Are You Taking Advantage of this Easy and Free Tool to Attract Clients?

There’s a powerful “client magnet” you may already be using, though you may not be aware of its potential.

I’m talking about the social networking site LinkedIn.

I found out about LinkedIn’s potential for attracting clients last fall when I attended an online event called International Freelancers Day. There were many great speakers, including several names I recognized from AWAI: Ed Gandia, Rebecca Matter, and Steve Slaunwhite.

Steve’s presentation, “How to Get Clients by Using LinkedIn” (you can watch it here on his blog), was of particular interest.

Now, I’ve had a free LinkedIn profile for years. But, I didn’t do much with it until recently. So, I decided to follow his advice and give it a try. Using Steve’s six steps below, I customized my profile and am using LinkedIn to prospect for clients. And, as you’ll see in a moment, it paid off.

Here’s how you can get started:

1. Fill out your profile. This is the single most important step. If you’ve already signed up for a LinkedIn account, you have a profile. But, that isn’t enough. You have to fill it out with details and specific information that will make you attractive to prospective clients.

Start with your Headline, which appears just below your name. It’s the first thing people see when they look at your profile, and will be visible when your profile shows up in searches. You want your Headline to be descriptive of who you are and what you do. You have a lot of space here — don’t be afraid to use it. For instance, instead of Freelance Writer, my headline says Freelance Writer for the Natural Health and Gluten-Free Industries.

Next, fill out your summary to tell a little more about yourself. This is your chance to sell yourself in detail. Steve suggests including any information you have on your freelance website in your summary. This will allow prospective clients to get all the details about you they need immediately. Describe who you are, what you do, what you’re an expert in, and what services you offer. My profile describes my experience as a copywriter and as a gluten-free expert.

Next, if you have done work for someone that is also on LinkedIn, ask them for a testimonial through the site. Potential clients find these recommendations to be very credible because they are from another LinkedIn user — and very likely to have been written by a real person.

Next, click on Add Sections and add more information to your profile. Some of the options include Organizations, Courses, Honors and Awards, Languages, and Publications. Steve recommends you fill out the Publications section if you have anything that has been published, whether it’s a book, special report, magazine article or column, or any other published piece. Having published work in your field is a great bonus to potential clients that search your LinkedIn profile.

Also, don’t forget your photo. It’s easier for potential clients to relate to you if they have a face to put with the name. Just like on your website, it should show you looking professional, yet friendly and approachable.

2. Make connections. Connections are people in your network that you have worked with, that you know, that might possibly hire you, refer you, or be able to help you out in some way. Steve recommends making one new connection each week.

I began by connecting with friends and former coworkers on LinkedIn. From there, I added people I met at AWAI’s FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair, and people I met through LinkedIn groups (see the next step).

Remember, every one of your connections is connected to other people. If one of your connections knows someone you would like to meet, you can request an introduction through LinkedIn. Once you are connected with someone, you can send them email through the site, and approach them the way you would any other prospect.

3. Join groups. LinkedIn has networking groups for nearly every profession, industry, and business interest. Do a search and find some groups that interest you. If you search the groups for the term “copywriting,” you’ll turn up 116 different groups. There are copywriting groups, including Copywriters Beat and SEO Copywriting. Don’t forget to join AWAI’s group! There are also groups for designers, consultants, niches, and just about anything else you might be interested in as a freelancer.

Once you join some groups, become active in the discussions. Discussions are like forum topics. They are started by members and are related to the topic of the group. By participating in discussions, you will meet members of the group, which can lead to meeting other people who can potentially hire you, or help you get in contact with those who can hire you.

4. Do research. LinkedIn is a great resource to research companies. Use it to check out company profiles, and find contacts within those companies. Many companies list employees in key positions in their profile. If the person you want to contact, such as the marketing manager, has a profile, then you can see if you have any connections in common and request an invitation to be introduced.

You can also track down people you’ve done work for in the past that have moved on to a new company. Chances are, they’ve updated their LinkedIn profile, and they probably need copywriting services in their new position.

5. Answer questions. LinkedIn has an Answers section where users can ask questions on a variety of topics. Keep an eye on the questions being asked. If there is a question about your area of expertise, answer it. This will help make you visible to others and establish you as an expert.

While you can do this in your niche, you can answer other questions, too, as long as you have something to offer. After all, the person asking may just be looking for a copywriter, as well as a recommendation for good online file storage.

6. Add skills. Skills are searchable within LinkedIn. When someone searches for “copywriter,” they will find everyone in their connections who lists that skill. Updating your skills will really pay off if you’ve taken the time to connect with people you’d like to work for.

You can have up to 50 skills listed in your profile, so give this some thought and fill it out thoroughly. For instance, in addition to copywriting, if you also write autoresponders and web copy, list those skills. The more skills you have listed, the more searches you will show up on, and the better idea potential clients will have about your abilities.

So, is this really worth the effort? Yes! It actually only takes a few minutes, and you can do it a bit at a time. Plus, you can go back and update it any time.

Like I mentioned earlier, after I learned what I should do on my LinkedIn profile, I followed through and actually did it.

For one, I commented on a discussion in one of the groups I belong to. The next day, I got a message from another member. She wrote, “I see you are a freelance writer. Would you be interested in doing some writing for the teen magazine I’ll be launching this fall?” You bet I would!

I contacted her, got the details, and so far have written three articles for her magazine.

By making an investment of just a few minutes of my time, I gained a new client and got the opportunity to write for a publication I previously didn’t know about. I learned a lot while writing the article, got published, and got paid for it.

It’s really very simple. Fill out your profile. Participate. It could be a great kick-start to your freelance business and a source of new clients for years to come.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: February 7, 2012

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