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Starting an Agency

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Live streamed on: 
April 4, 2020
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0:15 Startup Vs. Agency
2:48 Agency Vs. Freelancing
3:30 Why I wanna start an Agency
4:54 My Agency Offerings
5:46 Setting up a website for submissions and examples
6:09 How to figure out how much to charge.
6:48 Advice for starting an agency
7:42 A funny story about Spam Mail

Episode Rundown:

How do you start an agency? Theoretically, the only real prerequisites to starting one are: Skills and clients.

In fact, the only difference between freelancing with a couple clients, and serving a couple clients as an agency, is the amount of people involved. It's essentially just a group of freelancers sharing profits and workload.

I started freelancing about a year ago, and it wasn't that hard to get started. I reached out to my network, positioned myself as a beginner marketer, and before long I found my first client.

However, I'm able to start an agency because my editor and a few of his friends are willing to take on a significant workload - so all I have to do is find the clientele. Easier said then done, but I have a few starting strategies I discuss in the episode.

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What I learned this week:

This week was a little experimental. First, I want to talk about making stuff online. Then, my first experience trying to find an agency client, and why not to get your hopes up.

This week my business partner Andy texted me. He was making little vlogs on Instagram for fun, mainly out of boredom from COVID-19 lockdown. I foolishly commented on one, and he enlisted me to make videos with him. We recorded ourselves playing on Duolingo for an hour and a half, had fun, and chopped it up into six 5-minute episodes to share on Facebook.

I’ve got a lot going on, and so does he, but creating content is never a bad idea.

Hardly anyone posts actively on social media and even fewer make full-scale content like videos and articles. The only possible negative is time. Articles take forever. This newsletter takes me a long time to write. Videos are hard to edit. Long-form content is time-consuming, but short form does not take long.

If you enjoy it even remotely, find time to write. Spin up a blog, or write on Medium and LinkedIn. If you take photos, post them on Instagram. If you like talking, like me, practice in front of a camera and post videos on YouTube or live stream on Twitch.

If you’re wondering what to make content about, make it about your life. Talk about your experiences, why you made certain decisions, and most of all, what you’ve learned. I’m a huge fan of documentation-style content. Don’t try to make it amazing, just tell me something you learned so I can learn it too. That’s going to be valuable, and with practice, people will care.

And just so this isn’t me preaching at you, here’s my experience. I have around 8,000 followers online. That’s not a lot, but it’s decent. Just from that following alone, I get offers to build something new every single week. All I do is talk about dumb startup ideas, but because so few people make content students and founders want to reach out. Being public with ANYTHING you’re building makes you immediately more impressive than 95% of people in that niche. I have very little experience, I’ve been experimenting for two years, but people think I’m some kid startup prodigy just because I live stream.

Try making something online. I dare you. Drop a comment on what you want to make below this newsletter on Substack, and I’ll tell you how to get started. :)

With that rant out of the way, here’s something more productive. I talked a few months ago to a few connections that make tons of videos online. They were asking if I could do their editing for them. I saw the opportunity and started conversations with my editors about building an agency.

Recently, I followed up with one of those connections, Richard. I hopped on a zoom call, and bluntly asked: “Can I help you edit your content?” Turns out, they already have an agency they’re building, so they get in-house prices, which I can’t compete with. So, the opportunity was gone, but then Richard told me he has some corporate clients that he might outsource to me. That sounds like a great deal - B2B, consistent work, simpler videos, etc. - but I’ve come to realize offers like that mean very little.

While the gesture is super nice, and it could lead to something, I made the mistake early on of assuming offers like that meant business. 99% of the time, they do not. You’ve probably heard this before, but the deal isn’t done until the money is in the bank.

All that means is offers to “work together” very VERY often do not result in actual business. That was a huge lesson to learn when I first started freelancing. If you want to work freelance full-time, you need to have a constant pipeline. I’ve had offers to work with about 20 different companies and individuals, and only 3 have gone through so far and gotten me actually paid.

Just be careful. Whether it’s clients for your new agency, customers for your new startup, or freelance opportunities, EXPECT that it DOESN’T happen. You have to be pessimistic. I don’t know why it works that way, but people always wait until the last second to say no. Don’t rely financially on something until it’s in the bank.

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