Starting an advertising agency can be done with a modest investment and may be run out of a home office. Ad agencies make money in a number of ways, and you must fist decide what type of agency you wish to operate. Traditional advertising agencies create slogans and advertising copy to be used in print, billboard, radio, web and television ads in return for development fees and expenses. More specialized ad agencies deal strictly with web advertising. They may still create the ad copy, but are specialists in search engine optimization and keyword search tactics to get ads noticed and generate per-click income.
Decide what type of advertising agency you wish to run, and list the services you will offer. Larger agencies may offer a number of services, while smaller agencies may specialize in internet, print media, radio, television, signage or other visual advertising media.
Obtain a local business permit from your town hall, state tax certificate from your state's business regulatory office and federal tax identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. There are no special licenses to operate an advertising agency.
Set up your office with computer, printer, phone, fax, furniture and supplies. Your office may be run from your home, but ensure that it is away from household noise and other distractions. A dedicated phone and fax line is recommended for professionalism, and you will require reliable high-speed Internet service.
Purchase a digital camera, photo scanner and graphic arts design program such as the ad and printing industry standard, Adobe Creative Suite (optional). You may choose to outsource your design work, but will have to pay design fees.
Purchase business cards, stationery, brochures and other printed marketing materials from your local printer. Endeavor to buy locally to establish business relationships in your town. If you wish to have a website, purchase a domain and hosting package, and publish your site.
Create a list of local and regional businesses who may be interested in your services. Maintain the list on a spreadsheet or database program for reference and marketing purposes.
Contact newspapers, magazines, television stations and other advertising media offices to request rate sheets. These sheets list the type and costs of advertising with their company. Most offer an average 10 percent discount off ad rates for agencies, but always inquire to be certain.
Create and execute a marketing campaign to the companies on your prospect list. Your campaign may use elements of direct mail of marketing materials, emails and phone calls.
Join local business organizations to network with other business owners and get your name out there. In the advertising business, relationships, visibility and creativity are the keys to getting your first account.
- Local business permit, state tax certificate and federal tax identification number
- Office with computer, printer, phone, fax, furniture and supplies
- Digital camera, photo scanner, graphic arts design program (optional)
- Marketing materials: cards, brochures, stationery, website
- Keep careful track of all expenses incurred when working on a customer campaign. You will be billing the customer for all types of expenses, samples (called "comps") and ad placement costs on top of hourly billing.
- Contact local colleges and high schools for help with graphic design, illustration, film making, photography and copywriting if you will outsource these services. Students may work for less money than pros, will often produce quality work, and you will be providing the student with valuable industry experience.
- Never start work without a signed agreement. Have an attorney familiar with the ad industry draft work order and contract agreements between you and your clients. These documents outline all terms to your client, protect your creative work in case of non-payment, and will help avoid misunderstandings and possible legal issues.