How to Start a Digital Marketing Company



As with starting any business in particular, starting a digital marketing company requires capital and, more importantly, dedication. The first few years may be hard, but once past that stage, your agency will be able to reap the benefits of a thriving industry.


Key Takeaways:

  • You don’t need a specialist degree to begin a career in digital marketing, though it pays to build enough experience to gain clients.
  • As a startup, you’ll likely have to cater to a single marketing channel. If you can’t decide, you can’t go wrong with SEO.
  • Your list of digital marketing tools depends on the channel you choose. If you’re offering SEO services, invest in SEO analytics software.

Digital marketing has spiked in demand in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic. No one’s sure what the future holds, let alone if a second global health crisis is just around the corner. Not about to take their chances, many businesses have boosted their online presence in the digital marketing landscape or gone fully digital.

It isn’t surprising that digital marketers and digital agencies are emerging left and right in response. Research and Markets, a market insight and analysis firm, estimates that the digital marketing industry is poised to more than double in value by 2028 from 2022. Besides the effects of the pandemic, increasing Internet and mobile penetration is also a contributing factor.

Source:Research and Markets

If you’re reading this, I assume you plan to start your own digital marketing company or, at least, a career in one. Granted, NO-BS Marketplace was founded years before COVID-19 changed the world. However, as the co-founder of a company that had a rocky start, I can help you pave your road to digital marketing business success.

Can I Start a Digital Marketing Agency With No Experience?

I graduated with a degree in Business Administration and Management in 2012. While it’s right for running a business, it doesn’t necessarily specialise in digital marketing. My time in the industry began during my college years as a freelancer.

A digital marketing degree isn’t required to start one’s career in this sector, let alone start an online advertising agency. However, while prior experience isn’t technically required, clients will always prefer one with years under their belt. Experience is your proof of competence, and getting new clients is impossible without it.

You can earn experience by doing what I did: freelance digital marketing on the side while studying. That said, don’t rule out the possibility of working for a successful digital marketing agency because it allows you to work with veterans. Take every opportunity to hone your digital marketing skills, only deciding to go your way when you feel confident enough. Getting a digital marketing certification is a great way to acquire sought-after online marketing skills in this constantly changing industry.

What Digital Marketing Channel Should I Choose?

  • As a fledgling business, you won’t have the resources or manpower to deliver on all digital marketing channels. Trust me, we began with link building and only expanded into content and SEO because we’ve spent years building our capabilities.
  • If choosing is too hard, start your career with SEO. Call me biased, but believe me when I tell you that SEO has the lowest bar of entry among the channels for the following reasons:
  • Unlike traditional marketing methods, you can start an SEO service for virtually zero capital. The Internet has no shortage of free analytics tools (though not as feature-rich as their paid counterparts) to work on a digital marketing campaign.
  • The results of a digital marketing strategy can take a while to manifest, but when they do, the client can keep earning traffic and brand exposure as long as you deliver consistent SEO over time.
  • Your time doing SEO will serve you well when you move on to other digital marketing channels like content marketing, influencer marketing, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Source: Adobe Stock

What about the other channels? How viable are they for a startup?

  • PPC Marketing: PPC ads bring faster results and generate more revenue than SEO. However, it’s riskier because you’re directly managing the client’s marketing budget to bid for the best keywords. It’s also easy to lose the client’s money to bad calls.
  • Social Media Marketing: With billions of users worldwide, marketing on social media platforms can generate brand awareness and lucrative returns. That said, if you aren’t careful with the social media content, the client’s brand will become vulnerable to polarising opinions.
  • Video Marketing: Videos capture people’s attention more effectively than written content. But it entails a hefty investment in the necessary training and equipment, which you might not have as a startup.
  • Email Marketing: Promotional materials sent via email go directly to the customer or target audience, making it more direct than other channels. However, there’s the risk of unknowingly violating online marketing guidelines or advertising laws like the European Union’s GDPR.

Be Everything at Once or Focus on a Niche?

When my brother and I founded Studio 56, NO-BS Marketplace’s predecessor, we focused on delivering strategies to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). But apart from the SEO industry back then being a pain in the neck due to its shortfalls, we also realised that an SME client base isn’t niche enough because many others are doing the same.

Fortunately, an opportunity came knocking not long after. The industry was in a bad state, with all the black hats running rampant. As such, upon founding NO-BS Marketplace, we made offering transparent link building our niche. The company saw significant success in its first few years, so much so that we had to expand our team to keep up.

As a startup, it’s better to find a niche to market to than please everyone at once. There are thousands of digital marketing agencies, and without a quirk that makes you different, you won’t be able to stand out from the crowd. When you’ve grown your digital agency large enough, that’s the time to consider broadening your horizons.

What Tools Does My Digital Marketing Agency Need?

The contents of your digital marketing toolbox depend on the channel you opt to focus on and the digital marketing services you offer. We may have our powerful link building platform, but it needs support from other tools to keep it working. Here’s a typical equipment list for SEO.

  • SEO Analytics: These tools capture a wide range of usage data from search engines, from keywords to search volume. Examples include Ahrefs, Moz, Google Analytics, and SEMrush.
  • Task Management: These tools organise tasks to enable easier monitoring of each project’s progress. Examples include ClickUp, Slack, and Trello.
  • Team Collaboration: If your agency consists of multiple people, these tools can aid in coordinating tasks. Examples include Microsoft Teams and Google Workspace.
  • Customer Service: Expect to receive a constant stream of calls from your customers and potential clients. You can invest in specialised tools like Help Scout, Zendesk, or Buffer.

As I mentioned earlier, you can use free versions of these tools if available and suitable for your needs. But they don’t scale well and have a lot of features, so you’ll likely have to pay for a subscription as your agency grows.

Do I Need to Rent Out an Office Space?

Because most tasks occur over the Internet, a digital agency can be a fully remote business model like ours. In fact, this is advisable if you hope to look for talent around the world to integrate into your digital marketing team. This lets you save on rent and other property expenses, which you can put to equipment and wages.

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