Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer who creates content related to the world of work (think productivity, entrepreneurship, career- and self-development). She's written for tech and software companies including Atlassian, Loom, QuickBooks, Lendio, Hubstaff, Trello, and a bunch more.
With nearly a decade of experience running her own freelance business, Kat also provides a lot of resources for fellow entrepreneurs who are just getting started or growing their businesses through articles on her site, resources in her freelancer shop, and her free weekly newsletter (that's where we met!)
Although there are often similarities, every business origin story is unique—from starting a nights-and-weekends side hustle that grows slowly but surely, to the diving-in-full-time-with-both-feet startup approach. What is your origin story?
KAT BOOGAARD: I came out of college at a time when the economy was still rebounding from the 2008 recession. So, the job market was…well, weird. After a few months spent job searching and working a random job as a receptionist, I was offered a full-time position with the organization I had interned with during college.
The position was half marketing and half administrative and I enjoyed the work and the people I worked with. I stayed in that job for just under two years, but toward the end, I started to feel an itch to strike out on my own.
My mom was dealing with an assortment of serious health issues at the time, and I was increasingly frustrated with the limited PTO and bureaucratic policies for taking time off. I remember using one of my only 10 precious vacation days to take her to an appointment with a specialist out of town. I wanted more balance, flexibility, and control—and doing my own thing felt like the best way to do that.
When I thought back on previous projects I enjoyed, writing was a common theme. So, I started to think about becoming a freelance writer (despite the fact that I had little to no understanding about what that sort of career actually looked like at the time).
I noodled on the idea for months, torturing my parents and my boyfriend (now husband) with all of my hemming and hawing over whether or not to take the leap. They were all nothing but supportive and encouraging. During that time, I saved up some money and eventually put in my notice at the end of June.
I always tell people I didn’t have much of a back-up plan. Armed with enough savings to cover my living expenses for a few months, I decided I’d either figure it out or enter the job market again.
Needless to say, it was a rocky start. I thought being a freelance writer meant writing columns for glossy publications (very Carrie Bradshaw-esque, I know). But all of those publications either wouldn’t respond to my pitches or would reply and say, “We’d love to have you write for us, but we don’t pay anything!”
After applying for and landing a gig writing blog posts about storage units I had a lightbulb moment of sorts: There are companies and brands that need written content. And they need writers to do it.
I guess you could call it my “introduction” to content marketing, and I’ve been focused there ever since. My origin story was baptism by fire and riddled with a lot of trial and error. But I don’t think I’d be in this spot now if it weren’t for those early bumps.
I had a lightbulb moment of sorts: There are companies and brands that need written content. And they need writers to do it.
Through your newsletter and articles, I’ve read about some of your journey with hiring subcontractors, managing a 3-day work week, and how your business has grown over the years. I’m curious how your business focus has evolved (or stayed the same) during that time.
It’s usually easy to know what we don’t enjoy working on, sometimes harder to identify what we do. How did you develop your niche for ‘content related to careers, productivity, entrepreneurship, and self-development’—and while developing that niche, did you ever go too broad/too narrow and need to adjust?
KB: When I started freelancing and landed on content marketing as a viable career option, I wrote about anything and everything. Healthcare, storage units, how gosh darn fish finders work (yes, seriously).
I was reaching out to anyone and everyone. That’s how I landed a gig writing regular career articles for The Everygirl. That opportunity gave me a decent portfolio of samples I was actually proud to showcase and also helped me realize I really liked writing about the world of work.
From there, I focused my efforts on trying to find more clients that needed career advice content. It was actually during a discovery call with a potential new client that they mentioned something like, “We want content like The Muse. You know The Muse, right?”
I lied and said yes (because that’s what one does on a discovery call, right? 😏). Once the call was over, I went right to The Muse’s website and loved it. I randomly clicked over to their careers page and saw they were hiring a freelance writer. It seemed too serendipitous so I applied and ended up landing the gig.
I was a part-time staff writer there for over three years and built up a huge portfolio of career content over that time. My articles were also picked up by major publications like Forbes, Inc., and Business Insider—it felt like I cheated and unlocked instant credibility.
With those bylines in my back pocket, it was way easier to land other career-focused clients and then everything sort of snowballed from there.
Over the years, I’ve stopped writing as much true career advice (resumes, interviews, etc.) and have expanded to focus on the world of work as a whole. That gives me way more opportunity to cover a variety of topics for different clients—like employee engagement for an HR platform or effective teamwork for project management software.
So, I guess my niche went from super broad to pretty narrow to a little broader again. But all in all, I tell people I focus on anything that falls under the “world of work” umbrella.
What are the work tool essentials that keep you productive, creative, or sane (digital products/services you wished you discovered, or existed, earlier in your career—or even things you built for yourself)?
KAT BOOGAARD: I’m a big proponent of templates! They save me so much time and also ensure a much higher level of consistency and quality for me and my clients.
One that was a non-negotiable for me pretty early on was a solid contract. I wanted something that I could use over and over again whenever I signed a new client, so I worked closely with a small business attorney to draft a contract that was suitable for a freelancer. I still use it to this day (and it’s also available for sale in my freelance shop).
I also love email templates. I have tons of them saved as canned responses in my Gmail account so I can quickly drop in the bare bones of an email and just fill in the relevant details. I relied on those email templates so much that I decided to package and sell them too. They’re one of the most-purchased and beloved products in my shop, and I get it—they’re a favorite of mine.
Beyond that, I got accounting software immediately upon starting my business at the insistence of my parents, who are both also consultants and small business owners. I opted for Quickbooks right at the start and have used it ever since. I’d be lost without it.
Kat created these for herself and they ended up being too useful not to share! The book of 41 copy-and-paste templates gives a head start on emails for a variety of freelance situations, from raising rates to breaking up with a client.
The customizable templates can work for all types of creatives, from designers and social media managers to developers and photographers (and more!)
What are your workspace must-haves, beyond the computer, that really enhance your work, or work enjoyment? (For me, this is an office door that closes and a soft rug at my desk…yeah, I can work without them, but not as well 🙂)
KAT BOOGAARD: Oh, lamps are a big one for me. It sounds silly in writing, but they’re probably my most-used thing in my office (besides my computer, of course). I have one lamp on my desk and one on a credenza and I turn them both on first thing in the morning. I despise how harsh overhead lighting is, but I also can’t work in a dark office because it seems to intensify the blue-ish glow of my monitor. So the soft lighting of those lamps is non-negotiable for me.
I also have an ergonomic back cushion on my chair. In all honesty, I should just get an entire ergonomic desk chair, but I think they’re so ugly and the aesthetics of my office matter to me an unreasonable and embarrassing amount. So the cushion definitely helps, even though my body will still probably hate me in my later years.
I also keep a lot of personal keepsakes and photos in my office as well. I have a bulletin board above my desk where I pin up cards from friends, photos of my family, and Playbills from some Broadway shows I really enjoyed. And of course, you’ll find plenty of photos of my kids and dogs peppered throughout my office too. I even have two large, framed custom portraits of my mutts. No shame.
As someone who also works from home, I’m curious about that work-from-home-family-life-balance. How do your kiddos react if they’re home when you’re working? If your husband also works from home, how does (or doesn't) that affect your partnership if you're in the same spaces a lot?
KB: I tell my husband all the time that I don’t know how people manage a household and a family if at least one person doesn’t work from home. Even on days when I’m working, I’m still here to take care of a bunch of personal stuff too—you’ll find me taking breaks to clean up the breakfast dishes, change the laundry loads, take the dogs out, throw old leftovers out of the fridge…it’s endless glamour over here.
We have full-time childcare, so my kiddos haven’t been around too much on days when I’m working. But if and when they are, I think they’re too young to really “get it” yet. I ask my three-year-old son what I do for work and he just says, “MAMA TYYYYYYYYYPES!” So honestly, not too far off. 😂
My husband works at his company’s office except for on Fridays. He’ll work from home then and I also keep the kids home on that day to spend some extra time with them. With that said, he worked from home full-time for well over a year during COVID and we like to say that there was plenty of “together time” then.
Honestly, it went better than I thought. He knew that I had been working from home for years and already had my established systems and routines, and he was pretty respectful of those. We also had our first baby in April 2020 and couldn’t send him to daycare, so there were just a lot of us crammed into one office trying to make things work as best as we could.
All in all, I look back on having him work from home with fondness. I’m an extrovert and working from home can be isolating, so I didn’t hate having someone to eat lunch with.
But I did learn a lot about him in that amount of time too. Like the fact that he’ll eat a salad for lunch with no meat, cheese, or dressing. Just raw lettuce and veggies with a fork. He’s a monster.
Any tips for others in the industry, or adjacent creative professionals, for delivering consistently high-quality, creative work without getting depleted? What do you do to stay creative or recharge your creative batteries?
KB: Work less. Seriously. That’s my hack for better creativity, consistency, and quality.
I’ve been freelancing full-time for nine years now, and I’ve gone through a number of seasons in my business during that time. There were periods when I was working 60 or 70 hours each week because I was fixated on earning as much as possible. There were also periods when I’d burnout. Plus, there were two self-funded maternity leaves thrown in there too.
I’ve always felt my most creative and focused when I don’t feel stressed, overwhelmed, and spread thin. Maintaining a manageable workload is one of the best ways to support yourself in doing your best work. That might mean raising your rates to maintain your income even if you’re working at a reduced level.
In terms of finding inspiration, I also try to stay up to date on what’s happening in my niche. I follow a lot of leaders in the HR/world of work space on LinkedIn and have a few favorite publications I like to keep up with for updates on the industry. Those help me stay in the loop and find nuggets I can turn into pitches, identify sources to include in articles, or identify a fresh angle for a story I was assigned.
Work less. Seriously.
That’s my hack for better creativity, consistency, and quality.
What is a skill you have that you don't consider a typical "resume skill," but which has contributed to your success in a meaningful way?
KAT BOOGAARD: I’m an incredibly fast typer. To the point where I’ve literally had strangers approach me in coffee shops to ask, “Are you actually typing?” (I’m not sure why I’d go to a coffee shop to fake type at a table in the first place, but hey, to each their own).
While there’s no way to speed up the actual creative process, I’m able to do the actual writing a lot faster than a lot of other people simply because my fingers move so fast on the keyboard.
How often do you get new ideas?
coming up with new ideas is a challenge
my brain is always overflowing with new ideas
How hard is it for you to follow through on your ideas and make them happen?
I have to force myself to follow through on things
I love carrying out tasks and completing things
What does your work-life balance look like right now?
I live at work!
I NEVER WORK
I struggle to sit down and get work done.
What’s the #1 thing you recommend outsourcing so that you can focus on the parts of your business that really light you up?
Kat: If there’s a certain household task or responsibility you absolutely despise and you can afford to offload it, I highly recommend moving it off your plate. We’ve paid someone to clean our entire house every two weeks for many years, and I can’t imagine ever going back. I love being able to spend the evenings and weekends with my family without having to think, “Hey, when’s the last time we scrubbed the tub in the boys’ bathroom?”
What’s your favorite non-work thing right now?
Kat: I’ve always been an avid reader, but that hobby slowed down when my kids were born. I’ve been getting back into it in the evenings and have really enjoyed reading again. I recently finished “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver and thought it was incredible. I’m also a big fan of the podcast “You’re Wrong About.” I turn it on every afternoon to help pass the time when I’m folding laundry, filling humidifiers, starting dinner, and doing all of those other pesky tasks that stack up.
Thank you, Kat, for being generous with your time and sharing your perspective and advice!
MEET KAT BOOGAARD ONLINE
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