Need to find prospects that can turn into well-paying clients? Don’t we all. But too often, writers hit all the wrong places hoping to land a gig. You’re not likely to find good clients on job boards, content mills, Craigslist, and bidding sites. But that doesn’t mean they’re not out there.
But I didn’t know that when I got serious about freelancing. I used to troll job boards and send LOIs (letters of introduction) to people I wasn’t always sure were the decision makers. I had some success with this approach. But I struggled to find the right clients. Sound familiar?
I needed a better way to zero-in on my niche (FinTech), find the right people to pitch and land better-paying clients. But how? The truth: I stumbled across the answer when I started using LinkedIn Premium.
I signed up for Lynda.com, an online learning platform. And by chance, I scored a one-year subscription to LinkedIn Premium along with it (LinkedIn Premium now costs $29.99 to $79.99 a month).
I had heard plenty of buzz about LinkedIn Premium. But I was on the fence. I had the same question as a lot of freelancers: Is LinkedIn Premium worth it?
With a free subscription, I decided to jump in and see what I could do with it to grow my freelancing business. It didn’t take long to get results. I found a $1/word client and developed a strategy to use LinkedIn to move up and earn more.
Here’s how I did it:
Use keywords to find people in your niche
At the top of your LinkedIn profile, there’s a search box. Click the down arrow and select People.
Enter a keyword that describes the industry you want to target. I like to work within the FinTech niche, but you may choose a niche like travel, fashion, or publishing, for instance.
Financial technology is a small niche and this one keyword search returns more than 50,000 results for me. That’s too many leads to manage, but it’s easy to narrow those results.
Use LinkedIn filters
On the left side of your browser page, you’ll see some advanced search filters. Not all of them are available to Basic LinkedIn members.
With a LinkedIn Premium account, I have access to all the filters. Still, with a Basic membership, you should be able to narrow your list of prospects with some of the advanced search filters like:
- Relationship. For Relationship status, I use all the filters. I want to be able to find new clients even if they are not yet 1st or 2nd degree connections, so I search all of LinkedIn.
- Location. For location, I also select All, but you can narrow it to your own country, or your own city, if you’d like.
- Industry. One of the filters I’m most interested in is industry. Just by selecting “Financial Services,” I can narrow my search results to 13,751. The more industries you choose, the wider you’ll cast your search net.
- Groups. If I want to narrow my search to specific LinkedIn groups, I can do that just by selecting those groups I want to include.
- Function. More important to me is function within the organization (sorry, Basic members, this one’s not available to you). I like working with marketing professionals because I write white papers, case studies, blog posts, e-books, and reported articles. Selecting that filter narrows my search results to under 1,000. Then I drop down to seniority level and choose Manager. That narrows my results to under 400.
- Company Size. Finally, being firmly planted in the “size matters” camp, I want to find clients with 10,000 or more employees, so I make that selection under the “Company Size” filter.
Save your searches to get more leads
By narrowing my search using LinkedIn Premium features, I cut the list of 50,000-plus leads down to just over 100 and created criteria to find my ideal client.
Now you want to use the “Save Search” feature. Why? New people are signing up for LinkedIn daily. You’ll want to save your search criteria so you can be notified periodically of new people who match your lead qualification filters.
- Here’s how: Click the “Save Search” link in the top right corner of your browser window. You’ll get a pop-up that looks like this:
Because I like to contact leads a few times during the week, I have my list sent to me weekly. LinkedIn will send you a weekly or monthly prospect list by email.
Is LinkedIn Premium worth it? With a basic LinkedIn account, you can save three people searches. You can save more searches if you upgrade, which can be especially helpful if you write in more than one niche.
Use InMail to connect with prospects
The InMail feature of LinkedIn takes the guesswork out of finding email addresses for prospects you want to pitch and connect with. You can use it if you’re already connected to someone on LinkedIn. But if you’re not, you may need a LinkedIn Premium account to get through.
Is LinkedIn Premium worth it? This is one of the features that has helped me connect with people faster than taking the time to track down their email address.
- How to contact prospects without LinkedIn Premium. LinkedIn can still be a very effective way to find the right people. With a basic account, use the search features to find people you want to pitch. Then use an email search tool like Hunter.io to find email addresses and contact your leads that way.
LOI basics for LinkedIn
On LinkedIn, sending a shorter LOI to a prospects you’ve never met is better. My goal is to get them off LinkedIn and into their email inbox or on the phone, so I send a short note explaining who I am. If there is a natural way to break the ice with a personal message, I’ll lead with that. For instance, “I see we’re both alumni of XXXX University….” Otherwise, I just cut right to the chase. Like this:
I got an almost immediate response from reaching out to this prospect via LinkedIn:
Exactly the kind of people I want to reach in my target market: FinTech, works at a global consulting firm in marketing. Sent over some samples, and we’ll see what happens. On to the next.
Is LinkedIn Premium worth it?
It’s changed my perspective on marketing. There’s nothing wrong with the old-school way of finding clients and digging up email addresses. But LinkedIn Premium has made it much easier. I like being able to target business professionals where they hang out. LinkedIn is a great B2B marketing tool if you use it correctly. I’ve already score some solid gigs and made great connections with potential clients using LinkedIn. And I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.
How have you used LinkedIn to grow your freelancing business? Let us know in the comments below.
Allen Taylor is a former newspaper editor turned content strategist in the FinTech and career management niches. He currently edits Lending Times and VisionAR, and runs the website Taylored Content.