Grow Your Freelance Reputation and Business by Taking Advantage of LinkedIn's Power
Facebook can be a great tool for networking with colleagues and copywriting buddies … and even connecting with new clients.
But freelance writers serious about growing their business can’t afford to ignore the social networking site LinkedIn.
A big plus LinkedIn has over Facebook is there is no blurring of your personal and professional lives.
LinkedIn is strictly business.
No one knows that better than Oregon web writer Pam Foster. Two connections she made on LinkedIn paid off for her big time in 2011:
- After five years of not being in touch, earlier last year, Pam reconnected with someone she once worked with who is now vice president of a pet-related company. The person saw that Pam was now a writer specializing in the pet industry and invited her to submit a proposal. That invitation turned into her biggest project of the year.
- In March, Pam received an invitation to connect from another former corporate co-worker. Three months later, the person contacted Pam directly about a major project: they needed several web pages written for a new site for a brand-new business-to-business division of the company. Pam, who also specializes in B2B copywriting, was awarded the contract. It turned out to be her second most profitable job that year.
Pretty impressive, huh?
If you're not taking advantage of LinkedIn's marketing power, this article is for you. I've broken down how you, as a freelancer, can take advantage of LinkedIn's major features. And I’ve provided a step-by-step LinkedIn action plan. Let's begin with …
Why You Should Use LinkedIn
First and foremost, LinkedIn is a way to generate new leads and customers for your business. According to sports marketer and LinkedIn expert Lewis Howes, over 45 percent of decision makers (those people who have the authority to hire you) are on LinkedIn!
LinkedIn is also a great place to:
- Meet and network with other qualified professionals
- Increase visibility of your products and services
- Research core customers and your competition
- Collaborate with colleagues, customers, and thought leaders
- Establish yourself as a thought leader
- Find freelance writing jobs
- Get free PR for your business
- Drive more traffic to your website
The first step, obviously, is to set up your profile. It's essentially your online resume – on steroids. You can get very detailed.
First, you input your current position and as much other work experience as you'd like (LinkedIn recommends you add a minimum of two previous jobs).
There's a place to add your education history, your interests, and a summary of how you benefit your clients. Your profile also lists how many connections and recommendations you have and the groups you belong to (more about this shortly), as well as links to your Twitter account and any website you may have.
You can add sections to your profile that show off your expertise and specialized skills (Certifications, Courses, Honors & Awards, Languages, Organizations, Projects, Patents, Publications, Skills, Test Scores, and Volunteer Experience & Causes). You can even customize your URL by going to "Edit Profile" from the Profile menu and then click the "Edit" located to the right of "Public Profile." This makes it easier for you to point colleagues and prospective clients to your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn allows you to add a presentation to your profile. This is a great way to show people recent examples of your work or to drive home the benefits of working with you.
Turning LinkedIn into a Reputation-Building, Client-Attracting Tool
Now that you have your basic profile set up, it’s time to really take advantage of all the resources LinkedIn offers to get your name in front of potential clients (or people who know someone that might need your services), connect directly with prospects, network with colleagues, and build your reputation as an expert in your freelance writing niche.
Add Some Third-Party Applications to Your Profile
There are many great third-party applications you can add to your profile. They enrich your profile giving it more functionality and reader-usability. They make your profile look more robust and appealing and allow you to share information with your network. Here are a few of the more popular ones:
WordPress – If you have a WordPress blog, this app will sync your blog posts with your LinkedIn profile. It’s a great way to attract more traffic to both your LinkedIn profile and your blog.
Blog Link – If you don’t use WordPress, you can sync your blog post using Blog Link.
Tweets – If you are an avid Twitter user and your tweets are of a business nature, it just makes sense to have your tweets show up on your LinkedIn page. This app gives you the ability to tweet, replay, and re-tweet – all from your LinkedIn page.
Reading List by Amazon – This app allows you to share with the world what you're currently reading, plan to read, or have already read. Not to mention it makes your profile look more robust.
Events – This is a quick and easy way to see what events members of your entire professional network are attending. You can see who else is attending and decide whether you should attend based on comments about and the description of the event.
SlideShare Presentations – This app allows you to share a presentation on LinkedIn. First, you create a presentation on Slideshare.net and then you link it to your LinkedIn account. It could be a presentation of your portfolio or resume. You can also put up a marketing/sales presentation you feel people might be interested in. This helps build your credibility and expertise within your industry.
Leverage Existing Contacts
As soon as you set up your profile, it's time to start connecting with people. Start by adding friends, family members, business associates, former or current clients, and co-workers.
Then leverage these initial contacts by asking your contacts to introduce you to some of their contacts. You can also ask these connections to “recommend” you.
This LinkedIn feature shows the world that you are valued by the people you've done work for and/or your colleagues. Recommendations look very impressive to people who read your profile and can go a long way when someone is considering hiring you.
There are two main strategies you can use to build up your recommendations:
- Ask someone you know to recommend you.
- And/or recommend one of your colleagues (chances are they will send you a recommendation in return).
Recommendations are also a great way to collect testimonials, which, of course, you could also display on your freelance website and other marketing materials.
Join and Participate in Groups
Groups are a big benefit of being a LinkedIn member because they allow you to interact with like-minded folks. It's an extremely good idea to join some groups related to the type of writing you do. You can find groups to join by accessing the Groups Directory from the "Groups" menu.
Engage and interact with others
Once you become a member of a group or groups, you should make a point of participating in group discussions. You could respond to a question, comment on a post, or start a new discussion. This raises your visibility within the group and helps build your reputation as an expert.
You can also create your own group. If you do, make sure you use the keywords in your group name and description that will best attract the people you'd like to join your group. Being the owner of the group allows you to send out messages to your group members. Plus, you can link your blog RSS feed so that every new blog post you publish will appear on the home page of group members, which will drive more traffic to your blog.
Trying to track down information on a company you’d like work for? Aside from the standard Google search and company website scan, search for information on LinkedIn as well. There's a good chance they have a company profile, which could really simplify your search for the best person to contact. You might even discover you know someone who knows the contact. So instead of contacting them cold, you ask for an introduction.
When you’re logged in to your profile, check under the "More" menu for the "Answers" section. To fuel your expert status, it's a good idea to provide answers to some of the questions posted by other members.
The questions asked include people looking for …
- Advice and help – (Should I outsource SEO or hire in house? What are the best ways to develop characters in writing fiction?)
- Other opinions – (How do I turn a part-time writing activity into a full-time occupation?)
- Business connections – (Do you specialize in writing white papers for the dietary supplements [or natural products] industry? If so, I'd like to talk with you!)
To everything in between.
If the content is relevant, you can even provide people with a link to a blog post you wrote (which obviously will drive more traffic to your blog). If you consistently provide high-quality answers, you'll earn points which moves you higher up on LinkedIn's list of experts.
You never know when someone who needs copy will see your answer or see your name on the expert's list, click on your profile, and contact you about an assignment.
Promote Yourself, Your Newsletter, and/or Your Products
Once you've set up your profile, it's time to start promoting it. Put a link to your LinkedIn profile on your website (for information on using a LinkedIn logo on your site, check the Branding Guidelines on the site). You can add your LinkedIn profile link to your business card, email signature, message board profiles, blog posts, and more. On top of encouraging potential clients to read your LinkedIn profile, this shows you have a comprehensive and organized marketing strategy.
If you have a product to promote and/or want to get more subscribers to your newsletters, you might want to consider running a LinkedIn ad that targets the market you're going after.
Create an Event and Keep Tabs on Upcoming Events
LinkedIn's Event features allow you to create and host events, find events, and indicate you're going to attend an event. You can set up both physical events such as conference or seminars, as well as virtual events like webinars and teleseminars.
If you create an event, it immediately goes on your LinkedIn profile, plus a short note goes out to all your connections about your event. You also have the option of sending out more detailed information to your followers.
You can also keep tabs on upcoming events that may be of interest to you. Simply select "Events" from the "More" menu, then in the Search Events box, input keywords related to the type of event you're interested in. For instance, if you're looking for a marketing event to attend, type in "marketing," hit enter, and all the upcoming marketing events will come up.
LinkedIn also has a free "Jobs” feature. You can search for jobs by keyword, company name, location, job title, function, experience industry, etc. You can set up email alerts to alert you when a new job is posted. LinkedIn also offers "Job Seeker Premium," which offers three different grades of service: Job Seeker Basic, Job Seeker, and Job Seeker Plus. You can get additional information on the website.
Should You Go Beyond Free?
All the resources I’ve mentioned in this article are free. But LinkedIn also offers three levels of membership: Business, Business Plus, and Executive. Their month-to-month plans range in price from $24.95 USD per month to $99.95 per month.
If you're a newbie to LinkedIn or have been on it for a while but not really tapped into its potential, you might want to hold off on a paid membership until you start utilizing and become familiar with the power and potential of LinkedIn's free membership service.
As of November 3, 2011, there were over 135 million professionals on LinkedIn, with 41% of members residing in the United States. It's currently in over 200 countries and territories. In 2010, there were nearly 200 billion people searches done on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a very powerful tool. But like any tool or activity, you only get out of it what you put into it.
If you haven't signed up yet, or have given your LinkedIn marketing only a half-hearted try up to this point, you might want to change your strategy.
Putting together a comprehensive LinkedIn profile shows prospects, clients, and colleagues that you are an organized professional who takes their business very seriously. Participating in LinkedIn groups and events shows that you are open to exchanging information and ideas with people and are open to new opportunities.
All of which will potentially bring you to the attention of those individuals searching for new freelancers who can help them grow their business. If you can attract even one new client a month through your LinkedIn efforts, the time you invest will have paid off.
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