If you’re a current or aspiring professional, then LinkedIn is one of the best platforms that you can use to increase your earnings and land new opportunities.
Hiring managers and recruiters use LinkedIn to find full-time candidates and freelance talent. So, if you’re looking for a full-time job or freelance clients, then you should use LinkedIn to:
For example, I used LinkedIn to get my freelance instructional design business off the ground. Recruiters and clients would search for keywords such as “instructional designer” and “eLearning developer,” then they would find my LinkedIn profile.
From there, they would visit my instructional design portfolio. After evaluating my work, they would reach out to me to discuss their projects. Without LinkedIn, these early clients would never have found me in the first place.
As you can see, using LinkedIn effectively can make or break a business (just as it can make the difference between landing the job of your dreams and having to settle for something subpar).
In this article, I’ll share everything that I've learned about crafting a good LinkedIn profile and landing new opportunities via LinkedIn.
Let’s dive in!
The first step to using LinkedIn effectively is to make sure that you have a good LinkedIn profile. You can think of your profile as your “homepage” on LinkedIn. This is where people will go when they select your name, so it’s important that the profile as a whole makes a good impression.
Let’s take a look at the specific portfolio elements to focus on.
Your tagline appears at the top of your LinkedIn profile, but it also appears beneath your name in the feed, on job applications, in connection requests, and more.
In short, your tagline appears beneath your name almost everywhere on LinkedIn, and because of this, it is quite important.
The way I see it, there are two ways to approach your tagline:
Both approaches are valid, and you can even use a combination of the two. Let’s consider them both.
The keyword tagline is a good place to start. This is where you fill your tagline with common search terms and phrases; this way, when recruiters and hiring managers search for a specific role, you are likely to appear in the results.
For example, if you’re an instructional designer, then a keyword tagline may look something like this:
“Instructional Designer | eLearning Developer | eLearning Design | Learning Experience Designer | Learning Consultant”
This example may be a bit overkill, but it does fit a decent number of keywords within the 120 character tagline limit.
If you’re not sure which titles or keywords to include, then you should look at job listings that appeal to you. These titles usually align with the language that recruiters and managers use to find suitable candidates.
The value proposition tagline is more advanced. This tagline quickly conveys the value that you can bring to your target audience.
You sacrifice the number of searches that you appear in, but if you convey your value proposition in a way that’s compelling, then it can quickly generate intrigue and invite people to select your profile to learn more.
I only recommend using this approach if you have a specific offering and you know exactly who your target audience is. For example, consider this tagline from Stephen Johnson:
“I Help B2B Consultants Define Their Competitive Advantage & Book New Clients Every Month Using My L.E.A.N. Strategy.”
Stephen’s tagline says exactly what he does and how he provides value, as well as mentioning his strategy (which likely invites people to select his profile to learn more).
Jeff Later uses a hybrid approach with his tagline. He states his value proposition, includes a call to action (“DM me for more info”), and adds keywords to help people find him in search results.
It’s up to you which of these approaches you use. However, if you are looking for a full-time job without posting much content on LinkedIn, then the keyword approach will likely be a better option.
Once you are more active on LinkedIn (and thereby getting your tagline in front of more people without relying on search results), you should consider the value proposition approach.
My best advice with your profile photo is to ensure that it’s a photo of you that you’re proud of. Appearances are powerful for first impressions, and people want to know who it is that they’re talking to.
So, make sure that your profile photo is a picture of you, and, if possible, hire a professional (or ask a friend) to take a nice headshot.
Your LinkedIn cover photo is another opportunity to convey your personality, make an impression, and even provide a call-to-action. Look at the cover photos in the previous section: they both include a value proposition, and Jeff’s even includes contact details and a website.
At the least, I suggest that your cover photo is a high-quality image that represents your professional interests or personality. You can take it a step further by including your website, call-to-action, and contact details on the cover photo itself.
The optimal cover photo size is 1584x396 pixels.
The About, or “summary,” section of your LinkedIn profile is the best way for people to learn more about. You should use this section to talk more about:
Most importantly, your about section should include a call to action. It’s nice that people are on your LinkedIn profile, but where do you want them to go next?
If you’re a freelancer, then you likely want people to visit your portfolio to see some of your work. If you’re looking for full-time jobs, then you likely want people to email you about potential opportunities.
State what you want clearly in this section. For example, in one of the first few sentences, you should include a sentence such as: “To see some of my work and learn more about me, visit my portfolio website: www.devlinpeck.com.”
At the end of your summary, include a “contact me” call to action, like so:
“Reach out today to discover whether my skill set would be a good fit for your organization: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
These are two quick examples, but the important thing to consider is what you want your profile visitors to do next. Once you’ve determined that, invite them to take the next step.
If the hiring managers or potential clients are sufficiently intrigued by your profile, then they will likely view your work experience.
Including keywords in this section is also important for getting matched with jobs and appearing in search results.
Furthermore, this work experience is auto-submitted when you use the “Apply on LinkedIn” feature to apply for jobs.
So, use the same approach here that you would use on your resume:
Since keywords are so important here, you may decide to include related job titles (not only your “official” job title). For example, if you were an instructional designer, you may set the following job title:
“Instructional Designer | eLearning Designer | Learning Experience Designer”
Use popular keywords in your task descriptions, and you may decide to include additional keywords at the bottom of your job duties. For example, I include popular tools that I use in my job description.
Striking a good balance here between keywords and clarity will ensure that:
In my opinion, the “Recommendations” and “Skills & Endorsements” sections are some of the most important sections on your entire LinkedIn profile.
The reason for this is because you can say as many nice things about yourself as you would like. However, you are a biased source of information when it comes to how great you are.
If hiring managers or clients can read about how great other people think you are, then it gives a different impression. This is called social proof.
When people see that other people trust you and think highly of you, then it makes them more likely to trust you with their project or the position that they’re hiring for.
Therefore, it is worth your time to reach out to colleagues, past supervisors, and friends who can speak to the quality of your work. Ask them to provide a LinkedIn recommendation for you.
People rarely provide LinkedIn recommendations without you asking, but they are often happy to do so once you ask. Do not be afraid to ask! However, you should only ask people that can actually speak to the quality of your work.
You can even suggest talking points that you would like your recommenders to address (for example, your work ethic, attention to detail, or speed).
Likewise, add all of the skills that you have in the “Skills & Endorsements” section. Use keywords to guide this process. Once you’ve added all of them, ask people in your network to endorse you for skills that they know you can perform well.
Adding social proof such as this turns a good LinkedIn profile into a great LinkedIn profile. Don’t skip this step!
LinkedIn updated their “Featured” section functionality, so it’s a great idea to take advantage of this.
The section is exactly what it sounds like: it’s an area for you to feature a given piece of content. You can feature an “About Me” video (which is a great way to establish a more personal connection), a popular post that you published, a screenshot from one of your portfolio projects, or even your website.
It’s up to you what you decide to include here, but the important thing is that you’re intentional with this section. You have the opportunity to make an impression with what you feature, so you should include something that you are proud of.
If you do not have any posts, articles, or projects to share here, then you should film a short intro video where you describe who you are and how you can help a person or organization.
Once your profile is in good shape, you want people to see it. The way LinkedIn works is that, unless you’re paying for specific features, your search results are limited to people who are connected, in some way, to your existing connections.
This means that the more connections you have, the more potential search results that you can appear in. It also means that your searches will return more results if you have more connections.
So, LinkedIn incentivizes you to make connections.
LinkedIn isn’t just a place to find new jobs and clients — it’s also a place to share knowledge and get to know other professionals.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to connect with other people in your field. This will help you stay in tune with the latest conversations and resources.
There are two ways that you can build this network: inclusively or exclusively.
With an inclusive or open network, you basically connect with anyone in (or related) to your field, whether you know them or not.
Since I started my freelance business right out of college, I opted for an open network. I searched for people with job titles in my field, and I sent connection requests en masse.
This helped me rapidly build my network, figure out who the big contributors were on LinkedIn, and, perhaps most importantly at the time, appear in more search results.
The other way to go about this is with an exclusive network: this is where you only connect with people that you know. This will likely reduce the amount of spam you receive, but it will limit how many people are able to find you via keywords.
I recommend the open network approach so that people can find you more easily. Furthermore, when you send connection requests to people, they may look at your LinkedIn profile. Increasing your exposure in this way increases the likelihood that you will be put in front of someone who is in need of your skills or services.
To make your connection requests “warmer,” you can send a personalized note stating who you are and why you’re looking to connect.
Since you likely already have some form of professional network, it’s a good idea to use your existing network to build your LinkedIn network.
For example, if you’re active on professional Facebook groups, subreddits, Slack or Discord channels, or even alumni boards, then you can post your LinkedIn profile there and ask people to connect with you.
This will help you get in front of people that already have some sort of professional relationship with you.
Now that your profile is in order and you have a healthy number of connections, you can use LinkedIn’s built-in tools to aid you in your job search.
You can show recruiters that you’re open for work by selecting the “Show recruiters you’re open to work” button on your LinkedIn profile. This gives you options to include the job titles that you’re open to, the locations where you’re willing to work, and even the number of hours that you’re available to work per week.
There’s even an option to show all LinkedIn members that you’re open for opportunities — not just those that are designated as recruiters.
If your profile is in good shape, then this is a nearly surefire way to generate leads and possibly land interviews.
And this brings us back to what LinkedIn is all about — networking! Once you’ve laid the necessary groundwork and are sure that you’re presenting yourself in a positive light on LinkedIn, you can start reaching out to people and getting to know them.
That’s right: getting to know them. Show genuine interest in the work that they do. You want to go into a conversation or informational interview wanting to learn more — not wanting them to give you a job or project.
My advice for this is to find people who are in positions that you aspire to be in. Ask them if they have a few minutes to chat (either via LinkedIn messages or a virtual meeting), and come prepared with questions about their journey and skillset.
I’ve made some of my best professional connections just by asking people for advice or about their journeys. People often enjoy talking about themselves and helping others, so this is usually a win-win.
Following the advice in this article will help you use LinkedIn to its maximum potential. When you’re using LinkedIn effectively, you will find many opportunities coming your way that otherwise would not have.
And remember, LinkedIn is only one part of searching for a job or clients. You also need to ensure that your resume, portfolio (if it applies), and interview skills are on point.
If you’re interested in becoming an instructional designer, then you should check out my How to Become an Instructional Designer in-depth article to make sure that you’re developing all of the necessary skills.
Finally, if you have any questions or need some help along your journey, then feel free to join the instructional design community. See you there!