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Exclusive Interview with “Laura A.Pennington” a featured top 1% freelancer on Elance.

Published: October 01, 2014

Laura A.Pennington is capable of doing many things competently, a real versatile person. Laura has a master's and bachelor's degree in politics, she have several years of marketing experience working in an insurance brokerage, she also have experience teaching. Currently a PhD student in Public Policy and running successful business on Elance where she’s is ranked among top 1 percent.

She kindly accepted our interview request, for which we are grateful.

We will always remember Laura, because this is the first interview ever here at mmfh.net

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a freelance writer and project manager, but my background is pretty broad. I’ve worked in the financial and insurance industry, I have taught 7th grade in the inner city, and I also worked as a teaching assistant at Virginia Tech.


What is your education?

I have a master’s degree in political science, a bachelor’s degree in economics/political science, and I am “all but dissertation” with my PhD in public administration and policy.


What are your strengths?

Time management and “getting things done”. Having balanced my own business, working, and graduate school, I’ve developed incredible time management skills. It really helps me to be effective. I’m also constantly checking where I spend my time and where I can do better so that I am always refining.


What are your weaknesses?

I think I don’t ask for higher rates often enough. I tripled my rates with one client as the workload grew and expected pushback- a few days later, it was fully approved. It made me wonder how many of my clients knew I wasn’t charging enough. I’ve gotten better at valuing myself!


What do you like to do for fun?

I love spending time with my pets, taking daily walks, and riding rollercoasters. I grew up near an amusement park with more than a decade-long run as the “best in the world”, so I love amusement parks.


What attracted you to ELANCE?

I actually found Elance Googling “how to be a freelance writer”. I very much stumbled upon this opportunity and watched it grow very quickly. I matched my “day job” income in three months and it only continued to climb from there.


Do you work full time freelancing on ELANCE or you have day job too? If yes what is it? And how do you cope with exhausting schedule?

I used to work full time until I became very exhausted and overworked, stretching into my day job. I have worked full time for myself for about 14 months and I love it. I do balance responsibilities as a full time PhD student, though. I block my time strictly to be able to get it all done. I recently spent more than 250 hours studying for my PhD qualifying exams- time blocking was essential.


What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?   

I use Toggl for tracking my time. It tells me how much I’m spending on each client and administrative tasks. When I review that, I often realize that I could outsource something to one of my virtual assistants or that one client’s needs are growing faster than what they pay me. I also insist on all requests coming through my email- text messages often get lost, never received, etc. I also put auto-responders on my email stating that people will get a response in 24-48 hours. I think one of the challenges in our highly-accessible society is that people expect immediate results. That’s not fair to whoever’s project I am working on at the moment. I only check email a few times throughout the day and have finally broken a few people’s habits of wanting an immediate response.


Approx how many jobs you did on ELANCE?

I just checked- I have completed 338 jobs on Elance. I have a lot of return clients there.


What percentage of your jobs are for returned customers?

At least 20%. One of the great things about growing my business is that I no longer have to seek out 20 different jobs per month… I can instead focus on several key clients that provide the bulk of my income.


Do you do everything by yourself or you have someone helping you out?

I have a research assistant for PhD work, I have a market researcher, a graphic designer, and a personal virtual assistant. I’m also in the process of bringing on a second virtual assistant. I use 3-5 writers as “backup” if I’m working through a major project or if their specific backgrounds make the most sense on a given project. I expect my writing team to only grow in the coming months.  


What is your most successful service, and do you have any new services in development?

Writing for attorneys and editing people’s books. This is more than 90% of my work, although we also do a fair amount of blogs, paper editing for college students, and work in the insurance industry. My “sweet spot” is far and away blogging for attorneys.


On a scale from 1 to 10, how hard is to become top 1% seller on ELANCE, did you had to do some sacrifices and how long it took you to become one?

This depends on how hard you’re willing to work. I hit the top 1% in three months by focusing on my ideal client. I did have to work hard, because I was balancing a full time job at this time as well. I worked nights and weekends, often waking up early to deliver projects as well. It was not always easy, and I got carpal tunnel. Now that I have streamlined things, though, I work less and make more.


Can you give us some ELANCE success tips?

Write samples. Who is your ideal client? Someone needing general SEO services? People looking for whitepapers? Write “fake” samples. I often think of the fact that Tyra Banks booked most of her first major modeling jobs off her passport photos because she didn’t have a portfolio at the time. Likewise, I used 5-8 samples that I created myself to pitch myself to clients. It does not matter if you don’t have a solid background in delivering that type of work to clients- what matters is whether you can do it and do it well.

Also, don’t give up. I think I bid on more than 40 jobs before I got the first one. Breaking into Elance, or any other platform like it, can be difficult. Once you get a few reviews and established reputation, you’re golden.


How would you describe your work style and what would be your ideal working environment?

My work style is work when I need to. I do not hold strict “office hours” and this allows me to work on personal projects, exercise, and run errands. I am working in my ideal environment- a home office. I also love that I can travel and work from my laptop.


How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?

I have so many people reach out to me for help launching their freelance businesses. So my improvement is in offering one on one coaching programs as well as an ecourse to help people do just that.


What is your proudest achievement?

I broke through my yearly income goal in early September of this year. That’s a great feeling. I was also contacted by Elance after just a few months on the platform and was featured in a photo shoot for them. Before you log into Elance, you can still find the picture of me sitting on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial on their homepage. That’s pretty cool, and my clients love seeing that!




You can find Laura visiting her Elance Profile,

you can also check out her Elance webinar on YouTube


Wanna know more about Elance?

Just read our Elance review!


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