Seven ways to make your LinkedIn profile more appealing to editorial project managers

Last updated 15 November 2022

Being an editorial project manager (PM) can feel a bit like being a very delicious, but very forbidden, cake. When I tell other freelancers that part of my work involves hiring copy-editors, proofreaders and indexers, I sometimes find myself the object of longing glances from those who seem to feel themselves starved of work. However, I’ve met enough freelancers to know that a person’s talents may not be equal to the amount of work they are receiving – it may be how they are presenting themselves that is to blame.

In my previous post, I explained how I research prospective freelancers and how simply being on a publisher’s list isn’t enough for me to offer someone work. I often find myself looking on LinkedIn – it’s free to set up and can hold all sorts of information, so it’s an obvious and easy way for freelancers of all kinds to find out more about each other. So, this post concentrates on what I look for when I view a freelancer’s LinkedIn profile.

I’m going to be brutally honest about what keeps me reading a profile and what turns me off. But first, a few caveats:

  1. I’m not going to talk specifics about qualifications or experience (though obviously I’m assuming you have some), because these can come in many shapes and forms.
  2. This list is approximately in order of importance for me, but naturally other PMs may have a different order, or even entirely other requirements altogether.
  3. I am not claiming to be an expert on LinkedIn or marketing (I almost certainly break some of these ‘rules’ myself) – this is just part of the process I personally go through when I’m looking for a freelancer.

So, with that understood, here’s my list.

1. Give detail…

The first thing that hits me is how comprehensive the profile looks as a whole. Cursory filling in doesn’t look like you value your career as a freelancer, and tells me that you may put a similar lack of effort into your work.

Bottom line: Setting yourself up a skeleton LinkedIn profile ‘just so you’ve got one’ does you no favours (and may even serve you worse than not having one).

2. …but don’t make me wade through an essay

If I have to scan your profile for more than a few seconds (yes, seconds) before something interesting or noteworthy catches my eye, I’ll look elsewhere. Pick the best few facts about you (your unique selling points) and make sure they stand out. Then go into the details further down.

Bottom line: Editorial freelancers are paid to make text comprehensible and accessible for their intended readership; a poorly organised profile suggests your copy-editing, proofreading or indexing may be equally haphazard.

3. Show that you’re not an ostrich

OK, so ostriches don’t actually bury their heads in the sand. But you get the analogy.

There’s no one way to demonstrate your non-ostrich nature, but I want to see some sort of evidence of professional development and connection to the wider editing world. Details of qualifications and courses are obviously a must, as is a list of previous clients. In terms of connections with other professionals, memberships of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders or Society of Indexers are excellent examples, but a link to an active, editorially relevant Twitter account can also speak volumes.

Bottom line: You may have twenty years of editing experience but, if it looks like you haven’t set foot on a course or spoken to other editorial professionals in that time, I will doubt whether your skills are up to date.

4. Shout about your specialisms…

There’s a fine line between listing an impressive range of specialisms and listing too many. Yes, you may genuinely have masses of experience and be comfortable editing a wide range of subjects. Yes, many books (and other texts) don’t require knowledge specialists so it makes sense to list all the subjects you’re comfortable with to maximise your chances of getting hired. However, a long and indiscriminate lists just says to me that you’re a jack of all trades and a master of none.

Even if I don’t necessarily need a specialist for a particular project, if I can, I always prefer to find someone who is interested and experienced in the subject matter, as they tend to do a better job. And, of course, occasionally I really do need an expert on periodicals published in Spain between 1830 and 1838 (for example). And bear in mind that, when a specialist is needed, the rates are sometimes higher, so it makes sense to make yourself identifiable for those jobs.

Bottom line: If you simply give one long list, I might wonder whether you’re desperate for work (which indicates that you may not have done a great job for other clients in the past).

5. …and about anything else that might be relevant

Make sure you mention other expertise, such as languages, previous careers, major skills and other accomplishments. The beauty of being an editorial professional is that there are as many book subjects as there are interests, so you never know when a PM might be looking for an editor or indexer with your particular knowledge. (That being said, remember the advice in points 2 and 4 and be discerning about what expertise you list.)

Of course, your area of expertise may be very narrow and you may only get a commission in that particular subject once every few years. However, even if your expertise is only tangentially related to the subject matter of the book, it could still give a PM an idea of the way you think and whether you might be a good match for a particular project.

Bottom line: Your non-editorial/indexing experience might give you the edge over another freelancer, so shout about that too.

6. Don’t look scary

Poor profile pictures come in two varieties: unsettling and absent.

People choose some truly bizarre images as their professional face to the world. Yes, some freelancers’ profiles are so dazzlingly good that they could use a photo of themselves gleefully holding up a chainsaw and the mutilated remains of a dictionary. However, the rest of us need to be a little more cautious. Just make sure you look approachable and friendly, not uncomfortable, miserable or angry (I have seen examples of all three).

Unsettling images may be offputting, but an absent image is the first thing I notice about a profile. It gives an immediate impression of half-heartedness or incompleteness (see point 1). If you need more convincing, take a look at this article at StaffEx, which reported a study that showed that

a picture made candidates seem more thorough in their work. Additionally, … respondents wondered if candidates without pictures might be hiding something.

An alternative to using an image of yourself is of course to use your business logo. However, I’d urge you to have a picture of yourself somewhere too. The reality is that a prospective client will feel more comfortable if they can visualise the person to whom they may be entrusting thousands of pounds (and perhaps their life’s work in the case of individual authors).

Bottom line: A freelancer’s image (or lack thereof) won’t stop me from hiring them, but their profile will need to be better to keep my attention.

7. Other things can help, too

LinkedIn offers all sorts of other features that can lend support to a good profile. For example, high-quality recommendations from reputable sources naturally look very good. However, they can be a faff to get hold of so I’m not particularly bothered if a freelancer doesn’t have any (though other PMs and other types of client may think differently).

The endorsement system looks pretty but I find it rather too random to be meaningful (not to mention that it’s prone to abuse, well-meaning or otherwise).

Bottom line: Use LinkedIn’s other features intelligently, according to the client base you’re marketing to.

I am not inflexible if somebody stands out for other reasons, and I know wonderful freelancers who break all these criteria. But, seeing as setting up a good LinkedIn profile is free and easy to do, why wouldn’t you?

Essentially, when a PM looks at a LinkedIn profile (or any profile), they have one aim: to find the right person, quickly. Help them to speedily become confident that you’re the one for the job and you’re far more likely to be offered work.

In my next post I’ll talk about what leads me to re-hire a freelancer .

Do other PMs look for similar things? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

About Hazel Bird

Hazel works with non-fiction clients around the world to help them deliver some of their most prestigious publications in areas such as charity and peace work, digital and technology, and business and leadership. An editor since 2007, she aims to see the big picture while pinpointing every detail. She has been described as ‘superhuman’ and a ‘secret weapon', but until Tony Stark comes calling she's dedicating her superpowers to text-based endeavours.


  1. Rebecca on 15 March 2013 at 15:06

    Thanks for these tips – they’re really useful more generally, not just in the world of editorial project management. LinkedIn is such a useful networking tool, but I think lots of people are still a bit suspicious of online CVs / approaching new contractors via the internet (even though it’s used more and more all the time).

    It’d be great if you could share your experience of endorsements / recommendations in a future blog post…it is quite a minefield!

    • Hazel@WordstitchEdit on 15 March 2013 at 15:41

      Interesting thought – I’ll make a note of it for the future. Glad you found the post helpful. Good point about people being suspicious. However, in my world at least, I can’t afford to be suspicious of online CVs and so on. I’d never hire anyone otherwise! Hopefully using the tips I’ve given in my post (which boil down to good content, presented well) should help to allay any suspicions.

  2. Cindy Shaler on 20 March 2013 at 13:25

    Thank you, Hazel, for a comprehensive list of what a good LinkedIn profile should be–for any professional, I think. Well done. I’m going into LinkedIn editing mode, right after I finish my current project!

    • Hazel@WordstitchEdit on 20 March 2013 at 18:53

      Glad you found the post useful, Cindy!

  3. Gael Spivak on 25 March 2013 at 00:35

    I think this is an excellent article. I’ve posted a link to it on the Editors’ Association of Canada page on LinkedIn, as well as the Editors’ Association of Earth group on Facebook.

  4. Shirley Whitehouse on 9 July 2013 at 16:18

    After reading your tips, I was keen to see your own LinkedIn page (nosy, me?). I have only recently joined LinkedIn, so haven’t bought any of the additional facilities and found that I couldn’t access certain bits of information on your page.

    In particular, I noticed that your surname was not on show. Could you tell me whether you see this as a perk of having a more complete LinkedIn package? Does it give you added security?

    I enjoyed reading your article and will now need to look at my own page again!

    • Hazel Harris on 9 July 2013 at 16:40

      Hello Shirley – firstly, I think nosiness is an excellent trait in a copyeditor 🙂 (Good to have an enquiring and questioning mind!)

      I’m intrigued by your comment, though, as I have a basic LinkedIn profile with no extras and no privacy settings. I’ve just tested this by clicking on “View your public profile” and it shows all my details. I’ve also done some Googling and I’m stumped as to why you can’t see my details. I will have to do more research as I certainly wouldn’t have my surname or other details hidden through choice! For me, the point of my profile is to let people know as much about me as possible.

      I’m delighted you enjoyed the article!

      • Shirley Whitehouse on 9 July 2013 at 20:11

        I am no expert on LinkedIn — it may be that, by only clicking on the icon at the top of the page (not the one used as an illustration but the one that appears at the top of the page regardless of where you scroll to), I may’ve gone in the ‘back door’. But even if the system doesn’t know that I’m a LinkedIn member, it should still show me your name.

        I may get a chance to look into it a little more tomorrow but will tune in to see what you unearth, too.

      • Shirley Whitehouse on 10 July 2013 at 07:51

        Checking again, it gives me the message: Full profiles for members outside your network are available only in LinkedIn Recruiter.

        • Hazel Harris on 10 July 2013 at 08:04

          Thanks for investigating. That must be it, then. I don’t understand what rationale LinkedIn uses to determine who gets this restriction as I asked somebody else to whom I’m not connected to check my profile yesterday and he could see all my details. Googling just confirms that LinkedIn can produce some inconsistent behaviour. Ah well – I’ve just sent you a connection invitation so feel free to nosy round my profile if you like!

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