It’s also about brand storytelling: each of us tells our own stories through blog posts, case studies, and updates so clients could see our growth as experts and understand if our experience is relevant to their values and expectations. Perfect for freelance specialists like me, who sell services, not products.
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Use LinkedIn To Dramatically Improve Your Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lesley Vos, a seasoned web writer from Chicago, who helps peers develop the confidence and skills for better content creation and promotion. She is a professional copywriter and guest contributor, currently blogging at Bid4Papers.com. Specializing in data research and web text writing, Lesley also has a background in education, is in love with words, and can’t live without literature and jazz.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was a child, I dreamed of being a teacher. So I entered university to study Linguistics and graduated as a brainiac willing to teach the French language. And I had been doing it. For two years. But there was a tiny detail I forgot when choosing a profession: my 100% introversion. The emphasis on collaboration, noisy kids, group work, and all kinds of social interaction was challenging and drove me nuts! And all those teacher meetings… Ouch! They drained me. I burned out. Joined the company of other introverted teachers. Gave up too quickly and left public school. And became a ghost.
It was that very decision allowing me to go above and beyond in my career: a freelance teacher writing academic papers for students. Yeah, I was not kidding myself about the ethics and realized I was cozying up to The Dark Side of the writing market, like Ed Dante and dozens of other educators around the country. Why do I call this not entirely kosher activity the one that helped to stand out in my job? It was a game changer for me as a specialist. Communication skills, networking, and writing craft are what I’ve got while staying there. It led me to a more complex and in-depth job — a successful career of a ghostwriter and content strategist. For my 5+ years of ghostwriting, I did tons of research and wrote dozens of online publications on behalf of influencers and their brand names. But even with no byline, writing experience and networking is what I get, as well as opportunities to work with top clients and build awareness and trust in the field.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
The interesting point is that communication skills, networking, and writing craft I’ve got while being on The Dark Side of the writing market led me to project work at the company aimed at beating it.
I planned and crafted content to prevent plagiarism in academia. I struggled with copy-pasting, paraphrasing, and wrong references to encourage authors to create original essays, blog posts, short stories, etc. Now I prove that every skill you have, even the most (seemingly) useless or controversial, will come in handy one day. 🙂
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My mistake was to consider ghostwriting something dark (no wonder, considering the niche I started at) and unfair. When my friends asked, “Don’t you feel sad that it’s not your name under your writings?” — I said no though it was a lie. I felt sad. Such an approach cost me tons of nerves, problems with self-identification, and the impostor syndrome.
It took me two years to change the approach: ghostwriting, guest writing, freelance writing for others with no name of yours in bylines — it’s okay. More than that, it’s a standard marketing practice. Plus, good money and a chance to expand your expertise.
The lesson learned?
Sometimes we have to go against our heart, step outside some principles, and admit there’s no pure black or pure white in this world. I left my comfort zone of a nerdy academic to broaden my one-sided vision of modern education, reveal and experience its dark side, and adapt knowledge and skills of that gray reality for my career success.
I would never become a seasoned web writer and content strategist if I continued wearing rose-tinted glasses about honest and noble teachers with a big mission. I call it rationalism, a must-have skill for surviving and succeeding in this fast-changing and sly digital world.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
As a freelance writer, I consider LinkedIn the most effective. And here’s why:
- First, I don’t need any promos or ad content there: my profile is my CV and portfolio, my potential clients find me through 2nd and 3rd connections. They write me directly and hire me for freelance projects.
- Second, it’s easy to navigate: I see how well the profile “sells” itself, who viewed it and read my content there, so I can change and improve it accordingly. For example, I’ve generated 2x more leads through LinkedIn once I’ve added the list of my publications on reputable resources. Also, recommendations do wonder. (A big thanks to Michael Brenner, whose words about my skills brought me offers to join creative copywriters teams of five startups!)
- Third, LinkedIn is about awareness, loyalty, and trust; the revenue comes as a bonus. It’s also about brand storytelling: each of us tells own stories through blog posts, case studies, and updates so clients could see our growth as experts and understand if our experience is relevant to their values and expectations. Perfect for freelance specialists like me, who sell services, not products.
Some may say that Facebook is the same, but I would disagree: Facebook is more about your life outside of business. LinkedIn is aimed at building professional networks by default. People go there to “sell” their skills or find a pro who’ll help them.
Let’s talk about LinkedIn specifically, now. Can you share 5 ways to leverage LinkedIn to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
I won’t reinvent the wheel here, but still:
1. Optimize your profile like a boss.
Frankly speaking, mine is not that perfect yet. And yet, it works well! Every aspect matters here: your headline, summary, role descriptions, and a profile pic. Don’t make your profile too “promotional,” as viewers come to LinkedIn to see experts, not salespeople. Aaron Orendorff’s profile is a palmary example here:
2. Connect, connect, connect!
LinkedIn is about connections, professional ones by all means. So, connect. Regularly. All the time. Join groups in the niches where you can find clients, competitors, influencers… Follow companies that are important: your partners, vendors, competitors, and customers. Search for prospects via “Advanced” option, connect with them. Scan who’s viewing your profile and connect with them, too. And yes, send messages to your targets.
3. Customize LinkedIn Pulse.
It will help you connect with your audience and engage new customers through content. Here you’ll see influencers, reach professionals, and grow your network for better conversion. Neil Patel has revealed and described the power of LinkedIn Pulse for business the best way possible.
4. Share informative and educational content.
I mentioned it in my work for Social Pilot: people come to LinkedIn to grow professionally or find professionals, not kill their time. So help them by sharing corresponding content: your blog posts with comments, your case studies, how-to lists or guides that show others you are an expert in your niche, your business news, etc.
5. Try LinkedIn ads.
Given that we all share detailed information about skills and professional interests on LinkedIn, it’s targeting powers do wonder! Use that for self-service: consider sponsored content to reach a wider audience, post text ads for people to see them on home pages and search results pages, or try sponsored InMail to send messages to members’ inboxes.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Well, a movement for minimalism in all aspects of life would bring good, IMHO. Physical, mental, and digital clutter kills the world slowly but surely. Taking things from complex to simple and getting rid of everything unnecessary might be a good practice to try for changing that.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Everyone who comes to my mind has passed away already: Gertrude Stein (I bet she could share many fruity stories about the attendees of her salon in Paris, and I would also ask if she did mean it when saying that Hitler merited the Nobel Peace Prize), Simone de Beauvoir, Lee Kuan Yew…
Sorry, it seems I’ve screwed up this question. 🙂
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!