LinkedIn is a smart place for freelancers to spend time. No matter who your target audience or dream client is, you can find them on LinkedIn. You’ve got a variety of ways to track them down, including #7 in this list of 15 ways to get clients fast.
But how do you get clients to come to you on LinkedIn?
Here’s a 49-step plan organized into three phases:
- Optimize your profile.
- Grow your audience.
- Make offers.
1. Optimize your profile
Don’t think of your LinkedIn profile as a resume but as a landing page that can generate leads for your business.
You want to make your profile easy to find and understand, and you want to demonstrate your authority in your niche. First, you’ll optimize your profile. Then, you’ll start driving traffic to it like any other landing page.
Want more leads? Drive more traffic.
It’s worth noting that your profile is never really finished. You’ll always be tweaking, improving, and iterating it based on the feedback and results you get (or don’t).
Here are the steps for optimizing your profile:
- Make your profile visible to the public.
- Update your contact information, if needed.
- Rewrite About section to focus on how your key differentiators (e.g., background and specialized knowledge, creative skills, and character and personality traits) enable you to solve painful, expensive problems for clients in your target audience and deliver their desired outcomes.
- Rewrite your LinkedIn headline as an elevator pitch. What’s your bold promise, and for whom, and how? Also, consider what 3-5 keywords are most strategic and weave them into your headline when possible.
- Use a recent headshot with good lighting.
- Add a branded header image. This is a free billboard, so make good use of it.
- Turn on Creator mode.
- Pick relevant hashtags to add to your profile.
- Decide what landing page or lead magnet link you want to include in your profile at the top.
- Write the copy for the link as a strong call to action.
- Write a post about your company’s brand story or your value proposition: what you do, why you do it, how you do it, who you live to work with, and how they can start a conversation with you.
- Set that post as a Featured link.
- Think of something valuable you can give away for free: a course, checklist, cheat sheet, template, or diagnostic tool like a scorecard. Many of my most popular lead magnets have been “snacks” that people can use in 10 minutes. For example, my audience of freelancers loved my email templates for following up with past clients and silent prospects, and none of the templates took very long to create.
- Write a post about the lead magnet: strong hook, plus a quick overview of what it is, plus a more detailed explanation of why it matters and what it all covers, and end with a sentence about the key outcome or transformation, a strong call to action, and the link for opting in to get it.
- Set that post as a Featured link.
- Think of your best case study or recent success story.
- Write a post about it: what was the problem the client had? Why was it painful or expensive? Or, what was it costing them? What had they already tried? Why did they come to you? How did you help them define the problem, project, and path forward? What was the process or journey for solving the problem? What were the distinct phases or steps? What were the key outcomes? How is their life or business better or different now? Describe their transformation. What quick advice would you give to anyone with a similar painful, expensive problem? What is your offer to them? What’s the first step they can take to start a conversation with you? End with that strong call to action.
- Set that post as a Featured link.
- Treat your first experience “entry” as a miniature billboard. Define the painful, expensive problem. Agitate it by sharing the 3-5 wrong assumptions, limiting beliefs, and mistakes people make when trying to solve it. Make a bold promise tied to their desired outcome. End with a strong call to action.
- Think of three people who could write a recommendation for you. Ask them.
- Add any relevant skills not currently listed. Remove any skills not relevant to your current position.
2. Grow your audience.
You have four primary ways of getting traffic to your profile: 1) sending connection requests, 2) publishing posts that the algorithm puts in people’s feeds, 3) leaving comments on other people’s posts, and 4) making your profile easier to find or more discoverable by researching and using desirable keywords on it. You’ll spend most of your time on the first three.
Some people will find your posts or profile and follow you. As your audience grows, so does your perceived credibility or authority.
That said, the goal here is always generating leads, not vanity metrics like follower count.
Here are the steps for growing your audience:
- Decide how often you’ll post—e.g., 3 times a week.
- Decide how many connection requests you’ll send on weekdays—e.g., 10 per day.
- Decide what criteria are most strategic—e.g., marketing leaders at cleantech and renewables companies, specifically growth-stage manufacturers and B2B service providers.
- Develop your basic content strategy. Reference the LinkedIn cheat sheet below.
- Sign up for Shield Analytics (shieldapp.ai) so you can see later which posts got good engagement.
- Pick 10 thought leaders or influencers in your industry to follow.
- Save the link to their LinkedIn feed as a bookmark in a LinkedIn Creators folder in your browser.
- Start showing up every day and leaving comments on at least 3 posts. Don’t worry about trying to sound smart. Just add something meaningful to the conversation.
- Pay attention to the post types and topics that perform well in your industry. For example, posts with a carousel of slides (uploaded as a PDF) or a short video with captions that can be watched without the sound on. Or, posts that offer hot takes on the least bit of industry news rather than posts that offer “tips.” Pay attention to what gets the engagement and reach you’d eventually like to get.
- Save your own post ideas in a spreadsheet or in Notion. Some of the comments you leave could grow into standalone posts.
- Write 3 posts.
- Write 3 more posts.
- Write 3 more posts.
- Use a tool like Taplio or Hypefury to schedule your posts. Earlier in the day (e.g., 8:00am Eastern) tends to be better.
- Show up each day and spend 30 minutes interacting with people in the comments on your posts. Keep leaving comments on other people’s posts too.
- Develop a morning marketing habit with a clear commitment: 3 posts per week, 3 comments per day, 10 connection requests per day. Consistency trumps everything on LinkedIn.
- At least once a month, review your analytics. Which of your posts got the most impressions? Which got the most comments? Which had the highest engagement rate (meaning the ratio of impressions to likes/comments)?
- Add your top posts to a spreadsheet and set a date 6 months in the future when you will repost them.
- Notice the topics that were most popular. How can you approach them from different angles? Or with a better hook? For example, if a list did well, then you could write a separate post for each item on the list. Or you could create a carousel for the list but introduce it with a different hook.
- Improve and iterate your content strategy over time. Every post is an experiment that can teach you what your audience does and doesn’t want.
3. Make offers.
If you tell people what you want them to do, make the benefit of doing it obvious, and make it easy for them to take the first step, more people will do what you want. It’s in their best interest, so why wouldn’t they?
You can’t be coy on social platforms. You have to create value first, yes, but you also need to come right out and say what it is you offer. Don’t make people do the work. Connect the dots for them.
You can make strong offers without being obnoxious or too salesy.
Here are the steps:
- For every four or five “regular” posts, you want to write a post focused on an offer. Here are some examples of what I mean by that.
- Experiment with different offers: a new lead magnet or a free workshop or a chance to have you do a quick audit of their marketing.
- Pay attention to what appears to work for other people in your space or ones adjacent.
- Put leads from LinkedIn into your CRM or lead tracker spreadsheet. That way, you’ll remember to follow up.
- Move people to a conversation in your DMs. Ask 4-5 questions and build rapport there first. Don’t rush anyone to a call unless they ask for that out of the gate.
- Offer to hop on a video call. Face-to-face time is still the single best way to build rapport.
- Move people through your usual discovery and onboarding process. However, don’t be surprised when some people are willing to spring for your Trojan Horse offer (e.g., initial paid project roadmapping or strategy session) without getting on a call. That’s what social selling in the DMs is all about.
- Never stop learning. What works on social with audience building, content, offers, and selling is constantly changing. You don’t have to be on the bleeding edge, but you do need to think like a scientist in a laboratory who conducts experiments and improves results over time.
LinkedIn for Freelancers Wrap-Up
This go-to-them strategy is effective because they’ve already signaled the need.
What is less effective (and frankly, irritating to recipients) is sending custom messages with connection requests or lots of DMs where you pitch your services. There’s a word for this: spam.
Did the other person signal their interest in your services? No. Did they ask to receive a touch from you? No. Is a need for what you do pressing or obvious? No.
Well then, ladies and gentlemen, it’s spam, plain and simple, not even fried.
Maybe once in a blue moon you might get the odd person willing to have a conversation, but you’re still sending generic, unsolicited pitches and causing the vast majority of people to roll their eyes and ignore you. Is this really how you want to be spending your time anyway? The same effort you spend on 20 spam sandwiches could have been spent on one highly personalized and carefully researched “letter of introduction” to a dream client. Your call.
Rant concluded. Here are a couple of pieces of training I created that will save you from wasting time on garbage resources:
If you want help nailing down your LinkedIn strategy and content strategy, check out my Custom Business Roadmap offer. LinkedIn is a crucial piece of the puzzle for most of the freelancers I coach and agency owners I consult with.
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:
- Freelance Fixes. This short guide walks you through 6 small but important “fixes” that you can make to raise your income without working longer hours. People really seem to like it.
- Morning Marketing Habit. This course will help you build an “always be marketing” practice, become less dependent on referrals, and proactively build the business you want with the clients you want. My own morning marketing habit has enabled me to consistently make 6 figures as a freelancer.
- Clarity Session. It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle. I've done well over 100 of these 1:1 sessions with founders, solopreneurs, and freelancers who wanted guidance, a second opinion, or help creating a plan.