Most writers know – or soon learn – of the importance of using social networks to build their audiences and even get writing work. There are active communities of writers on Facebook and Twitter, sharing their work as well as connecting with each other and their readers.
But what about LinkedIn? The social network for career and business professionals might seem more appropriate for people working in the corporate world, but as The Balance Small Business points out, it’s an excellent way for home-based businesses and freelancers to build their career.
But just how excellent? Well, it helped me land my most consistent and well-paying writing work to date, earning me five figures in the half year or so I’ve been a full-time writer with prospects to make much, much, more in the coming year.
I’d started dabbling in LinkedIn several years before the end of my military career. In constructing my work history on the site, I felt I was taking a meaningful step in turning years of Navy Fitness Reports into something resembling a resume. Moreover, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with myself, it seemed like a good idea to connect to colleagues, acquaintances, and classmates who were already on the “outside.” I presumed that, like many officers, I’d retire and move into the civil service, work for a contractor, or head into the corporate sector with a company like Boeing or Amazon.
But a funny thing happened on the way to civilian life: I decided I wanted to do something completely different. I realized I wanted more autonomy and flexibility than a more traditional job would afford, and so a year before I retired I started moonlighting as a freelance writer.
When you get out of the military, you’re required to attend a weeklong seminar on transitioning to life on the outside, with much of the focus on getting a job. The seminar I attended even included a presentation by a couple associates from the Men’s Warehouse essentially teaching us how to dress (not necessarily a bad thing for most of us).
There was also a lot of time spent on the importance of building and maintaining your LinkedIn profile.
Of course, I’d already done a lot of that over the years. And by this point, having decided to freelance, I figured I really didn’t need to put much more time or energy into it. Somehow, I had made up my mind that the network really wasn’t for people like me.
But I went along with the class and made a few updates. I updated my profile to reflect my impending retirement from the navy and rebranded myself as a freelance writer.
That, I figured, would be the end of it. It would be fun to follow friends’ careers, but I didn’t anticipate being able to get much more out of the site for my new job as I dove headlong into bidding on writing projects on freelance boards in order to start building a portfolio.
Fast forward a little more than 6 months to January 2018. I awoke one morning to an alert on my phone that someone had messaged me on LinkedIn. It was a note from the president of a career services company that does quite a bit of business with veterans and transitioning military members. Because of my LinkedIn profile, she noticed that not only was I about to get out of the military myself, but that I was advertising myself as a freelance writer. Would I be interested in joining her team of writers helping clients with things like resumes and cover letters as well as creating content?
To be honest, it wasn’t what I’d pictured, but opportunity sometimes looks different than what we expect. The prospect of reliable work – which didn’t involve pitching to publications or websites – that would also directly help people was too good to pass up. After a few emails and phone calls over the next couple months, and we had plans for me to start onboarding as soon as I moved back down to Washington State. My first paid project was at the beginning of July, and it’s been steady ever since with the added prospect of taking on a bigger role and higher-paying projects on the horizon.
So, even if you’re not working for a Fortune 500 company or a government agency, LinkedIn can still be a useful tool in growing your career and business. After all, it was for me. In fact, for us freelancers who work from job to job – maybe for the same stable of clients, maybe not – it might even be more beneficial than for our counterparts in more traditional careers.
It doesn’t take an outsized investment of time and energy to create and periodically update a professional profile focused on the services you provide and the niches you work in, whether you’re a writer, graphic designer, or consultant. If you’re like me, the return on that investment might make it one of the better business moves you can make.