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Meet Matt Phillips


Matt is taking the plunge. He's a digital designer who is turning his back on the security of full time employment and going freelance. He knows this is a high-risk strategy. He knows it could all go pear shaped. But a few weeks in and he's finding the plunge surprisingly refreshing.

So Matt, am I right in thinking you had a nice job in an agency, you made a comfortable living and now you've gone and spoilt it all by going freelance?

Ha well I'm trying to explain that to myself. I guess it's a feeling I've had for some time. I felt that I wasn't being challenged or challenging myself enough. I'd been working full time for 5 years and in that time I'd learnt a lot but in the last few months I wasn't learning anything new. Perhaps chucking in the job and going freelance was slightly impetuous but it's all about broadening your horizons and for me that's a very big deal.

Is there lots of freelance work out there at the moment?

Yeah, there seems to be. I've been really surprised by the response. Before I took the plunge I thought it would be a hard slog and lots of cold calling but the response has been great and last week I had to turn work down  which was quite frustrating. I think with the economic downturn agencies are being cautious and are more likely to take on freelancers at the moment. Which from my perspective couldn't be better  so overall I think it's a really good time to be doing it.

What's your plan, to get in with the big London agencies?

Well that's certainly part of it. It definitely interests me to see how they do it and gather some more experience. But that's not to say I'm cutting off small local agencies - the answer is both.

And how have you decided to set up your business?

I've set myself up as a limited company. I've got an accountant. My wife has kindly offered to do the bookkeeping. This frees me up to do what I'm best at.

So you're busy cold calling people and sending mailers out?

A combination of stuff but the best response I've had is by chatting with people and word of mouth. I've seen a few recruitment agencies and I've sent emails to those ‘work at' links at various agency websites  but to be honest I doubt if anything will come out of that. It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and I know it's not going to happen overnight.

Aren't you a bit nervous about it all?

Well no. In truth I thought I would be a lot more worried. I've got family and kids and stuff. Seeing as I'm the main breadwinner my wife is very cool about it  she says you only live once, go and make the most of it. And the feedback has been so positive, so no, I'm not particularly nervous.

So what makes you different from the next freelance digi designer? Why should someone hire you?

Difficult to answer. What's different about me is I come from an industrial design background where I gained plenty of user experience knowledge. In recent years I've been working in a brand engagement marketing agency. I don't think there's many people who understand brand and user experience. I think that's what makes me distinctive  good user experience that also reflects a clients brand.

What kind of digi work do you admire at the moment?

I actually don't look at many websites. 90 per cent are rubbish. I tend not to look at them otherwise you end up designing websites that look like websites. I'm really into ideas  that's what inspires me. Cool hunting and Ted are places that really start me thinking.

Matt's website:
Matt’s Blog:
Matt’s Twitter:
Email: [email protected]

John Fountain is senior writer at Avvio


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