One of the first pieces of advice Ira Shull gave me when I met him at a networking event was to join LinkedIn. Since then, I’ve heard him repeat that advice at many events and social gatherings. According to Ira, in his twenty years of working in publishing, ten of which he’s worked freelance, no other tool has found him more work. Recently I had the pleasure to interview him about how he uses LinkedIn and what his results have been.
Sūmèr: When did you start using LinkedIn?
Ira: I set up a profile early 2008, but I didn’t really start using it until people started contacting me—including people I went to college with, friends I had at previous publishing companies, and so on. I quickly realized that this was a valuable resource since people were finding me through it, so I added most of my resume information to my profile, got some recommendations from people I’d worked with as well as former clients, began building my contact list, and started really looking to see what I could use the service for.
Sūmèr: How did you use LinkedIn in the beginning?
Ira: One of my initial steps was to pick fifteen contacts that I thought might be able to lead me to freelance work and I send them a group e-mail saying, “I’m looking for work, does anyone know of anything? Please let me know. ” I didn’t ask them for work directly; I just put out to them that I was looking for work and let them decide how to answer. Out of the fifteen that I contacted, I got quite a few responses, including a job interview at a major publisher and several leads on freelance work.
Sūmèr: How is this different than other methods you’ve used to find freelance work?
Ira: I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years—professional organizations, job boards, freelance job lists, and so forth—and by far the best results I’ve gotten from anything to this point have been through LinkedIn. For two years, I paid eighty-five dollars to be a member of a job board in New York, getting their job listings. The person who got me into it said they got one job a year, and in the two years I was on it, I got one job that I made two hundred dollars from—and that was it. I’ve paid nothing for LinkedIn to this point, and I’ve gotten several thousand dollars worth of work.
I’m basically doing direct marketing, and even to get a response is a small success. No one’s said please don’t contact me anymore. In many cases I suspect these are people who wouldn’t pick up the phone if you called or wouldn’t e-mail you back.
Sūmèr: How are you using LinkedIn now?
Ira: The big change this year is I’ve started using the groups much more. I’ve joined a lot of groups related to my field and I’m a member of at least fifteen to twenty groups. Through these groups you have access to a lot more people. As long as you’re a member of a group, you can send e-mails to other people in that group directly, unless they indicate they want differently. So, what I tend to do is look through the groups for interested people, people who might have higher authority, or people who might lead to people with higher authority. I send them an e-mail introducing myself and ask if they have upcoming projects or know of people who might. I tend to get a pretty good response. In most cases people say to send my resume or that they might know someone, and in many cases it’s led to work.
I’ve found clients in different ways. In one instance someone contacted me—unsolicited—through LinkedIn and asked me to provide samples. Another I contacted and asked them if they had any upcoming work and got a job from them.
In another case I contacted an individual who was looking for editing services and pitched myself to him, and I’ve worked for him multiple occasions. This year I’ve worked with probably six or seven different major clients, and I would say that at least five are through LinkedIn connections, either directly or indirectly.
Sūmèr: Do you have any advice for people using LinkedIn to find a job?
Ira: It’s a great resource. You have to be very assertive to use it. You have to be willing to face rejection. It’s not a panacea or cure all for what ails freelancers, but if you target people through it, and are clear about what you want and are polite and have a track record—by which I mean experience, recommendations, and samples—I think people will respond to you. I feel people aren’t using it enough because they’re not really sure how it works and aren’t sure about the technology and they’re afraid to contact strangers, but I think that in this marketplace you kind of have no choice—you have to be assertive.
Sūmèr: Any last words?
Ira: LinkedIn changes things from a national marketplace to a global marketplace. Two of the clients I’ve gotten from LinkedIn are in Australia and Spain. It’s clear to me that LinkedIn connects you to people throughout the world. People who are freelancing need to expand their horizons, and not just think in terms of their town, their city, their state, or even their country, because there is work out there, and with the right tools and attitude you can find it.
About Ira: Ira has worked in publishing for over twenty years, ten years of which has been in publishing. He’s worked with a number of clients as a writing coach/consultant on projects from Ph.D theses to full-length manuscripts, offering structured feedback and guidance on various stages of the writing/publishing process. Currently, he also works with high school students on the acquisition of writing and reading comprehension skills through a private tutoring agency.
Visit Ira’s LinkedIn Profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/irashull.