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We’ve all heard the stories of companies spending millions on marketing and the perception is still very much that ‘marketing is expensive’. In this day and age, especially with the internet revolution, there are actually many activities you can carry out for little or even no cost at all. We thought it might help to gather together a few of these and pass them on … hope it helps.

Create your website yourself
Before you start marketing your services, you must have a website to direct people to. But the assumption is that creating a website has to be expensive. Which is not the case at all. There are some sites which enable you to set up a website for free, but usually these do not enable you to have your own URL (necessary if you want to look professional) and usually involve advertising of other products and services, which is how the site provider makes their money.

There is an alternative however, which is incredibly low cost, and that is to use a template site such as mrsite.com – or one of many others. The only cost is a fee for the license (as little as around £30) and this usually includes your chosen domain name as well. The only other cost beyond that is your time to familiarise yourself with the software and create the pages. Time consuming we know, but it can be done.

Make sure the website contains…

  • Dedicated ‘About You’ section – Talk about yourself and why you set up your business, as this will help people to understand your ‘personality’.
  • Divide samples of your work into sections based on the type of project – Also, depending on the complexity of your website, it could also be a good idea for people to search for samples by industry sector as well as by project type – although this feature is not essential. Remember also to include links to any work which appears externally on other website’s. Make sure these links open in a separate window so that the visitor is not taken away from your site altogether.
  • Make it as user friendly as possible – We would recommend showing a ‘thumbnail’ image on the main page, which you can click on to open the entire sample as a PDF.

Ask clients for testimonials and include them on your site
This is something which every business should do. As soon as a project is complete and the client is happy, ask them for a short quote saying why they chose you and what they liked about working with you. These can then be added to your website along with a short explanation of what you did for them. It all helps to give other prospects that ‘comfort factor’ when they are reading your website and considering your services.

Do-it-yourself SEO
Once your site is up and running, you could just wait for Search Engines like Google to find you – or you can proactively tell them about it. Google is the most important one, as it carries around 95% of search traffic, but Yahoo and Bing are also worth targeting too.

Visit our How to be number one on Google page for more information on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Work for free
A horrible thought we know, but if you are just starting out, then it’s vital that you build up a credible client base as soon as possible. And if that means working for free in return for being able to use samples of work or client testimonials for your marketing, then do it. The best option is to target small companies who would not be able to afford your services otherwise, or charities and societies in your local area. They will benefit from it and so will you – so it’s kind of win-win for everyone. And of course they may also recommend you to fee paying clients.

Forums and bulletin boards
Despite the number of freelancer’s looking for work, it is often difficult for clients to find suitably qualified and experienced people across a wide range of services. To address this, there are now a few well regarded forums and website’s that allow freelancer’s to post a professional profile listing their skills, credentials and experience.

Social Networking
Once you have a website you can start to drive traffic to it. One way to do this is to make people aware of your services via Social Networking. Which is not as bizarre as it seems. For more information read our page on generating business via Social Networking and also on other medias such as TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

Adding the function for visitors to ‘follow you’ via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn gives ‘followers’ regular updates on what’s happening with you and your business and could even include special online offers.

Start a blog
If you do it properly, a blog can provide you with an extremely cost effective way of getting your business messages ‘out there’ to your target audience – an audience which can run into the thousands. There are some accepted rules on business promotion via blogs which you will need to abide by – but once you understand them, there is no reason why you can’t use this great new Internet tool to promote your business effectively, and for free. For more information read our Business Guide to Blogs.

Take a free online marketing course
Unless you are a freelance marketer, the chances are you will not really have much experience of marketing – which is why a free online course could be perfect. Try a Google search on ‘free online marketing courses’ and see what comes up. There are many of these out there, if you take the time to look for them.

Run a referral programme
Once you have a few clients, ask them to recommend your services to other people in return for a discount on future work, or free support/services next time – depending on what your business is. Be sure to make the rules clear though – for example, the free service or ‘incentive’ is only available if the person or company they recommend actually places business with you to the value of £X. That way, you know it will pay for itself.

Offer something for free
What you offer will vary depending on your business, but this is a way of engaging with new clients and getting them to try your services. A ‘try before you buy’ type approach. Once they have done so they will hopefully keep coming back also recommending you to others. Make sure you are specific about what they will get ‘for free’ though, there can be no misunderstandings if a project extends outside of the original scope.

Create a YouTube video
A bit ‘off the wall’ we know. Possibly one for freelancer’s in the creative sector. This approach is based on what they call ‘viral marketing’ and it works like this. You create a video, which talks about your services and gives people a way of contacting you. Then upload it to YouTube for free and send everyone you know (personal and business) a link. People will send it to their friends and before you know it, people will have seen it and been made aware of your business.

List your website on free directories
There are many of directories out there, some specific to certain industries and some locally based such as yell.com. List your website and add a profile to as many as you possibly can. Not only will you be found when someone searches through that directory but your profile entry can also be found by Google when someone is doing a general search.

Offer speaking opportunities
If you’re comfortable with public speaking, and know your area of expertise well, then it’s worth offering yourself as a speaker for a wide range of events. For example a local, relevant conference, and event at your local chamber of commerce or any other associations that relate to your industry.

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