How to Be Active and Effective on LinkedIn Even if You Hate Social Media
Being active on LinkedIn is an easy way to get freelance clients, build your network, and learn about the business of freelancing. Just ask freelance writers JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, and me, and freelance editor Kelly Schrank, MA, ELS. We’re all using LinkedIn to grow our businesses—in about two hours a week.
And we’re going to tell you what we’re doing—and how you can do it too.
Your LinkedIn Activity Helps Clients Find You
More and more clients are searching for freelancers on LinkedIn now. Clients are also going to LinkedIn when they want to check out freelancers referred to them by colleagues.
Your LinkedIn activity is one of the five things LinkedIn uses to rank search results. Other key parts of the search algorithm are your connections and your profile, covered later in this post.
LinkedIn helped Kelly and JoAnna start their freelance businesses
Both Kelly and JoAnna got their first clients through LinkedIn—before they were freelancing.
When Kelly got a technical writing contract through LinkedIn in 2017, she left her medical editing job, but ended up keeping her former employer as a client, which within a year led to her starting her freelance business, bookworm editing services. Kelly is a writer and editor of medical, technical, and marketing communications who works in a variety of industries. “I’m currently on another technical writing contract, and the recruiter contacted me through LinkedIn. A lot of recruiters contact me, so being active and well-connected is pulling them in,” says Kelly.
And thanks to LinkedIn, JoAnna had a “client waiting in the wings” when she started her freelance business, JPen Communications, in 2016. This major client contacted JoAnna before she began freelancing. “Since then, I’ve gotten several more clients through LinkedIn,” she says. JPen Communications focuses on health writing for patients and pet owners.
LinkedIn helped Lori get a large, steady client
One of my anchor clients (large, steady clients) found me through LinkedIn. When she was looking for freelance medical writers, I ranked high in the search results because of my LinkedIn activity and large network. I’ve gotten a few smaller clients through LinkedIn too, and some freelance jobs that I referred to other freelancers in my network. My company is Lori De Milto Writer for Rent LLC and I write targeted medical content for hospitals/health systems, healthcare marketing agencies, and other clients.
Kelly’s LinkedIn activity helps her stay “top of mind with clients and potential clients.” That’s important, because when clients are ready to hire a freelancer, they remember the freelancer who’s been in touch with them most often and most recently. For JoAnna, LinkedIn is an easy way to “get my name out there as a medical writer in the veterinary space.”
LinkedIn Activity Leads to Referrals, Advice, and Support
Through our LinkedIn activity, JoAnna, Kelly, and I have all:
- Gotten practical advice on freelancing from other people’s content and comments
- Built stronger relationships with freelancers we already knew.
While I met JoAnna and Kelly in person through a professional association, we’ve built our relationships on LinkedIn. JoAnna and I have also met new freelancers on LinkedIn who’ve became part of our networks.
And Kelly recently started working with a medical writer who she met on LinkedIn. “She contacted me to collaborate after commenting on some of my posts,” says Kelly.
How to Be Active on LinkedIn
Being active on LinkedIn means sharing content and engaging with other people on your content and their content. Whether you’re posting your own content (posts or articles), responding to comments on your content, or commenting on other people’s content, always be professional.
“Engagement leads to greater awareness, and over time that can translate into more business,” says freelance copywriter John Espiran in How to improve LinkedIn engagement in 2019.
Most people write posts, rather than articles. “The best engagement on LinkedIn is likely to come from your posts,” says John.
If you’re just starting to be active on LinkedIn, engage with others on their content before sharing your own content. Review your feed and comment on other people’s posts (or articles). Your feed is the content you see when you click on your LinkedIn home page.
LinkedIn Activity: Engaging with Others
There are three ways to engage other people on their content:
“Do more than just ‘like’ posts. You don’t have comment on every post, but take time to comment on at least a few posts that interest you,” says JoAnna.
JoAnna is right. Commenting is the best way to engage others. Read the post and write a meaningful comment. You have up to 1,750 characters for each comment.
Here’s an example where Kelly commented on one of JoAnna’s posts. JoAnna was sharing information about a virtual forum where people could learn more about medical writing. Kelly’s comment helped promote this.
Liking is, frankly, lazy. The person who wrote the post isn’t likely to notice your like. And likes won’t help you build relationships with people. But you can click like and then also add a comment.
I used to think sharing, along with writing a comment about why I was sharing a post, was a great way to engage others and help them reach more people. But “LinkedIn shares don’t receive many views,” says John. “In fact, sharing a LinkedIn post is about the worst way for you to help it succeed. A much better approach is to click the like button and add a meaty comment.”
Benefits of Comments as LinkedIn Activity
Comments are the “gold standard of engagement on LinkedIn,” says John.
And every comment is a mini-ad for your business, because your name and the beginning of your headline show before your comment, along with your photo. Here’s an example from one of my comments on one of John’s posts.
When you comment, tag the poster, so he/she gets a notice from LinkedIn about your comment. John’s name in bold means I tagged him.
How to tag the poster
- Type the @ symbol.
- Start to type the poster’s name.
- Choose the poster’s name from the list LinkedIn will give you.
- LinkedIn will then delete the @ symbol and make the poster’s name bold.
Someone who replies to your comment is likely to accept your invitation to connect if you decide the person would be a good connection for you.
And when you comment on other people’s posts, read the other comments. Commenting on other comments helps you find more relevant people for your network.
LinkedIn Activity: Sharing Relevant Content through Posts
Posts are the easiest way to share content. Include at least a few sentences about why other people should read the content you’re sharing. I like to include a headline too. Most posts have a link to the full content (news, blog post, etc.). If the post is designed to start a discussion, you may or may not link to more content.
“Posting regular status updates will help you get noticed by your network. When someone from your 1st-degree connections needs someone who does what you do, they will be more likely to think of you,” says Melonie Dodaro, CEO of Top Dog Social Media, in 3 Ways to Improve Your Visibility on LinkedIn.
JoAnna, Kelly, and I all share relevant content from other people and organizations and sometimes, our own content. Relevant content includes:
- News and updates about your industry or specialty(ies)
- Timely issues
- Tips on freelancing, running a business, being more productive, etc.
- Useful free content, like blog posts, podcasts, and webinars.
Like comments, every post is a mini-ad for your business. Your name, the beginning of your headline, and your photo show at the top of each post. Here’s an example from one of Kelly’s posts.
Examples of relevant posts
People like to be part of discussions and answer questions. JoAnna has done some posts that have resulted in lively discussions. For example, in one recent post she asked people about the most important lesson they learned as an entrepreneur.
And I was one of the people who commented on this post.
Posts on business ownership and professional development
Most of JoAnna’s posts focus on business ownership and professional development. “Freelance medical writing requires much more than just strong writing skills, so sharing information about business ownership and professional development is important to me,” she says.
Here’s another post by JoAnna where she shares an article by Health Writer Hub on finding your niche.
Posts on freelancing and small businesses
My posts are mostly about freelancing, the mindset for success, and running a small business. Here’s one example.
Posts with tips on editing and writing
Kelly has been doing a series of posts with tips and tricks for using Microsoft Word, which her peers and clients use. The posts are based on her presentation Expanding Your Toolbox to Make You a More Productive Editor at the Society for Technical Communication’s 2019 Technical Communication Summit & Expo. Here’s an example.
Kelly plans to continue offering relevant content like this based on new things she learns, tips that other people send her, or questions people ask her. “I like the idea that my clients and potential clients can see me as a resource on Word as well as editing and writing. I have plans for other posts, like a series on the AMA Manual of Style, and editing or writing in general,” she says.
Posts asking for feedback
I’ve also done posts asking for feedback. When I created a video for my freelance business I posted it on LinkedIn and asked for feedback before putting in on my website. When I was writing my book, I posted cover designs and asked for feedback. I got valuable feedback from both posts, and lots of views and comments.
Here’s my post about my video.
Increase Engagement on Your LinkedIn Activity
Increase engagement by using images in your posts and responding to every comment people make.
Respond to every comment on your posts
Make sure you respond to every comment on your posts. It’s great way to build your network and stronger relationships with people who are already in your network. Very few people do this, so if you do, you’ll stand out.
Use images in posts
Our posts all include images, which helps increase the number of views and engagement with posts. If you’re linking to content that’s on the web, when you type the URL in your post, LinkedIn will pick up the image from that content and the headline. The posts above on finding your niche by JoAnna and freelance opportunities by me are examples of this.
Kelly and I created our own images for our posts with her tips and my video. Creating your own images isn’t hard and you can do this for free. You can get decent images from free services like Pixaby, and then use the free version of Canva to create more sophisticated images that contain text and are in the right size for posts. Canva has a free design school to help you learn how to create images.
LinkedIn post image size:
- 1,200 by 628 pixels
See more relevant posts
You can see more examples of our posts on our LinkedIn profile pages. When you meet other people who do relevant posts, you can check out their other posts too.
How to see more posts
- Scroll down to Articles & activity.
- Click on See all articles or See all activity.
- Click Articles or Posts.
Examples of Relevant Promotional Posts
When you do promote something related to your freelance work, make sure it’s relevant to your connections.
JoAnna limits promotional posts to one a month. Here’s a post about an article she wrote. Notice how she leads with interesting information from the article. She doesn’t say “Here’s an article I wrote.” Many people do this and it’s a real turnoff!
Occasionally, I post my own content. This example is about a practical guide to LinkedIn for freelancers, so it got a lot of views (2,070).
NEW FREE GUIDE TO LINKEDIN FOR FREELANCERS
I’ve just released an updated and expanded free guide: The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Freelancers.
Finding good connections through your posts
When someone comments on your post or article, read his/her title. If the person seems like a good connection for you, click on his/her profile and invite him/her to be part of your LinkedIn network. You can write something like:
“Thanks for commenting on my post on XYZ. Please join my LinkedIn network.”
And, of course, reply to the comment.
LinkedIn Activity: Sharing Relevant Content through Articles
You can also write your own articles and post them on LinkedIn’s blogging platform, called in publishing. In general, posts are just as good as articles for ranking in search results and building your network.
But articles can help you highlight your expertise. When you publish an article, it becomes a prominent part of your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn shares it with some of your connections and followers in their home page feeds. And you can send links to your articles to clients, prospective clients, and colleagues. LinkedIn’s blogging platform is very easy to use.
Examples of relevant articles
JoAnna, me, and Kelly all write occasional articles on LinkedIn. Here are two examples:
- 6 Networking Tips for Introverts by JoAanna
- The Little-Known Personality Type that Makes Success Easier by me.
My views and engagement are usually higher on posts than on articles, so I focus on posts now.
Build a Big, Relevant LinkedIn Network
Having a big, relevant network helps you rank higher in search results when clients are looking for freelancers.
“If you want to be found on LinkedIn, it is essential you build a quality network. A quality network is a network filled with people representing your target audience,” says Dodaro.
In ranking search results, LinkedIn looks for:
- Common connections with the person who is doing the search
- Connections by degree (1st-degree are strongest and 3rd-degree are weakest).
Aim for at least 500 connections. JoAnna, Kelly, and I all have 500+ connections. Once you start actively building your network and engaging with the right people, it’s not hard to reach this level.
Anyone who views your profile can see how many connections you have (right below your headline). But once you reach 500 connections, LinkedIn just says “500+ connections.”
Connect with the right people
Be strategic when you invite people to join your network and when you accept connection requests from other LinkedIn members. Connect with:
- Other freelancers you know
- Freelancers and other colleagues from your professional associations
- Other people working in your industry(ies).
If you don’t know a lot of people yet, don’t worry; by being active, you’ll “meet” relevant people who you can invite to connect with you.
Always send personal invitations
Always add a personal note when you invite someone to connect with you. Mention what you have in common or why you want to connect. For example, you could write:
“I see we’re both freelance writers and I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn.”
“I loved your post on XYZ. Please join my LinkedIn network.”
Kelly tends to be a little more verbose, but do what feels right for you. The first couple of invites might seem awkward, but after you’ve done it a few times and gotten good results, you will feel more comfortable with it.
Stay in touch with key contacts and research clients
You can also use your connections to stay in touch with key contacts and research prospective clients.
“All of my contacts for the medical editing side of my business are on LinkedIn and being in the pharmaceutical industry, they move around a lot. This is the best way to keep track of them,” says Kelly.
And when I’m developing prospect lists for my direct email, I use LinkedIn to find the right contact person at the company. I also find more prospects through “People Also Viewed.”
Learn more about how to use LinkedIn to find clients.
Other Benefits of LinkedIn Activity
Freelancers get other benefits of being active on LinkedIn. “For those of us who work from home, alone, even some personal contact via messages and comments is good for you as a human being,” says Kelly. I agree. Freelancing can be lonely.
JoAnna likes sharing useful information with people. “Now that I’ve been freelancing for a few years, I feel honored to be in a position where I can share my resources and help others grow in their careers,” she says. I like doing this too, through LinkedIn and my Freelance Marketing Blog.
More Tips on LinkedIn Activity
Here are some more tips on being active on LinkedIn from JoAnna, Kelly, and me.
Set aside time for your LinkedIn activity
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on your LinkedIn activity to see results. But you do need to set aside some time for this.
JoAnna spends about an hour a week on LinkedIn. I’m on LinkedIn about 1-2 hours a week and Kelly spends about 2-3 hours a week on LinkedIn. “An hour doesn’t sound like much, but it doesn’t take long to do my usual LinkedIn tasks: respond to comments on my posts, comment on other people’s posts, review connection requests, and send messages,” says JoAnna.
At least once a day we all review our LinkedIn feed and messages. We respond regularly to connection requests, messages, and comments on our posts.
It takes time to build your network and your audience. “Don’t try to do too much at once if you have not been active; you will overwhelm yourself,” says Kelly.
Start by reviewing your feed and commenting on other people’s posts (or articles). Also invite relevant people you already know to join your network. As you become more comfortable with LinkedIn, start doing your own posts and actively looking for more relevant connections through other people’s posts.
Share content regularly
JoAnna, Kelly, and I all share relevant content through posts regularly. JoAnna and Kelly write posts about once a week. They’re better than me. I tend to do a few posts a week for a few weeks and then don’t write any posts for a week or two. Follow their example, not mine.
Get results through consistent LinkedIn activity
Like most things in life, you get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. “The more active you are on LinkedIn, the more you’ll get your name out there and get noticed by potential clients. Also, being more active allows you to expand your network and establish meaningful connections with other freelancers in your field,” says JoAnna.
Consistent LinkedIn activity is important. Writing posts about what’s interesting to you, as well as to your connections, will make it easier for you to be active. JoAnna also suggests posting on consistent themes or topics so that people will remember you.
And Kelly suggests setting goals for your profile, your network, and your posts.
Your Complete, Client-Focused LinkedIn Profile
While your LinkedIn activity helps you rank higher in search results, your profile is the #1 thing LinkedIn’s algorithm uses in ranking search results. This post is about LinkedIn activity, but here’s quick overview of profiles.
You need to meet LinkedIn’s requirements for a complete profile to be ranked high. And you need to write a compelling client-focused profile with the right keywords to attract high-paying clients.
To get an All-Star Rating (which means your profile is complete), you need to include the right content and have at least 50 connections. The right content is:
- Industry and location
- Profile photo
- Current position (under Experience)
- Two past positions
- At least 3 skills.
Learn how to write a complete, client-focused profile
Get step-by-step instructions and see examples of how freelancers are getting clients through LinkedIn in:
Your Compelling Headline and About Introduction
A client-focused profile has:
- A compelling headline, the most important part of your profile
- A compelling About section, the second most important part of your profile, especially the first 220-270 characters (with spaces) or so.
The headline and About section (also called the summary) both need to use the right keywords and focus on how you help clients. The right keywords include:
- “freelancer” or “freelance [writer, editor, etc.]”
- Your key services
- Industry-specific keywords
- The type of clients you work with and their target audiences.
You have up to 120 characters for your headline. Use them to attract clients and make them want to learn more about you. Clearly say what you do and how you help your clients.
In the About section, the first 220-270 characters shows before people have to click “see more.” On mobile devices, about 102-167 characters show. Build on your headline and offer a clear, concise client-focused message in those first 220-270 characters. Put as much of your key message as you can in the first 102-167 characters to attract clients viewing your profile on a smart phone or tablet.
Learn More About LinkedIn Activity for Freelancers
Content from The Mighty Marketer about LinkedIn
Content about LinkedIn from others
John Espirian, How to improve LinkedIn engagement in 2019
Melonie Dodaro, 3 Ways to Improve Your Visibility on LinkedIn
More about Kelly, JoAnna, and Me
Kelly Schrank, MA, ELS
JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
Lori De Milto