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How to Create a Great LinkedIn Profile for Designers


It’s a modern designer’s conundrum: trying to squeeze their creative work into a “business” site like LinkedIn. Where’s the font choice? The white space?

But the numbers don’t lie: plenty of designers are now getting lots of work using LinkedIn.

If you’re a freelance designer who hasn’t yet hopped aboard the bandwagon, you’re missing out.

That’s why we asked three Vitamin T veterans Colleen Nelson, Liz McBride, and Christie Barkan to give you some hot tips for making a cool LinkedIn profile that’s optimized and bound to get you more freelance work. These folks look at hundreds of profiles a week, so there’s no better place to start if you want to know how to build a great-looking profile.

“The first thing you need to do if you’re starting from scratch?” Colleen advised, “Make sure you have a fully optimized profile.” If you haven’t completed that, she recommends not making it public.

“You wouldn’t send a half-finished resume to a potential client, so don’t leave your online resume incomplete. It’s only tells part of the story.”

True enough, if you were looking to hire an architect, you probably wouldn’t choose the one who hadn’t completely finished a building. That shows a serious lack of commitment.

First things first.

What exactly is in a fully optimized profile?

  1. Photo or image
  2. Strong headline with keywords
  3. Updated and relevant experience
  4. Skills and expertise
  5. Your Name as LinkedIn URL
  6. Samples
  7. Link to your portfolio
  8. Recommendations

Still unsure how to proceed? Read on for more tips on optimizing your LinkedIn profile to get more job opportunities and show potential employers how great you really are!

1. Appropriate photo or image

You can either choose an image of yourself, your logo, or a piece you think would stand out. But Christie cautioned, “Use a picture that shows some personality, but keep it professional. Don’t choose something that would shock or distract a potential client.”

2. Strong headline with keywords

The headline is also called “the most overlooked LinkedIn profile section.” Don’t make that mistake. Be sure to develop a keyword strategy and get yourself some serious SEO action. A recent Mashable article shared these LinkedIn lessons:

“First, make a list of terms associated with your skills and experience. Ask yourself, ‘What words would someone search for to find me?’ If strapped for terms, seek inspiration from a job position you are interested in.

“Next, take those terms and rework them from the perspective of a searching recruiter. For example, you may have the term ‘digital strategy’ in your LinkedIn profile; however, a recruiter would be more likely to search for the term ‘digital strategist. Synonyms are also important; you never know if recruiters will search for ‘digital,’ ‘online’ or ‘Internet,’ so include them all. Lastly, you want to organically incorporate these key terms into your profile to attract both the search engine and human reader alike.”

3. Updated and relevant experience

Liz says, “In the experience section, keep your information current. If you left a job six months ago, make sure people don’t think you still work there. That doesn’t help anyone understand what’s going on in your career and could be considered misleading.”  

Even though LinkedIn is similar to a resume, Liz cautioned not to simply reuse your resume content on your profile. “If a potential client or recruiter opens up your resume and sees the same information they just saw on your profile, you’ve wasted a huge opportunity to tell them more about you as a designer. Always adapt your resume content to your profile.”

4. Skills & Expertise

Here’s another spot to use a keyword strategy.

In a blog post about making a compelling profile, ValueClicks’ VP of Marketing Jim Nichols said, “These keywords help power LinkedIn search, and help recruiters understand your strongest skills. That's important because a marketing generalist might have experience in literally dozens of areas, but genuine expertise in a smaller but highly desirable subset.”

5. Vanity URL

"Using your name in your vanity URL gives it a chance to appear in a Google when someone searches for you," says LinkedIn's career expert Nicole Williams. It also cleans up your profile and adds credibility. Not to mention it’s incredibly easy to do. While in edit mode, just click the “edit” link next to your current URL and follow the steps.

6. Samples

You may not even be aware that you can load up portfolio samples onto LinkedIn. We wouldn’t be surprised, since they only launched the feature in May 2013. But it’s another great way to showcase your work.

If you’re a designer and have used Coroflot or Behance, we don’t need to tell you how to upload samples, but in case you’re looking for some tips, HubSpot has some excellent ones in their blog on the topic.

Here's a few other tips that fall outside the optimize profile, but are still important.

Christie recommends following companies you’d like to work with and engaging with them in their online conversations. She also advised displaying (and joining, if you already haven’t done so) industry groups and networks you belong to such as your local AIGA chapter, AIGA national, IXDA, etc.

Don’t be shy about showing that you know your industry knowledge by posting and sharing relevant articles or even writing your own. LinkedIn is after all, a social platform.

But, said Colleen, “Remember that LinkedIn is for professional networking, with an emphasis on professional. If you post anything that you wouldn't want to read aloud to your potential employer you may not want to share it. “

If you’re looking for more inspiration and advice Colleen shared these links that have more tips for designers looking to create great LinkedIn profiles.

And Liz shared some designers’ profiles to give you inspiration.

Now get out there and make your LinkedIn profile work for you! If you need help, reach out to a friendly Vitamin in your area.

Any other thoughts on how designers can make their LinkedIn profile really stand out?

Please share in comments!

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