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How to optimise your LinkedIn profile

Ready to stand out from the crowd? Follow our step-by-step guide for a stronger LinkedIn profile.

Portfolio professionals use LinkedIn in a variety of ways. It’s a great space for following industry leaders and staying abreast of trends. And if you want to create your own content, doing so on LinkedIn can demonstrate thought leadership and expertise. Maybe you want to network with old colleagues or pitch for new business – either way, LinkedIn an essential tool for any portfolio career.

According to a recent Hubspot study, LinkedIn is 277% more effective for generating leads than Twitter and Facebook. And that’s because it’s more targeted to professionals.

Although, this isn’t guaranteed for everyone. It all depends on how active you are on LinkedIn and what products or services you offer. 

You can, however, be certain of this: future clients, business partners and colleagues will check out your LinkedIn profile before working with you. So make sure you’re happy with the persona you’re projecting online.

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To make the most of this platform, there’s one thing all portfolio professionals need to do – ensure that your profile is accurate, complete, differentiated and compelling.

Here are a few top tips to help you create a strong and memorable LinkedIn profile that gets you noticed for all the right reasons.

Choose the right profile picture

The first impression of you on LinkedIn is your profile picture.

Not only does your photo appear on your profile, but it also appears next to any of your activities on the platform, so 2nd or 3rd connections are likely to see your picture well before they explore what you have to offer.

Having the right headshot right doesn’t require a professional photographer or anything more complicated than a smartphone. The optimum size for your profile picture is only 400 x 400 pixels, so camera quality is almost never an issue.

Remember, your image will be presented in a circular frame, so keep yourself central within the photo to make sure you don’t need excessive cropping.

  • Professional but approachable
  • Good lighting
  • Plain background
  • Works well in a round frame
  • Directly facing the camera

You want to aim for a good balance between professional and approachable, ideally facing the camera directly or at only a slight angle with good lighting.

It’s also important to make sure the image is only of yourself, with a clear or plain background, otherwise it may be difficult to identify exactly who you are from the image alone.

For portfolio professionals

Depending on the services you’re offering it may be worth showing yourself in a work setting to give a sense of experience to your potential clients.

However, If you’re offering multiple services, try to keep your background simple and clear. That way there is no indication of service preference.

Pick a header image that provides more insight into you

Your cover photo takes up a lot of real estate above the fold, so make it count.

Think of this as a way to visually showcase your unique skills, offerings or passions. If you don’t choose your own image then the default header image is displayed – and that may make it look like you haven’t taken the time to personalise your profile.

Which is more effective at conveying individuality?

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The optimum size for a LinkedIn header image is 1128 x 191 pixels. If you use other sizes or proportions there’s a danger that the image will distort, cut off or pixelate. Try using an image double this (2,256 x 382 pixels) for a high resolution finish.

A custom image is generally a good way to start rather than cropping something to the correct proportions. If you have some basic graphic design skills you can give this a go yourself, or you can easily find somebody to design one for you for less than £20 through a freelancer site such as Upwork.

For portfolio professionals

The cover photo is the first way to show your potential clients the kind of services you offer, your approaches and your skills, so use it to convey how you want your brand to be perceived.

If you’re a front end developer, for instance, you could include images of your most impressive project. This instantly proves experience and gives the client a point of evaluation.

Make sure you have a descriptive and distinct headline

Don't just focus on the last role you had - tell us something unique about what you offer.

By default this will fill with your most recent job title if left blank.

However, by editing it you can describe yourself in a way that defines who you are and what you do, rather than only by a job title which may or may not describe you.

Our CMO Fiona, describes her skills and experiences as:

“Revolutionising the way the 🌎 works as a fractional…Founder | Mentor | COO | CMO | Coach | Brand strategist | Startup advisor | Board member”

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This tells anybody who visits her profile straight away about the diverse range of services she offers. Her title of COO or Founder alone wouldn’t convey her skills in the same way.

For portfolio professionals

Having the ability to change your headline to reflect your unique skills and focus is invaluable to a portfolio professional as it allows you to differentiate yourself and explain how you can help others, rather than be defined by a job title. It also means you can showcase the diversity of services you offer.

You can change your headline as often as your focus changes – which could be several times per year.

Think strategically about your connections

The more connected you are, the more opportunity there is.

If you have over 500 connections this is shown as 500+ rather than the specific number. Ideally you want to be connected to as many people as possible, so take the time to boost your numbers.

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Although, if you suddenly go on a connection spree, LinkedIn can flag your account and suspend it for suspicious activity.

You should build your numbers over time with between 5-20 new connection requests each day, and make your connections with a purpose. You never know what opportunities may come off the back of a friend request!

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It’s not about quantity – a large number of connections that you’ll never work with or learn from doesn’t help your career. It’s about quality – although quality at scale is even better.

How can these connections help you, but also, how can you help them?

  • Start by connecting with the obvious people like friends, family and people you went to university with or worked with.
  • Then expand to people you could learn from or would like to work with one day.
  • Make your connections relevant enough so that they say yes.
  • Make your note personal when you connect: provide the reason you’re reaching out or try using a question to take the conversation further.
  • And don’t forget to follow up when they do connect!

Write a concise yet memorable bio

The about section is where you can start sprinkling in a bit more of your passion and uniqueness.

It’s also the best place on your profile to showcase a bit of your personality, so try not to sound overly corporate or stiff. In terms of best practices, you should convey your message concisely and accurately in under 300 characters or use this as a succinct opening paragraph to a more expansive description. 

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LinkedIn has a stack system on their pages which means that if your description is over around 300 characters it will be clipped and a reader will need to click the ‘see more’ button to see the longform version.

For portfolio professionals

The about section, more than any other on your profile, allows you to fully describe the work you’re offering to your clients. It’s essential to use it effectively in order to give a sense of what you can provide. It’s also a space where you can inject a bit more of yourself. Remember, you’re more than just a list of past jobs – don’t be afraid to show it!

Your aim is to quickly make a unique and memorable impression.

Makes sure you're active on the platform

And remember, people can see what you've been up to on the activity section of your profile.
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This section shows visitors the public actions you’ve taken on LinkedIn, whether that’s posting an article, liking a post, commenting or almost anything that would appear on somebody’s feed.

In other words, it provides a general impression of how you interact with others, your passions and the kind of network you have.

It’s also a great way to market your services and get your brand out there. The more you engage with the LinkedIn community, the more visibility your business gets in turn.

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Engage with posts and articles that are relevant to what you’re selling. This will demonstrate your position within a wider network of people operating in similar fields and therefore give you more credibility.

For portfolio professionals

If you’ve posted on LinkedIn in the past, you can select your best posts and make them ‘featured’ so that they appear on your profile. Also engage with posts and articles that are relevant to what you’re selling. If you’d like to learn more about optimising your personal brand and effectively marketing yourself on LinkedIn, we break this down in more detail in our Catapult course.

Think of your experience as more than a list of jobs

The experience section is where you not only show the companies you've worked for, but demonstrate everything you've accomplished.
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Many see this as a box-ticking exercise, adding in the companies where they’ve been employed, but best practice is to use each previous role as a way to communicate a skill that you are currently offering and the things you’ve achieved throughout your career.

For example, if you’re working as a graphic designer, rather than just noting that you were a designer at a company, make a note of a product you worked on, what you did for it, which tools you used and what the results were.

One of the tips on how to optimise your LinkedIn profile is adding website links or attachments to highlight your past achievements.

For portfolio professionals

When you’re offering a specific service, make sure you’re demonstrating your skills throughout your experience section. Think of it as a journey that highlights not just what you do, but what you’ve accomplished and how that’s impacted the people you’ve worked with.

This will give clients peace of mind that you have developed your expertise across multiple roles.

Remember, education is about more than just diplomas

The education section is not only for formal education like schools and universities, but also allows you to display courses or professional qualifications.

Choosing which to display will depend on the image you’re trying to portray. So be strategic and only include qualifications or courses that are relevant to what you’re offering.

For portfolio professionals

Include anything that highlights your expertise – even if it’s just a half day course. Think of these as proof points that strengthen your offerings and illustrate that you’re constantly learning and upskilling.

Highlight your skills - and make sure you get endorsements

What better proof than someone else vouching for your skillset?

LinkedIn will generally prompt your connections to endorse you when they’re on your profile and sometimes on their feeds too.

However, especially for skills that are pertinent to your offering it can be valuable to reach out to contacts directly to ask for endorsements. Of course, don’t forget to do the same in return!

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For portfolio workers

Specialisations are so important for increasing your earning potential, so where possible focus on listing your specialised rather than generalised skills, which can then be endorsed by your connections later on.

Be aware of who you're following and engaging with

The interests section displays the influencers, companies and schools that you follow and the groups you're a member of on LinkedIn.

It’s all part of a wider narrative that you’re creating, and it’s visible to anyone who views your profile. So make sure it reflects your unique interests, passions, industry and specialisation.

For portfolio professionals

It is important to follow relevant interests that show your passion for the work you do, not only to portray to your potential connections, but also to stay up to date on the latest developments within your industry.

Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!

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