Hate LinkedIn? Tired of a feed filled with boring updates from connections you don't know and thought leaders posting hot takes about the cheese sandwich they just ate? Same.
On today's episode, Louise shares 4 easy ways to make LinkedIn fun, so you can find more freelance clients and maybe even enjoy the process. Plus, we're starting a design-your-own 30-day LinkedIn challenge! You in?
Wanna leave me a voice note? Go to memo.fm/15 and say hi!
Louise Shanahan is a freelance health copywriter and content marketer. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
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Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies behind the scenes stories and nuggets of wisdom so you can create freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help me navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.
Hello everyone, how are you today? I almost didn’t record an episode this week because I had the worst toothache and didn’t think I could talk for 15 minutes straight, so if I yelp, you’ll know why!
First of all, I want to say thanks to everyone who has sent questions or suggested topics for these episodes. Obviously, I've got a lot of ideas myself, and I kind of just go with whatever topic I feel like talking about each week. But it's always nice to answer questions if they're going to be helpful for you. So yeah, thank you for sharing those with me. Last week I mentioned that I’m user number 1 for a new voice memo app called Memo, so if you go to Memo.fm/15 you can leave me a wee message if you want, with any feedback or comments or questions that you want me to cover. It's so much fun to hear your voices, so please do that. I have a ginormous list of ideas now, so that’s going to keep me busy for a while.
Today I want to get stuck into a question that has come up a lot. How to use LinkedIn to get leads and clients. Or more specifically, ‘how to use LinkedIn without hating every second’. I get it. I have a love-hate relationship with LinkedIn. I’m certainly no expert, but I have found it to be a pretty effective way to connect with potential new clients, so I figured I’ll share what I’ve done and maybe you can see if that works for you.
Oh, and I’m also starting a little Linkedin challenge for myself, so if you need a little accountability or nudge to get back in the swing of it, maybe you can join me in that. I’ll come back to that later.
Ok, so first up, why use LinkedIn to promote your freelance business? Does it make sense for freelancers?
I’ll say yes, especially if you work with other businesses, which I am guessing most of you do.
LinkedIn gives you unfettered access to all sorts of interesting and important people. CEOs, founders, marketing managers, buyers, HR bods – you can build relationships with them and connect with them directly, wherever they are in the world. And as you probably know, relationships are what drives a freelance business. When people get to know who you are and what you do, hopefully, they’re likely to think about coming to you when they need someone who does what you do, or at least they’ll remember your name if someone they know needs the thing you do.
It’s also a way to connect with your peers. People who are offering similar services. I would say to be wary of ONLY connecting with other designers if you’re a designer, or other writers if you’re a writer, or whatever. Connecting directly with clients tends to be more useful. But as I’ve said before, community is important. Again, not only can these lovely folk give you much-needed moral support on this sometimes lonely freelancing journey, but they’re also a great source of leads and referrals once you build up those relationships.
Next, it’s an easy way to reach a bigger audience. In-person networking might be the gold-standard when it comes to selling your services, but most of us can’t do that right now, and a fair few of us hated networking even in the before times. So a little bite of online networking here and there might feel much more palatable. You’re not limited by geography, and you can also reach far more people. A single post can have thousands of eyes on it. That’s a lot of BNI meetings. Ha ha. I’ve never been to a BNI meeting but I’ve heard the stories.
And perhaps more importantly, if this is where your ideal client is also hanging out, promoting their business, then you’re far more likely to generate leads on LinkedIn than you are on other platforms. People are here for business, so it maybe feels a bit more natural to talk about your work without feeling salesy.
Ok. I’m going to assume that you’ve used LinkedIn at least a little bit before now, so you’re familiar with these upsides. If you have, you’ll probably also know the downsides, which are that can be hard to cultivate a news feed that’s not full of updates from connections you don’t really know, or rammed with thought-leader wannabes sharing actionable takeaways from the cheese sandwich they just ate. And, I hate to say it, it’s also getting a little creepy in the DMs from time to time. But all that said! I think it’s a great business tool. Nothing’s perfect, eh? I think there are ways to avoid some of those less enjoyable aspects.
Two things I want to cover today – how to use it to find clients, and how to improve your overall experience of it.
How to find clients. I think of this in 4 steps.
- Number 1. Your profile. Anyone who wants to connect with you or is thinking of referring you or hiring you will look at this, so it’s a wasted opportunity if you don’t make it work as hard as possible. You’ll definitely want to have a decent photo of yourself. No one is going to connect with a grey circle. You need to make it clear in your headline what you do. Some people have a benefits-driven headline, such as I help this X person do Y amazing thing. Personally, I think it’s more effective to put your actual job title in there. I had a more benefitsy one in the past and it was fine, but when I changed it to health copywriter and content writer or whatever it is now, I got way more leads. I think it’s an SEO thing, but also remember that whenever you post something or comment on someone else’s post, they only see the first couple of words in the headline under your name, so if they only see “I help brands – ellipses” that’s not going to be particularly memorable or helpful. So whenever I comment people see my name + health copywriter, and honestly that is basically my entire strategy right there!
You obviously also want to write your profile like it’s a mini sales page or about page from your website. You need to be clear about what you do, what your experience and expertise is, how you help your clients, maybe throw in a few testimonials or stats or references to previous work. Include a call to action, such as encouraging people to DM you for a particular kind of project or fill out your intake questionnaire or sign up for your newsletter. If someone has bothered to look at your profile they’re interested, so don’t waste that opportunity to take things to the next step.
There are loads of courses and guides online about how to optimise your profile – Sophie Cross has a course, John Espirian has loads of great resources – so I won’t go into too much more detail here. But there are the things to consider on your profile. I also think you need to keep updating it so it’s fresh, you know, sometimes your business evolves so you want it to reflect what you’re currently doing. I actually need to update mine so I will go and do that after I’ve finished recording this!
- The second step is about connections. There are two schools of thought. Accept every connection that comes your way, because you never know who might be interested in your services. Or to be more discerning, and only connect with people who meet certain criteria that you obviously will need to figure out for yourself. Who do you want to connect with? What do you want to see in your feed. Remember you can follow people instead of connecting – maybe do that first and then see if you want to go on that second date and officially connect. When it comes to getting clients, it’s worth spending some time making a list of all the dream clients you’d like to work with, then following or connecting with key people in those companies. Start building those relationships. Start finding the people you actually want to hire you – don’t wait to be discovered.
Another strategy is to look at who is engaging with your posts, and then following up with them in a friendly, natural way of course. A friend of mine has her VA go through her posts and identify the people who have engaged a lot, and who fit certain criteria that she’s looking for in ideal clients, and then she can either connect or message them and start a direct conversation. Doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be salesy, but just picking up on the thing that they seemed to be interested in.
- The third area to think about is your content. What are you actually posting? Are you posting? Again, there are a wealth of resources out there to help you make sense of what the algorithm favours, how to use hashtags, whether video or stories or documents are best – I will leave you to do your own research there, but my main tip here is about being consistent. I like to keep it simple and not worry too much about which type of post is best. I just want to be consistent in sharing information about what I do, sharing what I hope is helpful and fun ideas for people who are writing their own copy, and generally letting people get to know and see the kind of work I do, and what my expertise is. Amplifying other people’s work, celebrating my clients’ work. And hopefully staying top of mind.
So if you need a few prompts to get you started, you could try sharing tips that will be useful for your ideal clients – Gill Andrews does an amazing job with this. Or maybe you want to tell funny stories – if you’re not following Dave Harland, he is a master at this. Maybe videos with little behind the scenes or inspiring stories would be more your thing – Eloise Leeson is brilliant at this. Bhavini Lakhani has some lovely regular features like ‘A coffee with…’ where she chats to someone else about their work. Really, make it what you want. If you’re not really in the habit of posting regularly, I’d start with something simple, and see what kind of content you actually enjoy creating. There’s no point committing to a daily video because the algorithm says so, if that feels exhasusting and you dread doing it. You won’t stick to it. So maybe experiment a little and see what you enjoy. When you get into a regular routine with that, then maybe start thinking about the analytics, and looking at what kind of posts or frequency or timing of posts get the most traction.
- And the 4th step is Engagement. Posting your own content is important, but you can’t really expect people to engage with it if you don’t engage with anyone else’s. This is how you build relationships. So comment, like, share posts by everyone on that ideal client list you made. Do the same with your peers. Not only does this actually help you make better connections and let people get to know you, it also makes your experience on the platform a lot more enjoyable. It’s meant to be a social network after all. Don’t just broadcast all the time. And when people comment or share your posts, make sure you respond. It’s the easiest way to start making friends on there.
So overall, I’d say focusing on consistency, and relationships, are the two big dial-movers when it comes to getting more out of LinkedIn.
On the second question, how to improve your experience – well, all of the above should help! If your feed is full of crap, go through your connections and be more deliberate about who you are following and connecting with. When you look through the feed, engage with posts you like, disconnect or unfollow people who aren’t posting stuff you want to see. Eventually the algorithm will get the hint.
Remember, you don’t have to use LinkedIn. If you try all of this and you still hate it, just get off. People had successful freelance businesses before the internet, before social media, so it’s by no means obligatory. It can be pretty effective, but if you hate it, focus on finding clients some other way. This is your business, you choose.
Now, for the challenge. I really like using challenges to help me get back on track with being consistent. It’s easy to get out of the habit, so if I say, ok, I’m going to post 3 times a week for the whole of this month, or I’m going to post every day for 30 days, or, I’m going to connect with 100 ideal clients, and make it a challenge, I’m more likely to do it. That’s just how I’m wired. I like short deadlines.
A couple of years ago, I joined a free challenge organised by 30DS – 30 Days of Social – and I am not exaggerating when I say that I hadn’t used LinkedIn much before that, and after doing that 30 day challenge, I’d honestly made connections and friends that brought referrals and leads in to keep me busy in client work for pretty much the whole of the next year. I can’t remember the exact figures, but I do remember getting more client leads, more profile views, more post views, more email subscribers, more invitations to speak on podcasts, and more genuine friendships than I’d had through the platform before. I mean, I was basically starting at zero, but still. Being consistent works.
So, I’ve been pretty busy lately and only really been posting about this podcast on LinkedIn, which is fine, but as I’m refining the services I offer in my business and the kind of clients I want to work with, I do want to me more intentional about what I’m sharing, so it’s not all just podcast stuff. So I’m starting another little challenge this week. I’ll be posting every weekday for 30 days. I started on Monday this week so hopefully when this comes out I’ll be 5 posts in. it’s super simple. No fancy hashtags. Just a personal challenge for myself. A few folk have joined me, and some are aiming for 3 posts per week, some are aiming to do more videos, some are focusing on engagement, so they’re going to comment on at least one person’s post per day. So you can make it whatever you want. No rules. Make your own rules. Want to join in? If you do, feel free to tag me and I’ll come and cheer you on!
Ok! Hopefully that has given you some ideas for how to not totally hate LinkedIn and have more fun with it. As always, I’d love it if you shared this with someone if you found it helpful, or leave a review, and of course a reminder that you can leave me a voice memo at memo.fm/15 if you have a question you’d like me to cover in future. Until next week, bye!
You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me, Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want answered on the podcast find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing!