Nine Free Ways to Market Your Fledgling At Home Business

I didn’t start out intending to be an expert in home business.  It happened by accident, as I found my own creative outlets while I homeschooled my son as a SAHM for about 12 years.  Try as I might, directing my creative energies solely towards raising a child was like trying to herd cats.  Deep frustration, outrageously ornate coloring pages, marathon knitting projects, birthday cakes so elaborate they should have been shellacked and marketed as the newest mini home models, I found I was using crafts as an outlet to an innate entrepreneurial fever and it had to stop.

Inadvertently, I started using the internet to train myself in small business skills, with no funds whatsoever and no idea where to start.  Moonlighting as a home party consultant with a company that prided itself on intensive business education was the beginning.  I knew I needed something to do for work, and could only work evenings if I didn’t want to pay a sitter everything I earned.  So I researched which home party companies had the most potential for sales, and then interviewed consultants to learn what each one offered until I had enough information to make the best choice for myself.  Within two years, my part time career enthusiasm earned me a place in the top five in sales in that particular company, and it laid the groundwork for me to create the company that I have now.

Here, then, are my top nine tips for marketing on a shoestring, in no special order:

1)      Utilize Facebook to the max.  As a mother in a one income family, I had to find a way to reach out to potential customers and build trust in my offerings.  I knew I was really good at what I did, but no one else knew because I was hidden in the jungles of playgrounds, dirty dishes, a small town, and laundry.  Doing the tutorials on Facebook and actually following the steps was my only hope.  I learned how to connect by just jumping in, making mistakes and learning from them.  It also helped to see others making mistakes, like advertising on people’s walls without even getting to know them or learning if it was okay with them, which is like showing up at someone’s house and planting a hot dog stand in their front yard.  Yeah, they might not like that.

2)      Utilize Twitter to the max.  I’ll admit, this took me a bit longer.  I just didn’t understand Twitter because I found my way to it from Facebook land, which is quite different.  I wasn’t used to the tiny tweets, and I had a lot to say.  Also, the fact that I hadn’t done the tutorial from start to finish didn’t help.  It took me years to warm up to Twitter, but now that I have, my advice is to snap to it and do it.  It’s the best cocktail party happening, and crucial to business.  You can stay on track with what’s happening, learn amazing things from your competition, and make allies by buying them a few drinks (retweeting, replying with friendly comments, and recommending them to your friends on Fridays).

3)      Clean yourself up.  Yes, as a mother I feel I have a right to tell people to bathe, get a haircut, and wash and iron their clothing. If you want to be taken seriously, you have about 10 seconds to make a first impression, and in a photo online?  Less.  I have had pictures done for free with my cell phone and they still came out looking like I had just had a makeover, polished, professional, etc.  In our digital age, this can be done, folks!  It’s optimal, of course, to have a professional photographer use their equipment and know how, but use the best you have to start with.  If you don’t have the money to buy clothes it doesn’t matter.  The moms I hung with scoured goodwill and came up with some designer knockoffs that looked amazing.  It’s uncanny what one can do with some intention, a friend with an eye for fashion, and a needle and thread.  There is no excuse for looking like hell other than the terror of actually succeeding.

4)      Order free business cards.  Vistaprint.com has great templates and you can be fairly creative in how you design them…all for free!  Hand those suckers out like breath mints.  If you have a good headshot, it’s nice to pay a few bucks to put your smile on the card so that everyone remembers you, but not absolutely necessary to start.  You can prioritize this as one of your first business expenses when you have a few clients.  The most crucial part of handing out a business card is to write down the contact info of the person you handed it to, and send an email to them pronto, telling them how nice it was to meet them.  Following up costs nothing and I spent one full year struggling before I learned this important tip.  People are busy, and unless you can make their lives easier somehow, the last thing on their minds is remembering some person who handed them a business card that’s lying in the bottom of their purse getting sticky from the raisins their kid didn’t finish.  The important thing here is to offer them what they need, not what you want them to buy.  Make. Their. Problem. Go. Away.  If they don’t have the problem that you solve, ask them if they know of anyone with that problem that they could refer to you.  In essence, ask them to help out a friend.

5)      Attend free networking events and be so much fun, and add so much value that the organizers asks you to speak at one of their next events. Offer the organizers a free sample, be interested in them and how you can support their businesses, and use your business card technique with every person you chat with.  Be the friendly person there, because there are others who are terrified and afraid to make the first move and they’ll be so relieved that you smiled and started asking them about what they do.  The key to being supported and promoted is to give what you want to receive without expectation of where it will come from.  This takes trust, and trust is so much more appealing then an energy shark that gets in your face and starts talking about themselves and is relentless about selling you something.  Be more interested in helping others and I promise you, the universe will reward you in spades.

6)       Google the experts in your field and in building a small business, and sign up for their newsletters.  Attend their free calls, take notes like your life depends on it, and then actually apply what they just taught you.  It’s amazing how much you can learn, because these people understand that to generate customers, they need to give great value.  The value in these calls can carry you all the way to your first customers and much more.  Keep a list of the ones you feel are most knowledgeable, who have the most to offer for your particular line of work and your needs, and set goals for yourself of whom you might like to hire to coach you when you can afford it.  Decide in advance whose business building course you’ll sign up for when you are making an income, and choose wisely.  Prioritize what you feel will propel your business forward the fastest.

7)      Give free samples of your service to some folks who will really benefit from it.  Yup, just give it away.  Do the job as if they are paying you top dollar.  Ask them kindly if they could write you a recommendation, and use it to build trust with potential customers.  Recommendations can be used on flyers, websites, can be tweeted…there are so many ways you can continue to recycle them, and they tell potential customers that you do indeed deliver what you promise.

8)      Build a free website on WordPress.  I like WordPress because you can easily incorporate your blog in your site, and if you take the time to study how, you’ll increase your traffic easier than most hosting sites.  I remember when I wanted a website so badly and knew I needed one if I was going to go anywhere in my business, but I had no money at all to hire someone to build it.  It took me months and was grueling to learn how to build it, but I was so intent on having one that I didn’t care.  Remember also that I had a young child I was parenting simultaneously, so I spent weeks and weeks of sleepless nights building my site because I couldn’t always do it during the day.  If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.  My dad told me that, and he was right.

9)      Blog.  This one took me forever to figure out.  I’ve started blogging daily now, and the results are profound.  When you share what you know, solve problems for people with your information, reveal your humanity, and continue to put yourself out in front of an audience, you are marketing not only your business, but you’re creating a friendship with potential customers.  At the very least, you will improve your writing skills and learn more about yourself and your business by practicing and connecting to other bloggers sharing information.  At the most, you will be visible with who you are and what you do.  The people who will truly benefit from your skills and gifts will finally be able to find you.

I hope these tips gave you some ideas on how you can improve your visibility and motivated you to keep taking the next step in your business.  Remember that there is only one you, and you bring your unique presence and gifts to what you do.  The world needs you, so don’t give up!

Goddess Oceana

http://www.goddessoceana.com

http://www.bestofyoutoday.com/spirituality/top-5-reasons-80-mom-entrepreneur-businesses-fail

http://www.bluetreemedia.com/newsletter_09.html

http://mompreneurnetwork.com/

http://womeninbusiness.about.com/od/networking/a/network2skills.htm

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4 Responses to “Nine Free Ways to Market Your Fledgling At Home Business”

  1. Renee Sullivan Says:

    Excellent tips Oceana. I’d like to add, if you don’t mind…getting on Linked in (if you are not already)…and using it as another avenue to connect with people (sign up for groups that interest you…not just business related, but fun ones too).

    The number one thing about marketing your business is to show how passionate you are about it. If you show your passion, it will attract people to you like you’d never believe. Passion about what you’re doing makes it fun and motivating. We were meant to enjoy what we do for a living, so let’s show it!

    Like

  2. Oceana Says:

    Thanks for the input, Renee. I think that if people are in more corporate types of jobs, that LinkedIn serves that segment really well. I love the groups one can participate in there, and am in some great writing groups.
    You’re right, too, that it’s really important to love what we do! If you don’t love it, it’s probably not the right business for you…

    Like

  3. Claudia Duarte Says:

    Thank you, Oceana! This is great, helpful information.
    Claudia

    Like

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