Confessions of a LinkedIn Profile Writer

Anyone who is in the business of writing LinkedIn profiles today knows that it is not an easy undertaking, nor an assembly-line process. There are no templates. A good LinkedIn profile writer will down to the core of an individual, find out what makes that person tick professionally, and deliver a story worth reading. It takes an artist’s eye, a journalist’s curiosity, and a scientist’s rationale to best package someone for a singular, memorable  impression that can create a competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

In December 2006, a few weeks after creating my LinkedIn account, I made the decision to move away from my traditional marketing communications practice and established a consultancy focused solely on LinkedIn. In retrospect, it was more a leap of faith than a seamless transition, (To give you a frame of reference, I came to LinkedIn at about the 30 million-user level, which makes me a late-stage early adopter. Many of my peers were not members as of yet.)

Early on, it became evident to me that the profile page on a social networking site for business professionals could be set up to drive favorable decision making. Thus, I crafted and strategically positioned my own LinkedIn profile for the business opportunities that I wanted. I evangelized my presence on the site, intending to draw attention to a specific page which extolled the benefits of working with me.

A LinkedIn Profile Writer’s Chronicle

At the time I hung up my shingle as a LinkedIn profile writer, there were but a handful of us in the world. And we were all aware of each other. Whereas people were discovering LinkedIn, they were merely creating accounts. Nobody was putting much thought behind the content they were posting on the profile page, let alone hiring anyone to write it. The profiles lacked polish, were devoid of brand storytelling, and did not include a call to action. 

Slowly, people began to understand what LinkedIn was, and how it could have utility in their professional lives. Several of my colleagues retained me to build out their profiles. At the time, I charged a pittance to write one—a steal, by today’s standards. They loved the work, talked me up in their networks, and I enjoyed a steady trickle of new business. Eventually, I was brought in to speak (for free) to networking groups, which led to other unpaid gigs at companies and conferences. 

Fast-forward to April 1, 2011: LinkedIn was in the midst of the greatest growth spurt in its history, blowing past the 100 million user mark, and climbing at the rate of 5 million new users per month. On May 19, 2011, LinkedIn Corporation went public with an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Soon thereafter, the master switch got flipped. People started to care about personal branding. LinkedIn profile writers were coming out of the woodwork. LinkedIn became LinkedIn.

Within the next few years, the demand for my services shot through the roof. I was fielding inquires from professionals in all walks of business from all over the globe. I was frequently coming up at or near the top in searches for LinkedIn profile writers, both on Google and internally on LinkedIn. I consistently operated well above my bandwidth, taking on more work than I could handle. Every day, I hit the ground running early and stayed up late. Take a vacation? No way. I’ve got LinkedIn profiles to write.

At my peak, I was writing anywhere between 15-20 LinkedIn profiles per month and making a living (somewhat). It was becoming increasingly difficult to deliver finished drafts within the time frame I promised. Those in my inner circle saw that I was rapidly approaching burnout, and were eager to offer me advice on how to scale my operation. I listened. Their suggestions, although good, were things I had already considered or tried.

I knew that I could not continue at this pace. I had to create some semblance of work-life balance, or else I would fizzle out and crash.

But how?

1). I Could Clone Myself

As my queue of work was rapidly expanding, I was also speaking at numerous conferences, conducting LinkedIn training programs at various companies, contributing to broadcast media, blogging here and there, and networking my brains out. I knew full well that LinkedIn profiles do not write themselves; the responsibility fell squarely on my shoulders. I could not hire a stunt double to take my lunches or fill in for me at my events.

In order to stem the tide of overload, I contracted another writer, which did not work out well. Suddenly, I was phased out of my own intake process and relegated to an editorial role. I wound up spending more time and effort training the writer and tweaking the content, while appeasing restless clients and trying to keep projects on track.

Seeking to replicate the personal brand experience I deliver, I am zeroing in on the instructional design for an online learning course geared toward LinkedIn profile development for thought leadership and lead generation. This video-intensive program will take people through the steps I use to filter information and integrate the pertinent aspects of their stories into their profiles. Stay tuned.

2). I Could Raise My Fees

Nowadays, a top-flight executive resumé writer can command upwards of $500 to produce a static document that, although still a barrier to entry for those in the job market, is well on its way to extinction. Now that the recruiting focus has shifted to LinkedIn, and the profile has become a more reliable assessment of a candidate’s potential fit for a position, the value of a  competent LinkedIn profile writer has dramatically increased.

When it came to setting my fees for producing a LinkedIn profile, the basic laws of supply and demand applied. As the need for outsourcing the written content grew, I experimented with different pricing structures. I found that if I set my fee too low, demand soared. When I raised my fees, the work product had greater perceived value, but I became no longer “affordable” to many people who could benefit from an engagement with me.

Today, I charge what the market will bear. I sell on value, and engage with those who appreciate what I provide. If someone wants to shop me around, or views me as merely a debit on a balance sheet, then we are not a good fit. Time is my only inventory, and I know how much of it I need to develop the profile content and dispense the underlying brand strategy. I am a drop in the bucket compared to what my clients can potentially achieve as a result of our work together.

3). I Could Build an Organization

Nowadays, people who inquire into my services realize that they can no longer be cavalier with their personal brands. They see LinkedIn as a vital cog in the marketing machine and need me to get them in gear. Stylistically, I have my own thoughts as to how a LinkedIn profile should be fashioned. That, I have discovered, is the take that my clients want. They would rather I not pass off the project to a less-experienced writer, or farm it out to a firm in Bangalore.

Knowing that there will be no shortage of profiles to write in the coming years, I continually up-level my craft and aspire to build even greater value into the work. There may come a time when I revisit the idea of bringing in other LinkedIn profile writers, perhaps even partner with a seasoned business developer. In the interim, I will tailor my service offerings to meet the needs of opportunity-oriented professionals who wish to explore the revenue-generating potential of LinkedIn.

Parting Thoughts

♦ On a platform where professionals are vetted for business or career opportunities, a stellar LinkedIn profile can be a difference maker. Yet most people lack the time, objectivity, or inclination to render themselves in the best possible light. They feel that it is simply too laborious, that they are too close to the subject, or that they can’t string two sentences together. They need a LinkedIn profile writer.

♦ Throughout the years, as LinkedIn profile writing has become commoditized, I have read one trite blog after another on the craft. Review the LinkedIn profiles of some of these bloggers; you will be appalled. They do not practice what they preach. And unlike resumé writing, there is no accredited certification program for LinkedIn profile writing. (Please do not be misled. There are LinkedIn profile writers who claim to be “certified” by some entity. Not true.) 

♦ As a LinkedIn profile writer, I dig deep to get the story, extract the best of the best, and build the document around my client’s desired outcomes. Mine is a uniquely collaborative process that entails strategy and joint accountability. My clients trust me to help them gain clarity on their professional narrative. Consequently, they tell a better story, garner more favorable impressions, and win more business.

JD HEADSHOT (FB Edit)Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His ability to spark others to action has earned him the moniker of “The LinkedIn Catalyst.” JD is considered one of the world’s top thought leaders on LinkedIn, and a pioneer in the design and delivery of LinkedIn education. He is also a globally acclaimed social business psychologist, keynote speaker, and frequent broadcast media expert on LinkedIn for business. Additionally, JD is adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an academic discipline. In addition to his blog, The Wisdom Zone, JD is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Forbes.

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