Today’s we talk with Lea Turner, a LinkedIn trainer who’s absolutely dominated the platform over the last year. Before the pandemic hit, Lea was working hard running a transcription business, but she then discovered the power of LinkedIn. And in no time at all, she was building a strong, personal brand and sharing her insights with other ambitious professionals. Since then, Lea has not only grown her following to nearly a hundred thousand but more importantly, she’s turned that community into over 1300 paying customers.
The business is now generating a six-figure income, and she’s just bought a new house for her and her son, Dexter. So for anyone who dismisses LinkedIn as just another form of ‘social notworking’, Lea is with us today to explain otherwise and shed light on how to use the platform to build your brand whilst generating serious business.
Lea, thank you so much for joining us.
First of all, if we could begin just by taking a step back, and if you were able to just walk me through your journey. So what did you do before all of this? What led you to focus on LinkedIn? And how has your progress taken shape so far?
Lea: So originally I was running a transcription business, and I’ve been doing that since 2011. And I just worked on my own at home, doing transcription for doctors, building surveyors, podcasters, focus group companies, lots of market research, some books every now and then, and I literally sat all day long with headphones on, typing. And I’m exceptionally fast at typing and my English is very good, so I was very good at it. It was my own business.
And then I had a lady that was doing some extra typing for me, and she said, “I’m having a crap time at work. Do you have enough work for me to come and work for you full time?” And I didn’t, but I was like, oh, this is the chance my son starts school next year. This is the chance to grow the business. I’m going to find some more work so I can take her on full-time. And so I think I received an email from LinkedIn – one of these, “This many people have viewed your profile” emails. And I went, “Hmm, I wonder. I’ve never really used LinkedIn before.” But I like Instagram, quite like Facebook, so thought: let’s have a go. And I logged on and I went, “Oh God, I don’t belong here. I’m going to stand out like a sore thumb”.
And I had a logo as my profile picture. I didn’t even have a picture of myself. I had a look around and thought actually, there’s more here. It’s not all corporate. So I kind of hung around and I put a few posts out and tumbleweeds, no one engaged or anything. I got a couple of likes from people I used to work with, people I went to school with, and I think I was trying to be corporate. I was trying to be something that I’m obviously not.
And then I went – like I do with pretty much everything – I was like, I’ve got no marketing budget. If this doesn’t work, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ll just give it a shot by being me. So I started posting stuff about what I do but in a more funny, humorous, silly way. Talking about life as a working single mum, talking about travelling, talking about funny things that had happened to me in the day and interactions with clients and how I’d grown my business. All the different dimensions of who I am. And people started resonating with it. And the posts started getting a lot of views. I think I had 400 people that I was connected to at the beginning – they were just all random ex-colleagues, ex-school friends – and within about two months, I hit 10,000. And that was not me connecting with other people, that was people following and connecting with me.
I very rarely did any outbound at all because that wasn’t my motive. And I started getting lots of clients. In the first four months on LinkedIn, I had 70 inbound clients. And so I went from just me to taking on Naomi and also for other people part-time. And then COVID hit. And my doctors can see their clients and my building surveyors couldn’t do their home surveys. And my focus group clients were still in that transition. And so all my subcontractors were home with their wives, with their kids.
I didn’t have any work. I mean, I had enough for me, but it wasn’t enough to really pay the bills. And I’m a lone parent to a young son. But loads of people were asking me for LinkedIn advice. Like, how are you getting inbound clients? How’d you come up with all this content? And I went, “Well, maybe I’ll write an ebook to help”.
And a few people went “Don’t, that’s ridiculous. You’re selling out.” And I thought no, I’ve done something on LinkedIn that’s unusual. And I have done it unwittingly. I need to analyse what it is that I’m doing and sell this. This is something that people will buy. So I gave a few free training sessions and said to people, “Would you pay for it?” And they said, “Yeah, absolutely”. And so I started charging for it, and that was in May last year. And since then I’ve had over a thousand paying clients, so that doesn’t take into account the groups that I’ve trained because that only counts as one. So I’ve probably trained or sold LinkedIn products to over 1300 people in 14 months.
And I’ve got nearly a hundred thousand followers now, without ever using engagement pods. I could have done it a lot quicker if I’d done it with engagement pods. But no growth hacks, no trying to hack the system, just showing up regularly, posting helpful content, funny content, supporting my network.
And I just bought a house for me and my son. Six figure business; it hit six figures in just under 10 months. I was on housing benefits before all of this, so it’s a huge change.
Dan: Wow. That’s a hell of a story.
So, when you look at those 1300 odd clients, as you say, be that in the form of buying a particular product or attending one of your group training sessions or anything else. The ones that are making this a real success, the ones that are taking your principles and running with them, what are the unifying traits between those individuals? I’m guessing not all of those 1300 have necessarily gone on to make the most of the opportunity that you’ve given them, but the ones that are really turning it into something, what are those kinds of connecting things?
Lea: One of them is having a really strong personal brand. Actually going all in with the full profile make-over. Making sure you’ve got all the personal colours and the image, and you’re running that through and you’re being yourself and showing up regularly. So people recognise your brand. They get to know you. For me, I’ve got a very strong colour palette, I’ve got a very strong identity on LinkedIn and I’m visible. I show up in videos, in photos, not just in writing. Because people get to know you and the more familiar you seem, the more they’re going to trust you and remember you. So that’s one thing that really, all the people doing it very successfully, they’re encompassing all formats of the kinds of content that they can create. And they’re being a very visible force on LinkedIn. And showing up consistently.
I think the second one is giving, and that’s one that people really underestimate. They kind of think, “Oh, I’ll just post content and people will come to my content”, but it’s very reciprocal on LinkedIn. The more you engage outwardly, the more you show up in other people’s feeds. That’s how the algorithm works. The more you feed it with content and comments, the more popular and the more visible you become. So it’s never just thinking, “Oh, I just have to make a post once a week and I’ll stay relevant”. You won’t. You need to go out and support other people’s content as well.
And so the people that are doing very well are providing inspiration, motivation, advice, and helpful insights. Because when we’re on LinkedIn, the majority of us are knowledge-seeking or entertainment seeking because we’re bored, and that’s why we’re scrolling social media. So you need to entertain or give value. You need to provide something that’s useful so I leave your content with something I didn’t have when I got there, even if it’s just a good feeling.
And I think the other one is being brave enough to be yourself. And I think that’s probably something that people feel very uncomfortable with a lot of the time on LinkedIn, because they see it as a very corporate place and that you have to be on your best behaviour and you have to be like ‘Corporate Colin’, I called him. That sort of stiff upper lip and you can only talk about business. But actually, there are so many people doing whatever it is you do on LinkedIn, so to stand out, you have to be yourself.
That doesn’t mean being a clown on camera and twerking like in a TikTok, but you have to have personality because people will connect with that personality which will make you stand out from the other people in your industry. I think that’s a really strong one and something that I’ve learned to do on there because I’d never been corporate. And by me doing it, a lot of other people are going, “This really works because people are connecting with me as a person, not just what I do for money”. And that feels so much better as well. And it makes me feel a lot more confident and want to go on LinkedIn because they’re making genuine friends as well as business connections.
Dan: And do you ever worry that by becoming so channel-centric, you are exposing yourself to a certain level of threat there. That your success is connected to the whims of the LinkedIn algorithm and their engineers and their various policymakers? And if so, how do you go about shielding yourself from that potential threat?
Lea: It does worry me because I have been banned a couple of times, unfairly and they have apologised, but I have been banned. So that sort of fills you with dread. I’m working on building my Instagram presence. And I’m working on passive streams of income that won’t rely on LinkedIn. It’s something that I’m working on behind the scenes. I don’t want to train LinkedIn forever. I don’t want to be visible on a platform as a social media influencer. That’s not really my style. It’s something I’m doing for the time being, but I think ultimately my goals are bigger than that. I just need to use the platform and use this community and keep the community, but go beyond that.
So there are other things that I’m working on and partnerships that I’m growing that will mean that my income isn’t solely reliant on it. I don’t mind having one business that’s reliant on it, but I wouldn’t want my entire income to be reliant on the whims of an entity I have no control over. Although I do have the backing of the people at the top of LinkedIn who are very supportive of what I’m doing. And I have regular contact with that team, which is reassuring for sure.
Dan: That’s awesome. And how are you finding that attempt to diversify? Are you seeing immediate traction on these other channels or is it complicating the brand somehow? Because now it’s not simply all about LinkedIn, does it have the potential of almost kind of diluting the messaging somewhat? Are you seeing it mostly in a kind of a positive way?
Lea: Totally positive. I had an Instagram account with 15,000 followers, but I got rid of it because I wanted to be true to my word. I’m not about numbers. I’m about relevant engagement and real connections with people. So the numbers are just a by-product of that part of, you know, I want to foster real relationships.
So I started again on Instagram as Lea Does LinkedIn. And I’ve only been going for three months. I’m about three and a half thousand followers now. I post different stuff on there than I do on LinkedIn. There’s more of a behind-the-scenes feel as well. It is more personal. But I’m getting a lot of the marketers who are very good on Instagram going, “Actually, LinkedIn could work because it’s not super corporate anymore. There is a place for us on LinkedIn”. So rather than diluting it, it is actually drawing people who hadn’t considered LinkedIn as a creative platform and going, “Hold on a minute, she’s killing it on there. It is a creator platform. It is a fun social media platform. I don’t have to be in a grey suit and tie to fit in there. I don’t have to fit in at all”.
So it’s actually doing the opposite. It’s drawing new people to LinkedIn, and I’m getting a lot of clients from Instagram now as well because they’re sort of seeing me and going “Well, she can do it on LinkedIn. I probably can”. So it’s been really, really positive.
I haven’t really pushed Facebook yet. I’m not really a fan of the Facebook platform in general. It doesn’t feel like my kind of place, but that’s something I will do eventually. And I hate Twitter. I have a Twitter, but I don’t really use it because I find it a very toxic place.
So it’s not been a bad experience at all. It has been the opposite. Instagram and LinkedIn are very similar.
Dan: That’s awesome. And if they are very similar, or becoming more similar, I think you’ve alluded to the fact that LinkedIn is maybe losing that sense of corporate identity and that almost false pretence of people somehow being different when they are in a business environment. I mean, people are people, right. And that doesn’t change when they put on a suit and tie or when they walk into the office.
Lea: It does for so many people. They go to that corporate event and they’re suddenly like, “Oh, I have to be on my best behaviour. And I have to speak a certain way and that way”, and that’s how they are on LinkedIn.
If you’re playing golf with your colleagues, you’d be having a laugh. You don’t just talk about work. You talk about your family life, your holidays and what book you read at the weekend. Like you don’t have to just be a sandwich board for what you do. You can be who you are as well.
Dan: Is there a danger, though, that if LinkedIn loses that false pretence entirely that it almost just becomes another social platform and it loses its position in the market?
Lea: There are definitely people who take it too far the other way. I think it’s about striking that balance and realising that bringing your personal drama and moaning about your ex-wife, well, LinkedIn’s not the place. I mean, to be fair, I personally don’t put that anywhere, that’s private. But yeah, there are people that go the opposite way and they’re posting pictures of their lunch, but with no context; they don’t talk about it being a lunchtime meeting and enjoying a lovely restaurant here with X employee or whatever. It’s literally just a picture of their lunch or, you know, it’s a random picture of their kids as they go off to school and there’s no context or writing to give that a reason to be on LinkedIn.
And I think it’s fine to include that kind of stuff every now and then, but that doesn’t mean that can be your entire content strategy, because that’s not going to help your brand. If you do it now and then, you’re just letting people know your why and getting to know you a little bit. If your entire content strategy is posting pictures of your new baby, that’s not good for business and people are going to get tired of that because they don’t want to see that on LinkedIn all the time. I don’t really care about seeing a stranger’s baby all the time.
It needs to have context to your brand. So I’ll post a picture of me and my son that would say, “This is my why. He is my why, the reason I do everything that I do. Show me your why”. I want to know who you’re doing this for. And it builds a community in the comments. People are sharing pictures of their own kids or their dogs or whatever drives them every day. And there’s a purpose for posting it.
So you’re right. There is a chance of it being too diluted, but there’s also the sort of ‘Corporate Colin’ end that is just like, “No, this isn’t Facebook. You should never post anything with any personality, nothing about your life”. But you guys aren’t making money on LinkedIn, and we are making a lot of money on LinkedIn because personal branding is the future. But personal branding has got to have a balance. There’s got to be a balance of content that people can take something good from and useful from, and an insight into who you are and why you’re doing it. So, yeah, it is a risk, but at the moment, the majority of people are striking the right kind of balance.
Dan: I want to get a bit specific now. And this is a bit of a selfish question because, from a personal perspective, I’m very interested in the answer. If you plan your day – because you talk about the need for participating and commenting on other people’s stuff and actually being part of that ecosystem rather than just turning up once a week and expecting everyone to care – what does that actually look like?
Lea: So when I talk to my clients, I say to them that the biggest thing that is important here is that you make this work within your life. Because if you turn it into something that’s going to be massively onerous and a real stress, you won’t enjoy doing it. People will feel that vibe when you’re posting and they’re not going to respond well to it. You’re not going to get that enjoyment.
If you’re having fun, when you’re on there and you’re being lighthearted and enjoying your time on there, people know, people can tell, right? Even in the comments that you’re leaving, it doesn’t need to be forced. So you need to make it work with your life. But realistically, 30 minutes a day is enough.
When I teach my clients how, we teach them who they need to be connecting with, who they need to be engaging with and how to create a list that targets that their ideal clients and engage with them regularly? Cause they’re the ones that are really useful to you. You really want to fill your network with people that you could do business with or people who are likely to be connected to people that you can do business with. So if you fill your network with your ideal clients, every time you go and engage – imagine if you finished work a half-past five, and on your way back to the train station, there’s a bar. And that bar is full of your ideal clients. And you can go in for a swift drink, have a bit of a chat with a few of those people. Talk about your day, talk about their problems or whatever. And then you get on the train again. If you could actually do that for 30 minutes every day. And you knew that you’d be mingling with your ideal clients, you would do it.
That’s what LinkedIn can be when you’re using it right. How much time do you spend on accounts every day, on admin every day, on emails and phone calls? 30 minutes a day marketing your business is a huge investment, and when you’re doing LinkedIn properly, that’s exactly what you can turn it into. So you don’t have to be posting every day. You can post two, three times a week. If you spend 30 minutes a day engaging with targeted people that you want to pay attention to who you are and what you do and build those relationships, it’s literally like being able to have a little coffee or beer with your ideal clients every day. It’s a no brainer, really.
Dan: And as you’ve kind of alluded to, making it about the other people before you attempt to make it about yourself, right? Like, the importance of commenting and meeting them on their terms, as opposed to just assuming that they want to meet you on yours.
I guess that’s the key to great interaction, regardless of context, regardless of medium. And yeah, I think – and I’ve been guilty of this – there’s always a temptation to just assume that any social platform operates in the same way as, you know, email or blogging or other forms of digital media, where it’s very much about the content that you create. But I guess this is a little bit different, right?
Lea: You’re not going to be seen unless you’re engaging, because the algorithm won’t support your content being distributed. I liken it to a real-life situation. If you’ve walked into a conference centre full of strangers or people that didn’t really know you very well and shouted your opinion from the stage and then walked out, people are just going to go “What?”. But if you actually go and work the room first and then get up onto the stage, people have a reason to pay attention to you because they know that you’ve got something interesting to say. You need to work the room like you would at a networking event. People go onto LinkedIn and treat it completely differently than a real-life situation. If you approach it like a real-life situation, where you’re having banter in the comments, you’re talking a little bit about real-life, you’re talking about business, people warm to you because it’s human. That’s how humans work.
Dan: Yeah, what was the book called? ‘How To Make Friends & Influence People’. And the very first principle was to make it about the other person.
Lea: Make someone feel interesting and they’re putty in your hands.
Dan: And presumably, I mean, for people like me who are a little bit, you know, at that end of the spectrum, I don’t necessarily find it easy to kind of dip in and out of these things. And I guess for people with that kind of brain, is it helpful to maybe ring-fence part of your day – maybe the very first part of your day before the distractions begin to invest in that time – so that it really can become a daily routine as opposed to something that, you know, sometimes happens sometimes.
Lea: Absolutely. While you’re having your breakfast or your coffee or you’re on your commute or something like that. It’s a perfect time to do it. You’ve got coffee in your hand, you can chuck a post out, you comment on a few people’s posts when you’re full of energy and you’re feeling good and positive before the rest of the day has ground you down & you’re distracted.
I’ll chuck a post out earlier in the morning while you’ve got that buzzy energy, reply to your comments, get involved with a few other people’s posts, get your visibility up. And then at the end of the day, like later on that day, come back and reply to any other comments and leave a few more comments if you’ve got the time.
But if you ring-fenced 30 minutes a day and then just go, “Do you know what? I’m just having a quick coffee or off out for a cigarette”, check it, leave a few more comments. Have that as a habit; rather than scrolling Instagram, rather than scrolling Facebook, rather than scrolling through your WhatsApp, replying to your mates that could wait for later, drop a few comments on LinkedIn, it’s far more beneficial.
Dan: And I think as well, sometimes there can be a temptation – correct me if you disagree with this – I mean, you’re very charismatic, very articulate and I suspect that you have an ability to contribute an interesting comment without really investing too much thought or time into it.
I think very often for a lot of people, it can be a bit off-putting because you feel like actually, if I don’t spend 10, 20 minutes crafting the perfect comment, then this person isn’t going to be interested. Actually, the reality is, people are interested in – again, going back to the previous point – in themselves. And if you’ve shown some interest and you’ve said, “I absolutely love this, and I totally agree with you”, or challenge them in some way, that’s what’s going to spark that relationship between the two of you.
Lea: Very important thing is that you create that red dot on their notifications and they see your name in their notifications and they go, “Oh, such and such has supported me. They’ve helped me be seen by more people. That makes me feel good. I’ve got that dopamine hit”. So unless you’re saying something truly negative, they’re not going to think less of you. You’ve already got them feeling good because you’ve contributed and they feel interesting. So if you say “This is a really interesting post, I haven’t thought about it from that angle. So thanks for that”. They’re going to like you. And then the next time they see your content, they feel compelled to contribute to yours because reciprocity is extremely powerful.
As human beings, we feel compelled to support people that support us. So you create this really lovely dynamic between these people. And imagine you’re doing that with 50 of your ideal clients a week. You’re supporting things that they post and they’re supporting you in return, creating these little touch points where you get to know each other really well. And eventually, when it comes to talking business, it feels like a natural graduation because they already have context. They already feel good because they already know you find them interesting.
So it’s all based on human psychology, but you don’t have to have these well-crafted replies. It’s all about building how people perceive you. So if you just see someone’s job hunting and you stop and say, “Oh, commenting for network visibility. Good luck. I hope you find something soon”, loads of people in your network are going to see you make that contribution and they get that little subconscious in the back of their head saying “Oh, Dan seems nice, looking out for others and being supportive”. And then you’re building your personal brand in front of people. Without any effort.
Dan: How important is adding, following, new people, making new connections. Is that an important part of this? Do you advocate that to your clients that they use up their quota of that each week?
Lea: I don’t think that’s necessary. I mean, you get a hundred a week that you’re allowed to send now. I don’t think you need to be doing that many, but I think if you’re trying to create a good strategy, you should be thinking about trying to add 5 to 10 a week because you know that you’re always adding new people to your sales funnel essentially, aren’t you?
I always say four different categories of people that you should connect with. One is people that are your ideal clients, or potentially, you know you could do business with. The second is people who are likely to be connected to your ideal clients. The third is people that you just like, that they just improve your experience on LinkedIn. They teach you something, they entertain you. They make you laugh. Anything like that. And the fourth is people who are really active and they like to comment a lot because they help you to be seen by more people. So they might not be your ideal client, but they’re still boosting your visibility and they’re valuable people. If they hit one of those, be connecting with them.
I’ve had leads and connections and opportunities from all sorts of people that I never would have never imagined. So it’s kind of just like play the odds; if they’re going to be a good person to add to your network, have them there. But yeah. You don’t have to be connecting with a hundred a week, but 10 to 20 a week would be great. But have that part of your sort of strategy each day.
Dan: Awesome. And final question: what is it about LinkedIn at present that most pisses you off? What frustrates you? What concerns you about that space at the moment?
Lea: I don’t want to put people off. LinkedIn has a long way to go when it comes to protecting their users, they have had a huge surge in the number of people using LinkedIn during COVID. A huge search. People weren’t able to connect with their colleagues in person, so they were using LinkedIn as more of a water-cooler kind of environment, which is why it’s become a lot more personal.
So I think they’ve got a long way to go when it comes to actually protecting their users. I’ve been the victim of sexual harassment. I’ve been the victim of bullying and trolling. And they’re not up to scratch yet.
They do not jump in quick enough to protect people, but they are very quick to jump in when people are unfairly accused of things. So if a group of malicious people decide to report somebody, they can have their account banned very quickly. They will then review it and you get your account back, but their automation and their system for protecting their users leaves a lot to be desired at the moment.
So that’s probably the biggest one for me. It makes certain elements of being very visible on there, very tricky.
Dan: I guess it goes ultimately back to the point we said earlier about diversifying a little bit, it sounds like you’re making great strides to not being entirely dependent on LinkedIn, anyway.
Well, thank you so much. I knew this was going to be enlightening for me because as I say, this is a real blind spot for me personally, and I have taken a few notes as we’ve been talking and I’ll be listening back to this several times.
I really, really appreciate it. I look forward to watching that journey continue.
Lea: Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure.