How to Find Clients on LinkedIn and Transform Your Profile into a Lead Generator

During 2016 I was doing a decent amount of outbound marketing.

I was sending targeted messages on LinkedIn, reaching out to prospects in my niche, the normal cold outreach stuff.

But then something happened.

I opened a LinkedIn message from a prospect I never targeted.

It seemed to come out of thin air.

The prospect was looking for a freelance writer in my niche. They paid $1 per word. Would I be interested?

Ummm … yes!

At first, I thought it was a fluke.

Then it kept happening.

And do you know where these awesome prospects were finding me?

Yep, you guessed it … LinkedIn.

A few months prior, I read an article about optimizing my LinkedIn profile (just like you’re reading now!). I thought it was a great idea, so I spent a little time working on it, and then I forgot … until new leads started arriving in my inbox!

So, if you’ve been considering optimizing your LinkedIn profile, here are a few helpful tips I’ve learned for landing more inbound leads.

And if you want a quick guide to optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you can get the free cheat sheet here.

1. Cover the Basics

LinkedIn has a super-secret algorithm. Nobody knows exactly how it works, but here are a few low-hanging fruit tips (don’t worry, I’ll get into the more advanced stuff shortly!).

1. Complete your profile. A complete profile is more likely to appear in search results, so fill out any incomplete sections.

2. Expand your connections. A larger network helps you appear in more search results. For example, when searching “freelance writer,” I’ll see first-degree connections at the top of results, second-degree connections, and so on. Work to expand your connections each week (aim for at least 500).

3. Increase your activity. The more active you are on LinkedIn, the more you’ll appear in search results. Spend 15–20 minutes daily commenting, sharing, and liking to increase visibility.

4. Include all relevant skills. The skills section of your profile won’t just help you complete your profile, it will make it easier for you to get found. Include the keywords your target market searches for to find professionals in your niche (more on that shortly).

And one last thing: Make sure your profile is public. This might seem obvious, but if the public setting is turned off, searchers can’t find you outside of LinkedIn.

2. Master SEO and Find Solid Keywords

Keywords can seem like a mystery.

You know you need to include them, but how can you be sure that you’re using the right ones?

Here are my favorite tricks for finding the best LinkedIn keywords.

1. Discover the search terms you’re already being found for on LinkedIn. LinkedIn shows you what searches you’re already being found for on the platform. Cool, right? Under your profile’s “Analytics” heading, click on the search appearances section. Then, check out the words under the “job titles you were found for” section. Write these down.

2. Research job titles on LinkedIn. Another great place to find keyword ideas is LinkedIn job posts. Search the job title you think your target market is searching. For example, when I search “freelance writer,” job openings come up with that title, but I also get related results like “freelance copywriter.” You can use the related words too.

3. Check out other freelance profiles ranking high in search results. Type your target job title into the search box and scope out other pros’ profiles.

For each profile, note any keywords used in the following sections:

a. The headline.

b. The about section.

c. The experience section.

d. The skills section.

Also, here’s a pro tip: When searching, if you notice that a top result isn’t a first degree connection (they’re a 2nd or 3rd degree, for example) study these profiles carefully!


First-degree connections almost always rank before a 2nd- or 3rd-degree connection. So, if a 2nd degree profile is ranking higher than a 1st, that person is using some LinkedIn magic!

Study what keywords they’re using and where they’re using them (I’ll give you some ideas next).

3. Use Keywords Strategically

You probably have a decent list of keywords at this point, but you might wonder: How and where do you use them?

Here’s a few key places:

1. Headline. Use your top priority keyword in your LinkedIn headline.

2. About section. Use your primary keyword in the first sentence of your “About section” and pepper in any other related words where they naturally fit.

3. Experience section. Integrate your primary and related keywords in your job titles throughout your experience section.

4. Skills. Include relevant keywords in your “skills” section.

And remember, once optimized, don’t let your LinkedIn profile gather dust! Revisit it periodically, check performance, and look for improvement opportunities.

Also, a note about LinkedIn Premium. I’ve tested the above strategies with and without a LinkedIn Premium account. They work in both scenarios, but my results are better with a Premium account (I use the Job Seekers account, which is around $40).

Action Steps — What to Do Next

Ready to get started? Great! Here’s what to do next.

1. Start your keyword research. Remember, you want a “primary” and then several related keywords.

2. Review your headline, about section, work experience, and skills for opportunities to integrate keywords.
3. Get active. Schedule 15–20 minutes daily to engage with posts by commenting, sharing, and liking.
4. Monitor your results. Check your analytics weekly, track the words you’re being found for in search and of course, any new leads!
5. Download the LinkedIn optimization cheat sheet for quick reference.

And remember, results don’t happen overnight. The first time I optimized my profile, it sat for weeks before leads hit my inbox. So, make changes, give it time, iterate and improve.

Do you need help creating an ongoing marketing strategy?

Steal mine! Here’s the free template I used to generate $24,500 in new work.

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