Name: Amanda Kruse
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Bio: Amanda is a team member of Women Who Money and the founder and blogger behind Why We Money. Amanda loves writing about happiness, values, money, and real estate. She was a social worker before she became a stay-at-home parent and experienced side hustler 19 years ago. When Amanda’s not writing, she’s traveling, hiking, biking, gardening, and volunteering with several of her favorite local organizations. Her most cherished time is spent with her husband and her 17 and 19-year-old kids.
How long have you been doing freelance work?
3 – 5 years
Tell us about your freelance business, in 200 words or less.
My freelance work is related to some of my favorite topics. Currently, I mostly research, write, and edit articles on the subjects of personal finance, real estate, and community resources. On some client websites, I also create images as well as publish and update content on WordPress. In the past, I’ve done SEO work, managed social media accounts, and curated online content to support client needs.
What do you consider to be your specialty. How does it help you in your business?
Honestly, I don’t market to find new clients. I’ve owned a couple of personal finance blogs over the years and am active in my community. I’ve been fortunate enough to build relationships with awesome people in the personal finance and real estate realms, both online and in person. I get most of my work this way. I wouldn’t consider myself a specialist, per se. But I have a lot of knowledge and experience in both personal finance and real estate, so I find it seamless to work within those areas. (Though I love DIY and gardening too, and would love to dive into those topics someday).
What made you become a freelancer?
I fell into freelancing accidentally! I started a personal finance blog back in 2016 and made many connections online through running that site. After a couple of years, I sold that blog and flipped a house – which facilitated local real estate connections. Shortly after completing the house flip, a local real estate professional contacted me and asked me to work on their website. So that’s how it all started! I’ve also made some great connections in the personal finance space that allow me to continue to write money articles (my favorite topic of all).
What do you love most about freelance work, and why?
I love the flexibility most of all. I choose when and how much I work. I can work from anywhere with internet service, so even if we’re traveling, I can do some work. A nice side benefit is I get to write about interesting topics (and dive deep to learn more about them).
What do you hate about it?
Hate is a strong word. 😉 I don’t really “hate” anything about it. Though, I admit, there are some lovely sunny days when going outdoors looks (much) more appealing than sitting down and working on the laptop. But, in reality, I can (and do) take my laptop outside occasionally. What I’m trying to say is that sometimes it’s hard to muster up the discipline to sit down and get to work. Also, I have my own writing projects that get put on the back burner as I prioritize client work (something I need to work on!).
Tell us about your first paid job. How did you land your first client?
Yes! My first paying client was the real estate broker that approached me to work on their website after my husband and I flipped a house. I had built a relationship with them through the flip. I regularly attended and participated in their local real estate meetup, so I think that’s why they thought of me. (I couldn’t believe they were offering to pay me to write about stuff I enjoyed!)
Do you think aspiring freelancers should take unpaid work to gain experience? Why or why not?
That’s tough. My gut says, “no.” I think having a portfolio (or samples) of your work and references are essential. Working for free can set a standard and devalue the work you do. There are always exceptions to this, though. If you are learning a skill set or starting in your field, then volunteering short-term could help you build skills and gain exposure that leads to paid work. Each situation should be judged based on how it will help you reach your ultimate goal.
Do you feel you’re charging what you’re worth?
Sometimes!? It depends on how I charge and the project. Some clients pay in different ways – by the hour, by the word, or by the project. I put the same amount of effort into all projects, no matter how much I make. So sometimes, when I get paid by the project, my hourly rate ends up being slightly lower. This question made me realize I need to consider changing how I charge and estimate my time more realistically.
Describe your process for finding new clients? Where do you look?
As mentioned earlier, I don’t look for new clients. If I want more work, I approach people in my network or clients I’ve worked with before. Putting the time into building relationships, in the beginning, has gone a long way toward limiting my need to search for clients.
Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a client? If so, why and how did you do it?
I wouldn’t say I’ve “fired” a client, but I’ve stopped doing work for clients before. When this happened, I felt my work wasn’t valued. I let them know I wasn’t able to continue doing work for them after I finished what I’d already promised.
Name 3 tools (apps, equipment) that you can’t live without.
Grammarly, Google Calendar (and Tasks), my laptop
What is your #1 productivity hack?
Like 99% of people out there, I feel like I can always be more productive. But honestly, setting work “hours” and going to the library is the best way for me to get things done more efficiently. Plus, I’m always more productive when I turn off my phone and close my email.
Do you outsource tasks? Why or why not? If so, which ones?
I don’t do any outsourcing since my main gig is writing. That said, I rely on proofreading software and my amazing husband for editing before anything goes out.
In your opinion, what is the most important skill required for freelance work, and why?
For me to be successful required both self-discipline and building relationships. Working when and where I want means I’ve had to create a routine and limit distractions when it’s “work” time. I’ve learned I’m most productive in the mornings, so I focus on the most critical things in the morning. Building relationships through networking is one of the best skills to cultivate with freelancing. I believe this works best when it happens naturally. Offering to help others out without any expectation of something in return is the right way to do this, in my opinion.
Do you consider yourself a strong time manager? How do you stay organized?
The funny thing is, when I’m busiest is when I manage time best. When I have less on my plate, I’m more likely to procrastinate (maybe I’m not alone here)! Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking I can do more in a shorter time frame than reality allows. But, this realization has forced me to set expectations appropriately and manage my time better. My best tool is my calendar. I set tasks, reminders, and appointments for myself to get the most pressing things done. I’m a list maker and get a lot of satisfaction out of crossing things off the list!
Do you also work a 9-5? If so, how do you balance it with your freelance business?
I don’t work a 9-5.
Where do you do most of your work?
I do the majority of my work either at the library or in my sunroom. Admittedly, the library is a more productive space!
Do you use a co-working space?
Name an entrepreneur/freelancer/influencer who inspires you. What is it about their story/message that resonates?
There are too many to name. I respect them all and have learned from them. Many have become friends and acquaintances over the years. There seems to be a common theme among them that resonates with me most, though. It goes something like this: efficient production of meaningful work, focusing only on what’s essential and useful – all while maintaining and living one’s life values (no matter what).
Name 1 thing you would do differently, if you were starting over today?
At the beginning of my freelancing work, I had a nice balance and stuck to a schedule. I set limits on my hours and how much I was willing to work. And felt like I was compensated adequately for my efforts. Six months in, more opportunities came my way. I felt like some were just too good to pass up. So I added those opportunities, even though I suspected I would be undervaluing and overworking myself. And my work-life balance became lopsided. I worked too much and dealt with a lot of unnecessary stress as a result. All that to say, that if I were to start over, I would respect my time by saying “no” to some (hard to pass up) opportunities. I would be clear that taking on more work means letting go of some current work. And I wouldn’t try to prove myself with opportunities that undervalued my time and efforts.
What is your #1 tip for aspiring freelancers?
Build genuine relationships with others in your field. This means showing up and helping out, even if in small ways. Offering to connect people, providing feedback, or simply listening are a few of the many ways to start building those relationships.
Keep Reading: Freelancer Success Stories – Catherine Alford