Getting into the Outdoor Billboard Business

It is possible for nearly anyone to own and operate an outdoor billboard business. This is not a business sector that discriminates against any creed, color or background. The only real requirement is the drive to succeed.

For those looking into this type of business, there was a few things that should be researched before making any financial investment. An outdoor billboard business owner should be aware of the local zoning laws, the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 and learn the cost of renting a billboard in the target area from the competition. With this knowledge a person can determine if their business has profit potential and if it is permitted.


Most owners of an outdoor billboard business do not actually own the land where the billboards are located, this are just renting it. The typical owner of the land in rural America is a farmer. To help keep the profit potential of the billboard business within reason, the rent on the land should generally not exceed 20% of the revenue the billboard will bring in when rented out to a business for the purpose of advertising on it.

For those looking to have billboards made, a construction company will have to be hired. The total cost of this will vary, but should be low enough so the investment can be recovered in the first year of renting out the sign.

A contract will also be required so the billboards can be rented out to clients. This should be completed by a lawyer with knowledge of this business sector. There should be several contacts created that will include one for the minimum time of renting out the space, which is typically 3 months. There should also be one made for the renting of the billboard for a year.

Unless the new owner has a sign making capabilities, the hiring of a firm to create the vinyl billboards will be necessary. The average size of a billboard is 14’ by 48’. This on average will cost about $400 to have the message printed on vinyl.

The permits to advertise are a small but required expenditure. All local municipalities require that all forms of advertising have a permit associated with it. This cost varies from city to city.

Business Plan

When deciding if owning and operating an outdoor billboard business, there is a factor that must be decided upon at the beginning. Will the company be just renting out billboards, or will it include an advertising section so the advertising campaign will be completed in-house.

To help keep operating costs at a minimum, many outdoor billboard businesses hire freelance designers to create the message for clients. This allows for the costs of the design to only be a onetime expenditure.

Size of the business

Many first time business owners start out with just one or a few billboards they will own and operate. In time the business can expand. One of the fastest and least expensive paths is to purchase existing billboards for the competitors.

Once the business is on solid footing, expansion to building new billboards should occur. This will place advertising in locations the public are not use to seeing signs and will attract attention that will help get the message out.

A successful outdoor billboard business is possible for anyone who has the desire and will to be financially independent. The first step is to purchase or rent the first billboard.

How to Start an Outdoor Billboard Business

Location for Billboard Ads

The outdoor billboard business can definitely be a profitable venture and is one to seriously consider when thinking of starting a new business – or even as a mode to earn extra income. Contrary to the belief that the billboard business is not as effective or profitable as it used to be, there is still scope to earn handsomely from this business. However, one must have the right information, must do the required research and look for opportunities to ensure the business is a profitable one. Here are some guidelines to follow prior to starting an outdoor billboard business:


Step 1 : Research Research Research

Research the rates charged by the local advertising companies and compare them with the expenses that are related to starting and operating this business. These expenses could include insurance charges, billboard construction or purchase, costs of lighting the billboards, taxes and permits. When starting an outdoor billboard business, clearly you would have to ensure that the revenues are comfortably more than the costs to make the venture viable.


Step 2 : Research Alternatives and the Customer

Obtaining existing billboards can be an alternative to putting up one’s own billboards. These existing billboards can give a rapid and exciting start to the outdoor billboard business as the difficult work of looking for an appropriate location, obtaining the required permits and negotiating the ground lease has already been done. So searching for these outdoor billboard signs for sale becomes the challenge. Then the requirement is to make the billboard such an attractive proposition that it catches the interest of potential advertisers (businesses) – as well as the attention of those that pass by.

Location for Billboard Ads

Step 3 : Consider the Operating Environment

If you’re interested in starting an outdoor billboard business by putting up brand new billboards, there is the requirement to learn about the legalities and regulations involved. One must be aware of the government or local regulations and any prohibitions that might exist regarding the billboards. These regulations could be related to the billboard size, light emissions, location, display time duration and other such limitations. The average billboard size that is acceptable in one area may differ the size accepted in another area. There is no straight forward answer to the question ‘how big is a billboard’! There will be particular requirements to meet wherever you are (your billboard is located). There could be the requirement to get approval from the transport department.


Step 4 : Matching the Billboard with the Advertiser

Once all the permits and limitations related to the billboards are obtained and understood, it is time to scour for strategic locations, decide the billboard size and negotiate ground leases. There are established companies that act as mediators between land owners that are ready to lease their land to billboard companies (which, as the billboard owner, would be you) and the advertising companies (who usually act for the client – the business who wants to advertise). Consultation with these companies can be time-saving as they have already done the difficult task of negotiating with the land owners and finding the locations for billboards.


Step 5 : Consider and Cover all Legal Aspects

One must sign contracts or lease agreements with the property owners or existing billboard owners only after consultation with lawyers qualified to advise in these areas. The contracts with the property owners must have the percentage payable to them clearly laid out so that there is no dispute later. The contracts with the advertising clients must have the details like duration of the advertisement, the maintenance responsibilities, the specifications of the design and penalties if the contract is broken. It is also recommended to get a basic liability insurance policy in place. The Outdoor Billboard Book has sample contracts for the new billboard owner to work from, so you’re not starting completely from scratch.


Step 6 : Decide on The Method to Display Billboard Ads

The next step is to get the billboard constructed and the ad displayed. While vinyl billboards are cheaper on the pocket, LED billboards are becoming more popular. Depending upon the clients’ requirements and their budget, getting electronic billboards is feasible as it enables one to display ads for more than one company, thereby allowing more profits. However, companies might not like to share their billboards with their competitors or other companies. Therefore, it is necessary to get all the clarifications prior to getting the billboard made.

Digital Billboard Business Opportunity

Step 7 : Research and Decide on Rates to Charge for Billboard Ads

The outdoor billboard business is a competitive one and therefore, one must develop rates that are competitive and attract companies wishing to put up their ads. Discounts can be offered to clients that agree to long term contracts.

High Traffic Location for Billboard Ads

Step 8 : Establish how the Ads will Come to Life

Digital billboards can be easily designed using graphic software such as Photoshop. One can design billboard ads if having the design skills or use the services of a graphic designer to design the billboards. Keeping in mind the billboard size and the requirements of the clients, creating a sample and getting it approved should be the top priority.


With these guidelines, you can get started in an outdoor billboard business.

Like anything with financial decisions involved, one must remember that investing in the billboard business opportunity is profitable only if it is done in the correct manner, carefully taking into account all relevant factors. Therefore, it is recommended to first research thoroughly and obtain complete details, before committing oneself financially to the outdoor billboard business.

What Makes Billboard Advertising So In-Demand

(…and Why the Outdoor Billboard Business Continues to be a Popular Money-Making Strategy for Investors)

Billboard advertising over the years has held a dominant position in the advertising industry. Despite the various mediums of advertising that have come and gone, billboard advertising has stayed, although now in a better avatar than ever. In this age of digitalization and internet, where social media has taken the center-stage in defining the new rules of marketing, billboard advertising has held on to its ubiquity. As a form of outdoor advertising, billboards have the efficacy to reach the masses. Therefore, many marketers understand that this form of advertising cannot be ignored and the savvy ones will use the best techniques and strategies to make billboard advertising effective.

As a billboard business owner (or potential owner) it is of benefit to you to understand the factors that make billboard advertising effective.

Top 6 Tips That Make Billboard Advertising Effective


  1. Choice of the Right Location: When a marketer buys billboard space, he or she must pay special attention to the location of the billboard. Since the billboards have the capability to reach out to a large number of people, it is important that they are strategically located. Strategic locations include highways, downtown areas, sides of buildings and sporting arenas. Buying billboard space on billboards in strategic locations will produce the most impressions and therefore, prove to be the most effective. The best located billboards will command the greatest billboard advertising rates.
  2. Brand Building: The main aim of using billboard advertising is often purely to build a brand. Marketers often use billboards to simply display the message without conveying anything else – and so build the brand. It is sometimes used as a direct response medium (as in the case of “Turn Left 100m” for the fast food joint) but just as often simply as a place to build the brand. Therefore, phone numbers or web addresses must be given only if they are the tagline of the brand.
  3. Keep it Simple and Short: Billboard advertising means creating an impact in the few seconds that one has when the onlookers are passing by. Therefore, to make it effective, billboards must have a simple message, maybe only six words or less. The point is to generate interest and curiosity. The onlookers do not have the time to stop and read the find print on the billboards. So, the message should be simple and short.
    Short Sharp Billboard Advertising message
  4. Opt for A Widespread Campaign: There is no doubt about the fact that the billboards have better reach than other advertising mediums. However, if the number of billboards is high, it would reach a larger number of people. Therefore, a widespread billboard campaign is the key to effective marketing. Serious marketers will often opt to buy more billboard space at different locations so that the message is delivered to a large audience.
  5. Create Smart Billboard Ads: Boring billboards do not have the capability to attract. Marketers should try to create smart billboards that give the message “head on”. Being too clever or using complex jargon and metaphors in the billboard design can cause the message to be lost. On the other hand, a smart message would create a lasting impression on the minds of the onlookers. Any added functionality or facility that the billboard owner can make available for the advertiser to achieve this outcome will be an advantage (e.g. illuminations, extensions). See the Post on Definitions for further information.
    Effective Billboard Message
  6. Create Unique billboards: Billboards that are unique, are done in 3D, or those that use animation are always remembered for a longer time than the flat, static billboards. Mobile billboard advertising can also be a particularly effective tool – to read more about this medium CLICK HERE. Being a visual medium of advertising, billboards can create a lasting impression as compared to a print ad. Therefore, it is imperative for marketers to not only buy billboard space at strategic locations but also get it done with a unique and cool message. So the more options you can provide your advertisers, the more popular your billboard is likely to be.

Why does Billboard Advertising Remain a Feasible Investment Medium for Investors With Small to Medium Sized Budgets – as Well as Big Budget Businesses?

When compared to other forms of advertising, billboards take the number one spot for their cost effectiveness. The cost per impression or CPM of billboards is its strength and this must be used maximally. When marketers buy billboard space, they work out the CPM to calculate the worth of advertising with regards to the amount of impressions produced for the cost of buying the space. As mentioned, with billboards, the CPM is usually the least as compared to other mediums of advertising. You can read our Post HERE about how the number of impressions a billboard receives is worked out.

Another factor that goes in favor of billboard advertising is that they cannot be switched off, unless they are the digitalized ones. With bold and powerful messaging billboard advertising holds the power to reach out to a large audience, which is generally the intention of every advertiser.

Therefore, whether it is a small business or a large one, buying billboard space to advertise products or services is a good idea to reach out to the masses.

Marketers can follow the given tips to make their billboard advertising effective and billboard owners can be sure they’ve invested in a medium that has a wide market appeal for marketers, advertisers and businesses wanting exposure.

Is the Billboard Business a Profitable Business?

The Billboard business is surely a profitable one if it is started after conducting thorough research (also known as ‘due diligence’) and has been marketed cleverly. Billboards are considered an important segment of the advertising industry with most companies opting for billboard advertising at some point in time. Locations with high-traffic counts and excellent street visibility are the best areas for placing the billboards.

How Does the Billboard Business Work?

If you plan to own a billboard, you’ll need to know that an effective billboard business starts with the selection of location for the placement of the billboards. This can be on land or on a building that has excellent visibility and a large amount of frequent traffic. Yearly fees are paid to the owner of the land or building selected for the placement of billboards. This fee is based on a certain percentage, which is predetermined between the advertising agency and the land or building owner. It is often based on the expected revenues that the billboard would generate. Companies that wish to have their ads advertised on the billboards need to pay a one-time fee to the advertising agency for the creation of the ad, and an additional amount for the ad to be featured on the billboard for a specific period. Therefore, the business is profitable for not only the land or building owner, but also for the advertising agency that creates and features the ad.

Are Billboard Ads Really Effective?

One may come across hundreds of billboard ads while commuting from one’s home to office or from one city to another. Billboard advertising has been in vogue for many years, and there are several examples of people and companies that have become billionaires through this business. This makes it evident that this can be a lucrative for the right business. It has been seen that properly placed billboard ads can have an impact in the minds of potential customers. The name of the product or company advertised on the billboards can become etched into the minds of people as they pass by these signboards regularly. When they wish to purchase a similar product, they may recall the ad placed on the billboard, which is a known way that billboard ads are effective in increasing sales.

Billboard Ads

Comparison Between Billboard Ads and Online Ads

One might argue that because this is the age of the Internet where every second, millions of people are logged into the Web, are billboards still really effective? Especially when compared to online advertising. This is a question that is quite common for those people who may be relying on the viability of the billboard business. However, despite the penetration and popularity of the Internet, billboard advertising has its own importance, and is here to stay. The reason for this is that, despite the high penetration and popularity of the Internet, there are still areas and places where people have no access to these modern technologies. Companies rely on billboard ads to convey their message to these people. The billboards are there to stay, and the ads are not as fleeting as television or online ads.

The Changing Face of the Billboard Business

There was a time when billboard ads were created on paper and hand painted on large billboards. However, this is now passé as newer techniques in the billboard business have made the job easier and much quicker. Advertising agencies are now creating digital billboards that have a built-in computer that changes the text and images on the billboard at regular intervals. Digital billboards can be used to advertise products from several companies, thereby ensuring higher returns from a single billboard. Wooden, mobile, poster, and bulletin board are the other types of billboards used for advertising. Each of these billboard types has its own benefits and niche market.

Is this Business Right for Me?

The Billboard business is no doubt a profitable one; however, it must be conceptualized and executed with great planning.

It is ideal for those people who are creative or have the ability to get the work done from a creative team. It is also ideal for people who can network, negotiate, solve problems and make things happen. It is not necessary to be the advertiser/advertising agency who creates the ads to be an investor in billboards, if you can coordinate the key parties to achieve the right outcome. There is also the need to be aware of the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses so that they may be used to one’s advantage. One has to assess one’s abilities to reflect whether this type of job is his or her calling or not as advertising is a business that requires a futuristic vision. Those who have this vision can surely profit from the billboard business.

Know Billboard Types and Start Your Very Own Outdoor Billboard Business

Many people are not aware of the fact that the outdoor billboard business promises a great deal of income for those that do it right. There are even claims that outdoor advertising is considered to be amongst the most profitable businesses, one that requires very little to get started.


What are Billboards or Outdoor Signs?

Outdoor signs are an excellent way to promote products, companies, people, conferences, movies and sporting events because these have the potential to get the attention of thousands of people in just a day. Few other advertising media types can match the visibility of outdoor signs.

  • Bulletins: These outdoor signs usually measures 14 feet high by 48 feet wide or 10 1/2 feet high by 36 feet wide. This large format billboard is typically seen on expressways, highways, and other major surface streets.
  • Wallscapes: This very large type of outdoor advertising measures more than 700 square feet. It is usually located on landmarks or metropolitan areas because they are intended for extended viewing and to create a lasting impression.
  • Digital Billboards: These type of outdoor signs creates images that are being changed by a computer every few seconds. Like other billboard types, its primary use is to advertise, but it can also be utilised for public service purposes. Digital billboards measure 14 feet high by 48 feet wide or 10 1.2 feet high by 36 feet wide.
  • Posters: This kind of outdoor sign has medium format that is 5 feet high by 11 feet wide or 10 feet high by 22 feet wide. Posters are usually located in industrial and commercial areas on main and secondary roadways. It is intended for pedestrian exposure only, and usually seen by commuters and local residents.
  • Mobile Billboard: This type of outdoor advertising is considered memorable and very effective because mobile outdoor signs can go directly to its target audience. They can be placed on locations with heavy traffic, such as trains, convention centres, sports arenas, and airports. They can also repeat routes. That is why people not only notice them, but also retain the information they convey.

Outdoor signs can advertise just about anything

Simple Steps to Follow When Starting an Outdoor Billboard Business

1. Know how much money you will need for local billboard advertising, which will include billboard construction, ground rent, insurance, lighting costs, taxes and permit fees. If you are in a small town, you can charge your client $200-$300 a month depending on the type of billboard and its visibility. Frank Rolfe of NuWire Investor indicated that your ground rent must not exceed 20 per cent of your revenue.

2. Learn the laws and legalities of setting billboards on specific locations. Digital outdoor signs might be prohibited to some areas because of their light emissions. Other places may also have strict guidelines on the display duration of each digital outdoor advertisement.

3. Study the maps of your prospect areas and begin plotting the best locations for your outdoor signs, such as busy roads or certain landmarks. If you are on a tight budget, select a location out of town. The upside of this strategy is that it requires cheaper ground rent. The downside, however, is the visibility rate of your billboard will be diminished. Another option you have is to purchase outdoor signs, permits, and ground leases from a company that is already established.

4. As excited you may be to start your lucrative billboard business, consult a lawyer first before signing any leases or contracts. Also, explain to your client the duration of your outdoor sign, maintenance responsibilities, design specifications, and any charges for breaking the contract.

5. Digital billboards are a good option if you want to advertise several companies at once. This option will double or triple the revenue you can earn from one billboard. If you want a cheaper alternative, however, go for traditional outdoor vinyl signs.

6. Create eye-catching billboards using design software like Adobe Photoshop. If you are not that confident with your artistic ability, hire a graphic artist to do the layout and design of the billboard signs as per your clients’ request. Also, it is good to create a sample book of your billboard designs to be shown on potential clients.

7. Offer your clients competitive rates and discounts for longer terms.

8. Don’t forget to acquire a liability insurance policy for the benefit of your outdoor billboard business and, of course, your clients.

Billboard Definitions

Like any industry niche, the outdoor billboard business has a lingo all of its own. Here we’ve listed the essential definitions of terminology that’s used about billboards.

Catwalk – Platform located underneath the sign face, either in front or in back, used as support for the maintenance crew.

Centermount – Monopole structure in which the supporting column is affixed to the center of the display panel.

Display Face (panels) – The flat area normally rectangular in shape where the advertisement is displayed.

Double Face – A billboard structure that has two display panels, which are parallel to each other and facing in opposite directions.

Extension – A part of the advertisement extending beyond the display face in order to create better impact.

Flag Mount – Monopole structure in which the supporting column is affixed to the left or right of the center of the display panel.

Footings – Concrete used to solidify the structure keeping it upright in the ground.

Illumination – Light fixtures attached to a sign so that the message is visible in hours of darkness.

HAGL – Height Above Ground Level is the distance in feet from the ground to the lowest edge of the bottom molding.

Lease Cost – Costs associated with obtaining a lease site.

Molding – Decorative frame surrounding the printed message on the display face.

Reflectors – Copy material that has been designed to reflect light to aid in visibility in hours of darkness when illumination is not present on the billboard structure.

Single Face – Billboard structure that has a single display panel facing in only one direction.

Stackmount – A billboard structure in which multiple display panels are set above one another.

Stringers or Crossmembers – Wood or steel braces attached to the back of the sign that support the structures.

Triangle – A billboard structure having three display panels arranged in the shape of a triangle with each panel facing in a different direction.

Uprights -Vertical posts, pipes or beams, mounted into the ground that keep the sign erect.

V Face – A billboard structure having two display panels that are not parallel to each other, facing in opposite directions.