Matt Inglot is the creator FreelanceTransformation.com where he helps freelance designers, developers, and marketers to win clients and build a dream lifestyle through freelancing.
Matt’s expertise comes from running a web agency for 11 years which he transformed from a traditional brick and mortar office and an 80 hour work week to significantly less work and far greater profitability. From that experience, Matt has realized that most freelancers and consultants make life far more difficult for themselves than it needs to be.
1. How did you get started as a freelancer?
2. So you chose the agency route, which some freelancers decide to do. What caused that decision to go from freelancer to agency owner?
3. What changed for you in terms of your daily activities and goals when you made the switch?
4. So your agency Titled Pixel aims to turn website visitors into customers, can you give freelancermasterclass.com a couple of suggestions on improvements that can be made to the site?
5. Was there a big breakthrough for your business that stands out as a point in time that helped you establish your credibility?
6. How can our audience learn more about you?
An Interview with Matt Inglot
I’m very excited to announce our guest, Matt Inglot. He’s the creator of freelancetransformation.com, where he helps freelance designers, developers and marketers win clients and build that dream lifestyle through freelancing. Matt’s expertise comes from running a web agency for 11 years, which he transformed from a traditional brick and mortars office, and 80-hour workweek to significantly less work and far higher profitability.
Mike: You are a successful freelancer and agency owner. How did you start as a freelancer?
Matt: It was partly out of necessity. I started while I was still in school. I had to pay for my tuition and rent because my parents didn’t have much. I got a small job at a start-up company while attending school.
Mike: You chose not to get a student loan and pay your tuition with your earnings from your job?
Matt: Yes, but unfortunately, the company closed. I needed to figure out what other ways I could earn money. I knew web development so I asked myself, could I flip burgers and make $10 per hour, or I could create a website and get more?
I chose to build a site and market it to people. Telling people to look at my website was very hard because I’m a shy person. But I needed the money, so I pushed myself to go out there and introduce myself. One day, I got a client and the rest is history for me.
Mike: I own a marketing agency as well. But we have different niches; I’m a fractional CMO, and you are focused on conversion optimization. Is that right?
Matt: Yes, more specifically, working with digital businesses, specifically, people have online products, membership sites, things like that. We started off fairly broad. We would help anyone turn visitors into customers. That’s still our tagline on our website. But behind the scenes, we have particular clients that we look for.
Mike: A lot of freelancers are asking me how to scale up from a freelancer to an agency owner. I say both the good and the bad about starting an agency, but in your case, how did you switch from a freelancer to creating your agency?
Matt: I grew up in Waterloo, Ontario, where many startup companies are thriving. Everyone there is asking me to grow my business. When I had the money to invest in a business, I thought that having an agency was the next logical step to do, which I did. I opened an office, hired employees, while still going to school. It worked for quite some time, but it got me to a point where I hated what I was doing. Because of that, my business started collapsing so I was forced to consider other options. That’s when I started an agency because I needed to do something to source money.
I carefully evaluated what went wrong with my business, then I started to regroup myself and focused on the good side of it. I realized that I did like having a small team. I didn’t want to create an empire and manage tens, hundreds, or thousands, of employees. That would really freak me out. But I knew that I need a team because I couldn’t handle all the tasks alone. I started to hire professionals who could help me do specific tasks while I focused more on the business aspect of running an agency.
Currently, I have a team with five members. We are working as one to fulfill our projects for different clients. I have a plan to increase their numbers, says ten within the next ten years. That will be the peak of my business because I’m only into a micro agency.
Mike: When you were a freelancer, you first focused on web development, and then you started your agency. What changed in your daily activities?
Matt: The big thing that’s changed is that I didn’t have to deal with the client’s work anymore. I still do some even to this day. But it allowed me to get rid of stuff that was really getting in my way. The very first tasks that I delegated was bookkeeping. It had nothing to do with client work, but it was just entering stuff into the books which, if you’re a freelancer, there’s a perfect chance that you’re doing this thing yourself. And you’re probably dreading it every week or every month.
From then on, I started delegating other tasks like programming, design, and other office works because I didn’t want to get occupied by those responsibilities. That gave me time to work with clients, which was excellent. But I made another mistake. I tried to overgrow which meant I hired more people which I needed to pay. In the end, I was getting less money. The solution? I looked for the right client who gave us more revenue. Now that I do it that way, it works so much better.
Mike: Very true. The first thing I did was I hired someone to take care of the books because I didn’t want to learn QuickBooks. And you know what changed for me when I started an agency was, I found myself selling a lot more than actually doing what I love to do and that’s marketing. I found that as an agency owner, I’m always worried about bringing clients in the door and keeping them longer rather than servicing the client in the industry that I want.
Your agency titled tiltedpixel.com, right? It aims to turn website visitors into customers. I’m going to put you on the spot. You’ve seen Freelancer Masterclass, my website. Can you give me a couple of suggestions on how I can improve?
Matt: Well, let’s structure this a little bit. I have one very important question for you. What is the goal of Freelancer Masterclass? What do you want to happen when people visit that site?
Mike: I want people to apply to be a student. That means they start an eight-week course. They join a small group of other students, and we go through step by step every week, different activities and lessons and along the way, there’s a 10-step module over an eight-week period that they go through the course together.
Matt: And how what is your biggest struggle with this website right now?
Mike: Getting freelancers that we can’t service, meaning since we all go through group lessons together, the time zone is difficult. We get a lot of applications a week from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan; these freelancers can’t join the class because it’s the middle of the night when we’re meeting at 6 pm here.
Matt: Just by looking at your website in passing, there are a few things that stick out to me. The designs are on point, absolutely no complaints there. It’s very obvious to me that you spent quite a bit of time in building your website. You’ve got a podcast, you’ve got testimonials, and most importantly, you have a big call to action right at the top of your homepage that’s asking people to do the thing that you want them to do.
And where things kind of slip up for me is your tagline right at the top is learn how to be a Master Freelancer for free. The free thing is pretty cool. I suspect that grabs people. I’m not sure I really like the idea of learning how to be a Master Freelancer because it doesn’t translate to the actual benefit of being a Master Freelancer. It doesn’t give them an idea of what they’re going to achieve by being a Master Freelancer.
Ask yourself what’s their motivation for being a freelancer and turn that into the headline, and there’s a very good chance that that will be a lot more effective for you.
There’s something also cautionary with the “for free” phrase. That makes me wonder if maybe, the “for free” thing is positioning the wrong impression for people. To give you an idea, you have two types of customers: the people that want a result and will handsomely pay for it, and the people that like value but also want to get it at a cheap price, or even for free. The word “free” is attracting the crowd that maybe doesn’t have a lot of money to spend and is looking for freebies. And those people are not always the easiest people to then convert into paying customers.
Mike: Very true. Those are all great points. And if you noticed, Matt used a technique when he talked about Freelancer Masterclass, which we call the sandwich technique, and that’s when you’re talking to clients when they’re asking you to critique something. He gave me something good, you gave me something I could improve on and then he on and then he gave me something good again. You’re putting the bad, and in the middle, so the conversation flows nicely and it doesn’t seem like your insulting me. You did an excellent job with that.
Was there a big breakthrough for your business that stands out as a point in time that helps you establish your credibility?
Matt: I think it all goes back to the worst point in my business where everything was falling around my ears. It forced me to look at my business and see what was going well and what wasn’t. When I started digging into it, I realized I had a really cool business here if I focused on just a few clients that were making all the money for us. I call them our high-paying clients. These are the type of clients that were coming back to us year after year after year and spending more money with us. So, if I invested the time to find that client, and to serve them well and make them rave about us, then that was potentially a six-figure deal.
Mike: That’s great. And I’m telling freelancers to pick up a niche. One time, a freelancer who is an SEO specialist told me that he was willing to do SEO for any industry. I told him he needs to pick one because if he’s targeting everyone, he’s targeting no one. That way, if he knows exactly who he wants to target, he can have much more opportunity.
You have to understand and realize that. So you did that early on in your career, and now you’re reaping the fruits of your labor.
Matt: I like that. I’ll point out that when you’re in that position where you don’t know who to target, to some extent, you’re going to have to go through that exploratory phase. But when you’re a generalist and I asked you, how are you going to find clients? You will probably say, “I don’t know.”
That’s the problem when you are targeting everybody; you don’t know where to find everybody. Whereas if you do SEO for dentists, you can sit for an hour and find dental clients and you will never worry where to find them next time.
Mike: Exactly. Well, how can our audience learn more about you and follow you?
Matt: I encourage everyone to visit Freelance Transformation, and there you can get all my advice, all my experiences. On top of that, I’ve interviewed close to 180 other freelancers and agency owners whose advice can help you become a successful freelancer too. If you have a podcast player, you can just enter Freelance Transformation, and you’ll see the podcast come up or go to freelancetransformation.com. We update our content monthly.