LinkedIn ProFinder is an online marketplace that connects professional service providers (including attorneys) with LinkedIn members who need their services. With nearly 500,000 solo practitioners in the United States, and many solos struggling to generate business, LinkedIn’s new service could prove to be an integral piece of the business development puzzle for many lawyers.
How ProFinder Works
A potential client can submit a project request by answering a few questions about the service they need. In return, LinkedIn promises up to five proposals from the “best local professionals from [their] curated list.” To become a pro, or freelancer, you have to apply and be vetted by the ProFinder concierge team. Once accepted, LinkedIn ProFinder will deliver qualified warm leads to your inbox.
The potential client can make his/her request for free. When a freelancer signs up, LinkedIn allows them to submit their first 10 proposals for free to get a feel for how the system works. Then, freelancers can continue to submit proposals if they have a Premium Business Plus subscription, which, at the time of this writing, is $59/month.
LinkedIn provides tips for freelancers who want to win business via ProFinder. Their top suggestions are 1) include recommendations on your profile; 2) publish on LinkedIn; and 3) network on LinkedIn and increase your connections. Potential clients can filter by these options when requesting proposals, and they use this information to compare the freelancers who submit responses.
As one article put it, LinkedIn is digitizing ‘word of mouth’ referrals. Their matching system prioritizes freelancers who are connected to the user requesting services, as well as the freelancer’s recommendations, endorsements, and publishing.
The ProFinder site freely uses the term “expert” when describing the freelancers – a word that may be in violation of the rules of professional conduct in your jurisdiction. However, the crux of Rule 7.1 (Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services) is prevent lawyers from misleading potential clients with statements that would create “unjustified expectations.” The level of social proof (testimonials, recommendations, content) required for attorneys to be included in the program, and then be selected by a potential client seems to remedy potential issues. A competitive online marketplace isn’t going to work for a generalist who just says he or she has expertise in an area – he’s going to have to prove it.
Since LinkedIn stays out of the exchange of money between client and freelancer, they’ve likely dodged the issue of fee splitting that some online marketplaces are still (unfortunately) facing.
What Does It Mean for You?
Online marketplaces like LinkedIn ProFinder, Avvo, UpCounsel and others provide a streamlined way to win new business for a profession that hasn’t traditionally been comfortable with sales and marketing.
LinkedIn’s launch of its own online marketplace should get the attention of lawyers who have previously dismissed these platforms as a viable method of winning business. It also highlights the importance of attorneys identifying the online channels where potential clients may first find information about the attorney and their practices, and then make sure they’ve optimized their presence on those channels.
For attorneys, your LinkedIn and Avvo profiles are among the results that are highly likely to be included on the first page of search results when someone googles your name, especially if you haven’t done much else to optimize your online presence. If a potential client is comparing your unclaimed Avvo profile, along with your 6.5 rating to your competitor’s profile that has been claimed, optimized, and has a better rating, chances are you may be losing business you never even realized you had the opportunity to win.
Likewise, if that same potential client is comparing your incomplete LinkedIn profile with that of a competitor who has endorsements, recommendations, and a robust summary, that competitor simply has a better chance of winning the business.
Potential clients may not even make it to your website if they find you first on a platform and you haven’t convinced them you are worth a further look. Convincing potential clients requires optimizing your online presence by sharing valuable content, displaying validation about your services from those you’ve worked with before, and building your online network.
So what do lawyers need to do?
- Audit and organize your digital assets.
- Build your list of recommendations and testimonials – include these on your website, LinkedIn profile, and Avvo profile, among others.
- Connect and engage with potential clients and referral sources. Comment and like what others are sharing. Share content of your own. Whatever you do, don’t just start posting stuff about yourself.
- Make sure your messaging about who you help and how you help them is clear across all online platforms including your own website, LinkedIn, Avvo, and others.
- Google yourself. Make sure you know what potential clients are seeing when they search for information about you online.
If you are interested in learning more about the ProFinder marketplace, perhaps even applying to be a “Pro” or freelancer yourself, you can learn more here.
Questions? Comments? Experience using ProFinder? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.