Freelancing By Pooja Lohana Have you ever wondered how to become a freelance writer? Maybe you think it’s a challenge to find clients for your freelance writing business. Maybe you’ve tried your hand at in-person networking events. Pitched editors and marketing managers of companies? But the results are far below your expectations. There’s a much better alternative you might be missing. How I Accidentally Discovered Online Networking In mid-2012, I received a request from an acquaintance to connect on LinkedIn. I already had a LinkedIn account but it was dormant, with just 60-odd connections. I’d almost forgotten it existed. When I accepted the request, I saw that many people were looking at my LinkedIn profile, and some of them fit my ideal client market. Over the next few days, I updated my profile, added a fresh photo and sent out a few invites. As time passed, I received new connection requests. I couldn’t believe my eyes when an editor from a reputed online publication added me. That was a glorious moment. I instantly sent them a “Thank you” message. (Looking back, I was acting like a kid in a candy store, but never mind that.) What happened after that was life-changing. The editor replied to my message and said my profile looked interesting. No amount of in-person networking can provide this. Don’t get me wrong – networking events are great for boosting your confidence. But they don’t attract the targeted leads you want. LinkedIn lets you pick and choose whom you connect with – the potential is unlimited. How I made over $7500 with one email In December 2013, an unknown person added me to her network. Her profile didn’t clearly spell out what she did. I accepted the request and sent her this message: Hi Name, How are you? Thank you for adding me to your network. I’d love to know more about what you do – and help you the best I can. Looking forward to hearing from you! She was looking for a writer. After a few email exchanges, I found their pain point, offered my help and suggested what they could do next. This company went on to hire me to write blog posts at $150 per post – all because of my small gesture of reaching out, asking if she needed help, and offering it. Don’t wonder if they’ll hire you – that’s not important. Simply offer help that you’d ideally charge for. This is when you tell the client what you can do for them. How they do it is entirely up to them. They may do it themselves, or hire you. Chances are – they’ll do the latter. For example, guest posting was one of the things I suggested to this client, and backed it up with some stellar examples of what it had done for a few clients. She immediately asked me if I could help. Of course I could! Now that you know how I’ve made over $7500 from one email, here’s how you can do it too. Step 1: Create Your Profile 1. Create a profile here. 2. Add a profile photo, and keep it professional. 3. Add your title – this is vital real-estate. Mine says “Blogger | Freelance Writer | Editor | Behavioural Specialist” because that’s what I do. 4. Ensure your Title and Summary have relevant keywords in the description so people can find you. For example, if you want to show up for “technical writer,” have these keywords in your title. 5. Add your websites in your profile. You can add a link or upload a file to give people more information about what you do. 6. Fill in your Experience, Publications, Skills and Endorsements (use rich keywords here), Education and any additional information you think will help boost your LinkedIn searchability and attract prospects. 7. Become a member of groups related to your industry. You might choose to be a member of “magazine writers” and “report writers.” According to LinkedIn data, group participants get 4 times more profile views. The more you comment and contribute to the group, the more profile views you get. 8. Ask for a Recommendation. [tweet_dis] The number one rule of networking is to give before you ask.[/tweet_dis] Give your clients something so good that they are compelled to write you a 5-star testimonial. You can also recommend others you’ve worked with, and ask them to return the favor. Step 2: Check in Everyday Log in to your account every day. Make it a part of your daily marketing hour. If that sounds too much, you can schedule 15-30 minutes every couple of days. Step 3: See Who’s Viewed Your Profile Under the “Profile” tab, you can see who’s viewed you in the past week. If many people from the IT industry are viewing your profile, it’s because you’ve used keywords related to that industry. Good for you if you’re looking for technical-writing jobs! Step 4: Send a Message to Your Viewer If you’re getting many profile views every day, return the favor and check out the profiles of those who viewed yours. Found someone who is an exact client match? Send them an InMail (paid LinkedIn feature). If you don’t want to pay for a subscription, you can add this person as a connection and then send them a message. (To send a request, they need to be in your “network,” separated by you by up to three degrees of connection.) If they are out of your network, you can still use InMail to reach them. Step 5: Accept LinkedIn Requests Don’t ignore requests from unknown people. LinkedIn isn’t a personal platform, so why ignore requests from prospects who might be interested learning a little more about you? Granted, not everyone is a prospect. But if you ignore everyone who wants to connect, you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. Filter requests and add people from your target industry – look at their profile and if it looks remotely interesting, give it a go. I accept most of the requests I get, except from people – who have nothing in common with me are from an industry I have no knowledge about don’t have a profile photo (Seriously, add your real photo!) Step 6: Send a Thank You Note Once someone adds you, send them a “thank you” note. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – just introduce yourself and ask how you can help. If you both have something in common, make it a point to include that. This shows you’ve taken the time to read their profile. A question most people cannot resist answering is “I’d love to know more about your business – could you tell me more?” The point of doing this is to get a conversation going. You want to engage them. Step 7: Take the Conversation to Skype or Phone Once you’ve had a few email exchanges, take the conversation to a more personal platform. Ask if they’d like to schedule a quick chat on Skype where you can discuss their business further. People love that. They want undivided attention from someone who can help them achieve their goals. Be that person. On the call, share helpful tips. You don’t have to share anything new – you can repeat what you discussed on email and reiterate it, using examples. Tell them you’re in the business of helping people do exactly what you’re suggesting to them. If you do it right, you might’ve found yourself a client! LinkedIn is your readymade platform to launch your business, giving you targeted leads that convert to revenue. In my experience, leads on LinkedIn pay much more than leads on job sites. It’s less time-consuming and less daunting to reach out to anyone on LinkedIn than in any other way. LinkedIn helps you create a more focused network for your marketing efforts. Connections lead to more connections – and more business! So go ahead and give it a shot. How do you use LinkedIn to grow your writing business? Share in the comments!