I've been freelancing for nine years and I've never been a fan of Upwork or other freelance bidding sites. Since I discovered how to use LinkedIn, it's become a key platform for me in my connection strategy.
If bidding sites work for you, that should be fine, especially if you're new in freelancing, however if you find yourself bidding or making proposals time and time again just to pay your bills, it likely means you're not doing enough to market your freelance business, and it might be time to rethink your personal brand.
And being in a one-man business of freelancing, one of your responsibilities is to invest in marketing. The simplest way - though not necessarily easy - to market your freelance business is to build a strong brand on LinkedIn.
Here's an overview of the key steps towards building a strong freelance profile on LinkedIn
1. Use LinkedIn to be found: Optimize your profile
1. Invest in a professional photo. By simply including a profile photo, your LinkedIn profile is 21 times more likely to be viewed and you're nine times more likely to receive connection requests. One of those views or connection requests could be from your ideal client, so why not include a headshot on your profile? You can now use your mobile device to enhance your profile photo using LinkedIn Photo Filters and Editing feature. Try using Photofeeler to get an unbiased feedback on whether you look confident, likable and influential on your photo.
2. Use keywords. LinkedIn has a powerful search tool, which recruiters use to find qualified candidates. Most of the time, the difference between being found and remaining "invisible" on LinkedIn depends on whether you have the right keywords on your profile.
- Find out what keywords your target clients use to search for professionals like you.
- Use those keywords naturally throughout your profile particularly on the headline, summary and the 'experience' section.
3. Add relevant skills and manage your endorsements. LinkedIn says that adding at least five relevant skills to your profile to make you up to 33 times more likely to be contacted by recruiters and other LinkedIn users. With five or more skills, your profile is also likely to generate 17 times more views. Even if someone you don't know endorses you on LinkedIn, you can still add those endorsements to your profile - but be selective by adding only those that will help you amplify your brand. You should also make it a habit to thank everyone who gives you endorsements, and go out of your way to endorse your connections, too.
With the new LinkedIn user interface, your profile viewers can tell if your current or former colleagues or other users with the same skills also endorsed you. This is a form of social proof that can help emphasize your key skills.
Make sure that your skills are arranged according to what you want to be known for. The more endorsements you have on your top skills, the more likely that you'll appear in the search results when recruiters or other users search for those skills.
You can manage your endorsements by deleting or reordering them for maximum results.If you think an endorsement isn't particularly helpful, delete it.
4. Make your headline count. You have 120 characters to tell your story and state your brand promise in your headline. You should include keywords that you want to be found for.
Donna Serdula, a LinkedIn evangelist, has a handy LinkedIn headline generator to help users create an impressive headline. Check out how she crafted her headline (complete with bullet icons):
5. Craft a well-thought-out summary. Again, include keywords in this section. You can use up to 2,000 characters to "talk" to your ideal prospects. Write your summary with your prospective clients in mind.
Don't attempt to please everyone. Instead, think about who you want to read your profile and talk to them in this section. You might tell a story about what makes you different from other freelancers, but if you want to generate leads or convert profile views into clients, you need to make this section "client-facing." Talk about the value you bring to your prospective clients, instead of simply talking about yourself.
One important thing to remember, as well, is to avoid using overused buzzwords, such as 'specialized,' 'passionate' and 'experienced.' Avoid generic terms. Be specific.
The point of optimizing your profile is to ensure you can be found. And when you get found, your profile needs to be ready - it should tell your story and demonstrate the value you bring to your ideal clients.
2. Use LinkedIn to be remembered: Show up, curate content, engage
If you're serious about marketing your freelance business, you have to be patient. If prospective clients find you, but they're not ready to hire you, then, you should, at the very least, be remembered.
What can you do so that you will be 'remembered'?
- Show up. Update your LinkedIn status. Spend 10 to 15 minutes every day on LinkedIn. Read what your connections are sharing or writing about. Read articles from influencers you follow.
- Curate useful content. Browse through or read articles within LinkedIn Pulse or from other publications, and share those articles that you think may be of benefit to your connections.
- Engage. Like or comment on articles that resonate with you. Avoid generic comments like, "Nice article," or "Good points." Make your comments count by making them specific, concise and insightful.
Yuo should also be consistent. Don't just go to LinkedIn when you feel like selling something or you have nothing else to do. LinkedIn users go to the platform to search for jobs, to hire someone or to build professional relationships with other users.
3. Use LinkedIn to be respected: Learn, create content, join group conversations
To further boost your credibility - and eventually convert profile views into clients - you should use LinkedIn to be respected. This means highlighting what you know - here's how to do it:
1. Learn. Every freelancer who wants to stand out and be respected in their field must be a lifelong learner. LinkedIn can help you learn in many ways.
- Use LinkedIn Learning to take courses that'll help you learn more skills or update your existing abilities. Upon completing a course, you can showcase relevant certificates on your profile.
- Learn about the latest news or trends in your industry. LinkedIn has a new feature called 'Trending Storylines,' which is available on the mobile app. Each storyline gives you insights into the latest news stories, as well as the latest posts from LinkedIn influencers and your connections.
- Use LinkedIn search to find what you need and learn more. Just enter a keyword in the search field to find the type of results you want: people, jobs, posts, companies, groups and schools. This is an amazing, organized way to easily find what you're looking for, and can be particularly helpful if you're doing a research on your target company. If you land an interview, this feature can also help you "prepare" by doing your homework.
2. Create content. LinkedIn also provides you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise by publishing original content on the platform.
How can you leverage LinkedIn's publishing platform to boost your personal brand? Write about what you know. Publish content that your target clients care about. You don't necessarily have to be a writer to take advantage of this LinkedIn feature, you just need to know what you're talking about. You can get help on editing your copy or use tools like the Hemingway Editor App or Grammarly, if needed.
If you're a freelance WordPress professional, for example, instead of spelling out on your profile that you're an experienced (this is an overused buzzword to avoid) WordPress expert, why not write useful articles to demonstrate that expertise?
One of my connections, WordPress professional Ravi Chahar, leverages LinkedIn Pulse to make himself stand out:
Provide value to your connections by creating relevant, useful content. Remember that every time one of your connections likes or shares your article, it gets expanded visibility among their connections too. As a bonus, there's also the potential that your post could get featured on LinkedIn's popular Pulse content channels, which can greatly expand your reach.
One of the articles I published in February was featured in three LinkedIn Pulse categories: Careers: The Next Level, Entrepreneurship and Your Career. That article generated nearly 6,000 views and gained me almost 100 new connections/followers in less than a week. Four days later, I received a couple of job invites - if not for this post, I wouldn't have been found by those who are not my first-degree connections.
3. Join group conversations. Go to your LinkedIn groups (you must first join groups if you haven't done so) and look for any conversations that resonate with you. Joining conversations by sharing meaningful insights and helping other members with their concerns can help you become known in your field. Be strategic. Join conversations. Boost your personal brand by becoming an approachable thought leader.
Building a strong personal brand on LinkedIn can deliver great results, but it does take time, patience and consistency to maximize the available opportunities.
To succeed on LinkedIn, you need to be found, be remembered and be respected.
Again, to be found, you should keyword optimize your profile. To be remembered, you have to consistently show up and add value to your connections. To be respected, you need to demonstrate your expertise.
All of these can help you gain your target clients' trust and confidence. And with their trust and confidence, you can better establish your business - and you'll never have to join the "race to the bottom" in various freelance bidding sites.