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Free or Not Free – That is the Question

By Barbara Hemphill
Posted Monday, January 24, 2005

You may be in business for yourself or as a small company, but no matter what, especially if you just started this business, you need publicity! It’s great that your spouse or best friend believes in you. You may even have total strangers tell you what a great idea you have. Some may tell you they wish they had thought of it themselves or had the guts to try it. You know you can do your job well, you know you could make money at this. But as hard as you work, you have little income to show for it. So how do you get the word out? And at what price?

First, no matter what career you have chosen, be professional. Most likely you have educated yourself in this field, put in long “precious” hours and invested funds that you really can’t afford to lose. You deserve respect from other professionals, but you must work at maintaining your credibility. Therefore, as a dedicated worker, you should direct your energy to always looking, acting and proving the part. You represent all persons that have the same job as you.

Secondly, (this correlates directly to what I just said) any form of publicity that you as an individual may receive, will impact all people in your profession. If you can show that you can help someone better their life, whether through a product or service, people will look for that product and service again. If people in your line of work get a bad reputation, how do you think it will affect you even though you have a good one? On the other hand, you may find that people are drawn to you simply because they “heard” good things about the field you are in.

Great – that seems simple enough. But exactly how do we market ourselves – and more importantly what’s it going to cost? Some publicity will cost money; almost all will require time and effort. How much you want to put forth is totally up to you. Last summer I had an article in Fast Company Magazine. That article not only shed light on my particular career (Professional Organizers) but it generated an appearance on CNN-FN Market Call on a segment titled “Maverick of the Morning”. Getting publicity in the media whether it is print, radio or TV can be quite expensive. Many assumed this was “free” publicity, and although they are correct in the fact that I never paid for the article or the television special directly, it did cost me. I took the time to attend a conference in San Francisco, which was over two years ago now, at the cost of $2000. The networking contact I made at the conference was the senior editor of Fast Company. Then with some perseverance and some skills from a marketing company that I also “hired”, eventually the article was printed.

Not everyone has a huge “public relations” account to pull from, so you must get creative. This can’t be that hard for you, after all you created your job didn’t you? It’s time you put your skills to work in marketing. Join new clubs and organizations. Volunteer for something totally unrelated to your field of work. Go to church socials, neighborhood meetings, your kid’s school functions. Send news releases, articles, coupons, to companies and media via email or fax. Put yourself in as many “free” website listings as possible. Create your own free or low cost website. Give discounts to current clients that bring you more work (incentive!). Use endorsements from happy customers. Donate some form of your work to a charity fundraiser (Professional Organizers may offer a “free” office organizing). Get business cards, magnets, even your answering machine that all say your name, business, phone, and website – create a catchy logo or motto.

The key is not to be shy. Believing in yourself and what you do, is all it takes. Promote yourself by doing a great job. That will bring in business for you directly and enhance your particular career’s reputation as a whole. Remember, you are a professional, it’s time you show it off. You can spend as much or as little cash as you want on publicity. Obviously the big bucks can get you a big campaign, but if it costs your entire profit, what have you gained? And I have no doubt that time, although it is “free”, has a price for you. You must decide if something that has potential to bring in business is really worth your time and effort. Often, the things we do or people we meet that we least imagine would benefit our business, do. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude. That’s the answer to the question.

About the Author
© Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at (


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