Updated: December 5, 2018
It can be hard to build a business that makes money if you don't spend time promoting it.
That's just a simple fact and yet it's something that many people neglect.
They have this fantasy that if you build it they will come.
It doesn't work like that.
Ignore the stories you've read on the Internet about how some kid mail potatoes with messages around the world and makes over $10,000 a month (yes, this is true). Those rarely happen.
Instead, you need to take a different approach and do some old school hustling to get your business out there in front of people.
But how do you devote time to promoting a side business when you have to spend time building the actual business? Let's not forget that you need to dedicate time to work, school, kids, and relationships. You also might want to eat and sleep at some point as well.
For one reason or another promoting your business always seems to come last when in reality it should come first.
Most businesses fail because they aren't able to get in front of the right people. You can't build an online business and hope that one person comes across it and shares it with the world creating a viral sensation.
Instead, you need a game plan that allows you to promote your business while also giving you plenty of time to work on other things and spend time with the people you love.
The Importance of Blogging
In most cases, the best type of promotion that people getting started with side businesses can do is blog.
Before you throw your hands up in a fit hear me out.
Blogging helps you establish a long term audience. One that isn't reliant on coming across your ads. This audience has a stronger relationship with you because they are able to connect with you through your blog.
Blogging gives your audience an opportunity to learn more about you and build both trust and a sense of authority.
Blogging definitely takes some time to do right but once you nail it, you'll find that you won't even have to do that much promotion. Your reputation will handle all of that for you.
That's why this guide's main focus revolves around blogging. For some side businesses Facebook Ads and other alternatives are a great promotion vehicle for side businesses but I still believe these should run along with a blog.
Blogging is a free (as in money, not time) way to promote and when you're ready to move up into advertising you can look more into Facebook Ads and Google Adwords.
The Weekend Guide to Promoting Your Online Side Business
Before we get started if you think weekends are for relaxation then you might not want to start a side business.
I remember when I had a job and would always look forward to the weekends because I knew I was going to get so much done with my side business.
I never got anything done because I was so drained from my day job that I didn't want to touch a computer on the weekends.
This went on forever until I switched up my schedule. Instead of waiting nights to get things done I would wake up at 5am and for two hours do nothing but work on my side business.
This was great because it helped me build momentum going into the weekend. If I didn't get much done over the weekend it was okay because I got so much done during the week.
You don't want to build up so much guilt debt for not getting as much as you want done that all the work ahead of you seems overwhelming.
If you have no plan on waking up at 5am or hate to stay up late then you are going to have to put the fun to the side on most weekends and knock these things out.
The idea behind this plan is that you do all the work needed over the weekend to automatically do the promotion during the week. There are enough scheduling and automation tools at your disposal that you can disappear for a couple of days and still come back to a business that is running smoothly.
Schedule Your Content
First and foremost it is hard to promote anything if you don't have content available to promote. I'm assuming you have a blog attached to your business or maybe your blog is your business.
Either way, you want to get your posts done and scheduled to go out. What day and time you have a post scheduled to go out determines everything else in this plan.
Back in the days, it was important to schedule your posts for a specific day and time. For example, many sites would avoid posting anything new on Monday because it was their slowest traffic day. Instead, they wanted to publish things on Tuesdays once everyone had settled back into work.
Today it's different with a blog. Now I press publish whenever I'm done with a post because it doesn't matter when I get a post up. It matters more when I promote it.
Of course, this is completely different if you are a large news organization, but because nothing I write is time-dependent it can be published at 3am and it wouldn't make much of a difference.
To make your life easier you should set up a content calendar to help you see when posts are going out.
It's no secret that I love Pinterest and I won't start a business if I feel like it can't do well on Pinterest.
That might seem pretty extreme, and it shouldn't be the standard you hold your business ideas to, but it's just that good of a marketing platform.
When I first got started on it I could spend a whole day doing the things that I thought would grow my Pinterest presence:
The logic was that the more you do that stuff, the better everything else will perform.
The reality of it is it really just comes down you being an active pinner and understanding Pinterest SEO.
When you pin awesome stuff consistently and frequently you'll find that your Pinterest numbers go up. The problem is, you don't want to spend every day on Pinterest and you definitely don't have time throughout each day to look active.
Once you create an account with one of the services you want to schedule the pins associated with your posts to go out on the same day of your posts.
Then you want to schedule them again.
That's right, you don't want to pin once and be done with it. You need to get these pins out multiple times that vary throughout the week. Most people pin once and move on to the next thing.
That is why is it important to use some type of Pinterest scheduling software because you don't want to have to remember to manually repin something.
It also helps if you create multiple pins for a single post. That way it doesn't seem like you are pinning the same pin over and over again.
Social Media Scheduling
Similar to Pinterest tools there are other great social media tools that allow you to schedule posts to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Because you can schedule when a post goes live in WordPress you can sync this with your scheduling tools to ensure that your posts are promoted on the day they go live.
If you are looking at an all-in-one tool then you can check out CoSchedule. I've personally never used so I'm not recommending it, I'm just saying that it combines all of these tools into one package so it might be worth your time to check out.
When You Publish Doesn't Matter
Back in the early days of blogging, it mattered when you published a blog post because everybody followed posts using a technology called RSS that let you know right away when something was published.
Today I'm going to go against the grain and say that for most blogs it really doesn't matter when you publish a post. I publish a post across my blogs whenever I'm done writing it.
The reason why it doesn't matter is because a success of a post is more dependent on when you promote it versus when you actually publish it. I could publish this post at 3am or 3pm and it wouldn't affect the traffic to this site.
However, if I tweet it at 3am versus 3pm this can have a huge impact on traffic.
With this logic, you could very easily batch publish posts on the weekend so you start to get them indexed in Google and then space your promotion campaigns throughout the week.
Of course, this doesn't work for time-sensitive blogs that report real-time news and events, but those blogs are a completely different beast.
Write Your Mailing List
Building an email list might be the most important thing you can do for your side business to build long term revenue.
An email list is a direct line to your audience. It's amazing to think that there is always a possible influx of cash waiting just because you have a list of people that are waiting to hear from you.
You might already know the importance of building an email list but are you taking the time to interact with that list? A great email list isn't just built on promotions. If every email someone gets from you is you promoting a product then they will quickly learn how to tune your emails out.
Instead, make sure that you are providing value to your list in a way that makes them want to read everything that you write.
There is no best practice for how often you should email your list. Some people believe that you should do it as often as possible and others only do it a couple times a month.
Experiment with both to see what is good for both your audience and you.
What Do You Include in Your Emails?
This is a good question and the answer is it depends.
You can send them an email every time you write a new post like Neil Patel does or you can just take the time to share some stories about yourself. Again, this is one of those things that you should test out to see what works best for you and your audience.
Don't be afraid of sending the wrong type of email. People will unsubscribe no matter what you send and people will stick around no matter what you send.
This one is a bit tricky to only tie down to weekends but if you want to grow your blog quickly then you need to start building relationships with other bloggers.
More specifically you need to build relationships with influencers in your niche.
The reason why this is difficult to only do on weekends is because you aren't sure when they are active. Some might take the weekends off. The reality of it is this should be something that you work on daily.
The weekends can be used to plan out who you are going to contact and how you can provide value to them.
Some of you will take this opportunity to spam a lot of the big dogs to let them know you wrote a new post.
Don't do that.
Instead, take the time to see how you can provide them with actual value. Maybe it's a ton of feedback about a recent post of theirs that just so happens to tie in nicely with one of your new posts.
Maybe you are letting them know something about their site's design that you think can be improved.
Go out of your way to help others and you'll be amazed at what comes back to you.
This doesn't mean you have to be completely selfless like I said you can find unique ways to tie things back into your site, but just don't make it seem like the only thing you want people to do is visit your site.
Weekends Are for Batching
For most people, weekends are really the only time they get a bit of breathing room so it's important to make the most of them.
Batching is when you complete similar tasks in a time period. For example, on Sunday you might set aside 4 hours to write 2-3 blog posts for the week.
The reason batching works is because you're imposing a deadline on yourself that prevent procrastination and being able to focus on a singular task helps with productivity.
On a good day, I'm able to knock out 5-7 blog posts with batching but those are my crazy focused days.
Running a side business isn't easy no matter how great your idea is or how passionate you are about it. Time goes by quickly so if you aren't investing enough of it today, you will live to regret it tomorrow.