How to get to where you want to be, doing what you want to be doing by Monika Kanokova

sideprojects

Do you sometimes crave more time off, to do what you're really passionate about?

A friend of mine recently published an article after being paid to style a photo shoot: 

"I was in heaven. I guess you've found your dream job when you wonder all the time why you get paid for it.”

This sentence, the whole article, resonated with me. One question has been on my mind since: How do I want to be spending my time? What do I really want to do?

Usually, when I talk to my friends, they have a vision of what they want to be and where they want to work. But often these aims are dependant on other people’s decisions. And what happens if that particular person doesn’t give you the break you want so badly? Does it mean you should give up on your dream? 

Of course not!

If someone else doesn’t give you the chance you think you deserve, then you must create the opportunity for yourself:

  • If you want to be a museum curator, then start curating without the museum;
  • If you want to be a magazine editor, then it’s your time to self-publish a magazine on Issuu;
  • If you want to be a singer, you have to get out there and sing.

Now comes the argument about not having enough time and having bills to pay. We all do. I get it. But trust me, the most amazing careers started off as side projects.

Maybe you cannot be what you want to be tomorrow. But then again, what you want to be is your aim and aims are supposed to be big, right?

You can't take just one big step in life. No one can. You have to make several small steps to reach what you aspire to.

The question is - when are you going to take the first small step? 

Start small, get up a little earlier tomorrow and do a little bit of something you’re passionate about every day from now on. 

Enjoy the journey and keep me posted on your future side projects. As always, just comment below!

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Do you need help with your CV? Once and for all, this is it! by Monika Kanokova

howtowritearesume

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You might ask yourself how to lay out a CV and what to say about yourself; also, you know that you need a CV that stands out.

After having reviewed a bunch of CVs, I'd say it's not that difficult to make a CV the reviewer truly notices. 

This is where Graphic River comes in. It's a website where graphic designers offer templates for five to ten dollars. All you need to do is to replace the placeholder copy. The resumes come with a manual that make it easy for everyone to follow. Also, you can easily update colours, fonts and all the other bits to make it more personal.

You might say that you don't have the necessary programs but that's not a problem nowadays. Download the free 30-day trial version of Adobe's Creative Cloud here

So, when the time comes to update your CV again, you can just ask a friend or look for a student on Fiverr to make the changes.

Now it's just you and about four hours of work between you and a beautiful CV.

Sounds good?

PS: .. and please, do me a favour and forward this article to all your friends who you know are looking for a fresh start.

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The one and only thing you need to know about networking. by Monika Kanokova

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If you think there is a secret to networking I am going disappoint you. There is no special way to approach people, nor are there general tactics to help break the ice between you and a stranger.

I personally believe that networking is a mind-set where you have a genuine interest in other people’s work and the willingness to help them whenever they need your advice or your resources or a bridge to the people who they want to meet. What I think helps too is the knowledge that you have something to give, just as the person who you’re about to approach has something they can give to you or help you with. You are equals!

One of my strongest beliefs is there are no hierarchies between people. You are a human. The other person is a human. They have as much respect for you as you have for them. If not, they’re not worth your time.

Generally speaking there are two ways to meet new people: networking events and conferences or approaching people directly via social networks - the easier one.

The best way to find out about networking events in your area is meetup.com and eventbrite.com. It’s easy to do a keyword search and try to find a group of people with common interests. If you cannot find any events there, you might want to look up events at co-working spaces in your area. My favourite events are hosted by PechaKuchaTedX and Creative Mornings. In case you live in a small town, you could start a monthly meetup yourself.

The other way to meet people who you’d like to have in your network is to approach them online. I prefer to use Twitter or Instagram to approach people I don’t know. Mostly it’s enough to just say “Could we have a coffee sometime next week?” If you feel uncomfortable about it, ask someone to introduce you to the person who you want to meet yourself.

When you meet with others, always offer your help. People might not need your help immediately, but it’s always good to let them know in what situation they should best approach you. If someone approaches you, ask them clearly how you could help them.

Everyone needs some help from time to time. Don’t be afraid to pay favours forward. Make it clear to people that it’s your general interest to help them on their way up. Don’t ask for favours in return. Treat your network as a favour network. Give to someone and trust that they will help someone else.

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Have you ever thought of speaking at a conference? Some valuable tips even if you don’t think you ever will or want to. by Monika Kanokova

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Have you ever spoken at a conference? An un-conference or maybe a barcamp? Next time you get a chance to speak up, do so!

Of course speaking at conferences can seem scary at first; I used to get very nervous and still get wet hands at the beginning of every session that I run.

Just as with most things, feeling comfortable when speaking publicly comes with practice. It is somewhat necessary to put yourself through the experience of wet hands, sweat stains and whatever side effects you get when nervous. At least that's what I tell myself every time I step up to speak in front of people.

A few weeks ago I attended the #IndieCon2014 in New York and it came to a point when they asked the group if anyone would like to run a session. I spontaneously decided to nominate myself.

By speaking up, you let people know what you’re good at and why they should hire you. After I had finished speaking many people gave me their business cards to follow up and we have since started a dialogue about how we can work together.

Although it was a spontaneous decision to speak at this un-conference, I came to realise that I was already prepared for an occasion like this. Before I quit my job, I was looking for new approaches to professional branding and decided to draft a few presentations about my techniques and views. I created a couple of presentations on community buildingcustomer careaccount managementemail marketing and some other topics and uploaded them to SlideShare, wanting to make more out of my LinkedIn profile. (Did you know you could implement SlideShare presentations on LinkedIn to make your page more visual?)

When you speak at conferences, or at least share your slides online, you give people the possibility to approach you without needing to do any hard sale. Speaking to a group of people interested in my work feels much less scary than cold-calling or emailing strangers and asking them if they will hire me to work on their projects.

So, yes, if you get a chance to speak at a conference, you should take it. If you don’t plan to speak anytime soon, you should at least have some presentations ready and publicly accessible on SlideShare. It will help you be spontaneous and it might also attract potential employers and head hunters who are on the lookout for good people.

Please comment below and share a link to your presentations as soon as you publish them. I’m very excited to learn something new.

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Why you should send a letter to the person you admire. by Monika Kanokova

swissmiss

Do you have an idol? I don't mean a rockstar that you think is cool. I mean someone who works in your field and who you admire for their great work.

Yes? You actually have someone like that?

Great!

You should write to them. 

You wonder why? Well, first, you have nothing to lose. Second, they'll appreciate hearing about the positive influence they've had on others. In the end, everyone deserves a little bit of feedback. Why not be the one to give it to them?

Why I am telling you all of this? Because I did exactly that: I wrote a letter (a handwritten letter) to someone whose work means a lot to me.

In January I sent a letter to Tina Roth Eisenberg, better known as SwissMiss. I discovered Tina's blog back in 2008. First, I liked her style, but as the years passed by, I started to admire her for her incredible attitude towards work. I loved the way she approached new projects and built her businesses.

Inspired by her example, I adopted the idea that with the right attitude anything is possible in life. You just have to work for it. 

And this is exactly what I said in my letter. Tina replied. The image above is the image she sent to me as a response. Cute, right? She invited me to come by her office in Brooklyn as soon as I got to New York. When I quit my job six weeks ago, I immediately wrote to her and accepted the invitation. When she confirmed a date and a time, I booked my flight. Last week, we met in person! 

Now, this is where I am: sitting at Studiomates.

I know it's only Monday. But Mondays are great days to make mini-resolutions: I really want you to think about your idol and send them a letter by the end of the week. (Please let me know who your idol is. I want to know some more great people.

As I said, you have nothing to lose.

Please forward this blog post to at least one of your friends. Make them send a letter to one of their idols. Let's spread some positive attitude. Let's let people know the great impact they have on us! 

 

PS: ..and please come back and share the story what happened after you dared to send a note to the person you admire.

How to write a compelling 'About Me' by Monika Kanokova

howtowriteaboutme

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Last week, I received an urgent request to write an 'About me' text. At first, I wrote about my client's services and described him in the third person. My client wasn't very impressed. He sent me some examples that he liked, which he had found on his competitors websites and asked me whether I had any experience in his professional field. We had never met in person, he didn't know how it was to work with me (he found me on Instagram) and I could clearly sense he had doubts. I admitted to him that I didn't have any experience in his field of work or with his competitors but I believed to understand his target group. 

I realised that all the texts he sent me were texts about the people themselves. These texts were exactly what you would expect an 'About me' copy to be.

But did it make sense to write just another copy like this? If I were a potential customer and had to choose between him or one of his competitors, who would I go for?

That's when I realised that in times when everyone screams 'me, me, me' the only way to distinguish oneself from the masses is by flipping the coin and saying 'you'.

If you want to get heard, don't talk about 'who you are', instead say 'this is what I can do for you.' It's so simple, yet so crucial.

Everyone is busy going through endless amounts of content. Not only have we learned to ignore the advertising that shouts at us from every corner of the internet, we have also learned to scan for copy that solves our problems. We read copy that talks to us, not at us.

I tried to explain to my client why a different approach to writing his 'About me' made more sense. I pointed out that if he wanted me to get the job done as quickly as possible I would just write what he wanted me to write. Of course I could do this, but I preferred explaining to him why I believed his approach should be different.. I made him take on the client's perspective and I then gave him this example:

If you buy a TV from a sales man, would you be interested whether he could buy organic food for his family because of your purchase, or would you want the best TV possible?

The second draft of the copy was done and edited within an hour. The cards, the copy was for, are now printed. The client is happy and wants to continue working with me.

What does this lead me to?

If you want to get heard, increase your sales or establish yourself within an audience, don't tell your readers who you are, tell them what you can do for them. Show them what problems you can solve for them. High chance is that they'll hear your voice much louder.

Is there a question you'd like me to answer? How can I help you with your digital positioning or your customer experience? Please comment below. 

 

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Great apps for freelancers. by Monika Kanokova

Kanokova_Contact_Details

This is part of my first newsletter, for which you can signup here

* * *

I thought I'd kick off my newsletter by sharing the apps and services I'm planning to use to make the most out of my time as well as keeping organised.
If you also want to be more organised (not saying that you aren't), go freelance and/or work a little on your personal branding, then please keep reading. 

***

Accountancy: FreshBooks

Before even registering as a freelancer I had to write my first cost estimate. Lucky me! I did it the way that I had learnt at various agencies but then I figured out that while having cost estimates is nice, one also has to charge the clients, keep track of your spendings, bills and, and, and.. you know where this is going. That's when I discovered FreshBooks: a great app to keep track of all your accountancy, send out bills and even create cost estimates directly from there, which are then stored under your client's name. The first month is free of charge too. Win! 

Website: Squarespace

I decided to change my provider and I am now a happy customer of Squarespace as you can see here. The setup was easy, the customer support absolutely amazing and I really think it's a much better looking website than my blog ever was. What do you think?

Newsletters: Mailchimp

I've always really liked Mailchimp. It's simple and the emails are beautiful. I believe that it's worth collecting the data of your clients so you can keep in touch directly, as I have explained here.
Mailchimp is free of charge until you reach 2,000 subscribers. The more successful your business gets, the more you pay. Fair, right? 

Business Cards: MOO

You might say business cards aren't really worth having anymore: okay, I take your point. Nevertheless I believe I have found a way to use them as an icebreaker.
With MOO you can use a different image for every single card. Every single one! I took the time and spent a couple of hours designing my cards, so now people can choose their favourite image. This way I don't just hand out a business card with my details but I can also share a memory or even a story with the person I'm talking to depending on the card they choose.
Jonas came up with another way to have creative business cards. He has a portable camera, takes a selfie and then writes down his details; that is of course also a good way to break the ice, don't you think?

Social Media: SlideShareTwitterInstagram

In the last couple of weeks I've been experimenting a lot with SlideShare and I'm impressed how valuable the service is when you want to position yourself within a professional field. I personally hit about 10,000 views within just a couple of weeks.
Of course, the social media channels on which you should present yourself and your business depend on what services or products you offer, but that's something I want to talk more about in one of the upcoming newsletters. As for me, I'll continue using SlideShareTwitter and my beloved Instagram

What do people say about me: Mention

Listen, so many people talk on the social web, but 'listening' is the one thing I believe makes people standout. To listen smarter, I'd recommend installing a monitoring feature: I installed Mention. This will notify you every time someone links to your website or talks about you or topics you want to get involved with.

I'm also planning on using Google Calendar, Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote and Skype.

What are the apps you find extremely valuable? Please leave a comment below. Also, don't forget to signup to get the full versions of my newsletters.

How I survived #nanowrimo and finished 50,000 words in 30 days. by Monika Kanokova

nanowrimo

A month ago I quit my job. My notice period was four weeks. My motivation to be creative in that job: zero. The need to put my thought and experiences on paper and reflect on events and happenings was however beyond my control. There was never a better time to dive deep into my inner self and kick off my own #kathmosnowrimo, as I called it on Instagram. 

For those of you who are not familiar with #nanowrimo, it’s an annual open call to writers and wannabe writers, to finish the first draft of a 50,000 word novel within the month of November. As I was two months ahead, I called it #kathmosnowrimo and aimed to finish it by the end of September.

It has always been a dream of mine to write a manuscript and work on it until it becomes published. I said to friends many times that one day I’d write a book, and they all encouraged me to pursue this plan. I guess for many of them it’s been entertaining to hear how my whole life has turned upside down every couple of months, weeks or even days. To keep it short, I never run out of new stories. 

I must admit that even before I kicked off my #kathmosnowrimo I had a small crisis; a job offer waving at me from London and a boyfriend who had just moved to NYC. With my company and my boyfriend both moving to different cities I found myself ‘stuck’ in Berlin. The amount of ambiguities and misscommunication at work also made me reconsider whether joining the team in London really was the right next step. 

I spent three days in bed, reading, knitting and thinking what would be the best solution. There was no bad choice. I just had to make a choice that would lead me forward and on my own path. 

For a few days I stopped answering calls and messages, instead writing down what I wanted to accomplish in life, and also listing the advantages and disadvantages of moving to London and away from Berlin. I had expected to struggle with this bare analysis of my life goals but I had the list in front of me within just about two minutes.

The main reason to go to London was that I’d know what I’d do next; for many people this would be a good reason to go but to me this was my idea of a nightmare. It soon became clear that it was the right time to leave my job and instead choose the more adventurous path.

I handed in my notice, and thinking that I was leaving for London I had also also given up the contract on my room and so ended up having to move out the very same day. Luckily I have amazing friends and one of them invited me to stay with them. My friend doesn’t have a spare room or a comfortable sofa, but I was welcome to spend the month sleeping next to her.

Just in case you’re wondering what Berlin is like to live in now, this is very much part of the real experience. 

So there I was, staying at my friend’s place, hustling to setup my own website, meeting potential clients, getting in touch with New York based influencers, writing the first draft of a novel, submitting a funding proposal to an open call of the European Commission and still doing my day job. All this for four long weeks. 

During my few days spent in bed I turned my attention away from the computer world and devoured a couple of books instead. I read the ‘Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin, which helped me connect to my own values and “No Plot? No Problem!” by Chris Batty, which is a how-to-write-a-novel-in-30-days guide.

As you can imagine, it seemed unlikely that I would be able to write 50,000 words in such a short period of time. They say that the success rate of #nanowrimo is about 20% and I figured I needed a good strategy if I really wanted to succeed in this.

While reading “No Plot? No Problem!” was helpful – I’d recommend the book to everyone who is wondering whether it’s the right time for them to write a novel and how to do it – I found some tips needed to be expanded a bit further.

Probably the most important tip Chris Baty gave was; to write when you have lots of other things to do. Treating the writing as a reward and not as a duty during this writing month and in that way making it much easier to find the productive time for it too. 

Looking back, I clearly made sure that this rule applied to me: September certainly was a month when I hustled more compared to all the other months since moving to Berlin. I had such crazy schedules that I was up every day at 6:30am and not in bed before 1am in order to get done at least half of the things I had on my list. 

So, there you go;

Tip 01: Be as busy as hell and make writing your retreat, not another of your many duties.

I usually work out of cafés, and one morning I decided to go down to my usual hangout spot and write there. After a couple of minutes of staring at the screen I realised that I wasn’t able to write sitting next to other people. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me, I didn’t want anyone to disrupt the inner dialogue that I realised I was only able to have with myself in pure solitude. Later I described what I had experienced to my partner, he replied with Kafka’s words:

“Writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind – for everyone wants to live as long as he is alive – even the degree of self-revelation and surrender is not enough for writing. Writing that springs from the surface of existence – when there is no other way and deeper wells have dried up – is nothing, and collapses the moment a truer emotion makes the surface shake. That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough.”

This brings me to:

Tip 02: Find the ultimate surroundings where you find the clue to your inner self. Your spot might be in a public space, in your own home or at the office after everyone leaves. Just make sure to be able to return to this very same spot every day.

Seeing how uncomfortable it made me to be in public, I realised I had to find the right time to write; time in which no one would distract me. The time for me, I quickly realised, was 6:30am in the morning. 

I couldn’t wait to begin writing for #nanowrimo; the first day I woke up at 5am and instead of falling back to sleep, as I normally do, I opened my laptop and started working. I guess it was the excitement to start that woke me and from then on I would wake up at 6:30am without an alarm clock. 

To establish a schedule, I tried to avoid all morning appointments before 10am, so that I could continue to write my manuscript. Due to my time frame, I never felt guilty about not being able to write any time after 9am. Admittedly on some days I had triple eye rings but apart from that I felt happy and content because every day I’d accomplished something meaningful.

Having a rigid writing schedule helped me a lot, which is why the next tip is:

Tip 03: Find a fixed time-frame for writing. Try not to schedule appointments during that time and don’t feel guilty for not writing outside of your fixed novel writing time.

By 9am I’d have usually written about 2,000 words, hence why I didn’t feel like writing anything for the rest of the day. In my job, writing is one of my main tasks, with writing the novel it all became a little overwhelming, so at work I kept my creative efforts to a minimum; I focused on handing over important data with Excel sheets, but I wouldn’t run any new experiments (this is how I spent my days before the company moved to London). 

I must acknowledge that succeeding at #nanowrimo takes lots of discipline and might be quite hard for someone who earns their money through writing. #nanowrimo seems like the perfect month to get rid of the to-do list tasks that have accumulated over time. As in the dull stuff we write and keep on our lists and try to ignore until it’s too late. Doing these things now will make writing an even greater treat. 

Tip 4: Try to focus on things that are not related to writing during business hours. 

One of the most important things to remember during the whole month is to — as Chris Baty says — ‘leave your inner editor outside the door.’ Strictly speaking, you are not allowed to read anything you have written down. Ever. No corrections should be made during the month of your #nanowrimo. This is the time to get it out, not to get it out ‘right’. As Chris Baty says: ‘you cannot improve something you don’t have.’ 

When you hit 50,000 words you might not be finished with your story, as it’s the case with me, but at least you’ll have a starting point. Anyway, I’ll continue at the same pace for about another week, maybe two. And now I have the discipline to manage. 

So remember,

Tip 5: Get it out and get it on the paper. Don’t try to correct any mistakes. You can only start editing after you’ve written “The End” and not before.

So there you are: 50,000 words later; I have a website to show what I’ll be focusing on as a location-independent freelancer (look how we can work together), a flight ticket to New York and the knowledge that when I really want to get something done, I can. 

If I can, you can. Now, if you’ve been toying around with the wish to write a book, then allow me to be the one who tells you that if you really want this, it is possible. 

The official #nanowrimo starts in a month. You can sign up here and get ready for it. 

Good luck! 

PS: If you’d like to receive updates on how it’s going with my book project, please sign up here.