How to Start Up a Digital Marketing Agency
Got mad digital marketing skills? Understand analytics? Sick to death of using your skills for a larger firm? Awesome news…you’ve probably got what it takes to start up your own digital marketing agency! Because let’s face it. Who isn’t tempted by a job that involves chillaxing on the couch, Nescachino in hand?
Digital presence is something every modern company needs. Everything from clicks and visibility to traffic and content can impact HUGELY on competitive business advantage. Surely you can’t remember when a sandwich board man last truly swayed your buying decision, right?
As such, interest in digital marketing experts—and what they can do for firms—has grown rapidly over recent years. Companies and individuals are drawn to digital marketing agencies for a few key reasons:
- Digital marketing helps clients achieve far greater reach and coverage with considerably less investment. Placing a TV ad in the middle of Bakeoff or a popular football match can cost five figures. An amazing website will be around for much longer, cost you a few thousand if you’re shrewd, and have worldwide reach.
- Results are much easier to measure and analyse, so clients can flexibly adapt their campaigns and pivot in a different direction. Example: ‘Edward’s Sushi’ realises PETA finds their M1 billboards intolerable. They must go to hell and back to fix this problem, and even then, the billboard is still a sunk cost. With internet advertising, they could have pulled that ad really easily and put something new up without any ladders or cranes.
- Firms can target specific groups much more effectively. The internet never forgets anything…but at least someone somewhere benefits from that data. Haha!
- And of course, in 2018, literally everyone and their cat is online.
How do I start?
If you’ve got marketing skills already, it’s simply about using the internet as another medium. Albeit, an intensely effective and dynamic new form of media, but you’ll be applying the same concepts: market positioning, segmentation, management, branding, etcetera. Despite an intense learning curve for digital marketing analytics software, you’ll quickly find having metrics like ad/content views and click data at your fingertips gives you immense power. Rather like Spiderman.
Those who want to start from scratch, guess where you can get the skills? Yes. ONLINE.
But to succeed, you’ll first need to think about a few more things than online courses. We’ve covered the main questions to ask yourself. And because we’re awesome at FindMeAStartup, we’ve also asked a full-time digital marketer for some pearls of wisdom.
What are you going to sell?
What services will you offer? Are you going to specialise in one area and be the bomb? Will you offer integrated campaigns or packages?
It’s generally better to start with one skill-based service, maybe two, before you think about scaling up. If you’ve never worked for yourself before, it can be tempting as hell to take on too much and find yourself overwhelmed. But it’s doable, says our insider: “Digital marketing is a hugely broad and ever-evolving field, but the skills involved can be learned in time.”
If it’s you and other people, you may each have different skill sets that work together like clockwork. Still, it’s best to start simple—offering one client something you can’t deliver is just shooting yourself in the foot.
Some of the most highly in-demand digital marketing services include:
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – this is a popular one and includes different areas. Basically, it’s about getting your site to rank right up there when people search for stuff using keywords;
- Pay-per-click (PPC), Facebook, Google, and other online advertising;
- Content strategies – these cover what actually goes into everything you post on YouTube, Instagram, blogs, social media, etcetera; and
- Analytics – monitoring and understanding the impact of digital marketing campaigns.
So where can I get the skills?
You’ll need two main types of knowledge. One will be whatever you’re initially specialising in, and the other will be a generalist understanding of what the hell digital marketing actually is. Communication skills are a must-have soft skill – not only because that’s at the core of your value proposition, but because sometimes clients can be a bit tricky to understand. You may get people coming to you announcing their intent to be the top search result ever and you’ll have to tease out specific deliverables to make this more…realistic. And patience, according to our insider:
“It’s fair to say that clients do sometimes have slightly unrealistic expectations and of course, the phrase you’ll hear most often is “We want/need to be on page 1 of Google!” – The difficulty being: so does absolutely everybody else! Also, everybody wants to see instant results, but search engines and digital marketing in general rarely work that way.”
But don’t be too daunted. He also reckons the great thing about being in the industry is the flexibility it offers. In fact: “The beauty of digital marketing is that there are so many different angles of attack, it guarantees you’ll never be bored!”
There’s more than one way to swing a cat, hey?
Sites to get started on specific skills include:
The Moz SEO Learning Centre – for SEO
- This one comes recommended by real digital marketers, and not just because Moz is a comprehensive SEO toolset for those in the industry. That means, by the way, that it’s one of the products you can download to help manage clients’ campaigns. The course is designed to teach you things like on-site and off-site SEO basics, why backlinks are something to care about, and other ways to rank certain sites and products highly.
- Google Digital Garage – for PPC
- Actually, this covers a boatload more than just PPC, because it covers a lot of different stuff. Like getting results for local businesses and broader strategic planning. Plus, why not learn from the biggest search engine ever? You can understand very core stuff through this course too, which will help with the generalist understanding of what the hell digital marketing actually is. Like why digital marketing is important, for example.
- Hootsuite Social Media Marketing Guide – self-explanatory
- Here you can get a quick overview of what’s involved in advertising on different platforms. You can learn about targeting your audience here because it’s not just millennials who Tweet and use Snapchat. You can also use this guide to get an overview of what you’re really getting yourself into, for a start!
What’s it going to be like?
There’s definitely a learning curve involved. And research, too, so you may need to adopt a case-by-case approach to meeting different clients’ needs. An impactful digital marketing strategy can often mean very different things at times—it’s such a dynamic industry! Perhaps our insider has put it most succinctly:
“As with most things, [digital marketing] is a case of applying diligent research, putting these theories into operation and then modifying as you go (not to mention learning from your mistakes!) to get the best results.”
Can I scale up?
Absolutely and for sure. In a massive way, too. The possibilities are endless, given that you can offer bespoke solutions for different clients. However, you’ll need an effective hiring strategy in place.
Let’s say that you’ve taken off. You’re the Tony Montana of SEO, you’ve bought a new Nescachino machine and want to start branching into other areas. Some of the key people you’ll want on your team include:
- A content strategist. Someone to liaise with clients and the rest of your team. A person who can draw out key points and turn them into amazing content for ads, social media posts, blogs, and whatnot. If this is you, perchance, then you’re off to a killer start already!
- Graphics and media whiz. Because user experience (UX) is ever so crucial. Nothing can rapidly deflate a good brand faster than shoddy graphics or amateurish design. Or typos, but you’ll also get an editor for that. This person can ideally help you design and present videos, sites, newsletters, and ads.
- Someone who will be able to realise when something or other isn’t quite right. To check that different campaign aspects gel with each other, and that your client’s key message is actually coming across in a coherent, impactful way.
- Analytics guru. Someone who can interpret and understand all the facts coming at you from digital marketing software. And tell you what it means, e.g. “We are a hit in Croydon and Croydon alone” or “Our incontinence products are bombing on Instagram”.
Another lucrative offering to have in your skills portfolio, which may inform your hiring strategy, is mobile app design. Loads of companies are trying to go mobile if they haven’t already. People are massive suckers for apps – but you didn’t need me to tell you that! And according to most of our other sources in the biz, there’s a LOT of money in developing apps for clients.
What will I make?
This will depend on your clientele. Larger corporations will have more money, for sure. If you’re working for smaller businesses or startups, they may only be able to pay smaller amounts for the same amount of work on your part.
Looking at statistics, a freelance digital marketer can make something like £23,000 a year specialising in one thing – but of course with that generalised understanding that underpins everything. From here, a successful digital marketer will only earn more as they gain experience, regular clients, and a reputation. When you’re in the big leagues, you could be earning six figures each year. So if you love it, then why not?