Maybe You’re Doing It All Wrong on LinkedIn

So this is the part where I go from being a passive observer on LinkedIn to a semi ballistic panda because “oh shoot, someone is selling some career snake oil on the platform again and I have to do something about it”.

I stumbled upon this post on the networking platform this morning:


I’m not against using these “persuasion principles”. In fact, it’s part of what I do as a copywriter where I persuade people via the written word.

Sure, you’ll “achieve your desired results” from your network by liking their posts or endorsing them for skills (which, by the way, you know nothing about because you haven’t really worked with them in the first place).

It’s a simple formula: I give you X so I expect you to give me X in return.

However, citing these so-called principles are giving readers the wrong impression. I’m fairly sure that the relationships you build from these so-called strategies won’t have solid pillars to stand on.

Before you spend countless hours doing all of these persuasion tactics, have you thought about the specific set of solutions that you bring to the table? 

What SPECIFIC VALUE do you offer? 

The problem with most of us (I am no exception!) is we expect results right away.

As a result, we tend to forget the most important thing when it comes to building work relationships: helping a brand or business solve their problem. 

You can’t help these folks fix their business woes without knowing how your skills will fit into the equation.

The first step is knowing whether or not you’re the right person who can help.

So you do digital marketing? Or graphic design?
Perhaps you’re a UX unicorn. Or you’re probably a senior web developer with a decade’s worth of experience.

But all of these are not solutions, they are merely broad skills and experiences. Instead, identify which skills of yours can help solve a business or brand’s problem.

Missing this first step explains why a lot of people are disheartened about LinkedIn, lamenting how the networking platform is not working for them.

You can’t effectively sell your services and skills to recruiters and clients when you don’t even know your Unique Value Proposition.

Take a moment to reflect on the specific skillset that you bring to the table.

If you think you’re lacking one, learn something new. Once you’re sure about the value you offer, use those persuasion tactics by all means!

Where to Find Work as a Freelancer Besides Upwork: Online Edition


It has come to my attention that friends and frenemies are curious about the following:

1. When am I getting married?
2. When am I having kids?
3. Where do I find work besides Upwork as a freelancer?

So here’s a response to the third most frequently asked question by friends, colleagues, and family who are also thinking about transitioning to full-time freelancing.

I totally get it when people repeatedly ask this question. While Upwork is the go-to source for most freelancers,  it’s no secret that majority of the work pays unreasonably low, unless you stumble upon that unicorn client who truly appreciates what you do. High platform service fees are also discouraging.

Over the course of two years that I’ve been freelancing, I have never (thankfully!) ran out of work despite my absence on third-party sites like Upwork.  Maybe it’s pure luck. Maybe it’s my slight obsession with getting things done. Maybe I’m just at the right place (virtually) at the right time.

So where do I find clients besides Upwork? Let’s jump right to what has worked for me!

May you find some useful ideas in this list. If it works for you, you owe me a month’s supply of avocados. A kilo a week will do. 

1. Participate in forums associated with your niche.

Don’t just sign up for an account and lurk. Participate in discussion threads. Ask questions. Provide insightful answers. Show up consistently.

Before you know it, a potential client will find out more about your work (stalk your online profiles) and reach out to ask if you’re available to work with them on a project. You just got yourself a lead!

It boils down to finding your target clients’ online watering hole, hanging out there yourself,  and showcasing your skills without being a hard sell.

2. Publish an essay or blog post about your work.

So what are you going to write about?

Talk about your work—  from what you specifically do to work issues that you’ve successfully dealt with in your field of expertise. You can also write about your current fields of interests. Writing about these things is another excellent example of subtly selling yourself to potential recruiters and employers.

This hack is not just for copywriters like me. You can be a developer, designer, or an SEO pro.

Speaking of selling yourself, I noticed that some freelancers are hesitant to market their work. So you hate marketing? As Alexandra Franzen writes, you have to understand that everything is actually marketing.

Sure, people will eventually notice your good work. But how long do you have to wait before someone stumbles upon your portfolio?

Be proactive and get out of the waiting game.  Put something of value out there and market yourself.  

3. Turn to social media.

LinkedIn and Twitter are two platforms that I’ve had success in finding clients as a freelance copywriter.

I posted something of potential value to audiences on both platforms, a few people noticed, and cared enough to ask if I can work with them. Value is the operative word here. Are you noticing a pattern?

Not convinced? Last year, I  tweeted about a book that I’m currently reading, and the author himself reached out via email to ask if I can help him write a short video script. Nifty, right?

It turns out that I caught his attention with my tweet. He checked out my profile and made his way to my website/portfolio. I did not intend to find work when I tweeted about his book though.

4. Fire off cold emails.

Have you been wanting to work for/with a certain brand or organization?

Hop on to their website, learn more about what they do, and fire off a cold email describing how you can help them accomplish their business goals. You can either use their contact form or find the right person to get in touch with on LinkedIn.

There’s a classy way to do cold emails right (and that would probably call for another blog post), but like everything else in marketing, do not talk about features (so you graduated with the highest honors?). Instead, highlight the benefits of working with you. What’s in it for the organization when they hire you?

5. Announce to your network that you’re currently open for business.

This may sound like a no-brainer but some freelancers tend to overlook their personal network when looking for work.

Email or text every single person you know who can potentially refer you to a client. Write a short status on Facebook declaring that you are now freelancing full-time. 

If all of these steps in finding wonderful clients (besides selling your wares in third-party sites) worked for me, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t for you!

It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense

I got into telesales as my first official gig right after I secured my local nursing license.  Admittedly, I wasn’t particularly fond of that job.

At the time, I felt that most of my days were depressingly mundane. I woke up at midnight for my 2 am shift, called it a day by noon, and nothing resembling a productive day materialized. Sure, I still read (and learned) a lot — mainly fiction that time, but something still felt off.

It felt like I wasn’t really living but merely existing.

Excuse the dramatics, but I can vividly recall writing the same sentence years ago when I was anonymously blogging about that job.

I wasn’t interested about working shifts at the hospital either. I wanted to, but the head and the gut just wasn’t in it. The meager pay wasn’t also encouraging.

While my college friends were saving lives at the hospital, reviewing for the NCLEX, or going back to school to pursue higher education, I was convincing strangers who were oceans away to sign up for a $24.99 Internet phone plan. The pay was good (I can finally buy all the books I want to read!) and it helped took care of the bills at home. 

If there was one thing that I miss about that era in my life, it was my habit of writing every day.

Of course, I’m still writing consistently these days for work,  but it was a different kind of writing — it was cathartic as my fingers moved across the keyboard, and sentences started making sense in front of me.

In between my opening spiels at work —Hello, Mr. John Smith? This is Kai from.. — I binge-blogged and hit Publish without thinking about shares, likes, and SEO.

My voracious blogging habits helped me gain confidence to take on paid writing projects — both online and offline.

My first paid offline writing project was an academic paper on guerrilla marketing. Although I didn’t have solid background on the subject, I said yes. And I’m glad I did!

While doing research for that paper,  I was instantly hooked to Jay Conrad Levinson’s concepts. Plus, reading about Levinson’s unconventional tactics somehow stirred the rebellious gene in me.

After building a decent portfolio from several academic papers I’ve ghostwritten and how-to articles (remember when the Internet was filled to the brim with how-to content?) for a friend who needed help with her piling oDesk work, I landed my first full-time copywriting role at a publishing company.

Although I didn’t study marketing, advertising, or even journalism in college, I realized that what I thought of as a soul-sucking job in sales really helped fine-tune my copywriting and web content writing skills.

When I was just starting out in sales,  we were trained to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and always ask WIIFM —what’s in it for me?

This WIIFM philosophy taught me to put the spotlight on benefits whenever I write copy or content instead of diving headfirst into features,  a common rookie mistake that I’ve done myself.

If I asked myself with WIIFM while I was in sales, I would’ve answered back that I don’t really know and felt mortified at the thought of uncertainty itself.

In recent years, I  realized a couple of things. First, what (and who) we are today is indeed the sum of our experiences. Second, it’s okay if nothing makes sense for now as long as you’re taking steps towards learning outside of your usual toolkit of skills.

I know, there’s nothing really new about these mini-epiphanies, but with the way things look oh-so-perfect everywhere we look online (and admit it, majority of us live in an online bubble), we need these gentle reminders more often than we thought.

Now that I’m learning user experience research and information architecture, there are days when I ask myself with WIIFM? While I’m excited to learn about these subjects,  I can’t help but sometimes question myself with what’s the point, really? Why would I pay for an online course if its specific impact on my career is still unclear?

But with the way things turned wonderfully in the end for me as a copywriter, I am kinder to myself now. Perhaps, this is just because I’m getting older and losing my sense of idealism.

Not that I’m worry-free these days. I still worry about other things like the weekend traffic, why the cat is suddenly not giving a damn about food, or why I haven’t heard from some friends for months.

The truth is you will never know where those temp jobs, seemingly useless bits of learning,  or beer money work will eventually take you.

As long as you’re making a serious effort to learn (and unlearn) and stick to it for the long haul, chances are you’re going to do okay.