How to Start a SMMA Agency [10+ Resources & Course]

Brand Strategy & Identity
Team Slam
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If you’re reading this, it probably means that you are wanting to start a social media marketing (SMMA) agency. By clicking the link to this article, you’ve already made it to the first step. Before congratulations are in order, you need to know the ins and outs of building a SMMA agency (likes and retweets can only take us so far). 

That’s where we come in: Slam Media Lab, a digital marketing agency in SF with a specialty in social strategy and content creation. We're not just any agency; our track record speaks for itself. We've helped organizations like Peer Health Exchange and LTX Quest exponentially increase engagement and social media presence. You can check out our case studies if you want a little more proof that we know what we’re talking about. 

We know firsthand just how challenging it is to handle all of the needs of entrepreneurship–just ask our founder, Silvia Li Sam, who was one of the youngest CEOs to launch a multi-million dollar agency during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand the complexities of starting and running a successful SMMA agency because we've lived them. 

Starting your own SMMA agency is undoubtedly rewarding and certainly no easy feat. That’s why we’ve put together How to Start an Agency, a masterclass course that compiles 100+ hours of research into modules that will help you cruise through the legal and operational circus of creating a business. 

And we get it—this isn’t another “ultimate guide” full of lip service without results. Just ask our previous clients, like Kai XR, an ed tech startup we partnered with to help shape their brand identity; or Worklife Ventures, a venture capital firm that grew its online web presence in months with our SEO expertise (again, not to toot our own horn, but we know our stuff.) 

You can sign up for the How to Start an Agency Course today, and we’ll help you slam dunk into your entrepreneurial journey! But before you go, here’s some extra info to learn on the way. 

Why Should I Start a SMMA Agency? 

A SMMA agency helps build the online brand and voice of a company. As an SMMA agency, you'll be in charge of portraying your clients' voices through their content and optimizing it for ultimate business success. It takes a lot of hours with your head down, light on, and laptop open. That’s why we created our course so you can have at least half your late nights back. 

So, what are the benefits of starting your own SMMA agency?

  • Control and ownership: Running your own business means that you are your own boss. You get to call the shots.
  • Become more creative: Taking risks and being innovative on social media is what will make you stand out. You make the rules. So, that thing you’ve been wanting to try that your last boss shut down—go for it!
  • Flexibility: Having your own SMMA agency means you go at your own pace. You’ll have the flexibility of working around those things in life that inevitably come up.

According to Colorlib’s digital marketing statistics, the global digital marketing and advertising market is forecast to hit $1.5 trillion by 2030. That’s a lot of potential for a business. Social media is not going anywhere, and companies are continuing to invest in experts to help grow their brands online.

Finding Your Niche as you Start Your SMMA Agency

Now that you’ve decided you want to start your own SMMA agency business, you’re ready to figure out how you would stand out! Here’s how to do it:

  1.  Find your niche
  2.  Consult with your network and colleagues
  3. Test the market

Why are these steps important to consider when starting your own SMMA agency?  Because by narrowing down your audience, you will be able to target your services, and people who will take action. This way, you also set yourself apart from your competitors.

How to Find Your Niche

Start by asking, what are you passionate about? Which industries do you understand inside out? Maybe you’re really great at making videos for Gen Z. Maybe you’re a terrific graphic designer that makes really good infographics. Maybe you’re a great marketer with secret tips on how to scale your TikTok account from zero to millions. Find a SMMMA niche by:

  1. Make a list of all your passions
  2. Write down everything you are really good at
  3. Spot the needs in the market
  4. Do some research on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, and see what kinds of jobs people are looking for
  5. Do more research around markets that are very crowded, and why they are crowded
  6. Figure out how to combine your passions, what you are great at, and what’s missing in the market after this research.

Consult with your Network and Colleagues

Ask your friends, past colleagues, co-workers, or other freelancers what they need the most in their teams.

They can offer insights into industries that are thriving and those that are just about to boom. Plus, they might just point out a niche you never considered but are perfect for!

One thing you can try is reaching out to a bunch of businesses and trying out your pitch. See if they have a need and if your potential services can solve for it.

Test the Market

An image of our TikTok Script Template, which you can use to start your SMMA agency.

Before diving in, dip your toes in the water. Research your potential niche, see what the competition is like, and maybe run a mini-campaign or two. This is like sampling that new ice cream flavor before buying a whole tub. Here are a few ways to do this:

  1. Conduct a survey on your social media platform of preference. Ask your contacts about their pain points, needs, and preferences.
  2. Make a list of who your competitors are and note what they do right and wrong, and what you’d do differently.
  3. Launch a teaser of your future business to study the reaction of your audience. It could be anything from an announcement, social media graphics, or TikToks. 

If you’re a bit camera shy and stuck trying to manage your own TikTok account, you can use our TikTok Script Template, TikTok Content Planner, or TikTok for Small Businesses resources to make your brand’s social media game top notch before you even officially launch. 

If TikTok isn’t your jam and Reels is more up your speed, you can check out our Ultimate Guide for Instagram for Small Businesses or our Small Business Instagram Story Template for winning aesthetics created in 2x speed. 

Legal Checklist to Start Your SMMA agency

Here are six initial steps to consider when you’re setting up your own SMMA agency from a legal standpoint:

  1. Incorporate your business
  2. Register your agency
  3. Obtain any necessary licenses & permits
  4. Establish a tax ID
  5. Get insurance
  6. Set up banking information

Incorporate Your Business

In order for your SMMA agency to operate as a company, it needs to be legally registered where it will do business. This process is called incorporation. According to Stripe, deciding when you should incorporate should not be taken lightly, and it is advised to consult with professional advisors. The benefits of incorporating a business are primarily related to risk reduction for your company, ensuring that you are a reliable operating entity to your customers, partners, and the rest of the world.

In the United States, incorporation is decided at the state level. Pro tip: many businesses choose to incorporate in Delaware due to several advantageous features of its corporate laws, legal system, and business environment. The Slam Agency Starter Course shows you how to set up your SMMA agency through Stripe Atlas.                    

Register Your Agency

You’ll need to register your business with the relevant state authorities, even if you are incorporated in another state. A registered agent is a designated individual or company that receives legal and official documents on behalf of your LLC. Slam Media Lab has a Delaware LLC and California registered agent. Having a registered agent helps ensure that your SMMA agency and legal documents stay in compliance with state regulations.

Obtain Any Necessary Licenses & Permits

Depending on location and types of services offered, you may need to obtain certain licenses and permits. You can consult with your registered agent to make sure you are up to date on all the necessary legal documents required to start your SMMA agency.

Establish a Tax ID

You’ll need to get a Tax ID number from the IRS (EIN for corporations and LLCs) to start your SMMA agency. Stripe Atlas is one of many tools that will generate the documents you need, then form your company in Delaware, hire a registered agent, and get your US Tax ID. 

Get Insurance

It’s important to acquire the proper insurance documents for your SMMA agency. There are many types of insurance with different coverage levels for your company. Gusto is a great source for worker’s compensation to guarantee that you and your team are protected in the case of an accident on the job.

Set up Banking Information

You want to make sure the finances are right. Before you do business, it’s important that your clients know where/how to pay you. Here are a few banking tools that we like at Slam: 

  • Brex offers corporate credit cards and travel expense management for employees.
  • Ramp gets a nod from us for simplifying business banking. Manage cards, track expenses, and pay bills effortlessly—all in one user-friendly platform.
  • Mercury is known for its high functionality. It allows secure operations from anywhere in the world, and you can even send checks with just a few clicks.

Choosing the Right Operating Systems for Your SMMA Agency 

The right systems can help you start your SMMA agency more smoothly. Here’s what to keep in mind when choosing your softwares: 

Client services

Finding clients will be your first big challenge when starting your SMMA agency. When we first started Slam, we created a profile on Upwork to connect with clients. This gave us two things: visibility and experience. Platforms such as Upwork allowed us to start small, with simple projects to improve our portfolio and start growing into bigger projects with bigger clients, who refer us to new clients. 


Your design platforms of choice will depend on both your needs and your skills. If you’re an Mac user, you can opt for Keynote for decks and presentations. A possible alternative could be Google Slides, but it offers fewer capabilities. 

We’ve also found Pitch to be a solid option, with convenient collaboration features if you need to work as a team on a single document.  If you’re not so tech savvy, user-friendly options with a shallow learning curve such as Canva will work best. 

When it comes to web design, we’ve tested several different tools and we’re convinced that Webflow wins. We tell you more about how to choose the right CMS in our blog! 

Financial management

In handling our agency's finances, having a reliable accountant is a must. We've found QuickBooks to be a user-friendly tool for tracking expenses and maintaining bookkeeping. Additionally, Stripe proves invaluable for managing client invoices efficiently. These tools have really helped us keep our finances in order.

Open for Business: How to Run a SMMA agency

An image of our Notion Wiki Template, which you can use to start your SMMA agency.

So, you’ve done the research. You’ve gathered your resources. What happens after you start your business? Here are our 5 best practices to help run a SMMA agency:

  1. Establish a leadership model that works for you and your team 
  2. Build a community, not just a business 
  3. Increase online visibility and your brand website through your website & SEO
  4. Have clear processes in place 
  5. Build credibility & showcase your work through case studies

Establish a Leadership Model that Works for You and Your Team

For any business to be successful, it starts at the top. It’ll be important to establish a mission & vision for your SMMA agency. After all, you are setting the tone for how the business flows and ultimately grows!

Setting up workflows for your team can feel overwhelming and time-consuming. We’ve made a Notion Wiki Template you can use to solve that problem, so you and your team can have a centralized hub where you can track projects, develop sprints, and more. 

Build a Community, Not Just a Business

A wise group of high schoolers once said, “We’re all in this together” *clap*. So maybe High School Musical wasn’t referring to your SMMA agency, but the mantra still applies. While building your business, you should also be establishing a community: a group of people that come together over shared interests.

This could be other SMMA agency owners with the same niche, for example.  Building community and business helps gather insight about current trends and needs. It also allows your company to stay relevant in today’s ever evolving digital landscape.

Increase Online Visibility and Your Brand Through Your Website & SEO

As an award-winning agency, we’re experts on social strategy, content, branding, and SEO. Using deep research, data, and keywords can help your SMMA agency rank higher in Google searches, ultimately making your business stick out among competitors.

Have Clear Processes in Place

As a SMMA agency, brands are looking to you to crush their social stats and growth. You want to position yourself as the best choice when clients consider working with your SMMA agency. Make sure your contact information is up to date so prospective clients can reach you.

Once they reach out, what happens next? Perhaps you have an introductory call to figure out their needs. It’s also recommended to have a pitch deck handy that shows your SMMA agency capabilities. We’ve got a downloadable template for you from Pitch in our How to Start an Agency  course!

Build Credibility & Showcase Your Work Through Case Studies

When you are starting your SMMA agency, it’s important to ensure that you are building credibility and adding value to your clients. As you work on more projects, keep track of your results. You can learn from your work and showcase your social media strategy through case studies

Case studies are like the highlight reels of your SMMA agency: the best of the best, condensed in a way so clients know that you know your stuff. Think of it as the resume for your SMMA agency.

You Now Know How to Start a SMMA Agency! What’s Next? 

Are you ready to start your SMMA agency and slam your next career goals? Sign up for our How to Start an Agency today! For $249, you’ll receive well-researched and implemented resources to jumpstart your SMMA agency. 

If you want to start an agency, but social media marketing isn’t up your alley, we still got your back: 

Coming Soon!

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