In previous posts we have tended look at the nuances of various social media platforms and investigated how we can best integrate them into our social media and content marketing strategies.
In today’s post I am going to touch on something a little bit different – I am going to give you my top 10 tips for starting your own digital agency and succeeding in the digital economy.
I am a passionate believer that the digital economy is the single most important shift in the way we live and work, since the industrial revolution. It now possible for anyone with a laptop and an internet connection to quickly learn the skills to be able to become a digital freelancer and work remotely for employers and clients worldwide.
So before we go any further who am I ? I am founder of One Versus Zero Digital, a content driven – digital agency based in the heart of Tech City in Shoreditch, London UK. I have been working within the digital space
for over a decade and actively building audiences and communities since 1998.
I am also a passionate instructor and so far I have educated over 2000 people from over 100 different countries with my “Content Marketing Mindset” course. In the course I teach introduce the basics of discovering who your audience are and getting started with content marketing as well as touching on how to use social media as an effective distribution channel for your content.
I am proud to say I am brand ambassador for Sociocaster which is an awesome tech start up – based in Bandung out in Indonesia. Sociocaster is a multi platform social media management tool that enables the user to manage Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn & Self-hosted WordPress from one convenient dashboard. Key features include a rapid content discovery engine, automated/scheduled posting and a built in image editor.
I am currently working on growing the agency and several other projects including attempting to establish its educational arm – OVSZ Campus, which is going to an online training academy to arm startups, business owners & creative professionals with the digital skills they need to survive in today’s digital landscape.
My journey into the digital world begun during my college years whilst I was studying music production – I was a number of bands and an active member of my local music scene. I had begun promoting shows when I was sixteen and this is where my passion for building communities stems from. My fascination with technology and music overlapped a few years later when I had an epiphany and realized that I could use the internet to build an online community focused on the local music scene and this community would be the glue of what held my target audience together in the time between shows.
Online Communities Are The Glue Of Real world Events
I built a community site called “The Scene” and for a while it was thriving – my two passions (Tech/Music) had been combined, my shows were well attended and I was getting paid it was great. However all good things come to an end and one day a website called Myspace appeared – that was the end of “The Scene” but the beginning of social media as we know it today. It was on Myspace that I gained my first experience of Social Media management – my community had died but Myspace was kind to me and I managed to grow some sizeable followings for both my band and other artists I was promoting at the time. I had gained a small reputation for “knowing about the internet” and began my freelance web design career – building sites for local bands, musicians, djs and producers.
I have extensive knowledge of eCommerce and have spent time working in some of the worlds most re-known record stores including Crazy Beat Records (Where I learnt first hand what goes into running a high volume multi channel online retail operation) and BM Soho.
In between Crazy Beat and my tenure at BM Soho – I had somewhat of a musical Renaissance period and was obsessively focussed on DJ’ing and producing electronic dance music. As a musician I found DJ’ing restrictive and had the desire to create a live electronic dance act. I acted on this impulse and after several failed line ups that did not click – connected with an old friend and former musical collaborator, we locked ourselves away for seven months and wrote a set of material.
I used my PR & Outreach skills to put us on a the live scene – we debuted at a packed local club and tore the place down, the following morning we were en route to the airport ready to depart for a week long tour of Italy. I love the country and it was one of the greatest weeks of my life, travelling – meeting people, playing music – making new connections. It was here that I learnt one of the most
important lessons in marketing.
For one of the shows – Our tour manager had booked us (a two man British electronic dance act) to headline a huge event – on the biggest stage I had ever played on – we were hyped for the show – everything seemed perfect. Except we were headlining a womans rights rock festival and the rest of the bands were female and played rock music – we were male and played electronic dance music. It was an outside event, weather was amazing and the beer was flowing – yet when we reached the climatic end of our 45 minute set , despite being 1,000 people in attendance – barely anybody clapped! The sound engineer did not even say “good show guys” – it was embarassing, we felt depressed and more than anything wanted to go home.
It Took A 1,000 Mile Journey & Flopping In Front Of 1,000 People But That Is The Day I Learnt The Most Important Marketing Lesson Of My Life ….
Context Is Everything!
That tour took its toll on our act and we decided to split up on the plane home – I also learnt another valuable lesson that partnerships need to be formed with people who share the same values and attitudes not just the same goals.
Shared Values Trump Shared Goals
Not one to give up that easily I quickly started look around for another act to work with – I connected with a live electronic act called Nursery of Naughtiness and during my time with them returned to Italy to play a few more shows this time on the coast – the highlight being an awesome party on the beautiful Fano beach. NON were signed to the legendary Exceptional records and during my time with them I contributed to several releases.
At BM Soho I held the position of Director of Digital Development and developed my team management, social planning , branding and PR outreach skills further. I also worked with BM Soho’s sister brands Beatcontrol (Multichannel eCommerce – Amazon/FBA/eBay/Web) in the pro audio and DJ market as well as Atrylogy.
Working with Atrylogy was interesting as I was fortunate enough to gain an beginning to end understanding of what is involved in the design, development, manufacture of a private label product. I also contributed some input into the design and development of the 2nd generation of the product.
Following the closure of BM Soho In 2015, owing to wildly escalating rent – a fiscal knock on effect of the continued gentrification of the atmospheric Soho area, I decide it was was time to move forward with my vision to start a content driven digital agency that would provide the solution to the problems I had experienced as an in house digital director.
As you can see I have worked as both a digital freelancer (content writing/web design) and in house and for the past year I have been developing One Versus Zero Digital. I thought it would be good to pass some tips to those of you who are either thinking of taking up freelancing (full or part time) or who have already been freelancing but want to take things a step further and build a branded agency and generate higher fees, reoccurring income and more financial stability.
I feel that each of these points are of equal importance and they should by no means be considered to be exhaustive!
If your seriously thinking about taking a step forward in the digital economy – I highly recommend you read as many blogs, Facebook groups and resources as possible! If you have any personal contacts that you think might be able to provide with some form of mentoring – I highly recommend getting involved.
If you would like to reach out to me for some free and impartial advice – please join our Facebook group VIP Social Media Marketing Lounge.
1.) Your First Clients …
If you are transitioning from working within an already established agency to becoming a freelancer (or starting your own agency) you will of built up some relationships with clients who have bought into the idea of working with you personally. It is possible that some of these clients might want to follow your progression and move with you – so they can continue to work with you.
In some cases this may be beneficial for both parties – you get the security of working clients you know are going to pay you a retainer (a guaranteed monthly income) and they get to continue to work with some one who knows their business intimately.
In some cases you may of signed some kind of agreement stating that you are not allowed to do this, in some cases you may feel this is not ethical – it really depends on your particular situation. If you have a great relationship with the agency owner, it might be better to straight with them and tell them you want to branch out on your own and you would appreciate it if they could send you some clients. In most cases you can work something out that works for both of you!
If you are starting from scratch – I would first go through your phone book or social media friends list and contact people you already know and offer them your services. For the first 3 – 4 jobs you might want to reduce your rate so you can learn what process works for you and build up a portfolio to show future prospects. However I highly recommend that after your initial testing is complete that you raise your prices to market rates and avoid working clients who try to get you down below this.
People who are determined to drive you down below market rates do not value or understand digital services and will ultimately have unrealistic expectations and will ultimately end up costing you money. Ultimately I advise you seek out educated clients who understand what it is they are paying for (and how much it should cost) this will make your life a lot easier and much more profitable.
2.) Brand Yourself Properly
If you want to be able to charge premium rates for any digital service you are offering you need to look like a premium brand. I am constantly astounded by the amount of “Marketers” who do not understand the basics of branding.
You may either brand yourself as as a “Personal Brand” (IE: Seth Godin/Gary Vanyerchuk) or as a brand in its own right (IE: Mailchimp, Twitter, Facebook, Sociocaster). However you choose to do it – make sure you do it as professionally as possible. With sites such as Fiverr.com – where you can most of your branding needs covered from just $5 – there is no excuse. Its a deep subject but here are a few pointers:
- Get Your Own Domain – IE: Yourname.com
- Set Up Your Email On That Domain – You@Yourname.com
- Set Up A WordPress Website (Grab A Theme From Themeforest.Net)
- Get A Logo (Fiverr)
- Choose Your Colors
Think deeply about your colour scheme and keep it to a maximum of 3 colors that work well with each other, pick 2 if you can as it simplicity is the key to success here.
3.) Set Up Your Social Accounts
I highly recommend setting up the following accounts:
I advise that you set up new accounts – so you can keep your private profiles private! This way you can hit the social networks and start adding as many relevant people as you can and grow your network quickly without fear of comprising your personal security.
You should use the same name and profile picture on each platform – consistency is the key to looking professional.
Each platform plays a different role – lets have a quick look at each one:
- Facebook – Set Up Your Facebook Page & Join Groups – You will Also Run Your Paid Adverts From Here
- Twitter – This Is The Place To Network – Use The Advanced Search Function To Find Your Target Audience
- Linkedin – Your Professional Profile – Use Groups To Network And Consider A Pro Upgrade So You Can Message
- Instagram – If You A Doing Anything Visual – This Can Act as Your Online Portfolio – Its Also A Great Source Of Traffic.
- Youtube – Youtube Videos Are Very Easy To Rank In Google Search And Provide A Great Source Of Traffic!
4.) Be An Effective Communicator
I have worked as both a freelancer and as an, in house digital director who hires freelancers and through this experience I have learnt that effective communication is the key to successful outcomes. As a freelancer you should treat every prospective client like a potential employer , speak to prospects like you would an interviewer.
It is absolutely critical you avoid using informal terms during the initial stages of contact – even if the prospect uses them towards you. I am really easy going but I find it unprofessional when people I do not know inbox me on Facebook asking for work calling me “Mate”! Its totally fine once a working relationship has been established but using such language before we have established a relationship, gives the impression that the individual approaching me is not professional.
You need to learn to listen and make sure you understand what your client is asking for – it amazes me the amount times I have been speaking with a freelancer via Skype/Facebook (or other messaging system) only to realize that after half an hour of conversation they are simply saying yes to everything I have said and not understood any of it. If you want seem interested – ask questions and seek clarification on anything that seems unclear to you.
Learn to communicate in a timely fashion! Remember that its highly competitive out there and for every job you are going be going head to head with at least 10 other freelancers – so you need to do everything in your power to win the job. Slow communication in the negotiation stage is a big turn off for potential clients – it means that you will be a poor communicator, once the job has begun – no body wants that. In 2016 we have our smartphones with us 24 hours a day – so make sure you set up the relevant APPs, so you can receive the notifications when they come through and so you can respond rapidly.
Always be polite and respond in full sentences – if you feel the client is asking too much or trying to take advantage of you, be straight with them and try to sort it out.
In some cases you will find that clients are totally unreasonable and in the worst cases dishonest. You need to find the courage to terminate the agreement and walk way before you waste too much time. Most clients are great but every freelancer or agency comes into contact with the bad kind at some point in their career. Its crucial to terminate the agreement as soon as possible and focus on finding good clients who will not only be a joy to work with but will help your business grow and expand! A happy client is worth 1000 bad ones.
5.) Make Sure You Use Paid Advertising
It used to be all about Googles Ad Words (and for a lot of businesses it still is) but now its all about Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads are the most cost effective way to generated targeted leads for your freelancing or agency business. I recommend that you set up some kind of consulting offer and capture leads, then schedule a skype call where you work out how you can work with that client. You will find that it is much easier to close a deal with someone once you have spoken to them for 30 mins – you will also have a much clearer idea on who you are going to be working with and have the option to decide, if you want to work with them!
There are tons of Facebook Ad courses out there are the minute – its definitely an important skill to learn and one that once you familiar with it can sell to businesses for $350+ per month to run their Facebook Ad campaigns for them!
Thanks for time to check this post out and I will be back on Wednesday with another in depth blog post!
Until Then Have A Great Week,