Start an AI Agency that’s Built to Last

It’s no secret that the release of tools like ChatGPT has challenged how we see the role of AI across every industry. AI is growing at a rate that no other technology has before, with new models, platforms, and research being published daily. To keep up with the pace of change, AI agencies formed, helping businesses—big and small—carve out their stake in AI.

But building an agency—especially one that’s built to last—is a lot more than a fancy logo and an animated website. To build an agency that withstands industry changes, economic shifts, and client challenges takes a lot of experience and trial and error.

That’s why we invited some of the top agencies owners in our Voiceflow community to share their journeys to success. What better way to learn than to hear it from veterans who’ve been there, done that?

What is an AI Agency?

At Voiceflow, we’ve seen the development of AI agencies first-hand. When ChatGPT was released, we saw the velocity of AI agent production skyrocket. What used to take a twenty-person team at a large bank six months to launch is now doable with a team of two in a week. From there we saw every kind of Small and Medium Business (SMB) and Mid-market Business (MMB) start to build out their own advanced agents. This started the rise of AI agencies, because a lot of these teams don’t necessarily have the resources or time to work with an expert in house.

An AI Agency provides custom AI solutions for businesses or individuals. We do everything from creating custom AI models to adding AI Chat Assistants and making internal AI-Powered data analysis tools. The agency's job is to create a comprehensive end-to-end solution for their clients.
— Johnathon Daigle, Webforge Development

Meet the panelists

For the Community Agency Panel event, I was joined by a range of AI agency owners that have experience building everything from AI apps, to customer experience agents, to in-app co-pilots for clients.

Together, we discussed various topics from pricing your first project, scaling an agency, and things they wish they knew earlier starting out. Here are our top takeaways.

#1: Tailor your outbound with a custom demo

When asked what are some strategies to land your first client, the agencies shared their unique experiences.

For David from Commerit, he was focused on carving out an industry niche and reaching out to business owners to pitch a project. Researching the niche you’re targeting and building prototype solutions that are specific to them can make your prospects curious to learn more.

Each industry, each type of client has a different way of interacting with customers.  So I typically offer to build a solution to show them how well it works. — David

Similarly, the team found success at an AI and tech festival in London where they networked with different business owners. Post-event, they got in contact with what would be their first customer. During their first meeting they showed them a chatbot that was already tailored to their site.

We put it together in one night as the meeting was already the next morning. When they saw the chatbot, it was an instant click because he could see for himself what the real benefit of Voiceflow and an AI solution was. — Alexander

Another approach to landing your first client is to offer free builds to start. Emil from OmniFusion started doing cold outreach and if users liked the build, they only pay the retainer with no fee for getting it done.

That's how we landed our first client. And then you get the testimonial from that. If it's a bigger business or a bigger creator or whoever you're building it for, you can use that and then start charging with future clients. — Emil

Overall, the key to success is to make the outreach process for your prospects as human as possible so you can build true long-term relationships. That's what makes your agency built to last.

Make this a more human connection and show that, okay, we're not just trying to sell you something, but really trying to grow with you and help you. — Johnathon

#2: Focus on value creation

Regardless of how you approach landing your first client, the secret to building a sustainable agency is understanding the specific needs of a client and demonstrating how your service can add value.

As Johnathon from Webforge shares, a good starting point is to connect with your prospect, figure out what their pain points are, and then give them a magic wand.

We’re tired of hearing agencies sharing blanket statements like "we’re going to expand your business by 80% if you sign up." Make your outreach human, listen to what your customers actually need. — Johnathon

Once you’ve created clear value, it becomes easier to drive repeat and referral business as you’ve already built trust with your customers. In Bilal’s case, he a demoed a bot for his sports injury doctor. After driving 4-5k in net new website traffic post-launch, his doctor wanted it implemented across all 30 of his clinics.

Now if I ever need to sell to another medical clinic, I share the case study I’ve put together with my existing client. Doctors trust other doctors. — Bilal

#3: Always set expectations when pricing

The panelists shared a number of different ways they’ve priced their services:

  • Build fee with a monthly retainer: Emil charges a one time set up fee and a monthly retainer anywhere between $500-$1000. Bilal suggests that while it’s the simplest way to price, he recommends clearly defining your deliverable from the start with your client so the expectations are clear.
  • Value-based pricing: Bilal shares that he uses value-based pricing for his clients and that it’s helped him quickly scale his existing customers as they’re able to attribute the results of his work to what they’re paying for. For example: taking 10% of the $50,000 of savings generated from the chatbot.
  • Pre-built chatbots: For projects that Webforge Development already have templates for, they charge anywhere between $2,500-3,500. Building out your own template repository is a great way to scale your services.
  • Complex, developer-heavy projects: Any projects that fall into uncharted territory (ie. if there’s an API they haven’t dealt with before) Webforge will charge between $60-80 per hour.
  • Sprint-based pricing: Webforge likes to offer a modular pricing structure that scales as the client realizes value. They divide the full project build into sprints and charge per sprint.
  • Recurring app revenue: Emil also sells a software on top of his agency where he charges a monthly recurring subscription fee. This can be a great avenue if you’ve created a solution that can be useful to other agencies.
Remember the three E’s when it comes to pricing: Exceed Expectations Every time. When somebody buys from your agency, a part of the purchase is going to be trust.— Johnathon

A few rules of thumb with pricing:

  • Create build requirements, build proposals, requirement documents, proposals, scope of work, send clear communication to client so they know exactly what to expect
  • Always build value and exceed expectations
  • It’s common to undercharge at first, sometimes it’s what you need to build a portfolio of clients and gather testimonials to grow your agency
  • There’s no better way to learn than to start

#4: Get creative when scaling your agency

Once you’ve landed your first client and you’re looking to scale your agency, it’s time to get creative. Here’s how the panelists strategized their agency expansion:

  • Content creation: Emil started a Youtube channel sharing his tips and tricks building AI Agents.
In the beginning, we thought if we share too much, are people just going to do it themselves and not become clients? But instead it built trust and credibility for our prospects. — Emil
  • Creating partners: David formed partnerships with other businesses and agencies that can help sell your service in exchange for automation work.
  • Outreach sequence: If you’re looking for a steady system that scales your growth, automate your own outreach sequence to increase your leads
What we have focused on recently is ensuring a predictable flow of clients. We’ve built outreach systems where if we do X amount of outreach, we're going to get X amount of leads, which will convert to X amount of calls and closes.— Emil

If you were to takeaway one thing from this section: don’t just build chatbots, build relationships. This is the foundation of getting a good agency going.

#5: Just start

Building an agency is tough and won’t always be sunshine and rainbows. It’s important to set realistic expectations from the start. You're going to have to be resourceful and resilient because building an agency is filled with ups and downs. Emil emphasizes,

You’re going to dislike what you’re doing 80% of the time — and the winner does it anyways. — Emil

When you’re just getting started, it’s easy to fall into the trap of waiting to launch the perfect website, pitch deck, logo—you name it. However the best way to learn is to figure things out as you go. Perfection is the enemy of progress so don’t procrastinate at the beginning and just start!

Bonus #6: Things they wished they knew

  • No champagne on a beer budget: Don’t be afraid to turn down clients. Sometimes working with the wrong client can be draining and unscalable, especially if you’re consistently doing one-off builds. It’s better to land the right client, then expand with them once you’ve built a working relationship.
I try to get things, you know, within, within the same industry that I've done before so I can reuse existing templates I’ve created. It’s higher ROI for me. — Bilal
  • Not setting clear expectations: Always set a clear scope of work, as it sets the expectations of the deliverable being given to the client, as well as your involvement. If requested work starts to fall out of scope, build a new scope of work.
  • Validate before you build: Interview your customers and validate your ideas before you start building. The team has created complex bot builds with multiple modules only to eventually learn that customers didn’t even want them.

Starting and scaling an AI agency is a journey filled with exciting opportunities, challenges and a lot of learning. Building an agency that’s here to stay hinges on building authentic relationships, understanding your clients' needs, and constantly delivering value. The world of AI is constantly evolving, and at Voiceflow we’re excited to see how agencies grow industries and push the boundaries of AI use cases across organizations small and large.

Voiceflow’s AI Agency Beta

There are over 700+ agencies that have signed up for Voiceflow in the last few months and we want to support their growth.

We launched our Voiceflow agency program that’s designed to help you, an agency owner, scale your business. For accepted applicants into the program, we’ll be providing workshops, office hours, support, features, co-marketing, and more. You’ll be featured on our experts portal and we’ll make sure you get a portion of revenue from the customers you refer.

The agency program is divided into 3 sections:

  1. Registered Agency: You are early or starting out and are on track to your first few customers.
  2. Certified Agency: You are established and have a number of customers that you work with actively. You typically work with large SMBs or MMBs. You are referring new customers and/or hosting customer assistants on your workspace.
  3. Premium Agency: You are established and work with mid-market or larger companies. You are doing more complex builds with your customers and they often require a teams or enterprise workspace.

Apply here. We'll be rolling out acceptances into the program mid to late April.

Watch the full event on YouTube.


Crawl, walk, run: 28+ tactics for evolving your AI agent

No items found.