Is LinkedIn Premium Worth It? Why It’s One Freelance Writer’s Success Strategy

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it? Why it's one freelance writer's success strategy. Makealivingwriting.com

Need to find prospects that can turn into well-paying clients? Don’t we all. But too often, writers hit all the wrong places hoping to land a gig. You’re not likely to find good clients on job boards, content mills, Craigslist, and bidding sites. But that doesn’t mean they’re not out there.

In fact, if you use the right strategy, you can tap into a massive list of potential prospects in your niche using LinkedIn Premium. (Is LinkedIn Premium worth it? I’ll explain.)

But I didn’t know that when I got serious about freelancing. I used to troll job boards and send LOIs (letters of introduction) to people I wasn’t always sure were the decision makers. I had some success with this approach. But I struggled to find the right clients. Sound familiar?

I needed a better way to zero-in on my niche (FinTech), find the right people to pitch and land better-paying clients. But how? The truth: I stumbled across the answer when I started using LinkedIn Premium.

I signed up for Lynda.com, an online learning platform. And by chance, I scored a one-year subscription to LinkedIn Premium along with it (LinkedIn Premium now costs $29.99 to $79.99 a month).

I had heard plenty of buzz about LinkedIn Premium. But I was on the fence. I had the same question as a lot of freelancers: Is LinkedIn Premium worth it?

With a free subscription, I decided to jump in and see what I could do with it to grow my freelancing business. It didn’t take long to get results. I found a $1/word client and developed a strategy to use LinkedIn to move up and earn more.

Here’s how I did it:

Use keywords to find people in your niche

At the top of your LinkedIn profile, there’s a search box. Click the down arrow and select People.

linkedin-people-search

 

Enter a keyword that describes the industry you want to target. I like to work within the FinTech niche, but you may choose a niche like travel, fashion, or publishing, for instance.

Financial technology is a small niche and this one keyword search returns more than 50,000 results for me. That’s too many leads to manage, but it’s easy to narrow those results.

linkedin-keyword-search

Use LinkedIn filters

On the left side of your browser page, you’ll see some advanced search filters. Not all of them are available to Basic LinkedIn members.

linkedin-results

With a LinkedIn Premium account, I have access to all the filters. Still, with a Basic membership, you should be able to narrow your list of prospects with some of the advanced search filters like:

  • Relationship. For Relationship status, I use all the filters. I want to be able to find new clients even if they are not yet 1st or 2nd degree connections, so I search all of LinkedIn.
  • Location. For location, I also select All, but you can narrow it to your own country, or your own city, if you’d like.
  • Industry. One of the filters I’m most interested in is industry. Just by selecting “Financial Services,” I can narrow my search results to 13,751. The more industries you choose, the wider you’ll cast your search net.
  • Groups. If I want to narrow my search to specific LinkedIn groups, I can do that just by selecting those groups I want to include.
  • Function. More important to me is function within the organization (sorry, Basic members, this one’s not available to you). I like working with marketing professionals because I write white papers, case studies, blog posts, e-books, and reported articles. Selecting that filter narrows my search results to under 1,000. Then I drop down to seniority level and choose Manager. That narrows my results to under 400.
  • Company Size. Finally, being firmly planted in the “size matters” camp, I want to find clients with 10,000 or more employees, so I make that selection under the “Company Size” filter.

Save your searches to get more leads

By narrowing my search using LinkedIn Premium features, I cut the list of 50,000-plus leads down to just over 100 and created criteria to find my ideal client.
linkedin-filtered-results

Now you want to use the “Save Search” feature. Why? New people are signing up for LinkedIn daily. You’ll want to save your search criteria so you can be notified periodically of new people who match your lead qualification filters.

  • Here’s how: Click the “Save Search” link in the top right corner of your browser window. You’ll get a pop-up that looks like this:

linkedin-saved-searches

Because I like to contact leads a few times during the week, I have my list sent to me weekly. LinkedIn will send you a weekly or monthly prospect list by email.

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it? With a basic LinkedIn account, you can save three people searches. You can save more searches if you upgrade, which can be especially helpful if you write in more than one niche.

Use InMail to connect with prospects

The InMail feature of LinkedIn takes the guesswork out of finding email addresses for prospects you want to pitch and connect with. You can use it if you’re already connected to someone on LinkedIn. But if you’re not, you may need a LinkedIn Premium account to get through.

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it? This is one of the features that has helped me connect with people faster than taking the time to track down their email address.

  • How to contact prospects without LinkedIn Premium. LinkedIn can still be a very effective way to find the right people. With a basic account, use the search features to find people you want to pitch. Then use an email search tool like Hunter.io to find email addresses and contact your leads that way.

LOI basics for LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, sending a shorter LOI to a prospects you’ve never met is better. My goal is to get them off LinkedIn and into their email inbox or on the phone, so I send a short note explaining who I am. If there is a natural way to break the ice with a personal message, I’ll lead with that. For instance, “I see we’re both alumni of XXXX University….” Otherwise, I just cut right to the chase. Like this:

linkedin-safwan-zaheer-email
I got an almost immediate response from reaching out to this prospect via LinkedIn:

linkedin-safwan-zaheer-reply

Exactly the kind of people I want to reach in my target market: FinTech, works at a global consulting firm in marketing. Sent over some samples, and we’ll see what happens. On to the next.

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it?

It’s changed my perspective on marketing. There’s nothing wrong with the old-school way of finding clients and digging up email addresses. But LinkedIn Premium has made it much easier. I like being able to target business professionals where they hang out. LinkedIn is a great B2B marketing tool if you use it correctly. I’ve already score some solid gigs and made great connections with potential clients using LinkedIn. And I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.

How have you used LinkedIn to grow your freelancing business? Let us know in the comments below.

Allen Taylor is a former newspaper editor turned content strategist in the FinTech and career management niches. He currently edits Lending Times and VisionAR, and runs the website Taylored Content.

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61 comments on “Is LinkedIn Premium Worth It? Why It’s One Freelance Writer’s Success Strategy
  1. Great tips with the saved searches feature, and now I’ve added spending more time on LinkedIn to my list of New Year’s resolutions…But I think I’ll stick to the free version for now. I have had terrible experiences with LinkedIn when I tried a free month of premium on a couple of occasions — I got charged for the trial month and it was a pain to get reimbursed!
    🙁
    Samita Sarkar recently posted…Award-winning, Self-published Author Gisela Hausmann on Book MarketingMy Profile

  2. Sandy James says:

    Thanks, Allen for this valuable information. I’ve always wondered if Premium would be worth it, and I’ve never tried the free trial of LI premium. Now, that you’ve given insight to this feature, I’ll try the free trial next time I get one–and I’m about due! Thanks again!

  3. I obtained a free LinkedIn Premium profile through the LinkedIn for Journalists training. I liked it so well, I began paying for it after I could no longer receive it free through LinkedIn. I’ve not regretted it.

    As part of my freelance work I write and update LinkedIn profiles. Also use LinkedIn a lot for clients in researching marketing connections or professionals with whom they can network.

    For me, I’ve used it to find email addresses, market to prospects who are looking for freelance writers, and I’ve gained numbers of new clients through my profile. They connect via InMail or contact me via my website the find on my Connections links.

    My LinkedIn profile pays for itself. I just got a new client today who found me via LinkedIn, reviewed my website, then sent me an InMail and we held a call. He was an easy sell.

    I’m currently reviewing LinkedIn Learning and seeking to learn more about Profinder for my freelance writing marketing. I’m excited for 2017 to be a very prolific and successful freelance year!

  4. This is brilliant. I’ve used LinkedIn to find work in the past (well, the work found me…) but I’ve never thought to use InMail for it. Maybe I should give Premium a try…there must be a way to get a discount on it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      There isn’t (unless you catch them on a special promo, but I haven’t seen any in a while), but you can sign up for ONE month and cancel at the end. In fact, I recently did just that! You don’t have to commit to a whole year of it. I know plenty of writers who buy a month and then do a TON of marketing…and then see what comes of that, and maybe a month or three later, do another month. So you don’t have to commit to a whole year of it, is the good news.

  5. John Weiler says:

    Thanks for the great article, Allen.

    I’m planning on upgrading to a premium account next month.

    With that said, I’m wondering…do you follow up with prospects you don’t hear from on LinkedIn? I sometimes did for LOIs sent via emaill, noting “not sure you got my last email…”. Doesn’t seem like this tactic would work on LinkedIn though as there’s no doubt the message was delivered to them.

    Just curious to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Not sure if Allen is around today, but I’ll just weigh in and say I don’t. As you say, you can’t make the claim it might have gotten lost in their inbox!

      But remember, I don’t follow up on any marketing. Just not my style. I always assume I’ll hear from them if interested.

    • I’ve used the LinkedIn Premium for a few years and I don’t follow-up to anyone I contacted on LinkedIn. I adopted Carol’s policy of not following up because I’ve other people to market to. If someone is interested, they’ll get back to me. It’s better to focus on marketing to those who are interested then spinning your wheels in the mud on someone or a company that simply isn’t interested. They may follow your success, so moving on without them shows you’re dedicated to working with winners.

  6. Zoe Larkin says:

    Sounds like it’s worthwhile if you already have a strong base of connections already. For me, I’m new to the area I will work in. I have no connections yet as I moved continents a month ago, and even in my old country, I didn’t have any yet. I post regularly and I’m a member of groups, I just don’t really know anyone. For me, even if I were to use LinkedIn premium for a month (about all I can justify at those prices), it would not be fruitful, especially as I don’t see many people in my field (photography) with strong LinkedIn presences.

    I just think it’s a little bit weird how users can see what other users have clicked on their profile page. Creepy or what. It makes me never click on any user’s page – they will know I’ve looked at their page!
    Zoe Larkin recently posted…Photographing the Bay Lights, San Francisco Bay BridgeMy Profile

    • Zoe, as an FYI, when I am researching companies, I always go on the VP of Marketing or CEO’s LinkedIn page. They may see my name there, as signed up for their newsletter (I got 2 calls last month from this) and/or their webinars. As a business networking site it’s helpful to look at it as if you’re shaking their hand, which is what most of us want to do.

      I also felt it was creepy a few years ago when items I looked at in online stores started showing up in ads when I was on another site. Revealing who’s seen your site gives you an excuse to contact the person and see if you can be of any help to them.

      As machine learning continues to get better you’ll be seeing more and more suggested/targeted info from every conceivable venue. People who buy diapers for example, need a host of other products and those who don’t, need different sets of products.

      • Allen Taylor says:

        Exactly right. As Tammy says, consider it a handshake. When you walk into a networking event and people look at you, do you creeped out by that? They see you and you see them. LinkedIn is the digital equivalent to that.

        When I see that someone has checked out my profile, if they look like someone I’d like to do business with, I send them a quick note: “Hey, I saw you checking out my profile. Were you looking for a writer?” It’s a good ice breaker, and I’ve actually made meaningful contacts that way.

        The LinkedIn prospecting method I use also allows you to cast your net wider than your own network. If you’re a Premium member, you can search for anyone on LinkedIn. It’s a great tool.
        Allen Taylor recently posted…How Long Does It Take to Publish an E-book?My Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        So true — retargeted ads based on past search history for instance are huge. I always say this isn’t an era for the paranoid.

        Assume every company and person out there knows everything about you. Get over that. And then…USE it to your advantage!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Zoe — I’m hoping I can change your mindset about LinkedIn. First off, if you have Premium your search results are NOT dependent on your connections. You CAN use your connections as a search filter, but you don’t have to. And with Premium, you can InMail anyone, connection or not. So Premium is basically your workaround that skyrockets you to essentially being connected to EVERYONE.

      On the ‘Who’s Viewed My Profile?’ feature — I’m so sad to hear you’re afraid to click on pages! First off, if you set your privacy settings for it, then they WON’T know much about you. BUT…you really want to set yours to reveal yourself. I know quite a few writers who were contacted after a prospect saw they had been viewing the company’s page! This is another way to connect with anyone, not just your ‘connections.’

      I think it’s one of the big myths of freelancing that you need ‘connections’ to make it. You don’t. Believe me, I started out knowing absolutely no one. I was a college dropout who didn’t even have colleagues or professors I could put in my network!

      Be sure to troll your OWN profile views, too — sometimes, you may see great prospects checking you out. That’s your chance to shoot them an InMail, and say, “Hey, I saw you were checking out my profile — do you need a freelance writer?” Pretty easy, low-key way to introduce yourself to prospects.

      The fact that you don’t see many photographers with a strong LinkedIn is YOUR opportunity to shine, Zoe! That means companies searching on LinkedIn for your type of freelancer, you’ll be more likely top pop up in their search. So go for it!

      • Zoe Larkin says:

        Hi Carol, I think I understand! You’ve pretty much convinced me, just one final question. I think I’m correct in saying that only paying members have the capability to send InMail messages. So, if I InMail someone that doesn’t pay for their membership, is it correct to assume they cannot reply using InMail? Does InMail block email addresses / phone numbers etc, or can the non-paying recipient of my InMail reply to me via, say, email?

        I see that it can be advantageous to be a photographer on LinkedIn when most don’t bother with this platform, preferring those which are altogether more visual and creative. I admit, I was a bit slow catching on, but I’m seriously considering it now, maybe just for a month here and there when I really want to devote time to building connections!
        Zoe Larkin recently posted…Photographing the Bay Lights, San Francisco Bay BridgeMy Profile

        • Allen Taylor says:

          Zoe,

          It’s not ENTIRELY true that only Premium members can use InMail. Some Premium members opt to have anyone InMail them. Even non-paying LinkedIn users. If you go to their profile, you’ll see a button that allows you to InMail them. Of course, not all Premium users exercise that option, but when I was a free LI user, I did get to send some InMails to people who were not my connections because they allowed me too. Quite exciting to be able to do that.

          Also, you can InMail your connections on LI even as a free user. If someone InMail’s you, you can respond even if you’re not a Premium user.
          Allen Taylor recently posted…How Long Does It Take to Publish an E-book?My Profile

          • Carol Tice says:

            Exactly — I did a project of reachouts recently, and I was surprised how many people had set their accounts on free InMail to all. So everyone should check that out!

        • Carol Tice says:

          I think there’s plenty you can get out of the FREE level of LinkedIn, Zoe — you can set your contacts open, I believe, or put your phone or email into your header or summary, so that anyone can find and contact you through the platform without having to InMail.

          • Zoe Larkin says:

            Hi again Carol. I’m still struggling somewhat to see how this would work in practice, in terms of finding clients, because I’m not sure that people looking for family photographers would be looking on LinkedIn, but it might be a good tool to reach out to other photographers for work or work experience and as a way to get to strike up a dialogue. Mine is here: LinkedIn… /zoe-larkin – I thought it looked pretty good (even had my own LinkedIn trainee photographer group for almost a year — one member, me -) but alas I’ve only had 9 views in 3 months! I know I’m not utilizing the platform properly, but it’s still hard to know how to use it for much other than people I’ve actually already met/know in real life.

            I’ve bookmarked this conversation as it contains so much of use. For now though, I’ve been staring at this page and also my LinkedIn page for too long and I really can’t work out what to do that would help me career-wise and make me come across as a value-add not an unwelcome spammer – a task for the New Year with a fresh outlook, hopefully.
            Zoe Larkin recently posted…December 2016 image miscellanyMy Profile

            • Carol Tice says:

              You know, our expertise here is in promoting freelance writing to publications and businesses — if your target audience is 1 family at a time, your best options may be different. I’d network with other photographers and see what they’re doing that works for marketing.

  7. Great, detailed post. Thanks for the step-by-step. I will definitely re-evaluate subscribing to the premium.
    Carol J Alexander recently posted…Make Technology Your FriendMy Profile

  8. Allen Taylor says:

    Dan, that’s awesome. I didn’t realize Email Hunter had a Chrome extension. I may have to download that, as well, instead of migrating to the website every time I want to use it. A real time saver.
    Allen Taylor recently posted…How Long Does It Take to Publish an E-book?My Profile

  9. Jonathan Lee says:

    Allen,

    REALLY well done. I will freely admit that I changed my Premium back to the Free version after not gaining any traction with some of the methods I was using — largely because LinkedIn changed some of the protocol as to how you can contact people within a Group.

    I may well have to reconsider that move.

    • Jonathan Lee says:

      Okay. . . unfortunately, I see one major hitch with this methodology. It has nothing to do with LinkedInPremium — that’s actually a good source for potential leads.

      The issue lies with email hunter. After trying a test sampling of about 50 contacts so far, the hit rate is HORRIBLE.

      And the “confidence” rate shown seems to mean nothing in real life.

      Because LinkedIn provides more than enough leads to pursue, I purposely stayed away from any where Email Hunter deemed to have less than about a 70% confidence rate in accuracy. Roughly 50% of the results using that parameter are inaccurate.

      In other words, when Email Hunter says that they have a 70% chance of being correct, they are wrong about 50% of the time.
      Jonathan Lee recently posted…Marketing Communication: Branding and Cybersecurity Go Hand in HandMy Profile

      • Carol Tice says:

        Jonathan, I agree– if it doesn’t have 70% or more confidence, I usually move on.

        • Jonathan Lee says:

          Well, I will say that, even with the inherent shortcomings of Email Hunter, this process really does appear to work! Just got out of a meeting yesterday with a VERY high quality prospect and things are looking pretty good.

          Also, have one additional response pending that, while certainly not a given, was detailed enough to lead me to believe that it’s serious.

          The previous comments about filtering are dead on. If you are both realistic and practical about what/who you are going after, I can’t imagine a scenario where you would run short on leads.

          So, wise use of the various filters, combined with saving the search so that you can approach a manageable number of prospects at one time, seems to be the key.
          Jonathan Lee recently posted…Marketing Communication: Branding and Cybersecurity Go Hand in HandMy Profile

  10. Dan says:

    You can use Email Hunter (free chrome extension) to find email addresses through LinkedIn. 95% accurate on the first try.
    Dan recently posted…15 Deliciously Insightful B2B Content Pieces for You to DevourMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I have to say, I had high hopes for Email Hunter (is that the same as hunter.io?) but didn’t get many hits. FullContact is now my go-to.

      • Allen Taylor says:

        Really? Carol, that’s interesting. I rarely have an issue with Hunter.io (it used to be emailhunter.co). Lately, I’ve run into more trouble, but I think it’s because some of the companies I’ve been researching are startups, and I’m learning that many of them don’t publish their emails online (Email Hunter is essentially a Web crawler). So, I’d say use the tool that gives you the best result. 🙂
        Allen Taylor recently posted…How Long Does It Take to Publish an E-book?My Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          It depends on the company you’re researching. I discovered that Microsoft and Amazon basically have NO email convention — in part to defeat email-finding schemes, I believe.

          I have a post coming up about a tool I found that helps in these type of situations, used in tandem with FullContact, so stay tuned for that!

      • Ricky says:

        I have used intellius with a lot of luck to find emails.

  11. Scott Doyle says:

    I’ve been searching for a while for an incisive guide to using LinkedIn in a focused and strategic way. Thanks for putting this together.

    • Carol Tice says:

      One of the biggest comments I get is, “I don’t know how to qualify prospects. I’m overwhelmed!” Love how Allen cuts his list down using the LinkedIn filters and comes up with the winners. 😉

  12. Carla says:

    This is such a timely article for me! I signed up for LinkedIn Learning, which included (I think) the basic level of premium access. But, I wasn’t sure how to go about trialling that access to see if I’d get the value out of it. So, thank you! Your step-by-step guide to searching for potential prospects – and more importantly, how to reach out to them will be very helpful!

  13. Felix Abur says:

    I now regret not using my free premium trial to its full potential. Maybe I’ll do a one month payment and see how that goes

    • Allen Taylor says:

      Give it a shot, Felix. But unless you really hit it hard that month, I’d suggest giving it three months to build up some momentum.

      Good luck!
      Allen Taylor recently posted…How Long Does It Take to Publish an E-book?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      That IS one advantage — you CAN buy a single month of it. I know a lot of writers who’ve gotten a TON done in that 30 days!

      • Jonathan Lee says:

        I guess it’s worth pointing out that, just a scant two months after this posting, LinkedIn made some changes that directly affect Premium.

        – The filters necessary to bring results down to a manageable level (function, for example) are now gone. As a result, using the same search parameters I had previously used to create a search list, my “list” now totals 46,000 people. I previously had it down to about 1200. . . . And lest anyone think that using applicable search terms in LinkedIn will perform the same function as the filters had provided, you’d be mistaken. LinkedIn search terms are about as focused as search engines were toward the end of the Bill Clinton era.

        – My saved searches are now gone.

        So, with these two inconveniences now in the picture. The answer to the question “Is LinkedIn Premium worth it?” is now pretty simple. Absolutely not.

        Really, really disappointing.
        Jonathan Lee recently posted…Marketing Communication: “Simple” is Almost Always BetterMy Profile

        • Carol Tice says:

          I don’t know if I agree with your conclusion, but definitely join you in being disappointed in their recent changes. I think there’s still plenty of use to get out Premium — but all these platforms are ever-changing. I’m hoping the next change is for the better!

          • Jon says:

            That being said, how might you use Premium in a manner you couldn’t use Basic in order to justify the expense? I’m sure the former has SOME value, but not $30 worth, unless there’s some strategy I’m not aware of.

            • Carol Tice says:

              To name just one example, you can see the people who’ve viewed your profile and target them with InMails — where without Premium, most of those identities will be masked.

  14. Evan Jensen says:

    Hi Allen,

    Really useful steps in your post about how to use LinkedIn to find the right people for marketing.

    I was wondering about “optimizing” my LinkedIn profile. I noticed one thing you have on LinkedIn is a lot of of work featured in the Publications section. Looks like this is a great way to set yourself up as an expert in your niche and wow prospects.

    Evan

    • Allen Taylor says:

      Absolutely, Evan. I consider that one of my best prospecting tools. Most people rely on their Summary and Work History, which is fine if you’re looking for a job. As a freelancer, I want people to see my value to them in my natural element.

      I’ve been using LinkedIn as my primary portfolio location and recently deleted a bunch of clips that weren’t specific to the FinTech niche I’m targeting. I may go another round and delete some more.

      This is even more effective, I believe, if you specialize. Optimize your LinkedIn profile both as a freelance writer and to target the niche you want to write in.
      Allen Taylor recently posted…How Long Does It Take to Publish an E-book?My Profile

  15. Allen Taylor says:

    Any time, Tammy. It’s good to count the cost, that’s for sure. I’m blessed that I was able to get a free one-year Premium membership vis-a-vis my status as a veteran. I tell myself, if it works out, and it’s appearing as if it will, then I’ll spring for the full membership at the end of the free trial.

    Good luck!
    Allen Taylor recently posted…How Long Does It Take to Publish an E-book?My Profile

  16. Thanks Allen! I’ve been on the fence forever and kicked myself for not having signed up before the price increase on LinkedIn premium. I’ll probably still hold off a bit longer until I get through a long list of leads I’ve made but I appreciate you sharing the details with us.

  17. William Hall says:

    Excellent primer on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to update your profile page to attract organic leads. I started my freelance writing business to update LinkedIn Profiles. When I updated mine, I got several leads and landed two paying clients without any work on my part. Sweet!

    Bill Hall
    LinkedIn Profile Makeover

  18. Todd says:

    FinTech is a good industry to go after. Here in Little Rock, they launched a FinTech accelerator. There is a lot of money and future disruptions in that niche.

    Nice layout of using Linkedin premium!
    Todd recently posted…Entrepreneur Stories: Q&A with Santa Claus!My Profile

  19. Troy Lambert says:

    I recently moved up to LinkedIn Premium since I used the ProFinder feature for a month for free, and landed 2 clients worth a nice chunk of change out of the deal.

    It is definitely a better place to network, and even before premium, I used search to connect with industry professionals and find clients. However, it is much easier with InMail and the features offered by premium.

    I would say it is worth it for sure.
    Troy Lambert recently posted…Simply a Matter of Trust: The Author-Reader RelationshipMy Profile

  20. John Soares says:

    Allen, you’ve provided detailed instructions for optimizing LinkedIn Premium. Thank you! I especially like the way you construct your LOI after you’ve found a good prospect.
    John Soares recently posted…Your Complete Guide to Mastering LinkedInMy Profile