LinkedIn is a valuable resource for career and business professionals to network; obtain resources and support; and build relationships with potential customers, clients, and partners. It's ideal for home-based business owners, freelancers, and telecommuters, as it can help them build their business and career, as well as stay connected to the outside world.
Overview of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social network specifically designed for career and business professionals to connect. As of 2020, over 722 million professionals use LinkedIn to cultivate their careers and businesses. Unlike other social networks in which you might become "friends" with anyone and everyone, LinkedIn is about building strategic relationships. Thus, the number of connections is less important than the type of connections. In fact, LinkedIn stops showing your actual number of connections once you have 500 because it's about quality, not quantity.
The site boasts members from just about every country and every industry imaginable. In fact, many Fortune 500 executives are on LinkedIn. The site has some advertising, but it’s not as invasive as other networking sites.
Working much like the "Six Degrees of Separation" concept, you start by connecting with those you know and who know you, and through them build a larger network for the purpose of gaining resources, finding freelance work or clients, and building alliances and partnerships. LinkedIn is ideal for building connections for freelance work, a customer base, potential partners, or simply to keep your job prospects open.
How to Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn has its own platform and system different from other networks, but learning how to use LinkedIn is no more difficult than learning how to use any other social networking site. Start by creating a personal LinkedIn account and profile.
However, networking on LinkedIn is much different. You won't find members posting cat videos or pictures of what they made for dinner. LinkedIn is a site for professionals, so everything is geared toward careers and business. As you build your profile and seek out connections, endorsements, and recommendations, you'll want to be professional.
Create a LinkedIn Profile
All you need to get started is to create a LinkedIn login. You can also upgrade to one of the paid LinkedIn subscriptions: Premium Career, Business Plus, LinkedIn Learning, Sales Navigator (three levels), and Recruiter Lite. Using just the basic free services is sufficient for many employees and home business owners and gets you features such as:
- Having a professional profile of skills, experiences, and more
- Limited insight into who's viewed your profile
- Ability to see 1,000 profiles per search
- Ability to save three searches
Upgrading increases some of these features, such as seeing more information about who's viewed your profile, the number of profiles per search, and the number of searches. Plus, upgrades can include additional features such as InMail credits, which allows you to message people who are not connected to you, and premium filters, which make searching faster and easier.
Once you sign up for a LinkedIn account, either free or paid, you can create your own professional profile. Remember, this is a professional-minded website, so it’s important that information in your profile represents your business or career. LinkedIn is not the place to share cute baby photos or party pictures.
Some of the items you can add to a profile include the basics of your resume, a summary of yourself, your contact information, links to your website or blog, your previous employers, published books, and notable projects. Don't forget to add a professional picture, as people are reluctant to connect with someone without a photo.
Because your LinkedIn profile is like a resume or business card, it's essentially a marketing tool. For that reason, consider writing a benefits-oriented profile, so potential partners can recognize the advantage of working with you.
Once your profile is complete, you can publish it and start looking for “connections.” A connection is a person that you know or would like to know. Essentially, the idea is to create as many direct connections as you can by adding people within your own professional circle and branching out to include their connections. Your connections can also provide introductions to other professionals you might be interested in meeting. Connections can also endorse you for skills and provide you with recommendations.
Use LinkedIn to Build a Home Business
LinkedIn can help you to start and grow a home business. It provides you with an opportunity to communicate and collaborate with other professionals interested in sharing business and industry knowledge. It is an efficient tool for locating those who may contribute to the success of your business.
LinkedIn allows you to:
- Have an online resume and business card where potential clients, customers, and joint venture partners can learn about and connect with you.
- Get online endorsements and recommendations for your professional abilities and character.
- Get introductions to potential clients, customers, and colleagues.
- Search available job postings placed on the LinkedIn website by members. While you can also search the web for jobs, through LinkedIn, the big benefit is that many job posts are exclusive to LinkedIn: They aren't advertised elsewhere. Those postings often have a requirement that you have one or more LinkedIn recommendations. Additionally, there is a chance that someone within your LinkedIn network already works there or knows someone who does, increasing your chances for an interview.
- Join various groups that align with your interests and participate in discussions. Having a group in common with another LinkedIn user is one way you can invite others to your network. Each group discussion contains its own job listings. Further, it's a place to share your expertise and build the trust and rapport needed to cultivate new clients and customers.
Staying connected with the outside world isn't the only benefit of LinkedIn. Learning how to use LinkedIn and maximizing all it offers can provide strong professional connections and boost your online reputation better than most other social networking resources.