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30 Do’s And 20 Don’ts In Starting A Small Business

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Business Tools That Save Time & Money Part II

When it comes to running your business, what online or offline tool/ product/ service do you find has saved you time and money and helped you run your business more effectively in one or more of these areas:

Office Setup
Operations
Legal Advice
HR
Marketing
Accounting
Sales
IT

Jeff McCloud of Black Card Marketing Group offered the following ......

Current favourite is MindMeister. It's a collaborative mindmapping tool. I use it to set up complex campaigns, todo tasks, map out websites (and track progress), visually delegate tasks, map out marketing/sales/fulfillment strategy, and a handful of other things. It's the best tool I've ever used for visually organizing complex things (and collaborating on them with others!). I've tried project management software (celoxis, MS Project Manager), task management (Basecamp, Manymoon, paper), collaborative tools (google docs, google wave) and none of this compares. Cost is $9 per month.

2nd place: MyPhoneRoom. When a lead fills out a form online their info gets passed to the call centre in Phoenix realtime (about a 15 min lag usually). We give them a script (which they help us optimize) and they qualify leads for us. They go through an entire qualification flow to make sure the person is truly qualified before either booking an appointment right into our calendar, or three-waying in a sales person to close the sale right there. They charge $2 each time they disqualify a lead (it's worth it to not tie up my time with people who aren't qualified), and $3 each time they qualify one!

Time Driver is magic for me. I tie it into my gC and then pre-define times I have potentially available for meetings. Then I can send people to the calendar to book in their own meeting with me. They view the pre-defined available times (and if I have a meeting during one of them Time Driver catches that and marks that time unavailable), and choose the time that works best for them. I can even have it prompt them for their phone number, or specific questions that gets saved in the notes field of the appointment it auto-books into my gCal.

Fun one:

Jing! This is like having a mini, ultra handy, pseudo Camptasia at your finger tips. It has a hidden, floating activation button (and hot key if need be) for taking screen shots, or screen vids. Vids are max 5 min, but what they do with the media is the gold...Jing instantly posts it to a free file hosting site and pastes the link to it on your clipboard for mega easy sharing. Best part is it's free. You can upgrade for less than $15/yr and be able to post directly to facebook, twitter, and youtube. It's an absolutely must have for explaining things to people who can't just come look at your screen (ie, members of a virtual team, virtual assistants, non-entrepreneurs who go to bed at a reasonable hour, etc).

Noteworthy:

Keyboard Maestro saves me tons of time as I use 'short codes' and 'hot keys' to store passwords, and long strings of info (you can also do scripts/macros but I haven't fiddled with that yet). For instance, I have a short code telling people to book time into my calendar and the link for it from Time Drive saved. I have one for my "Office Hours", half hour appointments and full hour appointments. PC equivalent is Perfect Keyboard.

Animoto: bad-ass videos made in two shakes of a lambs tail. Really cool.

Google Search Story Tool: create a Google Search Store in like 8 minutes...also bad ass.

Infusionsoft: This is a little more h-core. This is the mother ship of all email marketing 2.0. It has killer email marketing tools, analytics, tracking, e-comm rolled in, and sophisticated CRM. This is the Lamborghini of Internet Marketing.

InfusionWP: I would have put this in my top three, but it only works if you use Infusionsoft. I wont go into it but to say that if you are using Infusionsoft, you've got no idea how much IWP can leverage it. It's like putting a reliable autopilot on your Lambo!

Articulate: this takes video, ppt, voice over, flash, and every other powerful media type and puts them in a stunning presentation. If you've never seen an articulate presentation, then you've never seen sales! But beware, this is BLOODY pricy.

A few givens:

-Google Docs (especially Google Forms)
-Google Wave
-Skype
-iMovie
-Time Machine
-MobileMe
-WordPress

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Most Important Elements For A Small Business Social Media Policy

Check out some of these great tips from Deirdre Breakenridge ......

*Find a Champion

Finding a champion (in this case the PR manager) to spearhead the effort, corral the team and manage the process from start to finish.

*Build a Team

Building a coalition or core team that developed policy objectives across the organization so it would guide employees, leaders, and volunteers. The coalition could include PR, marketing, executive leadership and the legal team.

*Evaluate

Conducting an in-depth audit to evaluate the current state of social media in your industry.

*Encouraging Participation

Encouraging participation and not stifling communication, going well beyond just the do’s and don’ts of social media. The policy also carefuly reviewed situations specific to your company, and focuses on where the organization needed to convey stronger messages, including legal concerns like privacy, intellectual property and disclaimers.

*Employee Participation

Covering employee participation on behalf of PRSA, as well as including a statement on personal use. Understanding that employees will participate during their work hours and their own free time, it’s important that employees know the type of representation, responsibility and respect they must have for the company at all times.

*Drafting the Policy

Considering several key areas in the policy, including access, account management, acceptable conduct and the rules of engagement, content, security and legal issues.

*Feedback

Introducing leaders and members to the draft policy, asking them to evaluate usefullness by participating in a survey prior to launch. Feedback from the survey can be incorporated into the social media policy to create an even stronger set of guidelines.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Internal Customer Communication

The integrity of a company's business is expressed through written correspondence as well as a verbal "Thank you for your business." Written communication is shared online, posted prominently on a wall at the business, and/or taken to a network meeting. With hours invested in social networking, sales, manufacturing, or designing, why isn't more attention paid to customers? Have you surveyed customers' needs from the reader's perspective?

Last week I participated in an online survey that missed several opportunities to gauge truer responses. Responses were forced not allowing for answers in two categories such as "I choose not to divulge" under income. How much do you know about your customer? Do you or your associates acknowledge his/her business or life events of your customers when you call on them for repeat business? How can you collaborate with your customers' businesses and/or refer to them others? Just as one produces labels for blogs to ensure greater readership, why not give that same attention to your customers and give them a boost that will eventually boost your business?

Evelyn Asher
Business Communicator/Freelance Editor
asher.evelyn.edits@gmail.com

Business Tools That Save Time & Money Part I

When it comes to running your business, what online or offline tool/ product/ service do you find has saved you time and money and helped you run your business more effectively in one or more of these areas:

Office Setup
Operations
Legal Advice
HR
Marketing
Accounting
Sales
IT

Michael O'Connor Clarke of Freshbooks offered the following ......

For personal use, I think I'd have to go with two main tools (or categories of tool):

1. My Blackberry. I've carried a cellphone since 1988 and can hardly imagine being without one. Once I discovered the joy of an all-in-one PDA, it became an absolutely essential tool. I had a company-provided Blackberry at my last place. When I left, I found I really missed it. Thought hard about iPhone vs. Android vs. Bb, but having a real keyboard won out in the end.

Why is my 'Berry an essential? The ability to manage email on *my* schedule, plus keep my calendar and contacts with me at all times. (Note: it's not about being permanently connected to your email system - it's about having the ability to timeslice and choose when and where you're going to process your inbox, rather than being tied to your desktop/laptop). These days, near-instant access to Google from anywhere is kind of a killer app too.

2. The Cloud. In general - the more of my personal and business data I can keep online, the better. It's more secure, more accessible, more affordable. I'm steadily switching everything over to a cloud-based way of working, migrating Word documents to Google Docs, pushing all email through my Gmail account, doing all backups through a cloud-based service (the utterly awesome Mozy.com). If I had to choose just one deciding factor/benefit of this approach, I'd say: I know the big Cloud Computing vendors can do a much, much better job of things than I can with any home-grown solution.

So, in short: instant 'Net access in the palm of my hand + cloud-based storage of all my data = productivity joy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How To Reduce Your Small Business Costs

Most small business owners perceive the most basic of costs (office space, utilities, phone, computer) as fixed expenses that they can do little to minimize. As an alternative to leasing office space with a long-term financial obligation, working from home seems to be the only choice. However, how does this setting affect the professional image of your business when you need to meet with clients? Is it a faux pas to use a home address on your business card? It definitely depends on the size and the industry, but using a home office may hinder your target customer’s perception of your business and its legitimacy or capacity.

An alternative to consider would be a renting space at a virtual office. Compared to a traditional lease on office space, these facilities can be used on an “as-needed” basis and are fully-furnished with desk, chairs, computer, phone, internet, etc. Being able to work from a full-service physical location with a professional mailing address and pay drastically less than for a full-time suite is a huge cost advantage in itself. On top of that, throw in the added benefit of not having to pay for utilities or internet. Some virtual office centers even provide packages that include administrative services (faxing, copying, mail forwarding) and small business consulting.

Once you have done all you can to minimize your fixed costs, you can focus your attention on reducing variable expenses in other areas that may consume more time such as negotiating prices, bartering for products and services, buying used equipment, etc.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What It Takes To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

I strongly believe that you need the following to really thrive as an entrepreneur.

1. Be Passionate - like one of the earlier answers, you gotta love the process. But I'd also like to add that not only do you need to love it, you have to be passionate about it. This means that you get up in the morning excited to work on your business, dream of ways to make your business better in your sleep, and it's something that doesn't feel like a drag doing but where time flies!

2. Find the right timing (or luck) - Timing is always key in the industry. No point trying to build a company that either reinvents the wheel or in an industry that's dying. Find a market niche that you can either thrive in, or do well in.

3. Don't expect to take a road trip without a road map - I see a lot of entrepreneurs that jump into a business because they "feel" or have "heard" that it makes money. Instead of doing the proper market research and planning, entrepreneurs just "start" and hope to make it big. This is definitely not the way to go. Entrepreneurship takes a lot of time, effort, energy, and money (which we all do not have enough of), so why not do your proper research and planning so you know exactly what you're getting yourself into.

I am reminded of two quotes:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” - Calvin Coolidge

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan

Most recently I have learned that if one deal, one customer, is the difference between success and failure, then I don't have enough customers, and am probably doing something wrong in operating my business.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

3 Powerful Tips To Help Manage Everyday Stress

Often times stress will manifest when we carry over yesterday’s concerns into our present day concerns. An accumulation will almost always end up in a high stress level. Therefore, we must be able to “dump” all of our concerns from the previous day or days and concentrate on today. Running a business can be stressful therefore in able to succeed you need to do all you can to combat stress so you can grow a successful business.

Here are 3 stress busting tips

Stress Busting Tip #1


Resolve right now to release every thought from yesterday and be only mindful of the now…. this thought only...this breath...this moment. Take in three very deep breaths and slowly release each one.

At the same time feel each and every concern, each and every problem, and each and every unresolved moment, begin to dissolve. You can deal with them at a later time. For now, you are only to be in this very moment.

Now go to your inner quiet place. Go deep inside to a place where you feel that you are at peace and then just relax and breathe in deeply and enjoy the feeling of being at one and at peace within yourself.

Use this special time and place to be calm. Free your mind and body of all worry, all regret, all disappointment, all anger and grief.

Stress Busting Tip #2


Next, think of one particular act, such as rocking your baby, taking a quick stroll, raking the leaves, and do that one simple thing. All the while, your mind is quiet and calm and you are in your own special place within.

Practice this act of quiet and calm each day and you will see that you will accomplish so much more. At the first sign of being stressed, go back to this mindful, quiet place and start all over again until you have reached your inner place of calm.

Stress Busting Tip #3

The very best thing that you can do for yourself is to eat, drink and rest – to your health!

Stress is easily brought on by not eating and drinking properly. When you don’t get the number of hours of sleep that you need each night, you are only setting yourself up for additional stress.

Limit the amount of salt, sugar, caffeine and alcohol in your diet. Drink plenty of clean, pure water each day and do at least moderate exercise each day. This will breathe new life into your skin, hair and will nourish all of your vital organs.

Take time to breathe properly! Take deep belly breathes to send pure oxygen to all of your body. Laugh and then laugh some more. It is food for the soul! Spend time doing the things that please you most. Engage in healthy and fulfilling relationships and work on problems that would erode the closeness that you have with someone special.

When we are content and living a balanced life everyday stresses seem to pale in comparison. We are better equipped to deal with the unexpected.

You can take control today! Isolate only one particular stressor in your life and then work on it until you regain control. At the very least, have some new hope!

For more stress busting tips visit www.stressfreeliving.weebly.com

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Facebook Ads vs Google Adwords

Google AdWords have better potential to drive immediate, direct sales due to the nature of search. A customer may be ready to buy at the moment they search for a type of product and if your ad is appropriately placed, you can get the sell. However, the CPC bidding model of Google can be highly competitive and therefore expensive for your ad to reach top billing.

Google also has additional offerings, one being content marketing. Here your ad (text or graphic) is placed on affiliate sites with relevant content to your ad. Again, cost may be an issue as graphical ads are even more expensive than text. Apparently Google can provide television advertising with AdWords through Dish and DirecTV as well.

Facebook ads will less likely result in immediately sales but will build brand awareness quickly and fairly inexpensively. You can create multiple ads aimed at incredibly specific target markets with the most effect verbiage for that group. Pricing is also CPC or CPM bidding but much less complex than Google's. The interface to create an ad is very intuitive as well.

In my research, I have found that search marketing is VERY effective .... unfortunately, it is also mostly too complex for the uninitiated.

Adwords is the dominating search marketing platform, but Google's rules change so frequently, and their guidelines can be so confusing.

Furthermore, putting together an ad with proper keywords requires extensive keyword research. Most people scratch their heads at the notion of SEO.

This is what you need to know before you even create the ad. Then you need good ad copy, which is usually outsourced, since not everyone is a copywriter (this only adds to the cost).

Facebook PPC on the other hand, is quite simple.

It is totally user friendly from start to finish. It also gives you a lot of options when it comes to narrowing down your target demographic. It is also incredibly inexpensive, whether you use a ppc or cpi campaign.

In the end, I do believe that if you are selling something, the fastest and most effective way to do so on the internet is through search marketing, which would be Google Adwords...but, unless you are willing to put forth the immense effort to learn Adwords, or you have deep enough pockets to simply hires an SEO/PPC/Copy expert to do it all for you, your best bet is to take the somewhat slower, but still highly effective approach of Facebook PPC.

This strategy is more about branding. Branding, however, is also a very useful way to build sales.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Free vs Paid email? Both it turns out, come with a price!

Free vs Paid? Both, it turns out, come with a price

A while back, I wrote a post asking if your business can afford free hosted email, given than free always comes at a price. Well it turns out that your business email can be at risk even if you paying for it.

Free cloud based email providers, including Yahoo and Gmail, offer upgraded email services for an annual subscription. The benefits for this upgraded service include email without ads, added filters and Live Customer Care.

So it would be logical to assume that if free email isn’t the right solution for your business, than paying for upgraded email services from these same providers is.

Well Eagle Technologies found out, just in time, that this assumption almost cost them a client.

Eagle Technologies, LLC (ETL), a small veteran owned company located in Hampton Virginia, is a leading supplier of quality research and development products to limited production runs primarily focused in the aerospace industry. For the past 10 years ETL was paying Yahoo for their small business services, including email.

Eagle Technologies faced a serious problem when they discovered that their emails were being flagged as SPAM by a major OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) aerospace company. The OEM was using Trend Micro to detect SPAM on incoming emails which determined that the emails being sent by Eagle was spam. When Eagle reached out to their decade long email provider, Yahoo responded that they do not separate their email routing between paying customers and free service members.

Ignoring this problem was not an option. Mia Copeland, VP of Contracts at ETL, immediately began to reach out to the email service providers to find a solution. InfoStreet was one of the suppliers who helped navigate the series of requirements of providing a small business a service at an affordable cost for a worry free email application. A solution was designed, tailored to the needs of ETL. By combining Email, Email Archiving, Website Hosting and Address Book Applications we were able to not only replicate the technology ETL was using with Yahoo, but also enhance their services.

After utilizing the service for a few weeks Mia Copeland was quoted stating, “Using an exclusive business email provider, who only specializes in business email coupled with their enhanced services, gives me the security knowing our reputation and service we provide to our customers will continue without interruption”

Email is still the primary method of communication for business and, even with all the talk about social media, will be for the foreseeable future. Any business, whether a sole proprietorship or one of the Fortune 100, must be able to rely on their email provider without the fear of being tagged as spam.

It turns out that it doesn’t matter whether you pay for your email service or use a free service. What is important is whom do you trust to provide this essential service for your company.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tips On Internet Marketing & Backlinks

The following wisdom is from my long time business partner Jon Arnold ......

It takes a lot of work to be successful at anything, whether that is to create a successful relationship, a great marriage, or anything else. Michael Jordan did not just wake up one morning and decide to shoot some hoops. Liberace did not wake up one morning and decide to diddle with a rendition of Chopsticks. It all took work to achieve that success. It does not just happen because you happen to show up and are taking up space and using good breathing air.

As has been said many times, life is much more than just "showing up". Life is not a spectator sport where you just take your place on the bleachers. It has been said that there are three types of people: those who MAKE things happen, those who WATCH what happens, and those who wonder WHAT happened. Endeavour to MAKE things happen. Whatever you do, do it because you have a passion for it, which will almost ensure your success with persistence. Anything worth doing at all is definitely worth doing WELL, and anything done with a grudging or half-hearted effort will inevitably yield low and half-hearted results. You will find this to be true in virtually ANY aspect of life, whether it is relationships, your marriage, your job, your church, and yes even your efforts with Internet promotion and marketing. Take the time to learn what you don't know and learn how to improve what you already know, becoming a student of your endeavours and passions.

Internet Marketing & Backlinks ......

Everyone always talks about TRAFFIC as being the holy grail of Internet marketing success. But backing up a step, how do you create traffic? You could have the most beautiful and technologically advanced site on the face of the planet, but without traffic, marketing, and promotion, all that beauty and site effort have gone completely to waste. It is true, without quality traffic, your site is dead and your income level is lower and flatter than a heart monitor in the morgue. Additional tweaks and improvements to your site will be of minimal interest to the rest of the online world if they cannot determine where your site is or find it in the search engines somewhere north of page 100 in the search results.

Backlinks are one of the main keys, and turning your attention to backlinks is the best vitamin you can provide for your sites to create better health and better results. Backlinks are not the ONLY solution and remedy, in the same way that vitamin C is not the ONLY vitamin your body needs to maintain good health, but backlinks are definitely one of the primary ingredients.

So how do you create more backlinks for your sites? There are many ways to do this, and a Google search will reveal more ways to get backlinks than you would have time to implement in a lifetime. But you need to START the process to gain additional visibility for your sites, since any journey starts with the first step. One of the best, FREE, and easiest ways is to write some articles and submit your UNIQUE and NON-DUPLICATED article to ezinearticles.com and others. To do this, create a title with your selected keyword in it (i.e., "Why A T1 Line Is So Much Better Than DSL For Business", where the keyword in this example is bolded), use the keyword within the first 10 words of your first paragraph, 2-3 more times in the middle paragraphs, again within the last paragraph, and then your anchor text and URL in the "author resource box" of the article. A typical author resource box might read like this:

If you are looking for the best pricing from quality carriers on a T1 Line which is backed up by our Low Price Guarantee, be sure to visit http://mysite.com for the best prices nationwide from amongst about 30 quality carriers.

Note that in this resource box, the keyword "T1 Line" is used as anchor text and the site is given again with the URL.

Your article needs to be UNIQUE, it cannot just be copied and reworded from the publications of somebody else. But this is not hard, not even close to rocket science! The minimum article length (not including the author resource box) at one of the top article directories online today (and also viewed as an AUTHORITY SITE) is about 250 words at ezinearticles.com. 250 words! You should be able to crank out a useful article with 250 words or more during commercials on NCIS, right? There is NO CHARGE to submit an article to ezinearticles.com after you have signed up (free) to be a contributing author there. And the link juice that this published article gives you is incredible.

Taking this a step further, write more articles, perhaps on even the same topic (but not duplicated) and submit to other article directories for the same kind of benefit, and again, it is FREE to submit your articles to these directories and get that link juice working for you and your sites. There is goarticles.com, articlecity.com, articledashboard.com and literally hundreds of others, but stick with the top ones to maximize your link juice power. Hubpages.com is also an excellent resource for these links and is also known as a coveted authority site.

Make the article useful, informative, outline the BENEFITS to the reader and finally provide a way (i.e., the author resource box) for the reader to go and actually be excited to use this new information he has found. The article needs to be good but it does not need to be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize documentary. In the leads that I see in my inbox, I know a few of you are already doing this, since I can see the "referring URL" in the lead record, and many come from ezinearticles.com or other article directories.

As you write more articles, vary the KEYWORD that you are using for subsequent articles; i.e., use "T1 Line" for one article, use "Bonded T1" for another, use "Ethernet Services" for another, and more. Become a student of article writing and keyword research, put it to use, and the benefits of doing that are yours.

For keyword research, I have many tools that I have used over the years but the one I keep coming back to is Google's own tool, which is at:

Google Keyword Tool

A common mistake, however, that many people make in using this tool is that they select the highest ranking keywords with the most traffic. What's wrong with that, isn't that the goal? Yes that is the goal to get as much traffic as possible, but FILTER that fact with the additional fact that the highest volume keywords also have the most competition from other sites, probably people who have been doing this much longer than you. So you may want to consider going after the "long tail keywords" where there is not as much competition but where you stand a much greater chance of being ranked well for that term.

Another very inexpensive way to get backlinks is a service I found online a few years ago called "Angela's Backlinks". For a lousy $5 a month (FIVE DOLLARS!), Angela sends you a list of about 30 sites (most of them PR4 and greater) where you can get a one-way backlink, frequently with anchor text. The PDF she sends outlines exactly what you will see at each site, making is basically as "stupid simple" as something can get. If you are willing to put in the sweat equity required (I can usually go through this in a couple hours or so), it is the best $5 you will have spent all month. Check it out at:

Angelas Discount Market

There is also a relatively new service that you should be aware of that I have used with a high degree (not 100%) of success called Fiverr, naturally to be found on fiverr.com. This is a list of countless things that the publishers will do for $5 (FIVE DOLLARS), quite simple. Topics are all over the board, like "For $5 I will wear a sandwich sign saying ABC Company is crap all day long" or "For $5 I will jump out of a cake at your girlfriend's workplace in greater Los Angeles" or other such silliness. But there are also some golden nuggets there, like if you search for "backlinks" or "article writing" or "site promotion" or similar topics. There are several publishers who will write quality articles for you, which you can then review, tweak as necessary, and then submit to an article directory with YOUR keyword and URL as the author, which is entirely legitimate since it would be unique. Again, $5 invested well into your business, creating the backlinks that will be so valuable to you. Some of the fiverr's available will also create the link wheel I described to you in my previous newsletter, and if you do not have the time to do this yourself, whether backlinks, link wheels, or article writing, this can be a superb investment of $5 to jumpstart your marketing efforts.

There is a saying that I learned at the airport when I go out flying that says: "Never let your airplane get somewhere that your brain didn't get to about 5 minutes earlier". The words of wisdom there are that your brain needs to be at least 5 minutes ahead of the plane, and you need to be fully aware ("situational awareness") of where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there, having a viable and workable plan already in place. Waiting until you actually get there to figure it out is your worst possible option because you may actually be headed in the wrong direction, or when you DO get there, you are going to have other duties to contend with that you need to be prepared for.

The same is true of your marketing efforts. You need to be every bit as aware of where you want to get to as well as how you are going to get there. "More money" is not a sufficient direction, any more than "up" is sufficient when I am flying. Simply submitting your web site to the search engines is not sufficient to get you where you presumably want to go, especially since you are then competing with a SEVEN FIGURE number of people taking that same very lax approach.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tips For Small Businesses Creating A 2011 Marketing Plan

These tips may not be what you'd expect .... they are meant to help you focus, get you off your butt, and encourage thinking out of the box a bit.

* First - Be clear as to who your target market is and what you do! ..... everyone and everything is not a good answer. Go for the target and accept clients from everywhere.

* Build your database in a CRM software and keep notes

* Networking must be a large part of the plan! Both online and off

- Facebook and LinkedIn is the best way to show your expertise for free.

- Learn how to use LinkedIn to make business connections in your city.

- Write articles for your local business newspaper and /or magazine.

- Speak at local groups - prove you are an expert in what you do.

- Join local business groups and visit as many as you can afford (back to networking).

* Have a clean clear website - don't get fancy - just offer the information your prospective clients need to know to hire you.

- include testimonials

- photos of you and your bio

- Use Bullets not big blocks of text

- State your prices, terms etc

- Copy should be friendly - not stiff

* Use SBI to build your website (see the banner at the top of this page). You can get a Do-It-Yourself package if you're confident in your skills .... or they'll build a custom site for you at a very reasonable price.

* Spend time and perhaps money on SEO of the website (SBI actually already helps with this by building it into your site as it's constructed)

* Blogging is great if you like to write and you are disciplined (SBI can help with this too, or just use Blogger or WordPress) - if not just post stuff on LinkedIn and Facebook - no silly pictures on Facebook and no games. If you wouldn't want you mother to read it don't put it on the Internet

* Start an e-newsletter (hence the database)

* Read trade magazines, blogs and website of your industry and others for ideas

* Answer questions on LinkedIn Answers

* Brand your business with a Logo and use that branding everywhere!

That's a good start.