Are you currently working at an agency with clients that don’t understand creative or “out-of-the-box” thinking? Maybe they have a very limited brand that hinders creativity? Maybe you just don’t agree with traditional agencies’ way of business. You might have your own unique opinion and skills in design, illustration, brand, photography, etc. And you just want to do things your way. Starting your own agency is achievable now more than ever.
So, how can you start building yours?
I’ve gathered four simple things you can start working on today to launch the creative agency of your dreams: this year.
Avoiding your current network and professional networking opportunities would be a big mistake. Networking is vital to building your business. Utilize your contacts! And while you’re at it, make sure you maintain really positive connections with everyone you work with if you plan on starting your own agency in the future. Reach out to old coworkers and colleagues. Ask them to catch up on the phone, or grab coffee or lunch with you. Sometimes, your contacts may have opportunities they’re too busy to manage — or don’t have the right resources — this would be the perfect opportunity for an introduction. If you share with your colleagues that you’re going out on your own, chances are they’ll more than want to support you and keep you in mind next time a creative need crosses their plate. The power of referrals and word of mouth are incredible. People are four times more likely to buy when referred by someone they know. But, don’t wait for these referrals — ask for them.
Also, think networking-karma. When you’ve learned all you can from your new and existing connections, don’t just move on. Make sure you pay it forward to new entrepreneurs who might need guidance or introductions to support their new business. Agree to chat with people who reach out and ask for help building their own business. I did all of the aforementioned networking tactics when starting my own agency, and now I get about one request a month from someone reaching out to hear how I pulled it off. I never say no!
When starting out, it may be tough financially to hire full-time employees, especially employees with specific expert niches that usually take a hefty budget to afford, i.e., SEO, video production, etc. With the influx of professionals going out on their own, there are many avenues to hire freelancers and SMEs on a contract-by-contract basis. Consider hiring supporting freelancers or SMEs for client contracts, like an SEO audit or a media strategy by using resources such as CloudPeeps, Upwork or Torchlite. These marketplaces focus on bringing the right talent to companies to make the most of the opportunity and work.
Alternatively, you could find your first few clients by pitching available opportunities for other creatives. These creatives could bring existing clients to your agency, providing your agency with opportunity and the creative for an additional opportunity with a larger team.
CREATING YOUR AGENCY WEBSITE
First impressions count. You’re a creative agency. You need a brand and a website that wows your visitors and prospects and shows your capabilities and talents. However, don’t be that agency that tries too hard to be clever. Consider working with a UX expert to ensure you don’t end up with confusing navigation and no clear website hierarchy. Your website should appear professional and unique, but also have really clear information for any visitor that navigates and wants to hire you.
Also, remember that your website is meant to generate leads. Be sure you have a clear call to action and the visitor can understand who you are, what you do and why you care. Below are two great examples of a creative and efficient website. It’s clear who they are, what they are about and how they can help you.
Besides your call to action and clear navigation, there are a few other basic functions and content areas you should include to make it an effective website marketing tool:
Contact information on every page
An SEO strategy to drive more qualified traffic to your site
Testimonials and case studies
Photos or video of your work, venue or your team (think: online portfolio)
A newsletter sign up
Social media accounts
Content marketing is SO important for lead generation, as well as brand trust and awareness. As mentioned above, two necessary basic functions to include on your website is a blog and an SEO strategy. Help your potential clients find you!
Content fuels your online marketing channels. Start with writing blogs that will attract clients to your business. Think about the problems your prospects are trying to solve, and how you can help. Dig into creative problems you’ve solved for past brands and clients. The content on your blog can extend onto your social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. It can also be repurposed into:
An email newsletter
Try to gain additional exposure and showcase your expertise through guest blogging for top creative publications such as AdWeek, B2B Marketing Blog or Creativity.
Keywords are also critical to include in your content strategy. Keywords will help you drive more qualified traffic to your specific web pages, which leads to better conversions. Keywords can also help you get your content in front of the right people at the right time.
Owning an agency may not be for the faint of heart, but it’s worth the work to build a business of your own. When you’re burning the midnight oil, it’ll all be for your own success and your own revenue. Be sure to take the time to plan out what kind of company you are — really hone in on your value proposition. Focus on the type of clients you want, how to make them happy and build a team culture that you’re proud of. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun. Your agency is your livelihood and something you should feel passionate about. Share your passion with your colleagues, employees and your clients.
This post originally appeared as a guest contribution on Hatchbuck.com — a great resource for small business owners looking for a marketing automation tool!