Signing up for LinkedIn is free, and many functions are open to all account holders, so you can take advantage of most of the opportunities that LinkedIn offers. You can pay a monthly fee for a premium account to get additional functions or communication options. Finally, tailored solutions are available for corporations that want to use LinkedIn as a source for hiring quality candidates.
Free versus paid LinkedIn accounts
There's not much difference between a free account and paid account on LinkedIn. And the basic account is anything but basic in usage.
Your free account with LinkedIn allows you to use most of LinkedIn's most popular features, including
Building a network of connections with no limits on size or numbers
Reconnecting with any member of the LinkedIn network, provided that he knows you and agrees to connect to you
Creating a professional and detailed LinkedIn profile
Giving and receiving an unlimited number of recommendations
Joining or creating up to 50 different LinkedIn Groups
Requesting up to five introductions at one time (after someone accepts an introduction, you can request a new introduction in its place)
Performing an unlimited number of searches for LinkedIn members in your extended network
If you want to step up to a paid account, some of the main features include
Sending a message to anyone in the LinkedIn community — regardless of whether she is in your extended network — through an InMail messaging service
Sending more introductions than the basic account allows
Viewing more LinkedIn profile information of people not in your LinkedIn network when you conduct advanced searches
Seeing more LinkedIn network profile information when you conduct advanced searches
Seeing exactly who has viewed your profile and how they arrived at your profile
Performing a reference check on someone
Obtaining membership in the OpenLink program, which gives you unlimited OpenLink messages
The paid accounts
LinkedIn offers a few levels of paid accounts, each with a specific level of benefits. For the most up-to-date packages that LinkedIn offers, check out the Compare Accounts Type page. You can also click the Upgrade link at the top right of your screen, below your Account & Settings button (the thumbnail of your photo), to see a comparison of the paid accounts.
Every premium account comes with certain benefits regardless of the level you choose. These benefits include
Unlimited one-click reference searches
OpenLink network membership
Unlimited OpenLink messages
Ability to see who viewed your profile
Access to premium content
One-business-day customer service for your LinkedIn questions
As of this writing, LinkedIn offers three premium packages targeted at individual users: Job Seeker (formerly Business), Business Plus, and Executive. Each account level comes with specific benefits:
Job Seeker: $29.95 per month, billed monthly, or $24.95 per month when billed annually. This account includes
Five InMails per month, with a seven-day response guarantee that states that if you don't receive a response to your InMail within seven days, you will receive that InMail credit back.
Expanded profile views and a total of 250 search results outside your network when you search.
Fifteen introductions that you can use to have your connections introduce you to their connections.
Business Plus: $49.95 per month, billed monthly, or $39.95 per month when billed annually. This account includes
Ten InMails per month, with a seven-day response guarantee. (Unused InMail credits roll over each month, up to a maximum of 30 credits.
Expanded profile views and a total of 500 search results outside your network when you search.
Twenty-five introductions that you can use to have your connections introduce you to their connections.
Executive: $99.95 per month, billed monthly, or $74.95 per month when billed annually. This account includes
Twenty-five InMails per month, with a seven-day response guarantee. (Unused InMail credits roll over each month, up to a maximum of 30 credits.
Expanded profile views and a total of 700 search results outside your network when you search.
Thirty-five introductions that you can use to have your connections introduce you to their connections.
Full name visibility when looking at your third-degree network members or group connections (other plans display only limited name information for these people).
What's the value in getting a premium account? Besides the features already listed for each account level, premium accounts are designed to give you more attention in areas like job search. When an employer lists a job posting and collects applications through LinkedIn, premium account holders show up at the top of the applicant list with a LinkedIn “badge” next to their name.
LinkedIn provides special content in the form of e-mails, video tutorials, and articles that provide job search and professional development tips and advice from leaders in the industry. Finally, you get to see who has viewed your profile, which can be helpful when you're applying for jobs or trying to set up business deals. Consider what you need from your LinkedIn experience and decide if upgrading is right for you.