2019 was another fantastic year both personally and professionally. Overall, it was more simple, stable, and smooth than previous years — yet still each month seemed filled with events!
I taught a college course for the third time, closed my biggest project ever, and started working with subcontractors for the first time. It was the first full year of business for my company, Matthew’s Design Co. I also added DHL to my list of design clients while contracting with a local design company.
I lived in a hotel room in Minnesota for two weeks with my parents while my dad was successfully treated for a severe illness at the Mayo Clinic. In August, my wife graduated from beauty school as a licensed makeup artist and esthetician and we took an amazing trip out to the western United States.
I built a new coffee bar for the coffee room in our house and we had recessed lighting installed in our kitchen and living room — two very exciting upgrades! We had a new retaining wall put in to match our new front porch and sidewalk from 2018 and I added some new mods to my Mustang.
My wife and I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time in November and I finished the year by launching a brand new website for my design company.
Before I get into all the fun and exciting personal things that happened in 2019 (stick around for lots of pictures), I want to briefly review my business stats like I always have in previous years.
Work Inquires & Paid Projects
This year, I worked on 8 paid freelance projects out of 180 serious inquiries that landed in my inbox. That means I only accepted 4% of the projects I was contacted about. I earned less in 2019 compared to 2018, but that was largely due to me teaching at RIT and taking a major pay cut for the first 5 months of the year.
Unlike previous years, my website traffic didn’t spike, but it did stay consistent. That’s great to see considering how little effort I put into my website and my blog in 2019. I still had over 20,000 new users which is amazing and humbling. Thank you all for your support!
2019 Total Numbers:
Users: 21,834 (+7%)
New Users: 21,721 (+8.3%)
Sessions: 29,861 (+0.08%)
Sessions Per User: 1.37 (-6.5%)
Pageviews: 56,023 (+12.5%)
Pages Per Session: 1.88 (-12.6%)
Avg. Sessions Duration: 1:44 (-21.28%)
Bounce Rate: 72% (+4%)
Top 5 Traffic Sources:
Google / Organic: 60%
This year I didn’t make any updates to my website. All my effort was focused on getting my new company off the ground and established as it’s own brand.
Branding My Company
One of the most exciting things that happened in 2019 was the branding I established for my company, Matthew’s Design Co. If you think it’s challenging to design a logo for a client, try designing one for the business you’ve been working on for 10 years!
This was extremely tricky. It needed to be timeless and high-end, yet fun, approachable, unique, and personal.
This is the final logo and color scheme. The new logo for Matthew’s Design Company, Inc. not only encompasses my own personal style and vibe, but the style of my work and everything my business stands for. You can view more images and mockups on Dribbble here and read about what the mark represents.
Launching the Website
After working so hard to establish a strong brand, it was time to design and build the website. It was a tremendous amount of work, but I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out! I spent quite a bit of money acquiring a great domain (madebymatthews.com) and the Instagram handle (@madebymatthews), but it was worth it to have a consistent brand.
Now that all my client-facing content has a new home on a new website, I’ll be able to completely focus this website on freelancers in 2020 in what I expect to be the most exciting redesign yet!
This year, I was grateful to work on the main marketing website for DHL — a global shipping company that competes directly with FedEx and UPS.
However, my biggest project to date came from the most unlikely of sources in the most unusual circumstances: my new accountant! While navigating a very stressful two weeks in Minnesota, my accounting firm called to tell me they weren’t going to be able to work with me to form an S Corp for my business…
Frustrated, I began calling local accounting firms back home. Only one of them had a working website actually picked up the phone when I called (come on people!). During my first meeting with the owner, he mentioned that he always wanted to turn his internal homemade Excel tool into a real web software.
I mentioned that’s what I do for a living, so we scheduled a few more meetings and signed contracts by the end of the year!
Having worked with huge clients over the last few years, I was surprised that my biggest project ever came from a small accounting firm in my own town. That proves great clients can come from anywhere — all you have to do is be willing to talk about your skills with others!
This year, I surpassed $990k in all-time freelance sales (since I started recording data in 2013). Many of my recent projects haven’t been long-term retainer agreements with world-class brands, but rather startups and small businesses who need custom web applications created.
I’m excited to say that early in 2020 I’ll be able to surpass the major milestone of $1M in all-time freelance sales. 🥳
This was the first year I didn’t work with any bad clients and I never had trouble getting paid. I started hiring subcontractors for the first time which was quite successful. Overall, this year was great and I didn’t make any mistakes in my business!
Sadly, I only wrote 5 new articles in 2019. This was largely because I had to focus on establishing my new business and plan out the transition from freelancer to agency. Nonetheless, here’s a list of what I wrote:
I only gained about 214 new subscribers this year, which was significantly less than previous years. That’s not too surprising given how little effort I put into my website or my articles. I finished the year with 1,442 total subscribers and didn’t write any new books or change my products in any way.
Thankfully, my newsletter was running on autopilot (by design) and I was able to help many freelancers without having to write much new content.
The Freelance Institute
The Freelance Institute, a Slack community I created for freelancers, grew steadily throughout its first full year of existence. It’s been so awesome meeting new people from all over the world, doing live events, chatting with other like-minded professionals.
I learned a lot and have been slowly working on improving the community as I get feedback from members. I’m so thankful for everyone who has chosen to be a part of it!
Now that I’ve reviewed my business throughout 2019, I want to highlight all the fun things that happened to my wife and I personally throughout the year. There are lots of photos in this section, which I’m excited to share with you!
Teaching at RIT
On January 15th, I began teaching a freshman Intro to Web Design & Development course at The Rochester Institute of Technology for the third time.
The Honda CRV we bought at the end of 2018 came in handy since my wife was starting beauty school at the same time — and I wasn’t about to drive my Mustang to class during a New York winter!
That class went really well and it was fun to be teaching in a physical classroom at my alma mater again. Teaching is pretty draining, so I kept my other client work to a minimum until the class ended in May.
Two Weeks in Minnesota
Just one week after my class was finished, I flew my parents out to Minnesota so my dad could be treated at the world-class Mayo Clinic for a severe chronic condition he had developed.
My mom couldn’t make the trip on her own and my wife was in school, so I had to step up and take care of things. That’s what family does!
Thankfully, he’s successfully recovered, but living in a small hotel room for two weeks in a highly unstable and emotional environment was a stressful and isolating experience. I’m grateful that I was able to bring my work with me and take care of my parents without sacrificing my client work.
Most importantly, I’m glad my dad is healthy again thanks to the incredible doctors at the Mayo Clinic!
In August, my wife graduated from beauty school as a licensed makeup artist and esthetician! Her graduation day also happened to be her birthday, which was very exciting! She was hesitant to get back in the classroom in her 30’s, but was glad she did.
Overall, it was a great experience and opened up many new and exciting opportunities for her. She’s now on the road to becoming a full-time freelance makeup artist and beauty blogger!
Traveling the Western U.S.
My wife and I have been known to take some pretty epic road trips and we love exploring the country. In 2014, we drove from upstate New York to Florida and back. In 2015, we drove all over California from L.A. to Napa Valley hitting every major attraction in the state. In 2018, we visited Texas and spent a weekend in Martha’s Vineyard.
But one of our most amazing trips to date was renting a Jeep Wrangler and driving from Denver, CO to Los Angeles, CA. We visited so many great places that I’ve always wanted to see including:
Estes National Park, CO
Rocky Mount National Park, CO
Grand Junction and Vail, CO
Arches National Park, UT
Goosenecks State Park, UT
Monument Valley, UT
Lake Powell, AZ
Antelope Canyon, AZ
Horsehoe Bend, AZ
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
The Mojave Desert, AZ (116º F)
Los Angeles, CA
Here are just a few of the photos from our trip:
This year, we re-hired the landscaping company who remodeled much of our exterior in 2018 to update the horrendous retaining wall in the front of our house. It was beyond repair and needed to be replaced. They did an amazing job and matched it perfectly to our front porch and sidewalk!
Over the summer, we hired a local contracting company to remove all the ugly light fixtures in our kitchen and dining room and install recessed lighting throughout the first floor of our home. Our living room actually had no overhead lighting, which was particularly frustrating during the long, dark winter months in upstate New York.
Nest captured a timelapse of the transformation:
Then, I built a new coffee bar for the coffee room in our house! This was really fun and exciting and I was super happy with how it turned out. I have no woodworking background. I just found some plans online and took my time. You can do anything you set your mind to!
Then, I built custom floating bookshelves for our coffee room. It’s one thing to install floating shelves, but it’s another to install floating shelves that can hold the weight of books. Thankfully, a box of very strong wall anchors and a little creativity did the trick! The shelves hold plenty of books and make the room feel cozy!
Finally, near the end of the year, I installed a shiplap wall in our living room. It was a simple project with lots of curb appeal!
If you didn’t know, I own a 2006 Mustang GT that I work on every year. It’s one of my favorite toys and it’s just so much fun. This summer, I installed new Raxiom projection headlights and foglights, tinted all the lights on the car, and added white stickers to the tires.
These were small projects that had a big impact on the look of the car and I’m thrilled with how it all came together. I have no background in automotive work. I just figure this stuff out as I go along 😄
I have a 3-year-old English Cream Golden Retriever named Lily and a 4-year-old Norwegian Forest cat named Watson. I’ve added their photos here for cuteness and for memories. My wife and I also had family photos taken for the first time this year!
Plans for 2020
2019 was really fun. Life is good. I’m looking forward to ringing in a new decade and making 2020 the best year yet.
Now that I’ve got a company website, it’s time for the next evolution of this website (mattolpinski.com) to take shape.
I plan to make up for lost time in that regard and make this website 100% freelance-focused, write many new articles, and update all of my products.
I’m planning to automate more tasks in my business and work with more subcontractors on bigger projects.
My wife and I don’t have any big trips planned right now. We’re going to work on our house more and take it easy for a bit. Maybe do some smaller weekend trips instead of one big one.
I’m also planning to be much more active on Twitter and continue to grow it as a resource for freelancers.
If you’re interested in seeing how my business has grown over the years, check out my annual reviews from 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015.
I hope some of this information gives you some insight into my life and business that can be beneficial to yours. Thanks for reading!
About Matt Olpinski
Matt runs his own web design and development company Matthew’s Design Co. and teaches thousands of freelancers how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers — The Freelance Institute.