Not sure what to post on LinkedIn? Here's your roadmap

If you never know what to post on LinkedIn, episode #455 of the Marketing Mentor Podcast is for you.

In my second conversation with freelance copywriter and coach, Austin Church, he shared his LinkedIn strategy, both for outreach (should you or shouldn’t you add a note when you invite someone to connect?) and for content creation (how often to post and where do ideas for posts come from).

In fact, that is the "baby step" he suggested -- to find your "content lane" and figure out what content topics align with what you want to be known for. That's why he shared his LinkedIn Content Roadmap, to help you do just that.

But for now, listen here and below.

 

And if you like what you hear, listen to #452, my first episode with Austin when we talked about how not to freak out when you're not reaching your income goals:  https://bit.ly/MMPodcasat452

We’d love it if you write a review, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and sign up for Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor. 

You can also keep scrolling to read the transcript of #455 with Austin Church 

ilise benun

Hi there. This is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor.  And this is the podcast for you if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good. 

If you have trouble coming up with content ideas for LinkedIn, this episode is for you. In my second conversation with freelance copywriter and coach Austin Church, he shared his LinkedIn strategy, both for outreach—like should you or shouldn't you add a note when you invite someone to connect, and for content creation—like how often to post and where do ideas for posts come from, anyway.

He's also sharing a really cool freebie, a LinkedIn Content Roadmap to help you find your content lane and figure out what content topics align with what you want to be known for. Doesn't that sound good? You'll find a link for that on the companion blogpost for this episode number 455, and that's on the Marketing Mentor blog at Marketing-Mentor.com. But for now, listen and learn.

Hello, Austin. Welcome back to the podcast.

Austin Church

Thank you for having me, ilise. I'm delighted to be here.

ilise benun

Yeah, we got so much positive feedback on our first episode, and I knew when we did it that there would need to be another and perhaps another. So here we are, not too much longer afterwards, and there was so much I didn't get to talk with you about, so I have my list. But first, as usual, please introduce yourself.

Austin Church

Sure. I have been a freelance writer and strategist for 13 years. Most of my work right now focuses on brand development and marketing, specifically for eCommerce clients.

The other side is trying to pass on what I have learned about freelancing to my peers and help them get better results with less effort. So I do all of that under the Freelance Cake umbrella.

ilise benun

Beautiful. Let's talk about this word ‘freelance’ or ‘freelancer’ because I think it has both positive and negative connotations. Like the negative you often hear, "Oh, he's just a freelancer," or "She's just freelancing," which is sometimes a euphemism for being unemployed, right?

Austin Church

True.

ilise benun

But it also has positive connotations and maybe is the word people use to search. So I'm curious how you think about the word ‘freelancer,’ especially because it's in your brand.

Austin Church

I have mixed feelings, if I'm honest, and you already touched on some of the reasons I think people, whether they realize it or not—this is clients and some freelancers—the word ‘freelance’ or ‘freelancer’ equates amateur or I couldn't hack it at a nine-to-five job or I'm between jobs. 

That is not true of my experience as a freelancer and with freelancers. I have met and worked with remarkably talented people who wanted the lifestyle and it just so happened that ‘freelance’ or ‘freelancer’ was the most accurate term.

That being said, I like to help people, if I can, think about themselves as entrepreneurs or solopreneurs who just happen to be selling creative skills. Yes, use freelancer or freelance. Be proud of that, if only because it does make you more searchable or discoverable on certain platforms, including LinkedIn. So use the term, but own the identity of solopreneur or entrepreneur or small business owner, as well.

ilise benun

You're kind of touching on something I think about a lot, which is the distinction we must make between one's own perspective and the prospect or client's perspective. 

On the one hand, how you think about yourself is totally up to you and we want to think about ourselves, of course, in the most positive light. So whether that associates with the word ‘freelancer’ or ‘solopreneur’ or some people say: "Oh no, I'm not an entrepreneur. I never think of myself that way." Okay, fine, whatever it is you think about yourself, that's what you need a word for.

But that isn't necessarily always the word you would use in your marketing or in your elevator pitch because to me what's even more important, truthfully, than how you think about yourself is how the best clients, your ideal clients and prospects, think about you, and what word they're using when they're searching. Right?

Austin Church

I could not agree more. People cannot get excited if they are confused.

There was this one friend of mine who is a, I say, deeply-gifted writer, and I mean it. She is just such a beautiful storyteller and she was calling herself a ‘creative storyteller’ on LinkedIn and I was trying to find a polite way to say you are making yourself invisible.

Even though I think ‘creative storyteller’ is accurate, that is not the language that any client would ever use to try to search for someone with your skillset, particularly on a platform like LinkedIn. 

I think we have to pick the box strategically that we're going to put ourselves in because, otherwise, there's too high a likelihood that someone else would pick the wrong box for us.

ilise benun

Actually, that reminds me, so let's segue to talking about LinkedIn because often when I teach basic LinkedIn strategies, I talk about writing for the human as well as the algorithm. For example, no one is going to search necessarily for ‘creative storyteller,’ but as long as you've also got the ‘freelance writer’ keyword phrase in there, and then you want to call yourself a ‘creative storyteller’ or a ‘metaphor maven,’—which is a phrase that came up yesterday with one of my clients or …

Austin Church

I love it.

ilise benun

Right? Or like a ‘deadline virtuoso.’ I think I have another client who uses that. No one's searching for that, so that's for the human to engage them as opposed to the algorithm to be found. How do you think about the difference between the human and the algorithm?

Austin Church

I think you nailed it. I mean, let's not set up a false dichotomy. Let's not make this more binary than it has to be. We can use both. I mean, I have a background in poetry; I love precious language; I love one-liners. You know?

But I do think we have to be pragmatic in our LinkedIn headlines, in the About section, even in Work Experience and say: "Hey, the algorithm wants keywords. Let me educate myself and know what the keywords are that are most closely linked to my skillset, the services I want to sell, the offers I deliver." I'm going to sprinkle those in.

But once I've checked that box, by all means, how I think about myself as a ‘metaphor maven,’ I love that, use that, because that's differentiating language, but I think it can really only be effective if it's yoked together with the more pragmatic, searchable language.

ilise benun

Totally agree, and that is an art in and of itself. The thing I love about LinkedIn is that you can just change it every day, if you feel like it.

Austin Church

That's right and pay attention to what is working well or not working well.

I realized I was starting to get a lot of messages, unsolicited messages, cold messages, from people trying to sell me stuff and I generally ignore those. But these were odd because I thought, "I haven't been in the app business for years" and I realized, oh, I'd gotten some endorsements and had some skills from my app days. So I just went and deleted all that and, sure enough, all these unsolicited messages disappeared because I wasn't searchable anymore. So you can make it work to your benefit in several ways.

ilise benun

Your LinkedIn strategy, from what I can tell, is rooted in creating content and sharing content on LinkedIn, which is … I just want to distinguish it from the outreach and engaging people and building your network aspect—which is another important element and way to use LinkedIn.

But I do want to talk with you about creating content and where ideas come from and all the different ways, totally confusing and overwhelming on LinkedIn, that you can use content and share content. Am I right, number one, in my assessment of your strategy? And, either way, how do you manage it all? What is your strategy?

Austin Church

Really good question and you're right. I don't send a lot of cold outreach messages, I think, in part, because I don't like receiving them. When I do, it's immediate disqualification in my mind because, and I didn't realize that this would be a nice little red flag, but because I include my middle initial, I know in a cold message, any time someone addresses me as ‘Austin L,’ they're actually using a piece of software, who knows what it is, to just mass send …

ilise benun

That's interesting.

Austin Church

... to just like power-send all these messages. I don't like receiving them, so I don't send them.

I do think it can be done well. I do think it makes sense to pick out specific people, whether it is people in your target audience, someone you would consider a dream client. If you have a very tight niche or specialization, by all means, be strategic in how you're building your network. But I have had better success with thinking about my profile as a landing page or a sales funnel.

Then, the way that I drive traffic to my profile is three ways: I do send connection requests, but I never add a custom message, ever. I don't now because I did an experiment and this was when I was targeting outdoor brands. I had a list of around 90 and so I broke them up into three groups of 30.

The first group of 30, I sent a very thoughtful custom message because I took the time to visit their website, learn about the brand and then find something I liked about it, then I included that in the custom message, so it was longer. 

The second group of 30, it was very short, probably sentence fragments, "Thanks for connecting. Really like what you're doing," which was true. I'd already researched their company, but it was just a very short message. 

Third group of 30, no message at all, and far and away, I got the highest connection acceptance rate or percentage with no message at all.

Who knows? Like you mentioned, it all changes so quickly, it can change in an instant. So maybe it's changed back, I don't know. But I know that based on these little experiments I did, it seems like so many people receive so many unsolicited messages, that they're actually, at least in my experience, more likely to include a connection, or sorry—accept a connection request, if you don't appear to be selling anything because you didn't even include a message, and …

ilise benun

So let me just stop you there for a second because one of the things I love about marketing, and what I do when I teach marketing, is that there's no right way and each person has to find the way that works best for them, and you're describing what worked for you through your experimentation, your laboratory as you're experimenting, which I think is really interesting.

But the question is, two questions actually: was your goal just to build your network and get people to accept and/or did you follow up that invitation to connect with something else?

Austin Church

I did. There were certainly some people who stonewalled me and after they accepted the request, there was no further interaction on their part. There were people who were happy to have a conversation, but it never really went anywhere.

Then there were a handful of people that accepted my request, were happy to talk back and forth with me, and we were able to get on a call. There were two companies: one that hired me to do some brand development work for them. Then another company that we were all set to do that and then it petered out for reasons beyond my control.

ilise benun

Right, that happens.

Austin Church

Which happens.

So the way I approach relationships is very much like, "Hey, if there's an opportunity for us to work together, it should be apparent to us both." So all those messages were very non-pushy. I don't know if that helps anyone in your audience, but I did get some legitimate leads that way.

ilise benun

So you're saying, this group of 30 that did not get a note with your invitation to connect, when they accepted, you followed up with a message.

Austin Church

That's right. And that is in part because I had made a list of brands that I would be thrilled to do work with, to do consulting work with.

I don't necessarily take that approach now, these days, when I send out connection requests. It's more to my peers and colleagues, other writers, other brand strategists, than an eCommerce company or a direct-to-consumer brand. So my strategy has changed, yeah.

ilise benun

Yeah, because it does seem like part of the shift in your strategy is that you're using LinkedIn to build the Freelance Cake business, as opposed to your copywriting business.

Austin Church

That's right, and I'm really glad you brought that up and you kind of touched on this earlier. Your strategy depends on your goals. So we've got to be careful on LinkedIn, or really any platform, when we imitate the strategy of someone who may have a very different business model or very different goals.

ilise benun

So then let's come back to content. What is your LinkedIn content strategy if your goals seem to be about building the Freelance Cake part of your business?

Austin Church

Great. I have a daily commitment. I call 1X, 5X, 10X. I will publish one post every weekday. I will leave five or more comments where I'm looking to contribute to the conversation and enjoy interacting with people. I really don't go around looking for fights. Then the 10X is I try to send 10 connection requests every day. Then in terms of the content that I create …

ilise benun

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Let me just respond to 1X, 5X, 10X, first …

Austin Church

Sure.

ilise benun

... because it's very ambitious, in my opinion. And I want to say to the listeners who agree with me, like, okay, that's on one end of the spectrum, but one post a day, that's a lot.

Austin Church

It is a lot and I'm really glad you stopped me because it is ambitious and I have an archive or backlog of content stretching back six years, seven. I started writing about the stuff on a regular basis in 2015.

So I would recommend that people take baby steps. Maybe you start with one post a week, and then you get up to three, and then you recalibrate and see how you feel about that. I would not recommend really to anybody that they come right out of the gate and try to post five to seven days a week.

ilise benun

That is a lot. All right. So keep going then.

Austin Church

I really like to have this minimum viable marketing, this commitment, because I still do client work and things still get crazy. I get busy and I want to be able to default back to this sort of pilot light, keeping it burning, doing the minimum, and that is what 1X, 5X, 10X has been for me.

I will say that one of the reasons I'm able to maintain that is through all these little tiny systems that help bring efficiency, day-to-day, and it's been wonderful. I have even met people like you, partly as a result of LinkedIn. I have had chances to collaborate with people. I've made new friends and my audience has grown, too. I do see a direct correlation between frequency and growth, and it's been good.

ilise benun

Do you have a LinkedIn newsletter?

Austin Church

I do not. I have been asked why and I don't have a good reason, except I've been busy with other things. I do send out a weekly newsletter with my email service provider, ConvertKit. Do you have one?

ilise benun

I actually have one in process, but I haven't finished it yet because I'm still trying to figure out what the right angle is and how to position it within the context of all of my content. But I know that not everyone has access even yet to having a LinkedIn newsletter, so I don't know if that's the case for you. But it would seem to me if your content strategy is focused on LinkedIn, then that would be kind of a no-brainer at some point.

Austin Church

Now I don't know if I have access. I'm like, "I hope I do." I'm going to feel like I got shut out. I'm going to get my feelings hurt, if I don't. 

[Laughter]

ilise benun

It's nothing personal.

Austin Church

So I need to go check. I'm glad you brought that up because I have several ... September is all about finishing a big last push on two other projects. Then October is going to be like, "Okay, time to go back to LinkedIn and optimize some things that have just been waiting on me."

But one thing you said that I'm like, "Yes, yes, yes," is differentiation. What would you do with your newsletter? How would it fit into the rest of your mix? I think people getting started or more serious or committed to LinkedIn, that differentiation question is a really important one.

ilise benun

We don't have much time left, so let's kind of segue now to talking a little bit about where content ideas come from and maybe give a baby step that people can use to start moving in that direction.

What would you say if I asked you where content ideas come from—because that's really something people either struggle with and/or use as an excuse to not do it.

Austin Church

It's a true struggle, which makes it a legitimate excuse, but also one that will ultimately not get you where you want to go.

I will say I made the mistake, for the longest time, of writing whatever I felt like writing about. I saw a lot more traction, both with growth and with real leads incoming, when I picked my box, and I picked essentially three content buckets or lanes. These are subjects where I believe I have something to say, things I want to be known for, so one of them would be pricing, like freelance pricing.

I write a lot about the same subjects because I believe that repetition is the only way to build reputation, and so I picked—and I would recommend that as a first baby step to people listening. Pick what you want to be known for, or another way to ask that same question is, "What problems do I want to get paid to solve?"

Then I have these questions that I go back to again and again, a list of about 20, where I will use the questions to generate topic ideas. I'm happy to share those if anybody in your audience wants them, but that's the way to get some of that efficiency that we talked about earlier—how do I generate a bunch of topic ideas all at once?

Then I also recommend fitting a specific topic to a specific post structure or type that has been proven to work on LinkedIn. Then from there, you just pay attention to engagement, what people seem to like, and then improve over time.

But start with what you want to be known for. Then, ask yourself what you want to write about, what specific topics that align closely with those content lanes.

ilise benun

You referenced, just then, some of what is in—and also asked if people might want to have a copy of this worksheet that you have put together with some of these questions—I'm sure the answer is ‘yes, they want it.’ So tell us what it is and then we'll link to it in the companion blog post.

Austin Church

Sure. I have that common freelance problem of having way too many documents and way too many tools. And so, what this is, is a simple spreadsheet, simple Google sheet. It's a template. I use it with my client, sometimes. I'm happy to give it to your audience for free.

It has four or five worksheets in it to help you think through content lanes, to help you generate topics that you do want to write about based on questions. 

The third worksheet is where you actually start doing some matchmaking. You will take a topic that you want to write about and think about different structures it would work well with. "Oh, this topic would be really good as inspirational." Or, "This one over here would be better for how-to or informational. This other one would be good for predicting what I expect to happen in my niche or industry."

So you finish that matchmaking. Then you need to just do some writing. But then once you post stuff, we all benefit if we pay attention to the data, and we start to change content strategy a little bit based on what people seem to enjoy.

ilise benun

Awesome. I'm sure everybody will be salivating for that worksheet …

Austin Church

Good.

ilise benun

... especially people who love worksheets, so thank you for being willing to share that. I have a feeling Part Three, then, of this conversation is going to be about freelance pricing.

Austin Church

Ooh.

ilise benun

Because that is something I know people struggle with and I've got a lot of September events actually happening that are focused on that issue. I have all sorts of opinions that are constantly evolving on that topic, as well, so there will be a lot for us to talk about.

Austin Church

I have constantly evolving opinions, too, and would look forward to that conversation. I bet you will sharpen my thinking.

ilise benun

And likewise. So Austin, tell the people where they can find you online.

Austin Church

Find me on LinkedIn. I am there quite a bit, as you might have gathered. I'm on Twitter a little bit, @austinlchurch, and then freelancecake.com.

ilise benun

What does the L stand for?

Austin Church

It's my middle name, my mother's maiden name, Legate, L-E-G-A-T-E.

ilise benun

Interesting.

Austin Church

Hated it as a kid, but love it now.

ilise benun

Why do you love it?

Austin Church

Because no one else has that middle name. It's not a common name and it means ambassador or emissary or legate, and so it's a cool name.

ilise benun

In what language?

Austin Church

Originally from the Latin, legate.

ilise benun

Wow.

Austin Church

Legatus.

ilise benun

Cool. All right. Well, thank you so much, Austin, for sharing and talking in your slow Southern drawl, and I look forward to Part Three.

Austin Church

It has been my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.

ilise benun

I just love Austin's slow Southern drawl, his dry humor, and especially his approach to freelancing. I think it complements mine perfectly.

Did you catch the baby step Austin suggested: to pick your content lane, decide what you want to be known for, and then use that to determine which topics to focus on? So try that and be sure to grab his freebie, the LinkedIn Content Roadmap on the companion blogpost for this episode number 455. You'll find that on the Marketing Mentor blog at marketing-mentor.com.

Did you learn a little something? I really do hope so, because that's how this works, one baby step at a time. Before you know it, you'll have better clients with bigger budgets.

Speaking of better clients, they're probably not going to fall in your lap. That's why I keep hawking my Simplest Marketing Plan. If you want to build a thriving business on your own terms, that's what will get you there.

The Simplest Marketing Plan 4.0 has six case studies and six lessons about how to use the three most effective marketing tools. You'll also get three different planners, plus access to the free monthly Office Hours group coaching session, where you'll meet other creative pros who are practicing what I preach and taking control over their business and their life. You can find it all in the Marketing Mentor shop at Marketing-Mentor.com. I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are doing what it takes to ditch the feast or famine syndrome. Until next time.