Start a content marketing agency by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your content marketing agency. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
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 are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a content marketing agency?
The costs of opening a content marketing agency can be relatively small if you are willing and able to wear the many different hats of your business. For instance, if you are able to write content, shoot video, and share and manage social media accounts, then you can be the one-stop-shop for clients and can ultimately work from home. If you choose to lease an office space, then you may be paying between $1000 a month to $6000 a month depending on office size and location. It may take between $10,000 and $20,000 to purchase furniture and decorate office space to your tastes and to buy any equipment (such as computers, phones, modern projection equipment, and at least one professional video camera). It may be worth investing $1000 to $2000 in traditional advertisement for your business (newspaper and radio advertisements, for instance), but you should take the time to set up a web page with samples of content and create a social media presence. Ultimately, the latter two will bring in more clients than traditional advertising.
What are the ongoing expenses for a content marketing agency?
Your ongoing expenses will vary depending on whether you are working from home or from within a separate office space. If you are working from home, then things like your utilities and office space are built into the bills you already pay. If this is the case, then your ongoing expenses should be less than $500 a month for things like web hosting, software acquisition, and traditional advertising. If you are leasing an office space, then you will be paying between $1000-$6000 per month (depending on office space and location) and less than $1000 a month for utilities, phone, and internet. You will also be paying the salaries of your team members.
Who is the target market?
Part of owning a content marketing agency is that you will work with a wide variety of clients, from individuals with small projects to major corporations. The primary characteristic of your best clients is simply that they keep open, frequent, and honest communication with you. As a content provider, you must deliver what the client wants, so clients that are upfront about their needs and open to feedback and critique will make things easier for you.
How does a content marketing agency make money?
On the most basic level, a content marketing agency makes money for helping facilitate and deliver content for a client. This amount is usually some kind of set fee for different projects, though the nature of the payment will fluctuate with the nature of the work. For instance, you may simply be paid by the project, especially for larger projects. You may be paid a fixed amount each month in which you are contractually obligated to produce a certain amount of content. You may also be paid as a consultant for things like company blogs, the company website, or their social media presence.
How much can you charge customers?
The great variety of potential services that you might offer clients means that how much you can charge them may vary greatly. For instance, you might charge $100 an hour or more to do something like manage a client's social media accounts. Similarly, you might charge between $75 to $200 to help a client optimize content they already have. However, your bread and butter will be individual content projects at the client's request, and it's up to you to determine what is fair. For instance, projects like that typically run between $500-$3,000, but it may be much easier (and, therefore, less expensive to the client) for you to write a quick article or create a small infographic than it is to create detailed interactive content, research and write our case studies, and so on.
How much profit can a content marketing agency make?
The goal of your agency, once you have established it, is to get a twenty percent or higher profit margin. With this in mind, there is not necessarily an upward limit of profit you can make, so long as you are willing to expand your business with more customers as needed. Profit also depends on the number of clients and the nature of your contract. The majority of content marketing agencies get compensated a monthly retainer fee by clients, and these fees average between $1000 and $5000 per client. Depending on how many clients you can reasonably take on, it is possible for this to be a six figure job.
How can you make your business more profitable?
One way to make your business more profitable is competitive pricing. You want to find the sweet spot between not driving clients to your competition and also not undervaluing your talent and labor. You can also focus on what clients want more of: for instance, fresh articles remain the main item requested by clients, so by providing more of those (and hiring more writers as needed), you can make more profit. Some platforms, such as Hubspot, offer affiliate or partner programs for young agencies. This allows the partner or affiliate to earn additional retainer income by offering more services. Finally, use client priorities to shape your priorities. Clients primarily want you to improve the numbers of leads generated; focusing on doing this better than anyone else ensures repeat business and continuous profit.
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 Content Marketing Agency Name Generator
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.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your content marketing agency is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
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 for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
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.
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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a content marketing agency. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In particular, most states require retail businesses to obtain a seller’s permit. A seller’s permit enables states to record and collect taxes from goods (and sometimes service) sales.
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.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office for information about local permits and licenses
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Content marketing agencies should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. The website Content Fresh offers as an example of one such services agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your content marketing business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
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.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
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.
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.
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How to promote & market a content marketing agency
As mentioned earlier, it is worth marketing yourself via traditional means such as newspaper and radio, particularly if you are hoping to secure the business of older executives and corporations in your area. However, content marketing is more of a global business than ever before, so your chief methods of promotion should be a professional-looking website, an online portfolio, and a social media presence where you can engage past, present, and prospective customers. Considering that your role for clients may include managing their own social media and helping to distribute content on it, doing a great job with your own social media can help to reassure them.
How to keep customers coming back
One solid way to attract clients is to find your specialty or niche and focus on that. Some marketing agencies will be inherently better at creating content for certain channels, and your own background and talents may lie with creating a particular type of content. Focusing on that helps establish you as a specialist for those who need your services. Another good tip is to provide some useful resources via your website and social media channels. For instance, you might offer your own newsletter or white papers you've created in exchange for people signing up for your mailing list. This established your authority, creates a positive community impact, and helps create a network of contacts for you.
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.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Content Marketing Agency In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Content marketing is, put simply, an intersection of creativity, sales, and media management. Thus, this job is ideal for someone who is already experienced in one or more of those areas. For instance, someone with a background in writing will have an easier time creating certain kinds of content, whereas those with a background in advertising will approach content from a different angle. Sales veterans will understand how all of this impacts a company's bottom line, whereas savvy social media users will understand the need to use non-traditional channels to build, maintain, and propel a company's brand.
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 content marketing agency?
Some of your daily activities at your content marketing agency include creating the specific content clients want, such as writing articles or shooting videos. You will then be sharing that content via the company's chosen channels, which may be very diverse if they are big believers in multi-channel marketing. Some of your time will be spent analyzing analytics to determine the effectiveness of your content—basically, you are determining if their demographics are responding well to chosen content or if you should change your approach. You will also be communicating with prospective clients, collaborating with existing clients, and researching things like SEO optimization to improve your future content.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful content marketing agency?
Experience and training in things like Search Engine Optimization and Google Analytics (or other analytical tools) can be a big help in starting your agency. Experience in content management for others is obviously a major help, as is any experience you have with any Customer Management Systems used by previous employers. Finally, experience in writing and/or multimedia will be invaluable in helping you actually create the content, whereas.
What is the growth potential for a content marketing agency?
The growth potential for a content marketing agency is significant based on recent trends. For instance, the amount of content marketing jobs listed on the job-finding Indeed website increased by 350 percent between 2011 and 2015. Basically, content marketing is tethered to content delivery methods, and the sheer explosion of apps and other non-traditional channels means there is more need for content than ever before
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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.
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.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a content marketing agency?
Whether on your company's website or somewhere else, create an online portfolio that demonstrates content you have created for other clients. If you do not have much work yet, create proof of concept content. The point of this is to show prospective clients the quality and creativity that your agency has to offer, allowing them to imagine how you could impact their business.
How and when to build a team
Talented content marketers can easily start this business on their own. However, you may eventually have more work than you alone can handle; alternately, you may make a decision to hire a team in which different members can specialize in the different services your clients may need. The advantage to this is that you can take on more work (in terms of both volume and types of projects), but it will necessitate leasing an office space, which greatly increases your monthly operating costs.