How Do I Make Money in a Tough Economy?

How can I position my business to weather the current economic storm?

Question:

Luckily, as home business owners and self-employed workers, we can't be laid off or downsized! Nevertheless, it's important to take action as soon as possible to keep your business going strong during tough economic times. We suggest a two-pronged approach:

  • Build multiple income streams by branching out and investigating a variety of revenue sources
  • Develop low-cost marketing strategies that generate business without hurting your bottom line

How do you develop "multiple income streams"? By stretching your expertise into other areas -- either related to your core business or totally unrelated -- to boost your income. For example, if you're an expert in marketing, retailing, health care or any other field, why not offer your services as a paid speaker or teacher for conferences and seminars? Perhaps you can start with a professional organization or networking group of which you are a member. Or contact an adult education program or community college to see if you can teach a course. You'll have to do a bit of legwork -- write up a proposal, present a portfolio of your work and perhaps make a videotape, but public speaking and teaching can add up to big bucks in the long run.

 

What if your business is product-oriented? You can still benefit from this strategy. A biz selling toys or baby products pairs naturally with parenting classes for customers; an outgrowth for a gourmet products biz is cooking classes. The possibilities are endless!

Here are some examples of branching out:

  • E-tailers can supplement their Web sales by organizing home parties and selling directly to customers.
  • Virtual assistants can expand into personal organizing, travel planning, event planning and errand running, in addition to the office support services they offer.
  • Crafters can offer stress-reduction workshops, teaching crafts as a way to manage stress.
  • Massage therapists can market lunch hour or desk-side services at corporations and office parks
  • Freelance writers can branch out into public relations writing, presentation scripts and speeches for high-powered execs and others.

 

Now on to the second "prong" of our attack: marketing. Even in prosperous times, it's tough for many work-from-homers to find the money for advertising. But now more than ever, it's essential to explore cheap ways to keep steady customers and attract new ones. Here are just a few workable strategies:

  • Barter! You may be able to get an ad in a print or online publication targeted to your exact audience for little or no money if you offer to do something in return, like write a small article, answer questions from readers or help promote the publication. Bartering can also work as an exchange between two work-from-homers. Need a Website design update or child care? Offer to "pay" with your services or products.
  • Beef up your publicity efforts. Write those press releases and send them to selected media outlets online and offline. For help writing a release, go to Press-release-writing.com. For help in your grassroots publicity efforts, go to The Publicity Hound.
  • Hold a sale. Offer a 10 percent discount on all services or products to current clients and customers. And start a "frequent shopper" program, rewarding repeat customers. "Buy five, get one free!" is a good promotion for both service- and product-oriented businesses. You can send out a real or virtual shopper card or coupon book so people can keep track of their "purchases."
  • Offer a freebie. If you're doing a mailing or sending an invoice, enclose a $1 state lottery ticket or raffle ticket in the envelope as a token of appreciation. This can get expensive if your mailing list is huge, so limit the number. But buying either raffle or lottery tickets helps raise funds for worthy causes and makes a big impression on the recipients.

By using this frugal two-pronged strategy, you can make your business thrive even during the toughest of times.

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