LinkedIn starter guide

LinkedIn starter guide

Set up your LinkedIn profile | Build a presence | Find work

This post covers the basics of producing a decent LinkedIn profile, building your presence on the platform and using the search field to look for good leads.

Before the start of 2017, I was a complete LinkedIn loser. No one was looking at my lame CV-style profile. I didn’t get any likes or comments on my (mostly automated) posts. And serious work offers were few and far between.

But now I’ve turned things around on LinkedIn. My content is being read and my profile is being viewed by several hundred people per month, which has led to lots of new client enquiries. Follow the advice below and the same could happen for you.

  • Get your LinkedIn profile basics right
    • Use a consistent, clear headshot
    • Keep your profile banner image on brand
    • Use the right keywords in your headline
    • Ask for endorsements and recommendations
    • Make your Summary clear
    • Break up walls of text
    • Include a clear call to action (CTA)
    • Change the default profile URL
  • Build your presence (inbound marketing)
    • Write short-form posts
    • Don’t add hyperlinks directly to your posts
    • Engage, engage, engage
    • Tag/mention relevant people
    • Use hashtags to categorise your content
    • Write long-form articles
  • Look for work (outbound marketing)
    • Search for posts where people are looking for your service
    • Search for people in the right positions to hire you
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Get your LinkedIn profile basics right

Before you move on to the rest of the tips in this section, see what inspiration you get from this video review of 5 excellent LinkedIn profiles:

Profiles reviewed in the above video:

  1. Brenda Meller
  2. Sid Clark
  3. Hils Crisp
  4. Mark Williams
  5. Michal Eisikowitz

Use a consistent, clear headshot

Use a headshot that clearly shows your face. It doesn’t have to be a super formal photo – but think about what impression you want to give viewers.

Use the same headshot everywhere – on your website, social profiles, printed materials, etc.

Keep a text file to record every location where your profile photo has been used. This will make future updates easy.

Keep your profile banner image on brand

Add a profile banner that’s 1584×396 pixels – keep this on brand to match the look and feel of your website.

If you don’t have a visual brand identity yet, keep the banner simple. Even a flat colour with your name or service description would be better than leaving the default banner in place.

Put your important information to the right of the banner. Differences between the desktop and mobile versions of LinkedIn mean that side is the only part guaranteed to be viewable.

Use the right keywords in your headline

You can write up to 220 characters in your headline. But remember that this is a headline, not a short story.

Limit your headline to 10–15 words and use keywords in your headline that match featured items in your Skills section.

I tweak my headline now and then. At the time of writing, it’s this:

Relentlessly helpful technical copywriter | B2B copywriting for websites & blogs

Only the first handful of words in your headline are shown beneath your name when you write a post or add a comment. Be clear about what you do in those opening words.

  • I support professionals and companies by writing content for their business websites
  • Website content writer …

Ask for endorsements and recommendations

Endorsements are where people click a button to confirm that you have the skill you say you have. People can also endorse you for new skills that aren’t listed on your profile.

Endorsements aren’t essential but can be useful for improving your chances of appearing in search results.

For this to work, you need an endorsement for a skill that also appears in your headline.

In my case, I have ‘copywriting’ in my headline and that’s also one of my skills I’m endorsed for.

That means I have a better chance of being found for searches on that keyword.

Recommendations are one step up from endorsements.

They’re written testimonials that can be submitted only by the giver of the testimonial, i.e. you can’t make them up. This makes them good proof that you know your stuff (or that you’re good at bribing).

Reuse the text of LinkedIn recommendations on your website and other marketing materials. It’s polite to ask for permission first, especially if you’re going to publish the person’s photo along with the text.

Tracey Tait

Tracey Tait
Chatty, Tea-loving Content Marketer

John helped me to create a LinkedIn profile not only to be proud of, but one that now helps me to be found more easily by my audience.

The video review of my profile, and accompanying document John provided, made it simple for me to update my profile and to see where my old profile had been going wrong.

Make your Summary clear

Start the Summary section with a clear problem statement. What problems do you fix and who do you help?

Write the Summary section focused on ‘you’ (i.e. the reader). Remove yourself from the story and don’t write in 3rd person.

Include 1 contact method in the first couple of lines of the Summary section. This means that even if someone doesn’t expand your Summary, they still know how to get in touch.

Place your other contact details at the end of the Summary.

Break up walls of text

Use ALL CAPS for subheadings in your Summary. Use emojis as bullet list markers.

Avoid walls of text. Use 2–3 sentences per paragraph. Be less boring than these instructions. Put a smile in your writing.

Include a clear call to action (CTA)

At the end of the Summary and in your posts and articles, give the reader an action to take. What’s the ideal next step? Tell them in clear terms.

Whenever you write anything promotional for yourself or your business, the CTA is one of the most important things to get right.

Change the default profile URL

The default profile URL LinkedIn assigns you will end in a string of letters and numbers. This doesn’t look great, especially if you wanted to add it to print materials.

Customise your profile URL and add it to your email signature. Here’s how:

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Build your presence (inbound marketing)

This section is about getting potential clients to come to you. It’s my main method of marketing on social media.

Write short-form posts

Post at least 3 times per week in the main Home feed. Keep the content relevant and helpful.

Think about your subject matter expertise and write content that keeps you top of mind about that topic.

  • LinkedIn posts can be up to 1300 characters.
  • LinkedIn comments can be up to 1250 characters.

Text-only posts and image posts (use 1024×576 pixels) work well.

If you’re brave, record and share video. A smartphone is all you need. If you invest in anything, get a nice lapel mic. People will forgive poor video but won’t forgive bad audio.

Make posts at least 3 lines long, to trigger the inclusion of a ‘see more’ link. When people click this, it acts as a positive signal to the LinkedIn algorithm.

Don’t add hyperlinks directly to your posts

You might not think this matters but the LinkedIn algorithm hates links in posts. So what do you do if you want to promote a blog post or some other piece of content on the web?

My guide on how to post links offers a good workaround: LinkedIn links

Applying this tip has been one of the biggest reasons that my posts now do so well.

Engage, engage, engage

Like and comment promptly on all comments you receive.

Comment on others’ posts as much as you can – it’s not all about you. Don’t be salesy. Be kind and patient.

Ask earnest questions and write in a way that elicits opinion and discussion. Comments are the gold standard of engagement on LinkedIn.

Don’t write deliberately inflammatory content just because you know it will spark a lot of responses. It might work in the short term but people probably won’t want to do business with a professional ass. Be nice.

Tag/mention relevant people

Tagging someone in a post or comment means they usually receive a notification about the content.

To tag someone, type the @ symbol then their first name, then pick from the list of options. If the list doesn’t appear, type a comma after the first name.

Use hashtags to categorise your content

Add common, relevant hashtags to increase the chances of your posts being found, e.g. #DigitalMarketing if you’re an online marketer. Search Google to find popular hashtags for your industry.

Be wary: hashtags can make your posts look busy or messy, so be careful not to use too many.

I use hashtags to categorise my content and reinforce my personal branding. Check out these examples:

Quick writing tip: when coming up with your own hashtag, try using words that rhyme or that start with the same letter (alliteration). That gives you the best chance of creating something catchy.

Write long-form articles

Republish your blog posts (or write new content) as LinkedIn articles. Your latest article is displayed on your profile page.

Publishing a LinkedIn article no longer sends a notification to all your connections. You have to promote the content just as though it were an external blog post.

The LinkedIn algorithm does not give special treatment to LinkedIn articles.

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Look for work (outbound marketing)

This section is about going out to find opportunities yourself rather than waiting for them to come to you. This is especially valuable when you’re starting out.

Search for posts where people are looking for your service

Use LinkedIn’s search field to look for phrases such as:

  • looking for a X
  • recommend a X

Replace X with your type of service. (Mmm … algebra.)

Filter the results by the Content tab, then sort by Latest.

There’s a how-to guide and explainer video here: How to get freelance work on LinkedIn

Search for people in the right positions to hire you

Search for decision-makers (e.g. project managers or commissioning editors) at organisations you want to work with.

There’s a how-to guide in my guest post on Andrew and Pete’s blog: How to search LinkedIn the smart way.

Don’t rush to connect. Follow them and then like, comment on and share their posts.

When you’re ready, send a personalised invitation that references some common ground. Don’t be a Pushy Pete.

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Download free LinkedIn starter guide PDF

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Let’s wrap up

Your best chance of winning on LinkedIn is to start by writing your profile so that it doesn’t read like a CV. Remember that you have to position everything to show your intended reader how you solve their problems. Make it all about them and you’ll be in good shape.

Once you’ve got a good profile, move on to write relevant posts and an articles about your area of expertise. That will draw new people into your network.

Combine your content creation with searches for work opportunities and for the people who could give you work down the line. Take time to build those connections.

These are the basics of navigating the waters of LinkedIn. Give them a try and save yourself from drowning 🌊

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Who wrote this?

John Espirian freelance technical copywriter

John Espirian – the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter

I write B2B web content, blogs, user guides and case studies – all aimed at explaining how your products, services and processes work. I also offer LinkedIn profile critiquing and rewriting.

I work from home in Newport, South Wales and support the (formerly) mighty Liverpool FC 🔴⚽️