Four ways to market your startup for free

Congratulations on starting your own business. Now comes the tough part. You've got to get the word out to potential customers -- without spending a fortune (especially in this tightening economy). Forget direct mail or placing expensive ads until you're in the black. Instead, try these four ways to generate buzz -- as you might expect, it's hit or miss, but at least it won't cost you anything but your time:

1) Teach a class: Contact the local community college or adult education program and offer to teach a course on your area of expertise. You probably won't get paid much, but the exposure -- a course catalog in thousands of mailboxes -- is invaluable for getting your name out in the community.

2) Give to charity: Donate your services or a product your company produces as an auction item at a local fundraising event, and ask the charity to display business cards, brochures or professional-looking fliers at the event.