Freelancers have been badly affected by coronavirus. The pandemic has massively impacted people across all industries, but as companies review their core business model and cut costs, many contracted workers have found themselves at risk. A recent study has suggested that around half of freelancers have lost at least 60% of their income.
Personally, I’ve seen many posts on my LinkedIn newsfeed by freelancers struggling to find work: typically, a single post saying they’re open for business and taking on new clients. LinkedIn is a great tool for freelancers, and posting is a good start – but a more thought out and consistent approach to personal branding will help generate new leads.
My company, WOAW, builds personal brands for some of the UK’s leading CEOs and founders on social media, here’s a taste of the advice I’ve been giving them on how to navigate the crisis.
The Profile Rebrand
There are some simple tweaks that can make your LinkedIn profile immediately more client friendly. Let’s start from the top and work our way down.
- A profile picture and banner that pop
Look straight down the camera, smile, and look professional. The clothes you’re wearing should reflect your brand: corporate, relaxed, sporty or creative. Now networking in person is off the table, it’s even more important to think about how people see you online.
And don’t forget about your banner. If your work is visual, include some examples and use the space to further explain what you can do for a client. A photo that reinforces your credibility – e.g. a photo of you talking in front of an audience – is also a good choice. You can even include your tagline here, too. Your elevator pitch should be communicated visually in your banner. Anything at all (within the bounds of reason) is better than leaving it blank.
- A tagline that sums up what you do
Your tagline – the line that sits under your name – should describe exactly what you’re offering. It’s one of the most valuable bits of real estate you have on LinkedIn, as it appears with your name and profile picture every time you’re active, from posting content to commenting on other people’s posts. You need to optimise it to drive new business to your profile.
Many taglines simply name a title and company – which works if your employer is well-known (e.g. Digital Marketing Director at Goldman Sachs). But often it’s not so simple, especially for freelancers. My tagline used to be Founder at WOAW – but not many people know what WOAW does. Since changing it to ‘Building Personal Brands for Founders & CEOs on LinkedIn’, more people have clicked on my profile and got in touch to find out how we work. Does your current tagline advertise your services? If not, consider giving it some thought.
|Instead of …||Try …|
|Founder at Colourblock Content||Producing videos that pop on social | Founder at Colourblock Content|
|Freelance Designer||Creating quirky visuals that help startups stand out | Available for Freelance Design|
|Coach at Marissa Brey Coaching||Helping executives upgrade their public speaking | Coach at Marissa Brey Coaching|
|Digital Marketing||Getting your business seen by the right people online | Digital Marketing Consultant|
|Freelance Copywriter||Writing captivating content for luxury e-commerce brands|
- An about section that introduces you
Either keep this short and sweet, or use it to tell potential clients more about who you are, what you do and why they should get in touch. Try to avoid being too salesy; instead, focus on being unique. Think about the last time you applied for a job – one of the main challenges in any hiring process is to make yourself stand out from other applicants. The same applies here. Imagine this small section of your profile was the only thing a visitor would remember. What do you need to write in there to ensure that 1) they remember what you do and 2) they’re closer to working with you? Some great examples include Facebook’s Martin Harbech, V21’s Jack Gaisford and one of the most talented personal branding photographers I’ve worked with, Leigh Farmer.
- A featured post that locks in credibility
You can now pin a post to the top of your profile, sitting just under your About section. Use it to highlight something that shows your credibility. It could be a piece of work that you’re particularly proud of, or a testimonial you’ve shared in the past. It can really help to establish that you’re the go-to person for what you offer. This is a relatively new feature on LinkedIn, which makes it a great tool for helping you mark you out as a personal branding pro.
The Authentic Content
Once your profile is looking sharp, you can start posting content. Here are a few simple tips for first timers or posting veterans looking for new ideas.
- Show vulnerability
People admire honesty and vulnerability when it comes to business. Posts that show some emotion – such as how you’re coping with the anxiety of losing clients – stand out in a sea of boring professional content. Freelancing often comes with instability, which means there can be more pressure to appear as though everything is under control. But if things aren’t going perfectly, it shows courage and maturity to say so. It’s okay to lower your guard: your vulnerability will resonate with the people in your community and encourage people to engage with you online. It shows you’re human. But note that my advice is to lower, rather than drop, your guard – you shouldn’t post anything that casts doubt on your ability to take on work or that your current clients might be unhappy with.
Elliot Gold’s recent article was a perfect example: he gave a candid and wonderfully written account of how Work.Life have managed during the coronavirus crisis and how it feels to be in an industry that’s being badly affected. It takes a lot of courage to open up when things aren’t going to plan. So think about what challenges the crisis has presented, how you’ve adapted, what you’ve learned, and what opportunities have come your way – and share your story.
- Be a guest on a podcast or contribute to a publication
You’ve probably seen someone posting about the podcast they’ve started during lockdown. Express interest in being a guest if you think your story could have value to their audience. Being featured on a podcast is a great way to promote your work if you’re a bit shy of promoting yourself – that’s the host’s job! If they produce social content to promote the podcast, such as a colourful piece of graphic design that has your photo and job title on, even better! Maximise the opportunity to publicise your personal brand. Another option is to create value-driven content for a publication that your target audience may be reading, or for a brand that you’re passionate about. If you know that you can help clients with their website’s SEO, creating an SEO-guide for 2020 could be insightful for them. Remember that association yourself with well known brands and publications will always increase your personal brand and credibility.
- Engage with other people
Every new LinkedIn connection is a chance to build a new relationship with a future client. If something catches your eye on your newsfeed, comment on it with a thought-provoking question or to show support. The more you engage with people, the more they will engage with you back, which means even more people will see your content. Your tagline will appear next to every comment, making for some simple advertising – and don’t underestimate the power of visibility. You might even find ways to draw attention to your services in the comments section of someone else’s post: for example, on a post about adapting to working from home, you could share how you helped a digital marketing client communicate a design brief remotely – which might get the attention of further digital marketing clients looking for a remote-savvy designer. Subtle but powerful.
- Try out video content
This one is for the brave among you. According to the 2018 State of Social Video Marketer Trends report, 73% of consumers claim that they have been influenced by a brand’s social media presence when making a purchasing decision. Video content helps you show your online network your true self, a more dynamic image than what’s portrayed by text and photos. Don’t get caught up with worrying about what you look and sound like – seeing yourself on camera can take some getting used to!
@Dan Reed from Barclays is a personal favourite of mine – his daily lockdown diary is so relatable. Video is an engaging way to launch new services or can be a slightly more informal platform for talking candidly about the crisis and your experience; it’s great for sharing anything from what you’re looking forward to post-lockdown to creating a teaser of what you provide to clients. Here’s a question to discuss to get you started: What piece of career advice would you give to your 2019 self?
- Start posting
Personal branding is a marathon, not a sprint. A post that gets no likes is so many times better than no post at all. Your personal brand is constructed post by post: it’s a learning process and the feedback you receive will be invaluable. It will take time to figure out what content resonates most with the people you’re trying to reach. The best thing you can do is start. After all, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second best time is now. Who would have imagined that an ancient Chinese proverb would be so relevant to personal branding online?!
Now is a difficult time for freelancers and businesses. If you’re finding yourself with more time on your hands, it’s the perfect opportunity to start building your personal brand online in a way that your buried-in-work future self will thank you for. Well done for getting through the crisis this far. If you need any further advice or want to ensure your post gets at least one like when you share it, send it to me on Linkedin. I’d be happy to support.
This post was written by Joe Binder, CEO of WOAW.