If you rank like crazy for some real choice keywords the advertisers will come to you.
I have an "advertise" link on the site and people use it almost every day.
I have been approached by a couple of firms lately wanting to hook me up with their clients whom they told me required advertising space. From what I could ascertain, any deal we would have agrred to would have prevented me from using a nofollow value. I declined the offers because I was afraid of being penalised for providing paid links.
Scurramunga, those types are masquerading as real advertisers but in reality they're really more text links brokers going for Google juice. They certainly don't care if your site ends up penalized by Google, they'll just go elsewhere.
There was a thread in the supporters section I think in the past year discussing how to pay these folks. Part of the discussion is whether you pay them commission one time, or on an ongoing basis. I'm not search proficient enough to offer a link.
In terms of finding decent help, the good salespeople are still employed despite the economy. So don't count on that :).
I have offered a bounty/referral to people who've pointed me at advertisers. For example my ad network deals with indie websites. THose indie websites hear and know lots of people in the industry. If they send me a name that I contact and who turns into advertising, they get a cut.
I like the idea of paying for referrals rather than hiring an employee or contract person. I get inquiries from advertisers occasionally but we don't rank that highly so I don't get as many as I'd like. I don't think we'd be penalized if people want to advertise directly on the site and pay us as long as we're not going through some broker. Of course, I could be wrong.
Very high on my 2011 To Do list is to make a really kick ass Advertising page explaining exactly what the benefits are to potential advertisers - what they can expect, traffic wise, my best guess at my user demographics, and, in my case, a comparison chart that shows what a better deal it is than the traditional advertising methods in my niche (yellow pages, newspaper, billboards)
I may do other things in addition (even considering some direct mail) but not till I get that boffo page designed and up. You *might* find some kind of advanced advertiser who is capable of instantly ascertaining the benefits of advertising on your site. But more likely, it'll be some smaller guy somewhere who needs to have it spelled out in detail why you're the better deal. Get enough of those smaller guys, and you can tell AdSense to go to hell in a handbasket.
I thought as much. They seemed to lose interest after I told them I might be interested on the provision that I could apply a 'nofollow' value.
Why don't you show the ad in a nofollow iframe?