What Happened When 2 Digital Immigrants Embraced LinkedIn

Digital immigrants and digital natives can get freelance clients on LinkedIn.

Freelance writer Eleanor Mayfield, ELS came of age in the pre-Internet era. So did I. But both of us are getting freelance clients on LinkedIn—and building our networks. We recognized the importance of the number one social network for business in succeeding in freelancing.

Eleanor owns ELM Communications, which provides clear, concise writing and editing for a wide range of medical and health-focused organizations.

And my freelance business is Lori De Milto Writer for Rent LLC. I write targeted medical content that attracts, engages, and motivates audiences for hospitals/health systems, disease-focused health organizations, and other clients.

Even “Digital Immigrants” Can Get Clients on LinkedIn

In college, Eleanor and I prepared our assignments on typewriters. The computer class I took in my last semester involved putting cards into a big machine (a useless experience, despite my advisor’s assurance that taking the course would be good for me).

Eleanor and I are both “digital immigrants.” We graduated from college and launched our freelance businesses long before social media existed. If you’re a “digital native,” you grew up with computers and the Internet. You were young when social media and smart phones became part of daily life in the United States, or you grew up in the digital era.

If “digital immigrants” like Eleanor and me can figure out how to get clients on LinkedIn, you can too!

Why More Freelancers Aren’t Active on LinkedIn

Many freelancers have a LinkedIn profile but don’t actively use LinkedIn. Reasons include:

  • The belief that LinkedIn is a waste of time
  • Some interest in LinkedIn but little or no understanding of how to use it
  • Learning about LinkedIn and the time required to use it seems overwhelming
  • Lack of time to even try using LinkedIn.

Or maybe you gave it a try but didn’t get the results you expected, like getting clients on LinkedIn.

Get Freelance Clients on LinkedIn

Getting freelance clients on LinkedIn can be more effective than using other marketing methods. The stories Eleanor and I are about to share should ramp up your interest in learning more about how to use LinkedIn effectively.

In less than two hours a week, you can do everything you need to do to attract clients on LinkedIn, including by ranking high in search results. But first, you need to develop a client-focused profile and start building your network (aim for at least 500 relevant connections).

Drum Up Business on LinkedIn

Eleanor is an active user of LinkedIn. Check out her LinkedIn profile.

Staying in touch and reconnecting with colleagues

Eleanor uses two main strategies to get clients on LinkedIn:

  1. Responding to LinkedIn notifications
  2. Reconnecting with colleagues.

LinkedIn notifies us when our connections change jobs, have a work anniversary, or provide other career news. “A notification about a new job is a perfect opportunity to get in touch with my connection and offer him or her all the best in the new position,” she says. “LinkedIn notifications of job anniversaries offer a similar opportunity.”

By reconnecting with some of her colleagues on LinkedIn, Eleanor has also been able to drum up new business.  “A few years ago, I landed a client that became a major source of income for me after reconnecting with someone I had worked with several years earlier,” she says.

Eleanor’s contact recommended her to the client for work that she was about to leave. Since clients want to work with freelancers they know and trust—or freelancers recommended by someone they know and trust, the client hired Eleanor.

This is word of mouth advertising (a.k.a., referrals), a key source of clients for freelancers. Networking, including online through LinkedIn, is the best way to build the strong relationships with colleagues that lead to referrals.

In 2017, Eleanor once again reached out to colleagues on LinkedIn. She reconnected with a former client, and since then has worked on several projects for this client.

“Reaching out to existing LinkedIn contacts has led to new business opportunities for me,” says Eleanor. “These were opportunities that were unlikely to have occurred had we not been connected on LinkedIn.” Recently, Eleanor has been strategically expanding her LinkedIn network by identifying and reaching out to relevant connections.

Get Clients on LinkedIn through Search Results

Unexpected opportunities have also come my way through LinkedIn. Last year, I got an email from a prospective client offering me interesting, ongoing freelance work. The client said she found me by searching for freelance medical writers on LinkedIn.

Attracted by my client-focused LinkedIn profile, the client emailed me and offered me a content marketing project: a monthly e-newsletter. The next day I started work on this project. Within a week, the client had offered me another project. I never would have known about this company if the client hadn’t found me on LinkedIn.

And now, this client is one of my anchor clients. Also called whales, anchor clients are those extra-large clients that you can count on for steady, high-paying freelance work.

In 2018, 5 other clients found me by searching on LinkedIn. Most couldn’t pay me what I’m worth. So I wished them the best of luck finding the freelance help they needed and we parted on friendly terms. Another just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Use the right keywords

These clients are finding me because I have a client-focused profile—one of the easiest ways of getting freelance clients on LinkedIn.

My client-focused profile includes:

  • Keywords in my headline and summary, including:
    • Freelance medical writer
    • Content
  • A strong headline:
    • Freelance Medical Writer | Targeted Content to Attract, Engage, and Motivate Your Audience(s) | On time, Every time
  • Benefits clients get when they work with me:
    • Content that attracts, engages, and motivates audiences
    • On-time delivery.

Make Simple Changes to Get Clients on LinkedIn

When I updated my marketing in early 2018, I used some of the newer language (e.g., “health journalism” and “storytelling”) to describe my services in my LinkedIn profile and website. (I also hired my designer, Brian Corchiolo, of bpc creative to develop a more modern design for my website).

Having a website with content that’s compelling and a design that’s clean and clear helps persuade the clients who find me on LinkedIn that I’m the right freelancer for their project. And I make it easy for them to find my website by including the URL:

  • In my profile summary
  • Under contact information.

Within a week or so of making these changes, more clients started finding me.

And other freelancers have told me that when they followed my Ultimate LinkedIn Profile Checklist for Freelancers, they started getting inquiries from clients too. Using the right keywords, especially in your headline, is really important.

Connect with People who View Your Profile

Like Eleanor, I’ve also gotten referrals to clients who hired me through LinkedIn. For four years now, I’ve been working with a client referred to me by a freelance colleague.

My colleague regularly checks the people who view her profile. When she saw that a potential client had viewed her profile but hadn’t contacted her, she took the initiative and invited the client to connect with her.

This started a conversation that led to the client hiring my colleague. When my colleague told me the story, she mentioned that the client wanted to give her more work than she could take. The work sounded interesting and I hadn’t worked with this type of client before, so I asked for a referral.

And the client hired me—because she knew and trusted my colleague.

Connecting with people who view your profile is another easy way of getting freelance clients through LinkedIn.

Get Clients on LinkedIn by Being Active

Along with a client-focused profile, I learned that 2 other things help freelancers rank higher in search results:

  • A big network
  • Actively sharing and engaging.

So I worked on building more relevant connections and engaging with them.

Build a relevant network

Your network will only be helpful if your connections are relevant to your work. So focus on building a quality network, not just lots of connections. And the closer your connections are (e.g., 1st degree connection instead of 3rd degree connection), the higher you’ll rank in search results.

Engage your connections

Share useful, relevant content with your connections, and comment on their posts. Most of what you share should be non-promotional. You can share content about your specialty and/or industry(ies), or general content, like tips or resources on getting more done or easier ways to do things.

Increase engagement by responding to every comment people make on your posts, and by commenting on, sharing, or liking other peoples’ posts.

Make LinkedIn Work for Your Freelance Business

I joined LinkedIn in 2004, two years after it was founded. Eleanor joined in 2008. But it was a long time before either of us became an active user.

As “digital immigrants,” we were reluctant to spend much time and energy on something with uncertain value. We both developed a strong profile from the start, improving it over the years as we learned more about best practices on LinkedIn. We invited some people to connect with us and accepted some invitations.

But for years that was all we did. As LinkedIn became more popular, I bought a couple of books on the social network and began following some LinkedIn gurus.

Get freelance clients on LinkedIn

Whether you’re a “digital immigrant” like Eleanor and me or a “digital native,” LinkedIn can be a powerful freelance marketing tool.

Like most things, it takes some time and effort to learn how to use LinkedIn effectively and to get started. Once you have your client-focused profile and a growing network, you can be active enough to attract clients on LinkedIn in less than two hours a week.

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Learn More About Getting Freelance Clients on LinkedIn 

How to Supercharge Your LinkedIn Profile, with Free Checklist

How to Be Active and Effective on LinkedIn Even if You Hate Social Media

Word of Mouth: The Best Way to Get Better Freelance Work


Why Clients Need Freelancers They Can Trust

How Whales Can Make You More Successful

Why You Need a Website Designer, with Free Template

About Eleanor


LinkedIn profile

Eleanor Mayfield, “Find Your Social Medial Comfort Zone,” AMWA Journal, V33 N2, 2018, amwa.org. Available to AMWA members

About Lori


LinkedIn profile