Are You Ready to Start Your Own Digital Agency?

By Jason Swenk on August 10, 2020

Are you tired of working for an agency? Do you feel like you could do things better yourself? Are you ready to start your own digital agency but afraid of the unknowns? You can spend all your time worrying about the uncertainty or you can get busy turning your dreams into reality.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • 2 things to set your agency up for success.
  • 3 things to know about landing new agency clients.
  • If you start your own digital agency, can it be a side-hustle?

Today I sat down for a fun talk with Greg Ippolito, President, and Creative Director of IMA, a B2B digital agency. Unlike many agency owners, Greg didn’t become an accident agency owner, he walked away from his job as an employee and made the conscious decision to branch out on his own. He’s here to talk about why he made the jump and what he’s learned along the way.

2 Things to Set Your Agency Up for Success

Whether you fell into the agency world or have over 20 years in the business like Greg, starting out can be a challenge. Unless you have an established client base, it can feel like a mad scramble to bring in enough clients to be profitable. For Greg, things were even more challenging because he had a Non-Disclosure Agreement that prevented him from recruiting potential clients. So how do you make sure when you start your own digital agency that you get off to a good start?

  1. Give yourself a cushion: You’re not going to make good decisions if you feel like you are already starting in the hole. Before Greg made the decision to start his agency, he made sure he had 6 months of expenses in the bank. The way he put it, with as much experience as he had, if he couldn’t win new clients of his own within that time, he didn’t deserve to own his own agency.
  2. Consider what you have to offer: Because Greg signed an NDA with his last agency, his options were limited when it came to attracting new clients. This meant he had to take a close look at his strengths and how he could position his agency to attract clients.

3 Things to Know About Landing New Agency Clients

Let’s be honest, clients are everything. You need clients to have a successful agency. But how do you find these clients if you don’t already have established connections?

  1. Create multiple touchpoints: In the beginning, IMA used dimensional mailers, phone calls, emails — pretty much anything to get the prospect’s attention. When you create multiple touchpoints, you increase the likelihood your prospects will pay attention to you. That said, it is possible to bug someone so much they never want to work with you. If you don’t hear from a cold prospect within 5-6 contacts, it’s time to let them go.
  2. Focus on how you can help: Prospects aren’t interested in helping you make money; they’re looking for someone who can fix their problems. Get your foot in the door and have those open and honest conversations. Listen to what your clients need and communicate a plan on how you can ease their pain points or solve their challenges.
  3. Know when a client is not a good fit: You may be anxious to sign on as many clients as you can, but you want to make sure they are the right clients. If you can’t provide what the client needs or they aren’t the right fit for your agency, don’t force it.

Can Starting an Agency be a Side-Hustle?

The short answer is no. It may be tempting to try to start an agency on the side while working your full-time job. The logic here is, you always have a steady income stream while you try to make it on your own. While this might work for some people, 99% of the time it’s a bad idea.

You can’t run a business part-time. Your growing marketing agency needs your focus, your ideas, and your time. If you are working two jobs at once, they will both suffer. And then there’s you. You’ll quickly discover you have no time to just “shut it off.” You have to get in the mindset that even a full-time job does not provide job security. It may feel safer to keep your job, but sometimes, the risk is worth the reward.

Starting an agency is an exciting time, but it comes with a very steep learning curve. The more you prepare and the bigger buffer you give yourself, the happier you’ll wind up in the long run.

What’s Next After You Start Your Own Digital Agency?

If you decide you are ready to start your own digital agency, the next step is putting all the processes in place to build the best agency from the ground up. During the lifetime of your agency, you will without a doubt come across other challenges — this is where I can step in.

I have advice for agency obstacles such as recognising common agency mistakes, how to keep great agency employees in your team as well as fostering the connections made with clients. If it’s challenging growing your business, I have agency growth hacks, the best ways to improve management of your business as well as why building a remote team can be beneficial in the long run.

Learn more about my career as well as tips, tricks, and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.

You can learn more from my experience from my Ask Swenk series and my videos on my Youtube channel. Check out advice and learn even more from other successful agency experts featured on Smart Agency podcast twice every week.

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