Since its creation in Dec 2002, LinkedIn has grown exponentially. In April 2016, an estimated 6.5 million jobs were available on LinkedIn, with 94% of employers using LinkedIn to “vet” candidates. As a freelancer, you might wonder why you need LinkedIn since you’re not part of the traditional jobs market? However, LinkedIn can be very useful for freelancers, so we’ll look at why, and how to use it to your advantage.
The basics – What is LinkedIn?
If you don’t use or know about LinkedIn, it’s basically a professional networking site, sometimes known as “the Facebook of business”. You can make connections with people you know, and this creates a network of individuals you’re linked to. People can endorse your skills, write you a testimonial, and share information with you. Companies use LinkedIn to advertise jobs on the jobs pages or to actively find candidates.
Why do you need a LinkedIn profile?
Although many people use LinkedIn in the traditional world of employment or to find employed jobs, there are still many advantages of having a LinkedIn profile as a freelancer. You can leverage this powerful network to your advantage in several ways:
- Finding work: Hiring managers, companies, and potential clients use LinkedIn to search for workers—and that’s not just for employed roles. Including the word “freelance” in your job title may lead to freelance project work, freelance contract opportunities, and potential clients.
- Building a strong network: This is an important part of freelancing, and LinkedIn is a great way to do it. You can network with other freelancers, friends, and former colleagues who may be able to recommend you to their clients or direct you to great resources.
- Broader experience: If you work through freelancing platforms, your profile on these sites is generally limited to the clients and projects from only that site. On your LinkedIn profile, you can include your broader experience and reviews from various sites and former jobs.
- Online presence: Your LinkedIn profile increases your visibility, which is important as a freelancer. Especially if you’re trying to find more work and more clients, as you need them to be able to find you. Clients may peruse your LinkedIn profile to find out more about you as a freelancer before hiring you for their project. A great LinkedIn profile might be the decision-maker in whether they hire you or someone else.
Does LinkedIn really make a difference?
So the benefits look great on paper, but does Linked in really make that much of a difference? For me, LinkedIn opened the door to undoubtedly my best freelance opportunity. I’d been making ends meet through generalist freelancing platforms and word of mouth, but was still struggling to find enough clients. I included the words “freelance book editor” in my job title on LinkedIn and added a paragraph on what I do.
A few authors looking for editors contacted me, which led to several projects. Then, out of the blue, I was contacted by the founders of an up-and-coming book-specific freelancing site (Reedsy). I’d never heard of the site, but they invited me to apply to become one of their freelancers. I did, and it turned out to be the biggest win in my freelance career! I now gain the majority of my work through Reedsy, and it revolutionised how I find work, because authors come to me. All through a few simple words on LinkedIn.
How does your LinkedIn profile differ from your CV?
Sometimes, people create their LinkedIn profile by just copying their CV directly. However, your LinkedIn profile is a first-person, broader, and more general record than your CV, so while you can use it to build your CV, you need to put more flesh on those bones. (If you need a freelance CV to apply for contract roles, check out how to write a freelance CV.)
Your LinkedIn profile should demonstrate your broader skills and experience, not just what’s relevant to one job vacancy or contract role. It should also include a photo, recommendations, skills endorsements, projects, and more to showcase your qualities. This inevitably means your LinkedIn profile will be longer than your CV, though don’t go overboard!
So, what should you include in your LinkedIn profile and how can you use it effectively?
A winning profile photo
Your LinkedIn profile should include a photograph of you that inspires clients to want to work with you. Your profile photo says a lot about you as a person—imagine it as your personality’s front cover. Many people choose uber-professional profile photos, especially if they work in traditional employed jobs, but as a freelancer, it doesn’t always pay to look all-business.
Of course, your photo should be professional, not from a drunken night out. However, it should also be welcoming, approachable, and representative of your actual personality. For example, I chose a natural, relaxed picture of me travelling, because a white-background, serious headshot doesn’t match my personality and won’t give clients a realistic idea of what they’re getting if they hire me.
One way to use your LinkedIn profile effectively as a freelancer is by sharing knowledge with your connections and creating discussions around your field of interest. This may lead to more work, but will also show your potential clients that you’re adding value and increasing knowledge.
There are numerous groups on LinkedIn related to almost every field of interest. The benefits of joining groups is that you can gain and share information, engage in discussions, meet other like-minded people, and make connections there, all of which are important as a freelancer.
Getting endorsements and recommendations
Endorsements are a much-loved or much-loathed part of LinkedIn. Whether you like them or not, they show potential clients that other people have faith in your skills. Your connections can “endorse” your various skills, and likewise you can endorse their skills. If you don’t have many endorsements, try endorsing your connections’ skills and they may return the favour.
LinkedIn also enables you to ask for recommendations (basically testimonials) from your connections. This is almost like a product review of you, and can be a powerful part of your profile as a freelancer if used well. Send recommendation requests to those who you’ve worked successfully with in the past, as this will show potential clients what you’re like to work with.
As a freelancer, it might seem like you don’t need a LinkedIn profile, but it’s a useful weapon in your freelance armoury. Your LinkedIn profile can sell your broader qualities to potential clients, help you build a network, and even lead to freelance opportunities.
Got any LinkedIn tips? Feel free to get in touch or share your ideas here…