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Building a Personal Brand While Running an Agency with Matt Inglot (Part 2 of 2)

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Personal branding is 1) hard work and 2) enormously beneficial for your business in the long run. In Part 2 of my discussion with Matt Inglot, he talks about why and how he’s building his personal brand.

Mentioned in this episode:

Apply for a Strategy Call with Liston
Matt’s Agency, Tilted Pixel
Freelance Transformation

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Building a Personal Brand While Running an Agency with Matt Inglot (Part 2 of 2):

Full Transcript

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics, and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Liston Witherill:
Today I have part two of my episode with Matt Inglot, so if you miss the first episode, go back to yesterday, download it, give it a listen. He talked all about how he uses technology in his business, both to deliver and separate himself from the competition. Today Matt’s going to talk about how he’s building his personal brand as a business owner and packaging up some of the things he’s learned in order to create almost a separate venture.

Liston Witherill:
So we’re going to get to Matt in a second. Before I do that, if you need help packaging up what you know, if you need help selling your business, scaling up your sales at your firm, I’d love to talk to you. All you have to do is go to liston.io/strategy to schedule a strategy call with me. Or I should say apply for a strategy call. I can’t guarantee we’ll actually talk. But I have allotted some time over the next few weeks to speak to people just like you. Again, all you have to do is go to liston.io/strategy to fill out that application. Without further ado, Matt, welcome back. How are you?

Matt Inglot:
I’m doing well. Thanks for having me back.

Liston Witherill:
Now tell me this, is it awkward at all to sit through me saying all of that stuff in the beginning?

Matt Inglot:
No, not at all.

Liston Witherill:
Okay, great. All right, awesome. I’m glad. So in the last episode we talked all about your… Would you call it an agency or a consulting business? How would you refer to Tilted Pixel?

Matt Inglot:
It’s an agency because there’s multiple people involved, but I oftentimes like to call it a micro agency. Calling it an agency I think gives the wrong impression. Well, agency is a pretty generic term, but you think agency, you think 50 people or 80 people. And at some point it’s the business I want it to build. And then I started building that type of business and I realized that nothing could be further from the truth. And that’s exactly the business I didn’t want to build. So now it’s me and I think we have a team of five and that’s it. And I have no aspirations to turn five into 50.

Liston Witherill:
Okay. So your micro agency, let’s say. So in the last episode we talked about that and how you’ve built your own technology, your own CMS, content management system. And today what I’d like to talk to you about is you, Matt, your personal brand. So for those listeners who don’t know, you have Tilted Pixel, your micro agency. But you also have Freelance Transformation, a podcast and a brand of its own. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Matt Inglot:
Yeah, absolutely. So I started Freelance Transformation three years ago and it’s there to help freelancers build a better business ultimately. To find clients, to break out of the cycle of constantly wondering where your income’s coming from. To help them find the right clients, which is a big thing. Because I went through all that. I started selling a $300 website while I was still in university and now I have six figure clients. And I’ve gone on that entire 13 year journey and I learned a lot doing it and I realized there was a lot of things starting out that I didn’t know that would have helped me accelerate that entire journey if I had known them. So I’m out there sharing that information now. And I’ve got a podcast. I’ve got an email list. I’ve got a course that I open spots for from time to time. It’s all just based around taking that knowledge and now helping the next generation so that we can cumulatively grow and not everyone has to figure this stuff out for themselves.

Liston Witherill:
And so when you started down this road… See, I would call this personal branding. You said you wanted to help freelancers and obviously that’s awesome, but I’m guessing there was some element of raising market awareness of who you are as well. Is that true?

Matt Inglot:
Yeah, absolutely.

Liston Witherill:
Okay. And why was that so important to you? Why did that matter?

Matt Inglot:
To reach more people, to build an audience of freelancers. It’s a chicken and egg thing really. You’re saying, “Why is it important to build more awareness of who you are?” Well, it’s not really for my own ego. I do enjoy things like podcasts and everything and that’s a lot of fun. But I realized on that journey, for example, that I wouldn’t want to be someone that’s speaking 300 days of a year and traveling around or appearing on TV all the time and everything. Because that itself can be pretty exhausting. But yeah, it’s important to build a personal brand in order to build that audience in order to reach the people that you want to reach. And it’s cyclical. The more people you can reach, the bigger your brand, the bigger your brand, the more people you reach.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, I totally agree. Now I do want to say though that it’s not a foregone conclusion that you’re only doing it to reach more people. Because I was talking to a friend the other day and he said he was very upfront about the fact that he has an ego and it really feels good. And I’ll tell you, yesterday someone posted… I wish I remembered his name, but I don’t. Posted on LinkedIn that the liston.io show… Of course, very egotistically and narcissistically named after me. I’ll own that. He mentioned that it was the main business podcast that he listens to and goes to for information. And I’ll admit, man, that feels really good. So I think there is an element of that for me for sure. And so that’s why I asked why was it so important and what did it mean to you. So Freelance Transformation allows you to raise your profile, it allows you to reach more people. What is your vision of Freelance Transformation or your personal branding in relation to your agency work? Is that something that you want to completely take over?

Matt Inglot:
Well, first of I’ll say it so the ego thing is definitely icing on the cake. I agree that that feels amazing when people tell you stuff like that or recognize you at conferences. But it really isn’t why I’m doing it because it’s fun. It’s nice. But you go is not a sustainable business model.

Liston Witherill:
Right. No, it’s not.

Matt Inglot:
Unless you’re a reality TV star then it might be, but yeah, why the heck am I doing it? It’s basically my side hustle and it came from the fact that I helped a lot of clients build successful online businesses and it got to the point where it’s like, “Hey, I want to try the other side of it. I want to see what it’s like to create a product, to build an audience, to do all the things that normally my clients are stuck doing while we’re providing the other half of it,” which is actually building their websites and making their members be able to sign up and making their members convert better and basically taking their success and helping them add rocket fuel to it. Well, what does it feel like to build that initial success? And it’s been very interesting because first of all it’s been a lot of fun. But it has also taught me a lot, including that that other side is not that easy.

Matt Inglot:
And you and I were talking earlier before we started recording that it is a bit of a slog. It’s a lot of work building that initial audience. And it’s a lot of work getting that initial exposure and building those initial connections and figuring out really difficult problems about your business like who are you targeting? What problems of theirs are you trying to solve? Why are you trying to solve them? You get to solve all that stuff.

Matt Inglot:
When my clients come to me, I can help them figure out where they’re missing some of these elements, but they have some proven business model already or they wouldn’t be able to afford us. So starting from scratch? Very different experience. So it is a side hustle. It’s something different. You’re asking is it going to replace my agency 10 years from now? Who knows. Right? I’m not going to commit to saying yes or no, but in the short run, definitely not. I love the agency. It’s what I’m good at and I’m not someone that’s just trying to jump from running an agency to building products because products is easier and in fact so far my experience has been very different.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. I’m just laughing because content is such an attractive… Basically here’s the attractive part of the content business to everybody. I can package up what I know in a course using whatever off the shelf learning system available out there. And once I do it, I can sell it forever. And my marginal cost of goods sold is zero. I have a 99% margin forever. Sure, but what if it’s not perfect and your content is not going to be great the first time? It’s maybe good, but not where it could be. And it takes an exorbitant amount of time to improve it.

Liston Witherill:
And what I’ve found… And actually I’d love to hear your feedback on this. What I’ve found is finding the exact right piece of content, where you’re not going to be there to fix it or explain everything, matching that up exactly with your market is a difficult thing. Because so many people need slightly different things or their focus is maybe 10% on this and 80% on something else and the other person is the opposite. And so it’s hard to exactly target that. What has your experience been in creating your Freelance Transformation product, which is a video course, right?

Matt Inglot:
Yeah, absolutely.

Liston Witherill:
Can you tell us a little bit about that product and your experience with people’s reaction and your ongoing evolution of that?

Matt Inglot:
Absolutely. And I’ll talk about that and also rewind a little bit, because that’s not my first product. Back in school I did try other products. Most of it failed before it even launched. But I had one that had moderate success and it was a utility for Windows back in the day when people installed programs on their computers instead of things all being in their web browser. And I was, what, 17, maybe 18 years old when I wrote this thing and it did make some money. And it was selling, but I also made a lot of classic mistakes where I spent a lot of time being the inventor and not a lot of time being the marketer.

Matt Inglot:
So I ended up with a really cool program that was a really great fit for me and my needs and not for nearly as many other people’s needs. And when you’re selling it for 20 bucks a piece, you need a lot of customers. So it did okay, but it didn’t do great. And then as I evolved and went down my entrepreneurial journey and started my agency, I found very quickly that services are easier than products. The products, the big thing they have the advantage of is… Especially digital products, not so much the manufacturer’s stuff. But digital products have the big advantage of being able to scale like crazy when there’s demand for them.

Matt Inglot:
But emphasis on when there is demand for them. So I meet a ton of product entrepreneurs where they give me the whole spiel about, “Why are you doing services? Products is so much easier.” And meanwhile they’re slogging trying to make their product work and three, four, five years later, they’re either still slogging trying to make the product work or they’ve given up and are doing something else. So going from having a moderately successful product like my first one to one that can actually benefit from the scalability of a product means you got to hit a lot of things out of the park. And that’s hard. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, but it’s hard. While with something like services, the nice thing is if there’s demand for your service, you know it right away because the client has signed a contract. And has even agreed to pay you the money and hopefully pay you the money in advance before you do any work.

Matt Inglot:
So you get paid right away. And that’s the model that I’ve been living off for the last 13 years. Is if I meet with a client and they like what I have to do and say, I can collect a very big check very quickly. Now, Freelance Transformation has been a very different experience because you’re investing the time upfront. So no one’s going to hand you a check for 50 grand or a hundred grand and say, “Hey, I want this.” You’re putting in tons and tons of time and effort trying to build an audience, trying to figure out what that audience wants, what are their big pain points, trying to find something that’s going to fix that pain point, and then trying to find a way to market them in a way where they say, “Hey, you’re right, this will fix my pain and I want this,” and it’s a very iterative process. So I started Freelance Transformation in 2015 and really I was doing stuff on it in 2014.

Matt Inglot:
And now it’s 2018 and I’ve built an audience. I’ve put a ton of work in it, but it’s just now starting to make some money. If you actually look at the hourly rate of all the time that I put into that, it’s very, very poor. Working for McDonald’s would have been a much better proposition. So basically you’re investing that time upfront and you’re hoping that eventually the product sells enough that the hourly rate you get on it is very good. Whereas with services, it’s the other way around where you basically know your hourly rate. There might be some fluctuation. I don’t know if I’m going to make 200 or 500 an hour on a project, but I know it’s going to be a decent amount of money.

Matt Inglot:
Versus with products, if you put in all that work up front and then you either don’t follow through or you just find out what you’re doing is not working, you could end up spending amazing amounts of time working on this thing and it could sell a little bit. And then your hourly rate is 50 cents an hour, which is what happened with my first ever product basically. I put two years into development of this thing, but there was a lot of marketing information I didn’t know. So in the end when I look at how much it actually sold for, again, McDonald’s would have been a better value proposition for me.

Matt Inglot:
But if you follow through on that and you keep selling the product and keep expanding it, you do eventually hit a tipping point where, yeah, potentially a product can make you a lot of money per hour. I don’t know too many product people that have genuinely built something that they can just step away from and not do anything without it eventually dying out. I’ve got another business that that’s basically what happened to it. I bought it and it did awesome for 10 years and then it basically eventually fizzled out. But I bought it for a good price and it worked really well for me. But product businesses are still a lot of work.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. And just to be clear, you’re mostly referencing, when you say product business, consultants or people with expertise who are packaging their knowledge. Is that right?

Matt Inglot:
And talking about digital products.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. Okay. And so if I could summarize, your advice, Matt, is don’t build a personal brand or a product, go work for McDonald’s. Did I get that right?

Matt Inglot:
It depends. That’s not my advice at all, but I think you really got to want to do it. And I don’t think it’s such a clear cut thing where, “Hey, products are always going to be better than services,” because I feel like actually from a financial standpoint, that seems to not play out for most people.

Liston Witherill:
I want to share an anecdote with you. So this year I’ve invested a lot in LinkedIn in particular as a primary channel where I’ve built my personal brand. And the podcast was launched in July. But LinkedIn, I started doing lots of scalable marketing there, which is still just grueling work starting in January. And so I started to get messages from people asking about what am I doing and what’s my experience. And when I launched the podcast, I had posted about it on LinkedIn.

Liston Witherill:
And someone messaged me on LinkedIn and they said, “Hey, I’m just curious. What is the ROI of a podcast episode?” And I said, “You know, dude, I think you shouldn’t think about a podcast if you’re going to look at it like that because you’re going to be extremely disappointed.” There’s going to be three, six, twelve months of work before you can even assess that question. So you have to believe, “This is worth my time,” moving into it. And you have to like it because there’s going to come to a point where you’re like, “Gosh. Seth Godin talks about the dip. I don’t know if this is working. I don’t know if it’s worth it.” You have to have some way to get through that and so I totally agree with you. There’s a lot of work that goes into this for an uncertain payoff.

Matt Inglot:
Yeah. And I know your question was a bit of a joke, but going back to is it worth it or is it, are you better off doing McDonald’s… Or better yet consulting rather than McDonald’s. I think that that mindset is exactly it. The person that is going into it with the mantra that products are easy and that’s why they’re getting into it, because they’re going to be able to scale quickly and make millions of dollars, is the exact person that’s not going to succeed because they’re not going to be willing to put in the work. Whereas someone like yourself, for example, that’s putting in the work and recognize as, “Hey, I’m starting a podcast. 18 months from now, there might be a return on that.” That’s the person that is going to succeed because they’re willing to make that upfront investment into the product and into the business and into building the audience versus coming at it with the expectation that “Yeah, the product will be a much better return on my time versus services.”

Liston Witherill:
Well, in producing any content asset… I’m big on this and you, dear listener, if you’ve been with me for a while, know that I’m a big promoter of content marketing generally. Because for instance… I’m not exactly sure which episode this is, but I started the podcast in July. By the end of the year, I’m going to have something like 40 or 50 episodes. And those are things that I can package up and repurpose. And it’s not just about the dollars and cents return on producing the podcast. It’s also about what did I learn along the way? What new skills did I pick up? How can I leverage this in the future? So don’t be so narrow in your thinking is my advice. I’m not talking to you, man. I’m talking to you, dear listener.

Liston Witherill:
Matt, I want to come back to something about Freelance Transformation and this investment you’ve made in it. For me, this podcast really is targeted at the people who will buy my consulting services and I’ll in the future create more products for them that are a little maybe easier to get into or a little lower price, lower commitment I think is the big idea. For you though Freelance Transformation isn’t going to be the same target market, freelancers, as the people who can be multiple six figure clients in your agency. Do you see any overlap there? And if not, why did you choose to go that route?

Matt Inglot:
Yeah. And that’s a fantastic question. It’s funny because both of the podcasts we’re doing together are basically based around controversial decisions I’ve made. First the custom CMS-

Liston Witherill:
I didn’t mean to poke you. That wasn’t the intention. I just think it’s interesting.

Matt Inglot:
It’s funny how that’s worked out. And then the second controversial thing is, why build a completely different audience? And that’s a very good question. And my resounding answer is because I felt like it. It’s not because it was a great business decision. The great business decision would have been to do something that just brings in more clients for my agency. But I just found that I was reflecting a lot on everything that I had learned building an agency. And one of the best ways to get better at something is to teach it. That’s something I actually discovered while in university, where I was tutoring first year economics while also taking it. And those were the easiest exams I’ve ever written in my life because at that point I had learned the stuff so well.

Matt Inglot:
So it was more that I really had an interest in what makes a service business work. Why is it that for years I was struggling and making very little money and working 80 hours a week and then it felt like I made relatively simple changes to my business and suddenly I had a six figure income and was working 20 hours a week and traveling all around Europe? Why did that happen? What makes a good services business? Are services businesses scalable? Why start a business in the first place and what impact does it have on the rest of your life? There’s just a lot of questions. And a lot of things I was thinking about.

Liston Witherill:
Now we’re getting philosophical.

Matt Inglot:
Yeah. Now we’re getting philosophical. Yeah, exactly. So being able to play in that space and be able to teach what I know, but at the same time start a podcast and connect with 180 other freelancers, agency owners, et cetera, and go to conferences and things like that gave me the opportunity to do a deep dive on this topic. And that’s what was exciting to me. I could have started a marketing podcast and done marketing things and attracted people to my agency, but that really wasn’t the goal of any of this. It’s because I wanted to do this deep dive and at the same time I wanted to start my own digital products business and learn from that. But surprisingly, that has actually also helped my agency both directly and indirectly. I’ve gotten referrals as a result of my Freelance Transformation work, which I didn’t expect. Including one that ended up being an $80,000 project. So you can imagine how well that paid for a lot of the stuff I did on Freelance Transformation with no expectation of that actually happening. But it just… It wasn’t geared that way.

Liston Witherill:
Well, it’s interesting. I’m on the fence about awareness marketing. On the one hand you’re essentially what you just described. You want more awareness because if more people know that you exist and you’re a viable, trustworthy, credible choice in the market, you’re more likely to get business. It’s just the way word of mouth works. On the other hand, it’s very expensive to invest in awareness. As you were describing, your McDonald’s joke, and investing in this. And I’ve definitely felt that. But I think the longer I’m in business, the more I err on the side of, “If I can have more people who know… And of course more of the right people. Who know what I’m doing and why and who I am, the better.” And so it sounds like… Tell me if this was the case. Someone listened to Freelance Transformation, they knew someone who could use your services, and in that moment they thought of you and made the referral. Is that about right?

Matt Inglot:
It was actually a guest. And that actually is a bit of a tangent. That unlocks the real ROI of a podcast. Is oftentimes… I mean, it’s great to have listeners and obviously get people on your email list, but sometimes the connections you make through the podcast have a much more direct ROI.

Liston Witherill:
Right. And I’m using you for your connection in this very moment. So thanks for being here.

Matt Inglot:
Yeah, exactly.

Liston Witherill:
Well, no, it’s funny because I recorded a podcast. I also had Simon Thompson on here recently, who does podcasting for agencies and service firms and that was… Both of us totally agree on that point. You can make valuable connections. You can also have potential clients on and just talk to potential clients and people are way less resistant to that hour they’re spending with you then if you’re selling them something or they perceive it that way. So I agree.

Matt Inglot:
Oh, a hundred percent that’s a fantastic way to get clients, especially at scale. So if you are trying to build an agency at scale, yes, start a podcast and bring your clients on. But even if you don’t do that, podcasting is basically a form of networking.

Liston Witherill:
Totally. Well, Matt, you have been so generous, humoring me challenging you on some of these big decisions or asking about these big decisions. You’ve been so generous sharing how you built your micro agency Tilted Pixel and how you’re building Freelance Transformation. I am certain some people want to follow up with you and learn more about you. What’s the best way for them to do that?

Matt Inglot:
Yeah, absolutely. So if you’re interested in building your freelance business and getting more clients, getting the right types of clients, then freelancetransformation.com. Check it out, get on the email list. There’s lots of good information that will come to your inbox. If you’re curious about getting your membership site revamped and you already have a successful membership site business, you’re looking to take it to the next level, then definitely check out tiltedpixel.com. Get in touch and we can chat further.

Liston Witherill:
Wonderful. Well, Matt, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Matt Inglot:
My pleasure, Liston.

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