LinkedIn is known as the most professional social networking site. After all, the top executives of Fortune 500 companies are in LinkedIn.
You don’t use it to reconnect with and keep in touch with your grandma who lives halfway around the world. Instead, you probably know it as THE place to be in if you’re either looking for a job or looking for someone to hire.
But if you’re a freelancer, don’t disregard LinkedIn as a client-getting tool. Many companies and business owners who hire freelancers are also in LinkedIn. And that’s why you want to be there too.
LinkedIn exists so you can capture your existing network–that is, people you already know from school, previous work places, etc–and grow that network through groups, referrals and introductions. You know it’s often not what you know and can do that matters, it’s whom you know! That’s why having a wide network helps if you’re looking for clients and prospects.
There are a ten key things freelancers need to know when using LinkedIn. Keep these in mind and you’ll get results faster and with less effort. In this post I’ll share what you must know about LinkedIn.
Point #1. SEO Applies
LinkedIn is a website, and it provides you a free webpage in the form of a LinkedIn profile. As such, your profile needs to be search engine optimized, just like any other page on the web.
Remember your target keywords when populating the different fields in your profile. Pay special attention to the headline (the line of text that appears underneath your name) and summary. Use keywords as well when adding links to your websites, instead of keeping the default text LinkedIn provides.
Using the right keywords will help your ideal clients to find you on LinkedIn.
Point #2. Copywriting Brings Better Results
Your LinkedIn profile functions like a resume, but don’t let it be as dry as a traditional resume. Apply basic copywriting techniques in your profile to get prospects interested in connecting with you.
Use a benefit-oriented opening paragraph in your summary. Focus on what results you get for clients, rather than simply listing what services you offer. Use recommendations to increase social proof for the quality of your service.
Keep your summary readable. Break long paragraphs into chunks, use bullet points, and add headings and sub-headings to make the entire summary easy to scan.
Point #3. Show Off a Little
LinkedIn’s Answers and Groups allow you to showcase your expertise. Monitor and answer questions relevant to your field or expertise. Join groups where your ideal clients may be hanging out and give thoughtful answers to questions you can answer with authority.
One LinkedIn expert even advises communicating with the people who posted the questions, so you can get their attention and possibly move the interaction outside of LinkedIn.
Point #4. It’s a Secret Tool to Find Key People
Let’s say you’re about to embark on a direct mail campaign for your freelancing services. You want to add a specific company, but don’t know the name of the specific person you should address your letter to. You can use LinkedIn to find out!
Do a search for the company name. Employees who have LinkedIn accounts will come up. Or you could Google “(position) (company name) (LinkedIn)” to find a specific profile.
Point #5. Short-Cut the Introduction Process
Unlike other social networks, LinkedIn makes it harder to connect with people you don’t know in the first place. You have to find some real-life connection first, such as having gone to school together or worked in the same company, before you can invite someone to connect. And then they have to agree to add you to their LinkedIn network.
Unlike on Twitter, you can’t send a message to anyone unless they’re in your network.
However, there are ways around this. One option is to send the person an InMail. You do have to pay for this feature, but LinkedIn says InMails get a higher response rate than regular mail. Presumably, it’s because the email is identified as coming from LinkedIn, which is a trusted source. Also, if the person doesn’t respond to your InMail within seven days, you’ll get your InMail credit back.
The other way is to join a group that the other person is also a member of. From there, you can invite the person to connect with you. You can also send a message to anyone who’s in the same group as you, even if you’re not in their network.
Point #6. Job Vacancies Can Be Opportunities
LinkedIn is a great place to find jobs. Companies and individuals commonly post job vacancies, either through the jobs feature or in relevant groups.
Even if you’re not looking for employment, it’s still worthwhile to keep track of these vacancy announcements, because the company could be open to outsourcing the work. Do approach the person who posted the vacancy and ask if they would consider hiring you on a freelance basis. (Heck, if the offer is good enough, YOU might agree to being employed again ;-D )
Point #7. This Isn’t Facebook, Nor Twitter
Each social networking site has its own set of features, tone, and culture. LinkedIn is best known for its professionalism, so you should treat it as such and not use it the same way you would Twitter or Facebook.
For example, Twitter users have more patience for personal, mundane banter than the folks on LinkedIn do. So think twice about synchronizing your Twitter account with LinkedIn.
Point #8. It Doesn’t Have To Be a Time Suck
Maintaining an active presence in different social networks takes time and energy. Fortunately, several tools exist that can automate everything or at least make it easier and faster.
I’ve already mentioned that it’s possible to sync your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. In fact, you can sync them with your Facebook and Google+ accounts too through Publish Sync.
You can also link your blog to your LinkedIn account, so new posts are automatically displayed on your profile.
If you’re constantly on the go, install the LinkedIn app for your mobile device. That way, you can post updates, respond to group discussions, and send messages to people in your network–without firing up your computer.
Point #9. Give to Receive
As with other social networks, the best approach is to give first before asking for anything. For instance, if you’d like to get more recommendations, go ahead and give them first. The other person will most likely want to reciprocate. If not, move on to somebody else.
Same thing goes for introducing people to each other, if you think they could both benefit from the relationship, pass along job vacancies to people in your network, and generally just be helpful.
Point #10. You May Not Need a Premium Account
LinkedIn is free to use, but with a premium account, you get extra features. These include being able to see metrics, such as which keywords you rank highly for within the LinkedIn search results. You’ll also be entitled to a certain number of InMails per month, depending on the package you subscribe for.
These features are useful, but you don’t need them in order to get results from LinkedIn. Maximize your presence there first, get active in groups, answer questions, and connect with people. When you do start getting clients and become a power LinkedIn user, then a premium account would probably make sense.
Are You On LinkedIn?
I went to my first live networking event recently and one of the first questions a lady asked me was, “Are you on LinkedIn?” I confidently answered yes, grateful that I had just updated my LinkedIn profile.
This goes to show freelancers can no longer ignore LinkedIn. As a freelancer, you’re a professional business service provider. Therefore, you belong in LinkedIn too.
Have you been using LinkedIn to find prospects and clients? Do you have questions about using LinkedIn? Post them below and I’ll do my best to find the answers.