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How to Start a Successful Creative Agency


Who is This Book For?

This book is for creators who want to start their own agencies providing content and creative services to marketing and advertising clients.

That includes graphic designers, copywriters, filmmakers, photographers, photo editors, film editors, animators, illustrators, interface designers, and front-end programmers.

In this book, I’ll help you build a solid business foundation for your company.

I’ll teach you about running your business so that you can focus your creativity on what you really love doing.

What Readers Are Saying

"I just picked up your book yesterday! Already loving it and can't wait to sit back down with it."

Dylan Silvestro, Freelance Art Director

"This book is so good, I bought it twice. To my fellow creatives, I encourage you to check this out!"

Cam Thomas, Creative Marketer

"It's now week one of my new venture and I have 4 clients already 😌. The book was extremely clear and helpful—I've already put a lot of your advice into action and have started thinking about the future of the business—what's my exit plan? When should I hire? All of the fun stuff!"

Bethan Vincent, Marketing Consultant, bethanvincent.com

"Utilize the wisdom and enjoy the humour shared in this practical guide on how to grow and scale a creative agency. Though I have already been in business for a while and skipped over some of the start-up pieces, I was able to gain valuable insights on how to grow, scale and price my creative services. Valuable insights from an entrepreneur who has sold two agencies and shares his playbook."

Suzanne Huber, Digital Marketing Strategist

“I can honestly say, I’ve learned more from Andy than anyone else, and working with him has undoubtedly been a contributing factor in my own success.”

Simon Burn, sdbcreative.com

“Contained within the book is more advice than can probably be absorbed, all learned and distilled over Andy’s long career in creative communications. It is a comprehensive guide to starting and running a creative agency. I truly wish I had a copy when I started mine.”

Ben Hagon RGD, President, www.forgoodintent.com

For Freelancers, Side-Hustlers, Employees, Students

If you’re a freelancer, I’ll show you how to transition your solo business into an agency.

If creative services is your side-hustle, I’ll show you what it takes to go full time.

If you’re an agency employee, I’ll show you how to use your job as business training for starting your own creative agency.

If you’re a student, I’ll show you how to take advantage of your teachers’ connections to land the best internship and turn it into a job.

I’ll help you define and attract the right clients for your agency and avoid time-wasting amateurs. Learn about the best and most profitable way to estimate projects and the secrets of payment terms to get paid promptly,

I’ll give you critical insights into keeping everyone happy: your clients, your staff, your contractors, and the taxman.

Here’s What You’ll Learn

Why an agency of just two people is stronger than two individuals (1+1=3)

How to figure out which clients are right for you (start to define your niche for profitability).

Understand the critical differences between projects and clients.

How many clients should your agency have (I say, start with 10 solid clients).

What clients are really looking for in a creative vendor (it’s not the lowest price, not even talent).

The best ways to estimate your projects (not by the hour—that’s usually the worst).

Why you can’t get into some large clients. You’re locked out. (I’ll give you the key).

Why you should get in the habit of keeping accurate timesheets (it’s a hidden key to profitability).

How to use payment terms to get paid quickly and encourage client loyalty.

The rules for running efficient meetings—and yes, you’ll need meetings.

Why and how to form strong relationships—you can build your whole agency on one good connection (I did, and it brought in millions in billings).

If you’re in school, why you should work in other people’s agencies before starting your own.

How to get freelance clients and use that as a base for your agency.

Table of Contents

The book gives you 23 chapters, each with sub-chapters:

Foreword vii

Preface xi

Is This Book For You? 1

1. Starting Your Own Creative Agency 5

2. Taking Advantage of School 12

3. Amateur Creator vs. Professional 24

4. Getting a Job—You’re in the Business 34

5. Starting Your Freelance Business 50

6. Preparing to Launch Your Company 60

7. Business Structures—Which One Is Right For You? 75

8. Writing A Business Plan 84

9. Your Money Attitude 95

10. Starting Up 103

11. Running Your Agency 112

12. Decision-Making 123

13. Defining Your Services 127

14. Working With Clients 137

15. Managing Your Agency’s Growth 186

16. Talking To Clients About Money 201

17. Your Estimates Can Make Or Break You 208

18. Billing And Payment Terms 241

19. Adding People 253

20. Managing Employees And Benefits 273

21. Take Time Sheets Seriously 287

22. Growing Your Agency 298

23. Legal And Insurance 313

Afterword 321

Acknowledgments 329


I wrote How to Start a Successful Creative Agency after starting three successful agencies of my own.

The first was a solo agency where I worked with other freelancers and contractors. Wanting to expand further, I found a partner and started my second agency, Fireworks Creative. By the fifth year, with a staff of 30, Fireworks was acquired by an IT company for $3 million.

Six months later, I started Context Creative, which grew to 28 people and still operates today. I retired from the company a few years ago, selling my shares to my partners. That gave me years of a good six-figure income while my wife and I traveled.

This book includes everything I know about starting and running successful creative agencies.

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  • You'll get a PDF book with over 300 pages of proven agency business experience to help you start and run your own successful creative agency.


How to Start a Successful Creative Agency

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    Thank you for buying How to Start a Successful Creative Agency. I hope you use this information to start your own kickass agency! Feel free to connect on Twitter @StroteBook. DMs are open and I'm happy to chat or answer any questions.

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