LinkedIn catches so much unfair shade.
I take that back…it was 99% deserved until the platform started to understand that it doesn’t need to be Facebook with fewer memes. Basically, LinkedIn is finally starting to figure out what makes it stand out. You as a freelancer can’t afford to miss out on what it has to offer.
I never thought I’d say this, but as far as I’m concerned, LinkedIn is the best social media platform for freelancers. Period. If I could only choose one platform to remain on as a freelancer, it would be LinkedIn, and that’s because
- The people who hire you are there and searching
- It’s great for researching companies who might want to hire you
- The magic of LinkedIn Posts (we’ll get into that later)
My Experience On LinkedIn
When I was employed, I didn’t use my LinkedIn account for anything except soothing my soul when I needed to feel like I was doing something “practical” to get out of my job situation. It yielded nothing across my entire 10+ year career of…trying to get out of my career. That’s why when I started freelancing, I didn’t think much of it…that is until a business coach insisted I beef up my profile.
I was reluctant since I wasn’t yet confident enough to broadcast to the world (and all my family, former church members, and ex-coworkers) that I was freelancing. That was a mistake.
Once I finally created a bold, honest profile, cold contacts started coming in, and I started seeing prospects dropping by to see what I was doing.
How To Get Started On LinkedIn
Before you get started, we need to talk a little bit about how using LinkedIn as a freelancer is different from using it as a prospective employee.
When you create a LinkedIn profile as a potential employee, your goal is to let people know that you have the skillset and experience they need. Your goal as a freelancer is much more direct.
Your goal is to tell prospective clients that you’re invested in the same space that they are and that you can solve their problems.
That might sound daunting, but I’m going to help you do exactly that with these tips, and a simple formula we’ll cover shortly.
OK…so I’ll admit I still post these because I feel like I should, but I’m going to leave them be any day now. I haven’t seen any results (save a few polite likes from a cousin or two) so I’m counting it as a waste of time. It’s easy to get caught up pouring your energy into this area of the site though, because it feels so similar to other social media/networking platforms.
Give it a shot yourself to see if it works in your freelance world…if it doesn’t though, let it go.
Update: I’ve finally learned how to make updates work as a way to drive traffic to my site. For me, it involves heavy use of direct marketing, visuals (images and video), and hashtags (which LinkedIn thankfully is using again.)
This is, hands down, my favorite feature on the site. Every executive I write for, every company I talk to, I try to convince them to start using this…even if it’s just once a month. (Writers especially, you need to get on this.)
If you don’t know what it is, LinkedIn Posts is basically just a personal blog space that LinkedIn allows you to maintain…but it is so much more powerful than your everyday blog and that’s because whatever you post gets shoved in front of the faces of interested people in your industry.
I copy all my blog posts there and every single time, they get more views, comments, and attention than they do on my site. I’m at the point where I think it’s completely possible to run a freelance career from LinkedIn alone, and that’s largely because of this feature. (Though I wouldn’t recommend it…digital sharecropping and whatnot…you don’t want your entire business blown up if LinkedIn decides to become the Snapchat for cubicle dwellers.)
A quick story–A couple months ago, I had an in-bound lead (who’s now a signed client) contact me and say she’d been watching me on LinkedIn for six months, saw that I was really connected to the industry and that she liked my work. She specifically mentioned my posts, and that says it all. Posts are a place for you to generate attention, but they also build trust, proving that you’re connected to your freelance niche and understand the environment your potential clients face.
So even if you only summarize interesting news stories you find about oil and gas, nutrition, education, or government, and only post them once a month, they really can pay off. (Just make sure to use bold images and those three tags they give you at the bottom of each post.)
Pack Your Profile
Your profile doesn’t have to be complicated, so if you’re a new freelancer, breathe a sigh of relief…all you have to do is fill out this simple template.
I help __________________ (do) __________________ so they can ___________.
If you were around for Getting Clients month, you’ll remember this simple exercise from Copyblogger. I’ve used it literally as the second sentence of my profile.
So maybe you help engineering firms create websites that highlight their technical expertise so they can drive more business. Or maybe you help design firms create content for underserved markets so they can diversify their customer base. Whatever it is, get it out there and be direct (and if you’re having a hard time figuring that out, this will help you get going.)
Once you do have some freelance experience, use the body of your profile to go into more detail about what sets you apart (are you creative? always on time? easy to work with?), link to your website, as well as highlight any stand-out projects or clients you’ve worked with…and don’t forget to use the media upload options to add portfolio samples.
Before we move to the next section, I have to mention keywords, especially in relation to your professional headline. Say exactly who you are. Use the word “freelancer” and use your most important keywords in your industry in the body of your profile.
Jump On That Jobs Tab
While what we’ve covered so far is about your passive presence on LinkedIn these next two sections are going to be about more active use of the platform.
Once you get your profile all nice and shiny, it’s time to get out there and see what other people are doing.
One of the most interesting areas LinkedIn has is the jobs tab (you’ll see it in the main navigation bar.) You’re not going to be using this to apply to jobs, but instead to see what companies are taking on new projects…so basically to build your freelance prospect list.
I just perform searches on my industry as well as my skill set (freelance writer) and see who pops up. I don’t apply directly to the job though…instead I go to the company site, check them in Hoovers (to see what kind of money they’re working with) and do my usual research from there. That sounds like a lot of work, but if you set up automatic alerts, and set aside just an hour or so a week to do this, it’s very manageable, and the response rate can be pretty good.
This ties in to the point we were just covering…getting freelance clients requires research, and that’s even if they approach you first. What I most like LinkedIn for though, is connecting with people of specific positions in companies I’d like to work with.
I have Google Alerts set up to notify me when companies in my industry start rustling around (as a content strategist and writer, any product launch, merger, or acquisition is a good chance to start contacting people). I work mostly with marketing managers and directors, and some creative directors, so I used LinkedIn to find out who’s in the position and to contact them (love the discount on LinkedIn Premium for this.)
Bonus: Make Connections
I’ve recently learned that having over 500 connections (which apparently I’ve had for a while), can change the way you experience LinkedIn, if only because of the fact that they stop counting at 500 (making you indistinguishable from the person who has twice that many).
I’ve always heard the advice to join lots of groups, but apparently, it applies to connections too. If you need somewhere to meet people, come by the Black Freelance Workers group and don’t be shy about inviting anyone you run across in your professional niche. I emphasize niche because you don’t want to add just any and everybody. You want to connect with people who’re discussing things you’re professionally interested in and who’ll pay attention when you do the same.
So don’t wait…set aside some time this week to beef up your LinkedIn freelancer profile (seriously…put it on your calendar right now.) If you want more tips on using social to build your freelance career, sign up right over there at the right for email updates of what’s going on here at BlackFreelance, as well as advice on laying the foundation of your freelance life.
P.S. Got any questions? Leave them in the comments below, and once you’re on LinkedIn, come join our group for Black Freelancers!