It’s a wrap! July

zammcoffee

Following Oren’s advice that you have to work “on” your business and not just "in" your business, I spent the beginning of July reviewing and reworking my website. I launched the first version of my website at the end of last year, so I had to make sure my website remained an accurate reflection of my services.

It was important for me to remove all the references of clients that I had worked with (such as Niemetz, Teekanne, Skiny Bodywear, etc.) while working for my past employers. I listed them as my references at first to have at least some kind of validation of my past work.

My former colleague and now also a great friend, Sarah Halbeisen, helped me with the visuals. I’m pleased with how the images turned out, so if you need pictures for your own website, ask her to help you. She’s great to work with!  

I felt a lot like writing in July, so I spent some time pitching and writing articles for the team at Facebook, a gig I got through Contently. If you’re a freelance writer, definitely create a profile on Contently to showcase your work and get the clients that fit your interests. I truly am a huge fan of what they do!

The most exciting moment of the month was when I received an email from the team at 99U offering to feature one of the interviews from This Year Will Be Different after I sent them a cold email. A cold email! Never thought these things actually worked! Yay!

I read their message in bed and was up in about 20 seconds, not even capable of finishing the last paragraph. It took a few hours for me to finally read the final sentences. Haven’t felt like this in ages, by the way. Speaking of #TYWBD, there are some books at the Zamm Coffee Shop that you should look into.

Another highlight of the month was Kathrin Folkendt’s event "3 Freelancers. 3 Stories.” She invited me to share my experiences and what I’ve done to kick off my freelance career. I was really impressed with all the people who came and stayed with us until the very end despite the 38°C degrees we had in Vienna that night. Not only was it great to do something together with Kathrin Folkendt and Elisabeth Oberndorfer, I was also really pleased to bump into the guys behind Freewheelstories, a filmmaker duo from Amsterdam.

Last but not least, Kickstarter and I agreed on extending my contract and I’ll now support them in Austria, Germany, and Holland until the end of the year. If you have a project, please don’t hesitate and get in touch.

The best way to conduct a Kickstarter campaign.

A case study

For Kickstarter, 2015 has been the year of international launches. Given I just finalised my own Kickstarter campaign and was on the lookout for new clients, the timing seemed perfect and I was fortunate to take Kickstarter on as a client to help them spread the word about the launch in Germany. (On another note, always do the projects you’re excited about because they’ll eventually lead to new opportunities.)

While my favourite part of the assignment was to help creative teams, such as TIO care, BuddyGuard, The Future Chronicles and Mellow Boards, create great campaigns and run them successfully, I’ve also given several talks on how to best do a Kickstarter campaign.

To me, the greatest strength of Kickstarter is the creative diversity that you’ll discover every time you visit the platform. People have mind-blowing ideas and many share incredible videos to communicate what their project is about. I really think Kickstarter videos are much more fun to watch than anything else you’ll find on the internet. Just check out Butterup, the Coolest Cooler or Makey Makey.

Based on my experience from running a project to fund This Year Will Be Different: The insightful guide to becoming a freelancer, when crafting the content of your campaign, generosity is the way to go. Explain what you want to create for the people who will support you and how they will benefit from your work. I would even say that you should first think about the rewards, even before you start writing the copy or making a video. When deciding on what you want to give away as rewards, always think about whether you would be willing to pay that amount for that reward yourself. Then, think if you would get genuinely excited about receiving such reward. On other terms, do you really need another T-shirt in your closet? Exactly!

Kickstarter is a place where you can open up about your creative process to people who are interested in participating. If you’re making a movie, why not collect photos from your backers and photoshop them into the newspapers you show on the screen, or if that’s too much effort, why not mention your backers' names in the credits? If you’re making garments, then why not embroider the backers' names on the inside of the clothes?

There are endless possibilities to make people become part of your work and that is why people come to support projects on Kickstarter in the first place.

Before I forget this, when calculating the costs of your rewards, please don’t forget to wrap the objects, go to the post office and make sure you know how much the shipping costs will be to different countries. This is probably the most important advice!

Of course, the video is pretty much the key to the success of a project. If the project is good enough, a simple video, such as the one I recorded to promote This Year Will Be Different, can also make the cut. Nevertheless, if you have the time and the resources, don’t be afraid to play. People love videos that are fun and unexpected. Independently of how big your team is, make sure that your video explains the features of your project; that it showcases how the user will benefit from using your product and in what situation your product will be relevant to them or why it matters that they get involved. The Coolest Cooler is a great example to learn from. What I really like about the Coolest Cooler video is that Ryan managed to explain why he was the right person to realise such a project, something that’s crucial given you’re asking people to support you financially.

When writing copy, use images to break up the long text. Visuals always win! If you already have photos of your rewards, don’t hesitate to show them too.

Once you’ve launched your project, it’s important to start spreading the word. In the beginning, you’ll need the support of your friends and relatives. If none of the people who know you personally trust your abilities to finalise and deliver the outcome of your project, strangers won’t trust you either. On Kickstarter, about 17% of all unsuccessful projects haven’t received a single pledge, which clearly shows that spreading the word among people who know you is crucial.

The majority of projects on Kickstarter raise between 1K and 10K, but if you’re planning to start a bigger project, you’ll need to take more time to prepare for your launch on Kickstarter. First, when launching a project, think about who might be interested in the outcome of your endeavour. These are the people to reach out to immediately after your Kickstarter project page becomes public. Sometimes, you might need the support of the press to reach more people. There are several ways to go about this. First, I’d always recommend to think about who you know who might know someone and who they can introduce you to. If your project is for your community, then don’t hesitate and reach out to your local newspapers. Let them know about your project. This is usually easier in smaller cities. If you don’t know any journalists or weren’t any successful with the local media houses, it’s time to do a little research. A simple hack is to go on the Google News search and find relevant keywords. When you find articles that are related to your project’s theme, reach out to the journalists who wrote them and let them know about your project. If they’re interested in your field, they might be kind enough to feature your campaign.

Once your page is up and running, you’ll have about 30 or 40 days to reach your goal. Trust me, you don’t want to shout across all your social media channels that you’re doing a Kickstarter campaign. Instead, this is a wonderful opportunity to tell people more about your work. Take the time and write regular project updates to invite people to check out your Kickstarter page. Don’t do the sales talk. Instead, talk about your progress and how your project’s evolving. Give people something to talk about; show them photos of your work space, or the material that you won’t show in the final piece. In the end, backers on Kickstarter want to be part of the creative process, so the best thing you can do is to share your work with them. It will be easier to regularly post on your other social media channels about your campaign without constantly asking people for their support. You’ll see that posting project updates will be valuable even after you’ve successfully funded your project. As I like to say, if you’ve done one campaign well, it will be easier to make the second campaign even better.

If you’re planning to setup a Kickstarter campaign and are based in Germany, Austria or the Netherlands, please get in touch with me so I can help you get up and running.

The most precious thought I have for you.

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Here are parts of my weekly newsletter: you can subscribe to my newsletter to get the full articles to your mailbox. 

Something I learned at a very young age was the hierarchy of handshakes. In my childhood world, the woman was the one to give her hand to the man; the older woman to the younger woman. As a child, you always had to wait for others to decide whether they’d like to shake your hand or not. 

When I moved to Austria, people thought I was being rude because I went with the rules I learned in the Czech Republic. Just so you know, in Austria, the person who enters the room is supposed to reach out and give their hand to the people who are already there. To every single one! It took some time for me to figure out what I was doing wrong. Once I understood that every culture was different, mostly concerning the most mundane rituals, I became a little more observant (and also more skeptical about hierarchies). 

Then, I moved to England and realised that people were weird about touching one another altogether, and that they didn’t even make a difference in how they talked to others. Everyone was “you”, so everyone you met was, at least in the way you talked to them, equal. 

After a couple of weeks living in England, I registered on Facebook. In 2007, people talk about themselves in the third person: nevertheless, this was pretty much the beginning of the social web in Europe. At the beginning of 2010, I started my blog and would share what caught my eye and what I thought was interesting. Later that year, I registered on Twitter. Around that time, there was no one who would warn others about data theft, so we were sharing a lot of private thoughts and moments with anyone who wanted to listen to us. With Instagram, it then became quite visual too, but that’s besides the point for now.

The point is, on the internet, there are no rules for who reaches out first to shake hands. On the internet, everyone goes by “you” and there are no differences between people. Sure, some people have more followers than others, but that’s mostly because they’ve been sharing their thoughts for longer. It's also because they were listening to other people and replying back to them at a time when there weren’t as many people doing just that. 

I consider the social web as my most precious home because it gives me immediate access to everyone I find interesting. It’s probably the only place where your social and geographical background doesn’t matter as much. Instead, what truly matters is what you create and how you express yourself. The more people enjoy what you share, the more people will follow along. When you look at it a little closer, the currency of the internet is “creativity.” 

I believe that we can only maintain this precious place the way it is if we acknowledge that we can learn from one another and that we can teach others by sharing good content with everyone who wants to listen. A couple of months ago, I encouraged you to send a handwritten letter to someone you admire and to this day, it’s the most googled piece of writing I’ve ever shared with the world, which is why I would like to bring it back to your attention. Just because I believe that sharing positivity and creativity with others is important. If you haven’t read it already, I’d like to encourage you to do so. And then, I’d like to ask you to do just what it says. Express your compliments to the person you admire the most. 

The world lies at your hands: grab it! Share your art and express your compliments. And do so every day.

Enjoyed the read? It's an adapted version of my latest newsletter. Get the full versions into your mailbox. 

The key to get the job or the client you want!

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Here are parts of my weekly newsletter: you can subscribe to my newsletter to get the full articles to your mailbox. 

If you could fill up your work days with anything, what would it be? What is something you’d love people to pay you for? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a freelancer or if you have a job, you should always work on something you’d one day love to do professionally. 

For freelancers, it’s extremely important to always work on a little side project to sharpen your profile and to build a portfolio of work you want others to associate you with. For people who work full-time, it sort of goes by the same rule: if you ever want to apply for a new job, it will be much easier for you to get into something that you’ve been practicing on the side for a while. 

New work always comes because of your previous work, so it’s important to have done the work you care about. Some people might argue that they don’t have the time to do the work they would like to be doing because it doesn’t pay, but let me tell you, that’s not necessarily true. You can always start a Kickstarter project such as I’ve doneVolker and Daniel have done, or Harald has done (several times) to launch a freelance business.

One of the questions I like to ask people is who they would like to work for or who you’d like to have as your client. If you have more than just one idea for a side project that you’d like to realise in the near future, it might be best to pick the one that’s the most relevant to your “target.”

You should always do something just for the sake of keeping your excitement high. Just because.. after publishing This Year Will Be Different, a lot has changed for me since now, the majority of my new work comes to me because of this one reference. And I really believe that anyone can do that, even though sometimes I don’t even believe I am myself. If you’ve seen this, you know what I mean. 

So think, what would you like people to pay you for? Write me back and maybe I can give you some thoughts on how to make that work or even monetize it.

Enjoyed the read? It's an adapted version of my latest newsletter. Get the full versions into your mailbox. 

Is freelancing really such an insecure choice as everyone says?

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Here are parts of my weekly newsletter: you can subscribe to my newsletter to get the full articles to your mailbox. 

In the last couple of weeks I have come across many people who talked about how insecure they felt about their future and how being self-employed made them wonder whether they would be able to survive the next couple of months. As many are thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of the freelance and the employed life, I thought I might add some thoughts to the discussion.

When someone works for a company, it seems that they hardly ever think about the fact that someone else needs to take care of the supply of clients and customers for the future. Think of your own employer: are they transparent about the financial situation of the company? Do you really know what the strategy and vision are for the future? Does the company you work for have one major client who pays for the salaries of half of the company, or does the company have a number of smaller income sources? And what happens if the biggest source of income of the company you work for decides to work with someone else? Now all you have is a security of one month, which is your notice period.

One month! Does that sound like a safe choice to you?

Now the question is, do you trust the person who’s responsible for running the company you work for more than you trust yourself and your capabilities?

If you do, that’s wonderful because then going freelance might not be the right path for you, as I’ve explained here. Also, if you love your team, stay where you are! But if you know what your capabilities are then you know that you’ll always find a way forward. If you struggle with doing sales for your business then your strategy should be to look for agencies, middlemen and agents who will supply you with work and take a cut from your earnings. The real key is that you need to make sure that as many people as possible know what they could hire you for. You also need to make sure that these people are happy with your work and that you keep on being open to new opportunities.

I believe that the secret to feeling safe with your choice to go freelance is knowing why you’re doing it and where you see yourself in five to ten years. You have to be damn sure and keep thinking about what it is you’re building. What it is you want to achieve. I know it’s uncomfortable to think about it, which is why I often say to people that they need to first decide how they want to be spending their days in the next couple of months, and only then think about what they want from life.

The other secret (you knew there must be at least two) is finding a way to build a portfolio business; a company, your company, where there is not just one but several sources of income because once one dries out a little, the other one might flourish again. Don’t put everything on one single card. Try to have several up your sleeve.

Of course building a business with several sources of income doesn’t happen overnight, which is why I would love to set up a Google hangout for next week on Thursday, July 23rd at 7pm CET, to spark a conversation about portfolio businesses and trade experiences. If you’d like to participate, please hit reply so I can send you an invite.

Enjoyed the read? It's an adapted version of my latest newsletter. Get the full versions into your mailbox.

 

PS: Photo by Sarah Halbeisen, the awesome lady who shot the pictures for the new website. 

Why reading comments and reviews of your competitors' products makes complete sense.

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A Case Study

How do you start building a product? How do you decide what’s relevant and what’s not necessary? Every time you develop a service or a product, you should always think about the user experience first. Mostly, when doing research, companies look at what’s been written about their potential competitors on various media outlets. Nevertheless, the really interesting source of information is somewhere utterly different.

Sure, qualitative interviews are great, but if you don’t have the resources to invite a number of people to discuss your competitors’ products or the features of the product you’ve developed, you should look for the relevant information online. I believe that where you can really learn more about your users is when you look through the reviews on the App Store or the comments on your competitors’ Facebook pages. Tweets, mentions and what people say on Instagram when you look for hashtags is helpful too!

While media research seems okay at first, you can’t really say if the content was sponsored. It’s much harder to recognise what people value a product for. When you read the sentences and look in detail how people talk about certain features of a product, you’ll learn far more about the relevance of certain features. You’ll also recognise quickly what it is people get annoyed by.

Sure, it takes time to go through hundreds and hundreds of reviews and analyse patterns, but it’s the user research that will provide you with more insight than a journalistic piece could ever provide.

For Badger and Winters, I’ve delivered reports to highlight a user-centric perspective on digital products to help prepare for client pitches. If you need an analysis of what your target group is interested in or who the target group is in the first place, please don’t hesitate and get in touch.

How to setup a website for your business.

A case study

Launching a business is a big deal; deciding on the name of your company, what logo to use, and how to communicate your services or show your products. Often, once the website is up, one hardly ever takes a look at it again. But then, just like spring cleaning should be done once in a while, so should the digital cleaning spree happen every now and then. In other words, you should know what people think of your business based on what you show to them on your website. You should regularly look through what you say your services are, your latest references, reflect, and you should regularly check whether your company’s profile mirrors what benefits you deliver to your clients.

Just like people, businesses evolve too, and thus it’s important to keep track of how people perceive your business every time they google you. Your website is your chance to make sure people find the right information about your services, know what to book you for and know how to best contact you.

A couple of months ago, I was lucky to be invited to shape taliaYstudio’s digital appearance. The studio produces amazing work, yet nevertheless, in the past, they had faced a glass wall when communicating to potential clients. While talking to the founder Talia Radford and looking over their online appearance, several things occurred to me. First, their website was a portfolio of work the studio had previously created. It was setup just like a student portfolio where one demonstrates the work without communicating the benefits the project delivered to the clients. When planning the content of your website, you should first consider who your target group is and what you want them to do after they’ve discovered your site on the internet. In the case of taliaYstudio, the aim was to clarify to potential clients what they could hire the studio for and why they’re the best choice.

We scheduled a series of meetings to work on taliaYstudio's communications strategy; first, we asked ourselves what clients the studio is interested in working with because it’s much easier to find the right clients when you know who they are and how they could benefit from your work. It’s important to know how to respond when people ask you what your services are.

During our strategy sessions, it quickly became clear to us that Talia and her team are enthusiastic about technological innovation and they like to help innovative clients communicate the benefits of their developments through design. A perfect example is the project Thermobooth, which taliaYstudio developed for OSRAM to showcase the potentials of OLEDs in the consumer sector.

Following our analysis, the next step for us was to change the way taliaYstudio’s products and services are being communicated on their website. You’ll notice it’s all about the benefits for the client, and it’s clear what you could book the studio for and if your company can find use in taliaYstudio's services.

Looking through the portfolio of taliaYstudio’s past projects also gave us the chance to look at different ways to use social media to communicate about past and future projects. For example, we identified a way to better utilise Instagram to spread the word about the studio’s Jelly Series, for which we have developed a shareable online and offline communications strategy. Generally speaking, when working on a strategy for social media, you need to think about how you could give people incentives to take a picture of, or at least talk about, your product. For physical objects, the best way to market them is by cleverly utilising the packaging. To give you a practical example, the Jelly Series necklaces now come with a photo mission and the studio regularly organises little gatherings to learn more about the people they address with their work.

The grand finale of our collaboration with taliaYstudio was the Salone di Mobile 2015 in Milano where the studio could practice their new communications strategy on potential clients. The excited call about the results that I’ve received afterwards testifies the positive results achieved by a little time we took to reflect on the business Talia wishes to run. I am glad I could facilitate the reflection process and help build a new digital strategy for the studio. If you need help with your digital appearance, please don’t hesitate and get in touch.