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Self-Promotion on a Zero Budget

By Meryl K. Evans
Posted Friday, January 28, 2005

Recently, I’ve received a few e-mails from people asking me for advice on how to get started in the writing biz. When I stop to think about it, maybe I’ve been lucky to accomplish this much writing in a short time. I have accidentally discovered a way to self-promote my work. It starts with an interest in Web design and a friend who needs a Web site for her professional organization. I volunteer to do it to get Web design experience.

Do you hear an “Ah-ha!” coming? Before I take you there, let’s talk about catch-22. Most people just entering Web design or freelance get the old “Get experience before we can hire you.” OK, how am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me?

Back to the “eureka.” What kind of business typically has little or no money to invest in a Web site? Let’s say it together, “non-profit organizations.” That was lesson number one. Build a portfolio by offering your services to charitable organizations. It’s win-win because you get the opportunity to add to your portfolio as well as make a contribution to a good cause. The only drawback is finding the time to do it outside of your “pays the bills” job.

Oh, you’re not a Web designer, programmer, or code-head? No problem! Get out pen and paper or load up your favorite word processor. Start writing about a topic you know well. You’ve come up with another excuse saying you are not an expert in anything? It’s time for my rebuttal and a confession. I’m only doing this for you to boost your confidence and to show you it can be done. The old, “if I can do it, you can, too!”

Here goes: I am a Jane of all trades. I kid you not. It’s not a bad thing and I’ve managed to continuously add to my writing portfolio. Guess what? I am promoting myself with this article. Whenever I publish an article with a popular online Web site, my own Web site, (, experiences a traffic boost. I’ll bet you that you’ll go to my Web site when you finish this one. No, I am not high on myself. Whenever I read a story or discussion list, I often click on the author’s link to learn more and see if there is anything else I’d like to check out. If you don’t find this article worthy, then how did you get this far?

There are plenty of places that want your articles (Hint: notice this Web site?). Not everyone pays, but it’s a good way to put you out there. One way I've gotten started was submitting an article to an email newsletter's open publishing initiative. It accepts articles in exchange for software and free publicity for you. You can write your own bio and add links to your Web site. Thanks to the newsletter, my portfolio grows and I gain new and paying clients.

If you want something bigger than a bio and you’re brave enough, then offer yourself up for interviews or presentations. If you’re involved with a new product or service, then you can suggest an article on that topic and be interviewed as a subject matter expert. For instance, in writing an article on Flash, I interview several experts and return the favor by including links to their Web sites. Again, it’s win-win. Remember to promote a topic of interest to readers instead of focusing on your company or its products.

Is there a conference coming to town? They’re always looking for proposals. Also, try checking around for user groups and offer up your services to speak about a relevant topic. I've given a presentation to a computer users group and my URL was in the footer of every page of the presentation. More free promotion.

There’s something for everyone. In summary, this is the advice I give to people on how to market their way to a new career:

* Offering your services to nonprofit organizations
* Publishing an article
* Getting interviewed or doing a presentation

Give it a shot. One more note, I’m terrible at sales. These steps have helped me move forward without feeling like giving a sales pitch. Now, finish this off by reading the bio and clicking on the link.

About the Author
Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is Editor-in-Chief of eNewsletter Journal and The Remediator Security Digest. She's a slave to a MarketingProfs weekly column and a Web design reference guide at InformIT. She is the author of the popular e-report, How to Start a Business Blog and Build Traffic. Visit her site at ( for free newsletters, articles, and tips.