Roving Report: Jump-start Your Business with LinkedIn

World map with several balloons with persons isolated on white background“LinkedIn is the new cold call,” announced Angela Stillwell, “and you can use it to jump-start your freelance writing business.”

It’s an incredibly useful tool for prospecting and connecting with clients. Whether you’re just starting your web-writing business or you’re an experienced freelancer, LinkedIn will help your business grow and thrive.

Angela’s been involved in business for about 20 years, first in telecommunications and then in financial services. She’s been tops in sales in various positions, has led marketing teams, built customer service departments, and consulted with business owners on their business plans in multiple industries.

As a copywriter, Angela writes for the B2B market, designs overall marketing strategies for her clients, and manages a referral agency for copywriters and the clients who need their services.

She spoke with Katie Yeakle and a group of copywriters about LinkedIn and explained how you can use it to boost your freelance business. You can tune in to the entire webinar HERE.

Angela outlined four essential steps to using LinkedIn successfully:

  1. Set up your profile
  2. Add connections, groups, and companies
  3. Engage your audience
  4. Update regularly and use ongoing strategies

Set Up Your LinkedIn Profile

As a freelancer, you should have a professional website. But until it’s up and running, your LinkedIn profile can act as your marketing hub instead.

Even after your site is live, you may find that your LinkedIn profile ranks higher in search than your own site, so it’s important to set up your profile properly.

Set up your profile the same way you’d set up your website, Angela advised.

  • Use keywords and SEO
  • If your business is local, include your location
  • Address your prospect’s questions and concerns
  • Stress benefits
  • Focus on WIIFM (what’s in it for me) from the client’s viewpoint

“It’s like a site, a business card, and a portfolio rolled into one place,” Angela explained. If you’re a designer, you can include your portfolio on your LinkedIn profile.

In fact, Angela just received an email from a law firm that found her through LinkedIn. They want to sit down with her to go over their entire marketing plan. Up until now, they’ve done nothing but Yellow Pages ads.

“You don’t want to just put that you’re the CEO of a company, you want to put in keywords that will pull up your profile when people search on relevant keywords,” Angela explained. “Put ‘social media strategist’ in your title, not just ‘business owner.’“

For a sense of how to optimize your profile, check out how Angela has put hers together.

Other hints for making the most of your profile on LinkedIn include:

  • Customize the websites listed on your profile — don’t just use the default “my website,” give it a name.
  • Customize what anyone can see — the public profile — and what only your LinkedIn Connections can see.
  • Add all of your email addresses and websites.
  • Add a professional portfolio. You can include images, videos, and presentations.

When you edit your profile, LinkedIn notifies all of your connections. Update your profile regularly to keep your information in front of your connections.

Connections

People You Already Know

First and most obviously, connect with people you already know.

There’s a big debate about whether you should connect on LinkedIn with people you haven’t met. Decide how you’re going to handle this.

LinkedIn gives you tools to import your entire contact list. If you don’t want to do this, you can bypass it.

As you build your own connections, be generous and show good will. Use tools like Endorsements and Recommendations to help out your connections. A recommendation carries more weight than an endorsement, so if you recommend someone, be sure you’re personally familiar with their work.

Be thoughtful when you reach out to ask someone to connect with you. LinkedIn provides a standard request form, but don’t use their verbiage. When you write your own, it’s more personal.

It’s always a good idea to remind the person how you know of them. Including the information that you met at a conference, or that you’re both part of the same LinkedIn group, makes the request more personal and improves your chances that they’ll accept.

Join Groups

There are thousands of different groups. You should join two types of groups — groups in your niche industry, and groups of peers to help you stay on top of copywriting trends.

When you join a group in an industry where you want to work, get involved in the discussions. Ask questions, and provide thoughtful answers to others. This is your chance to add value, so share appropriate information and establish yourself as an authority.

Within the group, you’ll begin to have conversations with other members. This can lead to more connections and, ideally, more work.

Follow Companies

Follow the specific companies you want to do business with, and their competitors. If your dream client is Coca-Cola, follow Pepsi, too.

Build Your Own Groups

At some point, you might want to start your own group to build your own authority. “This can work really well if there’s no existing group that fits within what you’re wanting to do,” Angela pointed out.

Once you have a core group of clients and prospects, consider setting up a private group to stay in touch with them regularly.

Use LinkedIn Introductions

Within LinkedIn, you can’t just email anyone who’s not already a connection. If there’s someone you want to talk with, look through your own connections to see who might already be connected with that person.

LinkedIn connections follow a hierarchy:

  • Your first-level connections are the people you’re connected with directly.
  • Second-level connections are the people that your connections are connected with.
  • Third level are those connected with the second level … and so on.

When you find one of your connections who has your prospect as a connection, ask them to introduce you — LinkedIn has a tool for it.

Help connect others as well — be generous.

Create Saved Searches Using Keywords

When you’re researching prospects or particular people, you can create keyword searches and save them. Later, any time there’s an update, LinkedIn will notify you.

Engage Your Audience

Status Updates

Like Facebook or Twitter, you can update your status on LinkedIn. Your strategy for these updates will be different from other social media channels, though.

LinkedIn status updates should be closely related to your audience and your profession — don’t upload animal pictures (unless maybe you’re a professional animal trainer!).

Angela likes to repost articles — her own and others’. You can post these to your profile for anyone to see, or you can post them to specific groups or send them to your direct connections. The key is to do it regularly. Not hourly, but maybe daily or a couple of times a week.

Add content to your profile regularly as well. Be selective when you do, Angela advised, don’t just blast everything to everybody.

You can add content through a variety of channels, including SlideShare, YouTube, Twitter, and Kickstarter. For a complete list, search LinkedIn help for Approved Providers and Content Types for Work Samples on Your Profile.

Get Involved in Group Discussions

Once you join a group, don’t just lurk.

Ask questions. Give helpful answers. Add relevant information. This isn’t the place to just tout yourself — instead, add value to every discussion you join. Use your best copywriting skills to show benefits and WIIFM.

Ongoing Strategies

Be Consistent

As with all your marketing efforts, consistency is key. You can determine frequency, but if you’re going to be there daily, or twice a week, be there.

LinkedIn can suck up a lot of time, so set boundaries for yourself as well. It’s very easy to find yourself reading every new article posted to a group, or looking at every discussion.

Angela manages the information load by using the daily digest that LinkedIn sends. (You can set this up when you join the group.) She picks the most relevant topics, and then goes to the site to see what they’re about.

Provide Value

Make sure the content you’re adding is relevant to that group.

Don’t Spam

Be Genuine

Use the Tools to Stay Alert

Some of these tools include:

  • Saved searches
  • Features/apps
  • Groups
  • Contacts

The features and apps change constantly, so it might be a good idea to set up a saved search to stay on top of what’s new with LinkedIn.

With a well-produced profile and regular, consistent use, LinkedIn will send you clients and your business will grow.

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Susanna Perkins

Susanna was dragged back, kicking and screaming, into freelancing after losing her job in the banking meltdown in March, '09. One 3-month stint in an appalling temp job persuaded her to get serious about establishing herself as web writer. In March, 2012, she moved to a small town in Panama with her husband and three small dogs. After enjoying the writer's life in the culture of "buenas" and "mañana" for 2-1/2 years, she's returned to the US. At least for now.

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