nDash’s Managing Editor, Jenn Greenleaf, talks to Kara Hartnett about her background in tech writing, content marketing, and more!
Background: The Highlights
With over a decade of experience as a freelance writer, Kara knows how to help businesses stay competitive and connect with the target audience. Skilled in writing for just about any industry, Kara’s expertise is in writing for technology, business, and Fintech. (More on that below!)
Here’s a snippet from her LinkedIn profile:
“Kara is a skilled storyteller with a decade of professional technical writing experience, including AI and machine learning, with strong SEO and content strategy skills. Kara can build and manage teams to create clear and engaging stories that align with marketing campaigns to guide the buyer’s journey.”
Becoming a Full-Time Freelance Writer: Kara’s Journey
Jenn: I notice on your LinkedIn profile that you have over a decade of full-time or contract technical content writing experience. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how those experiences influenced your decision to work as a freelance writer?
Kara: I actually started off my career in Art History. My original goal in college was to become a Museum Curator, so I have a Master’s degree in Art History. After college, when I was contemplating my next step, I fell into technical writing for a medical device manufacturing company, and it was love at first sight.
I enjoy learning about how things work and simplifying that for a non-technical audience. After a few years, I decided to check out the software development side of technical writing, and it was a lot of fun.
That first contract role with Soltech showed me this was definitely the path I needed to be on. For the next six years, I dived into so many technical topics. Those include:
- Machine Learning
- Data Analytics
- Big Data
- Intelligent Document Processing
- … the list really goes on
I love to learn new things! And being able to apply my experience to multiple companies as a freelance writer is very appealing.
Jenn: How did you know freelance writing was the right career move for you?
Kara: I have freelanced on and off over the years, but a recent layoff showed me that even traditional roles are not guaranteed. I decided that for my next move, I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. Combining that desire with my appetite to learn, I want to dive into all the wonderful opportunities that await me by writing for multiple companies.
Jenn: How did nDash become part of your freelance writing journey?
Kara: Once I decided to start freelancing full-time, I signed up for Upwork as my beginning step. But I have since discovered that it is very hard to compete with people willing to work for very little pay. I wanted to find a way to work for companies willing to work with experienced writers who can provide incredibly valuable content.
After diving into the weeds of all the services out there, I came across nDash, and it was a breath of fresh air. nDash makes it easy to connect with companies and offer freelance writing services.
The Rest of nDash’s Discussion with Kara Hartnett
Kara Hartnett’s background as a freelance writer includes covering topics in the tech industry and working in content marketing.
Jenn: I see your background also includes content marketing. How is that experience beneficial to your freelance writing career?
Kara: My content marketing background has given me the knowledge I need to be very strategic in my writing. I know how to write to a target audience based on:
- persona pain points
- content mapping
- competitor analysis (because snooping on competitors and outplaying them is incredibly fun)
- lead generation tactics
- … and more
I can provide a full-service solution to clients that goes beyond just writing.
Jenn: What advice would you give to other freelance writers about content marketing or other skills they should look at for enhancing their careers?
Kara: Developing a strong online presence and learning the principles of content marketing goes a long way. You can create a portfolio or blog, use social media to connect with potential clients and industry leaders, learn how to really understand keyword and audience research, etc. It’s important to diversify your career, network with other writers, and prioritize delivering quality work. You can learn new skills such as SEO, graphic design, or video editing to broaden your range of services.
There are many tools to help with this, and a lot of them are free (like Canva). Networking with other writers can help you find new opportunities and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. I have a large network of other writers and marketers I regularly bounce ideas off and keep up with the latest tools and trends. There are many groups on LinkedIn and Facebook to help with this effort.
Jenn: It looks like the majority of your background includes interviewing SMEs and others with technical expertise. Do you find that, as a freelance writer, you’re still leaning on that interviewing experience?
Kara: Absolutely! I love SMEs. I can do the research myself, but given the opportunity to interview an SME for 30 minutes and get information directly from a master on the topic is my preference. Plus, SMEs are very useful for developing thought leadership articles. Why rehash what’s already out there (albeit in new and exciting ways) when you can learn from an expert:
- what they’re working on
- the latest trends they see happening
- what they think will happen in the future
Jenn: What advice do you have for other writers who are new to interviewing SMEs?
Kara: The success of an interview really depends on the type of questions you ask. Provide the questions in advance so they can prepare resources or think of their answers. But in my experience, and this is very true for technical people, they don’t know how to really answer the questions you ask them.
Record your conversation so you can focus on what they’re saying (rather than trying to write everything down). That way, you can pick up on a thought they just had and coax it out. SMEs can also give first-hand experiences and anecdotes that make your writing more interesting and shareable. The first time you interview someone, I would encourage you (if it’s possible) to have a more experienced interviewer on standby. That way, they can pick up on the conversation if you get lost.
Jenn: I love seeing art and photography samples in your portfolio. Can you tell me about your background in these areas?
Kara: I graduated with a bachelor’s in Art History and Studio Art and a Master’s in Art History. My focus was on the Italian Renaissance and printmaking, particularly lithography. I really enjoy how you can transform photographs into different mediums.
I don’t have as much time as I used to for painting and taking photographs, but I think my artistic background gives me a creative advantage when it comes to writing. Adding visuals to your content makes it more engaging and shareable. I know how to create or source great images that fit the theme and tone of the article.
Jenn: How do you find time for these creative pursuits while managing your career as a freelance writer?
Kara: Alas, I don’t, actually! Freelancing and two kids later, I spend my creative time now coloring with crayons in a coloring book. At least I’m teaching my kids how to use their creative side. But really, creativity takes many forms. My creative medium now is my writing, and I find that I enjoy it just as much as I did in a printmaking studio.
Jenn: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a freelance writer? Do you give this same advice to other freelance writers?
Kara: Always prioritize building relationships with clients. Be responsive, communicative, and reliable, and go above and beyond to deliver quality work. By building a strong rapport with clients, you can increase the likelihood of repeat business and positive referrals.
You also need to stay organized and disciplined. This includes managing your time effectively, setting realistic deadlines, and tracking your finances. I definitely struggle with this, but thank goodness for project management platforms like Trello! I now separate all my clients on their own boards, and I set realistic deadlines.
Thank you for chatting with us about your background and industry expertise!
Work with Kara Hartnett on nDash Today!
Do you have a project that aligns with Kara’s background in technology, business, and Fintech? Check out her profile to learn more about how her expertise can help level up your content strategy: Kara Hartnett.