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The Freelancer Q&A: How Sarita Harbour Got Over 90 Assignments on Contently in the Past Year

By Julia Kupper July 15th, 2015

As a talent manager here at Contently, I collaborate with many talented writers, infographics designers, and photographers on a daily basis. For those who have heard a little about Contently but don’t work with our clients, I always get the same question: “What’s it like?”

As part of a new series of Q&As with the contributors who power the work our clients produce, we’re going to pull back the curtain and try to answer that question. The goal is to give you a better idea of what exactly Contently freelancers do while also acknowledging their standout work.

This week, we caught up with Sarita Harbour, a finance and business writer and mother of seven. Sarita has resided in just about every corner of Canada and even lived in an off-the-grid luxury cabin on a lake in the Northwest Territories. Between homeschooling her two youngest daughters and being a hard-working mom, she has produced over 90 stories for several Contently clients in the past year.

We spoke to Sarita about how she handles so much work while being a parent, why she’s been pitching clients more frequently, and what it’s like working for Contently.

Why did you switch from full-time employment to freelancing?

I began freelancing just after our sixth child, my daughter Ava, was born five years ago. Prior to that I had worked full-time as a financial advisor at a bank. I switched to freelancing because I wanted the flexibility to work around Ava’s schedule, and to work from home. Since then our family has expanded and we now have another daughter, Aurora, who’ll soon turn two. Freelance writing lets me earn a good income on a very flexible schedule so I can enjoy these early years with the girls.

How did you first hear about Contently?

It was when Contently first launched in 2011. I remember seeing something about signing up to get a free portfolio on a freelance writer’s website or forum several years ago. I was in the process of setting up my own writer website, and didn’t want to have to manually update my own portfolio page every week with each new published piece. So I loved being able to just link to my Contently portfolio, which is very simple to update.

What was your first Contently assignment, and how did you get it?

My first assignment with Contently was for Tangerine, a Canadian bank, in the spring of 2014. I received an email from one of the talent managers at Contently, asking if I was available and interested in writing for them. Since then I’ve written for 10 other Contently clients.

How many stories do you usually write for Contently per month?

This really varies, depending on how busy I am with family things as well as how much work my clients have. In a slow month, I’d say I have five or six assignments, usually I’ll have eight or nine, but I’ve had months where I’ve worked on 15 or more.

How many hours do you spend on Contently assignments per week?

This really depends on the week’s workload. One of the great things about writing through Contently is the wide variety of clients and assignments. I’ve written 500-word blog posts that take me two hours to write, and I’ve also written 1000+ word articles that require several interviews and take closer to eight hours of writing time. Generally, if I have five or six assignments in the 500-word to 750-word range, I’ll spend between 11 and 15 hours on Contently clients each week.

How much do you get paid for one Contently article?

Another area where there’s quite a range! Looking over my assignments for the past year, rates have ranged from $300 to $500 for 500-word assignments, to over $600 for pieces in the 750- to1000-word range. It all depends on the client, level of complexity, and length of the assignment.

How much freelance income do you make per year from Contently? Overall?

While I’d prefer to keep that to myself, I’d say that in the past year, about 55 percent of my income has come from Contently clients. I do feel that Contently offers writers fair compensation, and I particularly appreciate the “pay on submission” practice. I’ve never had to chase down a Contently client for payment.

Do you freelance for other companies besides Contently?

Yes, I do freelance for other companies. I write about personal finance, real estate and mortgages, as well as covering small business/entrepreneurial stories for several Canadian and American clients. I write almost exclusively for websites, which requires a different type of writing than print articles.

What percentage of work is assigned to you? What percentage do you pitch?

Until recently, I would say it was a 50/50 split. However, in the past couple of months I’ve noticed more clients asking for pitches rather than assigning work. So now I’d say I’m pitching about 75 percent of the time. I use the free version of Evernote to organize and compose pitches according to topic and client. I’m always looking for story ideas, and with Evernote I can quickly copy a link or jot down an idea even on my phone if I’m out and about.

Lastly, how do you manage to be a successful freelancer and be a mother of seven?

We have seven children in total (we’re a blended family), though it isn’t actually as crazy as it sounds, because four of them are already out on their own… But come to think of it, they still seem to need a lot of our attention!

The three main things that allow me to enjoy a great career as a freelance writer while also running a busy household are 1) being very focused on whatever my task is at the moment, whether it’s writing, teaching my five-year-old how to read, or even cooking; 2) using technology to keep in touch with all the kids, editors, clients, and to stay organized—I live on Skype, Evernote, and Google Calendar, and 3) getting up at 4:45 a.m. six days a week to write.

This gives me a solid eighteen hours of prime “write” time weekly, as the rest of the household is still sleeping and I have at least three hours of uninterrupted work time before my “Mom” day starts. I’ll also fit in another hour or two in the afternoon when my little ones are napping.

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