11 reasons smart people start internet marketing agencies

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Ian Lurie Jul 7 2011

A few people described yesterday’s post as ‘soul killing’, ‘depressing’ and ‘horrifyingly accurate’. Today, I’m taking not-incompatible view that all smart people in the internet marketing biz should start their own agencies.

Note that I’m not a “follow your bliss” hand waving business philosopher. I think in terms of building a lasting business that can grow long after I leave it. And in terms of kicking the crap out of competitors. So my reasons for running an agency are probably less inspiration and more, uh, practical:

  1. Darwin. Lots of not-so-smart people start internet marketing agencies. They fail. In droves. Or they limp along, leaving a trail of ripped-off clients in their wake. If you’re good, you can swim past a lot of them, grow legs and climb onto the beach. You’ll hit a point where, while you can’t crack the top 10 agencies based on reputation and a skilled team, you can certainly keep the business profitable.
  2. You can run a company that’s compatible with your vision. I’m all about teaching people to effectively communicate. I’ve built my agency around that mission. But, if you’re all about the importance of the color green, you can structure your business around that, instead. Internet marketing is adaptable. So is an agency, if you run it.
  3. No two days are the same. One day, you’re helping a client sell car parts. The next, you’re helping another one win an election. Then, on to books, tour packages, bullet proof vests, wedding gowns, jeans, enterprise software, etc. We’ve worked with all of the above at one time or another.
  4. You’re in charge. This isn’t an advantage, necessarily, but if you want a challenge, there’s no greater one than sitting where the buck stops.
  5. Never a dull moment. If you’re bored, you’re not awake. I once compared running an internet marketing agency to wrestling a shit-covered bear. I hold by that description. See #4, above.
  6. You’re always learning. Running an internet marketing agency requires nerd know-how, writing smarts, SEO knowledge, PPC cunning and a host of other skills. And you have to always be learning. If you like learning, this is the job for you. If you don’t like learning new things, man, are you in the wrong line of work.
  7. Flexibility. You can work any 100 hours per week you want. Seriously, you’ll work your butt off. But, you do control when you work. I take my kids on trips, get to see a lot of their school events and fill in as house manager (a poor one) when my wife’s choreographing the school musical. If I had a real job, I’d have a schedule, and I’d have to be at the office during Approved Times. Now, I can handle my ridiculous workload as I see fit.
  8. Cool toys. Hey, don’t laugh. I have a 30″ monitor at work, and a 27″ iMac at home. You’ll never be able to blame a cheapskate boss for a lousy workstation again.
  9. Working with cool people. You hire and fire, and while that often sucks, it means you get to build a company culture you like.
  10. Watching smart people get even smarter. I love it when my team spontaneously comes up with something brilliant and I slap my forehead, saying “How did I not think of that?!” This will sound utterly patronizing, and I don’t mean it that way: It’s like the first time your kid beats you at chess, or is spontaneously generous/brilliant/thoughtful. You think “I must be doing something right.”
  11. Helping other smart people make a living. Last, but maybe most important: If you run an internet marketing agency, you occasionally get to help really smart people succeed brilliantly. They just invented a new product, or published a new book, or took over as head of marketing at a big company. You can help them accomplish their goals in spectacular fashion. That’s what turns this job into a calling.

I hope anyone who’s souls nearly died reading yesterday’s post are now revived. This is a pretty great gig—just not for the faint of heart.

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tags : conversation marketing

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10 Comments

  1. I think most people fail to realize that you can succeed at anything. You simply have to do the work, take the risks, and ride the waves – the Ups and the Downs. The more you can cash in on the Ups, and turn the Downs into opportunities, the better your odds of success.
    I find search marketers to be exceptional at finding opportunity in whatever comes along.
    Agency work? That’s different again. Actually want to hire people to work for you. Actually listen to clients, and see what they actually expect (in addition to what actually is). Be resourceful to a fault.
    I find search marketers to be extremely resourceful in general, but not awesome listeners. That communications thing maybe what makes for agency-capable vs. not-agency-capable search marketers.

  2. Dave Roberts

    “You can work any 100 hours per week you want.” – LOL

  3. Yea that cracked me up. It’s true, 14 hour days FTW.

  4. Eric Monse

    Helping other smart people is so critical. All of these are great points though.
    Eric Monse

  5. seojosh

    You’re quickly becoming one of my go-to blogs. This one seals the deal.

  6. Ian, having been taken advantage by more SEO companies that I care to admit, I find your honesty, candor and irreverence toward many aspects of SEO work very refreshing, plus as an extra bonus, you come across as a guy that has some integrity as well. I’ll be happy to add a Facebook link to your site!

  7. Although I run a web company and not a marketing agency per se, I think a lot of your points apply to it as well. We work long hours but I couldn’t imagine going back to doing a 9-5 job for someone else and not having control over my own destiny!
    My advice to anyone would be find what you want to do in life and go for it. Better off working long days doing something you love than eight hours doing something you hate.

  8. I prefer this post over the last one :)
    I must admit, it feels really good to make a customers website rank in the top of Google.

  9. Ian, these two posts are the best encapsulation I’ve seen of what I experience every day as CEO of a fast-growing internet marketing agency. We should partner ;-)
    (If you don’t get the joke, read both posts, please)

  10. Wow!

    What a great post! I’m currently in the middle of building out my own internet marketing business site, and I’m about to start my blog for this site. This site & this post has been very helpful!

    I wonder… do you have a recommendation for managing contacts & projects online?

    I’m in need of an online solution, that I can manage my contacts, funnel, projects etc…

    I’m currently using ACT, but I want something that is online, so I can truly be virtual, and work from anywhere.

    Hope to hear back from you!

    Thanks for putting up such great content,

    Tony Smith

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