| Feb 16, 2024 | | 10 min read

Uncovering the costs of starting your own digital marketing agency


Starting a digital marketing agency can be an exciting and lucrative business opportunity for those who are passionate about it. However, it’s important to understand that running a successful agency needs more than just industry knowledge and a bit of creativity. So, what exactly do you need?

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Ask yourself, “How much does a digital marketing agency startup cost?” Understanding the costs associated with starting and running a digital marketing agency can help you make informed decisions and set realistic goals for yourself. In this article, we will explore some main costs involved in starting a digital marketing agency and how to manage them more effectively.

Estimated cost to start a digital marketing agency

While starting a digital marketing agency can be exciting, it's critical to consider all the expenses involved before taking the leap. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Office space: Depending on the location and size, renting a small to medium-sized office space could cost anywhere from $500 to over $5,000 per month.
  • Equipment: This includes computers, printers, scanners, and other necessary hardware. The cost of equipment can range from a couple hundred to a few thousand.
  • Software: Digital marketing agencies need various software tools for tasks such as designing graphics, scheduling social media posts, and managing email campaigns. The cost of software can range from free to a couple of hundred dollars per month, depending on how many licenses you need.
  • Employee salaries: The cost of salaries will depend on the size of the agency now and in the future as you scale. Full-time worker salaries can range from $30,000 to over $100,000 per year per employee, depending on their role and experience level.
  • Marketing and advertising costs: To attract clients at first, agencies will most likely need to spend money on marketing and advertising, which can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to $10,000 per month.
  • Legal and accounting fees: To start and run a business, agencies ought to work with legal and accounting professionals. These services can cost anywhere from $400 to $5,000 or more per year.
  • Miscellaneous expenses: This includes things such as office supplies, utilities, and other miscellaneous expenses. The cost of these expenses can vary greatly but can  range from a couple hundred to a couple thousand.

Ongoing expense considerations

While things are normally the most expensive upfront, some costs continue long after you put out the “open for business” sign. For ongoing expenses, you will need to consider things like salaries for yourself and any employees you may hire along the way.

But it is more than just salaries—you need to take a look at things long-term, such as:

  • Health insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Other overhead costs

To get a better understanding of the costs involved in setting up and running an agency in your location and industry, it's best to do your homework and gather data from similarly-sized agencies. This will help you make informed decisions about your expenses and be better prepared for the unexpected.

Also see: How to Grow a Digital Agency: Boost Your Revenue by 237%

Pros and cons of starting a digital marketing agency

Starting a digital marketing agency can bring a lot of advantages, including:

High profitability

With the increasing need for digital marketing to drive business, companies are willing to invest more money in this area. As a digital marketing agency owner, you can provide valuable services to businesses and earn a good profit in return.


You can work from anywhere and at any time, as long as you have access to an internet connection. This flexibility allows you to manage your work-life balance more effectively and better adapt to the ebbs and flows that come with starting a digital marketing agency.

Diverse clients

Starting a digital marketing agency allows you to work with a wide range of businesses and industries. This diversity of clients can make your work more interesting and challenging. It also allows you to gain more experience and expand your knowledge in different areas.

However, on the flip side, it can come with some challenges, such as:

Strict competition

With more agencies entering the market, you have to work harder than ever to differentiate yourself from competitors and attract customers. This requires constant innovation and creativity to stay ahead of the competition.

Continuous learning

With technology and consumer preferences changing rapidly, companies must be willing to adapt and learn new skills to stay relevant. This requires a commitment to ongoing training and development, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

An initial financial investment

Starting a business often requires a significant financial investment, and digital marketing is no different. It's important to have a solid business plan and seek reputable funding options, such as loans, grants, or investors, to help get your digital marketing agency off the ground.

Need for a financial cushion

Do you have a plan for a rainy day? Digital agency startups need to be prepared for unexpected expenses or setbacks. Having a financial cushion can really make a difference when navigating the risks associated with starting a new business.

But don’t let all this get you down. Despite these challenges, many entrepreneurs still find success by developing innovative products or services, building strong relationships with customers, and staying committed to their goals. With hard work, dedication, and a willingness to adapt, anyone can overcome the challenges of starting and growing a business.

Also see: Digital agency goes from start-up to $250,000 in annual revenue

Factors influencing the cost of starting a digital marketing agency

Starting a digital marketing agency can be a cost-intensive process. There are several factors that can influence the cost of starting a digital marketing agency. Some of these factors include:

  • Location
  • Target market
  • Services offered
  • Size of the agency

Each of these factors can impact expenses, such as higher costs in metropolitan areas, specialized services requiring additional resources, or the need for a larger team.


The cost of living and doing business can vary significantly from one location to another.

For instance, the cost of starting a digital marketing agency in a metropolitan area like New York City or San Francisco can be significantly higher than in a smaller town or rural area. That’s  because of the limited supply and higher demand for space in bigger cities.

Target market

If the agency is targeting a niche market that requires specialized services, the cost of providing those services can be higher. For example, if the agency is targeting the healthcare industry, it may need to hire specialized staff with knowledge of healthcare regulations and compliance. This can increase the cost of running the digital agency by quite a bit.

Services offered

If an agency provides many services, it might have to hire more people with different skills. This means they will have to pay more for salaries, benefits, and training. Also, if the agency provides special services like video production or web development, they might need to buy new equipment and software, which can have a steep price tag.

Size of the agency

If you’re planning to start small with just a few employees, the cost of starting the agency may be lower. However, if the plan is to scale quickly and hire a larger team, you may need to invest in a bigger office space, equipment, and resources.

Important costs and expenses for starting a digital marketing agency

We’ve hinted at a few things here and there, but now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. Here's a detailed breakdown of some important costs and expenses involved in starting a digital marketing agency:

Office space and utilities

One of the primary expenses of starting a digital marketing agency is the cost of office space and utilities. This includes rent, electricity, water, internet, and other essential utilities.

For example, according to TheSquareFoot, renting an office space in a prime location in New York City could cost around $80-$100 per square foot. Meanwhile, renting an office space in a less expensive location like New Orleans could cost around $20 per square foot (CommercialCafe).

Equipment and software

Another significant expense of starting a digital marketing agency is the cost of equipment and software. This includes computers, printers, scanners, software licenses, and other essential equipment. The cost of equipment and software could also vary depending on the quality and brand.

For instance, a high-end computer with advanced software for graphic design and video editing could cost around $3000-$10,000, while a mid-range, refurbished computer with basic software could cost closer to $500 (Autodesk).

Employee salaries and benefits

Employee salaries and benefits are another important expense when starting a digital marketing agency. This includes the salaries of the marketing team, HR personnel, administrative staff, and any other employees. Additionally, employee benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans must also be taken into consideration.

According to Salary.com, a digital marketing manager in New York City could earn around $144,880 per year, while a digital marketing manager in Austin, TX, could earn around $125,460.

Marketing and advertising expenses

A digital marketing agency must invest in marketing and advertising to attract clients. This includes creating a website, running digital and print ads, and other marketing expenses.

For example, running an effective digital ad campaign on Google will, at minimum, cost you $1,000 per ad (BDC)

Professional services

The cost of these services could vary depending on the complexity of the agency's structure and location. However, on average, hiring an accountant can range from $37 to more than $400 per hour (Forbes).

Training and certifications

To stay competitive in the digital marketing space, employees need to stay up to date with the latest technologies and techniques. This requires regular training and certifications, which could become an ongoing expense for the agency.

For example, attending a digital marketing conference could cost around $400-$500 per head (Global Conference).

Overall, starting a digital marketing agency involves various costs and expenses that must be taken into consideration. By carefully planning and budgeting for these expenses, an aspiring entrepreneur can successfully launch and grow a digital marketing agency.

5 tips for minimizing agency costs

Starting a digital marketing agency can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be as bad as you think. With the right strategies, you can minimize costs and maximize profitability. Here are some practical tips to help you get started:

1. Start small and gradually scale up

Starting small is a great way to minimize the costs of starting a digital marketing agency. Instead of investing in expensive software and equipment right away, start with the basics and gradually ramp up as your business grows.

This will help you save some major cash and allow you to test your strategies and refine your processes before committing to larger investments.

2. Utilize cost-effective marketing strategies

Marketing is essential for any digital marketing agency, but it doesn't have to break the bank. There are many cost-effective marketing strategies that you can use to promote your agency and attract clients. Some of these include:

  • Social media marketing: Social media platforms are a great way to reach your target audience without spending a lot of money. You can use platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn to promote your agency, share valuable content, and engage with potential clients.
  • Content marketing: Content marketing is another cost-effective digital marketing strategy that can help you attract and retain clients. Creating high-quality content in-house can help you establish yourself as an authority in your niche and build trust with potential clients.

3. Consider outsourcing certain tasks

Outsourcing certain tasks or hiring freelancers can be a great way to cut costs. Instead of hiring full-time employees, you can outsource tasks like content creation, graphic design, and web development to freelancers or a white-label agency.

This can help you save money on salaries and benefits while also allowing you to tap into specialized expertise as needed on projects where you might have bitten off more than you can chew.

4. Negotiate favorable deals with software providers

Software is essential for any type of digital marketing agency, but it can also be expensive. To minimize costs, you can negotiate favorable deals with software providers or explore open-source alternatives. Many software providers offer discounts or special pricing for startups, so be sure to ask about these options.

5. Continuously monitor and optimize expenses

Does your office really need that Wall Street Journal subscription? Continuously monitor and optimize your expenses to ensure efficiency and profitability. Keep track of your expenses and recurring subscriptions to identify areas where you can cut costs or streamline things.

Is it still worth starting a digital marketing agency in 2024?

Heck yes. However, as an aspiring entrepreneur, if you want to rise to the top, it's important to plan and budget for upfront and long-term overhead costs. It's also noteworthy to have a solid understanding of the digital marketing industry and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies.

With some careful planning and a lot of tact, starting a digital marketing agency in 2024 can be a rewarding and profitable venture.

About the Author

Mary-Margaret Bennett is a Social Media Content Specialist at Vendasta, with a versatile background spanning business development, IT project management, and work as a writer and graphic designer across various industries. Outside of her professional endeavors, she enjoys birdwatching and crafting work for local art exhibitions.

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