2021 was a great year. It was quite different than I imagined and ended with an unexpected plot twist! In January, I fired my only paying client. Then, I spent two months casually working while renovating my wife’s new makeup studio. In June, I started an exciting remote contract with Instacart and was employed there full-time by the end of the year.
For my company, Matthew’s Design Co., it was the best year yet. It started out quietly, but business stabilized in the spring and stayed that way for the remainder of the year. My latest web design projects won 3 international awards for my 3 biggest clients and I ordered some company swag. I produced some of my best design work ever.
For me personally, it was an equally exciting year. By February our basement renovation was complete and I was helping my wife start her own business. With our part of the country slowly reopening, my wife and I took a few trips to Canandaigua Lake, Lancaster PA, Bar Harbor, ME, and we spent quite a bit of time with family.
The fall brought with it many changes and we continue to embrace life for the adventure it is!
As usual, I’ll highlight some professional accomplishments and share some personal updates with photos!
From a professional standpoint, this year started off rather poorly. In January, I started a 3-month contract with a repeat client. It did not go well. One month into the project, I felt I had no choice but to fire that client and forgo the remaining 2 months of income.
It’s extremely rare for me to fire a client, but let’s just say they made it an easy decision.
With my only paying client fired, I decided to spend time helping my wife establish her new makeup and esthetics business. We formed an LLC, completed all the paperwork, found a small studio, and spent two months renovating it together!
To me, this is what being a successful freelancer is all about. When you have enough financial runway, you can slow down and enjoy special moments in life that most other people miss.
Website Analytics 📊
My business website continues to perform well and generate new leads. In my downtime, I revised some case studies and added a few new ones for the projects I completed in 2020.
In 2021, I saw a 27% increase in users and a 7.3% increase in sessions. Over 85% of my visitors continue to be new with only 15% returning. If you think about the nature of a web design business, this is how I want my metrics to look.
As expected, 71% of my company website traffic continues to come through mattolpinski.com, which is a healthy and expected decrease from 85% last year. I don’t want my company website to rely on the existence of my personal website forever!
Overall, I’m thrilled with how well my company website performed in it’s second year:
2.29 Pages per Session
2:05 Avg. Session Duration
55.7% Bounce Rate
12 high-quality leads came in through my company site, but most of my projects were from direct referrals. Unlike previous years, I only worked on a few small projects in 2021. I was thankful to continue working with TaxExact to bring Phase II of their product roadmap to life and FraudFindr officially launched their web app! In March, Knaub Home Solutions launched its new marketing website, which generated 79 new, organic leads in 2021 alone!
In 2021, Matthew’s Design Co. won 3 international Web Excellence Awards, a leading international interactive web awards competition. The annual international competition saw over 950 entries worldwide, including 40 US States and 34 countries including Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, UK, Germany, Ukraine, Switzerland, India, and more.
On June 7th, I started a 40-hour per week contract with Instacart! Normally, I wouldn’t accept a 40-hour per week contract with any single client. But since I had no other active projects and a world-class company was willing to pay my full rate, the decision was simple.
The contract was for 3 months with an option to extend to 6 months. I had absolutely no intention of taking a full-time job, but by November, I had completely fallen in love with the Instacart business, team, projects, and opportunities.
Read this article to learn more about this life-changing decision:
Not much changed on my blog, newsletter, or freelance community this year. My focus was simply elsewhere. While I continue to write articles as I’m able to, these weren’t my priorities during this chapter of my career.
Despite the ongoing chaos and political/social frustrations in the world, my wife and I had some pretty great adventures in 2021. Here are just a few of the fun things that made life memorable for us.
Basement Renovation 🧰
Our year began with a newly remodeled basement! I’m still blown away by this transformation. We gained a huge living space, a full bathroom, a bedroom with a closet, a bonus room, and a storage room! We decided to do a white painted ceiling to keep the space feeling light and airy. The large black lights really complete the industrial farmhouse feel.
This was not a DIY project. Knaub Home Solutions is the MVP here. If you live in Rochester, NY, you won’t find a better home renovation company!
Needless to say, we’re thrilled to take full advantage of this new part of our home!
Studio Renovation 🎨
My amazing wife is a licensed makeup artist and esthetician who decided to start her own business and open her own studio! With the landlord’s permission, we transformed this cookie-cutter office into and luxurious spa retreat.
We picked out all the decor together and did all the work ourselves!
My wife and two of her brothers went kayaking on a channel between two of the finger lakes for her birthday. It was a hot day in August and while the trip was quite fun and memorable, all four of us returned badly sunburned. My legs are still dark brown 5 months later!
5 Year Anniversary ❤️
My wife and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary at The Lake House in Canandaigua Lake, perhaps the most beautiful of all the finger lakes. The hotel grounds are beyond stunning. Check it out!
Celebrating Instacart! 🥕
To celebrate my new full-time job at Instacart, I splurged and bought two new Lego sets. If you didn’t know, I love Lego’s and collect the biggest and most complex sets whenever I get the chance. These two sets alone contain a total of 7,295 pieces!
My dog Lily was also happy to celebrate with me!
There is no better season than fall, especially if you live in upstate New York. Bonfires on crisp, cool evenings. Warm lattes on chilly mornings. Hoodies, fall leaves, holidays, and closing the history books on another year all make this season feel extra special.
This is by far my favorite time of year. Before accepting my new role at Instacart, my wife and I took a long road trip through New England and spent a week at our secret cottage near Bar Harbor, Maine.
Bar Harbor has quickly become a favorite destination of ours. Small shops, fishing towns, delicious restaurants, and an incredible landscape make this destination irresistible.
Plans for 2022
Right now, I’m optimistic and excited about 2022. My new role at Instacart is redefining my career in the best way possible. I have more time to spend with my wife and I’m less stressed than I have been in a long time.
Running your own business is extremely difficult. If you don’t work on it every single day, it’s nearly impossible to succeed. Losing focus or failing to give 100% for even a few weeks or months can negate years of effort. I’m really looking forward to this next chapter of my career.
Personally, my wife and I are thinking about moving out of New York state. It’s starting to feel like an unbearable prison, rather than a place I’m proud to call home.
We’re considering south to Tennessee or north to New Hampshire. Both states offer far more freedoms, but uprooting my life and family is not something I can take lightly. We’ll continue our search and see where 2022 leads us.
Our dog Lily needs to have surgery on her two front legs so we’ll be driving her to Maryland in early January. Fingers crossed for a swift recovery!
Lastly, I’m excited about a 12-month contract I signed to continue improving the TaxExact web app and consulting with the team at Selected, Inc!
2022 should be a fun and exciting year and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for me and my family!
If you’re interested in seeing how my business and personal life has taken shape over the years, check out my annual reviews from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015.
Last updated on August 22nd, 2022
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.