Linkedin can be pushed down the priority list for freelancers. I often hear colleagues say that a Linkedin profile is “for employees” or “jobseekers” and not for self-employed individuals who are looking for clients, rather than cushy 9-5s.
I don’t agree.
Linkedin, when used correctly, can actually be an extension of your website, providing information that you perhaps won’t include there, and, contrary to popular belief, can be customised considerably; giving it your personal touch. You’ll notice I said it’s an extension of your website, not an extension of your CV.
Linkedin is often touted as an “online CV”, and to some extent that’s true, but as I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions (in fact, there’s a blog post about it here), your CV should be short and sweet. This doesn’t mean boring – depending on the industry you work in, you can get pretty creative about it (infographic CVs, portfolio-style, videos…) but it needs to be succinct.
On the other hand, your Linkedin profile can have, among other things:
Keywords (remember Big Brother Google is always watching)
A great head shot (depending on your country, photos on CVs aren’t always the “done thing”)
A longer summary, showcasing a bit more of your personality
More detailed experience (CVs should really only contain employment/career highlights)
Videos of presentations you’ve done
Articles you’ve written
So you see, there’s quite a lot you can do to really showcase your talents. I’m a big fan of Linkedin. Apart from the opportunity to show more of who you are and what you do, there are networking opportunities and the chance to learn from colleagues (despite Linkedin having more of a social emphasis than it used to, there’s still a lot of of useful content shared.)
So what are my steps to creating a good, hell, a great Linkedin profile? Let’s use the points above as a loose guide:
Your headline is basically your tagline, and it’s located under your name on your profile page.
Your headline is a great opportunity to succinctly state what you do, and get a little creative. Maybe you’ve written a book? Or created a product? Perhaps you’ve won an award? Mention it.
Remember: these keywords will help people find you.
In my profile, I mention what I do (translator and writer), then include something fun (word geek – also true) and then, because my business name is not my own name, I include the words Silver Tongue. Always bear in mind the words you want your name (whether that’s your business or personal name) to be associated with.
What will people be searching for? And what do you want them to find?
As we already mentioned, photos on CVs aren’t always common practice. In some countries, they’re expected, in others, they’re a bit of an oddity. In Linkedin-land, it’s more unusual if you don’t have one. Some people do sidestep it and just have a logo, which is completely fine, but often, potential clients like to put a face to a name. If you do decide to have a photo, make sure it’s professional (no downing shots with your buddies) and that it’s a head shot – yes, you might have an absolutely killer Armani suit, but we want to see your beautiful face – it builds a bit more trust.
The question of whether to have a professionally taken photograph is a tricky one.
It can be pricey to do that, especially if it’s just for your Linkedin profile. However, if you also need photos for your website, then it can be a good two-birds-one-stone move which makes a real difference. In the interests of full disclosure: my head shot for Linkedin is the product of my SLR camera (Nikon D5000, if anyone’s interested), balanced atop my printer and two dictionaries. How did this high-tech arrangement come about? Well, a magazine editor nonchalantly asked me to “whizz over” my head shot for an article I’d written, so obviously I panicked, grabbed my camera, set the timer, balanced it et voilà! My head shot was born (that sounds weird.) In the interests of full full disclosure, I’m actually getting “proper” shots done this week, and I’m really excited. I think it’ll be a great investment.
Even for “regular” people, as opposed to superhero self-employed individuals, Linkedin summaries are a great opportunity to show off their personalities. For freelancers, it’s even more than this, as we’re not constrained by appearing “employable”. In my Linkedin summary I talk about having superpowers….probably not something that most managers care about.
You can use your summary to have that all-important first chat with potential clients and collaborators. Talk about your experience, what you offer, highlights of your career, stand-out projects, awards you’ve won, big campaigns you’ve killed it on, list your specialisms, share a bit of your story (just enough)…..the opportunities really are endless. Have fun with your summary.
Like your About Me page on your website, it’s a chance to deliver your mission statement in a more conversational way.
Something I’m working on at the moment is creating a video for my summary on Linkedin. You could do the same, or embed a video of a presentation you gave (you could even include slides.) If you’re a design professional, include some of your favourite pieces. Maybe you’re a photographer? Give it your best shot(s).
At the end of your Linkedin summary, don’t forget to include a call to action. Why? Because you want people to act. You haven’t created your Linkedin profile for people to admire your eye makeup, you’ve created it because you want them to get in touch with you. So tell them how! Link to your website, give them your email address…whatever it is you want them to do, don’t make it difficult for them to do it!
So to summarise this Linkedin summary section, your summary is your best chance of showing prospective contacts what you can do and who you are, so….
Whatever you do, for the love of Linkedin, please do not just copy & paste your resumé.
Personalise your page
Finally, there are a few ways to add those finishing touches. You can elaborate on things you don’t have the chance to in your CV. As a freelancer, if you have a resumé it will often be a summary of your current work, and less about your past roles in an employed capacity. That’s not to say that your past jobs aren’t relevant; they’re often just as much of a testament to your talent as your work since going solo. Your Linkedin profile therefore lets you give a bit of detail on these experiences too.
Keep them relatively short, and easy to scan – that’s how most of us read profiles.
Another way you can customise your Linkedin profile is by creating a custom URL for your profile page. This links back to the point on making your profile easily “findable” on searches….and thankfully it’s easy to do too. Here’s how:
Having a custom URL makes it easier for people to find you when they’re searching for you by name. Usually, your URL is comprised of your name plus some letters or numbers. Change it to just your name (hopefully it isn’t taken, if it is, you could always add your middle initial or full middle name) and maybe one of your keywords.
For example, my custom URL has jorourketranslator at the end.
Your resumé or CV (depending on what you like to call it) isn’t likely to have room for references or recommendations, but your website can and should feature them…so should your Linkedin profile! It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate the fantastic service you provide for your clients. Basically, Linkedin testimonials give you that all-important social proof. And we all know how important that is!
I wouldn’t be worth my salt (I am a translator, after all) if I didn’t mention the option to customise the language of your Linkedin profile. So why is this a good idea? Well, say your profile is in English and you translate it into French; prospective clients using an English version of Linkedin will see your profile in English, and those using, for example, the .fr version of Linkedin will automatically see your profile in French. The only thing that won’t be translated is the recommendation section – recommendations will always remain in the original language they were written in, so don’t worry about getting your translator to translate these.
Wrapping it up
So this has been my mini-masterclass on getting your Linkedin profile right; it’s a lot to cram into one blog post (I’ve actually added a section devoted to it on my courses because I think it’s so important!) but hopefully it gives you a flavour of what Linkedin can do, and provides you with a few new tricks to get started on, or at least get polishing, your Linkedin profile.
When you take advantage of all that Linkedin has to offer, far from being just an online CV, it’s more like a miniature website for you to showcase your skills and show off your personality. Full-blown websites can be quite an expense, Linkedin allows you to show a lot of the same information, and (bonus!) with a couple of tricks, you can get it to do a lot of the SEO work which might be more challenging on your own website (though here are some tips to show SEO isn’t really toooo scary.) With Linkedin at the helm to take care of people finding you, all you really have to do is craft the content.