9 LinkedIn Mistakes that Stop Clients from Finding You

If you have a complete, client-focused profiles, a big relevant network, and are somewhat active, LinkedIn will rank you higher. 

LinkedIn has become a great tool for finding freelance work. But many freelancers make big mistakes that stop clients from finding them. It makes me sad to see this, because it’s so easy to avoid or fix these LinkedIn mistakes.

When clients find me by searching LinkedIn for “freelance medical writer,” they tell me that my profile came up first or second in the search results.

I used to wonder why I was ranking so high. I know that my profile is complete and focused on the needs of my ideal clients and how I meet their needs. But there were 31,000 freelance medical writers on LinkedIn the last time I did this search.

Surely some of these freelancers also have complete, client-focused profiles?

So I started looking at the profiles of other freelance medical writers. And I saw the same mistakes over and over again.

When I broadened my search to “freelance writer” and “freelance editor,” I continued to see the same LinkedIn mistakes on hundreds of profiles.

You Only Have 3 Seconds to Impress Clients

Three seconds is all you have to impress clients with your LinkedIn profile, says LinkedIn expert Melanie Dodaro.

And I agree with her. When I was looking at search results for “freelance medical writer,” “freelance writer,” or “freelance editor,” it took me less than three seconds to decide if I would have clicked on a freelancer’s profile if I were a client.

About 98% of the time, the answer was no.

Here’s why.

Search results include your headline and photo. Common LinkedIn mistakes in profiles that stop clients from finding you and clicking on your profile are:

  • A headline that doesn’t say you’re a freelancer
  • A boring headline that’s not focused on client needs and how you meet those needs
  • Not having a photo
  • Having an unprofessional photo.

When I clicked on freelancers’ profiles, I found many more common mistakes.

This made me really sad, because it only takes a few hours to develop a complete, client-focused profile that will help you get more freelance work through LinkedIn.

If clients don’t like what they see in your headline, then they’ll quickly move on to the next freelancer in the search results. And if clients do click on your profile and your About section is awful, they’ll find another freelancer.

Clients who search for freelancers on LinkedIn have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of freelancers to choose from (depending on the search criteria and filters they use).

7 LinkedIn Mistakes in Freelancer’s Profiles

Here are the common mistakes I found on the LinkedIn profiles of freelancers and how you can avoid or fix them.

1. Incomplete Profile

Completing your profile is super easy. And if you do this, you’ll outrank almost half of all LinkedIn members—because only 51% of members have complete profiles.

Complete your LinkedIn profile by adding:

  • Industry and location
  • Profile photo
  • Current position (under Experience)
  • Two past positions
  • Education
  • At least three skills.

Your current position should be your freelance business.

Also, you need to have at least 50 connections. I know that connections aren’t part of your profile, but LinkedIn requires at least 50 connections to mark your profile as complete.

2. Horrible Headline

Your headline—the most important part of your LinkedIn profile—needs to grab the attention of your ideal clients and make them want to learn more about you.

Common headline mistakes include:

  • Not saying you’re a freelancer
  • Now saying what you do
  • Not offering a client benefit
  • Being boring
  • Using words and terms like “self-employed,” “owner,” “independent,” or “independent consultant.”

Some of the worst headlines I saw didn’t identify the person as a “freelancer.” Clients searching for a freelancer won’t find you if your headline says “owner” “or “independent consultant.”

And if you’re a freelancer, clients already know that you’re self-employed and the owner of your business. You don’t need to tell them this.

How to Avoid or Fix this LinkedIn Mistake

You can use up to 220 characters to attract clients and make them want to learn more about you.

Clearly say what you do and how you help your clients. Use relevant keywords to rank higher in search results, especially “freelancer” and “freelance [writer, editor, etc.]” and your services. You can also include the type of clients you work with or other key information.

But you don’t have to use all 220 characters. The old LinkedIn limit of 120 characters is usually plenty for a compelling, client-focused headline.

3. Unprofessional Photo (or No Photo)

Having an unprofessional photo, or no photo, is a real turnoff for clients. Here are some common mistakes I saw:

  • Photos with kids
  • Photos with pets
  • Wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap, or sports clothing
  • Poorly taken selfies
  • Head and shoulders shots clearly cropped from a larger photo
  • Photos with a messy background.

How to Fix this LinkedIn Mistake

Use a professional head and shoulders shot taken by a professional photographer. If you can’t hire a pro, don’t use a selfie. Make sure the background for your photo is neutral and clean. Make sure your face is centered and there’s a little space over your head. Don’t include your pet or kids in your LinkedIn photo.

  • Photo size: 400 x 400 pixels
  • Maximum size: 10MB

4. Irrelevant or Hard-to-Read Banner Image

The banner image, sometimes called the cover photo, is the bar at the top of your profile that includes your photo. Many banner images of freelancers are:

  • Confusing
  • Pretty but irrelevant
  • Hard to read or even illegible.

If your image is confusing, and clients don’t immediately know what it is, then they’ll move on to the next freelancer on the list. Some freelancers have clear banner images that are not related to their work. This will leave clients wondering why the image is there.

And many banner images have words that are either illegible or very hard to read. I did my search on a laptop. If the words were illegible or very hard to read on a 15” screen, they’d be much worse on a smartphone.

How to Avoid or Fix this LinkedIn Mistake

The default banner image is fine. If you use a custom image, make sure it’s clear and looks great as part of your profile on computers, smartphones, and tablets.

  • Banner image size: 1,584 x 396 pixels
  • Maximum size: 4MB

5. Missing Contact Info

Many freelancers don’t include any Contact info. They do put their LinkedIn profile URL here, but the client is already on your profile and doesn’t need this.

Not including your email address under Contact info is a serious mistake. Many clients want to reach out to you by email, not message you through LinkedIn.

How to Prevent or Fix this LinkedIn Mistake

Make it easy for clients to contact you by including your email address under Contact info and, if you’re comfortable, your phone number. If you have a website, include the URL.

Also, include your email, phone number, and website URL at the end of your About section.

6. Awful About Section

The About section is the second most important part of your profile after your headline. Here are some of the common mistakes I saw:

  • No About section
  • Lack of focus on client needs and how the freelancer meets these needs
  • Long blocks of hard-to-read information
  • No bulleted lists.

 How to Prevent or Fix this LinkedIn Mistake

The first 220-270 characters of your About count most. That’s what shows before clients have to click “see more.” On mobile devices, about 102-167 characters show.

Make sure the first 220-270 characters build on your headline and offer a clear, concise client-focused message. Put as much of your key message as you can in the first 102-167 characters to attract clients viewing your profile on a smartphone.

Continue to use the keywords that clients are likely to use to search for a freelancer like you throughout About.

Use other keywords related to your services that people will search for, like the type of clients you work with, your key services, and industry-specific keywords.

Focus the rest of About on how you help your clients meet their needs. Briefly summarize your services and your relevant experience and background. Use bulleted lists for your services and anything else that works well in a list. Include some samples of your freelance work under Featured.

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7. No Call to Action

While it’s important to complete the Contact info section near the top of your profile, you also want to tell clients why they should contact you and make it easy for them to do that with a call to action.

How to Prevent or fix this LinkedIn Mistake

Include your call to action at the end of About. The call to action can invite clients to call or email you, visit your website, connect with you on LinkedIn, or any combination of these.

Learn More
Ultimate LinkedIn Profile Checklist for Freelancers

Other LinkedIn Mistakes

I also noticed that most of the freelancers who made a lot of mistakes in their profiles had few connections and weren’t active on LinkedIn.

8. A Small and/or Irrelevant Network

Along with a complete, client-focused profile, a large (500+), relevant LinkedIn network also helps you rank higher in search results. Having connections in common with the person who is doing the search is the #2 criterion LinkedIn uses to rank search results.

This means that your connections have to be relevant to your freelance work. Relevant connections are people who work in your industry(ies), do similar work, or are related to you and your work in another way.

How to Prevent or Fix this LinkedIn Mistake

Getting 500+ LinkedIn connections is easier than you might think. Ways to do this include inviting people to join your network who are:

  • Members of your professional associations
  • Clients and past clients
  • Past co-workers and classmates
  • Connections of your closest connections.

Being active on LinkedIn will also help you build a large, relevant network.

Learn More
10 Ways to Get 500+ Connections on LinkedIn Fast

9. Little or No LinkedIn Activity

Being active on LinkedIn is #4 in LinkedIn’s search algorithm criteria.

Also called engagement, being active is sharing content and engaging with other people on your content and their content. The more active you are, the more people who will see your content. Along with ranking high in search results, this will help you build your network and enhance your professional reputation.

How to Avoid or Fix this LinkedIn Mistake

Once you get used to sharing and engaging, it only takes about 10 minutes a day (Monday through Friday) to be active on LinkedIn.

If you’re just starting to be active on LinkedIn, review your feed and comment on other people’s posts. Your feed is the content that shows up when you click on your LinkedIn home page. Look for relevant posts by relevant people. Mention something you found helpful about the post, or add your own tip.

Once you’re comfortable on LinkedIn, share relevant content once or twice a week. Posts are the easiest and most effective way to share content

Content that your connections and followers would find interesting and valuable is relevant. This includes:

  • News and updates about your industry or specialty(ies)
  • Tips on being more productive
  • Other useful free content, like blog posts, podcasts, and webinars.

Most of what you share should be non-promotional. When you do promote something related to your freelance work, make sure it’s relevant to your connections.

Include at least a few sentences about the content, usually with a link to the full content (news, blog post, etc.). I like to include a headline too. You can also ask a question.

Add connections by inviting people to join your network:

  • After you comment on their posts
  • When they comment on or like your posts.

Learn More
How to Increase Your Visibility on LinkedIn

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