LinkedIn is a business-related site for professional networking. It provides an easy-to-use way for small business owners to highlight their education and experience. It’s also an excellent way to give and receive referrals.
A quality, up to date LinkedIn profile showcases you as an industry professional. In addition, your LinkedIn profile will rank high on internet searches for your name. Expect anybody – existing clients, potential clients, and even your competition – to review your LinkedIn profile before contacting you. It’s not just your résumé. It’s your brand!
When developing your Linkedin profile, focus on how you provide value. A thorough but not overly detailed profile will build a positive brand experience and give users a reason to be confident in hiring you. Let’s look at how to create a robust profile.
A few tips to keep in mind when building your profile: write well. Spelling and grammar are essential. Keep verb tenses consistent and write about previous jobs in the past tense. Keep capitalization and punctuation consistent. Have a friend proof-read your profile before making it public.
Profile Picture: Take a clear headshot with good lighting. It should show your face clearly (smile!). Selfies aren’t the best, so ask a friend or colleague to take a photo. Smartphones are capable of taking a great headshot. Make sure you have a plain, uncluttered background. Wear professional clothing – what you would normally wear on the job. No ballgowns or swimwear!
Background Image: Pick a background image relevant to your job. You could create a design with your branded colors (see my profile) or your business logo. If you have a high-quality photograph of your work (e.g. an organized home), you could use that. If you use a generic stock photo, ensure there are no copyright issues before publishing it.
Use your full, real name. If you usually go by a nickname, add your full name in brackets or quotes, for example, Elizabeth “Betty” Smith. LinkedIn will also let you add a former name. If you gained experience and exposure in your previous name, add that to your profile as well.
The headline is the first thing a visitor will see, so it must be accurate and attention-grabbing. Even though it is only 120 characters long, the headline is one of the most heavily weighted fields in LinkedIn searches. Therefore, it needs to have strong search keywords as well. Look at the difference in these two headlines:
Jane Smith – Professional Organizer at OrganizeMe123
Jane Smith – Residential organizer who declutters your home to create a tranquil oasis in a busy world.
The frustrating bit is that LinkedIn takes your most recent job title as your headline by default, so you may have to reset your headline as you update your experience.
Add your country and city as a minimum – even if you are a mostly virtual business. Remember it is the world-wide-web. Make sure you use a professional email address too. Add your business website and professional social media profiles. In other words, add your Twitter account if you tweet about your industry but not if you’re tweeting about your personal life.
The about section is your “elevator speech.” Describe what makes you unique, and the value people get when they do business with you. This section should give readers an overview of your style and personality and inspire trust and confidence. I’d be happy to help you craft something during a 1+1 coaching session.
LinkedIn allows you to customize the URL for your profile. I strongly suggest that you use your name. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/geralinthomas/) LinkedIn ranks highly in search engines. With a customized URL, if anyone searches for your name, your LinkedIn profile is likely going to be at the top of the list. Avoid using your company name in your URL. Your company name could change or shift as you further develop your business or move into a niche market.
Education and Experience
This is the “meat and potatoes” section of LinkedIn. You usually find these sections on a résumé.
Write in short paragraphs (not point form) with straight-forward, easy-to-read language. Be accurate and concise – and don’t use jargon or buzzwords. Remember to turn off the “send updates to my network” switch. Your contacts don’t need to see every little change you make.
The education section is for your formal education – usually post-secondary. Add colleges and universities here. If you were involved in any extra-curricular activities, add them in but be brief. You might think that playing the Sousaphone in the marching band is superfluous. Still, you never know – you just might get a call from the city’s symphony director asking for help organizing their music library.
Include your job experience that is timely and relates to your small business. There is no need to include that you worked in a flower shop in college unless you plan to target flower shops with your organizing business. Only use the “years” field when adding your jobs, don’t use the “months” section. No one cares if you started a job in March or June.
If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for years, list your volunteer experience and what you’ve learned from working from home (because stay-at-home parents work 24/7). You can arrange carpooling for multiple events with multiple people, use technology to communicate and manage finances, etc.
Licences and Certifications: This section is for adding certification issued licencing bodies (e.g. BCPO). Certificates from training courses go in the Courses section.
Volunteer Experience: Great for highlighting soft skills (negotiation, conflict resolution) as well as hard skills like organizing, budget management, etc.
Skills: You can add up to 50 skills to your profile and choose three primary ones – anything from Time Management to Conflict Resolution to Electrical Engineering. Choose skills that reflect your talents and abilities. Your connections can also endorse your skills. This helps other people believe in your talents. For certain skills, you can also take a quiz, and LinkedIn will endorse your knowledge.
Accomplishments: In this section, list of courses you’ve taken (e.g. those at NAPO U and ICD). Keep them relevant to your professional life. No one needs to know if you’re taking pottery or painting classes unless your target market is artists. Add any languages that you speak. You can choose levels from elementary proficiency to native/bilingual proficiency. You can add patents, projects, honors and awards too. Add in any organizations to which you belong – NAPO, ICD, POC, Toastmasters, etc.
Interests: When you follow companies, groups, and schools, they show up here. Most people follow their college or university, past employers, and any associations to which they belong. You might want to follow companies and groups that align with your ideal client, such as local realtors. If you organize homes, you might want to connect with real estate agents in your area.
Recommendations: These are a fantastic way for small business owners to demonstrate their value to potential clients. If you were a stay-at-home-parent, ask your friends to give you a recommendation too. For example: “Alex helped me set up my online banking. She was very patient and explained everything. It saved me so much time!”
Build Your Network
Once you’ve built your profile, start building your network. If you already know the person in real life, you can send them an auto-generated invitation through the LinkedIn platform. If they accept your invitation, you’ll be “linked.” If you recently met them or you don’t know them well, send a personalized message.
Become Active on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is not Facebook, and one of the surest ways to be left out in the cold is to start posting memes and cat videos. Write useful posts. Keep your posts professional, relevant, and to the point. Start conversations and ask questions.
You can also publish articles on LinkedIn. Articles are long-form posts, similar to a blog post. You can add images, videos, slides, etc. to each article. Articles are a great way to contribute professional insights and share your expertise and interests. If you do not have a blog on your website or are waiting to build your website, publishing a LinkedIn article is a great way to build credibility.