Schmoozing for Success

Among the forums I frequent is a subscriber-only discussion area for experienced freelance writers sponsored by the publication Freelance Success.

In a candid, hair-down atmosphere, self-employed writers share frustrations, problems, advice, and solutions. From regular participation, I know who’s a whiner or a who-cares writer and who knows how to keep editors happy with diplomatic negotiation skills, solid research, and good craftsmanship. So when an Australian publisher asked me to commission essays from successful American freelance writers, my first offer of work went to a guy named Jim Morrison.

Personality and character come across in this medium, and I had a definite impression of Jim as pleasant to deal with, sensible and firm in negotiations, and concerned about delivering quality writing. Although I had never read any of his articles, I knew he wrote for prestigious publications such as American Way, George Magazine, and Smithsonian Magazine. I envisioned his style as imaginative, clear, and substantive. And he fulfilled all my expectations in that assignment.

Although Jim had participated in the Freelance Success forum in a spirit of peer-to-peer exchange, you can land clients and make sales through a step-by-step, strategic program of schmoozing online. In this context, the Yiddish word “schmoozing” denotes a cozy exchange of experiences and ideas, and it costs you nothing other than the time, energy, and creativity it takes to communicate well.

Step 1: Locate Your Target Market

Find the discussion lists and web-based forums at which your target market hangs out. You’ll find incomplete directories of these at Liszt, Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists (PAML), and Forum One Index. Another good starting point is web sites for print magazines for your desired audience, which often host forums. Once you find one perfect group, ask the regulars where else they congregate online. Donna Cardillo, a nurse/entrepreneur who presents seminars on career management for nurses, discovered happy hunting ground in NURSENET, an email discussion list with about 1,000 nurses as subscribers.

Step 2: Strike up Conversation

After lurking to take the pulse of the group, participate by answering questions, offering input on running discussions, sharing news, and initiating discussions on topics that enable you to show off what you know. Whenever a juicy career question comes up on NURSENET, Donna responds, highlighting her expertise on resumis, interviews, and career alternatives for nurses. The “signature” at the tail end of her message identifies her as an RN who does career development seminars and includes her web site’s URL.

Step 3: Repeat Step 2

Although one pointed contribution can certainly get you noticed, results usually come only with repeated participation. When, like Donna, you carefully target your comments, you become known as the one to go to with a question on, say, insurance, foiling hackers, or scuba trips to the Caribbean. Donna’s results from participation in NURSENET include speaking engagements, coaching clients, enrollments in her seminars, sales of her audiotapes, and quotations in nursing publications — the sorts of effects others might try for with paid advertising or direct mail.

If you’re actively involved in Internet marketing, good schmoozing territory is the ClickZ Forum, which I moderate. I’m always looking for marketing experts to serve as featured guests, so if you have an area of expertise, favorite topic, or a pet peeve related to Internet marketing, please let me know.

In fact, I landed the moderating position after ClickZ’s Queen of Content Ann Handley spotted something I contributed to another forum. More evidence, if you need it, that schmoozing pays.

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