How to Start Your Own Marketing Business
Starting your own marketing business can be an exciting adventure, but you must plan properly. You should choose what type of marketing you want to provide and identify your target market. After securing adequate financing, you should create your business structure and work aggressively to find clients. To increase your visibility, build a website, create a portfolio, and network with other marketing organizations.
Planning Your Business
Learn all you can about marketing.Ideally, you should have worked in marketing before deciding to strike out on your own. If possible, you should intern or take an entry-level job with a marketing firm or advertising agency.If you can’t, then you’ll want to do as much reading as possible. Check out the following books from your library:
- How to Start An Ad Agency, by Allan Krieff
- The Advertising Agency Business, by Eugene Hameroff
- The Consultant’s Guide to Proposal Writing, by Herman Holtz
Visit a Small Business Development Center (SBDC).The Small Business Administration runs many different development centers around the U.S. These centers can help you write your business plans, engage in market research, and provide you with important business information.
- You can find your nearest SBDC by visiting this website: . Select your state.
Decide which marketing services to offer.Marketing is a large field. Before you can open your own marketing business, you should decide which type of marketing you want to offer. Consider your own experience and interests. If you don’t immediately know, then talk to people who are already working in marketing to hear about their experiences. The following are different types of marketing:
- Internet marketing: marketing done online, in various forms, such as email marketing or creating video advertisements.
- Offline marketing: marketing done off the Internet, such as creating ads for print media or television.
- Outbound marketing: introducing a product or service to people who aren’t searching for it.
- Inbound marketing: using search engine optimization to improve your placement with online search results.
- Social media marketing: using different social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to increase the visibility of a product or service.
- Promotional marketing: promoting a product or service using coupons, free samples, contests, etc.
- Other: There are many other kinds of marketing you should research, such as B2B, viral, affiliate, and guerrilla marketing.
Identify your target market.You might be tempted to offer marketing services to anyone who picks up a phone and calls you; however, you might benefit from narrowing your target market. Consider the following:
- The types of companies you want to work for. Consider your previous experience in marketing.
- The industries you are familiar with or have an interest in.
- The kinds of businesses that can afford you. For example, if you have a lot of experience and intend to charge high fees, then identify large businesses with appropriate marketing budgets.
- The location of clients. Today, marketing firms work for clients all over the world. However, you should consider different time zones. If you don’t work well in the morning hours, then limit the geographic range of your target.
Draft a business plan.Fortunately, by identifying your services and analyzing the market, you have done a large part of the legwork for writing your business plan. A mentor at a Small Business Development Center can help you analyze and build upon it. A proper business plan will contain the following:
- Executive summary. Write this last but put it first. It will summarize your entire business plan.
- Business description. Describe your personal goals and the objectives for your marketing business. Include information about how you will stand out in the field and be successful.
- Products and services description. Describe what marketing services you will provide to clients.
- Marketing plan. Explain how you intend to reach customers. You should also analyze the market and your competitors. Identify how you will set yourself apart.
- Location and employees. Identify where you are based and if anyone is working with you. State whether you intend to use freelancers.
- Development. Describe how you intend to grow your marketing business. For example, you will need to stay on the cutting edge of technological innovations, especially if you are an online marketer.
- Financial summary. Provide financial projections that are realistic and estimate your cash flow. Discuss how start-up and operating deficits will be financed until breakeven.
Forming Your Company
Secure financing.You will need money to start your business. At a minimum, you’ll have to pay for licenses and permits, as well as for necessary equipment. Your funding needs may vary, but consider these different sources of financing:
- Business loans. You can obtain loans from banks, which will charge an origination fee and interest on the loan. You will need to show a bank your business plan as well as personal financial information, such as tax returns and your credit history.
- SBA loans. The SBA doesn’t lend but it will guaranty a loan, which means it will pay it back if you default. You still get the loan from a regular bank.
- Personal savings. You can use any extra money in your savings account, or you might get a home equity loan from your house.
- Credit cards. Ideally, you should get a business credit card and use it only for business purchases.
- Partners. A co-owner could contribute money to the business; however, you should think carefully before starting a marketing business with someone else.
Choose your business structure.There are many different business structures you can choose from. You should consider which business form is best for your business:
- Sole proprietor. You are the sole owner and you will report your business income on your regular 1040 income tax return. You can use your Social Security Number as your business identification number; however, you will be personally responsible for all business debt. For example, if your business is sued, your personal assets could be at risk.
- Limited liability company. LLCs are owned by members. In many states, an LLC can have only one member, though states set rules for LLCs. Unlike a sole proprietorship, the members are shielded from personal liability for business debts.
- Corporation. Corporations are owned by shareholders, who are shielded from personal liability for the corporation’s debts. Generally, corporations are separate entities for tax purposes, though you can elect to become an S corporation. With an S corporation, the profits and losses pass through to the shareholders.
- Partnership. Two or more people can agree to carry on a business as partners. They are personally liable for the partnership’s debts and also jointly liable. For example, if one partner takes on a huge debt in the partnership’s name, the other partner is also responsible for it. Profits and losses pass through to the partners.
Draft your bylaws.If you have a small sole proprietorship, then you probably don’t need a list of rules about how to run the business. However, if you have a corporation, then your state may require that you draft bylaws. Although you don’t have to file them, you probably need to keep them at your principal place of business.
Form your business with the state.Some business structures must be created with your state’s permission. For example, you will need to file Articles of Incorporation with your state to form a corporation. You also will need to file Articles of Organization to form an LLC.
- You should check with your state’s Secretary of State website. They should have printed fill in the blank forms you can use.
- Typically, sole proprietors and partnerships don’t have to file papers with the state.
Obtain necessary permits and licenses.Your marketing business may need licenses or permits from your state and local government before you can start operating. You should use the tool at the SBA website to find what licenses you need for your state: .
- You may also need to file for a fictitious business name if you want to use a trade name that is different from your name or different from the names included in your filings with the state.
Think about hiring office space.Some people run virtual offices out of their homes. However, you should consider renting office space. If you rent space, then you can invite clients to visit you at work. You also can work closely with your other employees, which helps build a common culture.
- Remember not to spend too much on space. Instead, look at your business plan and identify how much you can spend on an office.
Create a website.People shop for business services online, so you need a website.If you don’t have a lot of money, then you can create a basic website yourself; however, if you are trying to sell website design as part of your marketing, then your own website needs to be top-notch.
Print marketing materials.You want a variety of printed materials to hand out to potential clients. At a minimum, you should purchase business cards. You might also want to create a flyer that you could send in the mail or as an email attachment.
Compile a portfolio.The best way to sell your services is to show potential clients marketing work you’ve done in the past. You can have hard-copy samples of your work to show the client, and you should also put it online.Depending on your marketing business, you may also want to include client testimonials as well as case studies on the effectiveness of your marketing.
- With a physical portfolio, include at least eight items. Have your strongest piece first and your second strongest last. Properly label each work, identifying the client who hired you. Also get the client’s permission to use the work in your portfolio.
- You can include more in an online portfolio, though you must be careful to organize them by category.
- Remember to add to your portfolio as you complete more projects. The portfolio should always reflect the best work that you have done.
Talk to friends.You can try to drum up clients by cold calling businesses and asking if they need services; however, the most effective way to find business might be to talk to people you know. Ask them if they know anyone who needs marketing services.
Join organizations.Joining a marketing organization is a great way to expand your network of contacts and also gain access to industry information. For example, consider joining any of the following organizations:
- American Marketing Association
- Internet Marketing Association
- Society for Marketing Professional Services
Offer a variety of services.When starting out, you want your services to be attractive to a wide range of people. Accordingly, you should prepare to offer services that businesses with all kinds of budgets can afford.
- Think about offering free information on your website. For example, you could include a tutorial on how to do basic email marketing. This is a good way to show a client (for free) your knowledge. If they like what they see, they might contact you for paid work.
Blog about marketing.A good way to increase your visibility is to guest blog about marketing.You should have identified blogs in your field as you read everything you could find about marketing. Now approach the blog owner with a writing sample and ask if you could contribute a post or two.
- Always include your business’s name and preferably a link to your website in the byline.
Hire help.As you grow, you might need to hire people. You should seriously consider hiring freelancers, at least at first. Also try to develop long-term relationships with your freelancers once you find people who are dependable.
- Generally, freelancers are more expensive than regular staff, so you should consider hiring someone full-time when you see a need.
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