Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Matt Inglot, welcome to the Intrepid Entrepreneur Podcast.
Matt Inglot: Thanks so much for having me, Kristin.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yeah. It’s awesome to have you on here. Tell us where you’re calling in from today.
Matt Inglot: I’m calling in from Calgary, Alberta. About an hour and a half drive from Banff and the rocky mountains.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That sounds pretty spectacular. I haven’t been to Banff yet, but I hear just like Telluride and [inaudible], some of the other beautiful places I have been, even a place in the Himalayas called Bhutan. I hear Banff is like literally on par with one of the most beautiful mountain destinations you could be visiting.
Matt Inglot: Definitely. And I hope you get a chance to visit us here.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Oh. Don’t worry, I will figure it out. Cool, Matt. It’s awesome to have you on the podcast today and share you with my amazing group of intrepid entrepreneurs as you well know because I know you had me on your show, and we’ve been in touch for a little while here. My audience, we have a lot of people who are freelancers and contractors among the intrepid audience. My membership site, The Alliance, has a lot of them in there, too. They’re constantly kind of trying to get out of their own way. Like they know they can make it work, they’re getting work, but sometimes they end up working more than maybe they need to or more than they were working when they were in-house. Some of them, myself included because I was a freelance writer and editor for almost a decade before I opened Verde, it’s like you spend 80% of your time pitching, and then you get the articles and they kind of rain in like an avalanche and then you have to dig your way out, and you’re like, “Oh my God, now what do I do? I have been selling–” So you run a company called Freelance Transformation, is that correct?
Matt Inglot: Yes. I also have an agency called Tilted Pixel.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Cool. And the agency is a graphics agency?
Matt Inglot: We build websites.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Okay, cool. So you are just like me–a two-business entrepreneur living in a beautiful location. So high-five.
Matt Inglot: High-five.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: We’ll get into Tilted Pixel, too, but can you tell us about freelancetransformation.com? Like, where did that idea come from? When did you open it? Tell us the story about that.
Matt Inglot: Yeah, I’d love to. Last year, I really decided that I wanted to start sharing some of the lessons that I had learned in my 11 years of freelancing and running my micro agency, and just realizing how awesome life can be when you finally put the pieces together, but also realizing that it’s not that obvious how to put those pieces together. A lot of freelancers end up in this position where on the one hand, okay, they quit their corporate job, and that’s kind of awesome, but on the other hand, they’re not really getting any of these rewards that they were promised for freelancing. They find themselves working 60 hours a week, they find themselves constantly having to chase new clients, and the whole thing ends up being pretty stressful. Quite frankly, a lot of them don’t make it and end up going back to the corporate world even if that means there’s a dream there that never had the chance to get fulfilled.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Which is a very sad thing because honestly, they’re super passionate and inspired by their vision, and honestly, that vision, they usually test it out with an Internet worker crew and people, like– “Yeah, yeah. That sounds awesome.” And then they end up kind of burying themselves and getting completely separated from their vision when really, we need them to be successful. You know what I mean? Like they come at it and they’re so passionate and fired up and then all of a sudden, they’d burn out. It doesn’t help anybody. Usually, the entrepreneur’s out of money, and the fans and followers or clients they had are like, “Wait! I actually was just starting to see things connect with us, and you’re gone.” So tell us how you help people avoid that trap.
Matt Inglot: I have a few things.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Okay. Where do I start?
Matt Inglot: Yeah. We have a podcast where I’ve had the chance to interview 85+ agency owners, freelancers, and so on who are doing it. That is a tremendous resource for figuring out what the patterns are with successful freelancers–what are the commonalities that they are getting right. Then I have other resources, articles, and so on along those lines that kind of synthesizes some of that information. So for example, things like–I’d say one of the biggest problems that freelancers run into is that they’re not very intentional with the types of clients that they choose to take on.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Wait, wait–before you go there, I have to chime in on something because this is something that I taught my agency which I’ve had for almost 16 years, Verde. They have the freelance mentality which is every meal is your last. So literally, like a starting company. And this is a true story. Wonderful guy who ran it, but a starting company called us and was like, “We want to break into the outdoor market.” And we’re like, “Okay!” Because we’ll probably never get another opportunity to have another client again. You know what I mean? So we just have this mentality like, the second we say no, it’s game over. Is that what you’re talking about?
Matt Inglot: Yeah, exactly. And you end up just taking whatever types of clients kind of come your way without being intentional at all about what type of client should you actually be working with. Is this a client that’s actually going to get you closer to your goals? One of the traps I find is taking on clients that are going to put money in the bank, but when you actually do the math, you realize, “Well, this is actually going to get you further from your goals.” Because you only have so much time in the year to work on client work, and if you take on a client that maybe the pay isn’t quite right. Well, either you have to adjust your income goals downwards or you have to work more in order to still be able to meet your original goals. So actually, the best thing to do there unless you’re completely strapped would’ve been to not take that client on.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yes. It is such a sickening cycle. And you say clients, and that, to me, is like agency world. But a lot of my fans and followers are writers and photographers and videographers. So we also have magazines and shows and different types of clients, and I would say even publishers that we weren’t right for. So does this kind of apply across all–because literally, it goes from like a writing assignment where that could be a one-and-done to a client like you’re talking about which might be a retainer year over year situation.
Matt Inglot: Yeah, absolutely. Either way, you have to be very intentional of the type of work that you want to be doing and decide what type of work is going to actually allow you to reach your goal. So some of that is financial like we just talked about. If you can’t literally meet your income and time goals, that’s a problem. And some of it is also lifestyle-based. For example, for me personally, I don’t like surprises. I don’t like having someone come up to me and say, “Hey, I need a logo and all of these stuff. By the way, I need it this Friday.” So for me, I never take on rush jobs and I never seek out the types of clients and the types of projects where that is very likely to be happening. Because you can basically plan on canceling a lot of fun stuff, a lot of family stuff if you start taking on clients with those kind of deadlines. Since that’s important for me lifestyle-wise, that’s the type of thing that I end up avoiding. But everybody’s going to have their own criteria.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right. Do you help people find that through your content or do you actually coach them?
Matt Inglot: Yeah, both. Definitely. So we have a whole process for identifying your ideal client. I actually do have a worksheet that I’d be happy to share with your audience that allows you to go through some of the steps that we take just on your own and figure out what’s actually important to you in the type of work that you take on whether you’re an agency or a designer or a writer or whatever it might be. But it just forces you to think through– “Where can I actually contribute the most value? How do I do the math to make sure that my income goals are met and my time goals are met so I’m not working crazy 60, 80 hours a week in order to sustain myself and then achieve some of these other lifestyle goals?” Not to mention go into finding the types of clients that you can actually reach easily as well, and not ones that maybe you personally would have trouble finding.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right. Cool. And then do you also have resources for people who are just starting to scale? Because that’s another thing, I think. There’s a freelance mentality like I just described. But there’s also kind of like a–it’s almost like an anti-delegation mindset that happens, too. Like, “Ugh! I’ll just do it myself. It’s faster.” Or how they might take the step from going as a solopreneur to a small business owner with employees.
Matt Inglot: So we do cover some of that. I’ve had some guests on my podcast specifically, and maybe I can link those up for you later as well, who have made that exactly from freelancer to agency. Basically, when you started doing that, you’re layering on a few additional things. So suddenly, delegation, like you mentioned, becomes important, understanding your business financials becomes that much more important, and understanding your role on the business becomes that much more important. But I think the biggest thing with going from freelancing on your own to going and turning that into an agency is making sure that you’ve got your business figured out first as a freelancer. That’s a mistake that I made that was very painful. When I started freelancing, I was building websites for people. It kind of seemed like it was working because I had more money in the bank than I used to, and I had clients, and I had more clients than I can handle. So my natural thought was, “Okay, well, let’s hire a developer. And let’s hire another developer. Let’s get an office. Let’s get a bigger office.” But what I realized unfortunately too late once I had a fancy office space with 11 different colors of paint on the walls and all that fun stuff that comes with that–I realized I never actually really crunched the math properly on my business. I had never really solved some key things such as figuring out who our own clients were and figuring out what actually is kind of the minimum size of project we need to be taking on and how do I consistently get those clients through the door. So then I had to scramble and kind of figure that out and reverse.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Boy, have I ever been there. This is sort of the bane of our existence as freelancers because there’s so much opportunity. The world is such a smaller place now with all of the ways to connect with and find and frankly, stalk potential clients and people to write for or produce content for–whatever it is that you do. So you can actually meter up the amount of work that you get. But then you also have to really have a strong foundation in place. When I was starting–I’ve started three businesses now. The first one was the freelance writing and editing business. I had no foundation. I mean, it was like a house built on a dirt lot.
Matt Inglot: Exactly.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: And I, slowly but surely over the 9 ½ years I had it, I figured it out. But there were years, Matt, when I would literally write my full head off and be flying all over the place during the golden era of journalism. Like, I just had the best time doing it. But I get to the third quarter and be like, “Oh, crap. I better take some articles just to pay for my taxes.” I’m not proud to say this, but that’s literally what my cycle was. I go three quarters, I do everything I was doing, and then I’d kind of round third and head to home. And everything I did in the fourth quarter went to taxes which obviously puts you behind. So I was slowly able to extract myself out of that. But do you have–like you said, you have worksheets and things I’m very grateful we’re going to have something to download, but do you have maybe the top 3 things that you see freelancers and contractors doing maybe in their first two years that you might want to speak to right now?
Matt Inglot: Absolutely. So the first one we already covered but I’ll just reemphasize it which is again just making sure that you have some clarity around the types of clients that you’re going to target. You’re allowed to revise this, you’re allowed to understand it better as you freelance longer and you realize what kind of projects make sense for you. But always be purposeful and always be thinking about what kind of projects you should be taking on and what kind of projects you shouldn’t be taking on. That makes a huge difference. The second thing is I’m personally very partial to trying to find the types of clients–even if that is like things like magazines, I understand. Again, some of you who are listening [inaudible] writers. But clients and opportunities where you can keep working for them rather than it having be like a one-and-done. One of the things that I realized is that as freelancers, especially, we only have the bandwidth to handle so many different projects for so many different people in a given year. A lot of times, that number is a lot smaller than you think. Because when you start looking at– “Well, how many different clients can I actually communicate with and e-mail with? And how many different sales can I close?” You start realizing that if you want to take on 100 projects, you might need more than 24 hours in a day just to actually close them all and communicate with those clients. So it’s better to find some clients that you can keep working with rather than trying to find lots and lots of little projects that you consistently have to seek out time and time again. I’d rather have clients that keep coming back to me for more work. So that’s the second thing. Recurring revenue wherever you can get it. Long-term relationships wherever you can get them. And the third thing–and I think this is something that is maybe a little new in the past 10 years. But a lot of freelancers are going straight to let’s-find-work-online. I love finding clients online. And I love all of the freedom that the Internet has created for me. But what ends up happening is people start believing the fact that they don’t have to talk to human beings anymore. But in freelancing and agency, work relationships are probably the number one thing. So if you don’t want to be simply looking to job boards to finding work, if you don’t want to be cold e-mailing people over and over again and wondering why you’re not getting clients, then I really, really suggest stepping outside of your house and actually meeting with people in person.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: God forbid. That means we have to brush our teeth and get dressed. I mean…
Matt Inglot: I know. The horror.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: I mean I know a lot of people can’t work from home and they have to go to an office and get dressed. If that helps their productivity. But for a long, long time, my friend, I have worked from home. It literally is like, “Oh.” I sometimes will text other friends who I know work from home, too, I’m like just giving them a hard time– “So, are you still in your pajamas at [inaudible] like me?” Sorry. Continue. I digress.
Matt Inglot: No, I totally get that dress code. I won’t mention what I’m wearing right now, but it’s definitely a plus. But on the other hand, if you’re trying to start out, if you’re trying to get clients quickly and you’re trying to get the types of clients you can keep working with, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to go and actually meet with them. Go to different events. Go to different meet-ups. Personally, I’m now addicted to conferences because it’s just amazing how in a few days, you can bring a lot of like-minded people together and have a lot of amazing conversations and connections and people you can work with in a very short period of time. I just find that gets overlooked, and that’s a problem when you’re starting out. Because you really need those clients, and you really need great clients. And you don’t want to find yourself trying to bid for a job that’s maybe $200 and you’re competing with 50 other freelancers. So it can take time to get the online finding work thing right.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right. It’s funny. When you first brought that up, I was thinking it was more like doing like the LinkedIn [inaudible]. But you’re actually talking about going to places where there’s always a platform to find clients.
Matt Inglot: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, you can do that as well. You can find people on LinkedIn, you can meet-up with them for coffee–all of that good stuff. But just that face-to-face relationship building, finding people through referrals as a result of the relationships that you’ve made–like that kind of stuff can quickly build up a client base in a way that’s maybe a little harder with the online work.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Yeah. No kidding. And I do agree with you. It is important to get out and meet people. So tell me some of the conferences that you recommend or that you’ve gone to recently that are awesome.
Matt Inglot: Sure. So I’ll first mention that what you go to is going to depend entirely what you’re trying to accomplish. Go where your prospective clients are. I’ve been going to a lot of conferences based around my freelance transformation work where I’m seeking out other freelancers and agency owners. So two, I’ve had the privilege to speak recently at Double Your Freelancing Conference. They have one in Virginia, and they have one in Sweden. I got to go to both. It was a great time. Also, Up Conference in Vancouver, right here in Canada. It’s their first year, and the organizers did a fantastic job. I think they actually sold the conference out. So I highly recommend that one as well.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Oh my gosh, that’s cool. Well, one thing that I find is just–obviously, running two companies, I travel a lot, I have kids. And I have to do the–where you can actually dial in and listen to the conference stuff. But I have to tell you when I do make it to a conference, I literally come home and I’m just fired up. It is such a great thing to give yourself to keep you motivated.
Matt Inglot: Yeah. Absolutely. Especially if you can make the right connections. Then actually follow up on those connections because that’s the [inaudible], right? You come back from a conference, you are all fired up and excited, and then real life hits the next day. Or maybe that afternoon. And then next thing you know, you’ve forgotten about all the follow ups you were meant to do, all the things you were meant to put an action after the conference. Then you’re not really getting the value on your investment.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right. Oh yes, it’s that importance of implementation.
Matt Inglot: Yeah, exactly. Although what I love now about today’s technology is a lot of planes now have Wi-Fi. So what I try to do whenever possible is to handle those follow-ups of people and everything as I’m on the plane going home. That way, I’m still kind of in conference mode and I’m not back to everything else mode.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Right. Totally. Well, that’s great. I really am excited about sharing your resources with my people, and boy, I sure wish they had something called Freelance Transformation back when I was doing this. That’s one of the reasons that I started The Alliance at Intrepid Entrepreneur is just to get people in a membership community where they could kind of get this drip of content and direction, but then also work with other people who are doing the same thing they are. Trying to build a passion-driven business. It seems like you’ve really been able to do that. I also have noticed that you like outdoor adventure, it seems. Is that right?
Matt Inglot: Yep, that’s definitely correct.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Tell us a little bit about that side of yourself because those are my people. We all love to hear what your interests are.
Matt Inglot: Yeah, absolutely. So the reason we moved out to Calgary, here in Alberta is because it is so close to the mountains. Like yourself, I guess, the mountains have always been something that have been calling to me. So my wife and I finally decided to make that lifestyle change and say, “Hey, we’re going to go up here and we’re going to be as close to the mountains as we can and actually get to do things like climb.” We’re trying to get more into ice climbing, actually. We did an awesome ice climb up a mountain for our honeymoon. We really enjoyed that. My wife’s teaching me how to ski. She used to race. So definitely having the chance to be outdoors and being in the environment that you actually want to be in just makes a huge difference in life, quite frankly, versus waking up every day and kind of having that feeling that you’re not quite where you’re supposed to be.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Oh my gosh, I know that feeling well. I know you’re going to get there. First of all, if you ever need gear, we have lots of clients at Verde that make product just for ice climbing. The best products in the world, actually. Petzl’s one of our clients. I know, but [inaudible] doesn’t make ice gear, but they make incredible climbing equipment. Scarpa’s one of our clients, and their footwear’s the best. So just keep in mind I can always help you out with stuff like that.
Matt Inglot: I will keep that in mind. I have, I think, gear from each of those companies at home right now.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: That’s awesome. Well, I really am so stoked that we’re able to have you on the show here today, Matt. Even though you may not be working in the outdoor industry per se, your areas of interest, your location, where your heart is as an entrepreneur, you’re so our people. So you’re always welcome. Love to have you back. On the Intrepid Entrepreneur website which is intrepidentrepreneur.net/podcast, you’ll get to see the podcast notes for this page which will have links galore including the download that Matt promised. So check that out, too. And why don’t you give us the best place that my people can find out more information on you, Matt?
Matt Inglot: Yeah, definitely. The best place is freelancetransformation.com. There, you’ll find links to the podcast, to the articles, to a free e-mail, of course I have. And of course, we’ll make sure that you, as a listener to this episode, get the special resources that we’ve mentioned.
Kristin Carpenter-Ogden: Awesome. Thank you so much, Matt. I’ll talk to you soon.