10 LinkedIn Mistakes That Can Put Off Business Leads (And How to Avoid Them)

10 LinkedIn Mistakes That Can Put Off Business Leads (And How to Avoid Them)


  • The 3 most common mistakes people make on their LinkedIn profile relate to their profile image, headline and summary.
  • Use professional headshots and sell yourself in your headline and summary. Remember, LinkedIn serves a different purpose to other social networking sites.
  • Other things that could stop people from contacting you are an incomplete profile, inactivity and a lack of a call to action (CTA).
  • Read on to discover the top 10 mistakes to avoid on your LinkedIn profile.

As a Certified Financial Planner® professional, I rely heavily on LinkedIn. It’s a great place to connect with others, exchange valuable information and expand your professional network.

However, for business development on LinkedIn to be feasible, you have to make sure that your profile is top-notch or it could deter prospective clients. 

What are the top LinkedIn profile mistakes to avoid?

The most common mistakes people make with their LinkedIn profiles are:

  1. Posting an unprofessional profile image
  2. Not having a cover photo
  3. Messing up your headline 
  4. Using a wall of text summary (or worse)
  5. Not having a clear CTA
  6. Sticking to your default profile URL
  7. Falling short on past experiences
  8. Not asking for recommendations
  9. Being inactive on LinkedIn
  10. Not connecting with the right people 

These spell out "unprofessional" or "amateur" and can discourage potential clients and business partners from contacting you.

1. Posting an unprofessional profile image 

Using an unprofessional image when setting up a LinkedIn profile probably has the biggest impact on how well people are perceived on the platform.

There’s no need to hire a photographer, makeup artist or hairstylist to take the perfect shot, but you should at least have a sharp photo of yourself that clearly shows your head and shoulders.

Also, be sure to maintain an upright posture, wear appropriate clothing, and project a positive attitude - smile!. Make sure you use the appropriate image size and format, then you've got everything covered.

A professional headshot will help build credibility and trust. More importantly, it’s what gives your profile a personal touch. This is also the reason why you don’t want to use your company logo here.

Other profile image mistakes to avoid:

  • Posing a duck face
  • Noisy background
  • Strange poses
  • Any photo that’s not showing you
  • Repurposed group shots
  • Blurriness

Speaking of blurriness, the minimum width for profile pictures on LinkedIn is 400 pixels. The same goes for height. However, your photo does not have to be a perfect square.

LinkedIn allows you to upload any image up to 7,680 x 4,320 pixels and 8 MB file size, which can be cropped.

LinkedIn also lets you apply different filters and adjust for brightness, contrast, and other settings.

Is Your LinkedIn Profile Putting Off Business Leads?

What’s even worse than a bad profile image? Having no image at all.

According to LinkedIn, the difference between having an image and not having one is

  • up to 21x more profile views,
  • up to 36x more messages, and
  • up to 9x more connection requests.

2. Not having a cover photo

Everyone should “definitely upload a cover photo” to their profile, says LinkedIn career expert Nicole Williams in an interview with Business Insider. If you miss out on this, Williams says you are “wasting an opportunity by not including a photo that expresses your professional identity.”

Furthermore, Williams says that your cover photo on LinkedIn should differ from the ones you are using on other social networks. It’s important that it represents who you are as a professional.

Photographers could upload a picture showing a camera. Writers might use a photo of a typewriter. As a financial advisor, why not use an image with a stock chart?

Whatever cover image you are using, make sure that it:

  • tells your story visually to set yourself apart from the crowd,
  • catches the eyes of people visiting your profile, and
  • is sized correctly (1,584 x 396 pixels).

If you don’t own an image that you want to use, browse through some of the free libraries with thousands of stock images that are in the public domain (meaning that you are free to use them without the need for attribution). Examples are Pixabay, PEXELS, Kaboompics, and Unsplash.

3. Messing up your headline

Apart from your headshot, your headline is the most important element of your LinkedIn profile.


Because the headshot + headline + your name is what users browsing the LinkedIn database will see when your profile shows up in search results.

The other details are hidden until someone actually visits your page. Commit your time and energy into writing your headline.

Besides, by default LinkedIn inserts your job title + company name as your headline. Many people never change this, which is why this is a real opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Here are some tips to nail your headline:

  1.  Be meaningful and specific. Avoid using bland buzzwords—think “passionate.”
  2.  Explain how your skills and expertise can help your target audience. What benefits can they receive? What results can you deliver?
  3.  Be captivating and compelling to increase your chances of people getting in contact with you, while not being overly “salesy.”
  4.  Use "|" to separate words.
  5.  Add keywords that resonate with your ideal prospects to increase your chances of appearing in LinkedIn's search results.


Examples of LinkedIn's headlines
 Bad example “Passionate & Savvy Internet Marketer at Awesome Marketers LLC”
 Good example  “Internet Marketer at Awesome Marketers LLC | We Help You Get More B2B Clients on Social Media”


4. Using a wall-of-text summary (or worse)

Your LinkedIn summary is “a way of selling yourself,” according to Libby Kane of LearnVest. It helps you distinguish yourself from the competition and helps express your personality with a maximum of 2,000 characters.

You don't have to use of all of the characters— don’t create a huge wall of text that no one will ever read but try to tell your career story in a concise and friendly manner. Briefly describe your current and past accomplishments.

Write in the first person, not third, so the reader feels a stronger connection. Add bullet points summarizing the most important information, and perhaps even insert a testimonial or product or service review to help your summary shine.

Lastly, pay attention to grammar and punctuation. If your writing is sloppy and unprofessional, prospects may conclude that you are unreliable.

5. Having no clear CTA

Call, email, or Skype—a clear call to action (CTA) should be part of your summary. It tells people how you want them to proceed in case they want to contact you.

To keep things simple, include only one CTA, not multiple ones. For example, avoid the following:

"I'm currently taking on new clients and would love to connect with you via phone (123-456-7890) or email (jim@examplecompany.com)."

6. Sticking to your default profile URL

With LinkedIn, you can customize your public profile URL instead of using the standard, random alphanumeric slug. A personalized URL is usually much easier to remember. To change your URL, here is what you need to do:

  1. On your profile page, click Edit public profile & URL at the top of the sidebar on the right. Is Your LinkedIn Profile Putting Off Business Leads?
  2. On the next page, type in your desired URL under Edit URL on the right and click save. Is Your LinkedIn Profile Putting Off Business Leads?

If you made a mistake, you can change your URL up to five times within six months.

7. Falling short on past experiences

In the Experience section, LinkedIn lets you brag about your previous jobs. Take the time to inform others of your past employers and job titles, describe your roles and responsibilities, and share your biggest achievements.

Simply creating a list of former employers is not enough. People are likely to be interested in getting an insight into your professional life up to this point. List your entire work history, including volunteer work and interests.

New speak ill of your previous company, boss, or business partner online. It will cast you in a negative light and deter new clients from working with you for fear of receiving the same treatment in the future.

8. Not asking for recommendations

LinkedIn recommendations demonstrate credibility and build trust. They often make the difference between a prospective client that visits your profile and leaves and one that actually contacts you.

The best way to receive more recommendations? Write them first, especially for people in your network that you’ve enjoyed working within the past. Be specific, honest, and grateful. In most cases, they will leave you a recommendation in return.

Here are more tips on writing a LinkedIn recommendation.

You can also send recommendation requests. If that’s the route you want to pursue, remember that personalized requests are key—avoid generic mass messages.

9. Being inactive on LinkedIn

If you’ve been inactive on your LinkedIn for too long, it will be evident to everyone who views your profile. That doesn’t mean that you have to log in and update your status constantly.

Share what you read and who you follow and inform your network of your latest accomplishments. Update your status every couple of days or so to keep it fresh. Interact with your connections to build nurturing relationships with them.

You can also join groups, read and comment on what other users post, and, even better, publish your own occasional articles.

10. Connecting with the wrong people

You don’t want to associate yourself with the “wrong” people because your network is part of your LinkedIn persona.

Instead of accepting every connection request from random strangers with incomplete and shady profiles, choose carefully.

At the same time, not having enough connections may raise concern: Why is nobody willing to be part of your network?

Ready for success?

Business development on LinkedIn is much easier with a great profile. If you avoid the mistakes listed above, you should be successful.

Your profile will not only show up under the right keywords in the search results, but people will also proactively contact you more often.

Sometimes small changes can yield significant results.

Marguerita Cheng

CEO at Blue Ocean Global Wealth

Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP® is the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. She is a member of the CNBC FA Council and a contributor for Investopedia & Kiplinger. Marguerita is passionate about ensuring that her clients have clarity and confidence about planning for their financial future. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Ambassador, Marguerita helps educate the public, policymakers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.