Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Frugal Advertising

Having been self-employed for just under ten years, I am commonly asked by people venturing into the world of self-employment or business about advertising.  What's the best advertising?  My response usually surprises them. Since starting my own solo-legal practice I have paid for very little advertising.  We're talking less than $500 total if advertising refers to ads and promotions.

However, I do have a steady flow of business, which I can thank in part to four things:

  • Giving things away for free.  I have the privilege of a very strong educational background. And I aim to share my knowledge with others, often for no fee.  Through seminars on estate planning and probate (most of which are free or low cost through local organizations) and writing a blog on illness, death and taxes for the middle class I am able to give people free information.  I am not giving away legal advice, that would be malpractice.  But I do provide information that is basic to me, and valuable to those who do not do what I do for a living.  People appreciate this, and are often inclined to do business with me....sometimes years after attending a seminar.
  • Volunteering in my larger community:  Volunteering is a great way to expand the network of people you know, infuse positive energy into your life, and earn respect.  My volunteer efforts range from serving as the chairperson of the Dane County Ethics Board to a member of committees at my church to coordinating earth day clean ups in my neighborhood.
  • Making connections for other people:  Recently I received an email from a friend asking for the name of a CPA, and she thought of me because "you have a great professional network".  I was happy to pass along the name of my accountant.  Whether it is a CPA, a baby store, a restaurant, or a feature at the public library -- I make it my goal to connect people who can benefit from another.  From that connection is a happiness that I helped someone, and an inherent sense that the favor will come back around to me one day.
  • Maintaining relationships that are not directly related to my profession:  People tend to hire people they know, especially in my line of work.  I am a true extrovert, so getting to know people is a real treat for me.  I accomplish this in several ways.  One, I coordinate a book club (see last weeks post).  Two, we have three annual get-togethers a year at our home: a celebration of International Pi Day in March; appetizers and drinks before the free Opera in the Park that is held 1 block from our home in July; and a celebration of all things Fall in October.  The last event we had allowed me to visit, face-to-face with 50 people.  No business was discussed, but it is through friends and neighbors referrals that my practice is sustained.  In order to keep those relationships going, we need reason to get together.  And three, I am always happy to make new friends.  Never be afraid to say hello -- you'd be surprised how easy it is to find common ground.
These tools work not only for attorneys, but accountants, financial planners, day care owners, hair stylists, bloggers, lawn care services, auto repair businesses, restaurant owners, and the list goes on.

I'm curious to hear from others.  What frugal ways do you advertise your business?

Image credit: - free image

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