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Confidence is growing and businesses are coming back to life after more than a year of struggle. Hiring is in full swing, and B2B gig workers are competing for project-based work. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. workers have been freelancing during the pandemic, an increase of 2 million since 2019. More than 40 percent of all white-collar workers fall into the gig category, with significant increases across roles such as IT analyst, project manager, marketing manager and data engineer. While the growth is good for those considering a gig career, more gig workers mean more competition for you.
It can help to have some leverage. LinkedIn was a new social-media network when I started my gig career in 2004. One of my clients recommended it to me, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. There are 61 million senior-level influencers and over 40 million decision-makers on LinkedIn alone. All it takes is one connection — a single spark — to create the right opportunity.
It took nine years for me to realize the value of LinkedIn for generating revenue. But in 2013, I began using the platform to find potential clients and build a network of over 1,000 connections. Since then, I’ve earned $700,000 from LinkedIn alone.
The one thing I know for sure is that the longer you wait to get started, the longer it will take to see a return. Here’s how I leveraged the power of LinkedIn to earn significant revenue and build my B2B business from the ground up.
Related: 5 Things to Consider When Building a Business
Step one: Maximize your presence
It all starts here. There are plenty of articles online about how to create a robust LinkedIn profile. Using the right language and knowing which options to toggle on can help connections find you and help you stand out to potential clients. Carefully building out my LinkedIn profile earned me dozens of writing projects, a six-figure leadership position and a lucrative business partnership.
Pro tip: Toggle on the career advice option. I didn’t have a mentor early in my career, and I’m sure I made choices that I could have avoided had someone been in my corner showing me the ropes and directing me along the way. Maybe you didn’t either, but none of us goes it alone. Teachers, family members, colleagues, friends, even neighbors who’ve pitched in to help — you owe it to them to pay it forward. That’s the best reason I can give you for being open to career advice. The second best? You never know when you’ll make a connection that will turn into a future client.
Related: 5 Reasons Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Great Mentor
Step two: Be proactive about connecting
Search for the people with whom you want to connect by location, title, industry, company name, seniority level and always, always connect for a reason, and never without a note. That means you should resist the temptation to send a connection request via the LinkedIn app on your smart phone — there’s no option for sending a note along with your request via the app, but by the time you find that out, it’s too late. A major fault in the app, but worth keeping in mind.
Beyond searching outright for those you want to connect with, reach out to the people who write or share content you find helpful, or engage with your own content on LinkedIn. I don’t know about you, but the people I want in my network are those who are active and engaged.
That doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to someone with a short note saying that you’d like to connect and thought it might be helpful for him or her to have a (your title here) in his or her network. The first time I did this was in 2013. My request was accepted, albeit the response wasn’t what I hoped: “We don’t have a need for that right now, but thanks.”
We both left it at that, but occasionally, I sent him a relevant article. A few months later, he reached out again, this time to set up a meeting. A few days after that meeting, I had a signed contract in hand for a project, which led to two more projects. I turned a “not right now” response into a two-year, $20,000+ revenue relationship by being patient and focusing on adding value.
Pro tip: Share relevant content from brands you hope to work with before you connect. In fact, if you can find the writer of the content, it’s a good idea to tag him or her in your post to give him or her credit — this also increases the odds that he or she will notice you and share the post with his or her own network. In order to tag someone on LinkedIn, you’ll need to be connected — a great reason to send a request!
“Hi (name), I came across your article on (publication) and found it (helpful, interesting, thought provoking, etc.). I’d like to share it with my network — would you mind connecting with me here so I can @mention you for proper credit?”
Related: 5 Ways to Create Real Connections With Your Audience
Step three: Pay attention to your feed
Being active on LinkedIn doesn’t mean only logging onto the platform to write a post or check for messages. Take the time to scroll through your feed and look for posts that could lead to work. I do this every chance I get, from waiting in the drive-thru line to pick up prescriptions to sitting on hold. In 2016, I came across a post looking to fill a full-time position. I wasn’t looking for a job, but I messaged my connection anyway and let them know I could help fill the gap until they found the perfect candidate. That led to a three-year working relationship and multiple long-term projects.
Pro tip: LinkedIn isn’t the only place to amplify your personal brand and find new business. New platforms, like Mogul, are focused on diversity and allow gig workers and entrepreneurs to create a professional profile and discover business opportunities. And social-media groups are becoming a destination for uncovering potential opportunities.
Whether you focus on LinkedIn, a new platform or a social-media group, if you want to draw the attention of potential clients — turn opportunity into revenue — show up, speak up and add value.