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

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Comments

  1. says

    Great post! I started getting more into using LinkedIn in the summer and have actually gotten jobs from there. One thing to do as well is join groups. LinkedIn groups are very useful and you network like crazy.

  2. says

    I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for over a year, but haven’t really seen it’s benefits… It’s much more difficult to use than many of the other social media platforms.

    I’m going through all of the settings now to make it perfect for me, then I’m going to bookmark it.

    Here’s my profile, by the way: http://www.linkedin.com/in/traxor

  3. says

    Thanks for a great article. I wish it had been available when I was setting up my account (which I am still working on).

    One tip I heard is to use the professional profile as an enhanced resume. While you want to keep your paper resume brief, Linked In is a good place to put in all the extra details that don’t make it onto the paper copy. And don’t forget to put your Linked In url on your resume.

    My profile is at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/gladysbstrickland

  4. says

    I’d heard of LinkedIn before just seeing the icon on different websites etc but never had that much curiosity about it, so it was interesting learning about it in this article. Its something I may consider using at some point.

  5. says

    I remember the first time I saw LinkedIn website and I couldn’t understand the purpose of it, looked like a snakes’ nest for me. But for now, it’s pretty important business tool :)

  6. says

    A great tutorial here to get started on another social platform. Having heard a lot about LinkedIn but still being new to the platform I wasn’t sure of it’s true value and if it was worth the effort compared to the host of other social networks out there.

    From reading this article and the comments above it seems that LinkedIn has a better chance of getting you freelance work than other networks like Twitter and Facebook.

    I will be looking into this network further and seeing what type of work being part of it can bring in. Obviously it is a different type of platform to other social networking sites, being for professionals, so I expect a respectable amount of work may come from it.

  7. says

    Laura, great article. I’ve been on LinkedIn for a number of years but only seriously started using it a few years ago. I find it a valuable business networking platform. It is different from the other social media platforms because people truly are there for professional reasons. I use the blog application so that my latest post is fed to LinkedIn. Status updates are an easy way to strategically highlight your expertise. Answers allows you to share your skills with key professionals (you can also subscribe to categories making it easier to keep up with relevant questions). I share news items with select groups using shareaholic. I don’t always have time for discussions but sharing allows me to remain visible without an extra step.

  8. says

    I’ve been on LinkedIn since starting as a freelance writer almost two years ago and I believe I have many of the bases covered, plus I’m an active participants in groups, regularly updated my status, etc.

    However, something I’m really wondering about, is Introductions, which I haven’t started using. I’d love to hear any success stories about using these, or advice on how to best use them to connect with potential new clients.

  9. says

    I prefer LinkedIn to any other social networking site because of the professional attitude and format. I have made tremendous contacts, found professional services, and have joined groups that provide great dialogue, ideas and direction. Most importantly I frequently update my status and that gives my contacts a thumbnail guide to what I am up to in the studio, brings visitors, and provides a brief news blast in between my monthly newsletters. Recommendations from co-workers and clients round out my profile.

    My public profile is here:
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/judithheartsong

  10. says

    Laura,

    I’ve been using LinkedIn since I went freelance a year ago. One of the great benefits LinkedIn offers to new freelancers is the ability to create a de facto website that provides potential clients with a recap of your experience, connections and, as mentioned above, references from clients, former supervisors and others familiar with your work.

    I referred numerous people to my LinkedIn site over the past several months to provide that background.

    Best,
    Joe

  11. says

    I use LinkedIn quite often, and I’ve received multiple job offers from people finding me on it.

    The one thing I can’t understand though, is why their upgrade plans are so ridiculous??

    - Business
    $24.95 per month
    3 Messages per month
    300 Profiles per search

    - Business Plus
    $49.95 per month
    10 Messages per month
    500 Profiles per search

    - Pro
    $499.95 per month
    50 Messages per month
    700 Profiles per search

    Who in the right mind would pay for the pro version? Let alone the lowest one that still only let’s you contact only 3 people per month.

    How can they charge so much and offer so little??

    The free version will do just fine.

  12. says

    Hi Steve,

    For small businesses or individuals a free account does work fine, but for larger corporations or people who want to make the most out of the system. Keep in mind that this will be large companies making a lot of money who DO use all of the features.

    You’d be surprised by how many people would pay for this service. A lot of people spend hundreds, if not thousands of pounds per month to be involved in schemes like this and I’m sure there will be a ROI.

    I know this is complete off-topic, but one thing I would love to be involved with is SEOMoz Pro.

    Luke

  13. says

    Steve, I agree with Luke the free version is just fine if you are simply using the site for professional networking. Most of the recruiters I work with use the paid version because they use LinkedIn to find passive candidates. The investment does make sense for recruiters and corporations who are using LinkedIn for sourcing.

  14. says

    Yes, however it’s not really professional networking if you can’t even message the person you want to talk to… unless you pay 25 bucks a month… and that only allows 3 messages.

  15. says

    Congratulations to everyone who set up a new LinkedIn profile!

    Personally, I think that the free version will be adequate for most freelancers.

    Thanks for all the feedback and comments.

  16. says

    Thanks for such a great article! And I agree with the forum member who said that getting involved with groups on the site is a good way to go.

  17. says

    Hi Laura,

    I started my own LinkedIn account about a month ago. I had also shied away from LinkedIn for a while figuring it was just another fad site like the social media ones. Then I realized that soon my unemployment would end and I’d better start taking advantage of whatever resources were at hand to find a job. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to figure out how to leverage LinkedIn to find jobs. I was hoping your article would help, but there wasn’t any info on this.

  18. says

    Hi Chris and Doug!

    I’m actually fairly new to LinkedIn myself, having just completed my profile a few weeks ago. What I’ve been told regarding leveraging it to find leads is to join and participate in groups. This will help raise your visibility.

    Also, remember that social media participation is a long-term strategy.

    I hope this helps. Let me know how it works for you.

  19. says

    LinkedIn was how I could actually verify my new employees and Developers actually worded for Companies and Projects that were on thier resume. It is a real life online-networking/Resume for IT pros. Take it from someone that does the hiring, get your experiance and project details on there!

  20. says

    The LinkedIn Answers area gives you the opportunity to show off your expertise. Answer questions related to your field honestly, and without making a sales pitch. I have made several new connections based on giving valuable answers to someone’s questions.

    I’d definitely love to connect with other bloggers, freelancers, writers, adn photographers at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kristihines.

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