How to Start an Ad Agency

Unlike other small business startup options, starting an ad agency requires a great deal of background knowledge and expertise in order to get the ball rolling. Whereas businesses like franchises allow you to open up shop and operate based on preset guidelines and methods, marketing requires more individual knowledge and creativity.  As a result, starting an ad agency demands commitment, expertise, strong business abilities, and an in-depth comprehension of the complete marketing process. It is definitely not one of the easier options available.

In particular, you need to have an awareness of the tactics that may be used to design successful campaigns that will assist you in reaching new clients across a variety of channels like television, internet media, radio, and outdoor venues. 

This blog article outlines critical actions that must be taken in order to create your own advertising business, including determining the need in the market, recruiting customers, and effectively managing expenditures.

What is an Ad Agency?

Advertising agencies, both traditional and digital, offer a variety of services to assist businesses and organizations in increasing brand awareness, increasing sales of products and services, and developing dynamic brands. 

These services include advertising, media, marketing communications, public relations (PR), referrals, and event organization.

There are many distinct kinds of advertising agencies, and they often offer different services depending on what they specialize in. For example, some agencies may specialize in paid media while others may specialize in SMS marketing. Many often provide a diverse selection of services, including the following:

Ad campaigns

Advertising campaigns are collections of related advertisements that have a common goal of communicating a certain message about a business. 

Campaigns are produced by creative directors and their creative teams, which include art directors and copywriters, to achieve the unique business or awareness objectives of clients. These campaigns are designed to generate sales leads, make impressions, and/or create conversions.

Social Media Management

The relevance of marketing to audiences via the social media platforms that they are active on is growing as the amount of time people spend on social media platforms continues to grow. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and LinkedIn all offer ways of advertising to users.

Display or pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements, social media influencers, targeted content, and more may all be part of successful online marketing strategies and can generate real impact. There are so many different methods to choose from for marketing on social media. The administration of social media is often included as a component of a bigger digital marketing plan.

Content Management and Production

Because customers are becoming increasingly resistant to direct marketing messages, it is frequently necessary to woo them by using soft sales such as those supplied via tailored content. Tailored content may be found in blogs, the content of websites, social media postings, and a variety of other places.

Advertising businesses and content agencies, frequently working hand in hand with SEO specialists, will generate material according to the various phases of the sales or marketing funnel. 

Initially, the goal of this content is to pique the reader’s interest and earn their trust; eventually, the focus will shift to converting readers into paying customers. This is a gradual process and one that takes planning, time, and expertise. It can be a great long-term niche for any marketing agency as it typically results in a long-term relationship with the client in order to see the plan through to its completion.

Graphic Design

Graphic design is a vital service that may be given by advertising agencies, design partners, or design suppliers. 

It is the practical skill of producing visual concepts, either by using a computer or developing them by hand, with the intention of communicating ideas to customers that will inspire, educate, and fascinate them. Graphic design is relevant across a wide array of marketing services, including fliers, brochures, social media ads, blog posts, website pages, and more. As a result, graphic design is not really a service in and of itself and can be utilized most effectively by coupling it with other services.

Strategic Planning

An advertising strategy gives an overview and general direction for a campaign. It also sets quantifiable targets to make sure that the implementation of the plan meets the parameters initially outlined. 

It describes the objectives of an advertising campaign, the means by which they will be accomplished, the parties responsible for carrying out the work, and the metrics that will be used to evaluate the campaign’s success. Strategic planning can be done from a high level by firms, regardless of whether or not they are responsible for the actual implementation. For example, they may just advise a company’s marketing department on how to best approach a particular marketing campaign or how to have the maximum effect possible.

Ads on radio, television, and the internet

Since their budgets and the amount of attention they get are far higher than that of conventional print vehicles, broadcast ads for television and radio have always had a considerably more significant place in the hearts of advertising firms.

Videos are becoming more essential as a kind of online marketing vehicle because of the widespread availability of high-speed internet connections. Videos often generate more attention than postings consisting just of pictures and text. 

When compared to conventional broadcast advertisements, internet ads frequently need a different strategy from the advertising firm.

Typically, firms will specialize in a specific type of ad. You won’t usually see agencies that are doing social media ads doing television ads at the same time since they are really two different skill sets and require different approaches. As such, starting an ad agency is all about trying to define your niches early on and then build credibility and expertise in those specific skill sets.

Step-by-Step Guide to Start an Ad Agency

Draft a comprehensive business strategy for your marketing and advertising firm

You will need to develop a comprehensive business plan in order to get your company up and running. This plan will direct your growth and your internal strategy.

The development of a business focus, the acquisition of funds, and the recruitment of senior leaders who can assist you in the management of your firm are the three primary objectives of a business plan. 

Because of this, you should make sure that your strategy incorporates the following components:

What services does your advertising firm provide in its executive summary?

What distinguishes your firm from others in its industry?

An overview of the products and services you provide your customers must include the following:

  • Analyzing the target market, what kind of customers does your company want to work with?
  • What are the costs that you anticipate incurring? 
  • How do you intend to generate revenue in order to keep your business running?

Determine the pricing model you will use

The majority of advertising agencies generate revenue via the process of conceptualizing and generating creative assets for their customers. These assets may take the form of conventional advertising campaigns as well as content marketing pieces such as blogs and social media postings. 

There are a number of different pricing models that you can use to charge your customers in your own agency. The most suitable pricing model will depend on the kind of job that you perform.

You will need to make a decision as to whether you will charge per hour, per project, or via a fixed retainer model. The fixed retainer model requires a customer to pay an agreed-upon sum in advance for a particular number of hours of service. This is a great way to generate monthly recurring revenue (MRR), which can make it easier to plan out your business’s finances and understand how much capital and cash flow you will have access to at any given time. Don’t forget though to take into account the nature of collecting accounts receivable and what that can entail.

You may be able to better satisfy the demands of your customers by using a flexible or hybrid strategy with a variety of payment formats. This will enable your clients to maintain control over their financial situation.

Maintain your position as an industry leader in advertising

You will be able to stay current on the latest industry events, trends, suppliers, and technology if you subscribe to trade journals, blogs, and podcasts that are aimed at advertising agencies. The following are some reliable sources from the advertising industry that will help you land an ideal client:

  • Moz
  • Neil Patel
  • Digiday
  • HubSpot
  • Kissmetric
  • PR Daily
  • Seth Godin

As an advertising agency, you will need to keep innovation at the forefront of all your services. Advertising agencies are in a competitive market – there are a lot of agencies to compete with. As a result, it is critical that you stay up with the times and keep your services relevant and sophisticated. Otherwise, other firms will pass you up and clients will begin to leave your services behind.

Participate in trade organizations for the advertising sector

By becoming a member of a trade association, you will have the opportunity to further your education, remain current on industry developments and technological advances, network with your contemporaries at industry events such as trade shows and conventions, and participate in credential-building activities such as award competitions.

Locate potential customers for your advertising company

Clients are essential to the operation of every advertising business. Before you begin to publicize the availability of your marketing services, you should first consider the kinds of companies with whom you would want to collaborate. 

Once you have a clear picture of your ideal customer, you can begin investigating businesses that meet the profile you’ve created and analyzing the advertising strategies they already use.

Be sure to stress the advantages of advertising and illustrate how smart marketing can help your prospects acquire new business and boost their income. In doing so, you will increase your chances of closing the deal.

Locating potential customers is not always easy, and it can take time to really build up a strong client base. Cold-calling, cold-emailing, direct outreach, and connections/networking are the best way to obtain clients typically. This can take time and is generally cyclical in nature (i.e. the more clients you have, the easier it is to get more). So, be patient and take into account the fact that, early on, you probably won’t have a lot of revenue or clients.

Expand your network 

If you want to be able to assist your customers with ad spots on television, radio programs, podcasts, blogs, and news publications, you will need to get the ball rolling on building your network of media connections. 

You should get media kits from these publications, which should have information on advertising pricing, demographics, and specifications so that you are aware of the kind of campaigns that may be good for your customers to place there. 

Get ready to make yourself known to the sales representatives of the media channels that you want to utilize on a consistent basis. 

If you have experience in the field, compiling a portfolio of your previous work to showcase the advertising campaigns you’ve managed in the past can make it easier for you to close advertising deals during sales meetings.

Get a website

Your advertising firm, like all contemporary companies, needs a solid and informative website that can attract new customers, as well as explain in a straightforward manner how you can assist those customers with their marketing initiatives. 

You should make sure that your website for your small business has a domain name that is appropriate, pages that explain who you are and the services that you provide, a contact form, a payment portal, and high-quality, original images that visually communicate your brand.

Create your own marketing strategy to promote your company and get more customers

Advertising agencies have a distinct competitive advantage over other types of service businesses. This advantage lies in the fact that the advertising agency’s own marketing and advertising efforts can serve as a work sample and provide prospective clients with an early glimpse into the agency’s capabilities.

Because of this, you need to make your own internet presence as strong as possible and highlight your most impressive qualities to potential customers. 

For instance, if you provide graphic design services for client advertising campaigns, you should ensure that all of the graphic design components of your website and social media are of the highest quality. 

If you provide copywriting services, you should have a blog on your website that is properly written and optimized for search engines like Google so that potential clients can evaluate your level of experience and reading comprehension.

How much capital is required to start an Ad agency?

The initial investment needed to start an ad agency might run anywhere from $1,800 to $16,000. The lowest estimate is based on the premise that you will launch your company from your own home, that you already have experience working in digital marketing, and that you own a computer. You will just need a website and software specifically designed for digital marketing. Financing a new business can be difficult because you won’t have a business credit history – but it’s not impossible. You can typically still get reasonable term loans, access to a line of credit, and other financing options, particularly if you are ok with giving a personal guarantee on the loan.

The most expensive option comprises the purchase of a computer, the leasing of office space, as well as training and certification in digital marketing. Oftentimes, agencies will have to start with just one or two employees (or zero) as they build up their client base. Try talking to others you may know of who have started their own successful agencies to hear about what worked and what didn’t for getting off the ground. Undoubtedly, the first months and years of running an agency are the hardest because this is the time when you have to build up a strong book of clients and develop a reputation for quality service. This is something to keep in mind before starting.

Typical revenues for Ad agencies and what business owners should expect

Although the earnings of advertising agencies often fall into a wide range based on the services that they provide, the majority of agency owners may anticipate receiving at least some sort of consistent income from their customers. 

It is essential for owners of agencies to communicate their expectations to their clients in a way that is easily understood by all parties involved and results in payments being paid in a timely manner. 

An advertising agency’s ability to generate income is directly correlated to the level of productivity of its employees. 

In order for them to be able to bring in more money that can assist support the company, they need to be able to efficiently and successfully handle a wide variety of tasks all at the same time.

Advantages of Starting an Ad Agency

Low startup and overhead costs

Since many organizations now conduct their business virtually, they do not have to purchase traditional office space, hire employees that are located near their headquarters, and more. This can help save on costs.

Your sole startup costs will most likely be for the purchase of technological equipment (including hardware and software), internet service, and any required company registration fees. Most marketing agencies also have to pay for software tools for their business as well, such as Photoshop, Semrush, and other marketing tools.

Large potential customer base

If they so desire, advertising firms may now serve customers located anywhere in the globe thanks to the resources made available by digital technology. Through Zoom meetings and online marketing, you can work with businesses all across the country and the world.

There are a number of options to carve out a niche in the marketing sector, despite the fact that it is already rather competitive. One way to do this is to focus on certain sorts of companies, such as restaurants, salons, medical offices, or legal firms, and certain types of marketing. Remember, it is better to be really good at one or two things than just ok at many things.

Low obstacles to first-time users

Since the advertising business is always evolving, starting a digital advertising firm often does not require founders to have years of expertise in the marketing field as long as they are dedicated and willing to learn quickly through researching and reading. That said, having some past marketing experience can reduce the learning curve and make it easier to bring on clients in the early stages of your business.

If you have a fundamental understanding of content marketing and social media and are also eager to learn about new and developing platforms, you have the potential to establish yourself as a successful professional in advertising.


Marketing agencies benefit from the fact that they can scale easily. Outside of hiring new employees, scaling doesn’t require a significant capital outlay (i.e. buying new machines to expand your factory or leasing new spaces to open new restaurant locations). Marketing services are inherently scalable, making them ideal for those who don’t have access to a vast source of funding.

Disadvantages of Starting an Ad Agency

The process of starting an advertising business can be intimidating. It can be especially difficult to bring on your first few clients.  Indeed, bringing on your first few clients will likely be the hardest part of starting your ad agency.

You need to make sure that you have the knowledge and resources necessary to run a successful business, including the know-how for creating appealing advertisements and the understanding of how to target those advertisements at customers. 

In addition, you need to make sure that you have the resources necessary to attract customers to your advertisements. Cultivating a productive network of customers or advertising may be a challenging and expensive endeavor.

Spending time figuring out an effective approach for customer acquisition typically has to be the number one priority of any new advertising agency that is starting up.


It takes a lot of effort, commitment, and perhaps a little bit of luck to start an advertising firm. However, if you are willing to put in the effort, the potential payoffs can be substantial.

Biz2Credit can be a huge help for budding entrepreneurs and small businesses, as we offer a wide array of funding and financing options. Indeed, we pride ourselves on being a great resource for small businesses across the nation. To continue learning more tips, tricks, and guides about running a small business and what trends facing the industry, continue to check back here at our Biz2Credit Blog. We continue to post great content each and every day as part of our commitment to our readers!

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