You’re a content-idea-generating superhero.
The problem is, no one else knows it!
Let’s solve that problem starting today—with a controversial method for grabbing your prospects’ attention on LinkedIn.
How It All Started
In my post about how to get more clients using 1990s-style marketing, I mentioned that you need to really work LinkedIn.
That’s how I got many of my writing clients. In fact, by the time I closed down my content business, Hero's Journey Content, I’d say more than 90% of our clients came from LinkedIn. Even now, over 18 months later, I still get reach-outs from prospects on the platform.
But it didn’t start that way.
Like most people, I had high hopes when I built my LinkedIn profile. “We’ll add so much value that prospects can’t help but give us writing jobs!” I thought. And so my project manager and I churned out useful and beautiful infographics…reports…surveys…and many, many other resources for content managers and CMOs. (Not to mention some nice free resources for freelance writers!)
I also spent a lot of time searching for members who would make good clients and sending each one a carefully crafted, personalized connection invite.
But guess what? Everyone is trying to add value on LinkedIn. Everyone is reaching out to their ideal clients with clever, customized invites. Thousands and thousands of freelance writers just like you are trying to crack the code on what makes a post clickable and shareable.
Needless to say, it was slow going.
I noticed that some LinkedIn members were using software to send out connection invites en masse, but it always seemed kind of slimy. I could often tell when someone was doing this because the very instant I accepted their invite, a pushy sales message would zing into my InMail box. Yuck.
I reveled in the superiority of doing LinkedIn the “right” way. “It may be slow," I thought, "but at least it’s not slimy."
But then I realized: You don’t get brownie points for being slow.
Speed and volume are so important on social media. So what if there were a way to speed up the process of growing my LinkedIn connections…but in an ethical, professional way?
After some research and trial-and-error, I discovered there is a way.
How to Connect with More Prospects on LinkedIn
Let me preface this by saying that this is totally against LinkedIn’s rules. If they discover you’re automating your invites (or anything else), they can suspend your account. I take no responsibility for any outcome you might experience.
That said, my big secret was that I used automation in a customized way to simply do what I would have been doing manually…but faster. I:
Did not connect with masses of people at once.
Didn’t send invites to random people in incompatible industries.
Refused to use generic, salesy copy in my requests.
Didn’t follow up accepted requests with salesy InMails.
Instead, I very carefully selected who I wanted to connect with, sent them personalized invites, and eschewed hard-sell tactics. I tell myself that I gently broke one of LinkedIn's rules to help my business grow.
1. Find the right app for you.
There are a lot of apps, extensions, etc. that will automate LinkedIn connection requests. I tried the free Superpowers for LinkedIn, which is good, but eventually landed on OctupusCRM, an inexpensive Chrome extension that offers a lot of useful features.
I signed up for a Premium Business LinkedIn account for unlimited people browsing and more InMail credits; right now it costs $45/month when billed annually, and you can start with a free trial month.
2. Use Boolean searches to develop your list.
Using LinkedIn’s search filters, fill in the details for your ideal client. For example, you might choose Hospital & Healthcare businesses as the industry, select U.S. as the location, and ask for profiles from 2nd and 3rd+ degree connections. If you’re connected to someone who may already be connected with a lot of your ideal clients, you can select “Connections of” and type in their name.
The title is the most important search criterion, and this is where the Boolean search comes in. You want to make sure your search doesn’t bring up competing writers, so you might put in something like:
(CMO OR "marketing manager") NOT (freelance OR independent OR consultant)
Now you should have a rough list of people who may be a good fit for you; in fact, when I run this search I get 6,200 results. Load the first, say, 500 of these profiles into OctopusCRM (or whatever app you’re using).
3. Be a real person reaching out to real people on LinkedIn.
At this point, a total amateur will simply set the app to connect with all these people. And they will then get lots of ignored connection requests, plus complaints from members who are on the receiving end of these invites. Worst-case scenario, their account will also be suspended.
Just because someone has the right title doesn’t mean they’re a good match for you!
Searches aren’t perfect. For example, sometimes CMO stands for Chief Medical Officer instead of Chief Marketing Officer.
Automation apps aren’t perfect. They pull in members’ names with zero editing, meaning you’ll get a lot of people named “J.” or 🦄.
Not only that, there’s a limit to how many invites you should send in a day. Some apps will automatically stop sending before you pass over the safe limit, but not all of them…and it’s not a perfect science.
Instead, look over those 500 names, companies, and titles. I hired a virtual assistant to do this for me; she used a set of rules I devised for her to determine who would (and wouldn’t) be a good match.
The important things to look out for are:
Is this someone you absolutely don’t want to be connected with—such as a client you fired?
Is this someone you already know personally? You may want to connect with them manually since your auto-request copy can come off as weird to them.
Are they active on LinkedIn? If they have two connections and haven’t engaged with anything in three months, the answer is probably no.
Is your service truly relevant to them? Can you add value to their LinkedIn feed?
Is their name correct? For example, “M. Erica” may go by “Erica.” “Robert” may prefer to be called “Rob” or “Bob.” (Check their recommendations to see how other people address them.)
Does their LinkedIn name include emojis, parentheses, etc.? If so, edit these out in the app.
At this point, the first 500 names in your list should be people you really want to connect with, and should be active LinkedIn members with their names spelled correctly.
4. Craft your invite (but don’t try too hard).
Many apps like OctopusCRM let you merge members’ names into your connection copy, which can be a nice touch (and which is why it’s so important that you get those names right). If you want, you can also lightly customize your note by industry or location; for example you might create a list of people in the Boston area and mention the cold weather you’ve been having.
The big no-no here is customizing your note too much by including the member’s title, company, etc. Nothing screams “spam!” like an invite that reads, “Hi Linda, I noticed that you’re Creator of THE BRAINSTORM BUDDY APP in Apex, North Carolina, United States. Let’s connect!”
Also avoid sounding like marketing copy. Don’t promote your services, ask for a meeting, or name-drop all your most impressive clients. (I used to do the latter, and got a much better response when I started leaving that out.)
5. Send out your (non-spammy) invites.
Remember, if you automate your connection requests, you risk LinkedIn shutting down your account; however, if you do it in a personalized way and send to a reasonable number of people each day, your risk is not as high.
You can find lots of information online about how many connection requests LinkedIn considers "reasonable." I’ve seen estimates ranging from “20 per day” to “3 to 5% of your total LinkedIn connections.” (This means if you have 1,000 connections, you can safely send invites to 30 to 50 members per day…and of course this number will grow as you increase your number of connections.)
Whatever you do, play it safe. Start small. Increase slowly.
Is it worth all the work?
This method may sound more time-consuming than just connecting the old-fashioned way. But once you have your system down, it becomes a lot faster—especially if you outsource some of it like I did. You’ll have hundreds, or even thousands, of verified, double-checked names on your list. Then all you need to do each day is select the number of people you want your app to send connection requests to…and you’re done.
I always felt OK about using this controversial method, because:
I was sending to the same, hand-selected people I would have sent to manually.
I was using the same message I would have used even if I were slowly connecting with people one by one.
I was confident that the insights and resources I was providing would be valuable to these particular people.
Once I started using this method, our number of connections and followers jumped. We started getting more reach-outs from prospects, and that continues to this day—a year and a half after I retired.
Running a freelance business requires you to take some risks and break some rules. Will this LinkedIn method be one of your calculated risks? Or perhaps you'll brainstorm strategies to speed up other aspects of your marketing in a smart-but-ethical way.
As a freelancer, it's all up to you! That's what's so great about this business.
* I am not a lawyer and I don't work for LinkedIn...so keep in mind that if you try out this method, you assume any associated risks.