If you’re in Berlin and available this afternoon, come to The Bithouse where I’ll share my experiences as a freelancer. If you cannot catch the talk in Berlin, you can come to Sektor5 next week where Elisabeth Oberndorfer, Kathrin Folkendt and I will share our freelance stories. I hope to see you there!
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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.
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PS: Photo by Sarah Halbeisen, the awesome lady who shot the pictures for the new website.
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.
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.
A case study
The hardest services to market are the ones consumers don't actively perceive. Sound, scents or any kind of user and customer experience that people only notice in a negative context are much harder to spread the word about compared to the obvious products and services one can touch and see. At the same time, utilising sounds, scents and well-executed user experiences in your brand’s marketing mix leave a lasting impression when done well. I believe that today, it’s much harder to stand out and make your brand be remembered because of visual incentives. You might agree with me that the market is oversaturated and customers are much more likely to remember how they felt while experiencing your product instead of seeing an ad in a magazine or on the street.
Nevertheless, the people in charge of marketing budgets often spend their marketing allocates on the obvious. It’s very likely that they’ll invest in classic visual advertising because they aren't aware of how alternative mediums can benefit their brand.
The team behind Raven and Finch, a Vienna-based sound branding agency, doesn't just know the advantages of branded sound identities, they are also familiar with the challenges that come with communicating what marketing managers could book the agency for. Let me give you an example to make the case more specific: one of the best examples of the power of sound is the use of music in James Bond movies. I guess now that I’ve mentioned the famous spy, you immediately have the famous melody in your mind. You’ve probably never realised that what has shaped the power of the Bond brand is the strategic use of melodies and sound sequences.
Strong brands have already learned their lesson and use sound to market their products. Then again, have you ever thought about how your brand sounds and what impression people have when dealing with your company? Given the statistics of SMBs paying attention to the sound of their brands, I guess not. On the other hand, looking at what companies, such as Coca Cola, have achieved through their audiophile approach, it might be about time to have a closer look at the sound experience of your brand. But let’s get back to the question of how to market the invisible; in this case, the services of Raven and Finch.
Together with Raven and Finch, we’ve discussed what benefits the agency delivers to their clients, which then enabled us to develop an umbrella communications strategy to market their services to marketing managers who are not yet aware of what one can achieve with sound. It became clear to us that the way to go was by addressing the sort of clients the sound branding agency wished to work with. Given how progressive the use of sound in the marketing mix is, the communication strategy to showcase the benefits of working with Raven and Finch had to start at an educational level. In our meeting, we conceptualised an online magazine that will showcase different user cases of successfully executed sound identities. To launch the Pursuit of Sonic Value, we chose a more traditional approach and decided to mail the first issue of POSW to existing clients, press and people Raven and Finch admire for their work in paper form. The future issues of POSW for you to learn more about the benefits of sound branding will be available online and you can receive them to your mailbox. Just signup here.
If you’re wondering about how to best market your business, just give me a heads up. Let’s start the conversation.
A case study
How does one use social media to brand oneself professionally? This doesn’t seem to be a question only companies ask to become more attractive to Millennials. Also, Millennials and generation Z wonder how to best utilise LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stand out and become more attractive as potential employees.
After I published This Year Will Be Different to shed some light on the challenges of freelancing, I got an email from Anika Mester, a representative of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. It was a request to give a lecture on the professional use of social media to their student fellows. Given social media has always been a way for me to attract people’s attention and also demonstrate my references, I figured I had a lot to share, so I took the chance. Frankly, I was curious to know how it feels to stand on the other side of the classroom, and I wanted to know what someone who just turned twenty thinks about the online bubble I’ve been living in for so long.
Before the workshop, I sent a questionnaire to the attendees to make sure I met the expectations and would deliver a lecture they’ll remember. I wanted to give some food for thought, so I asked what career or industry they were aiming at joining after their studies, what social platforms they used, how they felt about sharing content and what sort of content they shared. It was of little surprise that the attendees were mostly aiming at a career in the traditional industries such as business consulting, medicine or journalism. Having talked many times about my personal belief that we choose our careers based on what we know from our surroundings, what we feel familiar with and what we think we are able to access, the workshop suddenly became much more than just a superficial analysis of the diverse social media platforms and their advantages. Instead, it became a workshop that taught how to broaden professional horizons and access the people, industries and jobs the fellows wished for.
In the last eight years, I’ve come to understand the social web as a place where hierarchies have become outdated and where everyone can talk to whomever they want as long as they have something interesting to say. To me, the internet is not elitist and it’s the medium that has enabled social mobility like no other because everyone can reach what they want as long as they have the information they need. While the information is there of course, we need to teach our youth how to find it.
I, as a person, embrace the internet because it has enabled me to get to where I am now in life. Nevertheless, there are many people who fear the rapid change the internet has caused because of information exchange and the willingness to share insights with others. What I didn’t realise is that people that are younger than I am could potentially be afraid of the social web, but standing in a classroom for a day showed me that there are many insecurities in need of discussion. One of the students even said: “I am glad you came today because you’re the first person I’ve met who embraces the flexible job market and the insecure future.”
Now, it’s very unlikely the world will spin slower. It’s also very unlikely that work in ten years will be what it was 10 years ago or even what it is today. To me, it sounds like great news when I think of the number of people who hate their jobs. In my opinion, the social web as a tool for shared learning finally gives us the access to opportunities to evolve as people.
So, how do you use the internet to brand yourself professionally? In a nutshell, I’d say, “do stuff, tell people.” Document whatever you’re excited about and don’t hide it in the attic, but rather on an online blog or on Tumblr. The mediums will change and so will your interests, but when looking for work, all that matters is the now anyway. One can only go step by step, so documenting how you evolve in whatever interests you will benefit you in the long run. If I was hiring an online editor to fill the lifestyle pages of a magazine and one applicant has an amazing Instagram stream of places they could feature in the said magazine and a second candidate doesn’t have such proven track work, guess who I would invite to join my team? As Dan Harmon said, “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.” You might think that your career choice is not suitable to be displayed online, but in the majority of cases, I would disagree. Instead, it’s not a question if you should be sharing your interests, but in what way because even a Twitter stream with tweets about a certain topic is a great way to make others know what you’re interested in. The internet is big enough for everyone to find their spot and to find the people who are willing to listen to them. The internet is also big enough so people who are not interested in your work have the choice to ignore you. The internet, let me tell you, is filled with your people and you can only catch their attention with the content they find appealing. If you’re worried that someone might not hire you because of your interests, then it might not be the right person for you to work with anyway.
So, what are some of the more practical things I’ve said during the lecture?
- Don’t say things you don’t want your mother to hear you say; don’t be rude, offensive or mean.
- If you think something’s great, tell the person. Tweet at them, send them an email.
- Whenever you meet someone and like them, ask them for their contact details and follow up.
- If you’re insecure about something, ask your friends for feedback. You’ll open the door for them to do so too and ask you for your opinion about their work.
I’m not saying social media branding will bring you the perfect job tomorrow. All I’m saying is that when you do things you want to get paid for eventually and you do so publicly, it will be easier for you to get there one day. Because it’s the people who open their mouths that get the jobs you dream of. Once you start applying for jobs, you can point to your blog, Twitter or Instagram stream and prove your excitement. If you now think you’re too busy to invest your time in the future you want, then think of all the other people who will invest the time and once you point at the ones who are doing the jobs you wanted to have yourself, remember that they’ve worked for it for free before someone offered to pay them to do so.
The day I spent in the classroom at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung went, of course, much deeper and was also much more practical. All I wanted to capture here was the initial thought behind professional branding. If you’d like to book a workshop or a lecture, please don’t hesitate and get in touch.
June was the last month of the official launch period of Kickstarter’s arrival in Germany. I spent a lot of time traveling around the country and explaining how to run a Kickstarter campaign, which is why I decided to write a short blog post to help you set up a great campaign yourself. (I’ll publish it soon.) To me, Kickstarter is not just a great way to fund creative projects because it’s so much more than that. Doing my own Kickstarter project with the aim to publish This Year Will Be Different has brought so many great things to me! Apart from working with Kickstarter, I was also interviewed for John Lee Dumas’ podcast Entrepreneur on Fire. I was recommended to him as an interview partner by one of my amazing Kickstarter backers. I consider myself so exceptionally lucky for having such great people believe in my work. Also, something else happened because of the book. I was requested to teach a class at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. The aim was to explain to their fellows how to utilise social media to (eventually) get better jobs.
This Year Will Be Different has received quite a lot of press this past month. For once, the book was featured on the Creative Boom as one of the must-read books for freelancers. There have also been features of the book in the Creative Mornings Vienna magazine and the local Wienerin magazine. Now that I’m back in Vienna, I feel very welcomed.
There is something else I’ve been experimenting with. In the last couple of months, I’ve been focusing on taking more pictures to sell them via Getty Images and the EyeEm Market. If you like taking pictures, then you should definitely look into it, and if you like writing, check out Contently. I’ve been linking my articles there since 2014 and finally I was picked as a freelance editor for human interest stories for Facebook Germany. Contently is the perfect resource when you want to make money as a freelance writer.
As I already mentioned, I’m back in Vienna and thus, I’ll reduce my hours with Kickstarter. I have capacities to take on long-term clients or short-term consulting work, so let me know if you’re working on a project that you need help with!
Here are parts of my weekly newsletter: you can subscribe to my newsletter to get the full articles to your mailbox.
Do you remember my article about money? Recently I’ve come across two really interesting books I’d like to recommend to you. One, Financially Fearless, is a book that makes you feel as if someone would finally take your hand and walk you through budgeting, insurances and everything else you should be aware of, now that you’re an adult. The second book is what I would call an amazing discovery: "Rich dad, poor dad” by Robert Kiyosaki explains what he learned from his two “dads” about money. To give you a small insight, you should limit your expenses and invest time and money in the things that make you money in the long run. I’ve always had my issues with people who buy apartments that they cannot afford and finally I found someone who shares my opinion. Anyway, you should definitely put these two books to your reading list.
I’ve also started mapping out the next books I want to publish; for the next one I want to focus on money and interview women who really know how to make the most out of theirs. If you know of someone who you admire for their budgeting/spending/investing skills, please be awesome and put me in touch with them. I figured that if I solve my own issues and answer my own questions, I can probably solve the issues of many others and help them too.
Ok, I can’t wait to hear from you!
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