Student Success Story with Joe Martin

By Joe Martin

We’re continuing to share a different story each week of how a past student has been able to significantly grow their freelance business by applying the concepts they learned from Double Your Freelancing (check out last week’s with Glenn Stovall). 

If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why.

Martin Creative

“I feel confident in saying the knowledge I received from the DYFR/C content has absolutely helped me sustain my business. I would not have been able to bring on and maintain, an eight person team if I hadn’t made the changes suggested by Brennan’s content. Honestly, my business would have flopped.”

Joe Martin is the founder of Martin Creative, an eight person web design and branding shop.

It technically all started 10 years ago back in college. Joe noticed he could pay friends “this” much, charge clients “this” much and be responsible for managing the project throughout. He also quickly realized that he could charge more as Joe Martin of (then) Telegraphics, Inc., as opposed to Joe Martin, freelancer.

What got you into freelancing? Was it what you expected?

I think what drew me into freelancing was simply the idea of helping people. I felt that the web design industry was viewed as a slew of used car salesman. Nobody ever really knew WHAT they were buying with websites, just that they were getting a site.

As for me, I suffer from a disease known as, “I can do it better.” Prices were all over the board, deliverables were never clearly defined, and I wanted to fix it. I wanted to help people understand what they were getting for a site, AND build higher quality sites, faster.

What’s been most challenging thus far?

Learning how to run a business has absolutely been the most challenging.

At the beginning of 2014, it was just myself and a buddy from college doing this all together. By the end of 2014, I had amassed a full-time staff of eight and had to move from project manager, to design, to development and then to sales if I was going to keep these people paid.

I went from coding sites and coming up with cool ideas, to cash flow projections, insurance, payroll and workman’s comp — while still churning away at sales.

Did you ever want to quit or give up? Please expand.

I do sometimes, but I know I never could.

It’s just not in me, and I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel this way. It’s not exactly the kind of life we set out to lead, but we’re going to do what it takes to create what we can and, possibly, maybe, change the world.

Even if it’s just in a small way.

It’s funny too, because I always swore I didn’t want to run my own business. My father started his own printing company when I was six years old, and the man would keep a cot at the office. He worked long days, long nights, weekends, swing in on holidays sometimes — it was nuts.

Now, I find myself in the same position. BUT, I believe mine to be temporary as I work towards my Tim Ferriss goal of a 4-Hour Workweek.

I still go through ups and downs. I had a really bad slump during the last couple months, but I was fortunate enough to have my Project Manager notice it, and pick up my slack.

I then read a book called, The Obstacle is the Way that kind of helped to refocus me, and now I feel regenerated and ready to keep pushing towards our ultimate goal — helping put Chicago on the map as a tech nexus.

What were you struggling the most with when you ran into Double Your Freelancing Rate and Clients?

Determining my company’s self worth and realizing what it is we truly had to offer.

We weren’t just “building” sites, we were building businesses.

The chapter in DYFR on value-based pricing blew my mind! The gall, the GALL of Brennan to tell me (through the book) to ask more about the business seemed insane.

I didn’t give my team enough credit for knowing what we know and doing it well. I’d been in the field for 13 years at that point, and with technology, it’s always easy to feel like you’re constantly behind. But there were certain core principles that we knew, from simply being in the industry.

“I attribute the DYFR course, and the podcast to be among the primary reasons my business stands where it does today.”

What are some big successes you’ve had recently?

I think my biggest success has been the ability to live the life I want to live.

Of all things, THAT is what freelancing has allowed me to do more than anything. I’ve traveled, taken waaaay more than “two weeks” worth of vacation, and had several amazing late nights that were warmly met by the ability to sleep in an extra few hours the next morning.

The only thing I started doing differently was growing my business, because of these successes. I had the idea of, “I can do it better” and “I’d really like more people to not hate their job,” so I brought on more people and transitioned myself into more of a sales position.

What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?

Value based pricing was the biggest slap in the face I received content-wise. It just made sense. Combine that with some solid price anchoring — just fantastic. Using these approaches, I believe, has also helped me to stand apart from my competition who focuses on project specifics.

I was recently speaking with a company who was talking to six different web companies at the same time. And the conversation I had with them was vastly different from those of the competitors.

It’s such a simple question, but just asking a potential client “why” they’re taking on a project opens up to a whole new conversation. The first few answers are generally aesthetic, content, or functionality based; but, digging a little deeper and asking “why” a couple more times reveals a whole new set of motivators.

What would you like to accomplish in your business in the next year?

I’m most excited about the shift we’re making since taking Brennan’s DYFC course. The course threw some hard realities into line for us when it forced us to look inward at our own business model.

Since then, we’ve decided to trim down on our offerings, focus our efforts and take a big leap to go in more of a niche direction. It’s scary as hell, especially with so many other people’s jobs at stake, but I look forward to “cheers-ing” at 11:59pm, December 31st, 2015, looking back at everything we’ve done.

I hired on my last full-time employee on December 29th, 2014, because we got a really big job. And I knew, if I was going to keep him, and make things work for everybody, that I would really need to bust my ass harder than I ever have before.

The casual freelancer in me died that day, but the beginning of a successful businessman started to take shape. I have an amazing team, I put them through a lot, they deal with a lot, but the fact that we were able to grow that much in one year, and push through the pains this year….awww! Man! Feels fantastic.

Nothing we can’t do. And 2016?!! Pfffft! Just you wait…..just. you. wait.

Starting his own firm in 2005, Joe Martin’s client work includes companies such as Microsoft, McDonald’s, IBM, and more. With a degree in Interactive Design from the Illinois Institute of Art, he has had the opportunity to serve as a panelist at his former college, an instructor on web development practices, and an author on user experience in Web Design Magazine.

His latest venture includes the international rollout of (TEW). He’s built the team at Martin Creative with a focus on providing modern web solutions, and is excited to further develop TEW into the industry’s leading solution for tour operators, event coordinators, and conference planners.