How to start a social media marketing agency

Use your creativity and planning skills to launch and grow your own marketing company.

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With more than half of the world now using social media, the demand for shareable content continues to grow. You could put your talent for content to use and help others thrive by starting a social media marketing agency.

From upgrading your skills to finding more customers, this guide will help you move forward with your exciting new venture.

What is a social media marketing agency?

A social media marketing agency is a company that creates and manages social media content on behalf of a client who is looking to improve the marketing of their products or services.

Social agencies often schedule and publish engaging posts across a range of social media channels. The most popular ones include Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter.

However, the support offered to organisations who are looking to drive greater customer loyalty is more wide-ranging than just 'likes' and 'shares'.

One day you may help a small business get set up on the right social media platforms; the next, you could be supporting a large corporate to source influencers for a piece of branded content.

Additionally, social media marketing agencies can offer strategic support through market analysis (such as through 'social media monitoring'), lead generation and reporting.

How do social media marketing agencies make money?


Essentially, a social media agency makes money by selling its social media services to clients. These clients can be small or large businesses, charities, government departments as well as a host of other organisations.

There are multiple ways to be paid for this work. An agency may charge a fixed hourly rate for an ongoing project, or a retainer for a fixed amount for one campaign; or, a fee on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

Another method would be to charge a fee that's a fixed percentage of the money a client spends on their media marketing. This commission-based model is known as an 'agency discount'. There's also hybrid pricing, which incorporates a few different types of payment. This can be useful if you're looking to bundle a number of different social media services that you offer.

It's important to be clued up on the different types of payment options, particularly as you may need to show flexibility depending on a specific client's needs.

What skills or knowledge do I need to start a social media marketing agency?

Having a range of content creation skills and a good understanding of key marketing principles will be the foundations on which you can build and grow your social media marketing agency. It'll be a significant help if you have at least five years' experience of working in digital marketing and a wealth of industry contacts.

If you're creative and love variety in your work, social media marketing may well be just the thing for you. The skills to building a successful social media marketing agency include as follows:

  • Social media expertise. You'll need to have a strong understanding of how platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok work. The more confident you are with social media tools, the better you'll be able to judge how well your campaigns are at serving your clients.
  • Copywriting. Writing effective headlines and engaging social media posts will be a large part of the work you and your employees will need to do.
  • Creative skills. Your creativity will be your superpower in your agency. From viral videos to engaging campaigns, you and your staff will need to constantly come up with new ways to wow your clients.
  • A strong visual eye. Visual media such as short videos, visually appealing graphics and images are a big part of social media engagement.
  • Customer service skills. You'll not only be communicating with your clients but also the public through your posts and campaigns. The way you interact with people online will reflect the brand you are promoting.
  • Project management. With a range of tasks and projects on the go, you'll be doing lots of juggling. Pitching, scheduling, maintaining social media profiles and tracking contacts will all require an organised approach.

Courses or qualifications to complete

The good news is you can start a social media marketing agency without formal qualifications. What's most important is solid experience and confidence in promoting brands and attracting customers for your clients through social media platforms.

It can help to build on your existing skills by taking a short course or certificate. You could take a certified Digital Marketing course through the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) which covers the key areas of social media marketing. The course is offered online, takes 30 hours to complete and is usually priced at $3,195.

If you want to go further with your studies, you could take a Diploma of Social Media Marketing which you can typically complete at a registered training organisation like Upskilled for $4,420.


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    Get the right equipment and software to drive growth

    In terms of equipment, you won't need a lot to run your business. The wonderful thing is that you can operate your venture all from your laptop with a strong Wi-Fi connection. Of course, it can help to have an office space with a desktop to do your work, but this can be easily set up from your home.

    Assuming you'll be taking care of your design elements in-house, your toolkit will largely consist of software that will help you create quality content and schedule your projects. Here's a rundown of the software you may need in order to maximise your efficiency:

    • Buffer. A popular scheduling tool for social media platforms
    • BuzzSumo. A research tool that can be used to track your content's reach
    • Hootsuite. This app handles multiple social media accounts, all under one dashboard
    • Sumo. Allow your visitors to easily re-share your content.
    • Bitly. Create shortened URL links, again, for easy sharing.
    • Canva. This graphic design tool lets you make posts and ads with ease.
    • Adobe Lightroom. Create beautiful images with this photo-editing tool.

    Pick the right business structure for you

    Think about your ambitions for your social media business and how much you want to expand in the future. Once you have a vision, you'll need to think about a business structure.

    If you're happy to work solo and run your business by yourself, you might consider registering as a sole trader. This means you are responsible for all aspects of your business, but you can still hire freelancers or contractors to help you. If you want to work together with one or more other people, you may like to form a Partnership. A partnership means you'll share the responsibility, profits and debts of your business equally.

    Another part of setting up your business will be registering your Australian Business Number (ABN), choosing your business name and for Goods and Services Tax (GST).

    To avoid any disputes or legal issues down the track, you might consider setting up your legal documents from the start so you're all good to go.

    Some of the legal documents you may need for a social media marketing agency include as follows:

    • Service agreements. This will outline the services you're offering as well as stipulations regarding payments and refunds.
    • Employment agreements. If you're going to hire extra staff, an employment agreement will ensure your employees know what is expected of them and that you are both protected should any legal troubles come up at any point.
    • A Privacy Policy is a legally required statement on your website which allows you to collect the personal information of people who visit your site.
    • Website Terms and Conditions. This outlines the rules for people visiting your website, including how users can use your website and a disclaimer to limit your liability.

    To make things easier, you can find legal document templates through online legal services such as Sprintlaw, Lawpath, LawDepot and Wonder.Legal.

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    Grow your customer base

    To draw potential customers to your business, you'll want to promote yourself as a social media whizz and the best way to do this is through your own social media profiles. Take some time to set up a strong Facebook and Instagram account, and don't forget other popular platforms too like TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter.

    You'll be more effective in your business if you narrow down to a specific niche. Consider your experience and expertise, and who you would best serve. When you have a target audience in mind, you can promote yourself on the platforms they hang out on most.

    You can also reach customers in your area by using online marketplaces to sell your services. Here are some platforms you can use to build your customer base:

    • Airtasker. Find job requests in your category and make an offer to the customer.
    • Upwork. Find clients from all over the world with this popular freelancing platform.
    • LinkedIn. Boost your professional profile by making your presence known on LinkedIn. You can post comments and articles, write blogs and grow your network.

    Work out how much to charge customers

    According to Melbourne-based agency Aston Social, it can cost anywhere from $400 right up to $22,000 per month for social media marketing services.

    When fixing pricing for your services, consider factors such as your experience, the range of services you offer, the size of your client's business, plus, other administration and marketing expenses. Also, when you're assessing a project you'll need to add the cost of advertising tools to your service.

    Accept payments from your customers in person and online with Square's card readers, payment terminals, digital invoicing and e-commerce tools.

    Questions you might still have

    What types of services can I offer?

    Your services could range from simply keeping social media profiles updated and posting regular content to a full-service package that covers setting up accounts to managing communities. Some of the services you may offer include strategy planning, content creation, campaign and community management and consulting services.

    How can I choose a niche for my business?

    Consider your skills and background as well as the types of clients you enjoy working with before choosing a niche. You could niche by an industry you know well such as finance or fashion, by a particular platform such as LinkedIn or Facebook, or by a skill such as ad campaigns or creating images and videos.

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