How to Start and Lead Your Own Advertising Agency [Full Course and Guides!]

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Silvia Li Sam
Founder & CEO

We know why you’re here: you’re ready to take the next step in your marketing career and start your own advertising agency! We’re here to help, whether you’ve just broken into the field or are a seasoned marketer looking to be your own boss. We have all the answers you need right here, so let’s jump right into it!

Sorry… Who Are You?

Hey! We’re Slam Media Lab (Slam!) We’re an advertising agency ourselves, where we dabble in a little bit of everything! From website design to SEO optimization, we work with businesses and startups to bring their visions into reality. And when we’re not slam-dunking projects for our clients, we’re sharing our knowledge on how to start an advertising agency to help other companies learn and grow in the marketing field like we did. From winning awards to having a 5-star review from our clients, we know how to run an ad agency!

Why Did We Start Our Advertising Agency?

It’s all about the people: for our clients, for our team members, for that marketer out there who needs a little help, and everyone else in between. We work personally with our clients to ensure we’re creating the perfect website, that juicy copy, or #1 results in the search engine.

As a top Hispanic marketing agency, it’s our mission to promote inclusivity and ensure each of our clients is seen and appreciated for who they are!

the slam team (5 people)

How Our Advertising Agency Works

Slam is focused on understanding our clients, both in terms of vision and in delivery. We take a more laid-back approach to our work, while remaining as professional as ever. We know that not everyone will fully understand the marketing jargon you see on other sites, and we want to make sure our team is accessible. You’re here to learn how to start your own ad agency, not waste more time Googling vocab words, and we’re here to bridge the gap.

Our Lovely Clients

Don’t just take our word for it, though! We love all of our clients equally; however, here are a few examples of our past work:

As you can see, we partner with companies from restaurants and coffee shops to professional services, portfolios, and contractors! We focus on small businesses and startups that don’t have the time or resources to do it all by themselves.

And we know both sides of the advertising agency coin; for example, we have guides and resources for businesses to discover the best agencies for them, even if that’s not us! You can always check out our blog to learn more about us and what we’re up to. And if you’re seeing green flags, then it’s time to move on to our breakdown of how to start an advertising agency!

How to Create an Advertising Agency

When it comes to starting an advertising agency, there’s a good amount to consider, research, and understand. Let’s look into an overview of the position and the steps that will get you started!

What is an Advertising Agency?

An advertising agency, or ad agency, is a company that specializes in creating marketing, websites, and other such outreach for their clients, to ensure their business is seen by customers. This can be done in many ways, with different focuses and niches, so the perfect match for you is out there. Here are just a few examples of the kinds of things an advertising agency may focus on:

  • A Full-service Advertising Agency focuses on a general ad campaign. It covers all the bases - both offline and online.
  • Creative Boutique Agencies, on the other hand, are much more niche and focused in their specialized campaigns.
  • A Digital Advertising Agency uses online tactics like web design, social media marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) search engine optimization (SEO), and more.
  • And Traditional Advertising Agencies use traditional forms of advertising, such as TV, radio, billboards, direct mail, and posters.
  • Social Media Marketing Agencies solely market through social media, using sites like X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and others.

Plus, right now is the perfect time to start learning how to open an advertising agency! This business has had an insane 23% growth since 2020. In the next four years, the ad agency field is projected to grow another 20%. However, the increased spending on advertising also means increased competition. That’s why we’re here to keep you on the path to success!

What to Consider When Starting an Advertising Agency

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to creating your own advertising agency. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the topics to get you started.

  1. Your Agency Vision
  2. Building a Team
  3. Office vs Online Advertising Agency
  4. Legal and Finance Reminders
  5. Stunning Online Presence: Your Website and Social Media

Your Agency Vision

What makes you stand out as the best pick for your clients? Consider what niches you plan on focusing on, what type of agency you’d like, and what the competition is like for that specific kind. This will help you truly narrow down what your business is going to focus on!

This is also a great time to consider branding, such as the name of your business. Plus, a logo and/or color scheme can go a long way for recognition. We suggest you play around on a graphic design site like Canva to see what you can create, or get a vision started!

This will come back up in Step 5, but it’s never too early to start thinking about your own brand recognition! In fact, we go in-depth on this topic in our course, “How to Start an Agency,” so check it out to get a head start!

Building a Team

If you’re here to learn about how to start an ad agency with no money, this section may not be for you just yet. However, hear us out, as hiring employees is a crucial step for any growing business!

The starting size of your agency is worth consideration when it comes to having a few helping hands around the office. You may be open to hiring employees to help your personal workload, and to make things run a lot smoother.

However, with employees comes things like payroll, insurance plans, HR, and more! Luckily, there are programs tailored to helping small businesses with the hiring process, like Gusto, which streamlines all of the above and saves you some much needed time.

Office vs Online Advertising Agency

Since the end of the global lockdown, returning to the offices has been a hot topic. What’s the big deal? Well, for ad agencies, whether the company has a physical office or not is completely open!

Marketing can take place fully online, and all employees and the client could be remote. Plus, it saves money on renting a physical office and paying bills, and gives your employees a much-needed flexibility with their work.

This also means your employees can live anywhere in the country or even the world, and still be able to work for you.

However, having a physical location has its perks too! Your clients may feel more comfortable knowing you have an office to visit or call whenever they have questions. Clients with a local business might also prefer a local ad agency who can really understand their vision.

For example, a small business in Cleveland, Ohio is likely to seek out an ad agency in Cleveland, Ohio to create the perfect campaign for the locals. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of each for your own agency!

Legal and Finance Reminders

We already talked about payroll for your employees, so let’s talk legal: what kinds of licenses or permits do you need for your location? Registering your agency and creating a business account with your bank are also two very important steps.

Make sure to research which business structure would be best for your advertising agency -  Stripe Atlas has a helpful article on the difference between LLCs and C Corporations, the two most common types for a new company! 

Stunning Online Presence: Your Website and Social Media

Perhaps the most important thing needed for a business in 2024 is an impressive online presence. Your company’s website needs to be visible and easy to find and recognize. This is where brand recognition and SEO come into play as well!

Other things to be aware of with your website:

  • Navigation - Is your website easy to navigate? Can your client find what they need? How can they contact you through the website?
  • Visual - Is your website easy on the eyes? Is it cluttered or simple? Do you have visuals?
  • Brand - Do you have a logo/color of choice that’s present on your site? Are these choices present in your other online sites?

Having a consistent presence across social media can be extremely helpful, too! In the course, we’ll show you how to set up some of these to make sure you have a presence when a potential client searches your agency’s name.

Let’s Get to Class! Learn How to Start an Advertising Agency

Here’s the plot twist to this article: just having a step-by-step guide on how to make an advertising agency is not enough to get you to your end goal. We have so much info to give, we could teach a class on it. So… we did!

If you’re ready to start an agency and want to learn how from a professional company, we here at Slam have the class for you! “How to Start an Agency” is a ten-hour course designed to walk you through the steps of opening your own advertising agency, what tools you’ll need, and what processes we took in our journey. It’s taught by our CEO, Silvia Li Sam, who has all the insider info.

Watch the trailer:

Who Is This Course For?

Slam’s whole vision is to make dialogue about marketing and agencies palatable for the average person. So, this course is designed for everyone. If you’re any of the following, we’d love to see you here!

  • Entrepreneurs, startups, and those new to the agency business
  • Seasoned marketers ready to take the next step in their career
  • Freelancers who want to hone their craft
  • Solo business owners who need a little help getting started
  • New agencies overwhelmed with all the ins and outs 
  • Learners who want to find out how real ad agencies work

Let’s put it this way: if you have a vision, we want to work with you! 

Why Should You Take This Course?

  1. You made it this far in the article, and are hungry for more!
  2. You have the vision, but need the guidance of a professional agency
  3. You’re ready to learn from a trusted and award-winning source
  4. You’re sick of reading how-to guides that don’t actually have all the resources you need in one place
  5. You don’t have the time or energy to do everything on your own

From this final point, we’d like to ask: do you have days, maybe even weeks, of spare time to dedicate to figuring this stuff out on your own? Neither did we, so we know how frustrating it can be to try to do it all yourself. Time is money after all, and as an agency owner, time is the single most important asset you can have.

Let’s avoid the countless hours of scrolling the same info over and over. We may joke, but 10-hours of content will fly by when you’re ready to learn, and eager to take this next step! 

Like our style? We offer other courses and products, too! Everything on our products page is for everyone, from beginners to experts, and is designed to both teach and guide you with resources that will set you up for success! Here are some of our faves:

Yes, There’s Gonna Be Homework

Don’t worry, you won’t be graded. There are over 12 assignments, but that’s in addition to the 10 downloadable client templates, 15 downloadable operational templates, and all the other goodies included. This class can be viewed at your own pace. No need to binge the whole course in one go - this isn’t Netflix, after all.

The real meat and potatoes of this course are the modules you’ll be viewing. Here are just a few of them to explore!

  1. The role of an agency CEO
  2. Finding your niche and ideal client
  3. Setting up your services and pricing
  4. How to get your first clients

The role of an agency CEO

Hear it straight from our agency CEO and course teacher, Silvia Li Sam! What is it like to start and run your own advertising agency? We’ll discuss what it takes to get started, what is expected of you, and how to continue to grow and learn. It’s also important to understand what mindset you need to be the best agency CEO you can! This is a great introduction to the course and will ensure that you’re in the correct place.

Finding your niche and ideal client

One of the most important parts of opening an agency that we discussed earlier is knowing yourself, and knowing your clients! You want to be specific when choosing your niche, and you can always change it later. Ask yourself what “pains” your clients are experiencing, and how you can fix those problems for them. Look into any other marketing agencies representing this niche, and learn from their reviews and questions.

For example, say you’re interested in representing hair salons with your marketing services. This is a great start, but it’s better to get even more specific, such as a full-service salon and spa. Having that perfect niche will set you up for success when it comes to finding the right clients!

Setting up your services and pricing

Setting the right prices for your clients can be very tricky, as you risk highballing your customers, or low-balling your services. We offer a few tricks to finding the right price for you, such as research on career-focused websites such as Upwork or LinkedIn. We also help you choose between a retainer or a fixed rate, and how to discover the core services you’d like your agency to offer. Finally, we discuss how to make your offers personalized, from the perfect name, finding a tailored solution, and the value you can bring.

How to get your first clients

Like many companies, marketing agencies rely directly on their clients, and the amount that they can attract. In this course, we discuss methods of getting those first customers, such as word of mouth and SEO. It’s also important to understand why a company would want to seek out a marketing agency in the first place, and incorporate their specific needs into your work.

Once you have a few clients under your belt, make sure to collect their reviews and feedback! Posting testimonials to your work is a huge boost to your portfolio, but maybe more importantly, your clients will have thoughts on what went well and what didn’t. Incorporating this feedback will help your company continue to evolve and grow!

As you can see, the modules reflect some of the things we discussed in this article, but the course will be going into much more detail. After all, that’s what the class is for! In addition to the course, though, you’ll also be unlocking useful templates that you can use at your own business. These templates are what we created and use here at Slam! The course also comes with a ton of resources, guides, and tutorials to ensure you’re getting the most of your education.

Learn directly from a professional, award-winning agency on why now is the perfect time to start your own business!

Most importantly, you will gain the answer to the question that brought you here in the first place: “How to start your own advertising agency.” You’ll be exiting the course with a newfound confidence and excitement about starting your own agency. And hey, you can always log back into our site and refresh yourself on these classes as you need to! Our mission is not to kick you out the door after your purchase, but to ensure you have a fully guided experience as you start your journey into the ad agency world.

So… Ready to Start Your Ad Agency?

Ready to take the next step with us? We here at Slam know that it can be exciting but intimidating to start your own agency, so we teach from personal experience for our students to learn what it’s really like: the good, the bad, and the slam dunks!  Check out the course page and get started on your own advertising agency! We’re so excited to share our knowledge and passion with you, and before long, you’ll be slam-dunking all of your own projects!

Get access to our How to Start an Agency course and start your advertising agency business today!

Interested in learning about other types agencies? Read our guide:

Coming Soon!

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