When you go freelance, one of the first things you’re told to do is to join LinkedIn. A social media network just full of potential clients at your fingertips: what’s not to love? Just last week UnderPinned shared a piece all about making the most of LinkedIn, but today, I want to share why I’ve done the exact opposite.
These last few months, I’ve decided to be much more conscious about how I spend my time online. Whilst I’m far from a productivity guru, it was only when I started doing this that I realised just how much time I was spending scrolling aimlessly on LinkedIn: reading posts; adding new connections and batting spam away from my inbox.
Once I’d realised just how much time I was spending on LinkedIn, I started to think about when the last time I actually found a decent lead on there. Not a connection or a potential conversation that panned into nothing, but the last time my work had actually come from using LinkedIn. I honestly couldn’t remember.
It was then I decided on an experiment: what if I just ditched LinkedIn? Unsubscribing from email alerts (no, I do not want another premium trial thank you very much) and deleting the app from my phone and Ipad altogether. For the purpose of this article, I left my account up but the last time I checked it before writing this today was in June.
For Linked In lovers, my challenge has probably brought you out into a cold sweat. Just think of all the important connections missed! The work offers that could have landed in my inbox! Except, they didn’t. Logging into my account today, all I’ve discovered is a ton of cold call messages in my inbox; a bunch of random requests and a lot of humble brag posts.
You could argue that’s because I wasn’t active but the truth is you’re far more likely to spend time dealing with time wasters who want to pick your brains for free than you are actually finding a profitable lead.
Social Media Strategist Carrie Emmerson (@socialmediatlc on instagram) agrees. “I’m a social media educator and I’ve never used LinkedIn. My business comes through showcasing what I do on Instagram, Facebook and good old fashioned word of mouth! I I found LinkedIn very old school: I noticed a real disparity between those who use it for corporate purposes and those who don’t recognise that business is about people to people. In other words, those who want LinkedIn purely for the staged corporate photos” she adds.
LinkedIn isn’t purely for show, but think about where your clients actually hang out. “Where are your ideal clients? And where is your audience? For example, if you’re a visual storyteller who wants to work with like minded creative businesses then Instagram’s the one.” Carrie adds.
How I found clients without LinkedIn
Firstly, let’s talk about Facebook Groups. You may not have updated your status in years but you can find real communities for small businesses in groups such as Doing it for the Kids, Freelance Heroes, Mummy’s Got Clients and The Freelance Lifestylers.
In my experience, freelancers often outsource to or pass on recommendations for other freelancers (after all, we know how tough it is!) Being active in groups means people learn who the ‘experts’ are in different fields and before long, I realised I was being tagged in posts asking for recommendations.It may not be as formal as a LinkedIn endorsement but a tag has far more power in terms of leading to paid work.
Another option is Instagram. Since making a conscious effort to show my face there, I’ve found clients for my press support and blog mentoring packages far more easily. I’ve also practiced what I preached: hiring a Virtual Assistant purely from watching her stories.
I’ll admit I don’t know what University she went to but I do know how organised she is, the areas of work she’s passionate and the types of clients she works with- just from watching her online. Most importantly, I trusted her and so far, her work she’s done has been fantastic.
These personal connections also mean clients will be aligned with your ways of working so there’s a much better chance it will work out in the long-term. Whether that’s them understanding you take Fridays off or that you want to do marketing in a sustainable way.
Fiona Thomas, author of ‘Out of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss’ agrees: “Sharing my mental health struggles has been key to connect to my audience. People know when they work with me I’ll accommodate their mental health and be understanding. Sharing everyday aspects of my life – such as my morning workout – helps me connect with new clients and it makes the next step into working with me feel so much more natural.”
Don’t forget ‘face to face’
Of course, face to face isn’t always possible at the moment, but this traditional way of business (even if done via Zoom) can still offer far more value than LinkedIn. “From day one, face to face has been priceless. I’ve got some of my best partnerships through this. I then might use LinkedIn or email to follow up after that initial conversation,” explains entrepreneur Tanya Patel who runs maternity boutique Lily and Ribbon.
Here lies a potential solution. Perhaps I’ve been using LinkedIn all wrong and there’s a way to use it to support connections once you’ve had that face to face interaction; rather than wasting time trying to build a relationship there from the beginning?
So, what’s the verdict? The fellow freelancers I spoke to when writing this article have proven it’s certainly possible to have a thriving career without the platform. Running your own business is all about figuring out what works for you and for the moment at least, I’ve no desire to join the world of LinkedIn any time soon.
Editor’s note: Please see here for the piece Jenna is responding to.