How to build your online network using linkedin

A young self-employed woman takes notes and prepares to network on LinkedIn

Online networking is a great way to make a name for yourself and generate interest in your business. You’ll meet other entrepreneurs, build connections and possibly even meet new customers. And all this from your own four walls!

This post is all about networking via LinkedIn. The network is one of the best places to go for freelancers and small businesses, and is one of the online tools every freelancer should know about. We show you how you can still grow your network despite cancelled meetings in real life.

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The step-by-step guide to successful networking on LinkedIn

What is so special about LinkedIn? Whether you’re employed or self-employed, LinkedIn is the ideal place to get ahead professionally. The best way to describe the network is as a kind of Facebook for businesses. Members exchange ideas on a professional level, share various content with each other and post job ads. This makes LinkedIn the perfect complement to your company homepage or freelancer website. Because as they say, "You just have to know the right people."

You want to expand your professional network, find more clients, and increase your revenue? Then simply follow these steps.

1. Create your LinkedIn profile

The most important parts of your profile include a professional portrait photo of yourself – no mirror selfies, please! – a clear headline and an appealing short biography that captivates your readers and informs them about you and what you offer. Your profile should be an elevator pitch that gets others interested in you.

Whether you’re new to LinkedIn or want to revive your old profile, LinkedIn has put together some helpful tips for a professional profile on its own site.

2. Build your network step by step

LinkedIn works similarly to Facebook, except you don’t send friend requests, but instead "network" with others. After you create your account, LinkedIn suggests several people you might already know – from former colleagues to old school friends.

Networking with these people is a good place to start. Because the more people you have in your network, the more profiles of members you can see. And if someone catches your eye as a client or for collaboration: Other members are more likely to network with you if you already have some contacts in common.

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How to build your online network using linkedin

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3. Write personal contact requests – always!

Every time you visit a profile and click on "Network", a window will pop up asking if you want to add a personal message to your invitation. Definitely do this! Unfortunately, there are also some shameless salespeople and spammers on LinkedIn who write to everything and everyone. A personal message is your chance to stand out from those annoyances.

Don’t start with a sales pitch right away. Rather, introduce yourselves first and point out a few things you have in common – z. B. that you are from the same neighborhood, have a former work colleague in common or work in the same industry.

Make it clear why you want to network with them – do you want to connect with other graphic designers, did one of their posts get you thinking, or is your company looking for someone with their skill set? You should always remain friendly, unobtrusive and clear in content.

TIP: Do not spam! If you have no real reason to network with someone, "follow" them instead. This way you will see the other person’s posts in your feed and can comment on them as soon as you have something to contribute. This way you don’t come across as pushy and can instead build a reputation for good contributions. Read more about this in step 5.

4. Visit profiles that interest you

Visiting someone’s LinkedIn profile is similar to giving them a friendly wave in real life. When someone visits your profile, you’ll get a notification that looks something like this: "Jim Beam has viewed your profile."This cautious drop-by is a good way to start a conversation with another self-employed person in your industry – or with potential clients. Or with someone who has certain knowledge or skills that you are interested in right now.

If you click on someone’s LinkedIn profile, the person will receive the notification described above. If you have a free LinkedIn profile (like most people), you will always see the last five visitors to your profile. To see former fence sitters you have to upgrade to a paid premium profile. However, it is not absolutely necessary.

Once you’ve found someone you want to network with, we recommend taking a look at their profile first. This is how you express serious interest in them and what they do. It may even lead to them viewing your profile or even sending you a contact request. Or they do nothing at all. Then you continue with step 5.

5. Follow, follow, follow

Okay, so you’ve now sent contact requests to Frank in accounting and to your buddies from college. But what about all the business celebrities and experts you would like to network with, but will never meet in real life?? Successful entrepreneurs, mentors and influencers receive hundreds of requests every day, which is why you will most likely be fobbed off with a blanket "no" or your message will go unseen. In these situations, the "follow" button is your friend.

If you click on "Follow", you will see all the content in your feed that this person shares on LinkedIn. This is your way of saying, "Hey, I’m interested in who you are and what you do"." And without immediately sending a contact request that will be rejected anyway.

Likewise, you can follow companies – for example, your competitors or companies you like and might want to work for someday.

6. Read, comment, contribute

When you log in to LinkedIn, you’ll see your feed of content – much like you would on Facebook or Instagram. You’ll see posts from your network, from people and companies you follow, as well as some sponsored posts (ads). Here is where it gets really interesting.

Regularly read posts and articles from people you follow, and soon opportunities will arise for you to contribute to the discussion. However, don’t comment just for the sake of commenting. Wait until you can write something really relevant that takes the discussion in a different direction or gives a new perspective on the topic. This will bring you to the attention of others – especially if you can shine with your expertise.

This way, you’ll get to talk to people you’d like to have in your personal network. It may only take one comment for them to notice you. Maybe it will take several months. But stay tuned and send them a contact request after you’ve exchanged a few times.

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Here’s how you use LinkedIn’s search function to network and find jobs

LinkedIn’s search function helps you find people, jobs, content, companies, colleges/professional schools, groups and events. All categories are useful, but we recommend you start with people and then slowly work your way up to content, groups and events.

In this section, let’s focus on finding relevant people for your network, as well as orders and jobs.

People: Network with the right

If you are a copywriter, you probably want to network with other copywriters in your area. For example, by searching for "copywriter" + "my city". Or you’re looking for people with skills that complement yours – i.e. "designers" or "graphic artists". You can learn something from them and refer jobs to each other as well.

Depending on how well you know a person, you can network with them or "just" follow them. Remember: If you are looking for new clients and customers, the size of your network is crucial. The bigger it is, the more likely you are to encounter posts with relevant jobs.

Content: Just right to discuss and network with each other

LinkedIn’s "content" search is a goldmine for freelancers. Here you will not find officially advertised "jobs", because they have their own category. Instead, here are posts from people looking for referrals and services.

It works like this:

The filter function lets you search for terms in articles, posts and comments that might be interesting for you. For example, if you own a nursery in Hamburg, search for "search flowers in Hamburg" or "nursery recommendation Hamburg" to find people looking for your service. This approach may be a bit time-consuming, but it’s a good way to network with potential clients and employers. Whether you comment on the posts you find, network with the posters or follow them is up to you. You can also just visit their company website and contact them directly.

Groups: Network and share your ideas with like-minded people

Many countries already have LinkedIn groups for just about every purpose. In Germany, however, only a few groups have been founded so far. So it may well be that your search sometimes comes up empty. So in the example below, we’re looking for small businesses in Boston. To do this, we type in "small business + Boston" and get a whole bunch of results.

The members in these groups are looking for contacts just like you are. Therefore, a group is a good starting point to get started networking. Especially if you don’t want to write to people directly (yet).

Events: Find virtual events for networking

These days, more and more event organizers are offering online alternatives to their offline events. Some have even moved their events completely online. This works very well thanks to the wide range of tools for live streaming and video conferencing.

Using the "events" filter, you can search for events hosted by companies near you (that you can actually attend in person) or search for keywords related to your industry. For example "Self-employed.

Often you will find online courses and webinars like this. The good thing about it: Attendance is free at many of them. So you can continue your education even if you’re in the process of saving money with your business.

Networking on LinkedIn is a great way to advance yourself and your business. Especially if you mainly work from home or local networking events are thin on the ground right now. Even if you’re going through a professional crisis, a good network can help you boost your self-confidence.

How do you build your network? Share your tips with us and other self-employed people on Instagram or Facebook.

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