Today’s student success spotlight is with Matt Olpinski. It’s our hope that we’re able 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 Kai Davis). If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why!
Who are you and what’s your business?
My name is Matt Olpinski and I’m a freelance UI + UX designer and full-time interactive art director.
I have been freelancing for eight years and counting. While I graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2012, I actually started my freelance career four years earlier during my freshman year of college.
What got you into freelancing?
When I was in college, I was getting an awesome degree in New Media Design and hated the idea of working in the library or cafeteria to make ends meet. I fell in love with creating websites early on in my college career and wanted to make money using what I was learning in the classroom.
So, I began learning how to design and build websites in my free time. Since then, I have worked at top-tier design firms all over the country and designed interfaces for major brands such as PayPal, Coca Cola, Porsche, and DonQ.
Was it what you expected?
Looking back, I think the most challenging part has been gaining control of my income. My strategy was to put my best work online and wait for someone to contact me. That worked surprisingly well for a long time, but I knew I was still missing something.
The other challenge was selling myself and my work. I often felt like I was fighting for every dollar and often lost money on projects because I didn’t utilize a contract or mis-communicated something with my client. Most of all, I was definitely not focused on the ROI for their business.
The first few projects were free and I slowly increased my pricing as my work got better. But even after several internships and three years as a full-time Interactive Art Director, I never understood how to charge/justify what I deserved for my work until I started reading Brennan’s books, emails, and articles!
Did you ever want to quit or give up?
I have never wanted to give up. That’s just not who I am. I am proud to say that for the most part, I gained a positive new perspective from every experience I’ve had (good or bad), and improved my sales, design, and development strategies accordingly.
Most of my frustrations over the last 8 years have been the result of my own mistakes. Sure, we all have hassle clients, but what I found was that I could avoid those situations by continually revising my communication strategy and closing the gaps. As a result, I learned how to sell more effectively and position myself for success. But something still wasn’t quite right…
What courses have you taken?
What were you struggling with the most when you ran into Brennan’s course?
Ironically, things were actually going really well for me. 2014 was by far the best year of freelancing I have had yet, more than doubling my income over 2013.
So when I stumbled upon Brennan’s course, I wasn’t captivated by the idea of getting tons of new clients. In fact, I was already charging $75/hr (which is higher than many freelancers), so I wasn’t even hooked on the idea of doubling my rate.
Instead, I was hooked on his sales pitch. To me, it wasn’t about getting paid more, but rather getting paid more often and working to give my clients real results. I wanted to reposition my sales pitch and close more deals. So, I bought the DYFR course and started changing the way I was going about my business.
My goal is to continue to make more money and do less work over time. This year, I think I can double my freelance income by putting in just half the hours I did last year based on what I’ve learned/implemented.
What are some big successes you’ve had recently?
After buying the DYFR course and subscribing to Brennan’s mailing list, I was inspired to completely rebuild my personal website from the ground up. It is how people were finding me and my freelance career was doing very well.
However, I knew it could be so much better and I was still doing too much “justifying.”
The latest version of my website is the first one I created that focused entirely on my clients. Why are they here? How did they get here? What are they looking for? Why should they hire me? Answering these questions helped me design and build a website that positioned me for endless freelance success.
Just two weeks after launching the new website in December, my daily traffic doubled and I got my first big lead on Christmas Eve. It was a $25,000 opportunity, which was shocking considering I used to beg for $3k – $5k projects. The client answered all of the questions posed on my website and was open about the budget in the very first email.
I didn’t get the project (his client wanted to go in a different direction), but that didn’t matter because the big win for me was getting the lead and knowing that people were using/navigating my new website the way I wanted them to.
Most of all, I knew that someone finally thought I was worth the investment. We are still on excellent terms and he wants to partner with me on another project!
What are some specific tactics, strategies, or pieces of advice that have really helped you grow?
I started to understand design as a business investment and sell solutions rather than time or designs. The last few proposals I’ve confidently sent out are double the price and half the time compared to the ones I was sending out last year. I’ve gotten more, higher quality leads in the last four weeks that I did all of last year.
I revised my proposals to be much more concise and focus on the broad objectives rather than the hourly results. I also started charging per week instead of hourly to remove myself from the “commodity” mindset of the client. However, my rate is still based on how many hours a week I can “moonlight.”
Lastly, I started a free monthly newsletter that people can subscribe to through my website. I wanted to educate both my clients and other freelancers while also building an audience that I can reach out to if I ever hit a slow period in my freelance career.
Everything I have been sinking time into has already been worthwhile and I can tell my career is about to get a lot better because I invested in Brennan’s materials. Thanks Brennan!
What are you most excited about for your business in 2015?
I suppose the common answer here is “growth,” and while that is also true for me, I am most excited to write and build an audience. I have had some pretty amazing experiences over the last eight years. I’ve worked in amazing cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, helped grow small startups into thriving businesses, and I was even a college professor at RIT in 2013.
I’m currently the Interactive Art Director at a web design and development agency called Dumbwaiter. I’ve spoke at a few conferences, and been interviewed on numerous occasions. This year, I want to write about those experiences and share my knowledge with others.
Lastly, I have this grandiose vision of writing my own book within the next two years, so I am excited to get started on that.
Thanks Matt for sharing your story. All of your hard work seems to be paying off and you’ve really positioned your business for success! Feel free to reach out and connect with Matt via his website, LinkedIn, Twitter and sign up for his newsletter. He’s always interested in taking on new freelance UI/UX projects!