What I love most about LinkedIn is that you’re in control. Unlike most social media, LinkedIn is designed to help professionals share updates with their professional network and colleagues. As a result, LinkedIn is the first place many business owners go when looking for referrals and hiring recommendations. That makes LinkedIn a better option for finding high-paying clients and analyzing market demand for your freelance services than any other social network. After all, high-quality clients are literally on LinkedIn looking for a freelancer like you right now.
But LinkedIn can also be a huge waste of time. Most freelancers are confused about things like: where on LinkedIn their ideal clients are hanging out (ignore those blogs from 1982 telling you to use LinkedIn groups), how to find them, and how to reach out in a way that works and feels natural. Finding new clients who are in need of your services can take you 5 minutes if you know how to search LinkedIn and start a conversation on the platform.
That’s it. LinkedIn is awesome because there’s nothing between you and finding clients: you decide which jobs you go after, how many you want to pitch, and how effective you will be. That’s powerful! So while I’ve talked about how to list contract work on your LinkedIn profile in the past, today I want to talk about how to go out and find high-paying web design and other freelance clients for free on LinkedIn (you don’t need a premium account).
Our 5 Step Process for Finding High-Paying Clients on LinkedIn for Free
Since I wrote this guide with web designers in mind I thought I’d include my web design leads newsletter as an option for you in finding clients. The steps below outline exactly how we find web design and other leads for our exclusive leads newsletter sent out every week. If you’re a web designer, you can actually save hours each week and just get the best leads on LinkedIn sent to you automatically by signing up below.
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A few years ago LinkedIn became my favorite tool for lead generation because:
- There’s a high volume of freelance opportunities, no matter your target audience
- There’s no restrictions, referral fees, or 3rd party bidding systems like on many freelancing sites
- You can customize your lead search to your niche with LinkedIn’s advanced search
- You can view a potential client’s company page to determine whether they look legit
- You can view a potential client’s job title and experience to learn if they’ve managed projects before
- You can send a connection request and start a conversation directly on the platform
All of these reasons combined mean you can use LinkedIn to build relationships with potential clients within minutes. But the first step is knowing how and where to look to find clients on LinkedIn.
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I like to pitch warm leads – those in the buying process already. I’ve found this increases your chances of hearing back because the people you’re reaching out to want to hear from you. I know right, makes sense? You’d be surprised by how many freelancers try doing outreach to clients who don’t have a need for their services right now, get ignored, and write off LinkedIn completely.
So instead of doing that, we’re going to surface high-quality leads already looking for our work using LinkedIn’s advanced search here’s how:
Step 1: Type a Keyword Your Ideal Client Might Use If They Were Looking for Your Services into the Linkedin Search Bar
To figure out what terms you might try, put yourself in a business owner’s shoes. Ask yourself: What kind of work am I looking for? and How would a client that is looking to hire someone like me word their LinkedIn post?
Some examples might be:
- freelance web designer
- freelance marketing manager
- freelance digital marketing
This is what you’re going to type into Linkedin’s search box to find clients that are looking for someone like you. Here’s an example:
If you’re a freelance website designer, you might search:
- “freelance web designer”
This will turn up anyone who posts to LinkedIn using the term “freelance web designer.” Now, obviously, this is also going to turn up stuff you don’t want. So you may want to add some other search terms like: hiring, seeking, needed, email, etc.
Additionally, you can also use LinkedIn’s boolean search parameters to build an even more targeted search. For example:
- “freelance web designer” OR “freelance website designer” OR “RFP website design” NOT “development”
This would expand your results to include the 3 first phrases above but also remove any results that included the term “development.”
Step 2: Find Clients Searching for Help by Clicking on the Content Tab to Filter the Results
By default LinkedIn will show you search results by people, not their posts. To change this click on “More” in the upper navigation and select the “Content” tab.
This will show you posts that people and potential clients are making to their network, which is what you want.
Step 3: Sort by Latest to Find Warmer Opportunities
In the upper right corner you’ll see a “Sort by:” option. Click on that to sort by Latest. By default, LinkedIn will show you what it thinks is most relevant, regardless of post date.
But sorting by Latest will make sure that you’re not seeing clients who were looking for exactly what you do in 2013. Instead, you’ll see the most recent opportunities and stuff that is likely still active.
Step 4: Review Your Results for Target Prospects
Here are some of the results that I found for the freelance website design niche. First, I’m going to give you one example of a good lead that I would respond to and then an example of a bad lead I would skip.
Good Lead Example:
👍 Good: I would apply, here’s why:
- Links to an RFP (which provides a real budget)
- Organization (Colorado Trust) looks legit and high-quality
- Decision-maker is the one posting on LinkedIn
- Job title indicates they have experience managing teams
- Deadline gives enough time to apply
- Great high-value project (website redesign)
Bad Lead Example:
👎 Bad – I would skip, here’s why:
- Outside of the web design niche
- Mentions low-paying website (people per hour)
- Looks like another freelancer, so likely sub-contracting which means unlikely to pay well
- This person is based in a much lower paying country, also indicating a low budget
You want to have a discerning eye when it comes to choosing which opportunities to go after. Getting hired by a bad client can often be worse than not getting hired at all because a bad client can cause stress, headaches, and even cost you a ton of money. This is also a good time to look at what LinkedIn connections you may have in common. This might be a great way to stand out in your personalized message to the client.
Sometimes you might even come across a great lead that has a private RFP. I walk-through how to get access to these in this video:
Step 5: Respond to Good Opportunities and Make a Good First Impression
If you’ve gotten this far, you’re almost there. But for your hard work to pay off there’s one more thing you have to do: apply.
Before you do, you might want to optimize your LinkedIn profile and make sure it’s up to date. Since you’re likely to contact the lead directly on LinkedIn, they will almost certainly check out your profile. It’s important they see a professional profile. This article will ensure they see exactly what they’re looking for when they do, but here’s a few quick tips:
- Have a good-looking professional headshot. Here’s an example
- Create a LinkedIn page for your freelance company with your logo
- Add testimonials to your LinkedIn profile about me section
- Speak to your target market and offer a value proposition in your profile
- Add examples of your contract work to your LinkedIn profile
The right one depends on the situation. For some opportunities a phone call might even be the right next step. I include a ton of email scripts, and proposal templates for LinkedIn and other places exclusively for subscribers of my newsletter (you can get them when you sign up for free below).
Step 6: Follow Up With New Leads on LinkedIn
You might be expecting a long, detailed proposal to be what wins you the job, but often it’s something much simpler. Yes, make sure to send in a proposal that has everything requested in the job post or RFP, but also make sure to send a simple Linkedin message letting them know you’ve applied or are planning to apply to the project. Something like this is perfect:
Hi my company is interested in submitting an RFP do you have any more information for me?
It doesn’t seem like much, but because you are taking the initiative to send this message to new connections, it can open up a dialogue and allows you to build a much stronger relationship with your leads and clients. I’ve seen first-hand this small act be the difference between the person who wins the project and every other person who’s applying. So bake it into your process. You can even offer to send them case studies and other valuable content that is relevant to their project.
Once you’ve opened up that line of communication via Linkedin, your job’s not done. It’s important to use it. Keep in contact regularly throughout the proposal process and you can end up getting additional insider information like when an RFP due date gets extended, and why they were looking to do the project in the first place. Details that were not included in the initial job post or RFP.
What to do next
LinkedIn lead generation can take some time to master. Figuring out how potential customers in your particular target market are phrasing their posts when looking to hire can vary for your particular target market, so make sure to experiment with a few different approaches. Tweak your approach until you find the right one for your niche.
My approach has been refined over the years for the leads I send to my website design referral and RFP newsletter and there’s a ton more I’d like to share with you about using LinkedIn, that I can’t share publicly – to get this material sign up to my free newsletter because it’s where I share the best tactics for LinkedIn and more.
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