LinkedIn may not have the name recognition of Facebook or the popularity of Twitter, but what it does have is the reputation as one of the most effective social networking services for freelancers. Boasting more than 80 million users and counting, LinkedIn has something for everyone, from writers to designers, from podcaster to vbloggers.
Thanks to LinkedIn’s huge, active network of professionals, many seeking the perfect freelancers for projects of all shapes and sizes, you should make your LinkedIn presence just as important as your Twitter account, and probably even more so than your Facebook profile. In fact, LinkedIn can mean all the difference between you seeking out work, and having the work come to you.
Land Great Projects Using LinkedIn
Here’s how to land solid projects with your LinkedIn profile:
- Build your profile to 100% completion. A complete LinkedIn profile is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. It carries the same weight as a college degree does by showing that you stuck things out to the finish line, rather than going in, signing up, and getting out when the going gets rough (or boring). As a freelancer, that’s the worst reputation to have. Period. To start, make use of the basics such as the summary and experience fields, as well as new features like the Skills and Publications sections. According to LinkedIn itself, a completed profile increases your chance of successful networking by 15 percent, meaning you have a greater chance of establishing connections, generating leads, and finding gigs that pay well.
- Pick a custom URL. If you’ve ever used LinkedIn (or Facebook for that matter), you’ve seen the person with a URL that looks something like: www.facebook.com/8297328Z028BZ. In other words, their URL is complete gibberish, and anyone who lacks a photographic memory would never, ever remember it. Instead of going down this road, you should personalize your URL to reflect what you do. You could change your URL to include your name, for example: www.linkedin/joeshmoe, but a better idea is to set it up so that it shows exactly what you do for a living and what you’re looking for. A LinkedIn URL like www.linkedin.com/freelanceeditor4hire will grab more attention than one that simply lists a name.
- Add lots of apps. Apps have become a huge part of the social networking universe, and LinkedIn has jumped on this train by adding more and more on frequent basis. With LinkedIn’s present set of apps, you can share presentations with SlideShare, show pictures of where you’ve traveled via Flickr, and even cross-promote your blog through the BlogLink app. The BlogLink app connects your blog to your LinkedIn site, so that any time you blog, posts are automatically published to your LinkedIn profile. In a nutshell, installing applications is a great way to make your profile stand out and gives you exciting ways to share content.
- Build an army of connections. If you’re stuck with just a few dozen LinkedIn connections, a group that may or may not include family members, it’s time you kicked things up a notch. Connections not only show that you’re active on LinkedIn, but they give the appearance–at least in the Web world–that you’re the person pressing palms and passing out business cards at the cocktail party and not the sullen person parked by the door. When building your connection pool, size matters, but remember that quality is also a major consideration. If you need to enlarge your pool by including your local dog groomer or cable repairman, you’ll probably need to uncouple yourself from them as you build up more connections with people working in your general field.
- Give–and gather–recommendations. Just as they do on a resume, references add a layer of assurance that you’re the person to hire for the job. With LinkedIn’s recommendation feature, you can reach out to people you’ve worked with in the past and ask them to write up a note saying good things about you and your work. These notes might emphasize how easy you are to work with, how quickly you finish projects, and even how you never stop until your work is perfect. Post these prominently in your profile and you’ll get more people to consider you for jobs. Also, remember that paying it forward with recommendations pays off as well. If you offer to give recommendations to others, chances are you’ll get more incoming ones for yourself. In other words, don’t be a grinch. Give a lot and you’ll get a lot.
- Be a fixture, not a stranger. Like a construction project that has run out of money, a partially built, semi-abandoned profile can kill potential opportunities in a flash. Most employers want to make contact immediately, not receive an email from you a few weeks later, asking if work is still available. Posting regular updates in your profile does two things: it lets people in on the work you’re doing now, and it gives you a chance to go in, check your mail, and contact anyone who has you on their short list. Frequent content sharing is quick way to show regular activity. Have you come across a interesting article, YouTube video or podcast related to your field? Link to it in your profile: It shows potential employers that you’re up to date on what’s going on in your industry. If you’re swamped, set aside a half hour two or three times a week to go in, share content, answer emails and update your profile.
- Be a snoop. You can learn a lot from the competition, and LinkedIn makes learning from your competitors pretty easy. If you want to see what your peers are doing to get work, or even who they’re connected with, LinkedIn has a setting that lets you browse anonymously instead of announcing that you’ve gone to your bitter rival’s profile and poked around.
Ultimately, hustling for work via social media can easily be a full-time job for any freelancer, and it hurts to know that you’re not hip to the new social tool that all your friends are using. However, think of LinkedIn like you would a good, reliable car. Flashier autos may come and go, but you know that your car will start, run, and take you where you need to go.
What are your best LinkedIn tips? Share your answers in the comments.
Image by Coletivo Mambembe