Linkedin can be pushed down the priority list for freelancers. I often hear colleagues say a Linkedin profile is "just for employees" and not for self-employed individuals who are looking for clients, rather than cushy 9-5s.
I don't agree.
Linkedin, when used correctly, can be an extension of your website, providing information you won't include there, and, contrary to popular belief, it can be customised considerably; giving it your personal touch. You'll notice I said it's an extension of your website, not an extension of your CV. After all, your Linkedin profile can have, among other things:
- Keywords (remember Big Brother Google is always watching)
- A great head shot (depending on your country, photos on CVs aren't always the "done thing")
- A longer summary, showcasing more of your personality
- More detailed experience (CVs should really only contain employment/career highlights)
- Videos of presentations you've done
So what are my steps to creating a good, hell, a great Linkedin profile? Let's use the points above as a loose guide:
Your headline is basically your tagline, and it's located under your name on your profile page. Your headline is a great opportunity to succinctly state what you do, and get a little creative. Maybe you've written a book? Or won an award? Mention it.
Remember: these keywords will help people find you.
In my profile, I mention what I do (translator and writer), I include something fun (word geek - also true) and then, because it isn't my own name, I include my business name, Silver Tongue. Always bear in mind the words you want your name (whether that's your business or personal name) to be associated with.
Ask yourself: What will people be searching for? And what do you want them to find?
Photos on CVs aren't always common practice. In some countries, they're expected, in others, they're kinda weird. In Linkedin-land, it's more unusual if you don't have one. Some people do sidestep it and just have a logo, but often, potential clients like to put a face to a name. If you do decide to have a photo, make sure it's professional (no downing shots with your buddies) and that it's a head shot - yes, you might have a killer Armani suit, but we want to see your beautiful face - it builds trust.
Even for "regular" people, as opposed to superhero self-employed individuals, Linkedin summaries are a great opportunity to show something sparky. For freelancers, it's more than this, as we're not constrained by appearing "employable". In my Linkedin summary I talk about having superpowers...so probably not something most managers care about.
You can use your summary to have that all-important first chat with potential clients. Talk about your experience, what you offer, highlights of your career, stand-out projects, awards you've won, share a bit of your story (just enough)...the opportunities are endless.
Like your About Me page on your website, it's a chance to deliver your mission statement in a more conversational way.
Something I'm working on is creating a video for my Linkedin profile. You could do the same, or embed a video of a presentation you gave (you could even include slides.) If you're a design professional, feature your favourite pieces. Maybe you're a photographer? Give it your best shot(s).
At the end of your Linkedin summary, don't forget to include a call to action. Why? Because you want people to act. You haven't created your Linkedin profile for people to admire your eye makeup, you've created it because you want them to get in touch with you. So tell them how! Link to your website, give them your email address...whatever it is you want them to do, don't make it difficult for them to do it!
But whatever you do with your summary, for the love of Linkedin, please do not just copy & paste your resumé.
Personalise your page
Finally, there are a few ways to add those finishing touches. You can elaborate on things you don't have the chance to in your CV. As a freelancer, if you have a resumé it will often be a summary of your current work, and less about your past roles in an employed capacity. That's not to say that your past jobs aren't relevant; they're often as much of a testament to your talent as your work since going solo. Your Linkedin profile lets you give a bit of detail on these experiences too.
Another way you can customise your Linkedin profile is by creating a custom URL for your profile page. This links back to the point on making your profile easily "findable" on searches....and thankfully it's easy to do. Here's how:
- Hover over the Profile menu and click "Edit Profile"
- Click on the Settings icon (the little cog) beside your public profile URL (you'll find this below your profile photo)
- Click on the pencil icon to edit your URL.
- Change your custom URL.
- Hit save!
Usually, your URL is comprised of your name plus some letters or numbers. Change it to just your name (hopefully it isn't taken, if it is, you could add your middle initial or full middle name) and maybe one of your keywords.
For example, my custom URL has jorourketranslator at the end.
Your CV isn't likely to have room for references or recommendations, but your website can and should feature them...as should your Linkedin profile. Basically, Linkedin testimonials give you that all-important social proof. (You ask for client recommendations already, don't you? If not, download a template here.)
Wrapping it up
When you take advantage of all that Linkedin has to offer, far from being just an online CV, it's more like a miniature website for you to showcase your skills and show off your personality. Full-blown websites can be quite an expense; Linkedin allows you to show a lot of the same information, and (bonus!) with a couple of tricks, you can get it to do the SEO work which might be more challenging on your own website (though here are some tips to show SEO isn't really toooo scary.) With Linkedin at the helm to take care of people finding you, all you really have to do is craft the content.