LinkedIn has become one of my favorite ways to get leads and find clients in 2020. It’s the largest professional social network on the web, so it’s a great tool for analyzing the freelancer market demand.
I’ve talked about how to list freelance and contract work on LinkedIn in the past, but today I want to talk about how to find freelance clients and generate great leads for free on LinkedIn.
What I love about this approach is you’re in control. No one (besides a major change from Linkedin) can stop you. You decide which jobs you go after, how many you pitch, and how effective you are.
So let’s get started on how generating leads and finding clients on LinkedIn works:
Step 1 – Type your lead keywords into the search box
The first step is to ask yourself: What kind of work are you looking for? and How would a client that is looking to hire someone like you word their LinkedIn post?
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 – Click on ‘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 results
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 the results
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 – 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
- Deadline gives enough time to apply
- Great high-value project (website redesign)
👎 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.
Step 5 – Respond to the good opportunities
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 make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and optimized. Since you’re likely to contact the lead directly on LinkedIn, they will almost certainly check out your profile. This article will ensure they see exactly what they’re looking for when they do.
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).
What to do next
It can take some time to figure out how clients are phrasing their posts when looking to hire, so experiment. Play around and build the right search for your niche.
My approach has been refined over the years for the leads I send to my website design referral and RFP newsletter.
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.