualifications for your developers based on how you want the websites to be built. For example, you might include advances WordPress and JavaScript expertise as two non-negotiable qualifications for the developers at your agency.
  • Project managersThe quality of your project managers can easily make or break your agency. These employees make sure everyone stays on tasks and all projects get completed on time, on budget, and to the client’s satisfaction. Choose a bad project manager, and your agency will quickly become a chaotic, stressful environment where nobody knows what task to tackle next.
  • Marketing associatesIn the midst of marketing your clients’ businesses, don’t forget to market your own agency or your list of clients could dry up. Marketing employees can help you do that by analyzing data, creating social media marketing campaigns, and working on getting your agency in front of your ideal clients.

Of course, you’ll want to decide on your role in the company before you hire. For example, if you want to take on more of an “owner” role, you’ll need to hire a marketing director (or someone similar) who can oversee everything that happens at your agency. On the other hand, if you want to be actively involved in your agency, you may choose to serve as the marketing director.

You’ll also want to decide whether to hire less expensive employees who aren’t that experienced or expert employees who will demand higher pay.

Obviously, the less expensive employees will help your agency keep costs low, but more experienced employees will likely help your agency grow and build a good reputation quicker. Think about what’s most important to you, and consider hiring a mix of employees if you can’t afford to hire an entire team of experienced employees.

Here are a few more tips for hiring your agency’s first employees:

  • Pick people who are self-starters and enjoy learning. Especially if you hire inexperienced employees – you’ll want them to be willing to teach themselves everything they need to know to get results for your agency.
  • Make sure they’re okay with the work hours you have in mind. You may be thinking about setting longer hours at your agency since it’s going to be a start-up at first. Let potential employees know your expectations in the interview so they’re clear on their job duties.
  • All employees should be a good culture fit. Starting an agency can be difficult, and it’s even tougher when the employees don’t support one another. Define your company culture and make sure everyone fits to avoid creating a toxic work environment.

Make sure you do your research before you hire anyone, because the employees you choose will determine whether or not your agency is successful. You can learn more tips for hiring here.

 

4. What kind of clients will I target?

This is one of the most important things you’ll need to figure out before you start an agency. You have two main choices to consider:

  • Broad audience – This means you target a large, general audience. For example, you could target a wide audience like “businesses” or “medium-sized businesses.”
  • Niche audience – This means you target a narrow, specific audience that is a subset of a larger general audience. For example, instead of just targeting “businesses,” you’d target “B2B/tech businesses.” You could also go ever narrower and target “Medium-sized B2B/Tech companies who serve small businesses.”

Now, you’re probably wondering which is the better option.

Opinions on the matter can vary, but it’s often best to choose a narrow niche and adjust your strategy as your business grows.

Why?

Because targeting a narrower niche positions you as more of an expert. And businesses want to work with experts they know can get results for them – not generalists who might be able to get results for them.

Still not convinced?

Put yourself in a client’s shoes for a second. Let’s say you own a property management company, and you’re looking to work with a marketing agency so you can win more business. Which agency would you rather work with – one that boasted many years of experience specifically helping property management companies, or one that helped all kinds of businesses?

You’d pick the first one every time because of their industry expertise and focused message that appeals you to specifically.

Keep that in mind when you’re figuring out your target audience. If you have expertise in a certain industry, consider choosing that industry as your niche. You can always pick multiple niches later or go broader if you change your mind.

 

5. Will I have a physical office, or will my team work remotely?

Many marketing agencies have completely remote teams and allow their employees to work from anywhere as long as the work gets done. Other agencies feel that a collaborative environment is only fostered when employees work in a physical office.

Let’s talk a bit about the benefits of each option.

Benefits of remote working

  • You have a wider pool of employees to choose from when you’re not limiting your search to local candidates. As a result, you may be able to find better candidates.
  • Studies have shown that workers who have the option to telecommute are 73% happier with their employers.
  • Over 80% of workers consider telecommuting to be a perk, which means you may be able to hire your best candidates if you offer it.
  • You save a ton of money when you don’t have to pay for a physical office and all of the associated costs. It’s estimated that you’ll save about $11K every year per remote employee, so imagine how much you’ll save if your entire team telecommutes!
  • Your team may work more productively if they work remotely, which will translate to a more profitable agency. Compaq saw a 15-45% productivity increase in remote workers, and telecommuters working for American Express produced 43% more than their office-based co-workers.
  • You may be able to reduce unscheduled absences, which are often due to illness, family issues, and stress. Employees can simply adjust their schedule to meet their needs and keep working.

You’ll also want to consider the negative consequences you may face by allowing employees to work remotely. If you hire people who aren’t motivated self-starters, you may find them slacking off when they work from home.

On top of that, you could face liability issues, employees may find themselves more distracted if they have family members and/or children who are home during the day, and a slow internet connection could bring productivity to a halt. That’s why you must consult a lawyer and create a set of rules if you decide to allow remote work.

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Benefits of a physical office

  • You may be able to foster a more collaborative environment when in-person team meetings and casual hallway conversations are the norm. That’s a big part of the reason why Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer forced all employees to work in the office.
  • It’s often easier to monitor employees and check in with them when they’re working in the office. That means you can have more peace of mind knowing things are getting done and put more trust in your employees.
  • Some employees don’t want to work from home, don’t have the technology necessary to work from home, and/or don’t have the personality traits that would allow them to work from home productively every day.

Like allowing remote work, having a physical office has its own set of negative consequences. For example, workplace distractions result in average of $600 billion dollars lost by businesses per year. So, distractions faced while working from home may not be as bad as the ones in the workplace after all.

Make a decision about your workplace environment based on your preferences and how your employees work best. If you’re interested in allowing employees to work remotely but unsure of how it might work, you could always start by offering one or two days of telecommuting to employees every week. From there, you could transition until you have a completely remote team.

 

6. How will I market my own services?

This is important because you won’t win any clients if you don’t have a plan in place for how to win clients. And that means your business will go under – fast.

First, consider your current professional network. Do you know of several business owners who might be interested in marketing services from your agency?

If so, you’ll find it much easier to get started and quickly make money.

But even if you don’t have any connections, you can make it work. After all, if you’re starting an agency, that probably means you’re pretty good at marketing. Use what you know to get your agency in front of you ideal clients, and start selling. And if you aren’t a skilled salesperson, you should consider hiring one.

 

7. Will I choose to have a business partner?

Here are some of the pros of having a business partner:

  • You can share responsibilities and costs. That means you won’t be alone in taking the risk of starting an agency.
  • You may have complementary skills, which can result in a better business. For example, you might be a technical introvert and your partner might be a sales-y extrovert. Both of your skill sets would be valuable at an agency and you would balance each other out well.
  • You can use both of your professional networks to score more clients. This gives you a better shot at becoming profitable quickly.

Here are some of the negative consequences you might face in a business partnership:

  • You won’t have full control over your business. This can be especially frustrating and cause disagreements that could end the business.
  • Friends often become enemies when they work together. Working with someone you care about is hard because it puts a strain on the relationship – especially when you’re dealing with the pressure of owing a start-up.
  • You may be liable for your partner’s business activities. That means they could desert you, and you’d still be liable for all the business debts caused by their contributions.

If you decide to work with a business partner, make sure you protect yourself legally and decide on terms of the partnership before you start your agency. The last thing you want is to end up getting taken advantage of by someone who isn’t willing to put in the work necessary to help make your business succeed.

After reading this, are you still feeling confident about starting an agency?

If not, don’t worry – starting a business is always challenging, and it can feel even more daunting once you realize all the hard work and decision-making that goes into it.

But you’ve already got an advantage. With the information in this blog post handy, you’ll be able to make a good decision about whether or not you’re ready to start your own agency. And if you do start your own agency, you’ll be well-equipped to handle the many decisions you’ll face as a new business owner in the marketing industry.

Did any of these points make you think twice about starting an agency? Share in the comments section!

 

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Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.

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