Jack’s Q&A About Starting an Ad Agency

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An email dropped in from a Jack in LA. Jack wants to start an ad agency and wanted to know a few things about my journey. I thought I’d share my answers with all of you on the blog, so I picked up my MacBook and went down to the dock to write this to you. Here we go! These were Jack’s questions:

1. What is the first thing I need to do? Pick a name? Find clients? Incorporate? Find money? (i have none of that!)

Well Jack, I’ll try to pick these off one by one:

• Picking a name may seem irrelevant at first, or at least a bad place to start. But honestly (no pun intended) it is kind of important. When you have a name, the project seems more real and easier to talk about. The agency will start forming in your head which in turn leads to the same process in the heads of others. You have to believe that you are somebody or something before anybody else can start believing if you know what I mean. Be careful though – it’s very easy to get stuck on the name.

• Finding clients is obviously very important. If you have no clients you have no revenue and no way to survive. Take on anything that you can find and trade your way up as you go. Just make sure you don’t get stuck with small clients that eat up all your time without being profitable. Caution! It’a a trap!

Incorporating is also important. If you don’t incorporate you are not a company and no serious client will hire you as anything more than a freelance creative.

Finding money is not important the way I see it, except what little money you need to survive. Your agency always needs to be profitable to survive and if you are burning through a stack of seed capital when starting an ad agency you’re not profitable and you’re doing something wrong. Not to mention the fact that it will be difficult to find seed capital and even if you do it will take away your freedom. And wasn’t that the reason you wanted your own agency in the first place?

2. Also what is the first thing you did, and what made you want to start Honesty?

The first things I did were: Find a name, come up with a concept and story for the agency, incorporate, get bank accounts etc, set up website, build personal brand through blog, twitter, media etc, find means of getting food on the table (travelling Sweden and the world lecturing in my case), find amazing people to work with, find clients, work like H.E.L.L.

• What made me want to start Honesty was that I had an idea that needed to be set free. To me, the meaning of life is to create things, and I had wanted to create an ad agency for a long time. So I did. Now I want to make music and make an album, so I’ve started working on that. Both these projects are crazy and scary. But also, I think that the fear of failure is what keeps me and other people from creating things. And since creating things is the meaning of life to me, I’ll simply have to try and ignore that fear when it comes up. It does come up.

Lastly, keep in mind that both advertising for others and for you is about storytelling. So make sure you become great at telling stories.

Ps. You also need luck, but luck comes to those who try and try and try and…

Good luck with your agency.

About the Blog

This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.
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