How to Start a Billboard Advertising Company
Billboard advertising companies purchase or rent small lots of land to erect billboards that are used to display ads for their customers. Other types of outdoor billboard advertising include signage on public benches and buses. These businesses also buy billboards from other companies and resell the advertising space for a higher price. They perform a valuable community service by enabling property owners to earn income by leasing an unused portion of their land to provide advertising space for businesses.
Learn how to start your own Billboard Advertising Company and whether it is the right fit for you.
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Start a billboard advertising company by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Billboard Advertising Company
- Form your Billboard Advertising Company into a Legal Entity
- Register your Billboard Advertising Company for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Billboard Advertising Company
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Billboard Advertising Company
- Get Billboard Advertising Company Insurance
- Define your Billboard Advertising Company Brand
- Create your Billboard Advertising Company Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your billboard advertising company. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Billboard Advertising Company Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a billboard advertising company?
The cost of constructing a billboard can range from $26,000 to $300,000, which often requires financing from banks or, more often, an outdoor leasing company. In some states and cities, a license is required, the average cost of which is approximately $200 per year. To find out the requirements of your city, you can inquire at city hall. You’ll need to purchase zoning maps and a measuring device designed to measure long distances. A vehicle is also necessary for traveling to and from sites to gather measurements and perform regular maintenance.
What are the ongoing expenses for a billboard advertising company?
Ongoing expenses for this type of business include:
- Property rental or lease costs
- Liability insurance
- Electricity costs for billboard lighting and electronic billboards
- Maintenance and repairs
- Construction costs for the erection of new billboards
- Transportation to potential sites and meetings with business associates
Who is the target market?
Customers are business owners who want to increase public awareness of their goods, services, and locations. Clients may also be landowners seeking to make a profit by allowing advertising displays on their property by leasing a portion of it to your company.
How does a billboard advertising company make money?
A billboard advertising business makes money by selling outdoor advertising space on billboards, benches, or vehicles. Many also make money by selling their leases and permits to competitors for a profit. Prices can range from $5,000 to $200,000 or more, depending upon the location, the degree of visibility, and the amount of traffic it receives.
How much can you charge customers?
The amount you can charge customers depends on a number of factors, including the location and type of billboard. Billboards in areas with higher traffic are in greater demand than those with less visibility. Prices are also determined in part by the length of the contract with the advertising company. For regular billboards, prices can range from $1,500 to $100,000 per month. Electronic billboards rotate advertising for multiple customers. Small to medium sized billboards can earn $300 to $2000 per month, while large ones can command prices between $1500 and $30,000.
How much profit can a billboard advertising company make?
For the top four billboard advertising companies, the industry average for annual revenue in 2015 was 3.69 billion dollars. Profits generated by billboard companies can reach up to 50% before depreciation, taxes, amortization and interest. It commonly takes between 7 and 10 years to pay off the initial cost of the purchase of land and the construction of a billboard. Once that has been accomplished, profits increase significantly.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Creating and following a good business plan is one of the best ways to make your business more profitable. That plan should include expansion because many advertising companies require a minimum amount of billboards before they will agree to work with a new business. Another way to increase your profits is by designing the billboards rather than hiring another company for that part of the process.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your billboard advertising company is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
Federal Business Licensing Requirements
Billboard advertising companies must comply with federal and state laws related to the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. A list of laws by state can be found here.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In certain states, business permits and licenses may be needed. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Billboard Advertising Company needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Billboard Advertising Company.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a billboard advertising company
One of the best ways to promote your billboard advertising business is by keeping abreast of new developments within the industry and the creative ways in which competitors are using them. Creating a blog on your website that features a profile of a different local business each month is a good way to demonstrate your knowledge of and dedication to the community. Advertisers love to take advantage of holidays to offer their customers great sales promotions and savings. Sending out pre-holiday promotion offers of your own is a good way to maintain consistent contact with existing customers as well as develop new business relationships.
How to keep customers coming back
Visiting your local chamber of commerce is a good way to meet business owners who can benefit from the advantages of billboard advertising. Attending and sponsoring community events is another. When prospecting for new customers, it’s important to have a portfolio that illustrates your best work as well as statistics demonstrating the correlation between billboard advertising in a specific location and an increase in sales figures as a result. Creating a loyalty program that offers savings for long-term contracts is a great way to ensure a steady stream of income while you cultivate new prospects.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
This is a great business for those who enjoy making mutually beneficial connections between landowners and entrepreneurs. Billboard advertising business owners play an important role in increasing the visibility and success of businesses. Those who prefer to perform a wide variety of duties in a number of different work environments both indoor and outdoor, thrive exceptionally well in this business. Community-minded individuals are well-suited for meeting the challenge of matching the right location with the right advertiser at the right price.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a billboard advertising company?
- Meeting with business owners, real estate developers, graphic designers and advertisers
- Researching local zoning laws to determine the best potential sites
- Measuring land and billboard space
- Negotiating land use contracts and prices for advertising
- Overseeing the safe construction of regular and electronic billboards
- Conducting inspections, performing maintenance and making necessary repairs
- Bookkeeping and accounting
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful billboard advertising company?
- Communication and interpersonal skills for building strong business relationships and negotiating leasing contracts and advertising prices
- Accounting skills for budgeting, accounts receivable and accounts payable
- Computer skills for maintaining a website with information about your services and locations. There are classes available for learning these skills.
- Graphic design skills for creating customized billboard advertising for customers. These skills can be acquired through classes as well.
What is the growth potential for a billboard advertising company?
Billboard advertising is a growth industry and there are many franchise opportunities available. Some provide extensive training, mentoring and ongoing support.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
How and when to build a team
It is important to build a team before you start your business. Your initial team will consist of financiers, city and state officials, property owners, business owners, and advertising agencies. Some billboard advertising businesses also include graphic designers on their team. Maintenance personnel are also important team members.