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Freelancer Resources

How to Build a LinkedIn Profile That Boosts Your Freelance Career

February 2, 2023
March 2, 2022
Camille Trent

Updating your LinkedIn might feel like a drag — until you start finding freelance marketing clients there, that is. Top freelancers and a hiring manager share tips for building the best freelance LinkedIn profile.

Table of Contents

Where do freelance marketers go to market themselves and their freelance business? There’s always #MarketingTwitter — but LinkedIn might be the smarter self-promotion platform.

Gorgias social media manager Darien Payton isn’t the only one who finds more organic reach on LinkedIn than Twitter.

How do you turn that organic reach into client leads and freelance work, though? 

This is where most freelancers get lost. They think about their LinkedIn profiles as resumes — and clients don’t respond to a laundry list of logos.

They respond to LinkedIn accounts that function as sales pages, and “ distinguish [you] from all the other thousands of freelancers,” Connor Kunz, director of marketing at Home Care Pulse told MarketerHire. 

So how do you build a profile like that? We got tips from top freelancers and a hiring manager. 

Our sources

3 benefits of LinkedIn for freelancers

LinkedIn currently boasts 810 million members and counting around the world.

It’s not the biggest social network — TikTok and Instagram both have over a billion monthly active users, and many more total users — but LinkedIn has an advantage over those entertainment-focused platforms: It’s primarily professional. 

It’s where people go to say they’re hiring or looking for work — LinkedIn even has profile photo frames to highlight both statuses. (TikTok, not so much.) 

Here are a few more reasons it’s a great place to find freelance clients. 

1. LinkedIn is like a free trade show. 

LinkedIn is a 24/7 social networking event designed to help business professionals learn, connect, and hire. Think of it as a virtual trade show for building your professional network. The best part? Everyone’s invited and admission is free.

Freelancers are often priced out of corporate trade shows and other networking events. LinkedIn is the perfect alternative once you crack the code on profile optimization.

LinkedIn is the perfect trade show alternative once you crack the code on profile optimization.

2. LinkedIn isn’t super-saturated. 

LinkedIn may not have as many users as Facebook and Instagram, but that means you have more room to stand out in the feed — and, longer-term, in the search engine. Because it’s not as saturated as Facebook or Twitter, there’s not as much competition for high-intent keywords. So you can reach your target audience without doing a ton of SEO. 

3. LinkedIn is designed for networking. 

Unlike other social media platforms, on LinkedIn, people are already in business-mode. They’re browsing for work tips and people to network with —so you won’t feel like a wet blanket when you post about your work day or ask for endorsements, like you might on other platforms.  

How to use LinkedIn’s profile strength meter 

LinkedIn users with fully-filled-out profiles get 40X more opportunities than people with incomplete profiles, according to Linkedin

In 2017, to encourage members to complete their profiles and score more opportunities, the platform introduced a profile strength meter . 

You can see this meter under your LinkedIn profile. If you have incomplete sections, the meter indicates what you need to add.

Source: LinkedIn

Once your profile is complete, you reach what LinkedIn calls “All-Star Status” and the profile strength meter disappears. 

4 common LinkedIn profile mistakes

If you’ve been active on LinkedIn for a few months, you’ve seen every type of networking whiff: the humblebrag, the unfocused ramble and the broem.

Here are a few LinkedIn profile missteps that cost freelancers clients. 

Your profile is not visible in search.

Not to state the obvious, but you’re not going to meet new clients if your LinkedIn profile isn’t searchable. 

To make your profile public:

  • Click “Edit public profile and & URL” in the top right of your profile page.
  • Scroll to “Edit Visibility.”
  • Toggle your profile’s public visibility switch to “On.”

Your profile has no personality.

Be yourself, show results, and let the chips fall where they may.

As a freelancer, you can win like-minded clients with an authentic voice — and it’s a win-win for both parties to show what it’s like working with you before the first meeting. 

Definitely write your About section in first-person. Third-person feels cold and distant by comparison. 

You shared a mistake without context. 

It’s increasingly popular to show the “human side” on LinkedIn. Christiann van an de Stadt, a talent acquisition manager at MarketerHire, was recently delighted by a freelancer on LinkedIn who shared a story about how they tried to start their own company and failed. 

“It was personable,” he said. And it showed growth. 

But if you share a mistake without context, that can be hard for potential clients to interpret. Have you learned from it? Did it inspire you to try something new? 

It may read as a warning against working with you.

You didn’t proofread.

You’ve heard the joke. The editor who claims “detail-oriented” as a strength but spells “editing” with two Ts. It never hurts to get a second set of eyes on your profile — especially if you’re a freelance content marketer or social media manager.

12 steps for optimizing a freelancer Linked profile from top to bottom

Even if you never post on LinkedIn, optimizing your profile will help more clients find you. Let’s go down the LinkedIn profile checklist, starting with your name. 

1. Customize your profile URL. 

If you haven’t already, customize your LinkedIn profile URL. It’s much cleaner and more professional when the slug — a.k.a. the text after the last slash — is your first and last name, not auto-generated gibberish. 

To update your profile URL on LinkedIn:

  • Click “Edit public profile & URL” in the top right of your profile (next to your background image when you’re on desktop). 
  • Navigate to “Edit Your Custom URL” in the top right corner of the “Public profile settings” page. 
  • Change your slug to your full name. If that’s not available, add a number or middle name. 

2. Design a background image.

The LinkedIn background photo is the 1,584 x 396 pixel banner at the top of your page, above your profile photo. On Facebook or Twitter, you might call this your cover image or banner. 

Think of your background photo as an opportunity to get creative. Canva has a set of 2,000+ LinkedIn background templates, many of which are free. 

Don’t sweat it too much, though. Christiaan van de Stadt, talent acquisition manager at MarketerHire, said he doesn’t usually analyze freelancers’ banners; the profile picture is much more important. 

Speaking of…

3. Upload a profile photo.

“If [a] freelancer doesn’t have a photo on their profile, that’s a huge red flag,” van de Stadt said. 

“If [a] freelancer doesn’t have a photo on their profile, that’s a huge red flag."

He’s examined “tens of thousands” of LinkedIn profiles for MarketerHire, and a profile picture is the first thing he looks at. 

For the most professional look, pay a photographer to take a few high-resolution, close-up photos. 

To get the best results from your shoot:

  • Specifically request a headshot
  • Use a solid or plain background (consider a bright!)
  • Dress business casual
  • Skip clothes  that blend into the background (or your skin tone)
  • Smile straight into the camera

Candids can work, too.These days, freelancers don’t have to be buttoned up with a tie on, van de Stadt said. 

(Basically, it’s fine if your profile photo includes your dog.)

A few tips for uploading your photo:

  • Leave a margin around your face for the cleanest look
  • Consider adding a ring around the photo to help you stand out

Make it visible to second- and third-degree connections by tapping on your photo and setting “visible to” to “public.” . 

4. Use your full name.

Seems pretty self-explanatory, right? Yes and no. 

We recommend sticking to your given name on LinkedIn, but there are a few advantages to adding on an emoji, like Kunz:

Source: LinkedIn
  • An emoji helps you spot automated messages from a mile away. When sales folks send out “personalized” DMs, the marketing tool pulls your first name (or what it thinks is your first name). If you add an emoji before your name, you can spot the bots — they’re the ones saying, “Hi 🏆.”
  • An emoji can indicate your professional field. Some freelance writers use the pencil emoji to tie their name to writing. Others, like Kunz, use trademark symbols or lowercase letters to stand out.

In general, proceed with caution on any clutter or distractions from your legal name. Your name is your brand. 

5. Write a catchy headline.

Your headline is the brief subhead that appears below the name on your profile and in search. 

The ideal freelancer headline answers the question, “What do you do and for whom?” said Chima Mmeje, SEO Copywriter and Content Strategist, Zenith SEO Copywriting

Keep it focused — you have your whole profile to paint a more comprehensive picture. 

“I've seen freelance copywriters who offer conversion copy, SEO, and digital marketing services, in one headline,” said Mmeje. “It's confusing and makes it impossible to determine your specialty.”

“I've seen freelance copywriters who offer conversion copy, SEO, and digital marketing services, in one headline. It's confusing and makes it impossible to determine your specialty.”

Top freelancers’ LinkedIn headlines include five or six words — a description of their specialty and some keywords companies are probably searching for, said van de Stadt. 

Think something like:

  • “Conversion copy for 6-figure e-cCommerce companies”
  • “I help busy CEOs streamline their day-to-day with virtual assistant services.”

Don’t just go with LinkedIn’s default: your current position and company. That’s better suited for full-time employees who aren’t actively looking for new work than it is for freelancers marketing themselves on LinkedIn.

Don’t use your headline to share that you’re “open to work” or “freelancing,” either. 

There are other ways to do that, like turning on LinkedIn’s “open for business” feature.

Source: LinkedIn

Remember, first impressions matter. Your name, headline, background image and profile photo are the first things potential clients see. Make them count. 

6. Set your location.

These days, location rarely matters to hiring managers. Most freelance marketing work takes place online. 

But location does still matter to LinkedIn’s algorithm. When business owners and recruiters search for a social media marketer, for example, the algorithm prioritizes first-degree connections nearby, similar to Google’s proximity filter. 

So make sure to include your current location, or a city near where you live. If you live in a small town, it’s wise to use the largest nearby metropolitan area, because most companies are based in large cities. It makes you more likely to show up in prospective clients’ searches.

7. Link out to your website — or websites. 

Many freelancers use LinkedIn as their website, so they don’t have an additional portfolio to list. 

If you do have a separate portfolio — or multiple sites — include that in your LinkedIn profile under contact information. 

LinkedIn lets you add up to three external links in the “Contact information” portion of your profile header. However, consider the order and label each according to your priorities. Which site do you most want prospects to click on? 

Put that first — and only add more links if it feels essential.

Default labels for your website links are available in the dropdown menu. To add a custom label to your website URL, select “Other.”

Source: LinkedIn

You can also add other direct contact methods — like phone, address, email, Twitter, and instant messenger platforms.

8. Pin relevant content to your Featured Work section. 

Feature relevant posts, articles, photos, links right on your profile to highlight the work experience you’re most proud of. Pinning top LinkedIn posts is also a popular tactic here. 

Make sure whatever work you feature highlights your core offerings as a freelancer. Before adding featured work, ask, "Does this reinforce my message and move clients closer in the buying journey?" Yes, you really need a marketing strategy, including an ideal sales funnel. 

9. Show off your personality in the About section.

Your About section is your LinkedIn summary. It’s prime real estate, especially for freelancers.

Van de Stadt said the About section should show off a freelancer’s personality and highlight relevant skills and competencies, so your ideal client can imagine you working with them. 

Think of it as a cover letter for all freelance opportunities, where you can highlight… 

  • Your most in-demand skills
  • Your most prestigious experience
  • Tools and marketing channels you’re most comfortable using
  • Anything that isn’t obvious from your employment history

“I’m just looking for anything to make me dive a little bit more into the profile,” van de Stadt said. 

“I’m just looking for anything to make me dive a little bit more into the profile."

Keep readers wanting more, though, and “avoid the temptation to turn your about section into a biography,” Mmeje said. “We're living in a digital world where people have short attention spans.”

10. Complete your experience sections.

The “experience” section of LinkedIn is the part that feels the most like a resume, which can make it a drag to fill out. 

For freelancers, it can be especially hard to know what to include, since they often have to sign NDAs, van de Stadt said.

But whatever you do, don’t just type in your past and present job titles and company names and move on.

Use your descriptions to talk about specific projects you’ve led, and the results you’ve generated. Position the results in terms of business outcomes for each new job. 

You might not be able to share hard numbers, but many NDAs will let you share percentages. Think “increased lead generation by 50% in six months,” not “brought in 100 new leads in six months.” 

In the experience section, you can also show examples of your best work.

Attach media — like images and links to your portfolio site or Slideshare — so clients can picture how much better their lives will be if they hire you. You can even include brief testimonials from past clients. 

11. Add in your education.

This one’s straightforward. Fill out every form field. What schools did you attend? What degrees did you earn? 

This helps optimize your profile for LinkedIn search — but it’s unlikely that an employer will ask you about your education, especially if you’ve been working for a while. 

“I care more about [freelancers’] experience after school,” van de Stadt said. “If we’re looking for experts in the field, it’s all about the experience. It’s not about the theory behind [it].”

“If we’re looking for experts in the field, it’s all about the experience. It’s not about the theory behind [it].”

12. Include volunteer experience, accomplishment and interests. 

Certifications and skills are more for employers and recruiters trying to vet job candidates, but volunteer experience and interests are opportunities to show a bit more personality. 

This section is also a great place to add accomplishments related to your field. It’s unlikely that prospective customers will scroll this far down, but adding relevant accomplishments in your niche helps reinforce credibility. 

Complete your profile and stay active to attract clients on LinkedIn

To build a client pipeline, optimize each part of your LinkedIn profile and update it as your work changes.

That means adding a new role when you land a new client, but also updating your headline with relevant keywords and updating your About section with new skills. It may even help to update your profile photo when you get a haircut. 

And of course, it never hurts to post actively on the platform and make connection requests to people you actually know. 

If you don’t want to spend tons of time hunting for clients and doing cold outreach, though, MarketerHire can help. MarketerHire lets you set your rate and keep 100% of it while we focus on lead generation.

Apply to freelance with MarketerHire today. 

This blog post was first published in November 2020 and was updated in March 2022. Kelsey Donk also contributed to this story.

Camille Trent
about the author

Camille Trent is head of content at Dooly. A copywriter and marketing nerd, she's passionate about helping freelancers and creatives recognize their value and get the knowledge they need to win long term. When she's not writing, she's hanging out with her pup and two favorite redheads. Or she's trying to coach the Portland Trail Blazers to victory from her couch.

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