The Freelancer’s Guide to Getting Started on LinkedIn

Linked-inLinkedIn is a good tool for freelancers because it provides instant access to employers, clients, and colleagues. Maintaining these contacts is important because referrals are one of the top ways to get new freelancing projects.

By now, many freelancers understand the opportunities that social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook can provide. Most have already set up an account with one, or both, of these popular social media tools. What they may have overlooked is the value of having a LinkedIn account.

While some freelancers are already actively using LinkedIn, many others may be unfamiliar with this social media tool. Today, we’ll be looking at the basics of getting started with LinkedIn.

What Is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a social networking platform specifically designed for business professionals. It is actually one of the older social networking websites, originally launched in May of 2003.

While LinkedIn does not have as many members of the other popular social networking sites (a recent TechCrunch article put LinkedIn membership at 45 million), its unique business focus makes it useful to freelancers and non-freelancers alike.

LinkedIn consistently provides professional details about its members that other social sites lack. Whether you’re hiring a freelancer or deciding whether to accept a new freelancing position, LinkedIn is the place to go if you want to learn about someone else’s professional background.

When you click on an individual’s profile that is connected to you, you can see their past jobs, awards, and much more. Likewise, when you click a company name you can see profile information and statistics about that company.

Now that you understand what LinkedIn is and how it might be useful, let’s start creating your account.

How to Create Your Account

Before you create your account, you may wish to have the following information handy:

  • Resume, or list of previous jobs
  • Contact information for former colleagues
  • Educational background information
  • List of any awards or other recognition that you have received

At the main LinkedIn account, click the green Join Now button. The system prompts you to type the following information:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email address
  • Password

joinlinkedin

Be sure to choose a password that is unique and cannot easily be discovered by others. A combination of numbers and letters is usually best.

After you have created your LinkedIn account, you are prompted to build your profile

How to Build Your Profile

The professional profile screen appears. You should select the following:

  • Employment status (employed, business, owner, looking for work, working independently, or student)
  • Industry
  • Country

Also, type your zip code
settingupyourprofile

At this point, LinkedIn allows you to import contacts from any email addresses that you may have stored in Yahoo!, Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail, or AOL.

Finally, confirm the e-mail that you used to create your account from within that email. (Note: It may take some time to receive the confirmation e-mail.)

At this point, you have a basic LinkedIn account. You now need to set up your profile.

Developing a Basic Freelancer Profile

Once you have confirmed your account, LinkedIn prompts you to do one of three things:

  1. Import email contacts — Add contact information
  2. Establish your professional profile — Highlight experience accomplishments
  3. Find experts, ideas, and opportunities – Connect with members who have similar interests

threelinkedinoptions

To build the most effective profile, you will eventually want to perform all three tasks. However, if you have your resume handy you may wish to start by establishing your professional profile since this is the option may affect how others search for you online. In particular, make sure that job title correctly describes what you do.

When you click on your name, you will see your empty profile. To change or populate a section of your profile click the next to the green plus sign and add the pertinent information.

Continue filling out the profile form until all information is included. Save your changes.

(Tip: You do not need to complete your LinkedIn profile in one sitting. It is possible to create a profile over several days, or even weeks.)

When your profile is complete, be sure to explore some of the more advanced LinkedIn features such as groups, recommendations, and plug-ins.

Don’t forget to come back and update your profile frequently whenever your experience or educational information changes or when you make new contacts.

Congratulations! Now you have a established a basic LinkedIn account.

Go Further with Your LinkedIn Account

LinkedIn offers a lot of features beyond just the basic profile. In fact, we could probably write an entire series of posts about advanced LinkedIn features.

Fortunately, while I was wrapping this post up I noticed a helpful post on Mashable that highlights some of the most useful LinkedIn features.

These additional features will help you get the most from your LinkedIn profile.

Share Your Own Experiences with LinkedIn

We’d love to hear your experiences with LinkedIn. I’ll start the sharing by telling my own story.

Personally, I avoided the LinkedIn social media platform for several years. I was intimidated by the amount of information that getting started seemed to require.

However, colleagues kept requesting to connect with me on LinkedIn. Several of these colleagues let me know that they preferred the LinkedIn social media platform for finding job opportunities and for professional networking. They wondered why I wasn’t already there.

Finally, I gave in and created my own LinkedIn account. Already, I can see that it is powerful tool for connecting with other professionals. I’m looking forward to taking full advantage of LinkedIn’s networking capabilities.

Do you use LinkedIn?

If so, share your best LinkedIn tip in the comments.

Image by g_kat26