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The Strength of Social Media and How to use it as a Contractor

Scoring the best contracts isn’t all CVs and interviews. To really get your name out there in the modern digital age, you need to be active online. However, it’s not just a case of logging on, making a profile and sit back to wait for business enquiries to roll in. Like any offline transaction you need to engage and you will require a distinct brand identity, strong network and effective lead-generation strategy.

If you find and choose your contracts yourself, read on for some important tips on how to make a real impact with a strong online presence.

 

Step 1 – Choose your medium

 

As a contractor you need to spread your net and consider how you are going to reach out to a wide audience. A website for your services is good for brand identity, but could be expensive in terms of outlay and time to set up and manage. A more cost effective and quick way is to utilise social media. If you have more time to devote to online then a blog is an excellent vehicle to establish your credentials and authority without devoting big time on developing a dedicated website.

Social media is free and a great way to reach potential clients as it’s quick to set up and use. There are so many sites to choose from so the question is – which platform should you use? We suggest that you start by clearly defining your client and the primary form of social media that they engage with. You’ll be able to do this by looking at their website and finding the social icons they publish. Follow them to see what they are posting and getting excited to discuss. You should also note which ones they are most active on and whittle your choice down to these.

Most companies have a Twitter account to publish their PR and engage with customers. You can gain a great insight into their customer service strategy as well as their latest news and how they embrace business via their twitter postings. If you are keen to work with them then adopt their stance in your approach. We aren’t advocating here to pester them with messages but the odd retweet, comment or like will indicate that you are taking an active interest in their business.

If you don’t have a Twitter account it doesn’t take long to set up and there is no minimum amount of information to make your account visible. Simply add a photo and a short bio, then start following individuals and businesses you wish to have a business relationship with. These can be potential clients as well as those you have worked for. If you had a good working relationship in the past, they will begin to follow back.

If you want to build up a voice of authority then LinkedIn is ideal as it is business focused. Here you can join interest groups, post articles and provide opinions. The aim is to build up a network of contacts and receive introductions to new contacts and that obviously brings the potential to get new contracts. A professional profile with a strong career background and history is critical to succeeding on this platform. Due to the business development focus of this platform we are going to dedicate the rest of this article to using LinkedIn for your online marketing. We will return to other social media and online platforms in later articles.

 

Step 2 – Make a profile

 

LinkedIn is a valuable tool for contractors, because it’s based on connections – with previous clients, with other contractors and with potential end clients. But these connections won’t come without a complete profile.

LinkedIn profiles are more visible when they are 100% complete. That means adding the following as a minimum:

    • Profile picture – This doesn’t necessarily have to be a photo of yourself. It can be a picture of a job you worked on, something related to your industry or a logo for your services. However profile pictures with you in them do add a more personal and professional touch, especially if it’s a profile under your name and not a company. If you have created a brand identity, you could use your logo as your profile picture.
    • Summary – The summary should concisely explain everything in your profile. Your experience, current contract, abilities and what you’re looking for.
    • Specialities – Which specific areas do you specialise in? While your profile will highlight your broad area of expertise, such as accounting, your specialties will list things like bookkeeping, payroll or cloud accounting.
    • Current position – The contract you’re currently working on or your broad contracting title, such as “Cloud Accounting Consultant”. You’ll also need to add a headline, which will show up in search results. This can be slightly longer, so you may want to include some specialties.
    • Two previous positions – Choose your most relevant and valuable experience to begin with. This will paint the best picture of you and help LinkedIn suggest connections for you.
    • Education – Generally, this is so LinkedIn can suggest people who studied at the same place as you. It needs to be filled in to complete your profile – but it doesn’t have to be anything particular. Enter the last place you studied, whether that’s university, college, or high school.
    • Three recommendations – This requires some third-party involvement. You can ask friends or fellow contractors to recommend you, but be sure they work in an industry that is relevant to you. Alternatively, ask colleagues and clients to recommend you as you work with them. You can even recommend people you’ve worked with in the hope that they reciprocate the recommendation.

Once complete, make sure your profile is set to ‘open’ for opportunities, with ‘contract’ checked as your preferred job type so recruiters can find you for suitable roles.

Additionally, make sure you add the URL for your LinkedIn profile to your email signature and business card. That way, people you work with can find your LinkedIn profile, send connection requests and add endorsements and recommendations. This will help you to deepen valuable relationships with existing and potential clients.

 

Step 3 – Start connecting

 

Once you’re online, it’s time to start connecting with people. As mentioned, this can be previous clients, other contractors, potential employers or anyone you have worked with. Start by reviewing LinkedIn’s suggestions, which will be based on the details in your profile. Try not to connect with just anyone, as you want your LinkedIn network to be focused on marketing your services and generating new business with people appropriate to your industry.

Whenever you make a new connection, take a moment to thank them. At this point, it can be tempting to rush straight in with a cold sales pitch. Instead, try to build a relationship first. Have you written an article you think they would be particularly interested in? Have they recently posted a video you can start a conversation about? Could you invite them to a LinkedIn Group?

The secret to LinkedIn success is to build and maintain a positive relationship of equal value to both parties. Don’t expect them to do things for you and give nothing in return. Perhaps you can share their articles, comment, or write reviews for them. The ethos with LinkedIn relationship building should be to give rather than take; this will encourage your connections to give back to you over the long term.

 

Step 4 – Share value

 

With a captive and committed audience in place, now is the time to start sharing content. While it’s important to show you’re involved in your sector and showcase your expertise, people are primarily interested in content that will help them, so it’s important not to share or write content that’s boring or similar to that already available elsewhere.

Make sure you consider how your content can provide value for your target client. For example, you could explain how you overcame a challenge on a previous project, join discussions and answer questions.

By delivering that useful content you will actually help maintain relationships and build new ones.

Currently, video is one of the best ways to ensure your content is seen on LinkedIn. According to Social Media Examiner, “the LinkedIn algorithm gives native videos more weight so they show up more often in the feed.” So, any native videos you post will enjoy substantially more visibility than traditional text posts. Add in the fact that you can deliver a huge depth of information without overwhelming people, and it’s easy to see why video should be the vehicle of choice on LinkedIn for contractors right now.

If you’re not sure what to share, why not tell everybody what you’re doing today, interview an industry expert or discuss future trends?

Step 5 – Lead Generation

 

How will all of these activities help you generate leads? Well, if your content has helped people, you should be the go-to person when they need assistance.

Ideally, leads should come about automatically, but if that hasn’t quite happened yet, try sending messages to promising connections. Simply introduce yourself, what you do and how it could benefit them. Try to get conversations going and establish new client relationships. Before long, you should see some of these seeds come to fruition.

 

Step 6 – Maintaining Relationships

 

Having connections on your LinkedIn profile isn’t just cosmetic. And there’s no point having those connections if you’re going to let them fade away. Like any relationship, it’s important to keep in touch.

Regular communication, whether it’s monthly, quarterly or even just once a year, will make clients more comfortable getting in touch when they need help. Found a good article about their line of work? Why not send it over as a direct message?

Similarly, it’s a good idea to contact clients after working with them. Try asking for a recommendation on LinkedIn. Building up a respectable number of positive reviews is an effective way to demonstrate your expertise and build credibility.

 

Contracting success

 

A strong online presence is just one of the hurdles faced by contractors in all sectors. Contracting Scout is here to help you overcome them. We have access to a range of contractor services – such as recruitment agencies, umbrella companies, accountants and mortgage brokers – to help you thrive in contracting work.

Whether you’re new to contracting or an established contractor, feel free to contact our team to discuss your challenges and how we can offer further information.

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