A recent report showed that consistent branding can increase revenue by up to 20%, and 46% of customers stated that they prefer to buy from familiar brands. The numbers don’t lie, and the power of branding in business is becoming more and more evident. Ultimately, the more people recognize and believe in a brand, the more likely they are to invest in it.
With the number of online businesses rising by the minute, and competition fiercer than ever, business owners all over the UK are heading to reputable brand design agencies to help them create a thoroughly researched, well-considered and effective branding strategy that’ll help them become a reputable and memorable name in their respective industry.
Brand design is an in-demand, flourishing, and lucrative sector, and if you’re experienced in the field, you may be thinking…is now the time to head out on your own?
You might feel undervalued or lost in the crowd at a larger agency. Maybe you want to have the power to pick your own clients, or specialise in a certain industry where you know you’ll thrive. We’re glad to say now is a great time to throw your hat in the ring and make your mark on your terms.
Whatever your reasons and circumstances, there are several key things to consider. Follow our tips and there’s no reason why your branding venture won’t be a roaring success.
To learn more about the inner workings of the branding agency industry, visit our article What is a Branding Agency?
Once you’ve decided you’re going to start your own agency, you’ll need to ensure you give your business the best possible chance of becoming a success by researching the industry, deciding what you can (and want to) offer, and how best to make it happen.
You might be tempted to launch straight in, but due diligence at this stage will save you time, and money, and shield you from potential stress in the long run. This is not the time to rush.
So set aside some time, grab a notepad and your laptop, and dive right in.
Are you planning to focus on branding for a specific industry? What sort of services outside of branding (if any) do you plan to offer? How many people do you plan (and need) to hire? Do you plan on serving a specific location? Do you need to rent office space? What is your budget for tech and software?
There are a hundred more questions where those came from, and you’re going to need to think deeply about each and every one, and research accordingly.
This would be a good time to see if there are any clear gaps in the market in your area that your agency could fill, likewise, if a certain branding niche appears to be oversaturated it’s best to avoid throwing your hat in the ring. Extensive research in these early stages can save you from difficulty down the line. If you back yourself into a corner that you later realise isn’t going to work for you, it can be a costly and time-consuming mistake to rectify.
One of the main things to consider, and confirm at this early stage, is differentiation, and how you’re going to make yourself stand out from your competitors.
There’s no right or wrong answer here, just what suits your skillset, and long-term goals best.
You may be especially skilled at working in, or passionate about, a certain industry, in which case it makes sense (if there is a market for it) to focus on this area. Likewise, if your previous work experience was spent on branding projects that spanned a broad spectrum of clients, and you enjoyed the variety in switching directions from project to project then you can choose to keep your options open and offer brand design services to a whole range of sectors and industries. Keeping your options open in this way can be beneficial for a new business, and you can always specialise in the future should it make sense to do so.
If you’ve been working for another agency for a long time, it’s possible that your skillset isn’t as fresh as it could be, and once your agency is up and running, you’re unlikely to have the time to update it.
When starting your own agency, you need to be at the top of your game regarding your branding skills, but also be entirely up to date on the latest software being used by the agencies that you aspire for yours to be.
People are paying you for your skills and expertise, so it makes sense to ensure you’re offering the very best. Your education and expertise are always worth investing in and will add exponential value to your business.
Before launch, set aside some time to fill in any gaps to ensure you can feel confident you’re offering your future clients the best possible service.
Sign up for your favourite brand design blogs to be inspired and get a steady diet of the latest news from the industry, and even better, enrol on some short online courses — many of which are free. Your budget will be at the forefront of your mind right now so it doesn’t hurt to save money where you can!
Sites like Udemy, Canva, and Skillcrush all offer a range of courses where you can refresh your skills or even learn something new to add value to your client experience.
Things move fast in the world of brand design, and you don’t need to know it all, but keeping up to date will ensure your work stays current and that you (and your agency) can offer the best possible service.
Now for the fun bit. If you’re communicating with your audience and potential customers that you’re the one to trust with their brand design project, then you need to ensure that your own branding is up to scratch and demonstrates the very best of your abilities.
Your branding should establish who you are, what you do, and how you offer a more valuable proposition than your direct competitors. You need to show a clear and defined promise to your audience, all while communicating your mission, vision, and those all-important agency values.
You’re the expert, so this part should be easy enough, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research thoroughly and give it a lot of thought.
With a completely blank canvas (and no client constraints), you’ve got the opportunity to create a brand that you feel perfectly embodies your vision and sets the tone for the future of your business.
Your brand’s personality should be felt at every turn, be it through your website’s design, across social media, or through targeted content. Every visitor should have a clear feel for your brand’s personality, and if not, you’re not giving a potential client a good reason to invest in you
Combine your years of experience and extensive industry knowledge to create a brand that you not only feel proud of, but that impresses everyone who encounters it. There is no better way to prove to potential clients that you’re the best possible agency for their business.
Your first steps will be choosing a company name, a domain name (for your website), creating a logo, and of course your desired fonts and colour palette that’ll be reflected throughout your website, social media, all content, and any marketing materials.
You only get one first chance to launch your business, so think long and hard about your chosen name for your agency. A memorable business name can be a very valuable asset, and you should consider a number of questions before deciding.
These should include:
Does the name reflect the business?
Is it clear who we are and what we offer?
Is it memorable?
Is it hard to pronounce?
Will it entice, or deter clients?
Is it unique?
Does it sound too much like another company, potentially a competitor?
Will it be confusing to your audience?
Does it sound location specific? (Avoid if your services aren’t or you risk losing potential clients)
As you’re starting an agency, you’ll have employees and be working alongside other people. With this in mind, it’s best to avoid naming the company after yourself, as it leaves little room for scalability.
Once you’ve decided on your business name, you’ll need to register your domain name (essentially your website URL). Visit Top Tips: Buying your Domain Name and Best Domain Name Providers in the UK to learn more about the process and what to do if your desired name isn’t available.
This is also a great time to register your social media profiles on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Even if you’re not ready to start willing them with content, knowing your chosen name is secure and the accounts are ready and waiting will be one less thing to worry about down the line.
One thing to consider is how exactly you can add value to your agency to create a second-to-none proposition for all potential clients.
One of the best ways to do this is by adding a range of services that can be employed to create the most seamless, useful and effective experience for your audience that at the same time sets you apart from your competitors.
Competitor research is key at this stage. Look around to see what specialised services and ‘add-ons’ are being offered at popular branding agencies across the country, as well as by the agencies that cater to the niche you’re planning to specialise in (if relevant).
A typical branding agency will specialise in:
Brand and product campaigns
Brand tone of voice
You’re launching a branding agency, so these aspects will be your bread and butter, but there are several services you can offer that’ll make your agency in more attractive to prospective clients.
Web Design: Creating an attractive, functional, and responsive website with user experience in mind, and demonstrated across every page. Brand and web design go hand in hand, and it’ll be extremely beneficial for your agency to offer web design services so that the client’s brand strategy and all aspects of the brand’s design can be implemented in-house, saving time and money.
Web Development: The process of creating a clean, simple, and user-friendly website that enhances the user experience from the second they arrive on the page. A web developer is instrumental in almost every stage from planning, research, design, and development as well as browser testing and maintenance once the site is live. Together with the brand designer and web designer, they create the internal structure and working components that make a website functional and a joy to use.
Content Writing: Branded content is a great way to add personality and value to a website, and a successful one needs to offer more than just products and basic business information. A content writing service can help any business build a brand reputation and establish rapport with the target audience — a must-have for any brand-new business.
SEO Services: A solid search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy will result in a website ranking higher organically in Google, which in turn leads to more site traffic, interest, and sales. If an agency can offer a specialised strategy for a business that extends far outside the remit of ‘brand design’ it can be worth its weight in gold.
Website Hosting: Every website will need to be hosted on a server, and while clients can source space themselves, offering a dependable and high-quality hosting solution service can help save them time and money.
If you’re going to all the effort to launch your own agency, then how to make it profitable is of course one of the most important considerations.
There’s a balance to be made here between lowballing yourself (and working for less than you’re worth) and being greedy (and ultimately losing custom). It can be hard to know what to charge, especially if you’ve always been on the creative side of the office and never knew exactly how much your boss was making, but with a little research, you’ll be able to find a number that should suit both you and your future clients.
Start by researching what agencies of similar size are asking for the services that you’re offering, multiply this by how many projects you anticipate working on each month and go from there.
Don’t forget to deduct all business expenses from your initial profit, including rent, utilities, software licensing fees, employee wages, and any tax. If the number you’re left with doesn’t work for you, head back to the drawing board.
In the very early stages, you’re unlikely to be taking home quite as much as you’d like, but don’t work for an unreasonably low fee either. You know your worth, so have conviction in your abilities and stand by it and avoid any clients that immediately try to haggle and devalue your services to suit their budget. Trust us — these aren’t the kind of people you want to work with (if you can avoid it).
If you set your rates lower than all of your competitors, you may end up with plenty of clients but you’ll be selling yourself short, get a reputation for being cheap, and will struggle to ever demand the rates that you deserve.
Another tip is to avoid listing your prices on your website, and instead, encourage potential clients to get in touch. While it’s great to bag big-name clients who have a large budget, all custom is good, especially when you’re a new business. While a client may only have a small budget, it could be a good experience for your agency, and bolster your reputation if you’re accommodating and willing to work with them on a smaller project that benefits you both.
It doesn’t hurt to gain a reputation as one of the good guys, and worth-of-mouth recommendations are worth their weight in gold for a fledgling business.
If you’re running a full-service agency, then you’re going to need employees.
You can post a listing on one of the many job sites out there, but your first stop should be any of your previous colleagues or contacts that you know are talented, and that you enjoy working alongside.
Working in a small-medium sized agency you’ll be spending a significant portion of your life working alongside these people, so as much as their skills are important, you want to be sure you’re going to get on and be comfortable with each other when working to possibly stressful deadlines.
If you’re on a budget, hire the key players first. This may be a brand designer, web designer and a web developer. You can then outsource an SEO specialist and copywriter for example and add permanent full-time employees from these fields when you’re more established and have a bigger budget to play with.
Regardless of whether you’re a fully remote or office-based agency, it’s your website that’s going to do the heavy lifting when it comes to creating that initial and all-important impression on prospective clients.
If you’re skilled in web design yourself, then you already know what to do (and the importance of a stylish and responsive website), but if your talents lie firmly in branding then you have plenty of options. Your first avenue should be to your agency’s web designer — let them show off their web design prowess while you keep your budget to a minimum. You can also head to a dedicated web design agency or enlist a freelancer.
If you’re on a very low budget and strapped for time, you can even build your website yourself! Websites creation tools like Squarespace, Wix, and Webflow allow even the most coding-averse beginner to build their own template-based website at a reasonable cost.
Once your site is ready, you need to start working on an up-to-date portfolio.
The branding of your website, how personable it is and how it entices your audience will go a long way in persuading a client to work with you, but it’s your portfolio that’ll convince them that you’re the only agency for them.
All of your best brand design work should be displayed within your portfolio and should demonstrate your skills across a range of industries and project sizes.
Outside of being clearly displayed on your agency website, consider hosting your portfolio on dedicated design portfolio sites such as Behance, Dribbble and Coroflot.
These websites are regularly used by potential clients sourcing brand designers for a particular project, and they’re a great way to gain recognition within the industry.
Visit Top Tips: Setting up your own Branding Portfolio to learn more.
With more people working from home than ever, as a new business owner, you’ll have more to decide here than someone starting an agency five years ago.
There are pros and cons to each option, so whatever you decide will need to be what works best for you, your employees, and your agency.
If you decide to rent an office space, you’ll need to ensure its easily accessible for clients and your staff, and that it’s kitted out with everything needed to run the agency successfully. This means everything from tech to tea and coffee supplies.
If you choose to run the agency remotely, then you’re saving on the cost of rent and utilities for an office but potentially losing out on the working environment that comes with being in the same space day-to-day. This may not be an issue and many people are more than happy working from home, but it doesn’t hurt to organise staff events now and again to give everyone a chance to meet each other in real life. A good rapport between staff can help exponentially when collaborating on projects.
Whatever you decide, be clear with potential employees as to whether they’ll be expected to work in-office, remote, or hybrid remote.
The final decision will depend on your specific financials, the team’s preferences, and your long-term business goals.
To demonstrate your skills successfully and offer the best possible work for your clients you’re going to need the latest tech.
You need to spend money to make money and don’t try and skimp at this stage as you’ll only live in regret if things break down or don’t work as planned, causing potential issues with clients or deadlines.
Start with the basics — a top-of-the-range desktop computer and laptop is a must, as well as a high-quality printer and scanner, and camera if you’ll be taking professional photos for a client. If you’re hiring an office space, you’ll need to provide equipment for staff members too.
Next up is software, and you’ll need to do a little research into whether it’s more cost-effective to buy it outright or sign up for a monthly, cloud-based subscription service. Visit Which Software is used in Branding? to learn more.
Things move fast in the world of brand and web design, so keep your finger on the pulse and make sure you’re always using the most up-to-date tech to get the very best results for your clients.
Once you have your business plans in order, re. work premises, business name and size, you’ll need to sort out the legal stuff.
We’ll be honest, this is without a doubt the boring bit, but without it, you won’t be able to run your agency legally never mind successfully.
First off, you’ll need to register your business with Company’s House, either as a sole trader, an LLC (limited company) or a partnership.
All earnings will need to be declared to HMRC at the end of every tax year (in April), even if — god forbid —you don’t make a penny.
Visit Gov.uk to learn more about which option is best for you, how to register, and to make sure you’re in full legal compliance when setting up your business.
As well as registering your company, you’ll need to think about several other aspects including insurance, data laws, business rates, checking employees’ rights to work, health and safety, pensions, and running the payroll.
Speaking of payroll, from the outset you’ll need to arrange a way to keep track of your cash flow.
Tools like QuickBooks and Xero will help you account for all the needed information and make your life a lot easier come tax return time.
You’ve got your first employees, an office space, all the latest tech, an impressive portfolio, and a sparkling new website…now’s the time to make yourself known.
Social media is one of the best ways to increase the exposure of any business and will be a great way to spread the word and launch your agency into the ether of your audience.
Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are great places to start. Head back to those previously registered profiles and start filling them with content that’ll inspire your peers and entice your prospective audience.
Be sure to keep all your accounts updated regularly with links to blog posts, brand design inspiration, testimonials from happy clients, case studies, current work, and more.
You can have the best team out there, the most impressive website, and an awe-inspiring portfolio, but your agency isn’t going to be a success without the most important component…clients.
Once you have everything in place and know you can serve any potential clients to the level that they deserve and that you’re capable of, it’s time to start sourcing.
The first stop should be any contacts from your previous jobs, be it via freelance contracts or when you worked with an established agency. Did you build a rapport with any clients in particular? Were any particularly impressed with your work? Even if you’ve not been in touch in years, it doesn’t hurt to drop them an email and let them know you’ve launched your own agency. If they remember you favourably and they need any brand design work, chances are they’ll be happy to work with you again and you can start building up a portfolio of clients.
If mining your past contacts isn’t an option, you’ll need to focus on enticing a client base organically, and there are several ways you can increase your chances of being found online.
Spreading awareness of your agency on social media is your first step and will help increase exposure exponentially. From here focus on SEO, and how to increase your chances of getting your site in front of the right people.
Using smart search engine optimisation, you can ensure that your website ranks highly on Google, and is easily found by prospective clients.
Having a strong online presence and utilising SEO will further increase the chances of your first client finding you organically, so be sure to constantly update your social channels and website content to increase visibility.
If you’re starting from scratch, obtaining your first client can be tough, but following all the tips above will only speed up the process.
More than ever business owners are seeing the importance of a solid branding strategy, and there’s no reason that your agency can’t become a main player in the industry.
There’s never been a better time to make your mark in the branding world, and through a combination of experience, skill, and a lot of hard work, you’ll be able to achieve your goals.
Launching a branding agency is no small task but following our tips will start you in good stead and on the road to success.