How to Start a Creative Agency & Scale it to Millions [Course & 20+ Templates]

Brand Strategy & Identity
Team Slam
Helping you win online

So you want to start your own creative agency–wahoo! First of all, congratulations. Having passion and curiosity to start a new company means that you have already taken the first step. The Slam team is here to help you along the way, cheering you on as you reach each milestone. 

We know from experience that starting an agency is a LOT of work, and owners can spend weeks or hundreds of hours trying to find the right resources to start their business. Trust us, we can relate. Slam Media Lab (Slam) is now an award-winning web design agency in SF that started from an idea that Silvia, our founder, had during the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With two years of operation under our belt, we now have 30+ clients, catering to founders and brands focused on social impact, and have earned $2M in revenue. We’re skilled at delivering Webflow design & development services that leverage polished visuals with marketing expertise in SEO, content writing & strategy, brand strategy & identity, and more. 

We want to make it easier for our peers (like you!) to achieve their goals, without the chaos of figuring out how to do it in the first place. At Slam, we have templatized and documented a lot of our processes, so that you can learn how to start a creative agency and kickstart your dream career.

Our How to Start an Agency course is what we wished we had during the launch and operation journey of Slam, and includes comprehensive documented processes and tools that were essential to our agency’s success–all. Watch the trailer:

Get ready for an inside look (processes, hustle, tools) into building a successful agency. Our ten-hour agency course and 20+ agency tool templates will put you on the path to turning your idea into a business.

The course's templates include

  1. Agency HQ Wiki template
  2. Agency sprints template
  3. Agency onboarding documentation
  4. Notion client home
  5. Notion documentation template
  6. Legal tracker
  7. Social media calendars
  8. And more

Ready to get started? Let’s go!

What is a Creative Agency? 

A creative agency is an agency that provides design strategy for advertising and marketing. Your job responsibilities would typically include creating logos, developing brand strategy & identity, helping create social media assets, and overall developing creative solutions to boost a company’s brand presence. Clients will expect a creative agency to be experts in strategy development and have a keen eye for visual identity, and to work collaboratively with the agency’s team to meet business goals. 

Types of Creative Agencies 

There are also various types of creative agencies, and depending on your niche and skill sets, you might want to consider narrowing down what services your agency will provide: 

  • Advertising agencies focus on promotional campaigns and, you guessed it, ads. 
  • DIgital agencies help clients create beautiful and marketable digital experiences. 
  • Design agencies will focus on creating product design assets, both digital and print.
  • Interaction agencies are skilled in multimedia and innovative tech projects.
  • Consulting agencies are focused on strategy and guidance to meet business goals.  

Why Businesses Need Your Creative Strategies 

Let’s do a small exercise. If you were asked to remember the Coca-Cola logo off the top of your head, could you? What about Apple’s branding? Or Google’s? These companies are key examples of how brand development and awareness are essential to a product’s success. Businesses, whether it is designing their visual identity or needing to showcase upcoming products, need creative strategists who can help them stand out and succeed in a competitive marketplace. 

Even when companies have in-house creative teams, they still might need to hire a creative agency to step in and help provide support and strategy.  In other words, businesses need you in order to gain new expertise, valuable insights, efficiency, and flexibility. 

The 10 Steps for How to Start Your Own Creative Agency

From finding your niche to crafting a killer business plan, here’s a roadmap for how to build a creative agency from scratch. Here is what we are going to cover together: 

  1. Dive into market research
  2. Setup your finances 
  3. Handle the legal 
  4. It’s brand building time! 
  5. Determine your business model 
  6. Network and build connections 
  7. Build your dream team 
  8. Be tech savvy 
  9. Market your business 
  10. Offer quality servic

Dive Into Market Research: Learn About the Field & Your Competitors 

Though you might be antsy to get the ball rolling, you first need to take a step back and understand what the current creative agency landscape looks like. This analytical process is called market research, and is crucial for any business to thrive. When doing market research, you may want to ask questions like: 

  • Is there a demand for the service I want to provide?
  • Who's interested in my services? Big companies or small businesses?
  • Is there a specific demographic–age, geographical location, etc.–that tends to need creative agency talent? 
  • What other companies exist that provide similar services? Who are my competitors? 
  • How much do people typically pay for creative agency services? 

By finding answers to these questions, you learn about current market trends, as well as client expectations and needs. This information is incredibly useful when you are defining what your business will look like and how it can stand out. 

Outline Your Business Plan 

Once you’ve learned about the creative agency landscape, you can start honing into your agency’s goals, timeline, and general business plan. It may seem overwhelming at first, but you can think of it as completing five steps: 

  1. Figure out your mission and values. What are the overarching goals you have, and what values are important for you as you start your business? 
  2. Find your target audience. Consider your ideal clients for your creative agency based on your market research. We also have a specific model about finding your niche and ideal client in our How to Start an Agency course! 
  3. Consider how your business will be structured. We’ll get into this more later, but you need to know if you want your agency to be a corporation, LLC, partnership or sole proprietor. 
  4. Determine financial projections. Estimate your expected revenue, loans you have to take out, and other finances that you have to keep in mind to start a creative agency. 
  5. Define your initial marketing strategy. Knowing your target audience, market analysis, and finances, what is a feasible and effective marketing strategy for people to use your product? 

Having this business plan will hold you accountable for your own goals, and create structure for the journey of starting a creative agency. 

Setup your Finances: Build a Strong Financial Foundation for Your Agency 

Smart and diligent finances are essential when launching and maintaining a creative agency. While it’s tedious, having a thoughtful and detailed financial plan can save you many hours and tribulations in the future. Here are some tools that we recommend you can use to ease this process: 

  • Ramp offers a corporate card and finance automation platform. 
  • Brex offers a corporate credit card with reward points. 
  • Mercury is a banking service tailored for startups, making it great if you are in an entrepreneurial, agile startup environment. 

How to Start a Creative Agency Legally 

With finances out of the way, you can focus on the legal requirements for starting and running a creative agency. Our How to Start an Agency course has a specific section for the legal and operational setup of an agency, with actionable steps to ensure your company is legally compliant. Although we can’t list everything in this section, here’s a short introduction to get you started. 

  1. Confirm your business structure. You have to decide whether you are a S or C corporation, limited liability company (LLC), partnership, or sole proprietorship. Stripe Atlas is a great tool to help register your business without the hassle. 
  2. Choose where you want to set up your company. Most companies set-up in Delaware because of its flexible corporate laws and efficiency, but you should check which place works best for your business plan. 
  3. See if you need additional licenses and permits. You may need additional legal documentation or state-specific compliance requirements to legally run your business. 
  4.  Get your tax identification. Receive your Tax ID number from the IRS. This would instead be an EIN in the case of corporations and LLCs.

For a more detailed guide on how to build a creative agency legally, you can check out our How to Start an Agency course. 

It’s Brand Time! How to Build a Creative Agency’s Visual Identity 

Like we mentioned earlier with examples of Google, Apple, and Coca-Cola, branding is an impactful way you can gain recognition, build trust, and gain your first customers. As a creative agency, branding not only helps you appear established and polished, but it also is the first representation of your work. Having a brand identity that is tailored to market expectations can also be helpful when finding your niche and ideal client, as they will be searching for agencies that best suit their specific needs. 

At Slam, we have worked on brand strategy & identity with numerous impact-driven companies, helping teams with  Webflow design & development, choosing the right CMS, deciding between Wordpress v. Webflow, and learning how to use Webflow CMS for blogging

For example, we worked with community gardening nonprofit Fresh Approach to help them develop brand identity that is community-centric, warm, and earthy. You can find more examples of our brand work by looking at our case studies. 

Make your brand visible from Day 1: How to Run a Creative Agency with Best SEO Practices

SEO is key to a successful and visible creative agency, because it is one the main ways people can find your services with a quick Google search. If you’re new to Search Engine Optimization, not to worry! We have a list of SEO Terms that you can use as a resource, as well as a small business SEO guide for the next step. We also offer Webflow SEO optimization services if you want that extra oomph in marketing and online presence.

Want more structure from the get-go? You can look at our Keyword Research Template, Go to Market Strategy Template, or Website Launch Checklist as tools to ensure your agency will have a strong marketing presence. 

Decide How to Start Your Own Creative Agency With a Solid Business Plan 

Your business model determines how you are going to earn revenue. Is your agency mainly a service? Subscription? Product-based? Your model will depend on the type of creative agency you decide to pursue and how you want to run your business. 

If, for instance, you are planning to start a creative agency that provides services and uses influencer marketing as its central marketing tool, these are crucial aspects to how you outline your business plan. You can go back to our What is a Creative Agency section earlier in this article and look at the different types of creative agencies if you are still unsure. 

Turn Your Extroverted Side On: Building Connections to Launch Your Business

You are legally compliant, have a great business plan, and understand the creative agency landscape. But this will go nowhere if you have no clients after all of your hard work. This is where networking and connecting comes in. Whether it is through a friend of a friend, cold emailing, conferences, pop-ups, or social media posting, your business will thrive only if you share that it exists. Once you make these initial connections, you can start building and maintaining client relationships who help you launch your agency from 0 to 1. 

Having a proposal ready could be a great way to feel more prepared when you meet new people. We made a proposal template you can use as a guide. That way, your growing network can know exactly what you offer as soon as they meet you. 

How to Build a Creative Agency with Employees aka Building Your Dream Team 

When you begin hiring, it’s important to think about what roles are must-haves in order for your business to function. In a creative agency, you typically have:

  • Designers who create visual assets like ads and websites 
  • Creative directors who oversee projects 
  • Copywriters who create written content for websites, social media, etc. 
  • Content Creators who work with designers and copywriters to create visuals 

Based on your creative agency and your niche, you may need to hire specific employees who are not on this list, and that’s totally okay. The main takeaway here is that you can look at typical creative agency roles as a holistic framework for how you can model your future team. 

Once you have your team setup, there are tools you can use to make sure they get settled in with ease. You can use payroll software like Gusto or Deel to manage HR and employee payment when you hire new team members. 

Be Tech Savvy: How to Run a Creative Agency with Efficient Business Tools 

Running a creative agency is a lot of work, which is why using pre-existing tools built for businesses is a productive way to save time, money, and stress less. You can use comprehensive resources like our How to Start an Agency course as an overarching tool, and use sites like Notion, Airtable, or Slack for organization and communication. 

To get you started, we’ve made some templates you can use for marketing and organizational schedules: 

Having your documentation online, synced, and easily navigational can make your workday exponentially more manageable. As you’ve probably noticed, we have also linked other tools that we like throughout this article that you can peruse based on your needs. 

Show the World Your Stellar Work by Marketing Effectively 

Alongside networking, marketing is something you must consistently do  to gain traction and presence. Whether it is by creating a newsletter, developing unique social media campaigns, creating innovative content, or writing blog posts, there are countless ways you can market yourself, so long as it makes sense with your brand voice. You can use tools like Sprout Social for a cohesive social media business solution, and Iconosquare for data analytics and post scheduling. 

You should also be aware of marketing trends, especially as social media trends tend to leave as quickly as they come. We also made a Tiktok Content Planner and Tiktok Script Template you can use to keep track. In general, hop onto chances you have that will increase your visibility to your target audience, and if your current marketing does not seem to be working, think about other strategies you can try out. 

Offer Quality Service 

With all of the research, preparation, and ideation that you’ve done, you’re ready to offer your services to the world. Your growing network and future clientele will be wanting the quality, exceptional work that we know you can deliver. It’s also important that you learn how to balance hard and soft skills, because what’s equally, if not more important than the product is how you deliver it to your client.

With strong people skills, organized deliverables, and clear communication, your creative agency business is set to thrive. If you want more detailed perspectives on being an agency owner, the How to Start an Agency course gives you an overview of how your creative agency can succeed. 

Join Slam's How to Start a Creative Agency Course

We are so excited that you are pursuing the path of running a creative agency. The journey from the idea to launch is not easy, but we hope that this guide gives you some clarity on how to achieve your business goals. At Slam, we have compiled all of our own resources, created specific modules, and have key discussions on running an agency in our How to Start an Agency course–we hope to see you there! 

Interested in starting other types of agencies? Check out our guides:

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How to Start an Agency [Course & 20+ Templates]

Leverage our proven blueprint to start your own million-dollar agency. We did it in one year. You can, too. Our course packs in 20+ templates and exclusive insider processes, addressing every challenge from startup to success.

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