One of the things I've encountered since I've been helping people with promoting their businesses online, especially photography since that's where my experience lies, is the number of people who expect sales and recognition to roll in immediately.
When they hear how long I've been doing this, some people still think I have a magic tonic I can share. As often as I mention that I've had my website for almost twenty years and I've been promoting my business for at least that long, some still think I can wave some magic dust over them to experience instantaneous success.
It doesn't happen like that. It takes years to build recognition. And years more to start seeing that reputation correlate to sales. You may see a successful burst in one year, then a slow down the following year. You'll probably see this happen for awhile:
One successful year
Then a less successful year
You can't give up. As an example:
There is a yearly event I participate in every year on the Green in Madison, Connecticut. The first time I did the festival, I sold three photos the entire day.
When people discovered that I only sold a few photos, they were surprised when I signed up again the next year. I explained that one year doesn't make or break a business. The only way to build your recognition, to build your reputation is to continue showing up.
It's the same with advertising. Advertising only works when you do it continuously and consistently. Weekly is best. If you cannot afford to advertise then the next best thing is to show up at events. The more people see you, the greater the likelihood they will become clients.
If are interested in marketing your business, you need to be consistent in all that you do. Don't give up. Don't do something once and expect to be successful. I've heard many visitors to the Spring Festival in Madison ask where so and so was from previous years. Unfortunately, the businesses will never know if they may have missed out on a potential sale. That's why it is so important to be as consistent as possible.
Be consistent with your website.
Be consistent with exhibits.
Be consistent with advertising if you choose to do this.
If you can’t afford to consistently advertise, then don’t start. Find other ways to promote your business.
In the meantime:
Focus on what's ahead of you.