The workforce in America used to be comprised primarily of manufacturing jobs, then came the “dot-com” explosion, and the retail extravaganza alongside it. Now, we are living in an opportunistic world where freelancing is becoming the new norm.

*What a time to be alive*

Thousands of people are quitting their desk jobs to work remotely or are at least starting side hustles to supplement with their 9-5.

According to Freelancers Union, more than 56 million Americans worked in the freelance economy in 2018, collectively working over a billion hours every single week. Whether for schedule flexibility, location independence, or the luxury of being their own boss, more and more people are bidding goodbye (and good riddance) to the workforce world of their parents and grandparents.

I built a six-figure business on LinkedIn in less than 12 months and you can too.

In case you didn’t know, LinkedIn users have the highest income out of any social media platform and nearly 87% of business owners are active on LinkedIn. It is by far the best place for freelancers to live on the internet. As a freelancer, you can connect with business owners to create mutually beneficial opportunities, without spending endless dollars on advertising.

This is how I got to a place where I’m making enough money, and am busy enough, that I have to frequently turn down business. And although my monthly income fluctuates, just like any freelancer, I’m consistently bringing in between $10,000-20,000/month.

LinkedIn has numerous advantages for freelancers.

The first advantage of utilizing LinkedIn as a freelancer is the ability to brand yourself and gain exposure to business owners who need your expertise. Second, as I mentioned above, you can generate leads without spending tons of money on Facebook ads. This means new clients and more revenue for your business.

The third benefit is something many people don’t even know exists: LinkedIn provides a free job board and access to tons of contract recruiters. You can see what business owners are looking for right now, which gives you the opportunity to flip an “in-house” position into a contracted freelance role, potentially saving the company thousands of dollars annually.

The fourth and fifth assets that LinkedIn supplies are intangible but no less important. Namely, you can continually build your audience through free, quality connections, and become an industry leader through consistent communication and publication.

All this is great, you might think, but how do I even get started? Let’s dive into the specifics…

Optimizing your LinkedIn profile as a freelancer is key.

There are infinite ways that your LinkedIn profile page can be tweaked and improved. As a freelancer, it’s important to take your LinkedIn profile seriously because it essentially acts as a search engine for business owners.

Let’s review the main areas of your profile that you need to optimize for search engine purposes….

1. Profile Photo — For starters, you would not believe how many people have unprofessional photos on LinkedIn, not to mention those that don’t even look like the actual person. You will want to have a professional-looking photo, in which your face takes up most of the image. You don’t need to wear a suit or a tuxedo, but you do need to look the part. Keep it simple, but classy.

2. Summary — This is like your elevator pitch and mini-resume all in one. How are you different from other people in your industry? What have you done to improve a company or client’s bottom line? Why are you an industry expert? What do you offer? Answer these questions, and be detailed, but without getting lost in the nitty-gritty. Think keywords and SEO while writing your summary section.

3. Headline — Without using all-caps (a common mistake), create an easy-to-understand, relatable title for yourself. For example, Freelance Copywriting Specialist, or Freelance Social Media Marketer. You want to include freelance in the title, so that recruiters and business owners can easily find you on the platform. If you don’t want to use the word freelancer, consider using a consultant or independent contractor. Your title is 100% searchable, so you want to be able to show up when a business owner is conducting a search for relative freelancers.

4. Skills — LinkedIn members with more than five skills listed are contacted up to 35x more by prospect clients and other LinkedIn members, and receive up to 20x more profile views. For this reason, you must have as many high-quality, relevant skills listed as you can (up to 50), all of which are applicable to the gigs that you’re seeking. Lastly, you need to have your skills endorsed by other members. Keep your most important skills pinned to the top and look to get 20+ endorsements for each of them. This goes an incredibly long way when a prospect client is reviewing your profile.

5. Experience — This is the first thing business owners and recruiters check. Keep it current and updated. Business owners need to know what you are doing now, not what you did in high school. Leave off irrelevant jobs and positions that don’t align with your current business. Make a logo for your freelance business’ company page (or get one on Fiverr), and list your relevant freelance work in this area. Pages that contain logos get 5x more traffic, and it will make your personal profile stand out more when people scroll through your experience section.

6. Recommendations — These are absolutely key. Shoot for one or two when you’re starting out, but look to grow them over time. Ask your clients to write a recommendation for you after a project is completed. Recommendations are like clout points: the more you have, the higher you will be perceived by business owners, and the more clients you will land because of it. When prospect clients want to learn more about working with you, you can easily send them to your recommendation section to build that initial layer of trust.

Next, you will want to reach out to business owners that can benefit from your services and expertise…

Master the art of cold outreach on LinkedIn.

Your profile is optimized and ready. Now the dirty work (as I like to call it) comes into play. It’s time to actually reach out to people on LinkedIn and start pitching business owners. This is the real reason you have an account and what makes the platform so valuable to freelancers.

Remember, even though LinkedIn is a social media platform, it doesn’t function the same way that Instagram or Twitter does. People are on LinkedIn to find work and make business connections. This means you need to take it seriously to get anything out of it.

Regardless of your industry or field, business owners are your target market. These are the people making decisions for their companies on a daily basis. They’re the ones who ultimately do the hiring and firing, as well as the ones who you initially want to pitch. Unlike Facebook or Snapchat, you can actually find the CEO of many companies easily on LinkedIn. This is a huge bonus for freelancers! You can go straight to the source.

Once you make a connection, you can reach out to them and see if they could benefit from your services. This is not exactly a cold call, but it isn’t really a traditional, business card lead either.

The initial steps of the LinkedIn prospecting funnel:

  1. Conduct a thorough search on the platform for your ideal client
  2. Craft a unique connection message, don’t just connect without saying something!
  3. Send them a connection request
  4. Follow-up within two weeks if they don’t answer your original connection message
  5. Ask them about their business, send them your portfolio, and let them know if you think they could benefit from your services
  6. Get them on the phone. The end-goal is to always get them on the phone, because it’s easier to close someone that way.
  7. If you don’t initially close them, keep them in your network and circle back quarterly.

Messaging that is appropriate:

Connection request

Hi _____,

I’d love to connect with you. I’m a social media marketer and have worked with over 25+ companies over the past three years. I’d love to learn more about your business. Please view my portfolio here: [insert link]

Follow-up

Hi _____,

Thanks for accepting my connection request. I’d love to learn more about [insert company name here] and see if we can mutually benefit each other. As mentioned before, I’m a social media marketer and went ahead and took a look at your online presence. [Insert something you’d improve here]. I’d love to chat sometime this week if you have availability in your schedule. Please let me know when would work for a quick call!

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable — because cold outreach is everything when you’re a freelancer. It’ll get easier with time and you’ll become more confident in your pitching abilities.

Self-publishing on LinkedIn changes everything.

As you are connecting and booking gigs, remember that one of the central ways to stay current and relevant, as well as become a leader in your field, is to post articles via the LinkedIn Publisher Tool. This is a place to share original content in your area of expertise.

When I was just getting started, I spent countless hours cranking out marketing and entrepreneurship articles on LinkedIn. This allowed me to engage with other leaders in the field and gain valuable comments and feedback on my posts. These connections eventually turned into referrals and recommendations. When used well, LinkedIn is a wonderful feedback loop of opportunity and growth.

To do this, aim to write about one or two articles every month on relative topics in your industry. If you’re a freelance social media marketer, write about trending marketing topics in social media. Remember to include your contact information at the bottom of the post and to tag people. Do this regularly and chime in on others’ articles. Remember, LinkedIn is a social media platform, after all. Be social and engage!

LinkedIn Premium is almost always worth it.

LinkedIn is free to use, but they also offer a premium version of the platform for freelancers who want to get a little more out of it.

The prices vary, starting at $29.99/month, and is primarily directed at job seekers and freelancers who want to send and receive more inMail. The really great thing about inMail messages is that they can be sent to any user, regardless of if you’re connected with them or not. When you’re going through the The LinkedIn Prospecting Funnel, this is a huge asset to have in your tool belt. It enables you to have premium access to business owners’ inboxes. This is a win-win for a freelancer.

Over time, as you come to rely on LinkedIn as your primary freelance income generation source, you might want to consider signing up. In addition to inMail benefits, you also get detailed information on people who view your profile, premium salary data, and a competitive advantage by learning how you stack up against others in your field.

Give ProFinder a try.

Last, but certainly not least, is the LinkedIn ProFinder. This is an acceptance-only platform built and designed with freelance professionals in mind. It provides leads directly to your inbox based on qualified business owners looking for your expertise. Remember, those keywords and descriptions on your profile actually come into play here! You could receive one lead each week or ten per month. It all depends on what is available based on your skill-set.

If you’ve worked on Upwork or similar platforms before (if you’re a freelancer, chances are very good that you have), you know that the number of applications to any highly desirable job could total in the dozens. On ProFinder, the max is five. This means that only five people can apply for any one freelance job, giving each of them a higher chance of booking it. Those odds only improve if you are one of the first. This is one of the many advantages to using ProFinder.

I was actually turned down my first time applying for ProFinder. It is truly intended for freelancers and independent consultants, not people who run agencies. You need to have a professional picture, a headline that matches your services, recommendations that reflect your freelance skills, and a steady stream of self-published articles on the platform. All of these can help you get accepted. Position yourself as a freelancer, not a CEO of an agency. It’s a fantastic place to begin if you need a little assistance generating leads..

Live, breathe, sleep and use LinkedIn!

Simply stated, LinkedIn is the place to be for freelance professionals. There is no other social media platform like it, where people genuinely take their work-life seriously and seek to connect with others in a professional capacity.

Still not convinced you need to use LinkedIn for your freelance business? Remember, nearly everyone on LinkedIn is a professional of some sort. You can’t say that about other social media platforms. LinkedIn is populated with hundreds of thousands of business owners. The earning potential is infinite— and you can directly contact any CEO you find on the platform.

Don’t wait. Get started on LinkedIn today!

How To Actually Freelance is an educational platform that offers invaluable resources and tools for aspiring freelancers, entrepreneurs, and side-hustlers. Founded by six-figure freelancer Linzi Martin, How To Actually Freelance is focused on teaching the next generation how to thrive beyond the traditional 9-5.