The real story behind people's social media channels & what I've learned from interviewing 22 women. by Monika Kanokova

the truth of social media

Do you sometimes feel envious of how others live their lives when you scroll through your Instagram or Facebook stream? 

Fresh flowers, perfectly looking food, amazing careers and travelling to exciting cities fortnightly if not more often – does that remind you of the people you follow on social media?

In the last couple of years my friends have often confronted me with the one question we all probably ask ourselves more often than we’d like to admit: “How do these people do it?”

I don’t know, but I do believe that whatever finds its way to Instagram or Facebook never tells the entire story. Simply, it's not a good role model to have and to want to live up to. 

One of the Creative Mornings speakers, Rob Symington, said something very touching:

“Don’t allow to compare yourself to anyone but the
previous versions of yourself.”

In other words, if you keep improving who you are and keep creating the person you want to be, you are on the right track. 

If the person you want to be is someone who has flowers on their desk, then be that person. It costs you about five euros. If you want to be that person who travels a lot then look for a smaller room than the one you’re living in right now. And if you want to have an amazing career, then it’s in your hands to start creating one today. On the side. Next to your day job. 

After having interviewed 22 women for my upcoming book This Year Will Be Different in the last two weeks, to ask these women about their freelance careers, I figured out one thing: what they’ve accomplished they've done because of their extreme dedication and determination to become their better selves.

I honestly cannot wait to present you with all the stories. It’s probably been the most inspiring two weeks of the year.

What has inspired you lately you can share with me?

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It's time to build your own website and start a blog. This is why. by Monika Kanokova

newyearsresolution

December! You know what that means? Soon everyone will start asking you about your new year’s resolution. To make things easier I'll tell you what it should be: “In 2015, I’ll make a personal website and start a blog.” 

Having a blog is not necessarily about being a blogger. It’s not about trying to make money either. It’s about putting yourself out there. It’s about making your opinion, your work and your ideas accessible to a wider audience. Having a blog really is about letting people know what to approach you for. They don’t need to visit your website regularly. They don’t need to read every blog post you publish. But your website should exist so people recall you when something relevant crosses their paths.

You know how some people are on your radar although you never met them personally? Your website is a way to be that person.

Having your own website is a game of serendipity. It’s not about the numbers (ok, I am working on a newsletter that will help you with the numbers too). It's about the people who find your site and think it’s valuable. Your website and your blog are virtual doors for people to say ‘hello' and help you reach whatever you’re after. 

A website will make you more attractive to potential employers because they’ll have access to the ideas that matter to you. Potential clients will be able to find out what to hire you for and old friends will be able to react to your posts after they lost touch with you without seeming awkward. See, it’s all good things!

I am sharing these insights with you because I am currently working on a book for which I’ve interviewed several women about their careers. It truly impressed me how invaluable their websites, their blogs and their social media accounts have been for them. It will be a hands-on how-to guide with stories and tips, tricks and strategies to make next year truly successful. Expected release is mid January. 

Please send me your questions about shifting careers, starting off as a freelancer or founding a business which you want to see answered in the book. I really appreciate every input and every idea. Especially yours. 

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smarterGerman – Community building for an entrepreneurial German teacher by Monika Kanokova

smartergerman

When you think of teachers, do you think of them as entrepreneurs? As people who need a website, who have an online shop and who have the need to build a community? Usually not, I am assuming, which is why I would love to introduce you to one of my clients: a teacher and someone who also does all the things mentioned above. 

Michael Schmitz teaches German, smarterGerman to be precise. He spent ten years tinkering with learning and teaching systems to bring his students, starting with no knowledge of German, to succeed at the B1 exam in only two months.

When Michael's frustration with conventional school curriculum hit the ceiling, he quit his job and decided to start his own company. I say company because Michael does not only give private lessons, he has used these forms of teaching to create a complete German grammar course for A1 to B1, showcasing some of his videos on Youtube and selling the compiled courses and extra material through his website

Michael initially approached me because he was looking for someone to take care of his social media channels. While talking about the company and his aims, he also mentioned his sales targets. While I believe that social media is important for small businesses, I wouldn’t want to make any promises to reach a number of sales with just a few tweets, Facebook or Instagram updates. 

Word of mouth is the key to good marketing and increase in sales. In order to tap into that you must listen to your clients needs, their feedback and engage them in a way so that they will tell their friends who in turn will tell their friends and so on.

I offered to look over smarterGerman's website; clarify the structure, update the copy and look over every written communication with existing customers. 

As a teacher you’re obviously interested in people learning and understanding the subject, which, if you are an online business should be reflected throughout your entire communication strategy. When you want to teach people something, your communication must go beyond the point of sale. You must show interest in your customer's success at mastering the knowledge. “Thank you for buying from us” is not enough if you want to build a successful relationship with your clients.

I suggested getting in touch with all past clients, collecting references and staying in touch even after they had succeeded in their exams. We had an amazing feedback and for their insights, smarterGerman’s clients will soon receive a little present to put under they Christmas trees too. 

Getting in touch with past clients enabled us to recognise the strengths of smarterGerman and the reasons why people decided to learn German with Michael in the first place, and so we were able to identify future business potential, define smarterGerman's target group and thus create a social media strategy that truly adds value to people’s lives. A strategy that is not just ‘noise’ but which also caters to the very specific needs of the people who move to Germany to make the country their home. 

smarterGerman’s private lessons aren’t cheap; they start at € 4.099,-. It’s a fair price given that Michael focuses all his energy on one person at a time. Looking over smarterGerman's website, I recognised that the main focus of his web presence was the price; a justification of it and not a celebration of the people reaching B1 level. Those people who are not rich or famous but who simply want to attain residency status and integrate into the local community – something which potential clients can easily identify with. 

It was a wonderful experience to work with Michael. I really loved his emails reporting on the rise of the website’s traffic and the increase to sales shortly after the updates went public. 

If you are looking for someone who can help you create retaining customer relations, please do get in touch. I am available to work on new projects after the Christmas break. Email: monikanicoletta@gmail.com

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

networking

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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

indiecon2014

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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.