Of all the types of social media out there you can use to promote your freelance writing, I think LinkedIn is one of the most useful. In working with writers in my mentoring program, I’ve discovered a lot of writers aren’t making full use of this platform.
Folks seemed to appreciate my recent Twitter tips, so I thought I’d do a sequel on how to get the most mileage out of LinkedIn.
First off, here’s why I like LinkedIn and recommend you become active on it: Unlike Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and many other platforms, LinkedIn is all business. There’s nobody on there with a photo of themselves half-nekkid with a drink in their hand, where their bio says they just wanna par-tay, or that they watch Glee.
Folks are on LinkedIn to further their careers. Period. So that to me screens out a lot of the bullcrap that often turns social media into such a time suck. Nobody’s playing Farmville on here or asking you to watch some dumb video. The audience may be smaller than Facebook’s at about 100 million, but it’s a higher-quality group.
LinkedIn also offers quite a few interesting features that are particularly useful to freelancers.
How can LinkedIn help you as a freelance writer? Let me count the ways:
- Key words in your profile. Start by fully filling out your profile and stuffing it with key words about what you do — mine currently says “freelance writer, award-winning blogger, copywriter, and writing mentor.” Why? Because companies and publications that need a freelance writer search by key words for the type of writer they’re looking for. My profile also names my nearest major city, useful for people searching for a local writer — that’s how an airline magazine based in my town came to call me recently to write a $500 business-finance article. They’re not the only major company I’ve had call me cold off my LI profile, either. So fill out your profile, people. Your profile converts people into buyers the best of any page on LI. People like to hang out in the groups (more on them later), but filling out your profile completely may be your most efficient use of time on LI.
- “Who’s viewed my profile?” A lot of people don’t realize you can click on this little sidebar widget and get more information about who has been looking at your LI profile. Yes, if you’re only on the free level, sometimes it won’t show you much — some of the information will be hidden. But sometimes, it will reveal contact names. If they smell like a prospect, I then send them a message: “Hi, were you looking for a freelance writer? I noticed you were looking at my profile. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!” If I have a particular expertise relevant to their industry, I mention that as well. I get a lot of responses to this, as people are amazed you knew they were checking you out.
- The blog tool. This one’s pretty obvious — use LI’s BlogLink tool to pull your blog onto your LI profile page. That will make it also appear in the blogrolls of all your connections that use the blog tool, too. Presto: Instant promotion! Great way to spread your blog around.
- The editor connections. I find LI is the place to look up all your former editors. Search for them and ask to connect. Shmooze, catch up, find out what they’re doing now. Do they need a job? Send them leads. Do they have a job? Maybe they can use you again, or know another editor using freelancers and could refer you. At one point when I was really needed a few new clients, I decided to reconnect with every editor I’d ever liked. It was fun! And one I hadn’t written for in a decade ended up referring me a great new global client that I did $1,000 of work for last year, and they’re still calling me.
- The jobs. If you’re going to look at online job ads, LI is one of my favorite places to do it, as an increasing number of their ads are exclusive to LI. Their ads cost money, and the companies tend to be high-quality. I use one of my favorite ad-hunting tricks and look at LI’s full-time job ads. In my experience as a staffer, the appearance of a staff-writer job ad means a crisis situation — someone usually left months back. My strategy? Apply to any publication or company of interest, and just let them know you’re a happy freelancer, not looking for a full-time job, but I’m so right for you, look at my experience…do you perhaps also work with freelancers? I got one $1,500 assignment last year this way from an interesting national trade magazine.
- InMail for prospecting. I have yet to try this, but it appears that sending a paid-level InMail on LI has a response rate of 30 percent and up. In fact, InMail does so well that LI now guarantees you’ll get a response — or they give you another InMail message to send free. Sort of a no-lose proposition. Apparently there’s a real novelty factor at this point in time to sending these, so people often will get back to you. Target your dream prospective clients, write your pitch, and then fire away on LI.
- In-person networking. Many LI groups also meet in person — my local Linked:Seattle chapter has networking events with more than 500 attendees. If you’re interested in small-business clients, these can be a gold mine. One of the best ways to make social media work really productive is to deepen those online connections by going offline. If you have a location-based LI group that isn’t meeting live, consider starting a live event and serving as host.
- The groups. You don’t necessarily find gigs in groups, but the writer groups on LI are one of the best free places I’ve found to discuss rates, negotiating, and other client issues. The biggest and busiest is LinkedIn Editors & Writers. I’ve made some nice friendships through LI groups, and we can all use the support. There’s also Writeful Share, a group where people post overflow jobs and try to share leads. Active participation in groups where you share your expertise can also lead to some nice new traffic to your blog.
- The jobs inside the groups. As Writeful Share’s model shows, job leads do sometimes get passed around inside of LI groups. Besides searching the main, full-time job postings, this is probably the next-best gig-finding opportunity on LI.
- Answer questions. I haven’t spent time on this, but I know many people who’ve done well answering and asking questions on LI’s main Answers tab. Yet another place on the platform to share your expertise and attract interest.
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