Using LinkedIn — A Must for Freelancers

from FreelanceSwitch - The Freelance Blog by 

Sometimes freelancers don't use career tools because they think that these resources are only geared for job-hunters and corporate ladder-climbers. But some career tools are just too good to pass up, and I think LinkedIn Recommendations is one of them.

LinkedIn lets colleagues leave a positive review about you, and vice versa, which looks wonderful on your profile—but the benefits go beyond that. In the freelance business, testimonials are gold because it shows the depth of your capabilities and lends credibility to your name, too. If you have not done so already, it's time to start using this powerful tool to help boost your image and even get gigs.

Build your network, and then get friendly.

Once you create a free profile, you can use the search tool to find old associates and even search by company for people you used to know. The sky is the limit; add as many people as you know because a profitable networking connection can be anywhere—as can a good recommendation.

Specify your connection.

When you recommend someone (it's easy, just click "Recommend This Person" at the top right side of their profile) you'll need to say how you know the person. That's why it is important to have your profile completed; it will ask you which job you held when you interacted with the person, which is great if they forget how they know you.

Request a recommendation.

There's nothing wrong with messaging someone to ask if they can recommend your work. However, the key is to only message them once about it and not repeatedly ask—and of course, to be polite about it. It is okay if you're not in the position to recommend someone and you ask them anyway, but I try to ask people that I think will offer a mutual arrangement. (Honestly, I haven't had to request recommendations because so many people simply reciprocate once you endorse their work.)

Write a testimonial.

When you want to write a commendation, try to do it from a "good karma" kind of place; that is, don't get mad if you don't get an endorsement in return. It's important to pick people you truly believe in and write a useful review for them. Try to go beyond "She's very nice," or "He's very organized," and get into detail a bit.

For example, talk about a sales presentation you collaborated on and note that it produced a 50 percent increase in profits. This is just an example, but you get the point. The more of a customized feel, the better, I think. Remember: When someone else is looking at this person to hire or retain their services, they'll want to hear a bit about what makes them stand out; so be sure to keep that in mind as you write—just as you'd want them to do for you.

Get testimonials from unexpected sources.

LinkedIn provides a platform to get recommendations from those that may not otherwise give you one. Why? Because when you give a glowing review to someone, they're likely to pay you back. No amount of email messages asking, "Can you endorse me?" can do that. That's why I always take time to recommend someone I think deserves a pat on the back. That's also why you should be adding all of your clients on an evolving basis—you can build relations and possibly get a testimonial in the meantime, as well as possible future referrals.

The power of copy/paste.

Once you get a testimonial, it is a fantastic idea to copy and paste it onto your website or portfolio. This way, people that don't see your LinkedIn profile can still see what others say about you. (Likewise, include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your website or at your portfolio. Many people also put it in their email signatures.) I try to only use relevant recommendations elsewhere. Also, you may feel comfortable letting that person know you are using their words elsewhere, which is something to consider before getting copy- and paste-happy.

"But I work solo. I shouldn't have to network with anyone."

So what if you don't have much of a network and think this tool is pointless? I assure you, it's not. Even if you don't have a lot of acquaintances or colleagues starting out as a freelancer, you will have a place for them to find you—and you to collect their information—once the projects roll in and your network grows. (I always recommend that college students create a profile while they are still in school so they can keep tabs on professors and fellow students when everyone scatters after graduation.)

If you're past the entry-level stage, keeping track of old colleagues and friends also provides that "you never know" networking possibility—as in, you never know if a former associate will need your services or refer you to someone who does. And yes, you can use them to glean recommendations!

Once you get into your career and start hopping around among others—especially like freelancers bounce around—you'll be able to have one central place for all of your contacts. Then you can start mining recommendations, and the benefits of those are endless.

Kristen Fischer is a copywriter and author from New Jersey. Visit her on LinkedIn here.