In a previous post we looked at the basic steps to get your LinkedIn profile set-up. For most independent contractors, your profile is already set-up. The question that remains is "Now what?" Once you have a great profile on LinkedIn and you're growing your network, how can you really take advantage of this social network? Here are some ideas:
Update Your Profile... and keep it updated!
An up-to-date profile is key to an independent contractor because this is where potential clients are going to look -- possibly even more than your resume. When you edit your LinkedIn Profile, you have the option to include Experience and Projects. What's the difference? We recommend you use "Experience" as a quick view of your employers and projects for specific client projects. For example, if you've been independent for the past 10 years under the name "Company Inc.", your experience would show "Company Inc. -- July 2004 to Present" with an overview of the skills and work you do. Under "Projects", you would then include all of the clients you worked with over the past 10 years while working for Company Inc. Every time you finish a project (or better yet start one), include it in your profile. You don't need a ton of detail to start. As the project progresses, include project value, scope, deliverables, critical success factors, etc.
Give and Receive Recommendations
Recommendations are the perfect way to boost your image on LinkedIn. Whether it's an endorsement for a specific skill or a detailed reference for your work, recruiters like to see that you're respected by your peers. They're better than a reference or testimonial on a resume because they actually link back to the recommender's profile, making it that much more credible. As you add more details to you profile about the work you've done, LinkedIn will recognize this and actually prompt your peers to endorse your work. It will also encourage past colleagues to recommend you. What's the easiest way to get a recommendation? Recommend others! It's not that your colleagues hate you, it's that they're also busy and don't think about endorsing you on LinkedIn. Take a minute to endorse one of their skills or even write a reference. Odds are, they'll reciprocate! (Note: Only recommend somebody who deserves it. Your recommendation may help somebody land their next contract, and you don't want to damage your own reputation because you lied about a colleague's ability). You can also solicit recommendations by simply asking for one. If it's been a while since you spoke to the person you're asking, provide some guidance on what to write. The easier you make it for them, the higher the probability that they will recommend you.
Share More Content
Sharing content on LinkedIn helps you get noticed, builds your credibility, and enhances relationships with people in your network. This doesn't mean you have to constantly write thought-provoking articles. Sure one or two would help, but even easier is to find interesting articles and share them. Sources like Inc.com or Business Insider are great starting points, and you can also look at industry sites specific to your work. When you share an article, comment on it. Do you agree or disagree? Why? What's your favourite part about it?
When you keep an updated profile, get recommendations, and share content, you're already increasing your chances of being sought out on LinkedIn by recruiters and clients. If you're not pulling them in fast enough, though, you may need to seek out opportunities on your own. Check out the Jobs link at the top of your LinkedIn page. This leads to a LinkedIn job board where companies have purchased job postings. You can create a detailed filter for this search which will help you find advertised opportunities. Some clients and agencies don't pay for postings. The opportunities are often still on LinkedIn, but you have to dig a little deeper. Here are a few tips to find the hidden opportunities:
Connect with Recruiters on LinkedIn: If you have relationships with recruiters already, make sure you're connected with them. If you don't have any solid contacts, don't worry. Search out your 5 favourite staffing agencies on LinkedIn and view their employees. Scan for a few recruiters in your area and connect with them. Now monitor your newsfeed. The great recruiters will always post new opportunities as they come up.
Monitor Groups: Search for groups with opportunities in your area that are related to what you do. Join these groups, participate in them and frequently monitor them.
Follow Companies: Do you have a specific client you've worked with and you'd like to work with them again? Find that company's LinkedIn page (just use the search menu at the top) and "Follow" the company. While it's not a sure-thing, savvy companies use their LinkedIn page to post opportunities and updates. At the very least, your newsfeed will show up with great conversation pieces which are useful when you are meeting with a client contact.
LinkedIn is by far the #1 place for professionals to hangout, network and even find new opportunities. As an independent contractor, it's critical that you have a strong presence across the network. How do you feel about your profile? Could it use some work? Do you get any value out of it or do you find it's a waste of time? We'd love to hear your opinion!