How I Used LinkedIn to Win 3 Freelance Clients in Just 1 Month

Recently, I was shocked to discover the following seminar on EventBrite:

Madison LinkedIn Extravaganza

For whatever reason, the organizer of this event is charging participants almost $200 to learn about LinkedIn and how they can win sales prospects by using this business networking platform. Seriously?! Well, for just the price of a few minutes of your time, I can tell you how LinkedIn can help you find your own sales prospects- and win them. At least, I can tell you how I have used LinkedIn to land clients; recently, after making a concerted effort on LinkedIn, I gained three clients in just one month!

LinkedIn works like a big virtual Rolodex, keeping track of all your business contacts and their information. However, unlike a standard Rolodex, LinkedIn also immediately informs you whom your contacts are connected with. These connections-to-connections are invaluable when you are trying to reach a potential client or hiring manager and need someone to help you out. Remember that, in the world of business, it’s not just what you know; it’s also who knows you. However, that’s just the start of why LinkedIn is so useful for doing business. Here are three additional reasons:

  1. Credibility. On LinkedIn, you can post your resume, website(s), work history/projects and even your personal “mission statement”. You can also solicit and receive recommendations from your coworkers, bosses, employees and clients. Having this information out there improves your credibility and chance of being approached for work. You also save yourself a lot of time and effort when sending out job query “teasers” by referring potential hiring managers/clients to your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Information. LinkedIn is a great sales prospect research tool if you know what you are looking for (more on that later). For example, you can track down and locate the name and information of the company hiring manager to whom you are about to send your resume. This sure beats addressing your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Mam” or the God-awful “To Whom It May Concern”. It also helps you better focus your job inquiry; for instance, if you discover that a hiring manager has posted several discussions about the importance of SEO, you can highlight your own SEO accomplishments in your resume. Finally, you can “spy” on people and find out who has recently viewed your profile; this is useful if you’re sending out a lot of resumes and trying to gauge who might be contacting you soon.
  3. Networks. Many companies have an established presence on LinkedIn and use it to post corporate news including job opportunities. Many of these announcements are fed in from social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Such announcements give you some really golden opportunities to post comments (that are strategically linked to your work) and make yourself known to these companies. Likewise, by joining LinkedIn groups that are within your area of expertise, you have the opportunity to lead and/or contribute to discussions where hiring managers/potential clients may be hanging out.

My personal experience with LinkedIn

I’ve had a LinkedIn account for years but never really utilized it until I became a full-time freelance writer about a year ago. Since then, I’ve used LinkedIn almost obsessively. Aside from updating my work profile, I now use LinkedIn to find potential clients.

When I was trying to win additional corporate/business clients last October, I used a scouting technique where I’d locate companies that were making at least $5-$10 million in annual revenue and thus could afford to hire me. However, I would steer clear of companies that made over $10 million because these places usually had their own hired team of writers. I would then find one or more of that company’s marketing personnel (writing typically falls into the marketing category) and pitch them directly through LinkedIn’s InMail function (a valuable and limited resource that allows you to email someone on LinkedIn regardless of whether you are connected to that person or not).

To make the pitch meaningful, I would research the company’s objectives and study its website. If something was lacking on the company’s website or amiss in the business, I made sure to mention that problem and suggest a way that I could solve it. Taking this approach with just three companies, I immediately landed one as a client last October.

I also found corporate clients by following companies on LinkedIn. This way, I received notice of any job openings and how much interest they were generating. If a potential job caught my eye, I tried to track down the person who would most likely be receiving my resume. Again, due to my profession, this involved scoping out the marketing department. Although I wasn’t always right on target, I knew I was making a fairly accurate estimate that my selected individual would at least peruse my file during the hiring process.

Because my query was always directed at a real live person, I did usually see him/her checking out my profile on LinkedIn. In the month of October, I sent out 6-7 official cover letters with resumes to potential clients. I later noticed that three of the queried companies had been checking out my LinkedIn profile; of those three, I won one as a long-term client.

My last client “win” in October was actually one of my LinkedIn contacts whom I occasionally see at another in-town networking event. I didn’t directly market my services to this person because I didn’t want to create any sales pressure (for this reason alone, I never make cold calls). What I did do, however, was make sure that this person knew what I did for a living and that my LinkedIn account showed several work examples in her niche field. I also checked my LinkedIn account from time to time to see if this individual was perchance looking at my profile. Indeed, she was. One day, this person approached me and asked what I would charge per hour for some website/proofreading work. After some negotiating, I won my third client.

Getting started with LinkedIn

You don’t have to be a tech-savvy geek to know your way around LinkedIn; the platform offers helpful tips on how to get started and will even help you “flesh-out” your profile by prompting you to fill in provided sections. Every time you return to your account, you can add one more detail or job description. Even if you have only 10 minutes, you can do a lot to tailor your profile. Once you’re comfortable with how you appear on “paper”, it’s time to start networking and asking your newfound contacts to recommend you. If you get stumped or want to take the next step, check out some community centers or colleges; many groups offer free tutorials on using this platform. Or just ask me. Good luck!

Get Crafty with Etsy- and Make Money Too

Do you have a particular hobby or craft that you enjoy like knitting, candle making or painting? Would you like to make some money from that hobby/activity or at least enough to cover your expenses? Then Etsy may be the place for you.

Since 2005, Etsy has offered an e-commerce platform for artists and craftspeople to offer and sell their goods. The only requirement is that those goods must be personally handmade- i.e., no re-selling is allowed. As opposed to bigger sites like Ebay and Amazon, Etsy offers the following advantages to sellers:

Long listing time: Etsy listings last 4 months as opposed to Ebay’s one week time span. This is important because, as an artist or crafter, you need time to build up your fan base. Likewise, many clients buy a small quantity initially and then, if satisfied with the product, come back for more at a later time.

Lower fees: Etsy charges just 20 cents to create a listing and a 3.5% commission for sold items. This is important because many homemade products cost just a few dollars. In contrast, Amazon’s fees can be pretty steep for sellers who are just starting out. A per item fee of 99 cents is applied to any sold item along with a variable closing fee. Amazon also tacks on a referral fee which, for craft items, could run as high as 15%.

Ebay fees can also be cost-prohibitive; the site waives insertion fees for sellers that are just starting out, but at the close of sale a 9% commission is taken for traditional auction-style listings. Fixed-price listings can result in the seller paying a 50 cent insertion fee and as much as a 13% commission at final sale.

Community: On Etsy, each seller offers a personal and unique set of items that other Etsy sellers and buyers can connect with. There is an opportunity to “admire” (akin to Facebook’s “Like”) a particular Etsy item and to engage the seller in a conversation about his/her items. Furthermore, Etsy offers a Community area where fellow “Etsians” can trade ideas, submit blog posts, participate in events in their geographic areas or post/attend a workshop.

As if this were not enough, Etsy teams such as Handmadeology provide useful tips to fellow Etsians on subjects like item photography, social media marketing and keyword selection.

My personal experience with Etsy

Because of the focused nature of Etsy, it is much easier to sell handmade items here than more populated spots like Ebay or Amazon. I should know: For several years now I have tried to sell handmade jewelry and creams through Ebay and Amazon with limited success. Then, in July of this year, I decided to list some of my homemade deodorants on Etsy.

Almost immediately, I had interested customers writing to me about my products. By September I had sold my first deodorant; by October I had sold my fifth deodorant. I also recently had a “batch” sale of three deodorants in town thanks to an Etsy client referral.

Meanwhile, when I posted these same items through Ebay, no one even viewed my offerings, much less bought them. As a result of my small but growing success in making people less stinky, I am now considering posting a few handmade hand creams and seeing how much interest they generate.

There are some downsides with Etsy too. It does take a while to get your shop to see sufficient traffic; my first product sale didn’t happen until after I’d had my shop up and running for over a month. Part of this has to do with the fact that many merchant Etsy stores look alike and even carry the same (and sometimes plagiarized) content; as a result, they suffer Google search rank penalties.

Also, the site offers limited customization for item listings; storefronts consist of a “sheet” of photos with prices, no more. With Ebay listings, you can do much more in terms of organizing your items and how they are shown in your “store”.

Finally, all Etsy shoppers must register with the site, which can be a hassle if someone just wants to quickly browse through the site on his/her lunch break. This registration requirement may be leading to a shopper “bottleneck”, where many of Etsy’s shoppers are also Etsy sellers.

Alternatives to Etsy

Etsy’s merchant revenues for 2011 were rather impressive, crossing the half billion dollar mark and then some. The company has also expanded into other countries such as France, Germany and Australia. However, there are competitors out there, and some of them don’t even charge for item listings or sales.  These competitors include the following:

eCrater This Craigslist-style site allows you to create an online store for free. There are no fees whatsoever associated with selling on this site.

Bonanza This Etsyish site charges no listing fees, with sellers paying only when their items sell. Listings can be posted indefinitely. A live chat function allows sellers and buyers to talk and even haggle over prices in real-time.

With the economy still in a slump, many crafty folks are turning towards sites like Etsy to earn extra money or even make their hobby into a full-time profession. If you are skilled at making some homemade goods, you may want to give this site a try.