Getting the word out about your business doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds on social media gurus or buy advertising on local networks. There are a number of ways to direct attention to your services that will cost you little or nothing. Use these tips to find yourself some free or cheap promotion:

1. Local news

If you live in a big city, this won’t work. But if you live in suburbs, contact your local newspapers and tell them that you’ve opened a personal business in your beloved town. Tell them what you offer and tell them about yourself, working any interesting facts you have in there—such as why you chose to live in town, how long you’ve resided there, and maybe an interesting life story—to entice them. Small town newspapers are always searching for content, so don’t be afraid to shoot an email and ask. I should know; I worked at one for two years.

2. Yelp

advertise-for-freeYou don’t need a storefront to be on Yelp. If you offer services, like photography, you can list yourself as a contractor. And if you plan on regularly meeting with clients in your home, you can claim your address as a business for free. Ask happy clients for a good review to help build your reputation. On the other hand, a Yelp profile opens up reviews for unhappy customers. But since customers can list a place of business without the owner’s consent, it’s best to set it up yourself and seek out satisfied customers first.

3. Google Adwords

With Google Adwords, you set your own budget and pay only when your ad gets clicked on. Your ads can be tailored to appear only in a certain city or region so you can target local clients—useful when your business is something like landscaping, for example. And by setting your own budget, you’ll pay exactly as much as you want to.

4. Fliers

You can make a flyer in Microsoft Word within minutes (and here’s a YouTube video how). Print out a stack advertising your business and then head out around town for community bulletin boards. Some places only allow non-profit fliers to be posted, so ask someone who works there. I know my local library won’t let me advertise my services inside, but they will on the bulletin board on the way out. I also know the local coffee shop doesn’t care, but my Starbucks does.  Again, the only way to find out is to ask.

5. Dirt-cheap business cards

If you’re tight on cash, consider a cheap alternative to expensive business cards like Vista Print, which offers 250 basic, matte paper business cards for the cost of shipping and processing, which is $5.99 for the lowest option. If you want to get rid of the Vista Print logo it’ll cost another $2, which I think is worth it. $8 for 250 business cards is a cheap way to start. When you get them, head out with your fliers and look for spots to peg them.

6. Use social media daily…

When you’re first starting up, make business profiles on the two main social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook.  Spend an hour a day following and liking accounts. Search both sites and see what other businesses there are in your area, and then follow them. The more you ‘like’ someone’s post or re-tweet a message, the more likely they are to take a look at your business profile; I’ve found this to be especially true of small mom and pop shops.

 7. …And effectively

I’m a big believer that social media is best used for entertainment and information. Post something at least once a day on Facebook and Twitter. It doesn’t have to be related to your business. It can be something simple like a shared post or re-tweet of a quote, funny picture or viral trend (but don’t do it all day, or you’ll look like a spammer). Articles related to your business are good too. For example, if you’re a dog walker, share articles about pet food recalls. If you’re a freelance writer, share quotes from famous authors. Make your social media accounts something fun to follow and then plug business announcements when you feel the need.

What’s another way to advertise your business on the cheap? Tell us in the comments in below.

Craig Donofrio

Craig Donofrio