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With over 150 million members, LinkedIn is the largest professional network on the Internet. Chances are, potential clients for your freelance business are active on LinkedIn. What's more, as LinkedIn is a professional network, people are there to do business, making it the ideal place to promote your freelance services.
In a previous article, I showed you how to set up your LinkedIn profile for freelance success. In this article, I share advanced strategies for actively promoting your services to potential clients.
Marketing on LinkedIn is all about building relationships. You're there to connect with people who could hire you, give you testimonials, or put you in touch with prospects. As such, I'm going to show you how to use LinkedIn to:
- Get in touch with potential clients
- Allow potential clients to find your profile
- Stay in touch with potential clients
Getting in Touch With Prospects
Before you contact prospects, you need to know exactly who your prospects are. The tighter your focus, the greater your chances of success.
That means finding your niche. Showing you how to discover your niche is beyond the scope of this article. However, you can find plenty of help on Freelance Switch, including:
- Skyrocket Your Freelance Business By Going Niche
- Success Happens When You Find Your Niche
- Determining Your Target Market
When you know you're niche, you're ready to make contact with prospects. On LinkedIn, you can do this with InMails, through Groups, or using personalized contact requests.
Getting In Touch: InMails
On LinkedIn you can only send messages to your contacts, with a couple of exceptions.
One of these exceptions is InMails.
InMails cost $10 each to send, and you're guaranteed a response, otherwise you get your money back. Alternatively, you can send a small number of InMails every month with a premium LinkedIn membership, which starts at around $15 a month.
When copywriter Kelly Parkinson experimented with InMails, she got a 41% response rate, and six new clients.
InMails have a ten times better response rate than cold calls.
When copywriter Kelly Parkinson experimented with InMails, she got a 41% response rate, and six new clients. You can read more about how she did that (including an InMail template) here.
As InMails are expensive, you must do your background research before you send them. For every person you contact, you must find out who they are, and work out the value you offer them.
InMails are a good option if you have an established track record, a clear niche, and you need to find work fast. Otherwise, Groups are a better bet.
Getting In Touch: Groups
Groups are LinkedIn's virtual version of networking events. They're where you should go to meet new people and build relationships with potential clients.
Essentially, they are discussion forums for professionals.
With thousands of groups on LinkedIn, whatever your niche, you're almost guaranteed to find a group that fits your needs. What's more, if you're unable to find a suitable group, you can set one up.
Some groups are more active than other. When you're searching for groups to join, look for groups with active members. You can see how active the group is by looking at how many posts have been added recently.
Don't just join groups based on your skills. For example, if you're a graphic designer, don't just join graphic design groups. While it's great to network with your peers, you should focus on networking with prospects. That means going where your clients are. So, if you're a graphic designer who creates visual identities for law firms, join groups for lawyers. If you write copy for tech start-ups, join the tech start-up groups.
In addition to raising your profile and putting your face in front of prospects, groups have two key advantages:
- When you've met someone in a group, LinkedIn allows you to add them as a contact without providing their email address (usually LinkedIn requires that you know someone's email address to add them as a contact). That makes groups an effective way to grow your network, fast.
- When you're in a group, you can send messages to any member. That way, you can save on the cost of an InMail.
The more you participate in groups, the more group members will see your face. This creates familiarity, which breeds trust.
When you're sharing posts in a group, avoid the temptation to shout about your services. Instead, join the conversation and show your expertise. When people see you know what you're talking about, they'll check out your profile. If you've set up your profile correctly, it will do the selling for you.
Getting In Touch: Personalized Invites
To expand your network, you'll need to invite people to connect with you on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn offers a standard text as a lazy way to send invites, but you're best to avoid this for two reasons:
- First, defaulting to the standard text tells people they don't matter all that much to you. They matter so little, you couldn't even write a short message of introduction.
- Second, and more important, you're missing an opportunity to start a conversation, and it's conversations that lead to clients.
Before you connect, take two minutes to find out something about them from their social media profiles, blog or website. Use this information to create a personalized message showing interest in them.
Before you connect, take two minutes to find out something about them from their social media profiles, blog or website.
In your message, explain how you know or found the person, why you'd like to connect, and the value you offer them. What will you bring to the relationship?
Also, ask them a question. This gives them an easy opportunity to reply, and gets the conversation going.
Writing a personalized message takes slightly longer than the lazy way, so you'll connect with fewer prospects. But you'll be building a relationship with everyone you connect with. Far better to have 100 quality connections than 1,000 acquaintances who couldn't recognize your face in an ID parade.
Helping Prospects Find Your Profile
As well as getting in touch with prospects yourself, you can encourage prospects to do the work for you and get in touch with you by making your profile accessible, engaging and easy to find.
If you're hanging out in groups and adding value to discussions, people will click through to take a look at your profile.
Taking part in LinkedIn Answers is another way to demonstrate your expertize and get clicks to your profile page.
Lastly, you can search optimize your profile, which I explained in more detail here. Essentially, you want to use the words prospects type into Google when they're looking for your services, and include them in your LinkedIn headline and summary.
Staying in Touch
Once you've gone through the effort of making connections with prospects, you want to keep yourself at the front of their mind. When they need to hire a freelancer, they'll think of you first.
When you’re sending messages, don’t just say hello and ask how they are. Always include something valuable to them.
There are two ways to stay in touch: direct and clandestine.
To stay in touch clandestinely, post frequent updates to your LinkedIn homepage. You'll be seen whenever your contacts log in and look at their LinkedIn homepage. Additionally, update your headline and summary on a regular basis. Each time you do this, LinkedIn emails your contacts to let them know.
Direct contact involves sending messages to clients and prospects. How often you do this is up to you, but I recommend staying in touch with your top prospects at least once per month.
When you're sending messages, don't just say hello and ask how they are. Always include something valuable to them. This could be a link to an article you know they'll find helpful, an introduction to another of your contacts, a request to be put in touch with one of their contacts, or a question you need help with. People love to be helpful, so giving them opportunity to help you is a way of providing value, provided that you're willing to be helpful in return.
Your messages don't have to be long. Shorter is better, as your prospects are busy people.
The strategies I've outlined are simple, and if you engage in them consistently you will find work. The trick is to keep going until you get results. I recommend tracking your results. By watching for which techniques draw in the most clients, you'll discover the most effective ways of finding clients in your niche.
Most importantly, have fun. If you learn to enjoy marketing your services, you'll be more likely to do it. And your prospects will respond to your positive energy.
Lastly, I'm interested to know how LinkedIn works for you. What techniques or strategies do you use to find prospects on LinkedIn?