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How to set up a business in advertising

Updated April 17, 2017

Armed with advertising agency experience or experience in the advertising department of a corporation or non-profit, you may be ready to branch out on your own to set up a business in advertising. Start by providing advertising solutions to small businesses and non-profits in your area. Often overlooked by larger corporations, small businesses need help promoting the products and services they offer.

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  1. Identify your ideal client; be as specific as possible. Determine if you'd rather work with small or medium-sized businesses, and decide whether you'd rather work with businesses who offer services or who offer products. If a specific industry interests you, like real estate, determine if you'd prefer to only provide services to businesses within that industry. If you have experience working in speciality markets such as the Hispanic market, youth marketing or marketing to women, your experience may play a role in the types of clients you seek.

  2. Research advertising agencies, both in and out of your area, who offer similar services and serve a similar clientele. Identify their clients, their services, their staffing, read their case studies and review their portfolios. Determine how you can differentiate your advertising agency from the rest, whether it's through pricing, providing additional services or providing your clients with information on their industries on a consistent bases through a blog or social network.

  3. Decide on an ideal structure for your agency. Your skill level and access to resources will largely contribute to the way you decide to run your agency. Select a full-service advertising agency if you're looking to create advertisements, place them in appropriate mediums, develop promotions and offer marketing research services. Opt for a speciality agency if you plan to work within one industry or offer a select number of services. A speciality agency might only focus on sweepstakes and contests because the owners and employees are highly skilled in those areas. Plan to start a media buying agency if your business objective is to help companies place advertisements for their businesses.

  4. Decide whether your advertising agency needs to hire employees or if you'll utilise freelancers on an as-needed basis. Common advertising agency departments include: production, account planning, creative, research, media and finance.

  5. Create a business plan that describes your advertising agency, how it will be organised, managed, marketed and financed. Include a start-up budget. Start-up costs can include things like purchasing computers, telephones, furniture, as well as paying rent, salaries, insurance and business registration expenses.

  6. Come up with a business name and tag line. Work with a graphic designer to create a visual identity for your advertising agency. Develop a website and an online portfolio highlighting previous projects.

  7. Purchase errors and omissions insurance to protect you and your business in case you, or an employee, make a mistake and a client decides to sue. Whether there's an error in a written advertisement, the wrong artwork is used or a client is simply unhappy with the results of a campaign, you're protected.

  8. Lease office space for your advertising agency or set up your home office. Begin to search for and interview potential employees, freelancers and vendors.

  9. Promote your advertising agency by joining local business associations in your area, as well as niche organisations that are specific to the industry you plan to target. Attend meetings, participate on committees and network with fellow members. Distribute your business cards to interested small-business owners.

  10. Tip

    Social networks can help you promote your business online. Start a blog and share your expertise with potential clients.

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Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Website
  • Portfolio
  • Business cards
  • Brochures
  • Graphic designer
  • Errors and omissions insurance
  • Office space
  • Office supplies and equipment
  • Freelance writers or designers (optional)

About the Author

Miranda Brookins is a marketing professional who has over seven years of experience in copywriting, direct-response and Web marketing, publications management and business communications. She has a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Towson University and is working on a master's degree in publications design at University of Baltimore.

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