It's a wrap! February by Monika Kanokova

thisyearwillbedifferent

February felt like a quiet month. I spent the majority of the time dealing with my little side project, This Year Will Be Different, which is a guide to getting started as a freelancer. Once the Kickstarter campaign made its funding goal, the real work began.

First, I had to find a printer. I decided to appoint Kay Printing in New Jersey; if you need a printing company close to New York, they are your people. Cost-effective, professional, friendly.

Then, because I wanted to make receiving the book special, I decided to wrap every single one as if it were a present. Wrapping 200 books takes about 2 days. That’s a lot of time, but now that I see how much people (here, here, here or here) are enjoying this little gesture, I know it was worth the while. 

For everyone who hasn’t backed the Kickstarter campaign, the book is available on Amazon. If you want to have a closer look at the contents, check out this page.

But This Year Will Be Different wasn’t the only thing that kept me busy throughout the month. I spent a couple of days working on a social strategy with the team at Badger & Winters. And I’m especially proud of the guys at SCHED, who have finally pushed a feature live on Eventbrite, where I helped them with the UX.

All in all, I spent a great time meeting people here in the big apple. I finally got to meet my editor, Diana Joiner, who came to New York for a day. I also met up with Amy Virginia Buchanan, an aspiring singer and Kevin Masse, a great chef who works in advertising. I had a coffee with Jeffrey Yamaguchi, a wonderful writer and thinker and also got to know Kendel Ratley, the relationship director at Kickstarter.

I’m flying back to Vienna tomorrow and would love to have a coffee if you’re around. I’m currently booked throughout March, but if you have an interesting project lined up for April, where you could do with some help, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

10 time-saving tips and tricks to do social media in small businesses by Monika Kanokova

It's not easy to do social media while running a small company or an indie business. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you do a great job on the web while leaving you enough time to focus on what matters to you most at work.

Why you should take the time to recommend others' work by Monika Kanokova

writerecommendations

When was the last time you really enjoyed working with someone? Did you tell them? Or better, have you written them a recommendation for other to see?

No? You should.

For the past couple of months I’ve tried to make the effort to write recommendations for everyone I’ve enjoyed working with. All I want is for others to succeed in their field and the only way I can help them out is by recommending them to potential clients, collaborators or anyone else who’s interested in working with them. 

It takes about five minutes to write a short note about someone; a note that will make them remember you and your collaboration in a positive light. It’s also a hint for them to write a recommendation about your work in return. 

Last but not least, if you’ve finalised a project and feel good about the results, don’t hesitate and ask people to recommend you. If they really liked your work, they won’t mind saying a couple of nice things about your contribution. 

.. and because it’s only Tuesday, try to make sure to recommend at least one person on LinkedIn before the end of the week. It’s good for your karma.

Remote work and my work process by Monika Kanokova

remotework

One of the main reasons why I quit my job and decided to start my own company was the need to be mobile. I wanted to live in different countries and work across different time zones. That does not mean that I do not work locally with people or travel to clients. It just means that I am not at a place in my life where I can commit to one location for the long term.

Only a few years ago working remotely wasn’t possible. Even these days some people have a hard time trusting you’ll deliver on time once you leave the office to work on an assignment from home or a café.

People are often amazed how I am able to deliver quality work with such short turnarounds. You might be surprised to hear that part of the reason, at least for me, is the ability to work remotely. It allows me to work from places where I can get into the “zone” quickly. 

Since I registered my own business three months ago, I have worked on various projects with six clients and managed to write and publish a book while coordinating a remote team myself. It’s been busy, but I believe that with the right tools any assignment is possible. Here is an explanation of my processes, and a list of apps I use while working remotely: 

Briefings

I am a huge fan of Skype. It’s easy to schedule calls with anyone, anywhere in the world. Although often it’s not necessary to Skype, which is why I work with Podcasts. 

For many of my clients it’s easier to share their briefings and feedback verbally, which is why my clients often send audio briefings instead of e-mails. It’s quicker for everyone and I can listen to my clients’ thoughts over and over again if needed.

Transcribing

Whenever I need to transcribe longer interviews or podcasts I use Siri to do it for me. I plug in headphones and simply repeat everything I hear and speak it to my iPhone while Siri types it for me in my phone's notes. It's an incredibly time-saving hack! 

Project management

I am familiar with Basecamp and Podio. While I like that Podio enables you to customise the apps you need for your projects, I find it incredibly challenging if I’m not an admin of a work space. Basecamp feels far more democratic to me; it’s how I prefer to manage and be managed during projects.

Copywriting

I work exclusively in Google Docs. It’s the easiest way for my clients to see my progress and it’s also a great way for them to comment on my work. If I have to transfer local files, I do so by sharing a Dropbox folder. 

Generally speaking, I save everything in the cloud to make sure nothing gets lost. It also gives my clients easy access to the work I produce for them. 

Strategy Decks

I create all my decks, which I sometimes also publish on SlideShare using Keynote. They’re saved on Dropbox to make sure no information gets lost. 

Team Communication 

If I’m involved in a longer lasting project, I cut down on the number of emails by using Slack - a great chat tool to communicate with teams. All conversations and files uploaded to Slack are searchable, making it easy to search through what one has talked about in the past. Slack is available as a desktop, and also as a mobile app for your phone. 

Accountancy

I use Freshbooks because it allows me to give my accountant immediate access to my invoices and expenses. I don’t need to drop off my receipts at his office. I do everything myself and give my accountant access to finalise what needs to be sent to the tax office. With Freshbooks I feel on top of the (accounting) game. A good feeling to have.

I hope this sheds some light on the way I work. What are the tools and practises that help you work on the go? 

It’s a wrap! January by Monika Kanokova

freelancelife

At the end of last month I got a request from the guys at SCHED to work with them on an Eventbrite plug-in and help them revamp their email marketing strategy. 

When I saw how well This Year Will Be Different was coming together (in particular the beautiful illustrations) I decided to run a Kickstarter campaign to fund a print edition of the book.

The campaign rolled out on the 4th of January and was successfully funded on the 27th of January, 10AM CET.

Initially I tried to get to 5K but thanks to several features (here, here, here) and also the great support of the community team at Kickstarter, 376 people pledged $8,873. I cannot even express in words how touched I am by the interest in the project. 

Then, another cool thing happened. I had the chance to speak at a Marketing Natives event and share a little more about how to get (better) jobs. 

As it was my first month back in Vienna, it was a month filled with great reunions. Some of the lovely people I met with to discuss freelance work were Anna Heuberger, Nina Mohimi, Sarah Halbeisen and Julia Basagic

At the end of the month I flew back to New York, where I’ll be spending all of February. Very excited to see what the next month will bring. Maybe a collaboration with you? Get in touch if you need help with your great project or if you want to grab a coffee. 

Do you want to get to inbox zero or at least close to it? This is how. by Monika Kanokova

inboxzero

How's your inbox doing? Thousands of emails lining up and waiting for your response, or just a couple for you to deal with? The more inboxes I've seen the more I wonder how people sleep at night when they have thousands of emails waiting for an answer. 

I usually have about 3 to 20 emails in my mailbox. I am by far not one of the super-hero-people who get to inbox zero every night. But I know so many people whose inbox is a source of guilt, so I've decided to explain how I keep organised: once I start using a service I am someone who usually sticks to the automatic settings but, there is one change I did to my Gmail that made a significant difference when tackling my inbox; I have my unread emails in the first section of my mailbox so I can see what I need to do at one glance. 

I deal with every email I open and do so immediately. Once I have opened an email, I either delete it, decide not to answer at all or respond on the spot. If I cannot answer immediately, I mark the email as unread again. Seeing emails unread and knowing what that means forces me to delete all emails that I won't deal with in the future. Also, my responses are short; about three sentences, because I prefer to meet people face to face. Other than that, I of course don't want to add to people's guilt box. 

If I get on a mailing list of people trying to sell me something, I ask to be taken off. I also unsubscribe from mailing lists I haven't signed up for to minimise the amount of emails I get.

Ok, let's summarise; delete what doesn't help you or make you happier, deal with everything immediately and don't write long e-letters, write actual letters because they're more appreciated. I promise!

If you're someone staring at thousands of emails, let's get rid of them! Say you want to have an empty inbox within two weeks; split the number of emails into a reasonable amount that you can deal with in one day. Then, cancel a date with your friend and instead schedule a date with your mailbox and a cup of coffee. Try to deal with the number of emails you decided on, and then do so again tomorrow and so on for the next two weeks. Make the amount digestible otherwise it will just overwhelm you. 

PS: I do admire people who archive old emails into various folders. I also admire people who have a system to 'hacking' their mailbox as you can read in Andi's post. 

Hiring for startups and why asking for CVs is elitist by Monika Kanokova

hiringjuniors

A case study

During my assignment in London, one of my essential tasks was to hire a team and train them in social media marketing. I knew that the only way to do this was by hiring someone who loves football, the passion of our target group, and who enjoys writing about it. We didn’t need a senior writer or someone with a background of academic achievements. The person we needed was someone with enthusiasm for the topic and a good grasp of grammar.

About a week before I came to London, I announced that we were looking for an intern on several job platforms, such as; Indeed.co.uk or WorkInStartups.com. When writing the job listing, I specified that we didn’t want any resumés, instead we wanted to see two short articles.

We received more than 50 applications in less than a week. The majority of applicants sent us a CV and, as you might expect, no samples of their copy. Sorting through them was easy: we dumped them all!
We then received some good applications, which enabled us to judge the applicants based on their tone of voice and whether their writing style was what we wanted our brand to be associated with. We were also looking for someone who could write several blog posts a week.

After sorting through all the resumes I selected two guys to interview over Skype. This interview enabled me to talk a little more about our aims and how the applicant would fit within the team and what I, and eventually the team, expected from the person joining. I also explained that we would train them whilst they were interning for us in return for their work. After the two Skype interviews I chose to invite one of the guys to come and meet everyone.

The Skype interviews proved extremely beneficial because the applicant was far more relaxed on the video call compared to his interview at the office, during which he spoke extremely fast and was very tense, perhaps a sign that he really wanted to work with us. During the interview we asked about the applicant’s background and discovered that not only had he dropped out of Uni but had also aborted other previous work commitments.

After the interview was over, a long discussion followed: Was he the right person to hire or should we look for someone else? We decided on a compromise and invited him to join us for a week’s trial, paid of course. We wanted to give him a chance without us having to commit immediately. Don't forget that his copy was what made us invite him in the first place.

After two days, we knew getting our new intern on board had been the right choice; he turned out to be extremely bright and had just been a little unlucky in the past; I found I was sitting at a desk with a hilariously funny guy with excellent general knowledge and whose work was detailed and original, he exceeded all of my expectations. This made me question industry standards and why we still hire based on CVs; this guy would not have been sitting at that desk if we had hired like most people in the industry.

The only way we can foster social mobility is by not judging people on where they come from and where they studied. At the end of the day all that matters is where people want to be today and if they’re big enough to reach it.

The founders had other full-time commitments, so the intern and I mostly worked on our own. We met every day at Campus London, an amazing space Google built to support London’s startup scene.

I don’t know much about football but I know a lot about the dynamic of social platforms; my goal was to explain all I knew to my new partner-in-crime and have him go from there. I never said: “This is not how you do it.” Instead I asked “Would you click that headline?” The only general rule I ever set was not to do any hard sell. Instead, I encouraged him to be entertaining, join conversations and have fun throughout the day talking to people and eventually building a community for the brand. Together we decided on certain measures and set goals that were to be reached within a reasonable time frame.

After about three weeks I showed our intern a brand report I had done for another company and then asked him to do something similar for the brand we were working on together; I asked him to develop brand guidelines and define the brand’s voice. He hit the spot exactly and analysed everything, even the stuff I wasn’t happy about. By encouraging him to spot his own weaknesses, he was changing from school dropout to a really good copywriter within less than a month.

I forgot to take down the job ad on WorkInStartUps.com and got a really nice email from an applicant. He sent two really good articles, so I asked him for a Skype interview and also had him download the app and give me feedback. I figured that even if we already had someone in role, it might be beneficial to keep a record of people the company could work with in the future and also get some product feedback all at the same time (sneaky I know).

During our Skype call I was honest about the fact that we already had someone who we were very happy with. I asked what his dream job would be and also asked him to give me feedback on the app and what he thought was missing. His dream job was in creative advertising, his product feedback was excellent and he sounded just like the person we needed to work with the team once I was gone. As we didn’t need a copywriter I set him another challenge to come up with a concept that would lead to 5,000 downloads in two weeks.

We invited him in for an interview and were blown away by the exceptional concepts he presented to us so we decided to welcome a second intern on board; to help us with the execution of the ideas and do the media work and to help him get a step closer to where he wanted to be; in creative advertising.

As for me, I believe that internships should be mutually beneficial. I’m in the habit of asking for feedback once a week to see what the intern would like to learn and grow into. I don’t make it easy for people to join a team but once they do, it’s my aim to make sure they see personal progress every single day.

What has been your most beneficial hiring and training technique? Let me know of some of your tips, tricks or comment on what I have written above. I’d love some feedback.