It’s not exactly old news – I believe Jenn even has an entire ebook on the concept – but the best marketing is the sort that brings your clients directly to your door with the minimal amount of effort on your part.
Sounds lovely, right? I won’t lie to you and tell you it’s as easy as clicking a button or signing up with some worthless content mill because it’s not. But if you’re looking for webmasters willing to pay decent amounts of money for content, you need to find them and then convince them to hire you…subtly.
Sadly, so many writers still haven’t actually figured out how to do this smoothly. So I’ll give you a big hint – it’s not by selling your soul in the Buy/Sell/Trade section of the forum! No free samples required here, people!
Let’s start at the beginning to be sure we’re not leaving anyone behind here. A forum can be on any topic and can involve any number of professionals. Webmaster forums (and there are many – do a quick search, you’ll find them) are plentiful and a nice place to start honing your skills. But if you know enough in a particular area to be useful in finance, DIY, technology or any other topic – find the forum that is most active in that area. Writer’s forums are a great place to visit with other writers, but find some client-based forums first – while some do, most writers aren’t hiring other writers regularly.
Once you’ve found a forum you like, make a membership account right away. The membership has to age a bit to give you credibility, so go ahead and get a username established before you start reading.
And you must read.
The worst thing you can do on a forum is jump in to posting and chatting and offering services without getting a feel for the place. Think of a typical webmaster forum like a bar. You don’t just walk in, hop on a stool and start drinking and selling things to people around you. You need to stand at the entrance awhile. Check things over. Walk around a bit. Take a seat in the back and pick the wrapper off a beer while you observe to see if you like this place or not.
That’s your first step here and it should be a big clue that this is not a “get rich quick” scheme. You actually have to invest some serious time and energy in the forum you’ve chosen to make this pay off.
Become One with the Forum
Forum marketing takes time upfront and requires ongoing maintenance, but has a nice payoff if you invest wisely. To make your time pay, though, you’ll need to become a valuable member of an active forum.
Being a writer offering $5 or $1 articles in the Buy/Sell/Trade section does not make you an exceedingly valuable member of the forum. You’re like the shoeshine boy – the customers come by, pick someone selling cheap stuff and throw a few dollars your way. No respect in the long run. You want to avoid that.
Don’t make a sales page on the forum. Don’t start a thread about your writing.
Instead, start contributing. When someone asks a question about something you know about, give them a real answer. When someone asks for advice on their landing page copy, respond with some thoughtful advice. Your goal here is not to give away your skills, but to instead invest knowledge by sharing it with those who need it.
What site owners want most is someone they can trust with professionalism and knowledge. After your introduction period ends on the forum, make a simple signature with your name (real names and bylines count for a lot in the writing industry – it gives you real credibility), your title and a link to your professional website. Leave some space in the sig to offer some specials later.
Now just keep posting. You don’t need a thread in the forum. Making one makes it look like you’re competing with the shoeshine boys down there in BST. You have a web presence to do your selling for you. When someone looking for advice on press releases or how to install a new program reads your killer advice, he’ll naturally look to see who you are. Then, he might click on your site link to see what you do.
And suddenly he remembers that he has that project he’s been putting off – and wouldn’t you be perfect since you already know so much about writing press releases! He saw that in your carefully crafted posts that were so helpful! Finally, someone “real” online who he can trust! So the potential client sends you a private message or contacts you through your site and you’re off and running!
How long does it take? It can take days or it can take months. But the longer you invest in a community, the greater the results tend to be. Don’t just tell potential clients they need you in a sales page so much like other threads or pleas for work – show them with your well-written comments, posts and responses.
Include prominent, classy contact information and the serious clients will ultimately come to you. In a tight-knit community, as many of the inner webmaster forums are, recommendations start to fly between other members and soon you’re doing very little but posting about things you know to help others and answering private messages about paid work.
It’s a nice gig if you’re willing to invest in it.