How can you build your brand when you’re on such a thin shoestring budget that you don’t even have a smartphone, and having an Internet connection at home is difficult. Is it even possible to establish your brand online? You bet. Here are a few ways you can do some personal branding while you’re keeping your budget low.
Visit Your Library
If you don’t have a laptop, visit your local library. Most have computers with Internet access. They may limit your time, so work quickly, and try to visit about once every 2 – 3 days to keep up with communications.
- Set up a Gmail account. Use that as your regular email address, and use your real name. If you’re branding yourself for a new job, you can’t have an unprofessional address like “LoverBabe93” or “OneDrunkDude.”
- Set up a Hootsuite account. Schedule your important tweets and articles here.
- Set up a LinkedIn account. Share those same important articles to your LinkedIn profile via HootSuite.
- Skip Facebook for now. Facebook won’t help you find a job, so if you only have a few minutes each day, you don’t want to waste it on Facebook.
- Be sure to sign out of every account before you leave, and don’t save your passwords on the browser. Otherwise other people can break into your accounts.
If you do have a laptop, try these things:
Go to McDonald’s
For a $1 soft drink, you can spend about an hour on their free wifi and get your work done. You may want to visit different McDonald’s each day, so the staff doesn’t think you’re being a freeloader. Make sure you don’t spend all day in there; if you do, spend a few bucks every couple of hours.
Visit a Local Coffee Shop
If you have more than a couple bucks to spend, visit your local coffee shop. I recommend them over Starbucks, because they usually have a decent coffee loyalty program (buy 10, get 1 free, which also saves money). Plus you want to support local businesses whenever possible. Get a cup of regular coffee, and pay for the endless cup, if you can. That will let you spend a couple hours there. This is also a great place to network with other small business owners and entre-commuters (telecommuting entrepreneurs) who can help you grow your brand and find that new job.
Use Gmail Offline
Gmail Offline lets you use your email without being online. Use it in conjunction with your Chrome browser. Go to your favorite wifi spot, download your emails, and then leave. Answer your emails at home, and when you go back to your wifi spot, they’ll upload when you download the new ones. This will let you work elsewhere for longer stretches of time.
Try an iPad or Netbook
If you need a laptop, but don’t want to spend the $600 – $1000 to get a good one, spend $299 for an iPad 2 (or buy a used one on eBay or Craigslist), or spend a similar amount for a small netbook. Most of your work will be done online anyway, so don’t worry about photo storage or video editing. This is where having a Gmail account will come in handy, because this is how you’ll also access Google Docs to do any writing or spreadsheets. If you get an iPad, remember, 3G access costs a monthly fee, so get the wifi-only unit and visit McDonald’s and coffee shops for wifi access.
If you only have a flip phone, and don’t have a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, but can manage to get on Twitter (see the local library option), you can still text tweets and photos to Twitter by using TweetyMail (of course, you can’t read tweets). With some phones, you’re able to text emails to a service like Tweetymail and forward photos along with it. When I first started using Twitter, this was the only way I could send tweets when I wasn’t in front of my computer.
While these tactics are not ideal for anyone who wants to grow their personal brand, it’s at least a way you can start to establish one online for a few bucks a month. Use these techniques to find a new job or get your business up and running so you can afford bigger and better access and equipment.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. His new book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. He is also a humor writer and satirist, which hopefully you figured out before you got this far into this blog post.