This article was updated on February 8, 2017 by the author.
Being always on the lookout for new client opportunities, I thought I’d give LinkedIn Profinder a try. It’s a recent addition to LinkedIn and is being rolled out area by area. It is set up specifically for prospective clients and freelancers to connect on projects. LinkedIn has long been geared toward employed professionals, so anything that caters to the self-employed is worth it to me to check out.
What is LinkedIn Profinder?
LinkedIn Profinder calls itself a curated resource and concierge service for people in need of professional services. A prospective client describes his needs and Profinder matches prospective freelancers to their projects based on information contained in LinkedIn profiles.
How does LinkedIn Profinder work?
The freelancer registers with Profinder. All you need is a premium LinkedIn membership.
LinkedIn Profinder vets the freelancer via their profile. What does it look for? A profile photo, a background photo, LinkedIn Pulse articles, recommendations, and relevant experience related to the services you want to provide.
LinkedIn Profinder notifies the freelancer by email of incoming project requests that match their areas of expertise. Profinder states that it also attempts to evenly distribute proposal requests among pros in order to give everyone an opportunity. It allows the freelancer to log on and see all the requests, not just those they received by email.
The requests are brief in format, and include a location, time frame, and short description.
The freelancer reviews the proposal request and, if it looks like a good fit, sends an initial proposal. The proposal is a fillable form that includes a fee amount, a phone number and a text field where you can write your proposal.
LinkedIn Profinder emails a notification that your proposal has been received. Then it’s up to the requesting prospect to follow up. If they don’t, you will hear nothing more.
Freelancers can choose not to respond to a request.
The prospective client receives up to 5 proposals with links to the freelancers’ LinkedIn profiles, and pursues what they think are good fits. It’s also notable that the proposal request expires in 24 hours.
When you log on to LinkedIn Profinder you will see a list of what’s available to respond to, what is “in conversation”, what has been passed on, what has expired.
Initial communications take place in Profinder (they’re “in conversation”) until a direct connection is made via phone or email.
All transactions occur directly between the client and the freelancer. Nothing is paid to Profinder.
The Downside of LinkedIn Profinder
The freelancer does not have access to the requestors’s name or LinkedIn profile. This may be in order to protect the requestor from unwanted solicitations. But it does not allow the freelancer to vet the prospective client before responding.
The freelancer cannot follow up with the prospect to inquire about the status of the proposal when all they get is silence on the other end.
Another concern I note with this service is that the client projects are not outlined in detail, so there is no way to determine the actual amount of work involved, and therefore no way to specify a truly appropriate creative fee if you are project- or value-based in your pricing. There is no way to ask questions, and also no time for a Q&A. The initial proposal process is bare-bones and appears to be intended to break the ice. The prospective client and the freelancer need to discuss the project more fully outside of Profinder.
The requestor may receive 5 proposals within minutes, so the freelancer needs to act quickly or be locked out from presenting a proposal. This happened to me. I was in the middle of writing a proposal — just a paragraph, so it was a matter of minutes — when I was locked out from completing and sending it because the 5-proposal limit had been reached.
Another downside of LinkedIn Profinder is the monthly subscription cost of almost $60.00. In January 2017 LinkedIn began require premium member status for users of Profinder. Freelancers cannot respond to requests for proposals unless they become a premium member, which, for businesses, is $59.99 per month. That’s an annual cost of over $700.00, which may send many creative soloists over the top on their marketing budgets, or opting out of the service and looking elsewhere. LinkedIn Profinder is still less expensive than Yodelist subscriptions which are now around $62.00/month for artists, but with Yodelist you choose who to target, along with valuable contact information to create your own opportunities and connections.
The upside of LinkedIn Profinder
The requesting prospective clients are seeking professionals with expertise. Although it does not base its service on the quality of your work, it is based on what is in your LinkedIn profile. When you update your LInkedIn profile, your Profinder account is automatically updated. Always keep in mind that the two are linked together, and to target specific types of projects you need to address your profile . Just having that one place to update make things simple.
LinkedIn Profinder expects a certain degree of professionalism and expertise. Prospective clients are trusting the service is not an ordinary crowdsource experience, and with a membership price tag of over $700.00 per year, low-end, mediocre freelancers will be filtered out. Freelancers can operate with some assurance that the prospects are bona bide gigs, with an allocated budget. It’s still crowdsourcing, but think of it is curated, high-end crowdsourcing.
With the membership subscription requirement, it is unclear whether those submitting proposal requests are working with large budgets. From what I observe, most of the requests are sitting on the lower end of the budget spectrum, making it questionable as to how many awarded projects will be needed for a solopreneur to recover the cost of their membership.
My tips for responding to LinkedIn Profinder proposal requests:
1. Write out a short bio and response to why you think the project is a fit for you, and save it in Evernote or other app. Then, when you respond to a Profinder request, simply copy paste and customize as needed to fit the project. Don’t forget to customize it. Be sure to read it over for typos before you send it. Having a pre-written description will speed your response process.
2. Consider your initial fee to be a reference point for the prospect. Always include a statement in your proposal that the fee you include is tentative and based on minimal information about the project, and that you will provide a more appropriate figure once you know the details of the project. Doing this will help prevent the prospective client from holding to you your initial quote if the work is greater than what the original request included.
3. Include a direct link to your web site About or Start Here page, along with a direct link to your portfolio or blog. Take them to your own web site, not to your LinkedIn or other social media profile.
4. Include your direct email address when “signing” your proposal. The earlier you can shift the conversation to points outside LinkedIn Profinder, the more it will benefit you and your prospective client because you’re making that direct connection.
5. Set up a phone appointment with your prospect so that you can get a feel for their voice and demeanor, and they can get a better feel for you. Email is good, but you lose a lot of communication if it’s all you use. The questions you ask and the insights you provide to the prospect during a conversation will tell the prospect if you are the right person to take on the work. Until you have a signed contract, you should be sizing up each other: Is this someone you want to work with? Are you someone they want to work with? Now that you know the full scope, Is this a project that you want to take on? Do you have room in your workflow to take it on?
Some Final Recommendations
Include LinkedIn Profinder in your marketing mix and budget, but do not rely on it alone for client prospecting. In Freelance Road Trip, I teach freelancers to be proactive in pursuing clients they want to work with, rather than spending time on fielding unfiltered requests. LinkedIn Profinder is not exactly crowdsourcing in the manner of Fiverr or Upwork, because it limits the number of proposals to 5 and it vets its freelancers, but it does not fit the marketing methods I’ve found to be truly successful over the long term. While I would not join another crowdsourcing platform (too many freelancers and too wide a scope of expertise), I did join LinkedInProfinder because it’s a little more exclusive.
On another note, with Upwork making the unprecedented move to charge freelancers on a sliding scale instead of a flat fee http://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2016/05/07/freelance-giant-upworks-new-pricing-model-sparks-outcry/#27e36cb9683d in an attempt to favor higher end, long-term projects, LinkedIn Profinder seems to naturally eliminate the lower end projects and less experienced people. Still, you will be allowing LinkedIn Profinder to determine if a project is a good fit for you, meaning, you won’t see everything that might be appropriate.
Another problem with relying solely on crowdsourcing to attract clients is that, as we have seen with Upwork, a freelancer operating through these sites can see her marketing costs double overnight. She has no control over the policies of the management. LinkedIn Profinder, for the time being, is free to and accessible only by LinkedIn members who are vetted for the service.
LinkedIn Profinder loves LinkedIn Pulse. This means you should publish articles on LinkedIn Pulse that demonstrate your thought leadership or point of view in your area of expertise. Since Pulse is part of the vetting criteria, you will not be able to use the service if you are not posting there.
If you are a visual creator with a Behance account, be sure to link it on your LinkedIn Profile so that your work shows up automatically in your profile feed.
So go ahead and try LinkedIn Profinder. Take a look at your profile first and be sure it’s up to speed. Post a few articles on LinkedIn Pulse, and then register on LinkedIn Profinder. Test it out and see if it’s a viable option for your marketing strategy.
Have you used LinkedIn Profinder yet? What do you think? Share your experience in the comments.