How Freelancers Should Create LinkedIn Profiles
Many do it wrong, so here's a four-step strategy for success
As a professional LinkedIn profile writer, our company often gets clients who have been consultants or freelancers for some length of time.
Often, they don’t know how to best represent their freelance work on LinkedIn.
For instance, we had a client who’d freelanced for years and spelled out every single gig as a separate experience section in his LinkedIn profile.
As a result, that profile was way too long! (I think I got carpal tunnel from scrolling down so much.)
So how should you show your freelance work on LinkedIn?
I took this question to several professional services groups I’m a part of on LinkedIn and also asked my team of writers.
The problem we were trying to solve is that if you only have one Experience section for your freelance work, you might not reap the full benefits of LinkedIn search. However, if you list them all out individually, your LinkedIn profile is hard to read.
Turned, out, we all seemed to agree on the following four-step strategy:
Step. No. 1: Have a Catch-All Experience Section as a Freelancer
When you’re a freelancer, you are your own company and that experience warrants accurate representation as its own Experience section on your LinkedIn profile.
So you would enter your own company (ex: My Freelancer LLC) with a start date for when you registered as a business. If you are still taking clients, you’d say: Present.
Make sure you have a few essential elements in this catch-all Experience section:
- 5 to 15 recommendations as testimonials from past clients
- One main Slideshow (Slideshare) illustrating your work over the years, highlighting clients and deliverables and ending with a call-to-action slide or video
- Other media files demonstrating your work deliverables, if your client agreements permit
- Bullet points that would look like features and benefits statements of what you do for clients as a professional (think of this as a little marketing piece rather than a resumé entry)
- And if you work for different industries or offer two or three very different services, you might break each out into separate Experience sections to ensure your testimonials and work samples tell a coherent story.
(MORE: Top 5 LinkedIn Mistakes)
Your final result would look like this:
One main Company Entry (Your Freelancer Inc.) 2011-Present
Title: Owner or Writer or Designer or CEO etc.
3 to 5 bullet points showing your main activities and the results a potential client might expect to see
5 to 15 recommendations that would function as testimonials of a job well done
Media entries, including one main portfolio slideshow or video, with supporting media
Step No. 2: Create Experience Sections for Noteworthy Work
If you've ever been hired by a recognizable brand or received amazing testimonials from a single client, separate those out into two or three experience sections. This strategy will help improve your chances of showing up in search results for related work. It will also help tell your story, since you can segment out testimonials and media examples for your best work.
These tangential sections should each have a beginning and an end date. You want to avoid looking like you have too many pots on your stove. The only Experience section that should be set to Present should be the catch-all from Step No. 1.
Think of these sections as highlight reels, to illustrate the level of work you are capable of, what you’re the most proud of and whom you rub elbows with.
Be careful when putting a large brand as an employer, though. Many brands monitor the people who say they’ve been their employees. So in the Position line, really make it clear that this was freelance or consulting work.
Here are some essential elements to include:
- 3 to 5 recommendations as testimonials for each section
- Bullets for the work you did and the business outcome you helped the companies achieve
- Media, such as slides, video or images showing your work
So your final output will look something like this, times two or three:
Big Brand Bob, March 2011-May 2011
3 to 5 bullet points showing your main activities and the results you achieved
3 to 5 recommendations that would function as testimonials of a job well done
Media entries showing your final output
Step No. 3: Your Projects
Project sections are like Experience sections, but they don’t let you attach media or collect testimonials. They offer you a chance to share a website, add names of other people who helped you and let you associate the projects with your catch-all Experience section.
You can move this entire section to the bottom of your LinkedIn profile and not let it clutter up the flow for your reader.
So if you want to collect information regarding past projects or other significant work, put it here.
Step No. 4: Headlines and Summary Sections
The basic structure of LinkedIn mirrors a newspaper article — the most important information goes at the top and more details are revealed the further down you read.
Therefore, if you are trying to get more gigs as a freelancer, make sure your headline and current employer reflect this.
Your headline might be a simple benefit statement of what you do and the results you provide. The goal here is to inspire someone who has done a search to click on your LinkedIn profile from the list of search results.
Your current position needs to show the catch-all Experience section from Step No. 1.
Your Summary section should function as your brochure — your sales pitch.
A good sales pitch should have these four elements told in first-person story form:
1) A description of the problem you solve
2) Your unique promise in fixing the problem
3) Overwhelming proof that you have done so before
4) A call to action
Thanks for Your Input
I want to thank the following people for their input and for inspiring me to write the article: Lynda Bundock, Anna Camacho, Stephanie McDonald, Mark Lynch, Garrett Brown, Teddy Burriss, Lynne Cogan, Joel Renner, Kevin Grubb, Howard Fox, Jeff Stoltzfus, Pauline Foley, Sabrina Woods, Jim Brennan, Ella M. W. Kellum, Heather Krasna, Sharla Taylor, Greg Miraglia and Teresa Adams
Joshua Waldman is the author of Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies, and runs the award-winning career blog, CareerEnlightenment.com.