I started 2013 with not as many clients as I’d like. Around March, something happened—old and new clients alike started knocking on my door.
The timing was partly due to other efforts, but companies I hadn’t even heard of were also finding me. When I asked people from these companies how they found me, the answer was always the same: LinkedIn.
That makes perfect sense to me. LinkedIn is the world’s largest online professional network. Hundreds of millions of people post their professional profiles on the site. People use it to connect to others, have conversations, research companies, look for work, recruit freelancers (I’m living proof) recruit employees (sometimes bypassing traditional recruiters) and so much more.
No matter what type of business you do, you’ll be able to find business—and it may find you—via LinkedIn.
Here are five tips based on how I found—and continue to find—business on LinkedIn:
1. I made my profile reflect the real me
I regularly beef up my LinkedIn profile to ensure it shows prospective clients how I can help them. For instance, my profile summary tells readers what I do in less than three lines. Everything else in the profile flows from there.
When I update my profile, I use the following question as a helpful test: If I’m asked to produce a résumé, could I copy the content straight from my LinkedIn profile without changing a thing?
When I answer that question with a yes, I know I have a good profile that helps prospective clients find me.
2. I continually expand my network
Here’s how I expand my network: I think of people in categories like these (this isn’t a comprehensive list—you can probably add other categories):
- current and former clients
- current and former colleagues
- industry contacts
- current and former professors/teachers/trainers
Then I connect to those people via LinkedIn. Doing this strengthens my network, which leads to other benefits down the road:
- I can request introductions to other people.
- I find connections in interesting companies.
- I ask favors of my connections.
- I do favors for my connections.
- I make it easier for other people to find me.
3. I ask for recommendations from people who know me
LinkedIn recommendations really boost my profile. They:
- make my profile more informative and attractive
- add other people’s perspectives on what it’s like to work with me
- demonstrate that the recommendations are real (people can contact my recommenders via their LinkedIn profiles for verification)
- provide social proof, which influences people’s decisions to buy and hire
To request LinkedIn recommendations, I think back to successful work experiences, projects or assignments. Who praised me? Who else benefited from my work? I then connect with those people and ask them to write a paragraph or two that details the work I did, what made it successful and why I was great to work with.
4. I stay in touch with my contacts
LinkedIn makes it easy to stay in touch with people who you might otherwise lose sight of: people you worked with in the past, people you met once while networking, people you’ve traded emails with.
You never know when one of these people might be in a position to help you, or vice versa, so I make it a habit to communicate occasionally with my contacts.
LinkedIn sends me “update” emails when my connections add events to their profiles, like promotions and job changes. I also get updates on birthdays and work anniversaries. I use these update emails as opportunities to send people quick notes. I congratulate them. I ask them how they’re doing. I may add other comments. I enjoy reaching out, and sometimes have conversations that can lead to new business.
5. I schedule meetings “IRL”
Digital relationships only go so far. To deepen them, you need to meet people IRL (in real life). So I make it a habit to get together with people in my network for coffee, lunch, networking events or other socializing. Doing this strengthens my connection with them.
I like to schedule Thursday afternoon coffee with people who I don’t regularly see. I use such meetings to do things for others, ask for things like advice or contacts, and simply socialize.
LinkedIn, like networking, is an ongoing and “fuzzy” process, but it led to some of my biggest contracts ever, so I gladly make the five tips above part of my regular routine.
LinkedIn is always evolving. New features are introduced and old ones retired. I visit blog.linkedin.com regularly to stay on top of these changes.
Did I miss any of your favourite LinkedIn tips? Share them in the comments below.
About the Author: Toronto-based freelance writer Luigi Benetton helps technology companies explain the value they deliver in ways their business audiences understand. He’s happy to be writing for that coolest of technology companies, FreshBooks. On his plate for 2014: self-publishing two books he’s already written, including one on effectively using LinkedIn. For more information about Luigi, please visit LuigiBenetton.com or his LinkedIn profile.
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