Al Anany

Start your own agency

Agency Guide
Photo by Israel Andrade on Unsplash

If it’s time to start your agency, you’ll feel it in your bones. You’ll feel that you need to have a wider impact and play by your own rules. You’ll have a vision that you would want to spread to the public.

It doesn’t hurt to know that you can be making a lot of money in the process.

Everyone’s journey is different. Some have been working in web development for a very long time, and believe that now it’s time for them to lead and get their own clients. Others think that hiring the perfect team will just lead to great results without much of their interference.

Well, neither of those is wrong. It highly depends on the agency’s strategy and the team involved.

I’m Al, a business consultant in Zurich, Switzerland. I worked as a freelance consultant for several years on websites like Upwork and Fiverr, before starting my own agency, Albusi.

Nowadays, after years of work, Albusi brings me an annual six-figure without much of my contribution.

How did it happen, and how can you do this? – This guide is designed to tackle these points.


Here’s what I’ll be talking about:

  • Before you start an agency
  • The importance of branding
  • Some loyal team members will stick with you, others will leave.
  • Clients will pay, but giving you feedback is much more valuable.
  • Your communication infrastructure will determine your agency’s success.
  • Always give your team credit for the positive, and take the full blame for the negative.
  • Always ask yourself, what will my agency look like in five years.

More obvious questions:

  • How much does it cost?
  • How can I find clients?
  • Where can I get started?

Before you start an agency

The majority of the people reading this article will end up trying to start an agency only to give up eventually. This is normal human behavior when it comes to business. If it were easy, everyone would do it. So here’s the first tip, and it’s a make-it-or-break-it one. Out of the many important qualities an agency founder has to have, persistence is at the very top. (Yes, it’s above talent or quality of work.)

Alright, so before we move on, you need a reason. You need a reason to start this agency. This reason will also be connected to persistence. If it’s to put it in your CV somehow, then that’s not the strongest of reasons. However, if you believe you have either:

  • Fantastic quality of work
  • OR Communicational and leadership skills

Then you’re up for it. You see, the agency’s founder could be a guru in the field who’s transferring his knowledge to team members or creating a business out of that. Alternatively, a founder could be a person who knows how to get the best out of her/his team, which could be more than enough, and in some cases, better than the guru’s path.

After that, one has to pinpoint the reason. For me, it was to expand my clientele and services instead of being a solo freelancer. This made me accept more clients and serve more people. Your reason might be different. The agency might be the first step to building one of the biggest intelligence companies of all time.

Whatever the reason is, it’s vital to have this written down at all times as it will be the stick that’s balancing your journey.

The importance of branding

If you have fantastic skills and your team is perfect, yet your logo and website are not conveying what the clients are looking for, then you won’t sign them. Whether you like it or not, every human being cares about the design. We gaze into nature and its beauty. Similarly, when a client looks at multiple agencies, the one with the worst website design will probably be out of the race. This is not restricted to design agencies. It’s for all types of agencies.

Know what your brand represents and build a logo with brand guidelines. You don’t have to hire a german luxury designer for your logo. However, you also shouldn’t head to Wix and choose the first logo you see. Think of what you want this logo to represent, how you envision it to be, and then either hire a team member to create the logo for you or an outsider with a fair budget.

Some loyal team members will stick with you, others will leave.

It’s the truth. No matter how good your agency is, some team members will leave you and work elsewhere. The vital element is to reward the ones who stay and provide them with an environment that is worth staying in. Your agency initially won’t be Deloitte. So if a team member of yours gets a job offer there, it’s not going to be easy for her/him to say no. However, try not to lose your members to a competing agency that just started as well.

Clients will pay, but giving you feedback is much more valuable.

The paycheck is what will keep the roof over your heads. However, the feedback is everything else. This will allow you to know what you’re doing wrong and right. Imagine yourself walking in a dark room. The only way to fully know that you won’t be hitting the wall is by getting this feedback and learning from it.

Your communication infrastructure will determine your agency’s success.

The speed and simplicity of communication between you and your team members are vital. The business world knows it, and that’s why Slack was acquired for more than $27 billion. The flow of information in the organization has to be perfect and efficient. A team member should not contact several people to get a design done for example.

Additionally, communication with your clients is a totally different game. This is what will actually determine your success rate in your projects. This is similar to a pre-feedback stage. You’ll be able to know for yourself what the feedback is going to be like. The more you communicate with your clients, the more you win.

Always give your team credit for the positive, and take the full blame for the negative.

The feeling of appreciation is what keeps most employees in companies. The moment they don’t feel appreciated is the moment they leave. When you finalize a successful project, you ought to inform your team of the success and reflect on it.

However, when something wrong happens, whether the team caused it or you did. You need to face the client and be accountable for it. If you shift the blame to one of your freelancers in front of your client(s), then you’re showing that you’re not dependable; That this might happen again. The client initially had communication with you. You not being able to foresee this problem from happening, is on you and only you.

Of course, it stands to reason that the team member involved in the mistake should be aware of it. The whole agency should reflect on the fault that occurred and agree on how to never replicate it. This type of attitude would boost up the respect your team members have for you.

Always ask yourself, what will my agency look like in five years.

Let’s face it. Your favorite team member is here for a reason. You are here for another reason. It’s important to have a vision of what the agency will look like in the near future, and make sure the team members are aware of it. One of them might be on the verge of leaving your agency for an environmental one. If that’s within your upcoming plans, then you won over a team member.

If the team members are aligned with your vision, they’ll be the supporting function of making it happen.


How much does it cost?

To start an agency, the costs are mainly consisting of:-

  • Branding and website: This could be you purchasing and installing a template from ThemeForest, creative market, etc. Alternatively, you could get a website designer to create one from scratch, yet the cost will most likely increase in this case.
  • Team members: This could be either running costs on a salary basis or on a freelance basis.
  • Marketing and Advertising.
  • Additional costs: for communication, and further subscriptions of needed. (For ex. Slack, Grammarly, Adobe Creative Cloud, etc.)

During the cost structuring process, you need to remember the vital aim of your agency. You need to deliver a specific service to your clients. Anything that’s needed to achieve or improve would add to your costs.

How can I find clients?

This depends on the type of agency you’re intending to launch. If it’s a design agency, for instance, Behance, Pinterest, and similar websites would be vital to showcase your designs and get clients organically.

Freelancing websites are also a growing channel. Look into how to create an Upwork Agency and a Fiverr Studio (I’m not sure if Fiverr’s studios are working nowadays.)

LinkedIn is vital as well for most agencies as it’s a B2B fountain.

Finally, learn how to ace Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook ads as these are going to be your main channels of advertising. However, which one would you focus on would highly rely on your industry and products.

Where can I get started?

The steps are straightforward.

  • Establish a vision: You can start by drafting this on a piece of paper. (That’s my preferred planning methodology, it gives a mystical seriousness to the situation.)
  • Find the right team. Since you’re starting, you’re probably not going to hire the best talent in the market, yet look at this as an investment. Hire team members that show promise in becoming better than the best talent in the market.
  • Create a website and brand
  • Establish your marketing plan and budget
  • Start advertising on all channels
  • Learn from the journey, and don’t forget to establish perfect communication and a feedback flow.

Remember

I established at the start of this guide the essence of having a vision of your agency. This whole journey is intended as a mission to achieve what you’ve envisioned. The lessons learned in the process are more valuable than any cash flow earned or numbers achieved. This could be the chance for you to grow as well as empower other team members to grow in the process.


I’m Al, a business consultant in Zurich, Switzerland. I believe in the power of delivering value to you, the reader. I’m focusing my content to be more and more on Medium, and Linkedin. Hence, follow me on both channels to keep in touch and connect.