How I Use LinkedIn To Connect With Potential Clients
LinkedIn might not be the sexiest of social networks for showing off your creative work but it’s helped me connect with more paying clients than any other and in this article I’d like to share how.
It’s nothing to do with the content I share on it, because I hardly share any.
It’s nothing to do with vanity likes or follower counts as this is minuscule compared to other platforms.
It’s nothing to do with discover-ability and clients searching for a fashion photographer, because they don’t.
It’s because LinkedIn is the ONLY social network that makes it easy to discover contacts by job titles and the brands that they work for. Two very important details if you want to discover the names of people who can commission you for work and reach out to them.
LinkedIn is the ultimate research tool for client prospecting.
Of course you do need to cover your bases first by completing your profile and sharing a little content so you don’t look like a ghost on there, so lets look at this first.
Once you set-up an account, LinkedIn does a good job of walking you through completing your profile and constantly prompts you to update it with new achievements, so just think of it as an interactive C.V/resume.
In your summary section, include a brief bio as you would on your website and add in a few of your latest projects to give it some visual spark. 99% of the profiles on here won’t have any enticing images so you might as well take advantage of that and stand out.
Next comes the content you share.
LinkedIn is not an artistic platform, so don’t treat it like one. Nobody wants to see you flooding their feed with tens of images each day, so don’t do it.
When it comes to sharing content, less is more and it needs to have substance.
The goal with our posts is not to penetrate peoples news feeds, I couldn’t care less how many people they reach in that manor. The goal is to simply have some good content showing in your “posts” panel which features prominently near the top of your profile because this is the first thing people checking out your page will see after your name, location & photo.
The type of content I recommend would be detailed case studies with images from work you’ve done and any written articles your produce that are relevant to the industry.
I have a publication on Medium where I post about visual marketing and producing content for social media which I then cross post on LinkedIn’s surprisingly good blogging platform. I can also share this post with any industry groups I’m a member off such as Business of Fashion etc…
The content you share on LinkedIn should add value to your reputation so that when you invite someone to connect with you, they have reason to. The good news though is that you really don’t have to post often.
Once you have 3-4 decent posts under your belt you can get away with one good piece of content every month or two just to keep your profile fresh.
Now you have your profile looking sweet and professional (I don’t need to tell you the importance of a good profile photo do I?), we can move on to how I use LinkedIn to discover and connect with clients.
The first thing I do when looking for a new contact is type in the name of a brand I’d like to work with in the search bar at the top. This will then bring up a list of people who have worked there past and present, which we can refine by ticking the “current company” box in the search tools.
Assuming it’s a fairly reasonable sized company this should return a list of people and their various job titles. I then browse through these looking for the person I feel is most likely responsible for commissioning photographers.
Now as I’m sure you are aware there are many different titles that this could be such as art producer, creative producer, art buyer, brand manager, marketing manager etc. and quite often you’ll find multiple employees at the same company who sound feasible.
This is where I find being connected with other photographers and creatives such as stylists, make-up artists and art directors very beneficial because as well as being able to mine their connections for possible clients, LinkedIn will display the number of shared connections in the search results and it stands to reason that the contact at the company with the most shared connections is likely to be the one who deals with freelance creatives.
You can then follow this up by looking at their profile and seeing if the job description they have written confirms this (assuming they have filled it out of course).
Now you have a name but not much else. LinkedIn doesn’t reveal a person’s contact details unless you are connected with them and you can’t send them a LinkedIn message without purchasing InMail credits which I never have. So what do we do now?
We need to find a way to connect with the person and there are a couple of methods for this.
The correct method is to look at your shared connections for a contact you know well and would be happy to introduce you to the person through LinkedIn’s official process.
The second method which I favor is to simply send them a connection request directly by ticking the “friend” box when it asks me to confirm how I know this person, which will by-pass LinkedIn’s security feature of requiring you know the persons email address.
Is this against LinkedIn’s terms of service policy? Absolutely.
Is it technically spam? I guess so.
Do I care? Not at all.
I know I’m never going to start spamming these people with pushy sales messages and harass them with mass mailers, so as far as I’m concerned it’s just a cheeky way of getting on their radar.
I also write a personal message with the invite that reads as follows:
"Hi Joe, sorry for the direct approach but I love your brand’s aesthetic and would really appreciate the opportunity to connect with you.
I hope you have a great day!"
To the best of my knowledge, having used this method probably close to a thousand times, no one has ever reported me as a spammer and I get a great return on invite accepts.
Once the person has accepted your invite request you are now connected and can lookup their email address and twitter link.
I will usually then send a personalised email to very briefly introduce myself with the subject line “Thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn” and then follow them on Twitter so I can interact with what they share organically and start building a relationship.
Once you have been doing this for a little while your shared connections will start to amass and LinkedIn will quickly learn the sort of people it thinks you are likely to “know” and start suggesting contacts to you. This has helped me discover brands and even creatives that I would likely never of heard of otherwise which is a great bonus.
There are some paid account options that remove some of the restrictions and give you greater search capabilities but I’ve never used them myself and you can also pay to place adverts on LinkedIn which will show up in the feeds of people with a certain job title in a specified location and industry but again, I’ve never bothered.
The end of the day LinkedIn is a business network first and foremost, so whilst you’re not likely to build a huge “following” or wow people with your creativity, I find there is no better way to learn the names of people who can hire you and make that first connection point.
Let me know how you get on!