This is an ongoing series where we share how a past student has been able to significantly grow their freelance business by applying the concepts they learned from Double Your Freelancing. If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why.
Dorian Ferrari, a self-proclaimed technical savant joins us today to share his journey from employee to self-employed over the last year. He’s the founder of Catz Design Farm, a design firm that helps startups and inventors bring their product ideas to tool-ready models for production and prototype.
Tell us about yourself – Who are you and what do you for fun?
I am a major Gamer. World of Warcraft is a 12-year passion, but I have been into computer RPG games since they existed.
I got my first computer (Atari 400) with a dot matrix printer and cassette drive when I was in the 8th grade. My life map runs like that. I do like the outdoors to a degree, mall-walking with my wife, but I’m most comfortable behind a screen.
What got you into freelancing? Was it what you expected?
Freelancing for me was something I had thought about for a while. In 2010 I was promoted to director, and while the experience was great, it took me away from my passion.
Come 2015 and a little politics mixed with a lot of bad corporate news saw major layoffs in my company. Being a very highly paid person, I was tagged for an exit interview – and thankfully – a very nice severance, which would keep me and my wife afloat for at least a year.
Ironically, the night before I was laid off, my wife and I were discussing if I really wanted to stay there as the place was sapping my energy and was a 1.5 hr commute each way. So, here I am.
Tell us about your hardest moment as an entrepreneur to date.
The hardest moment was when the severance checks ended. I knew it was happening, but the business hadn’t really grown enough to take on the household expenses.
We knew we were fine, but it really put a fright into both of us knowing that this was what I wanted to do, but wondering if it would pay the bills. I never thought of giving up – I had other contingencies I would do first, like selling the house to buy something in cash, or taking funds out of the IRA that I transferred from a 401K.
I got through it as the leads were there, just not the work yet.
On the flip side, what’s been your biggest success so far?
My biggest success was a complete fluke.
A startup phone case company found my Linkedin profile and called me up wanting me to “fix” and change a case design they had from a designer that disappeared on them. This has turned into a design a month contract, at $3,500 per design, which gave me the confidence that I was on the right path.
What were you struggling the most with when you ran into Brennan’s material?
Pricing, and not feeling guilty.
I had an idea of the going market rate, but as a commodity and not a flat-rate or weekly rate. I had taken his free email course before the layoff and had completely forgotten about it until I saw a new email talking about the classes being held this year.
What are some specific tactics, strategies, or pieces of advice that have really helped you grow?
Anchoring value to ROI and making sure I am selling a solution and not a commodity.
Also, the idea that I needed to just raise rates. I figured I could get away with that as I didn’t have many established clients, and I’ve found that the higher rates have oddly enough required far less justification than I expected.
What are you most excited about for your business in the next year?
My proposals now always sell based on value, and I have more repeat clients work. I don’t negotiate on rate, only scope now. My last two projects work out to three times my original rate, and almost eight times my first client’s rate.
And the biggest bonus would be to be able to tell my old company I don’t need their contract work any more!
Dorian has worn the “technical savant” moniker for decades, at home and in every role he held in the corporate world. He’s worked in the consumer products world pretty much since graduation with his AA degree in mechanical design in 1990. Dorian moved on to his own business last year and helps startups and inventors bring their product ideas to tool-ready models for production and prototype. Computers and software come completely natural to Dorian – a computer gamer since the original Atari. He prides himself in treating all software and product development the same way – as a game to play. There has never been a puzzle he couldn’t solve!