If you’re looking to scale your revenue and income, building an agency is the way to do it. Let’s talk about how to start an agency online, some of the most important steps you need to take, and how to go about them in order to understand how to run a successful agency. (For more in-depth guidance on scaling your agency, check out Revenue Spark.)
Psst! Do you prefer video over text? I’ve got you covered.
Transitioning from freelancer to agency owner was one of the best decisions I ever made, because as a freelancer, my income had plateaued, and I was interested in making a lot more money. The biggest lesson I learned in this transition was that you have to work smart, not just hard. Strategy is key.
How to Start an Agency — and Sidestep Your Competition
Guess what? You don’t have to make any mistakes on the road to starting an agency. I’ve already made them for you. (You’re welcome!) Here’s what you need to know, whether you want to scale an SMMA business, content marketing agency, or any other sort of agency.
Step #1: Get Specific with Your Services
I can’t emphasize this enough: Stop trying to be everything to everybody.
You can’t. You won’t. You’ll be miserable. And you’ll hate your life. (Also, and importantly, your revenue will suffer greatly.)
Let me tell you what not to do. When I first started my agency, it was a full-service digital marketing agency.
Aw. How cute is that? But no.
I was one person saying that I was offering social media, blogging, reputation management… What does that even mean? I had no idea, but I said I was offering it anyway.
Then, I iterated on this, and because my background is in writing and that’s what I love, I started telling clients, “We only produce content.”
But that still turned into writing blogs, and emails, and product descriptions, and social media posts, and ads, and video scripts. Everything.
Because I was still too unclear about what I offer, I put my agency in a place where we were catering to each individual client. And my clients were basically treating me like an employee, because I was doing whatever they asked.
This does not work.
So, I went back to the drawing board and tried again, and finally landed on blogging. We write blogs. That is our expertise.
We spent some time as a general content agency before I realized that we could benefit from niching down further. Now, we work exclusively with health and wellness brands. We are the agency to go to if you need blogs written within this arena.
I know you might have this fear of, “If I limit my services, then I’m losing out on money.” I get it, but I promise you, trying to be too many things to too many clients 100% will stunt your growth. And you will be very unhappy.
If you want to understand how to start an agency online, understand that this business is going to thrive on processes and systems. If you’re catering to every client, you won’t be able to have processes and systems.
That was Step #1. Get specific. Need more help? Grab my guide with 189 profitable niches.
By the way, if you want to learn more about the most common mistakes agency owners make, check out the video below.
Step #2: Set Your Rates and Base Them on Value, Not Just Time
I’ve talked about value-based pricing before. Let’s revisit that.
When we say “value-based,” we mean that you’re charging based on the expertise you bring to the table. Not solely the time you spend.
Let’s say you’re building a social media marketing agency, and a client wants you to manage their Instagram content. You’re going to post three times a week. Let’s say one post takes you five minutes. That’s 15 minutes a week, so about an hour a month.
This is obviously hypothetical but stick with me.
Are you charging for one hour of work? No.
And that’s because you’re not just a machine churning out posts. You’re also providing strategy and expertise. As a social media agency, you know what works best on IG. (Or you should.) You are charging for that, in addition to your time.
Step #3: Source — and Qualify! — Your Leads
Once you know what you’re going to offer and what you’re going to charge for it, you need to start looking for leads to contact.
There are all sorts of ways to source leads online. If you can’t find any, rest assured that you just don’t yet know where to look. But they’re out there, I promise, and they’re in infinite supply. If you need help, I have a guide that’ll teach you six ways to source leads.
It’s not just about sourcing leads, though. When you’re finding people you think you want to contact, you also want to qualify them. You can do this by asking yourself two questions:
(1) Does this company look like they need my services?
(2) Do they look like they have the budget to hire my agency?
Those are the two requirements they need to meet to make them a qualified lead.
When it comes to how many leads you need to be sourcing, always source more than you’ll need, because when it comes time to contact these people, some of them will ignore you and some of them will reject you. That’s okay. But don’t source five leads and think you’re going to close five clients.
Here’s more help on qualifying leads.
Let’s keep going.
Step #4: Start Reaching Out to Your Leads
If you’ve watched any of my videos before, then you probably know that I started building my agency with cold email outreach. It absolutely can work, and I have nothing against it. But personally, I grew tired of how much it’s a numbers game.
So, I set out to refine this process so that I can spend a little more time sourcing quality leads, reach out to fewer people, and still have a great closing rate. And that’s the process that my students and I follow now.
The biggest thing you need to remember is that you need to connect with someone in the department your agency will be working with.
For instance, because I own a content agency, I always connect with the editor, or the director of content, or the SEO manager.
When you do this, as opposed to sending a cold email to a generic info@ email address, you end up connecting with someone who understands you and your services and the value of the services you provide. They will care about your services.
The editor of a company I want to pitch will care about my services a lot more than a customer support rep or a sales rep or anyone else in the company.
You will eventually connect with the perfect person. That’s who your conversation is with, and the next step will be…
Step #5: Send Your Proposal
This does not need to be anything fancy. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Don’t ambush the lead with a ton of information. Sometimes, I’ll see agency owners send their leads a three-page proposal because they think that making it look complex and complicated works in their favor. But it’s the exact opposite.
Your proposal will very likely be one page, and you only need to tell them what you’re offering, and for how much.
And when you send that proposal, just remind them that you’re more than happy to discuss it more and answer any questions they may have. This is how you keep the line of communication open.
I’ve got landing clients down to a science, and it really just comes down to having the right process. You don’t need to be running paid ads. You don’t need to be buying email lists. (In fact, do not do this. It comes with a number of drawbacks and risks. But I’ll save that for another blog.)
Mastering how to start an agency online doesn’t rely on luck, or on going viral. It’s just having the right process. That’s it. And when you have the right process, your agency will start making 10, 15, $20,000 a month, and more. There’s no limit to how much you can earn.
If you want to join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and scale your agency to the next level, you might be a great fit for my private program, Revenue Spark. I will teach you my entire process for landing agency clients from start to finish. We’ve got an awesome Facebook community where you can communicate with me and other students, and you have my support every step of the way. Learn more and book a call.