What Freelancers Ought to Know About Networking on LinkedIn in 2021
Ever since the pandemic began, LinkedIn has become a more important part of business networking. In 2020, conversations increased by 55% and posted content increased by 60%, according to Hootsuite. Networking on LinkedIn is more important than ever in succeeding as a freelancer.
Why is networking on LinkedIn so important for us?
The answer is simple. More clients and colleagues are using LinkedIn to find freelancers to hire or refer work to. And if you want to be at or near the top of the search results, you need a strong LinkedIn network:
- A big, relevant network (500+ connections)
- Ongoing networking on LinkedIn by engaging with other people on their content and sharing your own content.
When a client or colleague searches for a freelancer, LinkedIn uses a sophisticated search algorithm to return results. Your LinkedIn profile (completeness and relevant keywords in the headline) is the #1 criterion. The next three top criteria are all related to your LinkedIn network:
- #2: Common connections with the person who is doing the search
- #3: Connections by degree (1st, 2nd, or 3rd)
- #4: Activity (or networking on LinkedIn).
Along with ranking higher in search results, networking on LinkedIn will also help you:
- Showcase your expertise to clients and colleagues
- Build your network of freelancers who can provide advice and support
- Learn how to better manage your business.
This post shows you how to build your LinkedIn network and how to be active.
Learn how 3 freelancers are getting clients on LinkedIn
How to Build Your Connections for Networking on LinkedIn
A network of 500 relevant connections can give you access to at least 250,000 people, including lots of potential clients. Relevant connections are:
- Other freelancers you know
- Freelancers and other colleagues from your professional associations you haven’t met yet
- Other people working in your industry(ies) or target markets.
Getting 500+ connections isn’t as hard as it may seem. The key is to find something you have in common with the people you want to join your network and to mention this in your invitation.
Here are 3 easy ways to find relevant connections and encourage them to join your LinkedIn network.
#1. Use the member directories of your professional associations.
Other members are relevant connections. If you mention in your invitation, for example, that you are both members of AMWA, the other person is likely to accept your invitation to connect.
#2. Review the connections of your connections.
You can find more people in your industry(ies) and target markets by looking at the connections of your connections. In the person’s profile header, click on the number of connections and look for relevant people to invite to be part of your network. In your invitation, mention that you do similar work or your common connection. But often, people connect with others on LinkedIn who they barely know, so mentioning similar work is usually better than mentioning the common connection.
#3. Be active.
You’ll meet people who can be relevant connections by networking on LinkedIn. If you comment on a post that’s relevant to your work, the person who wrote the post is likely to be a relevant connection and likely to accept your invitation to connect. In your invitation, mention that you liked the person’s post on XYZ.
How LinkedIn Connections Work
LinkedIn has three levels of connections: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree. The closer your connections are with the person who is doing the search, the higher you’ll rank in search results.
1st-degree connections are direct connections. Either you invited the person to connect with you or he/she invited you to connect with him/her. 1st-degree connections:
- See each other’s connections (usually; this depends on the settings each person uses)
- Can send direct messages for free
- Automatically follow each other.
Following means that you will see some of their content, and they will see some of yours. LinkedIn has a very complicated algorithm for deciding which content to show you. If you want to keep seeing a connection’s content, comment on it regularly.
2nd-degree connections are connections of your 1st-degree connections. Having access to these people can give you a huge network. Say that you have 500 1st-degree connections, who each have 500 1st-degree connections. Your network is now 250,000 connections.
3rd-degree connections are people who are connected to your 2nd-degree connections. If their first and last names show on their profile, you can click Connect to invite them to be part of your network. If only the first letter of their last name shows, you won’t have an option to click Connect and you can’t message them for free.
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. The 3 ways to find relevant connections under Building Your Connections for Networking on LinkedIn gave you examples of things you can mention. If the person is another freelancer, you could write something simple like:
“I see we’re both freelance writers [EDITORS, OR OTHER FREELANCE FIELD] and I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn.”
Never click Connect under People You May Know. LinkedIn will automatically send the default invite. Instead, search for the person by name and click on his/her profile. Then click Connect, and LinkedIn will prompt you to add a personal note.
LinkedIn’s mobile app doesn’t prompt you to add a personal note to connection invites. But there’s an easy way to do this. Search for the person you want to invite. Click More. Click Personalize invite.
How to Be Active on LinkedIn
Once you have 500+ connections, networking on LinkedIn enough to get results only takes about 10-15 minutes a day (Monday through Friday). Networking on LinkedIn, or your activity, means engaging with other people on their content and sharing your own content.
Review your LinkedIn feed—the content that shows up when you click on your LinkedIn Home page—2-3 times a day. Comment on relevant posts by relevant people. You don’t have to do this every day. If you’re super busy, it’s okay to review your feed once or skip a day.
About once a week, do your own posts. There are three types of content you can share: posts, articles, and videos. In general, posts are just as good as articles for ranking in search results and networking on LinkedIn.
But articles can help you highlight your expertise. When you publish an article, it becomes part of your LinkedIn profile. And you can send links to your articles to clients, prospective clients, and freelance friends. Focus on topics that are relevant to your target clients.
I’m not covering videos because I think it’s just way too much work to do the high-quality videos that should be shared on social media. But if videos would benefit your specific freelance business and you know how to produce high-quality videos, by all means use them.
If you’re not very active on LinkedIn yet, start by engaging with other people before sharing your own content. There are three ways to engage with other people: like, comment, or share.
Commenting is the best way to engage others, and it’s easy to do. Just read the post and write a meaningful comment. Look for relevant posts by relevant people, like potential clients and other freelancers, to comment on.
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. This is one of the reasons why you need a compelling, client-focused headline.
Once you’re comfortable on LinkedIn, share your own relevant content in posts once a week. Relevant content includes:
- News and updates about your industry or specialty(ies)
- Tips on being more productive
- Other useful free content like blog posts, podcasts, and webinars.
In your post include at least a few sentences about the content, usually with a link to the full content (news, blog post, etc.). Use an image to increase the number of views and engagement.
See examples of relevant posts by freelancers, and comments on other people’s posts here.
Sign up for e-newsletters, and you’ll have a steady stream of content ideas coming to your inbox. Professional associations are also a great source of relevant content you can share. Most of what you share should be non-promotional. When you do promote something related to your freelance work, make sure it’s relevant to your connections.
Increase engagement by responding to every comment people make on your posts. Very few people do this, so if you do, you’ll stand out. And people who comment on your posts are likely to accept an invite to connect from you.
Always be professional when networking on LinkedIn. This includes your:
- Comments on other people’s posts
- Responses to other people’s comments on your posts.
Avoid controversy or anything that is likely to offend other people.
Virtual Networking for Freelancers
Networking on LinkedIn is one type of virtual networking. It’s easier for most freelancers than other types of virtual networking. We don’t need to be on camera to network on LinkedIn like we do in virtual networking events. And it’s easier to make a good impression and build one-on-one relationships on LinkedIn than in a virtual event.
Become a Fearless Freelancer
This post is based on my book The Fearless Freelancer: How to Thrive in a Recession.
Steady, high-paying clients who need your help are still out there. The Fearless Freelancer will show you where they are and how to get them.
Meeting people who can help and hire you–networking–is 1 of 10 steps that will help you thrive in the COVID-19 recession.
My book gives you an easy-to-follow, proven process for doing this—from a freelancer who’s thrived during two recessions and now, during the COVID-19 recession.
The print and e-books are available now on Amazon.
Recession-Proof Your Freelance Business
Learn more about The Fearless Freelancer:
How to Thrive in the Recession.
Click here to start thriving today
Recession-Proof Your Freelance BusinessLearn more about The Fearless Freelancer:
How to Thrive in the Recession.
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