Are you one of those people who only updates their LinkedIn profile when they’re on the job hunt?
Until I started freelancing full time, I was too. To me, LinkedIn was one of those things like your resume — you only touch it when there’s something new to add, and usually, that means the end of a job.
But for us freelancers, LinkedIn can be a powerful marketing tool. People who use it are looking for connections that will pan out into a business opportunity, which makes it an ideal platform for finding new clients.
Incidentally, LinkedIn has been stepping up their freelancer game as of late. The number of freelancers on LinkedIn has grown 50% in the past 5 years, and some of the platform’s recent changes have rendered it much more freelance-friendly. Take a look below to see how you can use LinkedIn to help your freelance business.
1. Chat with Prospects
Connecting with potential employers and clients has always been a staple of LinkedIn, but the messaging feature left something to be desired. It was clunky and formal, and it felt more like sending an email — complete with a subject line — than messaging on a social platform.
LinkedIn’s new IM feature relieves the stiff formality of the old messenger by doing away with the subject field and opening a chat box on your existing screen.
This feature makes prospecting on LinkedIn much more efficient and personal. Conversations via IM mimic the natural back and forth of a face-to-face conversation, which helps create a more relaxed relationship with your prospect. And because you can respond to inquiries right away, without needing to navigate to another page, leads move forward in your sales funnel even faster.
2. Find contract gigs
Did you know that LinkedIn now has its own freelance marketplace built right into the platform? You can find LinkedIn ProFinder under the Work tab at the right of your navigation bar.
Freelancers must apply to become a service provider before they can begin working with ProFinder. Once approved, ProFinder matches you to LinkedIn members whose requests for work match your skills. You can view the request and submit a proposal right from your LinkedIn inbox.
The catch: Freelancers can only submit their first 10 proposals for free. After that, you’ll need to pay $59.99 per month (or 25% less if you purchase annually).
If shelling out $60 every month just to pitch clients isn’t your thing, you can still benefit from the good old job search function. Just filter your search to only show contract and part-time positions (see below).
3. Build credibility with endorsements
One of my favorite LinkedIn features is the skills and endorsements section because it’s an easy way to add third-party validation and tap into word-of-mouth marketing.
88% of people trust reviews and recommendations written by strangers online as much as they do a referral from a personal connection. This means the more endorsements and recommendations you have on your profile, the more credible you look and the more likely your prospects are to want to work with you.
But just because more endorsements looks better doesn’t mean that listing all of your 4 million “skills” looks good, too. Microsoft Office isn’t a skill, it’s a bare minimum. Obscure programs that you learned at a college internship and will probably never touch again? Not helping you one bit.
Carefully consider which skills best support your business and include those. The services you offer should each be a skill, as well as one or two variations of each. Limit yourself to 5–10 skills (I list 6 on my profile) to avoid overwhelming prospects.
As you develop relationships with your clients, you can ask them for LinkedIn endorsements and recommendations the same way you would ask for a review or testimonial to include on your website. If they’re happy with the work you’ve done, they’ll more than likely give you a glowing review.
4. Share expertise on LinkedIn Pulse and Slideshare
Writing is kind of my thing, so it’s easy to feel a bias toward any marketing strategy that focuses heavily on content distribution. Still, content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing and generates three times as many leads.
For freelancers, who are often strapped for cash when it comes to marketing themselves, that kind of ROI is gold.
Fortunately, LinkedIn comes with not one, but TWO different free ways to use content marketing.
You can write on LinkedIn Pulse by clicking the “Write an article” button on the status update box. You’ll be redirected to Pulse, where you can compose a new article or copy and paste in an existing piece.
Slideshare is LinkedIn’s version of PowerPoint and is a great way to repurpose your written content. It tends to work best with articles and blogs that are very data-heavy, like this slideshare about the future of work. But with a little creativity, you can use Slideshare for any type of content. Here’s a good example of one that feels less like a business report and more like entertainment.
5. Showcase work samples
One of the first things potential clients ask for when the conversation gets serious is a sample of your work. If your portfolio website is up to date, it’s not difficult to send them a link and let them explore.
But if you’re using LinkedIn to find clients, you can remove that step completely by including work samples along with your experience.
Aside from it being more convenient for your prospects to have work samples easily accessible, this helps you stand out from the crowd a bit more. This feature has been around for a while but is still not widely used. Implementing it on your profile shows that you’re up to date on the latest trends, you’re proactive in your approach to getting things done, and you’re proud of the work you’ve completed at other jobs.
Are you new to freelancing or considering going full-time? I want to help you in any way that I can. Feel free to shoot me a message or sign up for my email newsletter below.
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