Social Animals – LinkedIn for Contractors
LinkedIn is the world’s leading professional social networking platform. Here are the basic ways you can use it to boost your profile as a contractor.
When LinkedIn was founded back in 2002, its creators could not have envisaged in their wildest dreams how big it would become. Today it has over 500 million members, more than 250 million active users and has become the world’s largest business networking forum. For contractors, this could be a goldmine.
LinkedIn is effectively Facebook for the business world. This is a place where you can raise your flag, promote your business and connect with customers and contacts who can help you grow, but for every person who raves about the business they’ve earned on LinkedIn, there are many others who never get anywhere. So, what goes wrong?
Secrets of success
Like any social network platform, LinkedIn only works if you use it correctly. People use LinkedIn for a number of reasons, such as linking with other business people with similar interests, browsing jobs, keeping up to date with business admin or simply killing time by seeing what other professionals in their group have been up to.
For you, though, this will be all about finding new contracts and LinkedIn is great for that because thousands of people are using its search engines to find people just like you. According to a report from JobVite, 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn to either find or vet new contractors. This is where top professionals will hang out and they may use this to decide whether you are as reliable and reputable as you say you are.
Having a profile here, then, will increase the chances that your next client will come to you and this has enormous benefits. It will make finding the next gig much easier and reduce all those hours you invest in finding new projects.
Typically, a contractor might spend hours contacting hundreds of leads in the hope of finding the next job. Instead, this lets the job find you.
The secret is to ensure your profile appears high up search results and that it looks professional and appealing to people when they find it. That means making it look good and visible.
There are a number of factors which will influence how visible your profile is including:
- How complete it is? LinkedIn’s search algorithm favours profiles which are 100% complete as defined by LinkedIn. This means profiles which have at least the following information: your current position, two past positions, education, summary, specialties, profile picture and at least three recommendations.
- Close connections: LinkedIn favours people who are close connections. So, if you are connected to some of their contacts, you’ll appear higher in their search than someone who isn’t. To boost your chances, therefore, you need to put work into increasing the number of contacts you have.
- Keywords: The search algorithm seeks out the most relevant people – that means professionals whose own descriptions match the terms contractors are searching for. When filling in the ‘about me’ section, think about what words your potential clients might be using when searching.
- Activity: Profiles which are highly active will be favoured. So, if you’re regularly posting on discussion forums or the question and answers section you’ll stand out as being much more useful and valuable.
The more connections you have the easier it is to appear high up search results. There are all sorts of tricks to doing this. When filling out your work history, you can look up past colleagues. Whenever you make new connections, have a look through their own contact to see if there is anybody you know or might be relevant to you. If so, invite them to become a connection. Include a link to your profile in your business cards, business cards or any other form of communication or marketing collateral you produce.
Search engine optimisation is also crucial. LinkedIn’s algorithms are much less sophisticated than Google, but they follow similar principles in that they analyse keywords to deliver search results. Try to work out what terms your potential clients and contacts might be using when making searches. The more eyes your profile appears in front of, the better your chances of building connections.
Ultimately, though, LinkedIn rewards people who are active and useful. This is in their interest as it encourages professionals to spend time on the forums, answering questions or producing blog content and making the entire platform much more valuable for its users.
People will also be much more likely to connect with users who are also highly active. If you’re producing a lot of value to the LinkedIn community in the way of written content, they will want to get in touch with you. Establishing yourself as a valuable thought leader within LinkedIn can supercharge your prospects of success.
With LinkedIn, as with so many things in life, you get back what you put in. People who are leading the conversations and providing more value for customers will find it becomes a lucrative and exciting source of new contracts. Those who sit on the side lines, fail to complete their profiles and give nothing back to the community will miss out.