Build Your Business on a Budget

In this economy, creating and sticking to a budget is more important than ever. Of course, not every freelancer has money problems, but my guess is that many of you out there are taking a very close look at your bottom line—especially with taxes due in just days.

Whether you are new to freelancing or are a seasoned pro, learning how to run your business on less money is always an appealing option.

I recently purchased a magazine title with two other business partners and we’re trying to stay as lean and mean as possible until ad revenue starts coming in. We’re lucky that we don’t have a lot of expenses—like office space—that we need to pay for, but we did take out a small business loan that must be paid every month. We also spend a fair amount of money on travel expenses, going to and from trade shows and bridal shows in our area, so we’re careful to count every penny.

I found this article on Inc.com listing three ways to grow your business on a budget, and I was intrigued. The author, Vanessa Merit Nornberg, has some great points, and I wanted to share them with you.

Seek Out Partnerships

This is something we do all the time at our magazine. We’re lucky that we have been able to trade some ad space to help pay for things we really need—like help with our public relations and web development.

We also work with our advertisers to make sure they have magazines to use for their needs. For example, there is a jeweler who has been giving out a gift bag to couples who have bought their engagement ring at their store. They asked us if we could provide them with magazines to put in these gift bags. Of course, we said! That’s target marketing for a wedding magazine, and we didn’t have to do any of the leg work.

We also trade web ads with some of our partners, which is a good way to get free advertising space online. If you can find partners who will promote you while you promote them, it’s a win-win situation. It’s also a great way to find new clients and revenue streams.

Use Advertising Space Shrewdly

Ad rates vary depending on the publication, so do a fair amount of research before you purchase any. Looking to advertise online? Know what questions to ask! How many unique visitors does the site get? How many daily, weekly, and monthly page views? How long do people stay on the website, and what is the bounce rate?

You want to make sure your advertising dollars are well spent, so make sure the publication has a fair rate. This will take some work on your part—but it’s your money and you want to spend it wisely.

Find the best publications for your clients. Our yearly niche wedding magazine is perfect for some businesses, but makes no sense for others.

You also want to consider repetition. The more you advertise with a publication, the cheaper each ad is.

Rather than blowing the budget on one full-page ad, try doing smaller ads more frequently.  Repetition usually brings down rates, and if you do it right, you can send a strong message to potential customers. —Inc.com

Constant and consistent presence in a newspaper or magazine shows readers you have longevity. A monthly magazine has more longevity than a daily newspaper, so figure out what your clients are reading and where they are located. If you’re clients are primarily small businesses located in Kansas, running an ad in The New York Times isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense. Be realistic and do your research.

Monetize Customer Referrals

The best marketing your company can get is the kind you can’t do yourself. —Inc.com

I got an amazing massage once, and the woman gave me some business cards to give out that would, in turn, earn me a discount if anyone used them. You can bet your bottom dollar that I went out and gave those cards away to people I thought would really use them. In the end, I got what I wanted—money off another massage!

Making referrals worth your clients’ time is important—so create an incentive that works. I know that I am more inclined to hire someone that my friend or coworker had a great experience with than a complete stranger. Why not reward your happy and loyal clients for spreading the word? You don’t have to offer them the world—but even a $10 gift card to a local store or restaurant, or even Amazon.com, is better than nothing. You don’t have to break the bank, but you do have to offer something your clients will want and appreciate.

Photo credit: xilius.

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