LinkedIn is the go-to place for professionals. Its sole purpose is to act as a place where people can do business with each other, but there are so many sorry, half-finished, boring and un-optimised profiles that, if they’re not driving away potential clients, customers or employers then I’m Willie Nelson.
Because I write CVs and LinkedIn profiles for a living, I’d like to offer some advice on how to write a really good LinkedIn profile you can use to find new business and be proud of.
Why bother with LinkedIn anyway?
Because its sole purpose is to act as a place where people can do business with one another
You can write loads more on your LinkedIn profile than you can on your CV and you get to show exactly how you’re good at what you do and why someone might hire/work with you.
LinkedIn groups not only provide a ton of information but are full of people who would hire you, collaborate with you or recommend you.
LinkedIn’s SEO is so good that if someone Googles you, your LinkedIn profile will come up at the top of page one and before your own website if you’re a freelancer.
If you’re a freelancer then people will Google you.
People will Google you anyway.
Tips for writing a great LinkedIn profile:
Don’t bombard everyone with your updates – before you even start to fiddle with your actual profile, go to your settings and change what people can see about you otherwise everyone will get a notification each time you change anything and press save. It’s turned on by default and it’s really annoying, so go to your settings (in the drop-down box under your name in the top right hand corner) and click on the link under ‘Privacy Controls’ that says ‘Turn on/off your activity broadcasts’ (see below screenshot).
Decide who the profile is for – who do you want reading your profile and what do you want it to say about you? If you’re looking for work then don’t just list your job description – summarise the skills you used, the outcome of your efforts and any key achievements so people can see your value. Mention the types of clients you worked with, the size of budgets you managed, the amount of people you oversaw, and the level of return you provided so people can see the scope of your experience and how good you are at what you do. LinkedIn is a free marketing tool and you’re aiming to impress so pitch yourself high.
Complete ALL your profile – if you haven’t bothered to fill out every section and don’t even have a photo then you look lazy and unprofessional at best. Hide your profile until you’ve completed it if this sounds like you.
Use the summary - this section is a godsend. A lot of people will only read the summary and your present/last job so make sure everything you want people to know is in here. Bullet points work well and I personally also list my website URLs in my LinkedIn Profile to make sure they aren’t missed. Say all the things you’re really good at and want to be known for here because you can’t rely on people having the time to scour through your profile.
Be useful – one of the people I wrote a LinkedIn profile for has at the top of his summary: “I’m here to help and asking questions is for free. If you would like to pick my brains on any of my areas of expertise listed below, or ask me any other questions, then just connect through LinkedIn. I’m always happy to share my skills and knowledge with no obligation.” This was a brilliant way to provide an easy reason to contact him, showed he was generous and it made him look really good.
Don’t look like you’ve just been arrested – make sure you don’t look like an idiot in your profile photo. Don’t post a group one where you can clearly see you’ve cropped other people out, don’t look drunk or like you’re in a karaoke bar, and don’t have one that looks like a police mug shot. A friendly head shot is fine – one that looks like you in real life, one where you seem approachable, and certainly one that looks professional. If in doubt then ask someone else to check it over as you will be judged on your appearance and, if you look like a prat, then nobody will want to work with you.
Saying that, I once saw a great LinkedIn profile of a guy in a high-vis jacket in a field that I loved. He looked like he was working, he was laughing, and he looked really approachable. I liked him and I’d never even met him.
Write a concise headline -this is the sentence that appears next to your photo which should say what you do in a nutshell as it’s the first thing people read. There are a few ways of doing this – you could write a sentence, sum up what you do for people or list your skills: e.g. Marketing | Strategy | SEO | Branding
Don’t waste your career history -many people spent years at a company and then either just promote it in the info box, write out their job description, or write nothing at all about what they did during their time there… nothing! You probably left previous jobs because you didn’t want to be there any more so make sure you wring every last drop of what you contributed and make each job pay for the time, blood, sweat and tears you gave them.
Add projects – this is an important one. If you have a career where you work on projects for clients then elaborate on them. People want to see how good you are at what you do so add some ‘Project’ sections from the right sidebar and outline the brief/client/task, what your actions were (to demonstrate you know what you’re doing, your working processes and how you approach problems) then state what the outcome was and give figures and percentages if relevant or applicable.
Get permission from the client or don’t mention the client by name if you don’t want to/aren’t allowed to identify them. You could even just say “this was a large multinational organisation specialising in yadayada”.
Add media – if you have any videos, white papers, testimonials, photos of a product you make, or presentations there’s an option to add them to the associated position. When you’re editing your profile, underneath the Summary section at the top and next to each job title there’s a link to add media. LinkedIn own Slideshare, so link to slides and YouTube videos if you have any. (See below screenshot)
Get Endorsed and Recommended – Endorsements are the skills that people you might not even know can say you have and Recommendations are testimonials. With Endorsements it’s best to have a select skill set rather than a load of random ones as you might end up getting endorsed for things you don’t do (or want to do) any more and it can dilute your image. So make sure the skills are key things you want to be known for rather than that you’re good with Excel for example.
People with a lot of Recommendations (testimonials) write them for others so spend time writing to your contacts asking if they’ll write something for you. People are impressed by testimonials and you can also add them to your website later. Ask your contact if they can specifically mention a skill or outline how you work. It’s more effective for a testimonial to say that you brought the project in on time and under budget than that you were friendly or nice to work with for example.
Drag stuff around and hide things -you can click each section (next to each job title when you’re editing – see second screenshot) and move it up and down as well as deciding who sees what. This is nice as you can bring the sections you feel are most relevant to the top of your profile. Some people also like to keep their contacts hidden in case other people see who they’re connected to. You can hide your connections in the Settings section as shown in the first screenshot. As with your CV, put the most important and impressive stuff at the top.
Rename and check your links – if someone clicks your Website or Twitter link does it go anywhere or does it go to an old website or the site of a company you no longer work for? You can alter what the text displays too so change the words ‘company website’ to the actual name of your company – or anything else you’d like.
Have good connections – if you only have four connections then it looks like nobody likes you or you haven’t bothered to find anyone you know. Your contacts should also have profile photos as faceless ones in your Endorsement section looks poor.
Not to do with your profile but important:
Personalise every connection request - it really is very lazy and rude not to and it only takes a second. I will very rarely accept a request from a person I don’t know and who hasn’t even bothered to take the time to tell me why they want to be my professional online mate. This isn’t even a suggestion actually, you need to do this otherwise you look reeeeeally bad.
Hide your competition – go to the settings and click to hide the ‘people who viewed you also viewed’ bit so that other LinkedIn users with the same job description as you (your competition) don’t appear in the sidebar when someone is viewing your profile. You want them to contact you not click away to someone else.
Tag your connections -when you connect with someone always go straight to your contacts and edit their tag. I have mine tagged by industry and how I know them. Some of my tags are: Local, Digital Media, Social Media, Prospects, Colleagues, and Clients. Often people will connect with you by saying you’re a friend so if you don’t remedy that straight away then they’ll stay in that list. Plus you need lists to target people later.
Remember that LinkedIn is designed for business opportunities you don’t just join and not do anything with it!
Turn off group notifications -when you join a group, go to the group settings and make sure you opt out of getting an email notification every time a member blows their nose. You can do this when you join the group or later from your main profile page (click on the individual group then click ‘More’ which is the last one of the top tabs, then select ‘Group Settings’).
Use a different email address for notifications -you might not bother with this one but I personally have a separate email address for LinkedIn connect requests and group notifications. I don’t want those “hey look what so-and-so is up to” emails clogging up my business inbox so I have a Hotmail address just for newsletters and other social media updates. You can change this in the general settings or in the individual group settings as outlined above.
Although it looks like I’ve covered a lot in this post this is actually just a basic outline on how to write a LinkedIn profile with a couple of extras thrown in. I haven’t discussed how to find more work, clients or contracts, how to analyse and use groups, how to research prospects, how to get news updates, how to hide yourself when you search, or anything about LinkedIn Company pages. But I think this is enough for now – follow the tips above and at least you’ll be off to a good start!
I’ve written an eight-page guide on how to use LinkedIn to get new business which outlines the method I use to find new clients for my other business as a Virtual Assistant. It’s actually so successful I don’t use any other method to find new work.