From Freelance to Full-time on LinkedIn

October 11, 2013

fulltime

Throughout the past several years, the challenging job market and growing acceptance for working virtually have led to a boom in freelancing and contract positions. Many job seekers eagerly took on these roles and thrived in them. If you’ve been a freelancer, consultant or contractor and are now ready to work full time again, here are some ways LinkedIn can help you make your move. The key is to address the main concern a potential employer will have (i.e., that you don’t want a boss or that you aren’t ready to return to corporate life) and to demonstrate that the skills and experience you built as a freelancer will greatly benefit your next employer.

Here are five specific strategies:

1. Make Your Headline Shine

Your LinkedIn profile headline is prime real estate for two reasons. First, it’s the first phrase people will see about you when they click on your profile, and those first impressions stick. Second, it’s a keyword hot spot for anyone, recruiters especially, conducting searches on LinkedIn. Freelancers seeking full-time work should keep three things in mind when writing headlines:

  • Use your headline to communicate your value to an employer.
  • Include keywords and phrases relevant to you and what you seek. This will help you appear in the right kinds of search results.
  • Target your desired industries. If you have a niche, make sure your headline communicates it clearly and specifically.

Putting it all together, here’s one example: “Client-winning marketing specialist with 10 years experience in the healthcare and medical device industries”

Note that it is fine to include your time freelancing in your years of experience. Just be sure to remove words like “freelancer,” “contractor” or “consultant” from your headline and use them sparingly in your profile if you are now seeking full-time work. Instead, use more general words like “experienced in,” “expert” and “professional.”

2. If You Seek Something, Say Something

For job seekers, think of your profile Summary as a cross between a professional bio and a cover letter. For making the transition from freelance to full-time, I suggest you announce your career goal in your opening sentence so it is totally clear that you are now seeking a full-time job. Then you can summarize your previous work—freelance or otherwise—that has provided you with the experience and skills an employer might be looking for.

Here’s an example: “I am a project manager with 10 years of experience in the technology industry, with a special focus on developing mobile products and services. Through a variety of full-time and freelance roles, I have demonstrated skills including time management, risk management, communication, organization and calm under pressure. I am an expert user of Microsoft Project and other project management software.

After an opening paragraph like this, you should concisely explain your qualifications (remember, you are writing on a website, not in an academic paper) and highlight specific experiences that qualify you for the jobs to which you are now applying.

3. Show and Tell Your Freelance Experience

What differentiates a LinkedIn profile from something like a resume is the opportunity to show your work by uploading files and adding links in your Experience and Summary sections. Take full advantage of this feature, especially when describing the work you completed in your freelance roles. This will show to employers the quality of work you did while freelancing. (Just be sure to receive approval from clients before sharing any work you completed on their behalf). Examples include:

  • A presentation (PowerPoint, SlideShare or other) that won you a client
  • PDFs of designs, logos, articles or other original work you created
  • A link to a web article you wrote or one that mentions you and your work
  • A graph or chart you presented that proved your effectiveness on a project

4. Seek Strategic Recommendations and Endorsements

Of course your profile is only one way to sell yourself. Your connections can help you by giving you endorsements for your skills and recommendations for your hard work. Specifically, you’ll want your connections to vouch for the fact that you work well with others. This will reinforce the fact that you truly do want to transition back into full-time work with a boss.

To start, ask for recommendations from people who have supervised your work regularly or hired you consistently in your freelance gig. These people have the long-range view of you and have seen your work evolve over time. You should also ask them to mention your skills as a collaborator, communicator and manager. Proving that you can be an on-going contributor and team player will help you in your full-time employment search.

You’ll want to fill your Skills & Expertise section with similar keywords that prove your functional skill set as well as your ability to be a great employee. As for getting people in your network to endorse these skills, my advice is to be a “go-giver” not a “go-getter.” Give honest endorsements to others and it’s likely they’ll return the favor.

5. Network, Network, Network

A key component to any successful job search is the people and organizations you meet with, speak to, follow and ask for advice. Time and again, statistics show that networking is the most effective way to land a job. When it comes to transitioning from freelance to full-time, it’s important to broaden your network and alert your existing contacts that you are making the change.

When it comes to broadening your network, one strategy is to join new groups in the industry in which you’d like to work. (It’s also a wise idea to leave groups dedicated to freelancing or consulting so as not to send a mixed message to potential employers). In these new groups, be sure to make yourself visible by joining conversations and reaching out to connect with anyone who seems like an interesting new contact.

It’s also smart to expand your network by following the Company Pages of organizations that appeal to you as full-time employers. You’ll simultaneously learn about new jobs as they are posted and learn about people in your extended network who work for those organizations. Send messages to these friends-of-friends to introduce yourself and perhaps ask for some guidance. (Read this previous post on writing great introductory InMails.)[LP1]

When it comes to reaching out to your existing contacts, send personalized, positive messages or InMails to people in your network to share your news and ask for their assistance. Here is an example:

Dear Ellen,

I hope all is well – I really liked the article you blog post you shared yesterday. I’m writing to share the news that I have decided to transition back to full-time employment after three years of successful freelancing. I’m really excited to work for an organization again and to be part of a strong team environment. Would you be open to a brief phone chat to share your advice? I’ve always valued your opinion and I know will have some great suggestions, especially regarding jobs in the start-up world. And, of course, I’d be happy to do anything I can to support you.

Thank you and all the best,

Lindsey

Finally, if you’d like to maintain some consulting or freelance work while you search for a full-time position, one strategy is to create a LinkedIn Company Page for your independent work. You can design a page that includes a listing of your services, recommendations from clients and updates from you about the projects you are working on. To launch such a page successfully, I’d recommend sending a message to all of your clients announcing that the page is live and asking them to “follow” it to keep up with your freelance activities.

Good luck, I wish you all the best, and as always, see you on LinkedIn!