Is LinkedIn useful for freelancers and sole traders?
In short – yes, absolutely. If used correctly, LinkedIn can be incredibly useful for freelancers and sole traders alike.
Apart from millions (literally) of professional profiles and thousands of groups already dedicated to all kinds of self-employed, LinkedIn has already made a very significant play in this space with their ProFinder feature.
ProFinder is LinkedIn’s marketplace which enables companies (or individuals) to post project requirements and receive proposals directly from LinkedIn freelance members that have the required skills and are in the right location. Freelancers can choose to be alerted when relevant projects are posted so they can reply with a proposal and quote.
Before you get too excited, it only works in the US at the moment but will surely expand to other geographies. It shows that LinkedIn, in keeping with their mission to “Connect talent with opportunity on a global scale”, have recognised growth and opportunities that exist in the areas outside traditional employment models.
Freelancers and sole traders already set up and familiar with LinkedIn are much more likely to benefit from ProFinder as it’s rolled out to new territories.
Another good reason to ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch.
Should I bother with a company page?
I don’t think it’s as important for a freelancer or sole trader as it is for a company or organisation with employees.
On one hand, a company page can be a useful space for you to share information about what you do and another opportunity to give visibility to your logo.
However, it’s also yet another page that needs regular care and attention.
Finally, most of your clients will be doing business with you, rather than your ‘company’ or brand. Your personal profile is the most likely way you’ll be found and the best way to maintain the connection between you, your brand and your work.
If your business grows and you end up taking on employees or forming partnerships, then you may need to consolidate and connect people under a single organisation or project. So, at that point, having a company page may become more relevant.
What’s the best way to showcase my work on my profile?
There’s probably a whole blog post on this topic alone!
The great news is that your LinkedIn profile can display information in multiple formats: uploading presentations, sharing PDFs, photos etc. As of a couple of weeks ago you can even upload and record native video.
This is a handy new feature which means you can record and upload videos on the go, much the same as you can on Facebook. It will provide a much cleaner and easier experience than sharing YouTube or Vimeo links (which you’ll still be able to do).
NB: LinkedIn usually rolls out new features gradually, so if you can’t see the option for native video just yet, be patient – it will come.
Documents and presentations can be also added to the summary and work experience parts of your profile. Simply upload the files you want to either your summary or the relevant section of your work experience and viewers will be able to display them.
As with most things on social media, the more visual the information you share, the more attention it will attract. Pictures and video grab and hold attention better than text.
Another option is to use Slideshare, a company LinkedIn purchased a few years ago. Think of it like YouTube for presentations. It’s a social platform where you can follow, like, comment on and share other users’ content, as well as share and publish your own.
The easiest way for LinkedIn members to create a free account is by using their LinkedIn credentials.
Using Slideshare can open up your own content to a much larger audience. You’ll also be able to share other people’s presentations directly on your own LinkedIn profile which is really useful.
As a side note, if you ever need to create a presentation on any topic and are looking for inspiration, definitely check out Slideshare. There’s a very high possibility that someone else has already created what you need so it can be a great time saver and brilliant for research.
Apps… and more apps
Increasingly we’re using mobile for our online activity. The good news is that LinkedIn has got your back there. In addition to the flagship LinkedIn mobile app there’s a selection of their other (free) apps specific to different features.
At first I was a little frustrated at having to use a couple of different apps to access different parts of LinkedIn. However, I’ve found these dedicated apps offer a richer experience and more features than would be possible to jam into a single app.
Make sure you check out:
LinkedIn Flagship App – Great for connecting, research, messaging and browsing your newsfeed.
Tip – If you connect your mobile calendar you’ll get notifications with information about the people you are meeting just before you meet them – I love this feature.
LinkedIn Groups App – All your group activity in one place. Ideal for browsing conversations, posting comments or new discussion threads and discovering new groups. I’ll be exploring LinkedIn Groups in more detail in Part 3 of this series.
LinkedIn Job Search – As a committed freelancer or sole trader you may not use this in the traditional way but you can set job alerts based on certain keywords and locations which will trigger notifications of new job opportunities being advertised. This is a handy way to keep up to date with relevant work out there. Who knows, you may even find your next dream opportunity.
Slideshare App – If you are in need of inspiration for a client project or just interested in acquiring new knowledge, the Slideshare App gives you access to over 15 million presentations, videos and infographics. You can even save your favourites and access content offline which is an awesome feature.
As you can see, there are a range of ways you can elevate your LinkedIn presence beyond merely having a profile. Whilst I encourage you to jump in and try new things, I also urge you to take some time to think about what you want to achieve. Not doing so may result in a lot of wasted hours and no return on your investment.
In Part 3 of this series I’ll propose ways to promote yourself more effectively (without selling yourself too much), explore the benefits of LinkedIn Groups and compare free vs premium LinkedIn options. Stay tuned!