How to find freelance writing clients on LinkedIn

findclientsLI.jpgHow do you find high-paying clients without spinning your wheels and feeling like a used car salesman? 

Last week, I began telling you how I’ve attracted a steady stream of work with no-pressure prospecting, done mostly via email. (You can read that post here.)

The biggest takeaway? I only target prospects who are already pre-sold and hungry for good content before I even approach them.

This week, we continue our discussion with how to use LinkedIn to find clients.

Three things I want to get out of the way first, though:

  1. Our goal is to get you to a point where most of your work comes from referrals, and clients actually find you, so this LinkedIn routine isn’t something that should consume much time long-term (although it might in the beginning).
  2. We won’t be able to cover all LinkedIn tactics today, so we’ll focus on just five easy-peasy, painless first steps and continue our discussion in the days ahead.
  3. If you haven’t yet told the people you know (family, friends, past bosses, coworkers, clients, your church group) that you’re building a freelance business and looking for new clients, please do that before anything else. This can be a simple “FYI, this is what I’m doing” type of email. Make your network aware of your goals before you start reaching out to people you don’t know.

Alrighty, so LinkedIn: It’s a gold mine, I tell ya.

It’s put a lot of money in my pocket, and it can do the same for you.

It all hinges on targeting the right people to begin with.

Last week, I told you about key criteria that serve as strong indicators that a company has an active need and budget for content:

  • The company has a marketing department, which indicates some sophistication in their marketing strategy (plus a marketing budget). Specifically, they have someone on staff whose title is marketing director, brand manager, content manager, or any variations of that.
  • Their marketing people interact in content-related groups (content marketing, copywriting, inbound marketing, and so on). They might also post or tweet a lot with content-related hashtags.
  • Their website shows signs of investment in content: a blog, white papers, downloadable resources or other content assets.
  • They’re a digital/marketing/advertising agency. As such, their need for content is great and never-ending.
  • They write for, advertise or are featured in Chief Content Officer magazine. (Great way to keep up with the industry, by the way.)

A prospect doesn’t have to exhibit all of these characteristics to be a worthy target, of course. Just one of these bullet points is a good start. BUT if a company displays none of these, know that they will likely be a harder sell and less profitable. Like me, you may choose to waste no time on them.

Once you’re clear on the criteria for your ideal clients, I’d urge you to take 5 steps that are so dang simple, even the most sales-averse among us can breeze through them, anxiety-free.

(1) If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile set up yet, do this first.

Keep in mind the purpose of your LinkedIn profile is to sell your abilities and the benefits you deliver, so treat it as such.

Use a professional-looking picture — NOT the selfie you took in the bathroom, or that great picture of you partying in Vegas. Use benefit-driven language in your “Summary” field that paints a clear picture of what clients get out of working with you. If you specialize in a certain niche, say so.

You also have the option to add work samples and blog posts to showcase your skills, and request recommendations from your network.

You’ll want to complete your profile, but don’t get stuck and delay all other activities until your profile is perfect. Just get started and tweak as you go.

(2) Join a ton of copywriting and content marketing groups. 

To be clear, I’m talking about groups where your prospects hang out; not group for writers. (Those are helpful, but not for prospecting.)

This will not only expose you to buyers who are hungry for good content, but will also enable you to send inMail (LinkedIn’s message system) to members of the same group, even if you’re not directly connected.

Plus, you’ll gain insight into what makes these prospects tick — what annoys, stumps or gets them excited about content marketing, measuring ROI and dealing with contractors.

Good groups to join include: Content Marketing Institute, Content Marketing Academy, B2B Content Marketing, Copyblogger Discussion Group, and the like.

Caution: Don’t start posting promotional or self-serving messages on these forums. Spam will backfire every time. Simply observe, gather intel, contribute to a discussion and add value when appropriate.

(3) Click on the “Advanced” search function and set up an automated, recurring search.

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LinkedIn’s search function that comes with the free membership version is fairly limited, but will serve you just fine. You can access the search screen by clicking on “Advanced” in small gray text next to the main search field.

Once you’re at the search screen, target a specific title. (“Content Manager” is often a great title to start with.) Be sure to try various titles and feel free to add other criteria like location or keywords that help you narrow down to a preferred industry, area or type of client.

When your search results come up, look for a link at the top right-hand corner that says “Save Search.” Click it.

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LinkedIn will run that search again every week or month (whichever frequency you choose), and deliver new results to your inbox. That’s a fresh list of new, potential prospects coming to you, my friend.

You can also click on the “Jobs” tab and save searches for freelance writer/copywriter jobs, and have those delivered to your inbox daily, weekly or monthly.

lkin-savejobs-screenshot

(4) Make friends with your friends’ friends.

Past clients, bosses, coworkers and business acquaintances all know prospects who could be a great fit for you. Leverage their network and use the mutual acquaintance as a way to get your foot in the door.

Let’s say you’ve worked with Mary in a past project. Click on Mary’s profile, scroll down to where you can see her connections, and look through those. Make note of any connections that might be good prospects for you.

You can ask Mary for an introduction, or you can bypass Mary altogether and send these prospects a quick, non-intimidating note pointing out the shared acquaintance and introducing yourself. (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what to say.)

For now, we’re just going to identify them and tackle messaging next week.

(5) View prospects’ profiles.

Of course you’re going to view people’s profiles so you can decide whether to pursue them, right? Sure. But the reason I call this out separately is because there’s an added benefit of viewing someone’s profile.

LinkedIn tracks and tells you who’s viewed your profile each day. (The exception is if someone’s chosen to be anonymous, which not many people do because then they can’t view who visited them either.)

And it turns out people are pretty darn curious to learn who’s checking them out. If they see you’ve visited their profile, most of them will come over and visit yours. Now they’re aware of you — who you are, what you offer, your background, and whatever pitch or information you choose to share on your profile page.

It’s the equivalent of making eye contact with someone at a party: From there, saying hello or sending a connection request becomes a little easier.

After identifying your targets, it’s time to make your move. We’ll talk about that next week, when I’ll share a basic script I’ve used (which you’re welcome to copy and adapt to your purposes).

Until then, take LinkedIn for a spin. Get comfortable with the functions and activities I described above, and shoot back questions or concerns as they arise. I’ll be glad to help.

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