How to get your business noticed without much money

5 Ways of Promoting a Business on a Small Budget

by Jana Lynch

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As a small business owner on a very tight budget, finding room in that budget for advertising and promotion isn't always possible. This poses a number of problems, particularly as it relates to finding clients and sponsors. But as I navigate the world of self-promotion, I've realized there are a number of free and inexpensive ways spread the word about your services or business:

  1. Social media. This is an extremely effective way to land clients and customers. Not only does it give you a free platform to promote your work, but it also gives you a way to interact on a personal level with potential clients. And, you never know who's following your tweets (or Facebook status or Instagram photos or LinkedIn profile or Pinterest boards). I landed my first customer two days after I started my blog consulting business just by sending a simple tweet letting my followers know I offered the services. I also have a Pinterest board as a writing portfolio in case I need to submit writing samples for a freelancing job.
  2. Use your network. Everyone knows someone, and depending on the kind of work you're offering, you can always offer free or deeply discounted services to friends and family (note: in the beginning, you're most likely going to have to do work for free or below cost). Ask them to share what you've done for them with their friends, family, and co-workers as part of their payment. If you're an instructor or a teacher starting your own business, give the business information to your students. I have a Zumba instructor that does this and her event business is starting to explode.
  3. Start a website. There is no better way to show that you're serious about your business than to have a website. This is a central location to show off your portfolio, talk about your services, offer testimonials, and provide contact information for potential clients. Plus, you can add a link to your email signature so every time you send an email, the recipient gets a link to the site (an extra bonus method of free promotion!). You don't even have to pay for a website and hosting; there are plenty of free platforms available. And, if you have multiple projects or services, you can consolidate them all into one place.
  4. Use community resources. Have a tutoring business? Put up a flier at the library or local schools. Starting a pet sitting service? Leave some business cards at a local pet store or dog grooming shop. Do freelance makeup for weddings, proms, and special events? Talk to a salon owner to see if you can do some demo services on a particular day or leave some photos of your work. Tapping into your community is a great way to find potential clients, although this is going to cost some money out of pocket (for the fliers, business cards, gas, etc.). But they potential payoff is worth it.
  5. Car stickers. Now, I'm not sure how much these actually cost, but I see them so frequently for so many local business that I can't imagine it's actually that much money. I've seen them in a variety of sizes, and I've seen them on both business owners' and clients' cars. In fact, I've recently picked up my sticker for our dog groomer. What's great about these that they're essentially mobile billboards. The more you drive around, the more people get exposure to your business. And, if you frequent certain establishments, other patrons are going to notice the stickers, perhaps leading business your way.

Promoting a business doesn't have to cost a fortune. In fact, some of the most successful business owners I know do very little promotion but have customers and clients lined up just through word of mouth (which is the best free promotion weapon in your arsenal). So, if you have a business and a small budget, don't be intimidated by your lack of funds. Promoting yourself is still possible!

This post was written by Jana Lynch, founder of the Bloggers Helping Bloggers Mentoring program and owner of the personal finance blog Daily Money Shot, where she talks about money, life, parenting, and makes obscure pop culture references. She is available for hire.

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