After a conversation this week with someone just starting an independent business, one of the first things I did was send my new friend an invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

This social networking site has more than 100 million members in more than 200 countries, and includes executives from all 2010 Fortune 500 companies. So whether you’re looking for potential customers or just want to connect with other people, chances are you’ll find someone of interest there.

My friend and I discussed a lot of other tips for indie success, but here are some of the specific points about LinkedIn I mentioned:


  • First, you need to be seen. Work on your profile to include all the pieces suggested by LinkedIn.
  • Include key words that describe what you are passionate about, what makes you different from others and what you do so people can find you.
  • LinkedIn helpfully shows you how close you are to completion. To reach 100%, you must include all the basic sections, including recommendations.
  • A good time to ask for a recommendation is when a client praises you for a project you’ve just completed.
  • LinkedIn has a new section where you can add volunteer experience, and you should, especially if you are a student or just starting out and don’t have many other ways to show your capabilities. Go to Profile > Add Sections > Volunteer Experience & Causes.

Building relationships:

  • Find people you know and make a connection.
  • Don’t just send the generic invite; personalize it to include a note about where you met, who you have in common or why else you want to connect.
  • Remember it’s not a numbers game. More important than having thousands of names is having a real connection with people who know you and trust you.

Work it:

  • When you meet others and exchange cards at networking events, ask if they are on LinkedIn and if you can connect there as well. Do that within 24 hours, reminding them where you met and maybe what you had in common.
  • Search LinkedIn groups and join ones related to your field. Ask and answer questions related to your interests or areas of expertise.
  • Use the search function to research potential employers, businesses or specific people you want to target.
  • Use the status updates wisely, keeping them professional and relevant.

Do you have any other LinkedIn tips to share? What particularly works for you? Let me know in the comments.

More LinkedIn tips:

Social Media Examiner’s 5 simple steps to improve visibility
My own previous post recapping a presentation on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn’s five ways to make the most of LinkedIn.
Helpful LinkedIn etiquette tips.