How much time should an agency be spending on sales and marketing?

As I grew my business the first 10 years I always struggled with one thing: how much time should I spend on sales and marketing of my business.

When I had lots of work to do, I did not have any time left to spend on marketing my company.

The usual bumpy road of my agency looked like this:

  • Uh, oh - no more clients. Let’s sell some more!
  • Great! New clients coming on. Big project, tight deadline. Let’s work!
  • Work, work, work …
  • Project done! We’re the best!
  • Uh oh - no more clients …

Although there are many ways to solve this, one of the fundamentals that I did wrong was that I never scheduled any time for promotion of my services. So when we were busy with big projects there were absolutely no time for updating our website, Facebook page or answering to Request For Proposals.

Then I suddenly stood there with employees asking “What should we do next?” and I had to bring on new clients fast. It was more luck than not if the client was a good match for us. The clients could get our help at a really low rate if they asked, because when we were out of work we were really desperate.

So, how much time should I spend on sales?

“Set aside at least 20 % of your time for sales”
David Elbe

My recommendation for any service business is to set aside at least 20% of your time. Some are recommending even more. I met Nathan Barry of Convertkit at a conference, and he recommended spending 50% on promoting your product, and 50% building it. But that is for product business.

For a one-man-show twenty percent of your time means one day per week (given you are working 5 days a week). I recommend dividing that time on two days per week. Let’s say you spend 4 hours every tuesday morning and another four hours every thursday afternoon.

Sales and marketing should never stop!

If you want to grow your business and/or have a plate full of work for you and all of your co-workers you should never stop selling.

I’ve fallen into that trap myself so many times. “Oh, look - we’re fully booked for the next three months. Let’s do this!” and then I completely forget about sales.

But if you stop selling, your business slowly stops too.

The 20 percent rule works even as you grow from freelancer to agency

As you grow your business from one to five people, you now still need to spend 20% of the combined team’s time on sales and marketing. I find that it works best by having a dedicated “sales guy” that handles all incoming leads. The reason is that this person does not get swamped with work like the rest of the crew can be.

What if I hate sales?

Ah, if you’re a one-man team you have to endure it. Trust me – it is not as bad as you think. And you will certainly like sales more than being broke.