When I started my small business writing online content, my enthusiasm overcame my meager marketing budget. I landed my first big contract with $100 and some creative networking. Here's how I did it.
In the beginning I did not have several hundred dollars to advertise or print high-quality brochures describing my services. I had exactly $100 that could be allocated to marketing. I knew I had to make the best of it to let people know that I existed. I needed to have online presence, but I also knew I had to do some face-to-face promoting to business owners who could use my talent for writing compelling content that placed well in the search engines.
I started by spending $75 on the purchase of a domain name and a year's worth of hosting for a website. I built the site myself, populating it with interesting articles and samples of my writing. The other $25 in my budget went to printing a box of 500 professional business cards. The cards featured a link to my new website. Now I had something tangible that demonstrated my credibility for prospective clients.
To further my authority in the industry, I signed up for free accounts on several article syndication and social media sites. By submitting articles and promoting them on the social media sites, within a couple months my name populated at least the first five pages of the search engines when I did a search for it. Anyone researching me on the Internet would immediately find links to articles I had written on various subjects, using the tactics and formulas needed for effective online content.
Finding Prospective Clients
I tried sending emails to business owners that might need my services but quickly realized I needed to meet them in person. I called my local Chamber of Commerce and got a list of all the business and service associations that held regular meetings. I contacted each one of them and received an invitation to attend a few meetings as a guest. At these events, I went dressed in smart business attire to give the best impression. I stayed very upbeat and made sure I shook hands with every person there when I passed out my business cards.
I signed up to participate with a few of the volunteer activities the business organizations supported. I got involved with volunteer work on an economic development committee for the city. (Eventually, when my cash flow improved I paid my dues to become a member of the organizations I liked the most.) I did not get any business right away from my efforts, but many of the business men and women in my city came to know me by name.
Landing My First Big Contract
I got my first major writing contract after responding to an online request for a bid, but it was my community activities that landed it. When I arrived at an interview with the business owner responsible for the request, we recognized one another from Chamber of Commerce events. He had just sold a lucrative lead generation business for law firms and was now starting a new company helping small business owners obtain startup financing. He needed a writer to create all the content for his website and promotional materials. After reviewing the material on my website and hearing feedback on my work in the community from other business owners he gave me the job. It was worth several thousand dollars.
This happened in the first four months of my startup writing business. It took tremendous persistence in getting out and meeting people in my local business community, but in that time I did not spend more than $100 on marketing materials. It's proof that a small business can get off the ground even when startup funds are limited.
More articles by Robbi Gunter:
First Person: 5 Ways to Kill Your Startup
First Person: The 3 Big Challenges All New Businesses Face
First Person: Cash Flow Management for My Small Business
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