Meet Matt, a technology loving TOP Cert freelancer, setting his own work hours and using his freedom to travel the world and embark on new adventures!
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into freelancing?
I’ve always loved technology and from an early age I was quite good at drawing so combining the two at some point was pretty much inevitable. Despite being in top classes for every subject at school, I found it incredibly boring (even the IT classes) and got distracted very easily.
Just as I was leaving school around 15 years ago we were in the middle of a “dot com bubble”. The Internet, and companies like Google in particular, were really starting to boom. I was convinced there was money to be made online. The vast amount of information available was exciting and it seemed that the possibilities were endless.
My freelancing journey actually began with copywriting; I discovered an online marketplace and saw people offering their services online. I didn’t have much else to offer at this point but I wanted a piece of the pie so I started creating content for people. I put in for a few projects and I finally landed my first gig. It was simply a case of regurgitating material I found online. I was probably around 15/16 at the time and even though it wasn’t particularly exciting and I was charging pennies – it was money!
It was during this brief spell as a copywriter that I eventually stumbled across a few web design tutorials for a tool called Adobe Fireworks. I picked it up really quickly and was soon charging for my services . I haven’t looked back since.
I’ve been designing interfaces for web and mobile devices for over 10 years now and I’m still learning new stuff every day. We’re incredibly lucky – the Internet makes so much possible and there are a wealth of opportunities available if you’re willing to put in the work.
What was your previous job before deciding to go freelance?
I’ve never had a “proper” job so to speak. I started freelancing pretty much straight from school. I did have a paper round though if that counts!
How did you come across PPH?
I’ve had accounts on all the large online marketplaces at some point but I signed up here around 3 years ago. It was slow to begin with but I stuck with it and PPH is the only website I use now. There is an abundance of talent here, both sellers and buyers.
What was your first job like on PPH?
I honestly cannot remember. I’m on my 200th project and have racked up over 360 reviews. I actually have six open WorkStreams right now. Busy is an understatement!
What is a typical day like for you?
I tend to start my day with a workout at the gym. I get up early and train 4-5 times a week. I think it’s important to keep active especially as we tend to be sat at a desk most of the day. It’s good to push yourself physically and mentally. Getting it done before “work” sets me up for the day nicely too. When you work out it releases a bunch of feel-good chemicals in your brain (endorphins) and puts me in a good state of mind ready to tackle the day.
Once I’m home it’s catching up on emails with breakfast and a coffee before planning out the rest of my day. It’s then simply a case of getting stuck in and designing some awesome interfaces with regular client check-ins throughout the day.
How does freelancing compare to a 9-5?
I work my own hours and travel a lot. I love exploring new countries and cultures so I’m really lucky in that respect. Between my Mac in the office, my MacBook and my iPhone I can work from pretty much anywhere in the world. All my devices are synced and it’s great having that flexibility and freedom.
On the negative side, I rarely switch off and I’m often chatting to clients from the other side of the world at unsociable hours. This really is a full-time job. If you think freelancing means you will work less then I’m sorry to break it to you – it’s quite the opposite!
What benefits have you found by using PPH?
I’ve actually invited quite a few of my own clients to PPH purely so I can use the website functionality to help manage whatever we’re working on. The WorkStreams are awesome. Don’t underestimate the benefits of having a timeline of all your client interaction in one place. Your chat history, uploads, invoices and attachments are all easily accessible. Managing multiple projects can give you a bit of a headache at times but PPH’s workflow certainly helps.
The invoicing system, payment processing and escrow service are also major assets.
What does your future hold? Where would you like to take this?
The majority of my work as of late has been for mobile devices which has been refreshing as I enjoy that platform the most. It would be great to get to a point where I can specialise in just that area and really hone my skills in creating beautiful mobile experiences.
My younger brother is growing into a super-talented designer too and while we collaborate regularly – I hope we will be working together a lot more this year. Having someone to bounce ideas off is really cool and something I’m looking forward to.
What are your top 5 tips for freelancers who are new to PPH?
1. Feedback and client testimonials are essential. Encourage clients to leave you a few kind words after each invoice. It takes seconds but the knock on effect for you is massive.
2. It’s tough at the beginning but if you enjoy what you’re doing – stick with it. It’s like pushing a boulder, once you have momentum, it will get a lot easier. Keep pushing.
3. Find your niche and whatever you’re good at then go all in on that. By default you’ll provide the best service possible. Nobody wants a “jack of all trades”. Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to offer every service under the sun.
4. People buy people, not products. Be yourself and try to build relationships with your clients. Be different, have a personality, be you!
5. If for whatever reason you feel like a client might be disappointed or unhappy and you’ve exhausted all options, refund them in full. Cut your losses. It’s not worth the negative feedback.
What are your top 5 tips for web and mobile design?
1. Attention to detail. Don’t cut corners. It’s the difference between an average looking design and an awesome one.
2. Communication is key to client satisfaction. Try to work with your clients as opposed to just running off and coming back to them with a design. Keep them involved as much as possible and you’re much more likely to nail it first time.
3. Be organised. I typically set up a shared folder in Google Drive for every new project. I give the client access to this folder and they can then upload anything I might need. I’ll create a document inside it with the project notes and then set up folders for everything else (source files, mockups, fonts, assets ..etc).
4. As well as your PPH profile – have your own website or online portfolio, especially if you’re a web designer. Why would someone hire you to design their website when you don’t have one yourself?
5. Check out a tool called Affinity Designer by Mac Affinity. It’s fantastic!
What web browser do you use?
I was a massive fan of Mozilla Firefox but I use Google Chrome now.
Here’s another tip – if you use Chrome make sure you check out the add-on Momentum. You’re met with beautiful scenic backgrounds, motivational quotes and an editable to-do list every time you open a new tab. Great for keeping on top of things and planning your day.
If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
I like football and I’m a big Aston Villa fan so I’d have to say a lion. A rampant lion forms part of our badge and let’s face it – who wouldn’t want to be king of the jungle?!
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