Two new users join LinkedIn every second, making it one of the fastest growing social media networks, especially for professionals.
And because it’s a business networking site, people expect – and many times welcome – freelancers approaching them to help their business succeed.
So how do you capitalize on this and start finding clients?
- First, polish your LinkedIn presence.
- Then go prospecting!
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Develop your profile
It’s not unusual for freelancers to land five-figure projects from major brands who found them on LinkedIn (I know several!).
This is because LinkedIn uses keywords in your profile for SEO.
For example, if you Google “freelance graphic designer near Seattle,” one of your first results will be a list of LinkedIn’s top freelance graphic designers in that area.
So pay particular attention to these areas when beefing up your profile:
- Headline: Use it to build authority. Keywords are okay, but remember you’re not selling to search engines.
- Summary: You have 2000 characters to talk about how great you are. Use every bit of it.
- Projects: Upload PDFs or screenshots of your best work and add keyword-rich descriptions.
- Header image: Your header image is 1000 by 425 pixels of free ad space.
- Recommendations: Ask former colleagues and clients to relate your positive aspects (and don’t be stingy with yours, either! Often the best way to get a recommendation is to provide one first.).
Establish a network
Build a solid connection base to make you more attractive to prospects (among many other benefits of connecting with the “right” people).
- Connect with previous and current colleagues, employees, employers, and clients.
- Join groups and connect with other group members.
- Ask for introductions from current connections.
(Don’t connect to people without head shot profile pictures.)
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Ask to connect as a friend if you’ve not worked with someone you’d like to connect with. To improve your chances of success:
- Include a quick note with the connection request letting people know why you’re connecting.
- Check out their work and mention your favorite piece.
- Make it about helping them.
People are flattered by the extra effort you take to connect with them.
If LinkedIn requires an email address, you can usually find it on their website (you may have to do some digging).
Here are the two most successful methods I’ve found:
1) Post-connection contact
When someone accepts your connection request, send them a message. (It’s important to do this on the same day they accept your request.)
You’ll be amazed at how many people will continue the conversation, send your information to others, and ask questions!
Here’s your basic email structure:
- First, thank them for the connecting with you.
- Next, give a one sentence summary of how they would benefit from working with you, and follow that up with how to learn more about you.
- Close out the message with an open invitation to reach out and to pass your name along if they are not the right person to contact.
- Include your phone number and email address under your signature.
Subject: Thanks for connecting!
Thanks so much for connecting with me on LinkedIn! When I saw your profile, I knew I had to reach out.
I’m a freelance web designer with extensive experience creating websites for the men’s clothing industry. Since you’re the content manager for <insert website here>, I’d love to talk more with you about your website goals for the upcoming year.
To view my portfolio and see if we’d be a good match, go to marydoewebsites.com.
Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have, and if there’s someone else I should be speaking with, please point me in the right direction.
Thanks for your time, and have a great day!
It’s important to keep the focus on listening to the needs of others, and to keep it light.
- Always be friendly and offer to help.
- Respond quickly when you get a response if necessary.
- This is not the place for a hard sell. Pushy salespeople tend not to get responses.
2) Intelligent commenting
Commenting not only gets you noticed by your prospect, but also by others reading the same post.
The emphasis is on intelligent commenting. You want to move the conversation forward.
- Share an anecdote about how the article helped you, including the results if applicable.
- Or my personal favorite: ask a question.
Do NOT leave a comment for the sake of commenting. “Nice post” or “thanks for this” damages your reputation more than not commenting at all.
When you receive a response, use that opportunity to request a connection immediately after their answer, if possible. (If you wait too long, they may not remember you or your thoughtful question.) Don’t forget to thank them publicly by replying to their comment in the original post.
After they connect with you, use the above examples to move your relationship forward.
Warning: this method works well when done correctly, but it can take a longer amount of time.
While it’s important to join peer groups to dish about what’s going on in your work-life, it’s equally important to join groups where your potential clients hang out.
Before joining any group, scan the discussions. Choose a group with frequent and active conversations as well as lots of comments.
Once you join, start participating in the group daily so members get to know – and trust – you.
You can also create your own group. If you create your own group, LinkedIn has a little-known email marketing capability for group administrators.
This handy tool allows you to email group members up to four times a week. Use this tool wisely, though, as nobody ever unsubscribes because of too little contact.
LinkedIn Pulse is the site’s publishing platform. Use this to get exposure and gain trust by:
- Answering common questions your prospects have,
- Comparing/contrasting products or services your prospects use, and
- Writing about topics of interest to your prospects.
If you have a blog, you can repurpose your content and copy it directly into the post. (Be careful, though, as Google may ding you for duplicate content.)
LinkedIn will automatically add your new post as an update to your profile when you publish it. It’ll also give you the option to Tweet or share your post on Facebook.
After publishing, start a discussion in all your LinkedIn groups with a link to your new post.
How do you use LinkedIn to promote your business? Share with me in the comments!
Here are some other great resources for finding new clients:
- 5 Places I’ve discovered new freelance business (and you can too)
- Struggling to find design clients? Here’s how I built my business from nothing
- How our agency uses email marketing to find new clients fast
- A “done-for-you” direct mail letter to get new, local clients
- 5 Super fun (and easy) marketing tips for your design business
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