No matter how well they know their craft, product line, or service, individuals and businesses often hire professional advertising consultants to manage their media relations as well as provide an unbiased, outside viewpoint. If you have great presentation skills, a passion for public relations and networking, and a bachelor’s degree in marketing, journalism, or communications, launching your own advertising agency may be a good match for your talents. Whether you work solo or supervise a staff, however, the typical work week often exceeds 40 hours, the pace can be demanding, and—depending on region—the competition for new clients is usually high.
Assess whether your advertising experience, knowledge, time management skills, and interests are best suited to running a full-service agency or specializing in a particular industry or specific media relations activities. In a full-service agency, your role is that of a generalist who works with a diverse range of clients and handles everything from logo designs and press kits to large-scale events and fundraisers. As a specialist, your focus may be on a select demographic such as entertainers, sports figures, and authors. You might also handle only certain types of PR tasks such as booking performers, writing catalogue copy, producing TV commercials or organizing events for charitable organizations.
Research the PR firms within your desired sales region and identify how your own agency will complement or compete with the scope of client services they currently provide. Make cost comparisons to determine whether the best value for your agency’s time and energy will be derived from fees based on a flat rate, project rate, or by the hour.
Draft a comprehensive business plan in which you delineate your projected start-up costs and operating expenses. Items to include are business licenses, registrations, and professional membership fees, rent, insurance, utilities, telecommunications, personnel salaries and benefits, furniture, office supplies, marketing, maintenance, and security. Choose a location for your agency that is easily accessible to your clients and provides free or validated parking.
Acquire a business license and register your advertising agency with your state registrar’s office. You will also need to register your company’s name with the secretary of state’s office, acquire a federal taxpayer ID number and set up business bank accounts that are separate from your personal accounts.
Design a professional website, business cards, brochures, and press kit materials to give prospective clients an overview of what you have to offer. As your business grows, add testimonials from satisfied clients. Register with your chamber of commerce and attend mixers to introduce yourself to business owners who could benefit from your services. Keep a watchful eye on new stores and companies opening in your area.