10 steps to building a powerful freelancer brand on LinkedIn
“Choose to do something better, different, unique — to be the one and only. And if you are the one and only … you will be paid fairly, you will be respected, you will get to decide what happens next.” — Seth Godin
As a freelancer, you have a choice. Would you rather be generic or remarkable?
If you want to get paid your worth, work fewer hours and enjoy a steady stream of income, you must change how people perceive you — from being generic to being remarkable, or from a commodity to an expert. This is now possible through personal branding on LinkedIn.
In this post, we’ll be taking a look at what is involved in building a powerful personal brand on LinkedIn to help you attract and maintain more clients for your freelancing business.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is an ongoing process of strategically marketing yourself and your career as a brand.
The truth is, whether you like it or not, you already have a personal brand. The only question is, are you going to allow others to shape how the world perceives you or are you willing to step in and manage how you want to be known?
You might ask, “What has personal branding got to do with freelancing?” It’s simple — a strong personal brand will differentiate you from the millions of other freelancers in the world.
You are the CEO of your own company: Me, Inc — Tom Peters
Successful freelancers don’t chase after clients; they invest in their personal brands
If you’ve been chasing after clients and worrying where to find your next gig even before your current project is completed, you’re doing something wrong. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Chasing after clients
If you’re chasing clients, you’re probably struggling to become financially healthy and stable. Remember this – prospects can smell desperation from a mile away. It’s not good in business.
Dealing with unreasonable clients
Not all clients and all projects are the same. Nothing can be more frustrating than chasing a client, only to discover that they’re unreasonable. But because you need work, you can’t just “fire” this type of client.
Finding it hard to say “no” to any project
Sometimes, there are so many “attractive” projects right there in freelance marketplaces, that you keep on proposing or bidding. Before you know it, you have too many projects on your plate, which is a surefire way to lose your focus.
Lack of time for yourself
Let’s admit it – when there are a lot of available projects, you probably want to work as much as you can. But working too hard and leaving no time to rest will lead to burnout.
Lack of specialization (or niche) in your services
Just because you can do a lot of things, that doesn’t mean you should offer your services to any client. It’s simple: When you try to do everything, you’ll end up with nothing.
You don’t have to go through these situations. If you want to thrive, you must STAND OUT. Invest in yourself, so you can add value to your clients.
Why Freelancers Must be on LinkedIn
As the world’s largest network of professionals, LinkedIn now has more than 590 million members in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. For freelancers, LinkedIn is a powerful tool for building your personal brand.
Here are some LinkedIn stats that matter to you as a freelancer:
- 61 million LinkedIn members are senior-level influencers and 40 million are decision-makers.
- LinkedIn is Fortune 500 companies’ most-used social media platform.
- Around 45% of LinkedIn content readers hold upper-level positions including managers, VPs and CEOs.
- 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn (from Twitter, 13%; from Facebook, 7%).
- 79% of B2B marketers consider LinkedIn an effective source for lead generation.
By building a powerful personal brand on LinkedIn, you can get in front of decision-makers and land high-paying clients.
Source: The Case for B2B Marketing on LinkedIn
How to build a powerful personal brand on LinkedIn
1. Find your unique voice
Here’s the truth: Without a unique voice, you will wander endlessly on LinkedIn. This means that you need to clearly define your niche, voice and purpose. Doing so will help you connect with the right mix of people and create the best content to build your brand. So do your homework— find your unique voice.
Start with knowing who you are and how you can add value to other people’s lives or to your target clients’ businesses.
Here are a few questions to guide you through in establishing your voice:
- What is your purpose?
- What are your top three values?
- What are your passions? If money wasn’t an issue, how would you spend your summer?
- What are your top three strengths?
- What are your top three weaknesses?
- Who should know about you?
- What problems do you solve?
2. Keyword-optimize your LinkedIn profile
One of the secrets to getting found on LinkedIn is through keyword-optimization. This means including keywords in your profile that your target clients use when they are looking for a freelancer with your skills.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget to add the keyword ‘freelance’ to your profile. Otherwise, recruiters who are looking for full-time, office-based employees will also approach you on LinkedIn. You don’t want to waste your time, or theirs’, so use the keywords that will help the right people find your profile.
Google search also loves LinkedIn, which has a high domain authority. Having the right keywords on your LinkedIn profile will ensure that it appears on the first page of a Google search result.
Below, you’ll see that my LinkedIn profile appears as the first result on Google for the search term “LinkedIn trainer Philippines”.
And if you Google my name, the results on page one (as of this writing) point to my profiles or to articles that I have written or in which I was featured. My LinkedIn profile is the second result, next to my website. It wasn’t like this when I was just starting to build my brand. I deliberately optimized my profile and did a lot of guest blogging to get the chance to “own” page one of the SERP for my name as the keyword. When building your personal brand, you’ll want to also control the Google SERP for the keywords you’re targeting. If I was able to do it, you certainly can, too!
PRO TIP: A highly optimized LinkedIn profile appears on page one of a Google SERP, usually in the top three results. This gives you full control over how people perceive you and your brand. And that’s personal branding at work.
3. Grow your network
When growing your LinkedIn network, it’s a good idea to aim for at least 500 connections. The best way of ensuring that you build a highly targeted network is by using the search function to find your ideal clients, as seen here:
Step 1. Search for your keyword. Use “People Filters” like connections, locations and current companies, or select “All Filters” to further narrow down your search results.
Step 2. Filter results based on demographics. If you want to connect only with business owners from the US, for example, choose “United States” in the “Locations” filter.
Other filters include: “Connections”, “Connections of”, “Locations”, “Current companies”, “Past companies”, “Industries”, “Schools”, “First and last name”, “Title” and “Company”.
PRO TIP: When sending a connection request to other LinkedIn members, always include a personal message to increase your chances of being accepted. Business owners and other decision-makers receive a lot of connection requests, and many do not include a personal message. By including one, you’re sure to stand out.
4. Add your skills and ask for endorsements
The “Featured Skills & Endorsements” feature is essential to getting found on LinkedIn. By simply adding more than five skills, you will be 27x more likely to appear in search results. Only your 1stdegree connections can endorse you for your skills, so be sure to build up your network to get more endorsements.
The more endorsements you have in a particular skill, the higher the chance that you’ll get found, so don’t be afraid to ask your connections to endorse you! And be generous in endorsing your connections, as well.
PRO TIP: Endorsements from your colleagues and from connections in a similar field to yours have more weight, which increases the chances of your profile being found by potential clients.
5. Optimize your headline
The headline in your profile is the first thing other LinkedIn members see, aside from your profile photo. In 120 characters, you need to tell your target clients who you are and why they should be interested in your services.
Add your keywords to your headline so you’ll rank high in search results. By default, LinkedIn uses your current job title as your headline, but you can edit this to properly position yourself in your industry. To edit your headline, click on the pencil icon on the right side of your profile photo and make the necessary changes.
6. Craft a compelling profile summary
Most LinkedIn members don’t add a profile summary, which is a huge mistake. Your profile summary is a place to really connect and make your message resonate with your target clients. Here are some quick tips to optimize your profile summary:
- Your profile summary is the perfect place to “talk” to your ideal clients and tell them the value you and your services bring to the table. Instead of selling your services here, use your profile summary as a place to initiate a conversation.
- When writing your summary, answer this question: “How can I help my ideal clients solve their problems?”. This isn’t an answer that you can fake — you won’t know how to help your clients if you can’t clearly illustrate why your services are beneficial to them.
- Profile summaries can be up to 2,000 characters. That’s plenty of space to craft a compelling, client-focused rundown of your services. Don’t forget to include your keywords!
Make sure to end your profile summary with a call to action (CTA). If your profile visitors are interested in your services, how do you want them to proceed? Connect with you? Send you an email? Visit your website? Make it clear with a strong CTA.
7. Demonstrate your expertise by creating original content
To attract high-quality clients, it’s important to clearly illustrate your services with original content. If you’re not comfortable writing long-form posts, don’t worry — content comes in different forms, including infographics, videos, presentations, images, etc.
Use the best type of content to showcase your expertise. In my case, I publish articles to drive highquality clients to my profile. By consistently creating original content, and then publishing it using LinkedIn Publisher, you can convert your writing skills into dollars.
8. Create your own LinkedIn company page
One of the most frequently asked questions I get from freelancers is “should I include all of my clients’ companies or the companies I’ve worked with in the Experience section of my personal LinkedIn profile?”.
The answer is, no. Unless you’re talking about a Fortune 1000 or 500 company, or if being associated with that company can elevate your own professional brand, leave them off your personal LinkedIn profile.
So where do you place or talk about your experience with the other companies or clients you’ve worked with?
The answer: Create your own LinkedIn company page, now known as LinkedIn Page.
- It helps build your personal brand.
- A company page, optimized with your keywords, can further boost your visibility and increase the chances of a potential client discovering your services.
- It adds credibility to your freelance business.
- It helps your freelance business look more professional.
Below is the LinkedIn company page I created a few years ago when I was a full-time freelance writer and editor. I intentionally didn’t grow the follower base, as I was focused on my LinkedIn training and consulting services. I only created the page to position myself as a professional freelancer.
Here’s how it looks on my LinkedIn profile:
9. Build relationships
Just like other social media platforms, LinkedIn is simply a tool — your success depends on how you use the platform. The real secret to building your brand and generating quality leads on LinkedIn is by leveraging your network.
LinkedIn has several features that enable you to build and nurture relationships within your network. Here are a few activities you should incorporate in your LinkedIn routine:
- Endorse your connections for their skills.
- Recommend your connections. Focus on their professional strengths.
- Don’t be afraid to also ask for recommendations from those you’ve worked with, especially from previous clients. Let them know that you’ve enjoyed working with them and that you’d like to highlight having worked with them on your profile. You can then return the favor by giving them recommendations.
- Give kudos to your connections who have done a great job.
Here’s how to give kudos:
Step 1. If I want to give kudos to one of my connections, Jane Martinito, I have to go to her profile first. Then, click MORE and choose ‘Give
Kudos’ below her headline.
Step 2. Choose the type of kudos that you’d like to give.
- You can give up to three kudos every week.
• Thank You
• Going Above and Beyond
• Inspirational Leader
• Team Player
• Great Job
• Making Work Fun
• Amazing Mentor
• Outside the Box Thinker
• Great Presentation
• Making an Impact
- Like, comment or share your network’s content. This works both ways, as you also get to build relationships and increase your visibility.
- Introduce your connections to the other people in your network if you see that they could potentially benefit from working together.
- Join group conversations and help members with any questions that you can answer.
Many of my quality leads are part of my 1st-degree connections’ networks (i.e., my 2nd-degree connections). They found me through the connections in my network who engaged with my content. The lesson here is to engage with your connections’ content and offer help if needed.
As you grow your network and become known in your niche, more people will approach you for help. Take the chance to add value to their lives. You’ll see — the returns are high.
10. Be authentic
If you want to build a profitable personal brand that can bring long-term success to you as a freelancer, don’t forget to be authentic on LinkedIn. Don’t try to be someone else —just be you. Your own set of values and your passion will help you stand out.
Why Am I Sharing This with You?
In January 2017, I set a major goal, which was to build my own consulting firm that provides LinkedIn training and consulting services. I wanted to transition from being a freelance writer and editor to a LinkedIn trainer and consultant. I had no idea how I could achieve it, but I just set my mind to it. In March of the same year, I realized that if I wanted to start a consulting firm, I would first need clients— this became a sub-goal for me. I gave myself 2-3 years to accomplish both. I envisioned having my own consulting firm in 2020. Everything happened so fast. The game-changer was when I was featured on Forbes, also through LinkedIn, which led to so many other opportunities. As a result, I had my first local client in June and my first international client for my LinkedIn services in July 2017. I then started VB Consulting in August
Until now, I still can’t believe that I achieved my subgoal in three months and my major goal in literally seven months—all because of my strong presence on LinkedIn.
Opportunities have the power to multiply. One opportunity always leads to better ones, and it never ends.
Now’s the time to get out of your comfort zone
Getting out of your comfort zone can be hard, but only at the beginning. Make that big decision to stand out. Tell your story. Invest in personal branding. Branch out and you will reap enormous rewards and attract amazing opportunities.
With a strong brand, you can charge what you want, get paid for doing what you love and enjoy a steady stream of income. As you grow your influence, you’ll be able to make a difference by helping people who need your expertise.
Personal branding on LinkedIn is a journey.
Once your personal brand is established, it will continuously bring clients and opportunities to you. It takes time to build a powerful personal brand, but I assure you, it’s absolutely worth it!
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