The resume is dying.
Together, your portfolio and LinkedIn are taking its place. This is good news for most of us: your portfolio and profile are probably a much more accurate and full-featured description of who you are.
Every single gig I have applied for in the past several years have looked at my LinkedIn profile before they hired me. (I asked.) Don’t miss out on all the gig opportunities on LinkedIn by not maximizing your profile:
Key aspects of your profile
Your profile photo
This is the first way you will be judged on your profile.
We’ve talked about best practices for taking your own profile photo here.
Your jobs and gigs
Add previous jobs and gigs, with a short description of each.
And I mean short: don’t be that person that writes 10 lines for each job. I try to keep the description to 2-3 line. I also put it in normal, non-resume-speak (which some people may disagree with). So I write “I wrote copy…” without a bullet rather than “[bullet] Wrote copy…”
Should you add all your gigs?
If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ve had a lot of gigs. Should you list all your clients, or should you just write something like “Owner, Lindsay Enterprises,” with a description of your core business model?
These two approaches have different benefits. I would suggest a happy marriage of the two, so it would look something like this:
[What your business does]. Some of the clients I’ve worked with: Barney, Donald Trump, and Blue’s Clues.
Get creative about projects
Within your business listing I talked about above, the projects associated with your business should essentially be the star items in your portfolio. Include documents, presentations, writing samples, screenshots of websites you’ve built.
If you’re more of a consulting or soft services business, it might be a good idea to create a Slideshare presentation or video about your business instead.
Not only do endorsements look good on your profile, but they’re also a great way to strengthen a connection with someone you’ve worked with on a gig.
I’ve also used endorsements to creatively “remind” a previous employer that I exist. You’re of course giving them an authentic endorsement, but also remember that when you endorse them, your name appears in their inbox. That’s good for you! (Just don’t abuse it -- do it once. Continually endorsing someone feels pretty false.)
Don’t miss out on one of the best (free) marketing tools for your business: getting past clients to talk about how great you are.
We’ve talked about how to reach out to past clients in an unsleezy way that makes the process painless for your client here.
If you’re new to LinkedIn or have fewer than 30 connections, it will be worth your time to try to grow that number before you start trying to find gigs through LinkedIn. That number is going to be one of the big things clients look at.
How to increase your connections quickly:
- Ask your social media followers to connect with you on LinkedIn. An easy way to pick up 10-15 new connections and bring old Facebook friends out of the woodwork. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you all on Twitter, so feel free to connect with me here [LINK]. Let’s get connected!” My email address is: [email address].
- Use the “People you may know” tool. These are people you don’t need an introduction to connect to. Just go through the list and start connecting.
- Use the “Add connections” tool (it's the icon of the person with the plus in the top right navigation) to have LinkedIn go through your contacts to find connections. This is how I went from 0 to 50 contacts in 24 hours when I first got started.
Also remember that whenever you meet someone at a networking event or on a gig, always connect with them. This is the easiest way to maintain a connection (and perhaps later use this connection to get repeat business.)
Who’s looking at my profile?
As soon as you put up a profile, you become searchable in the giant LinkedIn database. The LinkedIn search tool is how recruiters, HR departments, and many potential clients search for people with your skills.
Every day, thousands of freelancers have clients reach out to them on LinkedIn -- without the freelancer lifting a finger. That’s pretty much the ideal scenario for busy freelancers, right?
Larger companies also have what’s called an Applicant Tracking System that’s like a robot that does keyword and location searches on LinkedIn. This is why keywords are so important.
The power of keywords
You should sound like a human on your profile, but you should also remember that people with scan your profile (and as explained above, robots might too.)
1. HR people look for keywords
This is not the time to be very creative; “Content marketer” in your bio will get more searches than something like “I think big about your business.”
Let’s say you apply to a job the good-ol’-fashioned way (a pitch or resume). Chances are the person doing the first round of cuts in an organization larger than 30 people is an HR person.
The HR person has listened to other people describe the job, but may not understand the nature of your field or what experience counts as “related” or not. Chances are they are looking for keywords, which they heard from your future project manager or supervisor.
2. Clients look for keywords
Most clients aren’t just looking for a generic copywriter or marketer. They’re looking for someone with specialized experience in their particular field.
Be careful that you’re not being convoluted about what you did. Make it easy: describe what you do in keywords. Put a few keywords in your bio. When you describe gigs, use keywords.
Reaching out directly to clients
There's two ways to proactively reach out to clients on LinkedIn; the job board and a direct message. We talk about how to find all the good-paying job postings here.
Have someone you really want to work for? Find them on LinkedIn and try to send them a message. Send them your pitch. This is how this freelancer found multiple small projects that turned into longer-term clients.
This is the kind of thing that most managers and recruiters expect. It is not seen as annoying by most of them, especially if they have a job posting on their website and you’re using this as a secondary follow-up to your application.
Groups? Status updates? eh.
I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have time to update my status on yet another social network.
Call me lazy.
Of course, updating your status on LinkedIn will get your name in front of your existing clients -- which is good if you want to get repeat clients. But that’s assuming those clients hang out on LinkedIn, which I kind of doubt.
As for groups, supposedly groups can be “happy hunting grounds” for recruiters. I feel like I get more bang for my buck spending marketing time on Twitter, email marketing, and direct-to-client pitches and emails, but I’d love to hear if you’ve had success with groups (comments please!)
Now that we’ve gone over what you should do on LinkedIn, let’s review what you shouldn’t do.
- Don't try to connect with people using the generic connect message. If you really want to connect with someone (especially an old colleague), spend the time re-introducing yourself and saying why you genuinely want to connect. If you just met someone at a networking event, remind them where you met them.
- Never lie or exaggerate your jobs. This should be a no-brainer, but it must be said. This is public information available to all of the people that know exactly what you did at a certain job.
- Careful not to misspell things. Think of LI as your most important resume.
- Don't use the words “creative,” “effective,” “extensive experience,” or “proven professional.” (Don’t use them on your resume, either.)
- Don't recommend people you don’t really know, just so they’ll recommend you back. Trust us, there is nothing creepier than getting recommended by someone you don’t really know for a skill you know they don’t know you have.
- Try not to forget to update your profile for several years. Just because this can be a low-effort platform does not mean you should forget to tell potential new clients about the great new gig you have.
Freelancers, do you find gigs through LinkedIn? How?