LinkedIn is a great way to market yourself as a professional. It’s not much use for a business as a whole, but if you’re a freelancer, contractor or independent consultant it’s one of the most important digital business cards you can have, and you neglect it at your peril. Despite being around for a while, I’m amazed at how some people just fail at using their LinkedIn profiles to sell themselves.
Before I make a list, there’s just one thing I want to say about LinkedIn – it is not Facebook. That means that Facebook rules and customs do not apply. You want to be connected to everyone you’ve ever met, and everyone they’ve ever met – because you never know when one of those connections will turn into a business opportunity.
1. Your profile picture
As I just said, this is not Facebook. Don’t have a picture of you in your bikini, or chugging beer with your bros. Get a professional picture taken, or use a good one of you in a suit. The more professional you look, the more seriously people will take you. And don’t forget to smile – it’s not a passport photo.
2. Think hard about your professional headline
Your LinkedIn profile allows you to add a “professional headline”. This isn’t a Facebook status to be changed every day, or a place for you to be funny. It needs to be 10 or fewer words describing what you do, and it needs to be as specific as possible. A good example is “Online Marketing and SEO Consultant for the medical equipment sector.” A bad example is “I’m an online marketer, casual football player and a follower of our Lord and Saviour amen”. You get the idea.
3. Spend time organising your portfolio
Whether or not you work online, you can usually find something to add to your portfolio on LinkedIn. It takes a little bit of fiddling to get the hang of it, but it is well worth devoting time to. Get rid of the default descriptions like “my website” and put something interesting in there that tells recruiters and businesses what the website/project is, and what your involvement in it was.
4. Create a vanity URL
Vanity URLs are something that Facebook introduced a few years ago, and LinkedIn followed suit. It changes the URL of your profile from “LinkedIn.com/23u409832ur0u” (for example) to LinkedIn.com/JoeBloggsConsulting. If you can’t get your name, then get something close to it. Don’t use a nickname like “Jojo99” – it’s not MSN messenger.
5. Write a good summary, and don’t forget SEO
You have the opportunity to write a 2,000 word summary. You don’t have to use up the word count (and nobody will read the whole thing if you do) but spend a good hour or so drafting a good page of writing here. Focus on keywords that are good for how you’re trying to market yourself (use the Google AdWords Keyword Selector Tool for ideas). Divide it into sections with sub-headings if it helps, but use paragraphs!