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Zero-Budget Small Business Marketing For Creative Freelancers

Small business marketing and event promotion ideas that won’t cost you anything but your time.

Article by Claire H.

As sure as Chanel spawned the little black dress, careers in the creative industries are hard to come by. It can be harder still to forge a living as self-employed creative. Across the board, the arts are oversaturated and underfunded, so to make your bread and butter from your craft is an enviable achievement. And yet, many people do.

If you aspire to a career as a freelance creative, are fresh of face and filled with talent, artistic ideals and a beast of a work ethic, then earning your crust from doing what you love to do is not out of reach. But, in order to shout loudest in a jostling crowd of hungry creative types, you’ll need to think savvy, brush up on your self-marketing skills and get used to working with a shoestring budget.

Holding an event, inviting in an audience, encouraging participation or just showcasing your work for sale is great way to kick start your freelance creative career. But event promotion doesn’t come cheap, and without promotion you won’t have more than your mum and dad and a few friends in the audience. Posters printed to a professional standard don’t come cheap either, and you might need to get them designed, too. And do you have £600 spare for an advert in the local press? Me neither.

Here, then, are a few creative marketing tips that will bring in an audience, in exchange for the shiny currency of your time.

Be something to do of an idle weekend

So, you’re a great photographer and you’re launching your fantastic exhibition: “Potatoes shaped like US presidents.” You’ve sent press releases to local and national press, pressed flyers into the hands of each and every passer-by for weeks and you’ve done the local radio rounds.

How about targeting people who have a little spare time and are looking for something to do? Market your exhibition for free on every ‘What’s On’ site you can find, make sure you drop an image and some blurb into the local tourist information office and coordinate some great social media coverage. To add extra online punch, add comments to blogs or articles which have relevance to you and your event (but always take care to fall down on the side of comment rather than spam – you’re aiming to engage interest, not make people cringe).

Want to take it further online? Several voices shout louder than one. Research arts, lifestyle and events blogs and invite said bloggers to a preview of your exhibition as part of a press launch. If you’re being talked about online, it’s more likely to carry truck with the national press later on when you launch your potato presidents exhibition country-wide.

Be the expert and invite discussion

Advertorials in relevant magazines are wonderful things, with a hefty price tag to match. But if you are, for example, a comic book illustrator extraordinaire, hoping to launch your own work, you’re likely to know your subject. So why not reach out to the wider comic book community for publicity? Write a piece on a broader comic book issue, provoking discussion and expressing an opinion. Use your event to make a relevant point during the piece and submit it to a bigger publication for print. By inviting discussion on the topic, it’s likely your piece will be shared or forwarded and you’re publicising your event almost by stealth. Sue Storm would be proud.

Speculate to accumulate

Not necessarily a monetary reference. Don’t be afraid to give things away for free; you’re building your network of contacts, a good reputation and a body of work by offering your skills. If you’re a fashion designer, invite people to wear your clothes to big events being covered in your local press, free of charge.

Create beautiful partnerships

I have two friends. Lucky me! One started his own theatre company and the other her own vintage jewellery business. They’ve teamed up beautifully to help each other out for free. Bare Knuckle Theatre is about to produce Hamlet and Magpie Millie is dressing Ophelia in gorgeous, bespoke jewellery. Both get to publicise the partnership and both get access to each other’s hefty mailing lists for publicity. Beautiful.

Remember, people talk

You’ve spent months preparing the launch of your very own tiny music festival. On the day you’ll be soothing musical egos and rushing around problem-solving with, hopefully, a little time shoehorned in for enjoyment. Doubtless you’ll have some friends and family volunteering their support on the day. Give at least two people the job of tweeting, facebooking and instagramming their brains out, communicating the event live, to the world, blow by blow. The more you talk to your audience, the more they’ll talk back and encourage others to join them.

And you. Lovely you. Don’t be shy or bashful about your event; talk about it. It’s easy to drop your event into conversation without forgetting your manners or turning into a talking billboard. Next time the person serving your coffee asks if your day is going well, maybe mention you need the coffee to power through all the event organising you’re doing. Natural as whole bean coffee and it beats murmuring, “fine, thanks.”

Do you have any creative marketing suggestions which are friendly on the bank balance? Let us know what’s worked for you.

Article image by Guy Sie

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