small business linkedin profile

With over 500 million registered users, LinkedIn has become a powerful tool to connect with colleagues, friends and potential job applicants. And while you may be familiar with reading articles and posting jobs on the platform, you may be missing one key component of the platform: cultivating new leads.

For small business owners, LinkedIn provides an accessible, easy-to-use way to highlight your background, gain referrals, secure testimonials and more, but all of these benefits lead back to one common thread — having a successful personal profile page. With 80% of all social media leads for B2B companies coming from LinkedIn (compared to 13% on Twitter and 7% on Facebook), you need to take time to optimize your profile.

It may seem like a daunting task to break down your entire professional history into a single profile, all while providing value and giving users a reason to trust your experience and your brand. So, we’ve broken down the LinkedIn profile basics to set you up for success.

Download our free guide to fill out as you go, so you’ll be ready to update your profile by the time you finish reading.

Setting up Your Profile

Your Name and Profile Picture

While on social media channels like Facebook it may be tempting to use an alias, on LinkedIn you want to ensure that your business connections can find and connect with you.

Make sure to use the name you introduce yourself by — if your name is Joseph but you go by Joey, you can use Joey — so that your new contacts can easily find you when they go to connect later.

In addition to making yourself easily recognizable by name, you’ll want to pick out a profile picture. Did you know that profiles with a photo get up to 9x more views than their photo-less counterparts?

Don’t forget to ensure your profile picture clearly and professionally shows your face. A professional headshot is perfect for your LinkedIn profile picture.

If you don’t have a professional headshot, you can ask a friend or colleague to help take a photo for you. Even the latest smartphones are capable of taking a great headshot as long as you keep photography best practices in mind. Make sure to familiarize yourself with how to take the perfect smartphone photo before getting started.

Once you have your headshot picked out, you’ll be able to edit and crop your photo directly in LinkedIn. Using LinkedIn’s photo editing tool, make sure to utilize a crop that does not cut off any part of your face, keeps your photo straight, and looks like you (no ten-year-old photos).

Let’s take a look at a few ways I could edit my profile photo:

small business linkedin profile

Can you spot why this edit wouldn’t make a great profile picture? Not only is my head cut off, but I’ve also tilted the photo so my head is no longer straight.

small business linkedin profile

While it may be tempting to use the filters provided by LinkedIn, I generally recommend against using them. Unless you’re going for a black and white photo, most of the preset filters on LinkedIn will negatively impact the coloring in your photo.

small business linkedin profile

In addition to filters, it’s easy to get excited with all of the adjustment options on the photo editing tool. Unless you’re only making minimal adjustments to help fix a dark photo, leave the editing tools to photography professionals.

If your headshot was professionally taken, your photographer should have done all necessary editing prior to delivering your final shots.

So, what should your photo look like?

LI profile pic_Good

Here are a few reasons this photo would make a great option for my profile picture:

  • The crop allows my entire face to be seen
  • The photo is high quality (not blurry)
  • The photo is straight
  • The lighting is well-balanced (I’ve relied on my photographer to do the editing so I won’t have to)
  • I’m dressed appropriately for my job – if you’re in a suit and tie industry dress accordingly, but also don’t feel like you have to overdress just because it’s LinkedIn

Profile Headline

Your profile headline is one of the most important pieces of your LinkedIn profile. This introduction — of only 120 characters, maximum — is the first piece of information your profile viewers are going to see about you. What kind of impression do you want to make?

While LinkedIn defaults your headline to be “{Your Job Title} at {Company Name}”, a big step to setting up a high-quality profile is updating your headline.

The information that LinkedIn defaults to is accurate, but it’s not very engaging. Knowing that this will be the first information someone sees when they are searching in LinkedIn, you want to leave an impactful first impression.

Let’s take a look at an example:

small business linkedin profile

These are some of the results that came up when I searched for “b2b clients” and filtered by people. Whose profile is likely the first one you’ll click?

You likely picked Jason. Why? Because he has an impactful headline and a profile picture.

Do you see the difference between Jason and Joseph? One has created his own headline, while the other still has the LinkedIn default.

How to get started:

  • Write down all of the things you do for your company that provide value
  • Identify who your perfect lead is
  • Write down any key words that you clients typically ask about
  • Make a list of any awards you’ve won, articles you’ve been published in or high value speaking engagements you’ve participated in

Once you have this information figured out, you can pinpoint which are most relevant to your potential clients and develop a headline from there.

For example, here was my original headline: Lead Marketing Strategist at Simple Machines Marketing .

Here’s my current headline (note: I also run a blog that I mention in my headline, but you’ll likely be focusing only on one career):

small business linkedin profile

Which would make you more likely to connect with me?

Now let’s take one of my clients for example — the owner of a crystal-clear ice company that makes cubes and spheres for Chicago bars and restaurants.

Her headline will default to “Owner of XYZ Ice Company.”

You might want to connect with her. But what if her headline read “making classic cocktails better with crystal-clear ice.” Would you be more likely then?


While your headline serves as a teaser for the value you provide, the summary is a full-on dive into why someone would work with you. Before you get started, think about these things:

  • How did you get started in your career?
  • What propelled you to start your business?
  • What are you passionate about — in business and in general?
  • What awards or accolades can you share?
  • Why is your company better than the rest?

Using this information as a starting point, begin crafting your summary. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start writing:

  • Is the first sentence engaging? With LinkedIn’s new format, only the beginning of your summary is visible until a viewer clicks “see more.” Because of this, you need to make sure you have an engaging opening line. “I’m the owner of XYZ company” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
  • Write like you speak. You want your summary to be authentic and engaging, so write it as if you’re speaking to a potential client. Use the first person and make sure to include personal touches that help set you apart from other business owners.
  • Don’t be afraid to humble brag. Your potential clients are reading, so make sure to impress them! If you’ve done award-winning work or secured an amazing speaking engagement, don’t be afraid to share that.


Including your education section not only reassures potential clients of your background and work ethic, but it also has the potential to provide a common thread to new connections.

I went to the University of Missouri-Columbia, and many of my connection requests begin with M-I-Z hoping to get a return Z-O-U. Including your education can provide a common interest with your targets, and potentially give them a reason to connect with you when they might not have.


We’ve finally made it to the meaty part — your experience. Whether the small business you’ve started is the first business you’ve had experience in or the tenth, this section is where you can showcase your expertise and your company.

In this section you’ll want to include your experience that relates to your small business and is still timely (no need to add that you worked in retail in college, unless you own a small boutique with a similar clothing line — then it may still be relevant).

When adding in the information for your previous experience, you’ll want to make sure you connect the role to the company’s LinkedIn profile. That way someone can easily learn more about the company if they have questions.

When you go to add a new position to your experience, you’ll reach this pop-up:

small business linkedin profile

You want to make sure these sections are as complete as possible. For the business you own, you can make your title “Owner” and then link to your company LinkedIn page. Be sure to include the location as well so your new connections know where you’re located.

In the from section you’ll include when you started your business (or took it over), and then keep the “I currently work in this role” box checked. Make sure to uncheck the box to update your headline!

As I mentioned above, you’ll want to use a customized headline to entice new connections. If the box is checked, once you’ve added a job title and company the box below will switch to the standard “Job Title at Company Name” formula.

The description section is where you can really showcase your talents. There are two common ways to organize these:

  • Tell a story. You can use this space to share the story of your company and experience with your connections. You’ll use complete sentences and can share information including how you got started, what your key accomplishments are and what you provide to your clients.
  • List results. In this format you can create a bulleted list of your key accomplishments and results for clients. Make sure to highlight any awards and accolades, the results you’ve helped clients achieve and how you helped them. Just be careful to ensure you don’t make this a list of your job description. You want to show value, not a laundry list of daily tasks.

Skills and Endorsements

Skills and endorsements are a great way to highlight your areas of expertise. Here, you can add individual skills to your profile that are then organized by LinkedIn into different categories, for example “Industry Knowledge,” “Tools & Technologies,” and “Languages.”

Make sure to add any skills that are relevant to your business. For example, if there is special software used within your industry, then you should include everything you’re proficient in.

In addition, you can add your service offerings as skills. My client who is a commercial and industrial painting contractor may include “commercial painting,” “industrial painting,” and “wallcoverings” in his profile.

Once you have your skills set (you can add up to 50), you’ll be allowed to choose three to highlight as your primary skills. Make sure these are the most relevant to your potential clients so that you can build authority with your LinkedIn connections.

After your skills are listed on your profile, your connection will be allowed to endorse you for them. As you gain endorsements, the number next to the skill will grow, demonstrating how many people think you are successful in that skillset.


A great way to start getting recommendations is by asking your current and former colleagues for them.

Far too often I hear people only seeking recommendations on LinkedIn when they’re looking for a new job. While recommendations are a great way to showcase your skills to potential employers, they’re also a fantastic way for small business owners to demonstrate their value to potential clients.

These are different than company testimonials. Where a testimonial for a company would focus on how the business as a whole helped a client, a personal recommendation should highlight how you have helped a client achieve their goals.

To gain recommendations, you can reach out to a current or former client on LinkedIn and directly solicit the recommendation from them.

To do so:

  • Click the “Ask for a Recommendation” button in the recommendations section of your profile.
  • Select who you’d like to ask.
  • Add your relationship to them and from where (which job in your experience list).
  • Make sure to personalize the message you send to your contact. You can let them know why you’ve asked them or what information you’re trying to gather — and be sure to thank them in advance.

Once you’ve solicited a recommendation in LinkedIn, make sure to follow up with an email or a phone call to your contact. This ensures they see the request and allows you to reiterate why you’d like a referral. An example would be:

Hi (first name),

Thanks again for connecting with me on LinkedIn. I’m working on building my connections and enhancing my profile to better use LinkedIn to find more leads for my business. Would you be willing to write a recommendation for me?

I’ve already sent a request to your account, so if you’re willing you would just need to accept and write the recommendation. Any details you could include on how my business, and I in particular, have helped you would be much appreciated.

Thanks for your continued support, and if you’d like a recommendation back please let me know.


(your name)

A great time to solicit a recommendation is after you’ve finished a project that went particularly well, provided a valuable consultation or if it’s a former client you’ve just connected with on LinkedIn.


The accomplishments section allows you to include a wide variety of details. When adding an accomplishment, you are provided a list of options to add to your profile:

small business linkedin profile

In this section, you can include a mix of both professional information (any accomplishment you can add), as well as some personal affiliations (typically through organizations). By including not only your professional accomplishments, but some personal as well, you allow your connections to see your diverse skills and interests. Speaking of interests…


The last section of your profile you’ll want to complete is your interests. This compiles all of the groups, companies and schools that you follow on LinkedIn.

Schools is the easiest option to fill out as you’ll likely want to choose your alma mater.

For groups and companies, you’ll want to find ones that align with your ideal client. For example, let’s pretend you’re my painting client we discussed skills for.

Some groups that might be relevant:

  • Hotel Industry Professionals Worldwide
  • American Hotel and Lodging Association
  • Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association
  • Industrial Insulators, Scaffold Builders, and Painters

You may have noticed that only one of these groups are specifically for painters. Instead, knowing that one of their primary targets is hotels, they’d look to join hotel industry groups that can give them a way to engage with potential leads.

Similarly, for companies, they would want to follow companies that are clients and potential targets they would like to work with.

To find groups, companies, and schools, you can simply type a keyword in the search bar and then click “More” on the search results page. From there you can filter to what you’re looking for:

small business linkedin profile

Building Your Network

Now that your profile is complete, it’s time to build your network. While there are many ways to gain new connections, today we’ll focus on three in particular.

Syncing Contacts

When you first create your profile, LinkedIn will ask if you’d like to sync your contacts. This entails granting LinkedIn permission to access contacts from your email accounts and using the email addresses to find people you know on LinkedIn.

This is a great way to get started building connections with people you already are in contact with.

If you already have a profile and need to get this set up, you can easily enable contact syncing through your profile settings.

Go to your settings and click on the privacy tab. Then scroll down to sync contacts (this is under the “How LinkedIn Uses Your Data” header) and click change. You’ll then be taken to a page that looks like this:

small business linkedin profile

From here you can set up syncing with any account you’d like and LinkedIn will automatically send connection requests.

Sending Connection Requests

You can also manually send connection requests in LinkedIn. This is great for sending follow ups after meeting someone at a networking event, having a meeting with a potential new client or if you don’t want to sync all of your email accounts

When you send a connection request, you simply use the search bar to find who you’re looking to connect with, confirm you’ve found the right person and click “connect.”

When you send a connection request, it’s important to always add a note. That way you can ensure the person remembers who you are, or you can let them know why you’re cold connecting.

Let’s pretend I met someone named Hannah at a networking event. Here’s the note I might add:

Hi Hannah. It was great meeting you at the speed networking event last night. I’d love to connect and chat more about your marketing needs in the next few weeks.

On the contrary, let’s say Hannah was a potential lead I wanted to connect with but haven’t met yet. I might send her:

Hi Hannah. Hope all is well! My company provides marketing services to B2B companies like yours. I’d love to connect so you can have easy access to our blog posts through my profile. I share great tips for businesses like yours.”

In that message I’m providing value and insight into why she would benefit from connecting with me, rather than just sending a blank request and hoping she clicks yes.

To practice this, try connecting with me. When you send me a request, make sure to include a personal note like “I read your post on how to optimize my LinkedIn account” so I know who you are and to confirm the request.

Engaging with Posts

You can also build your network by becoming an engaged user. By liking, sharing and commenting on posts by your connections, your company page and within your new group, company and school associations, you’ll make yourself more visible to other LinkedIn users.

Take some time every week and scroll through your feed. When you see something engaging, engage with it! By sharing your company updates as well you can help promote your business as well as your personal page, so always make sure to interact with your company posts.

Get Comfortable with LinkedIn

Once your account is set up, you can start looking for referrals, publishing your own content and establishing yourself as an industry thought leader. Check out part 2, which shares how to use the platform to gain genuine introductions or, if you’re ready for a more advanced look into LinkedIn for B2B, check out this guide for more.

Still stumped on what information to put into your account? Maybe your profile is set, but no matter how much you poke around you haven’t gotten the hang of utilizing your profile? Contact us today for help.

Thinking about refreshing your personal LinkedIn, or starting a profile from scratch?

Check out our free guide to setting up your personal LinkedIn!