Almost every professional that’s online has heard of or uses LinkedIn. This social network differs in its usage from all others, and is a hub for business professionals. The advice and information that are shared on this network are only a minute detail of what it can do for your freelance career.
Whatever freelance work that you do, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re looking for ways to smooth out the process of finding new gigs. LinkedIn can help you do that.
So why is LinkedIn such a valuable tool for freelancers? And how can you reach your maximum potential on this social network for the business world?
Why Freelancers Should Use LinkedIn
Be Recognized as a Business Person
Anybody who is anybody in the online business world is almost assuredly on LinkedIn. So, even just the fact that you have a LinkedIn profile boosts your credibility as a freelancer.
But how you present yourself on your personal social networking accounts is (or at least should be) very different from how you are presented on LinkedIn. Having a well-put-together LinkedIn profile tells potential clients that you are an expert in your field, and thus worth working with.
We’ll talk more about how to create a winning profile below, but just remember this: how you portray yourself will affect how people treat you. LinkedIn is a place for business professionals, and if you want clients to treat you like an entrepreneur or a business owner (even if you are a business of one), then you will need to portray yourself as such.
Connect With Your Colleagues and Influencers
While your professional website is the place for you to advertise your services, LinkedIn is more like the lounge of the online business world. Here, you can get introduced to people in your field that can help you in your journey as a digital freelancer.
Don’t view these people as your competition; view them as colleagues who are all working towards the same goal. In a world that is ever tending towards the use of freelance writers, designers, etc., there’s plenty of work for everyone. Competing will get you nowhere.
Following influencers also helps you to keep up to date with what’s going on in your field. Watch their methods and imitate them.
By connecting and interacting with these people, you’ll be able to learn a lot and expand your business.
Find New Clients and Work
Another benefit of LinkedIn for freelancers is being able to find new prospects. Through LinkedIn’s search features, it’s easy to connect with recruiters in your field, editors for magazines and online publications, and basically anyone that might be a potential client.
Finding these people on LinkedIn gives you insight into who they are, what they care about, and what they’re interested in. These are essential points when you’re forming a pitch. (We’ll talk more about pitching on LinkedIn below.)
Also, LinkedIn has a very effective job board that can be useful for freelancers. Below we’ll discuss the specifics, but just remember this point: LinkedIn can be an essential part of finding new clients.
Get Endorsed and Recommended
Your abilities are a part of your LinkedIn profile. However, LinkedIn has made it possible for people within your network to endorse you for the skills you say you have.
What you do gets noticed by your connections on LinkedIn. If they feel that you portray the skills you claim on your profile, they might just endorse you.
This is a huge benefit for an online freelancer, as sometimes it can be difficult to get recommendations when needed. However, if a potential client sees that you’ve been endorsed for the skills you have, they won’t just need to take your word for it.
Also, it’s possible to recommend people within your network. A few nice recommendations from former clients is a fantastic showcase of your success.
Both endorsements and recommendations are essential parts of LinkedIn, and can gain you recognition and credibility in your field.
How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Presence
1- Build Your Profile Like a Pro
Your LinkedIn profile is your introduction to the business world. Through its different parts, you have a short space to tell people who you are, what you do, and why you’re good at it.
The most important part before you sit down to create a stunning LinkedIn profile is to know exactly what your freelance niche is. This is an essential part of starting your career as a freelancer, and is especially important on LinkedIn.
So, narrow your work niche down until you have a specific type of job that you want to do. Don’t be a ‘freelance writer’ if you can be a ‘freelance finance blogger’ or a ‘freelance e-newsletter and email marketing expert for online stores’, etc.
Once you have your niche firmly in mind, you can start creating a professional LinkedIn profile.
Your LinkedIn summary is about 300 words that tell the world everything they need to know about you. This is your place to stand out and be somebody.
Ditch cliché words that appear in every profile like ‘motivated’, ‘skilled’, etc. (Just check a few LinkedIn profiles and you’ll see which words to avoid.) You want to capture attention, not bore the reader.
Here’s a bad example:
My name is Amy Copadis, I am a freelance writer for the travel industry. I am passionate about travel and am a very skilled writer. I have worked for multiple online publications. I write blog posts, webpages, and by this time the reader has already moved on to the next section in my profile.
What’s wrong with this summary? It’s boring! Nobody is really going to sit and read that. Also, every sentence begins with ‘I’. People don’t like people who only talk about themselves.
So don’t do that! Talk about things that interest your potential clients. Talk about what they like, or what they need, and then show the value you can bring to them.
This is the first part of my actual LinkedIn profile summary:
My point in all of this? Focus on your potential clients. Draw them in, and then show them why they want to work with you.
Your profile headline is sometimes thought of as just another place to put your job title. However, that is not exactly the case. As you can see in the picture above, I didn’t just say what my job is. I narrowed down what I do, and who I do it for. This is a great place to highlight your niche.
While there are no rules as to what you put in your headline, remember to keep it short and to the point. You don’t want people to wonder about what it is that you actually do. Your tagline will show up with your profile picture before people even click into your profile, so use these few words to draw them in.
It’s also possible to use this headline to highlight your search for new freelance gigs. However, avoid words like ‘for hire’. Instead, tie in your work with the people you want to work for. For example, if I wanted to adapt my LinkedIn headline to advertise that I’m looking for new work, I could put “Freelance Blogger Seeking Hospitality Businesses Who Want To Market Online”.
Obviously, you can adapt this to your niche and target audience. In the end, the headline can be a very useful tool.
Your Profile Picture
The picture you choose for your profile is very important in creating an online image for, not just you, but your freelance business in general. Creating a brand for your freelance business will probably start with your profile picture.
That’s why it’s very important to take a picture specifically for this purpose. Rummaging through old photos to find one where you can crop your face out of is not recommended.
Remember what we said before: how you portray yourself in your business profile will determine how people will treat you. If you want to be treated like a professional, then it’s essential to portray yourself as one.
Your Work History
As freelancers, we have a lot of different gigs. It can be extremely tempting to put every single freelance gig that we’ve ever had into our work history. But let’s be honest with ourselves: who is really going to read all of that?
Instead, place specific jobs that you’ve done in your work history that are related to what you do now. Focus on the main freelance gigs that you’ve had, or ones that were reoccurring jobs. Then, add a section ‘Freelance’, and describe the kind of work that you’ve done with other gigs. This covers your whole freelance career, but keeps it concise.
You know all those gigs you refrained from adding to your work history? Here’s where you can let them speak for you.
Your profile is a great place to add media, text, links, and publications that showcase what you can do. This section is one of the most important parts of your LinkedIn profile, as it speaks more about your work than you ever could. It tells potential clients exactly what you’re capable of, and adds to your value as a freelancer.
2- Connect With the Right People
Now that your profile is set up, it’s time to connect with people. Unlike other social networks, this is not the time to simply connect with everyone that you know. Choosing carefully who you connect with will help you in the long run.
Since this social network is for business, you want to make sure that your connections make sense from a business perspective. For example, let’s say you’re a freelance email marketer and you connect with your uncle who is a plumber. I’m sure your uncle is a great guy, but unless your niche is email marketing for plumbers, that connection probably won’t make sense for your LinkedIn profile.
So who should you connect with on LinkedIn?
Successful People in Your Field
Find the people that do what you do, and get talking! These people are a vital part of your growth, and an essential part of your online community. They can help you get through issues in your freelance career, and may be able to introduce you to potential clients.
Like we said above, these are not your competitors. They’re your workmates!
People in Complimentary Fields
Even if someone is not in your exact field, they may be in what I like to call a complimentary field to yours.
As an example, I am a freelance blogger and content marketer, as we saw above in my profile. However, I frequently connect with freelance graphic designers.
Why? Because these two jobs normally go hand in hand.
So, if I have a client that is building a new website, they’ll come to me for content. Then, when they need graphic design for their website, I have people to recommend to them.
And remember this: if you recommend work from one of your clients to a person in a complimentary field, they are likely to return the favor!
LinkedIn is absolutely filled with people who may need your services. As we’ve mentioned, it’s a place for you to network with people that can help you in your freelance career. However, it’s also a place that’s primed for finding new freelance gigs.
Using the search section in LinkedIn, find people that could be willing to hire you for freelance work. Remember how we’ve already narrowed down your niche above? It’s time to put that to good use.
For example, let’s say you specialize in creating websites for restaurants. Good people to connect with would be restaurant owners, restaurant managers, etc.
To find them, start by using the search bar on LinkedIn and inputting those keywords. Then, narrow your search to people. Now you have a list of people that you can connect with! If you want to get even more specific, you can filter the results by location, industry, their connection to you (1st, 2nd, 3rd), past or current companies, and more!
By using these search tools, you can connect with people that could later become your clients. But don’t go rushing off to pitch to them! We’ll talk about that below.
3- Be Active in Groups
There are thousands of groups available to join on LinkedIn. Some are more active in general than others, and some will be more useful to you. Depending on your field of expertise, it can be very easy to find groups that fit your needs.
However, once you join a group, make sure you’re getting the most out of it. That means you need to participate in the conversations!
So, add your thoughts on relevant subjects. Pick up advice from others who are more experienced than you. Best of all, some freelancer groups will even post job listings! Stay in tune with your freelance colleagues to get the best of what LinkedIn groups offer you.
4- Prove Your Worth on LinkedIn Publishing
LinkedIn Publishing is a great place to show off your expertise. Here, you can create and post content that is relevant to your field, thus building your credibility.
The best way to use this tool is to aim it at your prospects. We talked above about identifying and connecting with the people that might hire you for freelance work. Now it’s time to write posts that appeal to them.
If you are a freelance writer, this job becomes somewhat easier. However, you may not like the idea of essentially writing for free.
Just remember this: the return on investment that you get for showcasing your expertise is worth the time you spend writing the articles you post. When you capture the attention of potential clients, they may even start coming to you for your services!
5- Send Out Pitches
By now, you should have a decent presence on LinkedIn. Hopefully, you’ve built up quite a few connections within your field and other complimentary fields. I’m also guessing that now you’ve connected with quite a few potential clients, and you’ve showcased your expertise by posting a few attention-grabbing articles on LinkedIn Publishing.
With the rise of the digital age, online relationships have changed dramatically. It’s easy to get so caught up in selling your services that you forget to build real relationships.
That’s why I mentioned above to avoid rushing out to pitch to new connections.
Take your time, and build relationships. Perhaps you can comment on or like something they’ve posted, etc. When you’ve had a small bit of interaction, it’s a good time to make a move.
Again, remember not to be too sales-y, as this will drive potential clients away. Mention something positive that you noticed from their LinkedIn profile or their company’s website. Start off on the right foot.
Then, without being insulting, add something that you noticed could be fixed on their website, or a service that you provide that you think would be helpful to them. Get into your prospect’s head. What do they really need or want for their business? Then show how you can provide that.
Make the message concise, yet powerful. Keep a friendly tone, and avoid sounding like a salesman.
Another important point: Don’t just copy the message and paste it out to 100 prospects. Take the time to personalize each message. That will make you stand out from the crowd.
6- Check the LinkedIn Job Search
LinkedIn also has a very handy feature for those searching for new gigs (or new jobs). The job search is an extremely useful part of your LinkedIn toolbox, as it allows you to see exactly who is offering you the job, and even the people that work there!
So, search for keywords that fit your job description. Including the word ‘freelance’ will narrow down the options to what you’re looking for specifically. Then, wander through what they’re offering!
With many of these jobs offers, you can simply apply with your LinkedIn profile. This is just another reason why your LinkedIn profile should be kept up to date.
With the jobs that you want to apply for, go and find the hiring manager or other important people within the company. If they’re posting the job on LinkedIn, it’s very likely that these individuals also have LinkedIn profiles. Get to know a bit about them, and try to connect with them. Reaching out in this way may make you stand out from the crowd.
Once you’ve waded through some of the most recent job offers, remember to save your most productive searches. You can even set up alerts so that, when new jobs with those keywords are posted, you get an email notification.
This is a great way to find regular freelance gigs on LinkedIn.
7- Act Like a Real Person
Through all of the above steps, you’re starting to master the art of LinkedIn. However, our last point in the list is extremely important for those looking to get the most out of LinkedIn.
If you are only interested in yourself and getting new clients, LinkedIn isn’t going to work for you. Instead, be interested in the community. Get involved with your connections, and not just the ones who might hire you later.
Above all, when you’re interacting with potential clients, just be you! Honesty and sincerity are often lacking in online communication and interaction. That’s why, if you show these qualities, you will automatically be placing yourself above the great majority.
So how can you show that you’re a real person? Here are some of my top tips:
- Avoid copied messages
- Send personalized messages when making new connections
- Maintain a positive demeanor in all communication
- Comment and interact in groups
- Reach out to potential clients before pitching
- Make your pitches personalized
With these tips, you’ll prove that you’re an actual human being, and gain respect in your network.
Optimizing your presence on LinkedIn may take some time. However, don’t let this hold you back. When you are a freelancer, it is essential to network with those in your field, and also with potential clients. This is how you build up your skills, find new information, and ultimately find new freelance gigs.
If you’re looking to start a new freelancing career, LinkedIn is an excellent place to begin your journey. This place acts as your online portfolio, your introduction to the business world, and your pool of information and potential clients. It is the ultimate tool that a freelancer can have in his belt.
Using the tips above, you’ll be able to create a LinkedIn profile that will astound, and grow your business presence. In the end, you will probably have clients coming to you, not the other way around!