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Monday, June 25, 2012

LinkedIn Etiquette for Freelance Writers: Guest Post by Susan Johnston

I'm the first to admit that my social media skills need some fine-tuning. Yes, I'm on Twitter (@kellyjamesenger) and I have a personal and fan page on Facebook. And I've been on LinkedIn for a while but I know I'm not making the most of it. So I was delighted to have Susan Johnston, author of LinkedIn and Lovin’ It, write this guest post: 

With over 120 million professionals worldwide, LinkedIn is an excellent networking platform for freelance writers who want to build their client base and connect with like-minded professionals. Unfortunately, many writers aren’t active on LinkedIn because they’re uncertain about the etiquette or simply don’t know how it works.

Here’s a look at several of LinkedIn’s main functions and tips on using these features.

·      Inviting connections.
Unlike Twitter, where people collect followers like trading cards, LinkedIn is designed to be a network of trusted professionals. The site urges users to only connect with people they know (or at least know of). When you send an invitation to connect, personalize the message field to ensure that the recipient knows who you are. For instance, “It was great meeting you at the ASJA conference! Since you also cover small business, I wondered if you’d like to connect on LinkedIn?” Much better than a generic, “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”

You probably wouldn’t friend an editor on Facebook (unless you were unusually chummy), but in most cases, it’s perfectly fine to add editors on LinkedIn, especially if you’ve written for the editor before. If you haven’t worked with him or her yet but would like to, check if someone already in your network is connected to the person and use the “request an introduction” feature.

·      Accepting or ignoring connections.
At some point, you’ll probably get invitations to connect with people you don’t know. Lindsey Pollak, a LinkedIn spokesperson who appeared on my LinkedIn panel at ASJA, has a great strategy for these invitations. If it looks like someone you might have met but can’t remember where, send a short message like, “Thanks for your invitation to connect! I’m trying to figure out how we know each other, so could you jog my memory?” Then you can decide if you want to connect (or not).

If it’s not someone you care to connect with, simply ignore their invitation (they’ll never be the wiser). If you’ve already added someone and decide to cull your connections, there is a way to quietly remove connections (again, they’ll never be the wiser).

·      Updating your profile.
As you update your profile, you may want to adjust your privacy settings so don’t annoy your connections with a flurry of activity. This is also a good idea if you have a day job and don’t want to tip off your boss that you’re updating your LinkedIn profile (as this is often a tell-tale sign that you’re searching for a new job). You can turn notifications back on once your profile is ready for viewing.

Some people link their Twitter and LinkedIn accounts so that their LinkedIn status gets automatically updated each time they tweet. I prefer customizing status updates on LinkedIn, because Twitter tends to be chattier and more casual than LinkedIn’s thoughtful, professional tone. If you’re a frequent tweeter, you also risk overwhelming your LinkedIn connections with Twitter chatter. Instead, set a calendar reminder to update your LinkedIn status once or twice a week. You could post an article you found useful (or even one of your own articles you’re particularly proud of) or write a quick status update about what you’re reading or the conference you’re planning to attend.

·      Requesting recommendations.
LinkedIn recommendations help build your credibility. The site offers a request a recommendation feature to make the process less awkward. However, you should be judicious about giving or requesting recommendations. I once had a publicist request a LinkedIn recommendation from me after she set up a single interview, and I politely explained that I prefer to wait until we have longer history of working together before I give her my endorsement. Reserve those requests for people who know you and your work well. You’ll have the chance to review the recommendation before it goes live on your profile. If you get a really stellar recommendation, ask the person’s permission to include it on your website, too.

Your turn, freelancers! How do you use LinkedIn and have you run into any of the situations mentioned above? Leave a comment and let us know!

Susan Johnston (@UrbanMuseWriter) is the author of LinkedIn and Lovin’ It, Rockable Press’ guide for freelancers and other creative professionals. Her writing also appears in print and online publications including, The Boston Globe, and US News & World Report. 


  1. Thanks for a great article. I use LinkedIn to greater advantage now than in the past. I joined two writers/editors groups about a year ago. Six months ago, one of them led to a freelance job lead that just came to fruition this month. I also have reached out and garnered good advice when making a legal decision about a writing situation. Makes me feel good when I see the time invested is worthwhile for my business.

  2. Delighted that I found your site, fantastic info. I will bookmark and try to visit more frequently.

  3. Great post! I was looking for articles on uses of professional social networking and I came across yours inspiring read.