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.

3) Create new business cards: It's cheap and easy these days. Order up to 250 business cards for free at

4) Arrange speaking engagements: Give a free seminar in your office, at the local library or Chamber of Commerce or a professional society where you are a member.

These are the basics, but I'd be curious to hear what readers of WalletPop think. Do you have a favorite free way to market your business? Let's hear it!

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