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5 Ways to Attend Popular Conferences Without Buying an Expensive Ticket

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Nabisco VIP Concert Correspondent

One of the most effective ways to spread the word about your brand and create influential connections is through industry events and conferences.

I’ve seen this firsthand within my own business, as I always see an uptick in engagement and job inquiries when I attend a conference — not to mention an avalanche of ideas! But as a solopreneur, I’m responsible for my own income, and I have to keep a close eye on my spending habits.

After finally becoming debt-free, I swore to run my business without debt. This meant I had to start thinking outside the box to afford certain things for my career.

Here are five ways to promote your business through conferences and events without going into debt:

1. Leverage your website or network with sponsorships

In the new world of work, it’s not only acceptable but highly encouraged to leverage your personal brand to gain sponsorships with other companies within your industry.

If you have a blog or business website, reach out to brands you can promote at the event. A lot of companies these days want to put a face to their product and are more than happy to work with other brand ambassadors who will help spread the word at industry events.

This is something my friend Shannyn Allen does very well. She shares her insights and strategies for landing big-time sponsorships on her blog. In fact, it’s her resources and ebook that helped me land a $300 partial sponsorship to a blogging conference last year.

2. Become an event affiliate

Did you know a lot of events offer an affiliate commission (or cut of the sales) to anyone who gets other participants to show up for the event? Yep, you can basically get paid to promote the event to your network.

Of course, it’s only fair to promote events you plan to attend and can endorse yourself. Hawking products that don’t line up with your business, just to make some money, is a good way to ruin your reputation.

3. Volunteer to work for free

Working for free isn’t always a bad thing! Putting on a big event takes a lot of work and a lot of people pitching in to make it happen. Event coordinators are always on the lookout for more volunteers who can lend a helping hand. In return, you could get a free ticket to the conference, including a backstage pass and even free food.

It might take some extra work, but at the end of the event you will have saved money, made a few new friends and possibly landed some leftover swag from brands. Who doesn’t love free stuff?

4. Consider being a speaker

The type of event you’re attending will determine the kind of perks you can receive for being a speaker. Sometimes you might be able to get an event ticket for free while getting paid to speak. Other times you might only get free access and a nice hotel stay.

My friend Amanda Abella recently spoke at FinCon and received a free ticket to the event, plus a free hotel stay during her time there. For us solo business owners who are bootstrapping our businesses, these small perks really add up. All for just a half an hour of speaking time.

5. Snatch early bird tickets

This is a simple tip, but it’s worth a reminder nonetheless. Snatching up tickets when they first go on sale can save you hundreds of dollars. (Click here to tweet this tip.) If you’re fairly certain what events you want to attend this year, go ahead and buy the early bird tickets when they first become available for sale.

Even if you don’t end up going to the event, it’s a lot easier to sell a $200 ticket versus a $600 ticket because you waited too long. This is especially smart for popular industry events and conferences that tend to sell out.

I had this experience for this year’s New Media Expo event, where I purchased my ticket for $197. Unfortunately, I had to pass on the event since I got the flu, but at the last minute I was able to sell my ticket to a fellow entrepreneur for the same price. It would have cost her $697 if she purchased it from the website directly. So it was a win-win for both of us!

Don’t go into debt to promote your career

As you can see, it’s all too simple to attend industry events and market your business without spending a lot of money.

Big conferences can have a hefty price tag, which could lead to overspending if you’re not careful. But with some creative thinking and a little hard work, you can promote your career without debt.

Carrie Smith is a writer and solopreneur on a mission to help other solo biz owners discover financial freedom. You can connect with her at Careful Cents, or on Twitter @carefulcents.

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