If you think that LinkedIn is the sole province of disgruntled employees trying to polish up their resumes and escape to another mind-numbing job, think again.
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LinkedIn has been a massively successful venture since its launch in 2003- just check out this company’s history and stats. The site currently boasts over 93 million members in the USA (that’s one out of three Americans) and 277 million worldwide. It even offers its own blog.
Using LinkedIn’s ad tool to find “likely suspect” freelancers and others that may work-at-home, I located nearly 6.6 million members in North America under the category of Entrepreneurship. ContactLabs’ research on LinkedIn‘s job function stats found at least 11% of all North American LinkedIn members identifying themselves with Entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the category of Entrepreneurship was #1 worldwide, coming in at 10.8%.
Freelancers and those who work-from-home are definitely logging into LinkedIn. And there’s a reason.
LinkedIn is a business network that just happens to be social
Like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, LinkedIn is a social network. However, that’s where the similarities end. LinkedIn is actually a professional business network that just happens to be a social platform too. A good chunk of LinkedIn members are managers, VPs and company presidents. Many more are business owners. These individuals are not looking to show off their latest selfie or play Fish Wrangler. No, they’re looking to hire, network and learn.
How can you make these head honchos notice you when you’re swimming in a sea of 277 million other LinkedInners?
Optimize your profile.
I don’t care what the pundits are saying about SEO being dead. You need to keyword optimize your profile so that , if potential clients are trying to hire an independent contractor, they can actually find you using either the LinkedIn search tool or Google itself.
Be sure to prominently feature the exact type of work you’re trying to do. For example, if you’re looking to work at home as a freelance dog walker, be sure to sprinkle those words throughout your profile at least 2-3 times. I’d also advise actually placing that title behind your profile name, as in “Sally Sue |Freelance Dog Walker|.”
Present yourself as a business
Don’t you just hate it when you meet someone new and all she does is talk about herself and her “exciting” life? Yeah, clients and employers aren’t too fond of self-absorbed freelancers either. When describing your services, don’t make your entire profile into “I did this, and then this, and this too.”
Nobody cares what you did or do. What everyone wants to know is what you can do for them. So, position yourself like the business you are and actually offer something of value to the consumer. For example, state how your freelance dog walking “keeps your furry friends happy and healthy until you return.”
Get those recommendations
Those first few clients (or ahem, volunteers) you engage with and help out can be pure gold for your work-at-home business- if you know how to position them. In exchange for offering your services gratis or at a reduced rate, ask your clients to review you on LinkedIn. Don’t worry too much about getting a bad review either- you have to approve your review anyway. And a dissatisfied client will typically not agree to give you a recommendation. But you need those stellar reviews to prop you up, much like trustworthy businesses rely on customer testimonials and reviews to prop up their brands.
Don’t be a snoozer.
Sign up to a few LinkedIn groups that are in your area of expertise and actively engage in their discussions or start new ones. Become a impassioned advocate of your particular business outlook, or at the very least offer useful and actionable advice. The goal here is to look like an expert who’s not afraid to dole out professional advice, even for free (because there’s more where that came from). Above all, don’t just sign up to LinkedIn’s groups and disappear or make lame comments like “Yeah” and “Ditto,” because that’s just a waste of everyone’s time- including yours.
Don’t be a user.
What’s worse than being a snoozer? Why, it’s being a user or, specifically, an abuser. If you think that publishing your latest blog posts, product promotions, press releases, etc. will garner customers to your doorstep, you are sadly mistaken. There is a major outcry against LinkedIn spam right now, and certain discussion groups become veritable mobs when someone decides that this group is a good place to promote the latest Goji Berry Blast! MLM business or newfangled way to lose weight using this one weird trick. Seriously, don’t do it.
Don’t be a whiner.
When you send a cover letter out, you (hopefully) don’t whine about how you need the money, or no one wants to hire you, or (sob sob) this-and-that. So why is it that when some members go on LinkedIn, they feel a need to complain how they’ve been jobless for the last 10 years or how “stupid employer X” let them go for no good reason?
LinkedIn is your public cover letter and resume. And if you don’t keep it as professional as possible, employers and clients will steer far away from you. So even if you are one utility bill away from an empty bank account, smile and offer a helping hand to that colleague in your LinkedIn dog walking discussion group. You never know what might happen…or what kind of work will land in your lap as a result.
Don’t be a beggar.
Immediately after you connect with your dream client, don’t spook him by asking, “Hey, you got a job for me?” Make small talk, send him a link to something relevant in his work field, or just hang out and see what he’s trying to accomplish on LinkedIn. Above all, don’t appear needy.
Of course, if the client is listing an job through LinkedIn, definitely apply for it and even mention whom you know at this business. Casual name-dropping is what social networking is all about.
Have some fun. Remember that you, unlike millions of your mindless drone ex-colleagues or soon-to-be ex-colleagues, have the option of working from home. That means extra time to play with your kids. That means sleeping in on a snowy Monday morning. That means taking your own dog for a walk in the middle of a warm spring afternoon- just because you can.