Ad Agency

Startup Costs: $2,000 - $10,000
Home Based: Can be operated from home.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? No

Like many other industries in our baby boomer-driven economy, the field of advertising is experiencing a major downsize. Where clients used to turn to the Madison Avenue-type majors on "the Coasts," they're now looking to smaller, friendlier, more specialized agencies in smaller cities--why not make one of them yours? If you love turning a clever phrase and marrying it with smart graphics, the thrill of the chase for the elusive client, all combined with savvy marketing, then this is the business for you. A one-person ad agency is a lot more fun than the giant conglomerate size. You get to wear all the hats from copywriter to graphic designer to media buyer. (If your skills don't run to writing or designing, you can outsource and give another small-business person the business.) But keep in mind that your clients will rely on you to know it all. You'll not only create those winning ads but place them in the proper media spots and negotiate good rates. The advantages to this business are that it's creative and keeps you on your mental toes. The disadvantages are that you'll usually be rushing to meet deadlines, you'll occasionally have to juggle your own artistic sensibilities with your clients' desires, and just as for Darrin Stevens, the competition can be fierce. While a background in the field is not a must, you'll find the going far easier if you have experience at an ad agency, public relations firm, or even in the sales or production department of a magazine or newspaper. If you don't have any sort of advertising background, consider specializing in a field where you do know the ropes--say writing ads for boat-sales brokers and boating publications if you're a boating fanatic.

The Market

You're not likely to wind up with the Nabisco or Kodak accounts, but once you eliminate corporate monoliths, your clients can be just about any business or organization you choose to go after. It's wise to start off with a field you know. If you've been in the business already, you might go with the same types of clients. If your prior experience is on the minimalist side, try specializing in your own interest zone, like boating or gardening. Or try going after a certain business type like restaurants or boutiques. How will you nab these special businesses? Network in your community. Place ads in publications catering to your chosen field of interest. Send direct-mail pieces featuring your creative talents to the companies you're targeting.

Needed Equipment

You'll need a high-end computer with a Zip or other external drive, the usual office software, desktop-publishing software, a laser printer, a top-quality color printer, a scanner and a fax machine.

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