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Why Thinking Like a Client Will Change Your Freelancing Career Forever

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More than likely, your portfolio website is focused on the wrong person. I know that because this was the turning point in my freelancing career.

It was the single lightbulb 💡 moment that catapulted me from earning $3,000/year to $150,000+ and re-defined my freelancing career forever.

It was the one decision I made that has continually set me apart from everyone else: I started to think from the perspective of my freelance clients.

That’s it. Let it sink in for a minute. Have you ever actually done that?

Think Like a Client

Think about what a clients life is like. They have a normal 40hr/wk job and if they’re looking for freelancers to hire, chances are they aren’t on the bottom of the totem pole at their company.

Maybe they even own that company.

They have family, friends, kids, and a social life too. That busy person is now tasked with a responsibility that falls outside the scope of their normal job requirements.

But for some reason, now they need to hire a freelancer.

Chances are, their first stop is Google. They’ll browse through a few dozen portfolio websites on their lunch break (maybe even from their phone) and they’ll have a very short attention span.

  • Website taking too long to load? Next.
  • Not clear what you do in 3 seconds or less? Next.
  • Difficult to navigate? Too much clicking? Next.
  • Annoying transitions and stupid taglines? Next.
  • Looks outdated and mediocre quality? Next.
  • Spelling mistakes and broken links? Next.

Through the eyes of a client who’s browsing dozens of portfolio websites, yours has to stand out. You’ve got 3 seconds or less to grab the attention of a prospective client and convince them to continue exploring your website.

A New Perspective

That simple mindset shift led me to redesign and relaunch my portfolio website over the holidays in 2014 like a crazy person.

Up to that point, my portfolio hadn’t changed much since I graduated college. It was all about me, how awesome my work was, and the big brands I had worked for. It even had silly metaphors.

My tagline was exactly this: Matt Olpinski – Mastering a Modern Trade.

Just look at it:

Yikes. 🙉

What does that even mean? I’m not sure. I was too busy focusing on the colors, the style, and how cool the transition were. I wrote a ton of Javascript code to trigger fancy scroll effects. It was a dazzling display of what I thought were my best skills.

I was extremely proud of it.

I thought I was making myself look awesome until one day I realized this:

👉 My clients were seeing a self-absorbed amateur with a fancy one-page website that had zero SEO value and never mentioned how my work was going to help their business grow. It gave them little reason to hire me.


I realized that my website wasn’t for me at all — it was for the people I wanted to be my clients. How cool I thought it was didn’t matter one bit.

A few clients were blind to this disaster and hired me anyway, but I had a full-time job. I wasn’t trying to become a full-time freelancer. So who cares, right?

Not so fast. How others perceive you matters.

I wanted bigger and better clients. I just never thought I could be doing more to get them and I definitely wasn’t thinking of all the opportunities I was missing out on.

Then I had that lightbulb moment. I started to see things from the perspective of a paying freelance client and everything changed.

Redesigning & Repositioning My Website

👨🏻‍💻 I went into beast mode and built a brand new website for myself (one with actual pages and content) during the busiest time of the year (the holidays) and launched it a few weeks later before New Years.

That website was entirely focused on my ideal clients.

For the first time ever I was selling myself online in a way that resonated with paying freelance clients.

Compare my old home page to the new one:

From a visual design standpoint, the two aren’t that different. Both are clean, simple, modern, and bold. They both have a headline in the middle and they both have recognizable brand logos.

But within 1 week of re-launching my website, I got a $15k project lead, more than double my previous best.

Read the main headline in both designs. Which do you think will grab the attention of a client browsing dozens of portfolio websites on their lunch break?

The shift in positioning (copywriting) was finally striking a nerve with the clients visiting my website.

I didn’t get that project, but now I knew people were willing to pay me $15k for my work. That’s all the assurance I needed to double down on this new direction.

Quitting My Job and Freelancing Full-Time

From there I worked on my SEO strategy and continued to refine my positioning – all with my ideal clients in mind.

Six months later my website was at the top of Google and I was earning enough freelance income to quit my job and freelancer full-time.

I never paid a dime in advertising or self-promotion. I just made small, calculated improvements to my own website and started attracting more clients.

👔  The simple concept of thinking like a client was all I needed to kickstart my freelancing career.

Start treating yourself and your decisions like a business. You’ll naturally begin to see things from the perspective of a business owner and develop real empathy, which will help you understand your clients better!

Give it a try. Try thinking like a client. It was my lightbulb moment and it might be yours too.

Last updated on April 22nd, 2020

About Matt Olpinski
I've been freelancing since 2009 and have worked with over 100+ clients including some of the biggest brands in the world. I later started my own company Matthew’s Design Co. and now teaches 50,000+ freelancers each year how to succeed through my personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers.