Ten Ways To Get Free Publicity for Your Business

I'm proud to introduce my latest guest blogger, Mums The Boss, otherwise known as Sam Pearce and Helen Woodham. Mums The Boss is THE Bedfordshire networking group for Mums in business and they recently celebrated their first birthday. Here are are their top ten tried-and-tested free (or nearly free) publicity tips.

In our first year in business we have spent the princely sum of £30 + VAT on promotional activity, paying for an insert service which interestingly had a zero return on investment! However we have managed to appear in the local press 3 times, the national press once, and have been interviewed on our local radio station. We have had a double page spread in a local parenting magazine distributed to over 10,000 mums through the school book bags, been featured on numerous websites and been promoted by several business agencies. We have also secured free venue use, free business advice, free business books and had over 20 prizes donated to a recent raffle. And we’ve done all this without ever having to resort to bribery or blackmail. So, how have we done it? We are proud to unveil the Mum’s The Boss Guide to free (or very cheap) publicity!

  1. Be Friendly – if you are approachable and friendly when you meet people, chances are people will remember you and be more willing to help you out in the future. A warm smile and taking an interest in people costs nothing at all.
  2. Barter – if you can’t afford to pay the going rate for a service, barter some of your product or a service of your own in return.
  3. Think Outside The Box – publicity doesn’t have to be paying for advertsing space. Think creatively about what is newsworthy about your business – or make something newsworthy happen – and submit it as editorial to the press. And think about all your contacts, and whether they could promote you to their client base, spreading the word through word of mouth.
  4. Know your audience – if you know exactly who your audience is it will be much easier to reach them by targetting your promotion accordingly. That way, if you do end up having to pay for advertising, you will save a fortune by reaching the right people first time.
  5. Use the Internet – take full advantage of the many sites and forums that you can list your business or event on for free. All it will cost you is your time. Make good use of all the social networking sites you belong to, such as Twitter or Facebook – they are perfect for spreading a message ‘virally’ as well as a fantastic way to make invaluable business connections and pick up free business advice.
  6. Blog! – if you haven’t already done so, start a blog. If you can attract a good level of readership your blog can become a fantastic medium for you to barter with, offering to promote businesses or review products in return for a favour.
  7. Be Different – the press likes good news stories or things that are quirky or unusual. If there is something unusual about you or your business then capitalise on this. If not, can you engineer a story with added interest, by linking your business to an event, charity or something topical?
  8. Add Value – if you are asking someone to do you a good turn you must be able to show them what’s in it for them. This may be something tangible like a complimentary product, or it could be as simple as giving them access to your contact network or promoting them on your website or blog.
  9. Be Cheeky – if you don’t ask you don’t get, and sometimes if you just have the confidence/brass neck to ask for a freebie or a discount people are surprisingly happy to oblige.
  10. Pay People in Cake! – This one NEVER fails. When bartering for people’s time, expertise or use of a venue always offer to bring homemade cake. Works every time!!

We are by no means PR Gurus and these tips are non industry-standard – they are just things that have worked for us and allowed us to enjoy a certain level of publicity for free! Do you have any creative ideas or tips for getting free publicity? We’d love to hear all about them (mainly so we can try them out ourselves)!

Creative Commons License [nohide]photo credit: Steve Snodgrass[/nohide]

How To Get A Stay-At-Home Job

Many of us start businesses because we can’t find home-based jobs that fit around out families. If this is you, then you’ll want to take a look at hiremyparents.com, which launches this week.

After the launch you’ll have four days to claim your free membership, so keep an eye on hiremyparents.com this week.

If you’ve trained, studied and worked for years to become an expert in your field then why, when kids come along, would you want to sell perfume online; or start cold-calling for an energy supplier. Why can’t you do what you do but from home?

Hiremyparents was created to solve this problem. An association where members can browse for full time, part time, casual, job share, temp/contract, freelance and stay at home jobs, along with home based business and self employment opportunities posted by businesses from around the world.

A job board that gives its members a chance to make money using the skills they attained prior to kids and fulfil the desire to stay at home.

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Deciding What To Charge

Here’s a tricky question for all new business owners – how much should you charge?

If you pick a price that’s too high then you risk nobody buying, too low and you might not make a profit. Here are five mistakes to avoid when setting a price for your product or service.

1. Don’t add up your costs and then add a bit more on top

If you do this, you won’t take into account the value of your product or service to your customers, so you risk under-charging. Your product or service is worth what your customer is prepared to pay for it – find out what people are prepared to pay and use this to decide on your price.

2. Don’t look at what your competitors are charging and undercut them

You may be offering a better quality product, better customer service or offering a niche product that is different from your competitors. If so, you might be able to charge more than the competition.

Exceptions to this rule might be if you have a new way of delivering a service or manufacturing a product that means you  can sell it at a cheaper price than the competition and still make a decent profit. Or if you’re selling a product that’s identical to ones that people can buy elsewhere, like books and CDs.

3. Don’t charge by the hour

There are several reasons for this. First, your hourly rate should be quite high because you’ll need to pay your own salary, tax and national insurance as you would if you were employed. Then you’ll need to factor in all the costs that you can’t directly charge for such as planning, preparation, expenses, training, insurance and accountants fees. This will mean your hourly rate will be double or treble what it would be if you were employed by someone else.

Second, if you offer a package, you can throw in some bonuses that don’t cost you a great deal, but that offer great value to the customer, so making you look more attractive. This could be a CD of your own music if you’re a children’s party entertainer or an e-book if you’re a trainer.

Third, customers are happier knowing what the total cost will be. If a virtual assistant charges £20 per hour for writing a series of press releases, the client still doesn’t know what this will cost until the task is done. Instead, the virtual assistant and client could agree in advance that the whole job will cost, say, £100.

Some clients may insist that you charge by the hour, usually if you’re freelancing for another company. If not try charging for what you’ll actually deliver, rather than the time it will take you to do the work.

pound dice

4. Don’t charge what feels like a reasonable price.

This won’t take into account what it actually costs to provide that service or product.

Work out all your costs so that you know the minimum you need to charge to break even. Then you’ll know you must charge more than this to make a profit. Use this minimum value as a guide, rather than basing your charges on it otherwise you’ll be making mistake number one (above).

5. Don’t go too low

If you’re just starting out, it’s easy to charge too little then find it’s hard to raise your price later. It’s better to start with a price that’s slightly too high than one that’s too low. You can always offer a discount or special offer later if you find your price is a bit high.

6. (Free bonus point!) Don’t undervalue your own time

This is incredibly easy to do when you’re starting out. If you end up paying yourself  less than minimum wage you’d be better off getting a job than you would running your own business. Sometimes the worst boss in the world is yourself!

Be confident and charge what you’re worth.

Have you made any mistakes when deciding what to charge?

Earning Extra Money in the Run up to Christmas

I'm delighted to introduce my first ever guest blogger, Gemma Johnson, who co-founded www.babeecard.com. Many mums who are starting their own business find they need another income stream to keep them going in the first few months. Here are some great ideas for topping up your income in the run up to Christmas.

As Christmas approaches, we could all do with a little extra money. Here are some swift and simple ways to boost the family budget over the next few months.

Sell Something There are lots of opportunities to earn extra income through direct selling. To find the best direct selling business, do a little research. Ask friends what they are planning to buy for Christmas. Find out what other direct selling companies are operating in your local area. Last year at my daughter’s school everyone was having Body Shop parties and it got to the point where there was almost no-one who hadn’t been asked to host. Pick something that is different AND make sure that what the company offers is in the right price range for the people you will be targeting.

Earning Online If you have a computer there are lots of simple ways to make your money go further and earn cash back, commission or affiliate fees. Start by signing up for a cashback site or two, so when you do your Christmas shopping you get a few percentage of what you spent back in your account. You can sign up for affiliate schemes where you promote a link and get a small amount every time one of your friends or contacts shops through that link. If you’re a BaBeeCard member, for example, you earn £5 credit for everyone you get to sign up.

Look for a Job In the run up to Christmas lots of businesses need extra help. Spend an afternoon going round your local shopping centre and asking about whether they will be hiring extra staff before Christmas. Wear something reasonably smart: you don’t need to wear your interview suit, but look like you are smart and ready to work. Ask to speak to the manager if possible. You may be asked to supply a CV if they have vacancies, or you could be given a form to take away and fill in.  If they will be looking for staff in coming weeks, make a note of when and where they will advertise vacancies. And if you have a CV, revise it with an emphasis on skills that you have which would be useful in a busy store in the run up to Christmas.

Remember, whatever way you choose to earn some extra money, persistence pays off. If you don’t get the first job you apply for, keep trying. If you go for direct selling, look beyond your friends for party hosts and target groups and offices too. And if you opt for an affiliate scheme, spread the word to as many people as possible to maximise your earnings.

Gemma Johnson

Co-founder of www.babeecard.com Winner of Mumpreneur of the year 2009 sponsored by WBMN

BaBeeCard Winner of Best Gift Card Award 2009 by Prepaid365.com

For Inventor Mums : Roundup of the Week

Inventing a new product must be one of the toughest businesses to run as a parent of young children.  Running a business and bringing up babies at the same time is never going to be easy, but keeping your confidence and patience during the long research, design, production and marketing process takes a special kind of determination.

PR Genius

Which is why I take my hat off to Keira of Mamascarf.  Rather than be dismayed by the postal strike this week, she turned it to her advantage and invited the BBC, Sky News and Central News round to her place to talk about it! You can read about it on her blog.

Free Training

Getting the right support and information is vital if you’re developing your own product. Did you know that Business Link offers a huge range of free courses for anyone starting a business? Check out what’s going on in your area here.

Support for Inventive Women – for just £1!

This week I discovered a  great resource for women developing or inventing products – She’s Ingenious!. She’s Ingenuous has practical advice, inspiration, mentoring  and the opportunity to meet like minded people.  All with a trial membership for only £1.

Mum Product Designers Have The Edge

Have you been watching Design For Life on BBC2? French product designer Philipe Starck was looking for the next great British designer by inviting twelve young product designers to his HQ in Paris. The best designer of the group would win a six month placement with Starck.

Now I know designing isn’t as easy as it looks and that these guys were right at the start of their careers. But I’m convinced that the inventor mums I know could do a much better job, even though they don’t have a degree in product design.

What’s the difference between a 21 year old product design graduate and an inventor mum? The mums have creativity, determination and  know how to squeeze the maximum out of every spare minute of their time.  And unlike the young designers, they start with a problem that needs a solution, usually a problem that they have lived with and understand inside and out. That has to be the best starting point for designing a new product.

The ability to turn your challenges into great PR could come in handy too!