Free online marketing - the definite guide

Updated: 22/10/2019
be frugal
there's a penny missing here, I can feel it!

Getting free marketing online for your business has never been easier. Legendary businessman John Wanamaker said: "Half the money I spend on marketing is wasted, the trouble is I don't know which half". I suggest starting marketing for free, and only starting to spend money on expensive ads once you know exactly what works.

Do you know the story about Warren Buffet and Bill Gates meeting in Japan (I think)? The two wealthiest men meet in Japan and decide to go to McDonald's. Yeah, it's already weird, right? When they get there, they order some food, and Buffet offers to pay. Gates lets him. Then Buffet pulls out some McDonalds promo coupons and uses them to pay, paying only a fraction of the bill in cash.

As a fellow cheapskate, that story gives me hope and makes me proud.

scrooge mcduck
Warren Buffet, seen here doing his daily rejuvenation bath

Closely related is the one about Bill Gates going to the same cheap neighborhood barbershop (he has to keep his authentic look after all) and flying economy smokers well after he was a billionaire.

You could laugh and ridicule them. Given that both of them are cheapskates, I think there's no way that's a coincidence. When you add into account Zuckerberg's dress code, you have the perfect formula. If you want to be cool for a year after getting rich, learn from rappers and athletes blowing their cash a year after they 'retire'. If you want to be rich, learn to be frugal.

make it rain
if you ever make it rain, do it in a location where you can pick up the rain later

As the name might suggest, I built HustleCool for hustlers, which are usually cool btw. Just to be clear, by 'hustler' in this context, and all over my online and offline presence, it will mean a person working on her own business or entrepreneurial venture, not the guy that losses the first game of pool to you and then defeats the crap of you after you start betting on the games. A full suite of tools enabling the easier management of social media activity doesn't really exist, and an affordable one targeted at people who are not primarily social media marketers or managers doesn't exist for sure.

One common problem that entrepreneurs face, especially those not living in a larger city or a startup hub, is that they usually work alone. While working alone has a lot of benefits, it has a few drawbacks too, and since HustleCool was started as a solopreneur's project, I feel for that specific group of individuals a lot. Lot of the features are designed for busy one-man or one-woman teams, who realize the importance of an active social media presence in this glorious day and age of ours but have a lot of other things on their plate as well.

Working solo can be tough, but it's not the number one problem many entrepreneurs face. It's not even close. As a fellow hustlers myself, I know the number one problem, since I'm constantly struggling with it - money, or lack of it to be precise. True, your mom yelling at you to stop monkeying around and find a real job comes in a really close second, but money is the number one problem.

So, you could basically say that HustleCool was built for poor, busy lone rangers. Frugal solopreneurs sounds better. Yes, the frugal solopreneur.

On the journey of building a successful company, an entrepreneur runs into many obstacles. Whether it's an online or an offline product, the main tasks can usually be split into two equally demanding, equally important fields - development and marketing. As a developer primarily, I've always tended to underestimate the difficulties and nuances of marketing, and that's why many geeks build awesome products but fail to make a dime out of them. Building the product is a process which demands being frugal as well, and I'll do another post for how to be extremely minimalistic in your expenses while building an online product. In this post, we will focus on marketing the product online while feeding the giant ad machines of Google and Facebook as little money as possible.

Sooner or later, you'll find out that you have to write a blog. You could have other people do it for you, but that wouldn't be really frugal, would it? You're strapped for cash, so like everything else, you gotta do it. Don't worry though, it will benefit you tremendously. For starters, paying someone to write a few shitty posts for you would be a huge mistake. They're just some guy or gal you found on Upwork, they'll never get your company's voice right, nor will they care about it at all. As you'll inevitably discover, these Google folks are getting better and better at discovering organic and authentic valuable content, and there will never be a better person to produce it than someone from the founding team, which for the most part will come down to you. Plus, you'll learn tons! I mean tons! You'll learn about your niche, you'll learn about your audience, you'll learn about your competition, you'll learn about your product, and you'll learn about yourself! It will be a huge win. If you're not doing it, just start doing it, I'll have an article ready for you to make sure you're off to a good start. You don't really NEED any tools here, either a pen and some paper, or any text editor of your choice will do the trick. I like to use Q10 because it makes these funny typewriter sounds, and it makes me feel more Hemingway-y, but it's most certainly not required. Also, drinking makes me feel more Hemingway-y too, but I don't recommend that.

papa hem chillin with castro
trying to outdrink Fidel Castro in a giant golden trophy bigger than all of his ones is also a recommended Hemingway-y activity

Now comes the scary part. As the whole point of the Internet slowly migrated from free exchange of knowledge and information to free exchange of moronic pictures, the landscape for content creation was forced to follow. You've probably seen all the stats and infographics and screaming YouTubers explaining how important media in your content is, and how people don't even read anything anymore, they just look for a cute pic and share it if they find it. You could get away with blogging without images if you're Paul Graham, but otherwise you're gonna need images. Lots and lots of images.

Once again today, luck is on your side and you should thank the Gods, because creating engaging images is not really something you should spend days on. With more detailed guides to follow, for now I'm gonna recommend starting with on Windows, gimp on Unix, and whatever Mac people are using on Mac, which is probably one of Skitch or Pinta or the built-in app. You're usually gonna need adding some cool stuff, and I've found that befunky is the best free solution. People mention canva a lot as well, and they're fine too. After the initial troubles of learning where everything is and how it all works, you should be able to create your own cool images. An hour per tool is not unusual, at least for the basics which you will end up using 90% of the time. It will not be winning any design awards, but it will more than get the job done, with a few neat tricks you can achieve the illusion of professional design, and a little creativity and boldness can compensate for your lack of experience or advanced tooling. It's not like your average social media user really cares about the quality and composition and aesthetics and symmetry and all of that artsy-fartsy stuff, they just want a nice compelling visual to distract them from (or reward them for) huge blocks of text such as this one every once in a while.

ok, here's your distraction/reward in the form of a gif of a kid hugging his little brother

And now comes the really scary part. Video. And yet, another good news. If you're an owner of a phone with a camera, or a computer camera, you have everything you need to create video. You will suck, there's no doubt about it, but after a while you'll start to get it right. Don't be scared now, I know this is a lot to ask, but you gotta at least try it. All these Gen-Z kids are doing it without a second thought, how hard can it be? And actually, even if you don't do it, it's ok. Just pics will do the trick, it's not like video is a must. But it is a great tool in your toolbelt, because after the initial difficulties and resistance from none other than yourself, it's basically a free way to create extremely valuable and engaging content. You probably already own most of the tools you'll need for creating video - your face, your voice, your laptop or your phone or whatever other camera you can find. I currently use Shotcut for basic editing of videos, which is, you guessed it, a free program for Windows.

Technically, you could use Excel spreadsheets for almost anything. You could go about your customer relationship management with it, but there's truly no excuse not to use Hubspot. I don't like many products, but I like Hubspot, and the biggest reason why I like them is that they let you do a lot with their product for free. You could probably use it for free well after you've started using it. One of the rare products of this type, so full of features and yet really offering a lot of value for free. In fact, Hubspot seem to be spearheading the principle of offering value first as marketers and then going for the sale. Which made the job of every marketer on the Internet to run their business by offering value first. Thanks, Hubspot! I'm kidding, they're awesome, check them out.

Now comes the use of HustleCool. While it was built from the ground up to cut on as many expenses as possible, both in money and time spent, there are still some things that are left to you, the frugal entrepreneur, to keep in mind.

For one, HustleCool is about human, organic engagement. There's still no AI that could do that affordably and at scale, and people tend to notice fake poorly programmed bot accounts. I kindly recommend to truly talk to your audience. Finding a fan in today's mad overcrowded world is a rare, beautiful thing. Cherish it. A lot of the features are built precisely for that, and more will come in the future, but there's still a lot up to you. The cost of getting a fan or a customer is much higher than keeping it. The best way to save yourself time and money is to talk to your audience.

Growing your audience on social media is also another area where HustleCool will benefit you greatly. You will save money and time by not following and unfollowing the same people a bunch of time and targeting your tribe more easily.

Content curation is also covered a lot for you by HustleCool. Add your content sources, explore topics regularly and share and retweet as much as your heart desires. The amount of time you'll save is off the hook.

look at that lovely, colorful dashboard that you get for free

Ok, that should be enough for starters. It's not an extensive list, but it covers all the essentials, and best of all, it's completely free. Will add free marketing tools and ideas here, and would love to hear your thoughts on some of them too. Have an economic, prosperous growth.

You can't find a more economical tool for your social media marketing efforts than HustleCool. Give it a shot, it's all free, pure 100% goodness!