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CHECKLIST: How to Start a Digital Marketing Agency & Hit $5K in Less than 90 Days

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New Contributor
Jul 19, 2021
I've been meaning to write this post for a long time. It's basically the story of how I started a digital marketing agency to be able to do cool stuff. And I would like to give you a nice little checklist that you could use as well if it interests you.

I started my business in 2010. Since then, I reduced my own work load to less than 10 hours a month, lived in Mexico for 4 1/2 years, traveled to 15 countries, and am prepping to head to Scotland for 6 months in Sept - all together with my wife & 3 kids.

I cracked the code to scaling a service-based business using detailed systems (a fancy checklist on Asana) and a good team (all based in the Philippines).

I made $2,450 in my first month. Not crazy I know but it was a big deal for me just starting out. More importantly, that number increased every single month afterwards.

At about month 11 is when I read The Millionaire Fastlane and it completely changed how I viewed my business. I made a bunch of changes based on MJ's advice and started hitting 5 figure months about two months later.


I need to mention that a digital marketing agency does NOT follow all of MJ's 5 business commandments. It breaks one - Barrier to Entry. Basically, anyone can do this. They really can.

BUT, that's also the catch - most people DON'T ACTUALLY EXECUTE! You can give them all the tools, step-by-step instructions, templates, etc and they still won't do anything. I know because I offer a course giving people literally everything they need and only a handful of people actually do the thing.

So in a way, the barrier to entry commandment is almost a non-issue. Besides, there's more than enough business out there.

With the other commandments (time, scale, control, & need), this kind of business passes with full marks.


Why $5,000? Two reasons:
  1. It’s usually enough money for most people to quit their jobs to focus full time on the business
  2. It’s totally realistic & achievable
This is a number that most people can hit with some focused work. How fast you’re able to hit $5k is up to two things:
  1. Your Prices
  2. Your Hustle
Obviously, the more you sell, the more you’ll make. Keep in mind that some services typically cost more than others (for example: websites cost more than social media management)

Like I said, I made $2,450 in my first month. How did I make that money? I networked with people I already knew and got in touch with a few key business owners. I shook hands and spoke with everyone I knew.

Simply put, I hustled.

Hitting $5K in under 90 days is totally doable. I have students in my course that have done much more in less time.


Before I give you a checklist, I have to answer, what is an online marketing agency?

There are a lot of names for this kind of business - internet marketing company, digital marketing agency, online marketing business, and more. They’re all the same thing.

In a nutshell, it’s a service-based business that manages the online marketing activities for companies of any size that are in need of growing their presence online – which is all of them.

This includes services like SEO, social media management, reputation management, website design, and more.

You can choose to focus in on just one branch of online marketing (like website design or SEO) or you can choose to do it all.

As the business owner, you’re responsible for creating the services that your clients will choose from.
Then you will need to recruit a team of people to do the actual work. You can even hire salespeople or a sales company later on and scale it infinitely.

There’s no shortage of businesses that need help with their online marketing so the sky’s the limit. There’s also no shortage of people who can do the actual work and you can contract them relatively inexpensively.

*NOTE: Building an online marketing agency might not be your passion.

It really doesn’t matter.
What matters is that it offers you a way to sell a valuable service to real people who pay real money. You can quickly build this business, scale it up, and then do whatever the heck you want!


The benefits primarily include:

  • You can get started for less than $300
  • Extremely low overhead
  • Large profit margin - you literally set the prices
  • Huge potential - an extra $50K/year or $500K/year - it's up to you
  • Work online
  • Flexible schedule



Starting and running a digital marketing agency breaks down into what I call the 5 S's.

1. Setup
2. Sales
3. Systems
4. Staffing
5. Scaling-Up


I'm going to break down the checklist into those 5 groups.

The rest of this post is literally made up of the steps you can follow to start your own digital marketing agency. If you have any questions, obviously I'll be paying attention to this thread. I won't hold anything back.

Just ask.


This portion is to help you get started by establishing your business services, messaging & branding, website, and so forth. The goal is to move quickly to hurry and get to making sales.

  • Start thinking about your business brand including your business name. Think about what kind “feel” you want your business to have. Write out at least 10 possible names.
  • Look up “online marketing company” and check out the first few sites – the goal is to get a feel for what they do and what you’ll be doing.
  • Consider taking a class or two on or to get an overview of the online marketing world. Strongly consider also going to
  • Think about an industry you might like to serve (i.e. – chiropractors) and then look up “online marketing for chiropractors” or similar terms and study what comes up.
  • Write out (or type out) your motivation. Why are you interested in starting this business? Answer this with something more specific than “to have more money”. Get as specific as you can. Don’t skip the mental work!
  • List out the amount of money you would like to make in your first month, second month, following months. Include your first year’s goal.
  • Go online and look up other online marketing companies (again) – jot down everything that you like and that you would like to emulate.
  • Start thinking about what sets you apart. Ideally it can be summed up in one sentence. i.e. – “We provide SEO services for dental professionals”. This is your USP (unique selling proposition)
  • Come up with your 3 packages. List out the services that each package entails. Yours may be just offering social media or just website design or whatever. Be sure to be detailed - list out everything.
  • Come up with your package pricing. Decide what you think is valuable for all parties involved and use this as a starting point (you’ll most likely adjust this as you get more experience). Use this pattern: $499/$599/$999 OR $999/$1199/$1699 and so on.
  • Identify and write out your USP.
  • Write what your ideal client looks like – the more details the better.
  • Decide right now you will stay true to your niche and not take on anyone and everyone who needs help “online”. It’s better to focus on a core audience to avoid wasting time and money. Don’t be afraid to say no.
  • Come up with your business name. Come up with your business tagline (if you need one).
  • Pick your colors. These can literally be your favorite colors. Don’t stress on this one.
  • Get a logo done (use,, or – don’t do it yourself unless you’re a graphic designer.
  • Write up your business plan. Print it out. Change as necessary. Just answer the following questions:
    o What is your company name?
    o What is your company tagline?
    o What services do you provide? What problem do you solve?
    o Who is your target audience or what does your ideal client look like?
    o What is your USP?
    o How much do you charge?
    o What is your monthly revenue goal?
    o How many new or repeat clients do you need to achieve this goal?
    o How do you get new clients?
    o How will you fulfill your services? Who makes up your production team?
    o Who are the other key players of your team? List their names and titles.

  • Set up your corporation (use LegalZoom – for now, just get a DBA and then incorporate once you’ve brought on a few clients and know this is going to work for you)
  • Set up your business checking & savings account. Set up your PayPal (or Stripe) business account.
  • Buy your domain name (use a registrar like Buy your hosting (use a reliable & affordable host like Set up your website (use Wordpress – it’s super easy & all you need). Your host should have a 1-click Wordpress install.
  • Create a home page, about page, services page, & contact page to start. This is the minimum. Set up your social media platforms (Facebook business page, Twitter, Google+/YouTube, LinkedIn all a must. Pinterest, Instagram, etc are bonus).
  • Buy your business cards (and nothing else) Use because they’re super cheap. Only order 250 for your first cards. You may change some info later.

This portion is to help you start making sales - the lifeblood of your business. If you’re not making sales, you don’t have a business.

  • Get your first sale (work your own personal network to get started – make a list of 10 business owners you know or your friends/family might know and approach them offering them a discount or added value to get started).
  • Complete the work of your first sale and be sure to get results! If you don’t know how to do any of it, go to and hire someone immediately – see next section.
  • Document all of your work – you’ll need this to scale & build a team.
  • Get your next 3 clients quickly. Go to networking meetings in your area. Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce and possibly a BNI group or other networking group.
  • Use online directories like to find more businesses in your chosen niche. When you find their contact info, reach out to them leading with value - do a mock-up website with their info, list out specific tips to drive more business, or share exactly how they could tweak their online presence for increased traffic and conversion, etc. Think value!
  • Reach out to associations in your chosen niche and offer to give free webinars.
  • Optimize your company website to reach your target niche and drive traffic to it – have specific pages on your website that you get to rank in Google for organic traffic (i.e. – a page on “Search Engine Optimization Services for Chiropractors”). Then get it ranking and collect leads.
  • Continue to look up the Chambers of Commerce in your area and other mixers and networking opportunities. Look to set up 1-on-1’s with potential clients but only ones in your niche. Don’t waste time with anyone else!
  • Set up speaking and teaching gigs to get in front of a lot of people at once. Be as helpful as possible. Give your best stuff away for free - be incredibly detailed.

Once you have some sales coming in, you need to make sure you document everything and create systems in order for others to do the work for you. This also includes establishing what tools you use in your business. It’s simple but incredibly important.

  • Create a sales manual and a production manual. Be detailed and use bullet points.
  • Set up your work email (use Google apps or even just gmail to make it easy and route your email through it)
  • Set up your account in – it’s free and it will be your project management tool. Name each new project after your client name. Each project is a client & list out in the project all of the work you said you would do in the list of services.
  • Set your file storage using DropBox or Google Drive.
  • Set up your bookkeeping with Quickbooks

Getting a team in place to do the work for you is key to your growth. You need to hire, train, and lead your team members. As soon as possible, you’ll hire more team members to make sure all work is being done effectively.

  • Create a company org chart with you as owner. Create a general manager position with manager positions also in sales, production/operations, & finance.
  • List out the work for your first job (base this off of your services in your game plan). Then go to or and post your job.
  • Interview your top 3 candidates. Hire 1 but keep the other two on a short-list for when you need them in the future. Start them off on a part-time basis with the expectation of them doing more soon.
  • Hire your first employee or contractor – generally this is a production staff member first (you should not be doing the actual production beyond your first client).
  • Take time to train your first team member. Refine your systems and make sure they can operate independently of you as soon as possible. Use Asana (or Basecamp or Trello) to manage everything. If you’re concerned about tracking everything, consider using
  • As soon as revenue and need justifies it, hire another contractor. And then another. And another.

Once you have sales coming in and a team and systems in place, it’s time to scale-up. This section is all about refining your processes so that you can handle 5 or 500 clients while the work to you remains the same. In other words, this is how you make more money while working less.

  • Refine your services – productize them! When mapping out your services, make sure your offer is the same to everyone. If you choose a service like SEO for example, then it’s relatively the same regardless of the industry your client is in. Don’t match a service to the client. Match the client to one of your preexisting services.
  • Refine your clients - it’s OK & very necessary to the growth of your business to be choosy. Stay away from any "high maintenance" clients. Choose early on how you will handle communication with your clients. Most are just fine with email.
  • Refine your systems. Look for ways to save money, increase productivity, and so forth. When possible, swap out human effort with software and automated work.
  • Refine your sales. Spend money if necessary on advertising, always targeting your ideal niche/industry.
  • As soon as you have at least 90-day’s worth of savings in the bank, have made at least 3 sales (with a lot more in the pipeline), consider going full-time with your business. If you have a significant other, be sure to be on the same page.
  • Over-deliver with your clients. If the relationship is there, try asking for a referral but only if you’ve already done a great job.

That's it! Just sell. There's plenty of businesses out there. I don't mean to downplay it at all but really, I'm nobody special. I'm not like most of the successful hustlers in this forum. I'm a pretty average dude that managed to create a sweet business.

You can do the same. Just follow the checklist above.

If you have any questions, just ask!

Thanks for the information.
much appreciated.
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Sean Marshall

Independent since 2010
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 17, 2011
San Diego, CA
Just follow the checklist above.

I said that in the very first post I made in this thread which I can't believe was in 2018!

I've been happy to update the thread over the years as questions have come in. But also, part of me feels like what I listed out was too complicated. Like, it gave people too much to think about, learn about, and hem & hah about (paralysis by analysis).

In other words, NOT taking action.

Taking action is the ONLY thing that matters. And by that I mean the following 7 things:
  1. Choose a niche
  2. Find a real problem this industry deals with
  3. Find a way to solve that problem
  4. Create a dynamite no-brainer offer
  5. Build a landing page
  6. Run ads to the landing page (Facebook, Google, or YouTube)
  7. Book calls and close deals
That's it!

Stuff like what colors you use in your logo, payment processor, how to hire people are all good - but this is what you NEED to do right now to get the revenue coming in fast. In fact, you could do this all in one day if you wanted.

I can expand on what I mean just a bit:

#1 - Choose a niche

Let's say you choose hair salons. Maybe you already know the industry, have some contacts there, or just plain want to work with hair salons.

#2 - Find a real problem this industry deals with

Ask some hair salons owners what they're dealing with when it comes to driving new business online. What do they struggle with? What do they want more of? Less of?

Let's say that most hair salons owners desperately want to have more reviews. They know it leads to new business and maybe their front desk person isn't the best at asking for those reviews. Maybe they don't have any systems set up to automatically ask for reviews. You can do that.

#3 - Find a way to solve that problem

Knowing that they need more reviews, think of a way to set that up for them. Maybe you can do a database reactivation (email blast) to all their past and current customers asking for reviews. Maybe you can set up a process where the customers automatically get a text after they visit the salon that links to a review page. And so on.

#4 - Create a dynamite no-brainer offer

Now that you know the pain, and you have the solution to that pain (a.k.a Value), you need to create a no-brainer offer. This usually looks something like this:

(Highly Desired Result) in (Set Time Frame) or (Risk Reversal)

For example:

We'll get you 10 new 5-star reviews in 30 days or we'll give you $500

You're basically guaranteeing them their desired result and taking away any risk of working with you. Btw - in that particular example, the $500 is the investment they make to enlist your services. It's basically just another way of saying you're giving them their money back.

#5 - Build a landing page

Now you need to build a simple landing page that highlights this offer. So many people get hung up on creating the perfect website for their agency. You don't have to.

Most clients don't care about your website. They care about whether or not you're going to make them money. If you're simple landing page has a compelling offer, then that's good enough (ideally with some social proof).

Be sure to have a clear call-to-action (CTA) like "Get More Reviews Now" or "Book a Call" and have it link to your calendar.

#6 - Run ads to the landing page (Facebook, Google, or YouTube)

Now that you have your offer in place, together with a landing page, now you need to run some ads to it. Yes, this is an expense but you don't have to start big. In fact, unless you really know what you're doing when it comes to online ads, you should start small.

If you're using Google, you can get coupons/credits for starting a new Google/ad account. Use that to get started, track your results, adjust, and refine. Once you have leads coming in (& ideally a few new clients), then you can scale up.

#7 - Book calls and close deals

Once you get those ads running, the calls will come in. Your job is basically to learn about the prospect's business, their pains (they need reviews), show how you're the solution, and close the deal.

That's it!

I don't mean to make it sound too simplistic but that's really what this entire thread boils down to. If you haven't read anything else in this thread, then this is all you really need!

Happy New Year Fellow Fastlaners! I wish you a very prosperous 2022!


New Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Feb 15, 2020
I didn't understand how to do this step

Set up your business checking & savings account. Set up your PayPal (or Stripe) business account.

Should I just create a Paypal (or Stripe) account ? Or should I open a bank account and then link it to the Paypal or Stripe account?
EDIT:In your course on Udemy you talked about Quickbooks. So how does it work ? Are these the steps (1)Creating a bank account 2)Creating a Paypal/Stripe account 3)Creating a Quickbooks account ?

Sean Marshall

Independent since 2010
Read Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 17, 2011
San Diego, CA
Are these the steps (1)Creating a bank account 2)Creating a Paypal/Stripe account 3)Creating a Quickbooks account ?
However you set up the financial side of things (to be able to take payment as a business) is up to you but those steps that you listed would generally work to get started, yes.

Regardless of how you decide to do it, you need a business bank account, be able to take payment (preferably online - like Stripe or PayPal), and then track it all (like Quickbooks or Freshbooks).

Alex Will-Bet

New Contributor
Read Fastlane!
Jan 10, 2022
Before I say anything else, Sean I want to thank you for the clear layout you posted here.

Now to the subject:
Is all fine and dandy, but I don't have people that I know that would need a website.
I do not have connections with businesses, or people that want to create a something.
What other method can I enact?

I am aware that some of the people started when there was much more easier on fiver, when competition was not that high.
They provided their services pro bono in exchange of a good review and a good spoken word.

I am actually thinking if this is not just a reason not to do anything...

I have tried to connect through Instagram to different people but the majority (99%) didn't answer. And the rest, well... not so good
I have connected to about 300-400 people, but I had no success; then I quit.

But something in me is not letting me sit and wait for my life to pass.
So I am at it back again.


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