If you’re a freelancer, you’re one of 55 million Americans who have placed yourself in charge of your own career destiny. There are obvious benefits to self-employment, as well as some challenges—the most common being the irregular cadence of work. One way to maintain a more consistent project flow is to build an active pipeline of future clients.
There are several potential pathways for drumming up new business, and freelancers in different industries will give priority to certain channels over others. For inbound requests—that is, recruiters coming to you with specific gigs or projects—LinkedIn stands out as one of the most universal ways to get found.
With about 94 percent of recruiters using LinkedIn to source and vet job candidates, it’s important to do all you can to stand out from the crowd. Similar to how a marketer might optimize a website for organic search queries, freelancers can make adjustments to their LinkedIn pages to increase discoverability and conversion.
Here, we outline three ways to improve your LinkedIn profile in the next 15 minutes.
Recommendations: All you gotta do is ask
Ever notice a colleague or connection whose LinkedIn profile is chock full of glowing recommendations? Chances are, they didn’t land on those by sheer luck. The secret to getting more recommendations is—surprise!—to ask for them. Why recommendations, you ask? Word-of-mouth is a powerful thing, and believe it or not, these tiny blurbs that vouch for your credibility and professionalism can be the difference between signing that SOW and missing out on an opportunity.
“A LinkedIn recommendation is incredibly valuable when searching for freelance work because it is third-party validation of the quality and high-level of work you perform,” says Jessica Hernandez, president and CEO of Great Resumes Fast, a company that assists job seekers with the LinkedIn profile, resume and cover letter creation process.
As you look to request recommendations from your colleagues, think about which skills you want to highlight on your profile. For example, you may want to contact an editor you have worked with in the past if you want to draw attention to your writing skills. Reach out to staff members who have worked on projects with you if your goal is to hone in on your leadership skills.
Try to be as specific as possible when you are requesting a recommendation from a colleague to ensure that he or she gives you a valuable review. You may want to even explain why you are seeking a recommendation. For instance, if you inform your colleague that you are looking to move into the communications field, he or she may add examples of your work in this area in the recommendation.
Branding yourself starts with your current position
Sure, you have a mountain of experience under your belt in terms of the various positions you’ve held as a freelancer. That being said, you might overlook your current role as it’s communicated on LinkedIn, which is important since this what will appear at the top of your profile page.
Your professional headline is what appears under your name on your LinkedIn profile. You can select your most recent position to display as your headline, or you can customize it with a creative (or perhaps keyword-rich) descriptor of your own. For instance, LinkedIn may auto-generate “Manager at Retail Store” if you have this listed as your most current position. However, you have the option to change this and write in what you like.
“Many times, people will title themselves as ‘Unemployed’ or ‘Seeking Employment,’” says Jen Teague, who coaches small businesses on how to hire professionals. “To me, it is better to leave the field blank than to label yourself as ‘Unemployed.’ Ones that [have] caught my eye are ‘Future CEO,’ ‘Your next CSR’ and other positive descriptions. Those are creative ways to show an employer you’re serious about finding work.”
As a freelancer, you might want to create a “catch all” experience section. This involves rounding up at least a handful of recommendations, creating a slideshow that highlights your best work, and summarizing what you do for clients in an easy-to-read bullet point format. Once you have your “catch all” section completed, you can craft a customized professional headline that reflects the key skills and experience you have under your belt.
For example, if your “catch all” experience has several bullet points that highlight your content marketing skills, your professional headline could be, “Versatile Digital Marketing Freelance Consultant.”
Craft a compelling story about your self-employment
As you look to enhance your LinkedIn profile, it’s important to remember that you’re a small fish in a big pond full of other freelancers—how will you stand out from the rest? Employers want to know what you can bring to the table and why it’s different than what they might receive from another candidate with your experience.
LinkedIn can be seen as a simple-to-use canvas for professional storytelling. Use the top sections of your profile to instantly grab the attention of profile viewers and hold onto it—your goal should be to keep hiring managers scrolling. After that, you want them to continuing reading through your experiences, recommendations and work examples.
To grasp the attention of your audience, start out strong with a creative professional headline. Try to avoid using words that may generalize your position. For example, if you are a writer, don’t simply list yourself as a “Freelance Writer.” Think creatively: “Digital Journalist and Experienced Editor” can round up your skills and provide more exact details on your experience in the industry.
“Freelancers should avoid posting bare bones work summary sections in which they fail to provide detailed information about their previous experiences,” says Brittany King, senior recruiter and founder of The Career Collective, an organization that works with employees interested in improving and expanding their career skills.
However, it’s important to avoid “fluffing” up your summaries. Keeping your job descriptions light and informative can ensure that you aren’t turning off recruiters.
“I don’t want to be wading through a lot of hyperbole to learn whether you fit my bill,” says hiring manager Kevin Robson with Capable Consultants Limited, a recruitment company that connects organizations with experienced job seekers.
By taking these basic tips into account, you can keep recruiters interested in your LinkedIn profile and demonstrate why you’re a fit for the open position before the first conversation ever takes place.