Steve Purkiss has a dilemma. LinkedIn is first and foremost a matching tool, intended to help people with a need leverage their relationships to find someone who can meet that need.
Steve’s challenge, though, is this:
What do you do when what you do is so unique, or so new, or just so difficult to articulate, that nobody is looking for it, even though there may be many people who need it?
As Steve puts it, it’s easy when you’re a “painter in Kingston, Ontario”, or (from my SEO days) a “boat dealer in Houston” or a “Ford dealer in Chicago”.
But Steve is doing something different, something radical, something innovative. It can be summed up in just a few words: supporting small business and open source through live, interactive meetings. And while he’s building that business, he’s trying to pay his bills as, in his words, a web tweaker.
Steve’s question is this:
Here are my suggestions:
First of all, make sure your profile contains all the keywords around what you’re looking for. Steve’s profile talks about open source and lists some of the organizations he’s worked with, but it doesn’t once mention any specific tools, languages or platforms. People aren’t going to just search on “open source” – that’s much too broad. The profile should make specific mention of the platforms Steve is familiar with. For that matter, the phrase “open source” only occurs once in his profile.
Secondly, make it concrete for people. If you work as an independent, one of the things you can do is list major clients and projects as “positions”, allowing you to expand on each of them – what tools you used, what you accomplished, etc.
Finally, LinkedIn, et al., simply may not be the best place for this kind of matching. That’s not to say that none of that happens on LinkedIn, but for short, specialized contract work, you really should be looking at Elance, Guru.com, CoSwap, ProjectsPool, etc. Also, most of the individual languages and platforms have mailing lists or forums, such as the wp-pro list for WordPress consulting gigs.
Most of all, my advice to Steve would be the immortal words of Phil Agre:
[T]he most fundamental way of finding people online is to help them find you.