Leveraging LinkedIn When You’re Freelancing on the DL

Freelancing on the DL. Original image courtesy of stock.xchng®Many of my favorite marketing tactics include using social media (also called social networks). As I’ve written before, LinkedIn is an incredibly valuable marketing tool for entrepreneurs and freelancers.

But what if you’re freelancing or starting up a business on the side? A friend recently asked me how she could leverage LinkedIn for freelancing even though she’s still working a full-time job.

It’s a good question and one that should be carefully considered. When I worked for a large company, a co-worker’s LinkedIn profile could be grounds for gossip: a heavily updated profile could be signs that someone was looking for a new job; connections with new companies were viewed with suspicion. I’m not saying it was right; it was just fact in my competitive department.

However, you can still use LinkedIn effectively—and without raising eyebrows—even if you’re freelancing on the side. While not every tip may work for your specific situation, this should help you get started.

  • First, make sure your freelancing doesn’t conflict with your day job. My friend is the perfect example: she’s published several essays and that freelancing work doesn’t have anything to do with her full-time job or the company where she works. Many companies have non-compete agreements—are more are enforcing them—so it pays to stay within the rules.
  • With that said, share your extracurricular achievements with your boss. As long as your manager knows you’re doing your best for him or her, you have nothing to worry about. And keeping your boss informed will keep her happy if someone sees your new LinkedIn profile addition and mentions it.
  • When adding your freelance work, be specific with your title. You’ll essentially be adding a position (to use LinkedIn language), so being specific will (1) avoid confusion at work and (2) help you be found in key word searches. For example, don’t just list yourself as a “freelance writer.” As in my friend’s case, she could list herself as a “freelance essay writer” or as a “freelance writer, creative non-fiction.”
  • Show off your accomplishments. While you should be careful with the title you use, don’t be shy about listing your credits in the “description” section. Of course, if you’ve freelanced for a competitor, by all means keep that to yourself. If you have been published, include links to your work.
  • Be smart about your groups. If you are a full-time designer at an advertising agency, joining a LinkedIn group called “Freelance Advertising Creatives” will immediately send up red flags. Even if you hide the logo on your profile, LinkedIn could still publish it in their weekly Network Updates. And if your boss is a member of your network, that news will go straight to his inbox.
  • As your new LinkedIn addition ages, you can grow bolder. Over time, you can begin moving your freelance work closer to center stage, especially if it’s your plan to be a full-time freelancer or open your own business. You can highlight your side projects in the “specialty” section of your profile as well as in areas like position descriptions. Always keep in mind that LinkedIn is not shy about announcing changes you make to your profile.

Before I took the leap to full-fledged freelancer, I had added elements of freelancing to my profile. Since I was open with my boss and direct teammates about taking writing classes, it didn’t raise any eyebrows. Only after I announced my cubicle-abandoning plans, did I completely overhaul my LinkedIn profile, putting my a.k.a writer business front and center.

Your turn. Do you have LinkedIn tips you can share with readers who are balancing full-time jobs with freelancing? Do you think it’s risky to add freelancing or a start-up business if you’re also gainfully employed? Is there a LinkedIn group that you’ve found to be helpful for freelancers? Please share in the comments below.

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5 thoughts on “Leveraging LinkedIn When You’re Freelancing on the DL

  1. Susan, thanks for sharing your excellent tip on recommendations! I especially love your suggestion to recommend a co-worker first. Very smart. I didn’t realize that you were outed as a freelancer in The Boston Globe. Wow.

    Liz, glad you liked the post. You’re right: it’s certainly possible to create separate profiles, especially if you use separate email addresses for each one. Two cautions: (1) your “alternate” profile could still come up in search results; and (2) if you go full-time freelance, you should consolidate your profiles. I’m surprised at the number of people with one active profile and one abandoned.

  2. Great post, Jesaka. I imagine people could also set up separate profiles — one for freelance work and one that is more aligned with their current full-time gig.

  3. Great topic, Jesaka! In my last company, it was fairly obvious when someone went on a recommendation-requesting spree on LinkedIn that they were hoping to jump ship. I would add that you can request recommendations from colleagues or others, but be sure to stagger those requests so you don’t go from zero to ten in a week. And you might start by recommending them so it looks more like they’re just returning the favor.

    I was freelancing on the DL (my boss knew), but I got outed with an article in The Boston Globe (the author used me as an example of someone who was disciplined enough to work full time and freelance on the side). Once the cat was out of the bag, I left soon after, because the timing just felt right.

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