Episode 76: Donna Serdula
Entrepreneur Conundrum Podcast
Donna shares how she helps individuals optimize LinkedIn to its fullest.
EC 01 | 4min
About The Guest
Donna pioneered the concept of LinkedIn profile optimization, realizing early on that the LinkedIn profile was so much more than just an online resume. The LinkedIn profile is a fantastic branding opportunity.
A job change in 2006 led her back to LinkedIn as Donna looked for tools to help her build a sales territory. It was during this time she had her LinkedIn epiphany and forged her LinkedIn 4 point methodology. By integrating LinkedIn into her sales process, she found tremendous success.
In 2009, she walked away from her successful sales career and founded Vision Board Media and LinkedIn-Makeover.com.
Donna and her team of over 40 writers have helped thousands of executives, entrepreneurs, sales stars, business leaders, and professionals from around the world create professionally branded LinkedIn profiles.
She is the author of the book “LinkedIn Profile Optimization For Dummies”, published by Wiley.
Donna has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Time’s Money Section, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, LA Times, NBC, SiriusXM Radio’s The Focus Group, and many other news outlets.
[00:00:00] VIRGINIA: Welcome to entrepreneur conundrum with Virginia Purnell where growing entrepreneurs share how they get visible online.
[00:00:09] Hi everyone. Today, I’m talking with Donna Serdula about how she helps individuals optimize LinkedIn to its fullest Donna’s Serdula pioneered the concept of LinkedIn profile optimization. Realizing early on that the LinkedIn profile. So much more than just an online resume. The LinkedIn profile is a fantastic branding opportunity. The job change in 2006, led her back to the LinkedIn, as Donna looked for tools to help her grow with territory, it was during this time that her LinkedIn epiphany and forged her LinkedIn four point methodology by integrating LinkedIn into her sales process, she found tremendous success. In 2009, she walked away from her successful sales career and founded vision board media and LinkedIn make-over dot com. Donna and her team.boarder of over 40 writers have helped thousands of executives, entrepreneurs, sales, stars, business leaders, and [00:01:00] professionals from around the world create professionally branded LinkedIn profiles. She is the author of the book. LinkedIn profile optimization for dummies published by Wiley. Donna has been featured on Forbes business insights. Time’s money. Section wall street, Journal’s MarketWatch LA times NBC Sirius XM radios, the focus group, and many other news outlets. Welcome Donna.
[00:01:23] DONNA: Hey Virginia. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:01:25] VIRGINIA: You’re welcom Thanks for being with us today
[00:01:28] DONNA: . Oh, my pleasure. My pleasure.
[00:01:30] VIRGINIA: Can you talk a little bit about like your, Entrpreneural journey? Like, well, obviously you found this really awesome method that you wanted to optimize, but like leaving the corporate world and kind of like going out on your own.
[00:01:40] DONNA: Sure. I love talking about this Although I. Rarely talk about this in such a public way, but I’m just, I’m going to tell you, I, so it was in 2009. I had, you know, prior to that I had, I graduated college in 1996. And I started to work for my [00:02:00] father and then for, he was working with a company as a sales rep. And so I worked with him for like two years, and then that company that employed him, took me on. And at that point, you know, I was, I worked for that company for, you know, like altogether with my father. And then the company was like 10 years and I was an employee. But all through that time, I, I always thought I don’t know what it was, but I always thought I want to have my own business. I want to have my own business. And I had no idea what that business could possibly be. I used to think, like, I wish I had some marketable skillsets or strengths, you know, I just, I just didn’t. I had this vision of being a business owner, but. Of what I was, what I could do. And, you know, I made that career shift. I got into a really stressful high pressured sales environment and that started to help me cause it kind of forged me as someone who could, you know, bring in money [00:03:00] and ask for a check. And I think that’s really important for entrepreneurs to be able to, you know, kind of have that. That background
[00:03:07] VIRGINIA: We get too scared to ask for that. Don’t we’re like Oh I’ll do it for free because I’m too scared to ask you.
[00:03:12] DONNA: Oh, Virginia. I mean, my first like year, two years in business, that was a real, I was scared to send invoices.
[00:03:21] VIRGINIA: Right. Or we always like discount it because, oh, but they won’t? Pay that much. So we’ll just discount it.
[00:03:27] DONNA: It’s it’s funny how that works. I will tell you how I fixed that, but just to finish this part of the story to finish this part of the story, I, I, so I was working this really high pressure type of sales environment, and I had closed oh my goodness. It was early December. 2008 and I’d already closed like 1.3 million. And I had S I had like another couple million coming in, not into my pocket, you know, like, but this was like, you know, my big, this was like [00:04:00] a big quote a month. And then my, my sales manager came in and let me go. And I was like, I was just shocked. You know, like this was the month I was going to get paid and they laid me off and I remember at that point, I was like, I’m done, I’m done working for people. I can’t pat anymore pockets. I have to do this. I have to go on my own. There’s just no other way. I will, I will, I will end up in jail if I have to become an employee again. And at that point, I, I decided I was going to start my business. And at that point I thought, you know, I could write, I could do websites. Like how hard could that be? And, but at the same time, because no one was writing LinkedIn profiles. So my initial thought was, I’ll just write linked, write websites, but I’ll also all also offer this as like a side and don’t, you know, The side became a full-time gig and that’s how it all happened. But [00:05:00] you know, it was funny. I wasn’t leading with it. Like I always say, you know, I wanted to help people write their profiles. I knew that was important and it’s true. But you know, when I really think about that, I really didn’t even trust that that was going to be the big thing at the time. I, you know, and sometimes I find with, when you do go off on your own, what you think is what you’re going to do. It’s it’s usually not, but you will get directed to where the need is.
[00:05:25] VIRGINIA: That’s a way to get started on the journey.
[00:05:27] DONNA: You just have to get started. You just have to say, you know what, I’m going to do this and things happen.
[00:05:35] VIRGINIA: That’s cool So that was your, how did you get over the. Asking for money thing you’re going to share that with us.
[00:05:41] DONNA: Yeah. So, so it was a struggle. Oh my God, Virginia. I would remember I would get these opportunities. I would do the work and then I’d have to send out the invoice. And I just, I was always so scared and it was silly because I had no problem asking for money at, you know, in a sales capacity, but billing for my [00:06:00] time billing for, you know, the work that I had done was really, really hard, especially in those very, very early days. And so. What I decided to do. And this also was with that shift where I realized, you know, that desire to work with people, to tell their story. Like that was really the real direction that I was supposed to go in, not this, you know, website, building, designing websites, like that was just, that was an area to pivot for me. So what I realized is. I needed to have on my website, an order form, where if a person wanted to work with me, they’d pay up front.
[00:06:35] VIRGINIA: Totally takes the pressure away. Hey,
[00:06:36] DONNA: they would click a button and you know what? People would click the button. They’d pay me money and I would do the work. And so I never had to invoice. After that, the nice thing is I think the real truth is it takes a while for your confidence to build up for you to understand what your strengths are, what is the [00:07:00] value that you provide. And once you truly believe in it, and you know that other people can’t do it and can’t do it easily. You know, at that point, I think it becomes easier to, to send that invoice, to ask for the money, to stop, to stop the silly discounts. Because most people, when they’re working with a professional, they don’t want $10 off like that. It doesn’t matter. You know, they want to work with you and, you know, a tiny little discount really isn’t isn’t changing anything.
[00:07:30] VIRGINIA: And a lot of times too, cause like I’ve heard, it said too, like it doesn’t matter. At like how long it takes me to do that job. Right? Like for the price, it’s my knowledge on doing that job for
[00:07:44] DONNA: an old friend of mine that said years ago, he said, it’s not that you can do it in an hour. It’s the hours and years of experience that, that, that get you to the point that you can deliver that value.[00:08:00]
[00:08:00] VIRGINIA: Yeah. And
[00:08:00] DONNA: you know, whatever time period it might be, you know, it’s not, it’s like we have to move beyond the 60 minute concept because, you know, especially when you’re doing creative work, it’s really hard to time it correctly.
[00:08:13] VIRGINIA: Yeah. That’s when you definitely flat rate it. Who is your ideal client? Who do you try to get?
[00:08:22] DONNA: So I have two different types of clients when we’re doing individual. Branding, you know, I love, I love executives. I love professionals who, who recognize that their brand is important, that they have a story, you know, they need someone to help them discover it and tell it in the right strategic targeted way. So executives and entrepreneurs and professionals. So that’s, that’s the one that’s the one side. The other side is I love, I love working with companies where someone in marketing or in HR or in the, at the usually, you know, the [00:09:00] executive team says, oh my goodness. We want to attract rockstar talent. We want to attract better prospects. We want to wow. Our clients and everyone is looking at us on LinkedIn and all of our employees. These look like they’re looking. So we need someone to come in here and help, you know, help our team tell the right story, a cohesive unified one on LinkedIn. How do you tend to get in front of them?
[00:09:27] VIRGINIA: See, I don’t, I don’t really prospect Virginia. I don’t, you know, I don’t cold call. What I’ve always done is I’ve just tried to be very visible online and I’ve tried to be visible in other ways, you know? So I do podcasts, I get up and I speak in front of audiences. You know, I write articles. I, I blog, you know, I, you know, all of the clients that we’ve worked with over 6,000. Entrepreneurs and executives and professionals over the last 12 years. And you [00:10:00] know, when you do a really. Good job. You go above and beyond. They tell people they talk. And so people find out about me. They hear about me, you know, they read the for dummies book and then my phone rings. So that’s, so how do I get in front of them?
[00:10:18] DONNA: I’m not necessarily targeting. I’m just, I just try to give as much value as I can all the time. And people find me.
[00:10:27] VIRGINIA: That’s cool. So what would be a tip that you have on optimizing a LinkedIn profile to get found
[00:10:36] DONNA: So I have a couple tips on that. On that? So one, you need to know what, you know, what do you want to get found? Right, because I think there’s a lot of people who look at their profile, they think it’s a resume and they put in, you know, they just copy and paste a resume and then they wonder why they’re getting hit for these like low quality, you know, strange positions when [00:11:00] they’re looking for clients. And they’re getting like job offers it’s because they’ve optimized for, you know, a job they had in the past. So you really need to think, like, what is your goal? Why are you on LinkedIn? Who is that target audience and what are they looking for and what would those keywords be? Because a lot of times, people aren’t looking for you directly, they’re putting in keywords, trying to find someone like you. So if you can figure out what those keywords are and you sprinkle them throughout your profile, not in a repetitive, not an obnoxious way, but just in a, just a very organic utilize those terms. As part of the narrative, you will get found for the right opportunities. You will collide with those searches.
[00:11:45] VIRGINIA: Cool, thank you for that.
[00:11:47] DONNA: So keywords, keywords, knowing your goal keywords and the other, you know what the other thing I would say, and this is something that a lot of people forget too, is they need to have a big network. Like if you only [00:12:00] have 50 people in your network, Don’t even bother with LinkedIn. It’s not worth it. I mean, you really do need to have a big network and I’m not talking like, you know, 30,000, but I am talking about like, at least over 500 1st degree connections.
[00:12:16] VIRGINIA: So, how would you suggest increasing that? So just randomly finding somebody and like friend requesting them, or does it have to be like somebody or should it be more somebody, you know, what are your thoughts on that
[00:12:27] DONNA: with LinkedIn? They really do want you to keep your first degree network close. You know, people that, you know, people you trust and. And I think with, there’s been a lot of proliferation of, you know, spam accounts on LinkedIn. And I think because there’s so many people using those automated connection tools that most people have gotten a little bit more sensitive. As to who they accept, you know, at one time, you know, you just go through and you just accept everyone. Now you look, and you’re like, oh, that’s a [00:13:00] spammer that person’s trying to sell me something. That’s, that’s definitely a fake account. So I think people are just more picky in who they accept. So I would say, just make connecting. A part of your workflow. And as you meet people, as you talk to people on the phone, you connect with them on LinkedIn. So really trying to make your, your, your offline network reflect your online network. But I think what a lot of people do is they don’t make those connections quickly. And then they forget and they never follow up. And then they have this small network. So if you can really try to just make sure that, you know, when you’re meeting people, you know, and even if you go backwards in time, I mean, if you find that you have a small network, sit down and think of all the people that you’ve worked with in your past. And connect with them and put in that personalized note, but just you it’s, it’s one of those things where LinkedIn, I mean, they do try to help you connect, but it doesn’t feel as organic as like Facebook [00:14:00] would, or maybe even like Instagram, like they seem to really be in your face. Like here’s what people that, you know, like follow them with LinkedIn. It’s a little different because it’s more of that, you know, you have to request it and then they have to. You know, except, and although they do have the follow feature now, but at the same time, it’s, it’s really about that first degree connection. So I say, don’t leave it up to LinkedIn, you know, really make that concerted effort to connect with people.
[00:14:27] VIRGINIA: Thank you. What would be this kind of shifting a little bit, what’s kind of your, what’s a couple of big goals that you have the next one to two years.
[00:14:36] DONNA: Big goals. The goals that I have. I don’t, I don’t even know if they’re like big goals, but I do want to do more with courses. I want to do more with building a more interactive and engaged community. Those are the two that I’m like I’m constantly looking at and trying to figure out how to make happen. I mean, I wish I could tell you, I [00:15:00] want to take over the world, but I will say I did accomplish. A couple of big things this last year, you know, with the, with, you know, having the pandemic, it kind of allowed me to really go inward. And I was able to, we, I hired a firm, we redesigned the website. That was a huge undertaking. And I also started my own podcast and that’s, that’s been fun. I am in the midst of working on a book, which I’m very proud of, but it’s not yet. So that’s the other big idea. Dream I have is, is getting this book finished
[00:15:36] VIRGINIA: how would all of those goals effect a buisness
[00:15:38] DONNA: isn’t it funny? They all do. Right. You know, if I could get those things working, it would, it would definitely help. You know, the business move forward, more smooth.
[00:15:49] VIRGINIA: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received.
[00:15:52] DONNA: I remember boss said to me, it’s better to ask forgiveness [00:16:00] than to ask permission. And I like that one. Yeah. I had another boss who used to say, be bright, be brief, be bright, be gone. I loved that. And I once had someone say to me, and this was huge. This helped me with my, you know, my current business, this, this fellow said to me, he said, you know, a lot of times people, when they’re looking to, you know, build their business, they, they start with sales, like just selling, like trying to sell people when that doesn’t work, then they move into marketing and they start sending postcards and doing things like that.
[00:16:37] And then Once that doesn’t work, then they start to educate. And that’s when they start to that’s when you really start to see good things happen is when you’re really educating and you’re adding value. He said, if people could just flip that and start with educating, start with the education and value, you would never have to get to marketing or sales to the same [00:17:00] extent.
[00:17:00] And I’ve always tried to that way. That was something that really hit me. And I decided that point, that’s what I was going to do. And, and it is funny. I haven’t really ever had a market or, or sell, you know, in like cold in that cold calling prospecting type of way, because it really does work if you, if you really start with education and start with, you know, creating value for others. It’s funny how that, at least for my business, I mean, I don’t know if it, it might not work for every business, but it’s, it’s worked amazingly for me.
[00:17:29] VIRGINIA: I’ve heard a lot of people say that too. Right. Provide a ton of value and then they’ll, it’ll come. So it’s the best advice you’ve ever given.
[00:17:38] DONNA: You know, I give a lot of advice, you know, I, I, it’s almost like you have to ask other people too, but you know, I’ll tell you this. This is, I think most people don’t, they don’t look to the future. They look to where they are and that’s typically how they brand themselves. [00:18:00] Like this is who I am today. And, and so I often say to my clients, you know, you feel pigeonholed or you feel discriminated against, or you feel like you’re being ignored. And it’s really because you’ve branded yourself so perfectly for where you are. That’s why you can’t seem to escape. You’ve got to start looking forward and you’ve got to start building that person that you want to become. That’s when you’re going to start getting the better opportunities, because right now you’re, you’re just to your, to your brand and to current, to like where you are right now, you’ve got to expand outward and I do believe that’s true. I think it’s hard to do. And there’s times when I’ve had to say to myself, stop where, you know, how, how have you branded yourself? How are you describing yourself? Are you describing yourself as you were. Or as you want to be, and oftentimes I’ll find myself, I have to, you know, stop remind and then, you know, then you have to go through the rebranding to get you where you want to go. That’s the only way you’re going to keep moving forward.
[00:18:58] VIRGINIA: Good advice. Thank you. [00:19:00] So, is there anything that we haven’t talked about today that you’d like to share with us?
[00:19:05] DONNA: Do you believe in the law of attraction, Virginia?
[00:19:08] VIRGINIA: Yes, but I don’t understand it as much as I want to ,
[00:19:12] DONNA: I don’t think anyone really understands it.
[00:19:16] VIRGINIA: Or intimate, maybe intimate could be a good word.
[00:19:21] DONNA: You know, oprah has said that she’s so good at manifesting like shit. She just puts her brain to it and she can attract pretty much anything. And, and I think kind of in what we were talking about before, I think a lot of that, you know, rebrand is really about knowing where you want to go and visualizing it. You know, and then it happens. And who knows? I don’t know if it’s some mystical universe or if it’s really just this little switch in our brain that makes things happen. You know, I don’t know what the real reason is, but I do, I do believe that a lot of it has to do with just, you know, in your brain seeing it, believing it, feeling grateful for it and weird [00:20:00] things happen in a good way. Yeah.
[00:20:02] how can people go
[00:20:03] VIRGINIA: to find out more about you and what you do
[00:20:06] DONNA: so people can find me on LinkedIn. They can follow me on LinkedIn, definitely hit the follow button because I’m, I’m almost at 30000 1st degree connections and LinkedIn has a limit. So I can’t accept any new people, but you can follow me on Linkdin or you can visit my website, LinkedIn dash make-over dot com and we help people brand themselves on LinkedIn and beyond.
[00:20:28] VIRGINIA: Awesome, well thank you
[00:20:31] DONNA: You’re welcome.
[00:20:31] VIRGINIA: Have a great day. and we’ll keep in touch
[00:20:34] DONNA: fabulous. I’m looking forward to it.
[00:20:37] VIRGINIA: Thank you so much for joining us today. Be sure to subscribe and leave some love through a review and I’ll catch you on the next episode.
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