In a world where the internet is pretty much invaluable, digital marketing has been and still is one of the fastest-growing sectors. Just look at the numbers;
- Following current trends, experts expect the global spend in digital marketing to climb to $389 billion by the end of the year. This represents a 17% increase from last year’s spend.
- The jump is significantly bigger in the US, representing a 25.5% increase from last year’s spend and the fastest growth since 2018.
- US Social media ad spend was $43 billion in 2020, a 20% increase from 2019. By platform, the country’s Facebook ad spend exceeded $31 billion while the Linkedin ad spend exceeded $1 billion.
To say the digital marketing field is promising would be an understatement. So, it’s quite understandable why you’d want a piece of the action. But do you have what it takes to set up a digital marketing industry and break into the industry? Well, you probably do. But if you’re still in doubt of what you need to do to build an online marketing agency, here are the steps you need to follow; from the most basic to the pretty challenging ones.
#1:First, build your skills
A lot of people look at the digital marketing growth charts and think success is assured. The demand is already there; all you need is a “Digital Marketer” tag, and you’ll be ripping benefits left, right, and center, right? Well, hate to burst your bubble, but that’s pretty naive and as far from the truth as you can get.
Online marketing is a complex field entangled with more complicated aspects like managing client relationships. And like everything reliant on the internet and software technologies, it’s ever-changing. What you learned while getting your diploma or degree may be significantly modified today and, in some cases, not entirely applicable.
So, what do you do when starting a digital marketing agency? Develop the necessary skills! Familiarize yourself with the current social media marketing trends, ad design techniques, content marketing strategies, SEO software, video editing software, and so on. You can do this by taking short courses, many of which are available online either as free or paid courses.
Aside from updating your technical competence, you also need to understand the complexity of work environments and client relationships. This is a skill that, once mastered, will give your chances of success a major boost. You can use resources like articles, videos, and podcasts to learn about managing relationships with different types of clients.
If you’re employed, taking your time to observe and learn workplace dynamics, politics, communication gymnastics, and expectations should help you on your solo venture. Prior work experience in a digital marketing agency also pre-exposes you to the experience of handling client pressures and meeting their expectations, giving you an edge when you set up your agency.
Note that you can find more useful information on digital marketing trends and client relationships on this blog; the Legiit official blog. In addition, the blog is constantly updated with useful tips and tricks for entrepreneurs like you looking to launch a freelance career.
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#2: Define Your Niche
Digital marketing is broad, encompassing content, social media and email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and mobile marketing. Designing your agency to offer all these services is understandable, as in theory, it means a wider market and ultimately more clients. However, what marketing startups don’t realize is that this move is almost always detrimental to their growth or in some cases, responsible for failure.
When you’re the jack of all trades, it becomes more difficult to convince potential clients that you offer the best solutions for their particular problems. And as a new digital marketing agency, you need to be very convincing to land new clients at a fast enough rate to justify the continuity of your venture.
The best way to do so is by defining your particular niche when setting up a marketing agency and making sure you’re (really) good at it. You may scowl and cringe at the thought of turning down clients for being outside your preferred niche, but specialization is the best route to becoming an authority in the industry.
Some notable advantages of sticking to a niche include;
It’s easier for potential clients to trust you
If you ask business owners to narrate disappointing interactions with digital marketing agencies, most of these experiences will involve a ‘good-at-everything’ agency; and it’s not hard to see why.
The internet is awash with a multitude of low-quality organizations set up by people with only a broad understanding of digital marketing. They may sling catchy ads promising ROI for any and all types of organizations out there, but they always underdeliver. Therefore, clients have become wary of marketing startups offering broad services and would rather trust niche-specific agencies.
It strengthens your skills
Focusing on a specific field gives you a better understanding of that field, which only makes you better at it: You build a wealth of experience working with particular businesses or targeting certain markets, allowing you to become a much better expert than if you dipped your toe in everything.
Ultimately, this makes it easier for you to jump on board with new client projects. You have an idea of what they need or may require from you, and any time you spend researching their target market will be just for updating your knowledge, not learning from the ground up.
#3 A Little Freelancing on the Side
If you’re employed, I wouldn’t advise quitting your job just yet if you recently developed the idea of a marketing agency. Instead, the most logical approach would be to do some freelancing work on the side before deciding to go full-time.
The same applies to the ambitious, fresh-out-of-college graduates out there. Unless you’re an entrepreneurial genius, you definitely want to spend some time in the freelancing world as an individual before launching your proposed digital marketing agency.
- You get a taste of the entrepreneurial life without exposing yourself to a lot of risks. You’ll learn important elements of running a business (albeit on a smaller scale) like negotiating prices, invoicing, costs & budgets, building client relationships, time management, writing proposals, and building contracts.
- It makes the transition from a 9-5 job to being your own boss easier.
- It exposes the skills you’re best at and those that need sharpening.
- Some of the relationships you build with your clients may prove valuable when you go full-time. These clients will go on to become some of your best customers and an even more valuable source of referrals.
Freelancing on the internet as an individual rather than an agency is a whole venture in itself, and you may need a little guide for that. Note little because it’s one of the easiest paths available in the modern world, especially on platforms like Legiit.
Legiit is a freelance marketplace that allows freelancers to connect with clients from all over the world. It’s the most freelancer-friendly platform on the internet- even for beginners, making it one of the best places to learn the ropes of the entrepreneurial world. All you need to create a seller account is a nice picture of yourself, your contact information, and no money (registration is free).
And with your Legiit account secure, your freelance career is officially on the road. You can now take your first few orders and interact with your first couple of clients.
Pro tip; Running a solo freelance venture on the side may be a safer and easier way to get into the digital marketing world, but you still need to take it seriously. More often than not, you may be required to sacrifice your free time and weekends to respond to client requests and complete gigs.
#4 Branding and identity
As you take your first digital marketing steps on Legiit, you should also consider your branding. Why? This will be your identity as an agency, making it one of the most defining aspects of your business.
Being a marketer, a significant portion of your education and, ultimately, work revolves around building your clients’ brands. So, creating a brand identity for yourself should be a piece of cake, right? Well yes, but sometimes, that’s easier said than done, especially when starting.
That said, here are a few branding tips that should come in handy as you start your venture.
Naming a business looks like the easiest thing an entrepreneur has to do. But you’ll soon realize that coming up with a couple of words that best define your digital marketing agency within a few syllables is not as effortless as it sounds. In fact, many entrepreneurs will agree that naming is one of the most frustrating parts of starting a business.
As hard as getting around the brain freeze and finding those magic words maybe, this is a part you can’t skip. If it proves impossible, you can always use your given name. And while copying your birth certificate is significantly easier and brings personal touch, it also means that you miss out on some important benefits of using a specialized name. These include;
- It can be catchy and, thus, more memorable than your given name.
- It gives off a better portrayal of what your agency presents.
- Using a specialized brand name presents endless possibilities of finding an SEO-friendly name.
The next step will be to create a logo around your brand name. If the marketplace was a hypothetical social media platform, the agency account, and potential clients’ followers/other users, a logo would be a profile picture. It’s something that when people see, they’ll automatically associate it with you.
Therefore, you should approach logo creation with the utmost consideration. It’s okay if you don’t have the artistic skills; most digital marketers don’t; you can always employ the skills of a digital designer.
Luckily you don’t have to look far; Legiit has a multitude of excellent designers. Yours is to browse through the portfolios of various digital designers and select whoever impresses you the most. Afterward, ensure that you provide enough information to the designer, so they create a logo that best represents your business.
An elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a premeditated introduction to a person’s services or business as a whole. It’s basically an attempt to describe your digital agency to potential clients while sounding as convincing as possible within a single paragraph.
You can use an elevator pitch as your description in your Legiit profile, include it in the about page on your agency’s website, or use it as an introduction when sending out bids to potential clients on Legiit.
These three, i.e., the name, logo, and elevator pitch, will form the foundation of your agency’s branding when you eventually transition from part-time to full-time freelancing.
#5 Do Competitor Analysis
By now, your little freelancing venture on the side is picking up, and you’ve probably landed a couple of well-paying clients on Legiit. The future looks bright, and you’re well on your way to launch your digital marketing agency in two or three months. Now would be a good time to do some detailed competitor research and analysis.
Identify 10 to 15 competitors and study how they operate. Look at how they monetize techniques (advertising, lead generation, selling digital products, e.t.c.). You can also determine their content marketing strategy by looking at their social media posts, blog posts, and SEO.
You’re not necessarily doing this analysis to copy your competitors. Rather, the research gives you a broad understanding of the current trends in the digital marketing agency sphere. You may also get a brief idea of what you’ll need to do to stand out from your competitors.
Don’t worry; the analysis won’t require you to walk up to your competitor’s front office and ask for a verbal tour of their approach. You can obtain more than enough information on their websites, social media pages, and Youtube channels (if any).
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#6 Build and Launch a Website
With D-day approaching, developing a strong online presence to show off your brand identity is a no-brainer. Building and launching a website is one of two ways to do so.
Again, you’re probably not skilled enough to build one yourself. You may opt for the free WordPress or Wix websites, but that will probably be a poor move. This is because potential clients will take you more seriously if you have a custom domain.
Therefore, it’s time to become a buyer and order web development services on Legiit.
You can head over to the programming and technology category to check out some of the expert web designers. We have expert high-end designers offering their services for a FRACTION of the price that they do outside of Legiit.
Upcoming Legiit Web Design Service: Scott Latham
One freelancer, we really wanted to highlight, as he’s created some excellent websites for agencies, including his own: Scott Latham. His services are high-end, affordable and available on Legiit. Check them out here. And he’s also got some agency experience that he can bring to the table.
#7 Have and Maintain a Social Media Accounts
Another great way to develop a strong online presence is by joining major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin. Although your existing personal accounts will come in handy when promoting your new venture, you should also create new accounts specifically for your agency and build a following.
You’ll later use these accounts to answer questions, inform your followers of recent developments, network with other players in the industry, approach potential clients, and for social media marketing.
I understand that some people may find it hard to build a social account from scratch and network with the right audience to get it rolling. If you’re one search person, the Legiit Official Facebook group offers an excellent starting point. Here, you get to meet and interact with like-minded people willing to give you the tips and tricks needed to make it on social media.
#8 Build a Portfolio
Having a great portfolio is vital for a new digital marketing agency. This is because to gain clients, you have to show them that your agency can deliver results consistently. That way, you gain their trust, and they’re more likely to hire you.
Unfortunately, many new agencies struggle when it comes to this part. I mean, building a portfolio requires getting clients, and getting clients requires you to build a portfolio. So entrepreneurs are basically trapped, with most receiving advice directing them to offer a few free marketing services.
But after putting so much time, effort, and money into building a strong foundation for a digital marketing agency, very few people are happy or willing to provide free services. And this is where the Legiit account you created as a part-time freelancer comes in handy.
By this time, you’ve probably completed enough digital marketing projects and formed relationships with certain clients during your time as an individual freelancer. So, you don’t have to do anything for free to build your portfolio; it’s already in your completed orders and clients list.
You can ask your favorite clients to provide testimonials that you’ll display on your agency website as part of your portfolio. Also, in-depth case studies of your favorite projects will make a great addition to your portfolio.
#9 Marketing and Finding Clients
With your marketing agency set and ready to go, it’s time to market and find some new clients. Here is how to go about it;
Use your current network
The network you built when freelancing as an individual will prove its worth now. Your Legiit clients will probably be your first-ever agency clients. You can go a step farther and ask them to refer your new venture to their business associates.
If you successfully grow your socials and build a network with others in the industry, you can use those connections to get more client referrals.
Blogging & other forms of content marketing
Starting a blog on your agency’s website is arguably the best inbound marketing tool you can ask for. On average, companies that blog have 97% more inbound links than companies that don’t.
Combine blogging with some basic SEO research, and you’re well on your way to generating many leads. You can also create a Youtube channel where you post regular videos giving out free tips, explaining what you do, and updating clients on current trends. Make sure you link this channel to your website.
Need help writing? Check out some of the Legiit experts here.
Send proposals using your Legiit profile
Legiit has an active job board that is regularly updated with job listings of all kinds. Here, freelancers can bid on their preferred jobs by sending proposals directly to potential clients. If there is a quick way to find new clients for your digital marketing agency, this is definitely it.
You can also contact potential prospects by emailing them directly. It’s ‘warm’ because each email has been specially prepared for that particular client you’re sending it to. Mass emailing (sending the same email to many companies/clients) won’t get you as many responses.
#10 Decide on a Business Model
Developing the right business model is crucial to the success of your agency. Therefore, you need to pick a billing method that best suits your business. The most common ways to bill clients include;
This method works best for simple projects, especially those that involve a lot of one-on-one time with the client. However, it becomes trickier over longer and more complex services.
In this billing method, you and the client assess the complexity and the time it’ll take to complete a project and agree on a monthly fee. It’s the simplest and best pricing model for new digital marketing agencies but can present a problem if the client scales up their requirements or quits early on.
Percentage of spend
You get a certain percentage of how much the client spends in a month. While you’ll be getting correct compensation for your work, this method is unsuitable for new agencies.
Here’s an extra tip for you
Decide If and How You Want to Scale
As you launch your digital marketing agency, you should think about how big you want your business to grow. Most people believe that extreme growth is the only marker of a successful venture. So they expect to rent out office space in the next couple of months and hire a team of employees.
While this is not bad in itself, you need to understand its implications on your agency.
- Renting office space increases the recurring costs of the business.
- Recruiting employees isn’t as easy as it sounds. First, you have to assure job security to get applications rolling, which is pretty difficult for a new agency to do.
- Then, you have to vet to ensure you get the talent you’re looking for. If you settle for less, you’re putting your venture at risk of failure.
- Once hired, employees add a layer of complexity to the work environment. Depending on your experience level, you may or may not be ready to navigate this change effectively.
Alternatively, you can find talented freelancers that will help out with the extra duties on a contractual basis. This eliminates the need to rent office space, monitor, and provide benefits as you would with full-time employees.
The internet has also made it much easier to hire people on a contractual basis, especially on platforms like Legiit. Here, you can be sure to find talented freelancers offering their services at relatively affordable rates.
Whatever you decide, make sure you run a sustainable digital agency that allows you to live a financially stable life on your terms. Who knows, maybe you’ll be better working with a certain number of great clients than taking on increasingly more clients.
Read More: Digital Marketing 101 on Legiit