It’s a wrap! July 2019
bernkastel
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mickmobil
orionloveslife

Sometime last year, one of my best friends and I conducted an exercise that applied design thinking techniques to what I think is best called “life planning.” Following a step-by-step manual, we had to decide on three guiding principles and values we consider essential. For each of the tenets, we then had to draw a visual five-year timeline. On each of the timelines, the task was to include personal and non-career events we’d want to see happen in our lives in the next few years.

Usually, when people think about doing something like this, they draft just one option. I personally find it puts a lot of pressure on me to only think of one option. Instead, drafting three different options – contradicting or similar ones – gave me a lot of inner peace. It was easy to write “everything” down because suddenly it didn’t matter if what I wrote down was the right choice. It was all optional and, thus, felt much more flexible.

What I especially enjoyed about the exercise was that my friend and I read what we had written out loud and commented on each other’s. Because we know one another fairly well and are used to being candid with one another, we also called each other out on our weaknesses, insecurities, and patterns.

The afternoon was, as you can imagine, rather eye-opening. Nevertheless and as is usually the case, nothing changed immediately. I folded the three sheets of paper filled with my potential life plans, stuck them in the back of my notebook, and more or less forgot about them.

When, six months later, my friend sent me a message to wish me a happy birthday, he asked if I’d made any progress on what I had written down that afternoon.

To my surprise and in that very moment, I realized that I was pursuing one of the big things I had included on one of the timelines. Something that, at the time of the exercise, I didn’t even think was realistic in any way.

I had written down that I wanted to go on a road trip in a camper van.

That’s precisely what happened this past July.

My partner and I left Berlin for five weeks. We traveled from Amsterdam through the south of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, South Tyrol, Northern Italy, and further on to France where we drove from coast to coast before heading back up to the Netherlands with an overnight stop in Brugge.

It wasn’t my intention to go on vacation for five weeks; living in Berlin, I often seem to forget that the world is not as digital as I sometimes like to believe. For the first time since I started freelancing, it was difficult to get my work done – at least as soon I needed internet. So, even though I’m a member of the rebranding team for the Swing Kitchen, working on the brand bible and planning what we’ll do with Swing Kitchen’s website, which will be redesigned soon, there isn’t much to be shared about work in July’s review.

I'm currently fully booked and working on the rebranding of the Swing Kitchen, vegan burger chain from Vienna, and also producing and designing their stand at the Veganes Sommerfest at Alexanderplatz. I'm hoping to make more progress on this project now that I'm back from vacation, and I’ll share more about it here next month.


It’s a wrap! June 2019
plantpig
freelance_life

Writing copy for a website is an exciting task. Attention spans are short, so it’s all about capturing the essence of where the reader might be in life and presenting the solution in just a few sentences. This past month, I got to work with the incredible team at eLab, which is CIEE’s Entrepreneur Lab. CIEE offers comprehensive courses for “wannabe entrepreneurs” from around the world.

eLab was launched in 2018, and I used information from their first 12 months in operation, including student surveys, to define target groups and draft their brand messaging. The wonderful Tracy Teare then copyedited what I’d written and made it sound even better.

Working with the eLab team was a joyful experience. I wish anyone who’s been wanting to start their own business but never dared to do so because of lack of business skills could join an eLab course.

Coming up, I’ll get to work on more projects related to the rebranding of Swing Kitchen, a vegan burger chain from Vienna, which I’m already looking forward to.

I’ve also started exploring the field of natural body care, and I’m looking for people to learn from, exchange ideas with, and potentially collaborate with. I’ve recently joined Karen Rose’s body care workshop and will be looking into learning more about essential oils and different ingredients. I’ll be sharing more about my progress on Instagram.

Next month, I’ll be on vacation, and I hope you’ll find some time to enjoy one, too.


It’s a wrap! May 2019
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future_for_fridays
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eLab_by_CIEE

When I first discussed how we could grow Swing Kitchen’s community during our kick off meeting with the team, I made a remark that “our people” come together every Friday to demonstrate for climate justice.

At first, the idea for #friesforfuture was a joke.

Yet a joke everyone on the team loved.

We decided to give free fries to everyone who comes to the Swing Kitchen with a protest sign and do so until the school year ends.

However, it’s one thing to have an idea what you’d like to do (and even if it means you’re giving your products away for free).

It’s a whole different story to do so in a way that’s authentic.

I knew that if this idea was to materialize, someone would have to introduce me to the organizers of Fridays for Future.

I knew that if we wanted for this to succeed, the information about our offer had to come from within, so as it usually goes, I started talking to everyone about what we’d like to do until I met the right person who introduced me to the FfF team.

For the past couple of weeks and every Friday, I’ve started going to the demos.

And every week I was able to make an announcement on stage, welcome pupils and students at the Swing Kitchen, and give them free fries.

Having Swing Kitchen as a client is amazing for several reasons. The company is 100% vegan and sustainable. It was founded by an animal activist with the motivation to end animal suffering. It’s also a company from Vienna and I get to work on this project with old friends.

So many wins.

In the upcoming months, we’re planning a number of great events and also a special collaboration with Einhorn Berlin, which should be a lot of fun.

Yet, the month wasn’t just fun; the most challenging part of May was when I decided to discontinue a project I was incredibly excited about at first. I wrote a much more detailed article explaining the circumstances of what happened.

This past month, I’ve also worked on the messaging for eLab, which is a 6-week course for people who’d like to become entrepreneurs.

First, I’ve worked on their digital marketing strategy. I’ve refined their target group, which led to us deciding to change the messaging on the website.

eLab’s courses are ideal for several target groups, however, and given eLab mostly relies on paid ads, we’ll be targeting people who wish to make a career change and recent graduates seeking international experience.

The website with the new messaging should go live within the next couple of weeks.

I’m currently taking on remote work for the upcoming weeks, as I’ll be traveling around Europe in July. If you or someone you know needs help with online positioning or copywriting, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


Not every (freelance) project goes right. And one should own even the bad experiences.

When I first received a call whether I could help launch a Startnext campaign that was nominated for the German Integration Prize, I was really excited about the opportunity. I’d get to work with a publishing house I admire deeply. I really liked the team and the project.

When we ended the collaboration a whole month before originally planned, and also just a few days after the public launch of the project, I was straight-down relieved.

This isn’t the usual success story, yet one that I believe deserves some thoughts, so here is my personal narrative of a project that didn’t go as expected.

With a four-week runway and the internally set goal, the task was challenging. Yet, knowing the background of the project, it was also doable.

They often say if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

There’s something very true about that sentiment, as it’s got to do with how tasks are being executed. If you want to go fast, then have someone set the direction, trust them, and execute on those tasks immediately and without questioning. If you want to go far, as a leader, your job is to include the team in the ideation of solutions to create shared ownership. With a team of intelligent people, those results are mostly better. They also require time for ideas to properly flourish.

This wasn’t a project to “go far.” This was a project that needed quick execution and for everyone to move fast.

Given the short preparation period, I understood the team that usually works together brings in an external lead to go fast instead.

However, going fast requires trust. We didn’t know each other. And I failed to build the trust necessary to work fast.

When taking on the role, and knowing we only had four weeks, I wasn’t prepared to have my plans up for negotiations. I assumed (one should never assume) we all had a shared understanding of our goal and would do anything to just push through until we succeeded with what we set out to do. I never thought that once I became part of the team, I’d have to negotiate my suggestions and things would only become considered relevant once someone from outside the team gave the same advice.

Even before I got on board, the team already started planning things; they had already booked a film team to shoot their video. There was no time left to discuss the big vision of the project, why it was important for this project to happen, and how - with their plan to crowdsource the contents of the book – they were planning to involve their community.

Time for a short discourse into the theory of community strategy...

In an advertising campaign, you generally talk about yourself.

If you want to create a movement, you talk about your advocates.

A movement starts with a small group of passionate people. Your challenge is to build a framework that allows people to participate and come up with their own ideas.

To create a movement, you should focus all your comms around two ingredients: change and participation.

Change = how will your vision change the status quo?

Participation = how will your community shine when getting involved? How does your project add to their social status?

Having a big vision – especially when crowdfunding – is crucial.

Essentially, you’re asking people to monetarily contribute to an idea.

When asking people for money, they must immediately understand the benefit, mostly their own benefit.

The question is: why should people want to be part of whatever you’re planning to do, when it means they also need to pay a fee to become a part of your “community”?

And so, we shot the video. With a script that mostly focused on the past. Not the future.

In a community, you want people to know your plans before you ask them for money. With a four-week runway, that means you’ll most likely have to start communicating to your community immediately. However, we weren’t communicating with the community. We were discussing the mechanics of the campaign and millions of other logistical questions. We were running a grassroots democratic movement within our team. Everyone had a say. Everyone was involved in everything.

Already after one week, I started growing impatient.

I felt the ticking clock.

The team didn’t.

The team wasn’t used to working with such a high time pressure. They were used to working together. And the discrepancies in our work styles, as you can imagine, led to several discussions with the founder of the publishing house.

“I want you to see the two authors as queens and serve them the options on a silver tableau for them to choose what they think is right,” was most likely the one sentence I’ll never forget about this project. With a four-week runway, I didn’t look for options to present to anyone. We had no time to look around and consider all the possibilities we could have if there was enough time. My plan was to assign responsibilities and have everyone get to work fast. I’m used to working with people who speak up whenever they hit a wall – mental or logistical – to speed up even more. My plan was simply to execute on proven strategies.

With this project, I didn’t see my role as a servant; I saw the urgency to become a captain.

However (and as people who’ve worked with me know) while I might have strong opinions, I don’t push them onto people. I say my opinion and what I consider to be a good strategy. If someone pushes back or in another direction, I’ll let them have their way.

By the end of the second week, I felt rising frustration.

We were nowhere close to where we should have been. Every small step was being extensively discussed and questioned. And the founder of the company decided to step up and take over the lead and thus, my role.

Meanwhile I retreated to working on support tasks. Given no one asked for what I believed we should focus on (it wasn’t considered important even when I was leading the project), I kept my thoughts to myself and instead focused on checking off the list of tasks for the launch event. Those things just had to get done. It was easy and at least no one had to deal with me not being at ease about the whole project, which was even complimented at some point.

When running a crowdfunding campaign, it’s about standing at the forefront of a movement.

It’s about explaining why and how you’re the right person to lead such a movement. Crowdfunding is about storytelling. It’s about knowing the first follower theory. Crowdfunding is also about showing who else believes and stands behind your movement.

The (surprising) thing about press coverage when crowdfunding

The one thing that’s been exceptional about this project was the press coverage. I spent the first couple of days pulling together resources for a solid press kit and wrote a press release. The founder of the publishing house hired an exceptional PR manager, who after a short briefing session, immediately got to work and managed to secure coverage in various major German news outlets and blogs.

The difficult thing with crowdfunding is that while press is important to boost one’s credibility, it hardly ever attracts backers. The reason is something that I picked up on many years ago; it takes at least seven touch points for people to convert. Given a crowdfunding campaign usually runs for only 30 days, one must generate several touch points within that period of time. While press might be the first touch point for a potential customer and might put a project on people’s radar, it will take a few other touch points to spark people’s interest. They might need to also see it mentioned on Instagram or hear about it from a friend.

The secret to attracting backers when crowdfunding

I remember one time when I was sitting on the tram listening to a guy telling his girlfriend about a Kickstarter project he supported. He was so excited to be a backer and the whole team could hear that. When talking about storytelling, having people tell others about your crowdfunding project over dinner, coffee, or when sitting on public transport is what you eventually want. The question is, what stories are you going to tell that will make people want to engage with your project?

Usually, it’s backstage stories. It’s the stories that inspire others. It’s stories that expose people to new ideas and experiences. When running a crowdfunding campaign, one needs to turn into a storytelling machine for 30 days.

One of the main mistakes during crowdfunding is to boil down the messaging to how much money one needs. While it’s natural for people to talk about what THEY want and need, the most successful campaigners manage to look outside their own bubble. They make people click through catchy headlines and engaging storytelling. It’s implied that a project already has a community and isn’t starting from scratch when the project goes live.

The other strategy is to create shared experiences; attend and speak at meetups where one’s target group gathers, and if there aren’t any or enough of them, one can create their own event series and invite people to come together.

At that point, and instead of trying to get things my way, I focused on pulling everything together to make sure the launch event was a success.

A launch event is important for several reasons. The positive energy boosts the spirit of the team and also has the potential to engage a large number of ambassadors who will back simultaneously.

If done right, people are going to tell others about their experiences and every attendee might make a few other people more aware of the project.

In this specific case, we had raised €3,500 within the first 24 hours from the people we gathered at our event. While this was a great success, it wasn’t quite where we needed to be in order to stick to our timeline.

If you’re a freelancer, you might be curious about the financial side of things.

As an independent worker, I’m dependent on projects working out. Each and every project is a potential reference for the future and thus it’s important to know what projects to take on or not.

Before we started our collaboration, we set up a contract and included a payment plan. In this specific case, I agreed to a success-based fee applicable if we reached or exceeded our internal goal. Obviously, seeing what we were at a few days after the launch, I knew it was unlikely for the bonus to materialize. Given how things were going within the team, I faced many internal battles.

Am I really getting things that wrong?

Is my approach really the wrong approach or the right approach?

Why am I having such a hard time with this project?

And why are the others having such a hard time working with me?

Much of our struggles within the team were due to interpersonal communication.

What I said and apparently how I said things didn’t make the specific tasks feel urgent.

I failed at explaining why I believed certain measures mattered to the level of detail people might have needed to follow through.

Maybe I never introduced my background extensively enough for people to understand the level of my experience.

Maybe it would have helped.

Maybe it’s too late to think about maybes.

Right after the launch day, I had scheduled four days off. When I came back, the founder and I needed to catch up and discuss where we were and where we were heading. On this call, we mutually agreed for me to leave the team and make the mid-project payment the last.

With the bonus on the horizon, I agreed to a reduced fee, which, given the extensive number of hours I worked on the day we launched the project publicly (which was also the first day of the new payment period according to our contract), my project fee turned into my regular fee.

Obviously, based on my experience, I could already predict the project wouldn’t meet its internal goal, which was also the goal used to calculate expenses.

My dilemma was whether I should just keep my fee at the reduced fee, or cash up the fee by the hours I worked post launch as stated in our contract.

I decided on the latter. I figured it was the more professional thing to do. It was also the more feminist thing to do.

The client paid the bill without any pushbacks.

Financially, it was just another project and having gotten my regular fee makes it easier to just close the chapter and move on.

On a personal level and having hoped we’d get to work together more often, it’s a bad reference in my portfolio that if someone asks them how it is to work with me, it won’t lead to additional projects. More likely, it will lead to a damaged reputation.

And that’s a shame. Yet, I must move on.

I guess not every project goes right. And one should own even the bad experiences.

Architecture in Berlin, now on Etsy!
guide to Berlin

If you happen to travel to Berlin, I might have something for you. During the winter, I watched a ridiculous number of architecture and history documentaries about the city and given I really like to create things, I’ve turned my obsession into a pocket-sized guide to Berlin’s architecture. It might be a handy gift or something you might give to yourself for your next trip. The print run was limited, so please get it before it’s all gone.

It’s a wrap! April 2019

Right at the start of the month, Moriz Piffl, Sebastian Rahs, and I kicked off our collaboration to introduce The Swing Kitchen, a vegan burger fast food restaurant to Berlin. We’re currently planning a series of events, partnerships, and other fun initiatives to put the restaurant on the map for all the cool kids out there. This will be a lot of fun!

I was also lucky to be introduced to the team at CIEE’s eLab, which is a 6-week course to help people learn business skills and validate their ideas to also help them scale from the start. The course launched early this year and after the initial beta-phase, eLab is now looking to attract more participants who’d like to become entrepreneurs. They’ve commissioned me to help them translate the high-level strategy they’ve worked on with another agency, and help them develop an actionable marketing plan by defining their messaging, the timing of their communication, and the most suitable platforms.

The most challenging project I got involved with is the crowdfunding campaign for the community edition of the Mama Superstar book, which recently got nominated for the German Integration Prize. While I’ve said just a couple of weeks ago I’d not get involved with crowdfunding, I felt like I should make one more exception and help turn this book into a movement. In the first book, Melisa Manrique and Manik Chander portrayed 11 migrant women and their daughters. For this second book, we plan to crowdsource the content and also the funding to realize it. I’m half panicking, half excited about it because it’s such an incredible vision that I really wanted to be a part of this project’s realization.

Also my TEDx talk was finally published, which also fits the fact that I’ve concluded my lectures at the New Design University for this semester. And given it’s all about side projects, I’m happy to announce you can now by #kathmoscards themed Architecture in Berlin on Etsy.

I still have capacities to take on exciting projects if you happen to need help with some community building initiative. For the summer, I’m mostly looking for copy writing/strategy work I can do remotely. Hit me up if there is something we could work on together. I’d love that!

How to use social media in a non-toxic way

Recently I’ve moved the Instagram app to a folder on the second screen of my iPhone. Just like many of you, I feel growing social media fatigue. Then again, I’ve never felt envious, sad or any of the other emotions so many news sites report to be the everyday reality for many. Personally, I do believe social media has been a great enabler for all of us creatives. My TEDx talk on how to use social media in a non-toxic way is finally live. If you have 15 minutes to spare, I’d love to invite you to listen to my thoughts.

It’s a wrap! March 2019
tedxlend
travel story guides
#oriontheofficemanager
SarahReindl
guide to Berlin

March was my third month in a row of having almost no paid projects. The beginning of the year is usually quiet. Yet, I wasn’t expecting things to be quiet for that long.

For the sake of transparency, I should probably explain what’s been going on in that time.

On one hand, and right at the beginning of the year, I started talking to a Berlin-based startup about taking on a full-time job. After seven weeks, four rounds of interviews, and me handing over a strategy deck I’d usually charge almost €3,000 for, they declined and decided to look for someone who fits the profile of a social media manager. It was disappointing because I said in our first conversation (and after I was recommended to them) that I don’t believe social media is how one should attempt to build a business-related community anymore. In my opinion, social has turned into a one-way street and people are getting tired of it.

The second reason why I didn’t have much paid work was my TEDx talk at the end of February. I know that on the video, it always looks so easy. However, the reality is that it takes a lot of practice to get to that point. One (me) completely freaks out about the importance of TEDx, as it’s probably going to remain on the first page of Google forever and ever. I was stressing out about my talk for half of January and most of February with no mental space to try to do anything else but talk to that one company.

At this point, I’d really like to share something about practicing for speaking at TEDx.

A couple of weeks before the talk, I stumbled upon the famous TED talk by Amy Cuddy who explains the importance of body language. It does come with logistical challenges because how is someone supposed to go about trying to do the power pose while sitting in the audience and doing literally what they’re not supposed to be doing - reading the speaker notes.

As I was sitting there, I realized a musician was on stage and he started performing. I immediately got up and went to the back to join the team. Everyone was slowly moving to the melody of the songs, so I joined in.

The music got wilder. We started dancing faster.

We danced.

And danced.

The music stopped and it was my big moment to go on stage.

At that time, there was no more fear. Just joy. And relief. That soon this will be over.

Wow.

But back to what was happening in March.

People always ask me, what one does as a freelancer when there are no paid projects.

In the past whenever I didn’t have any paid projects, I used the time to write the books that I published.

Now I know it was the right thing to focus on projects that filled my soul more than my pocket, as it’s thanks to these three books that I got a number of my clients, press coverage, and the reason why I was asked to speak at TEDx in the first place.

For years, I’ve mostly been following my curiosity and trying to make sense of things I wanted to know more about. Since last year, I’ve been working on a book about social food gatherings, which seems to be much more challenging for me than the three books I’ve published so far. It seems like the more experience one has, the more effort it takes to work on projects without having a preoccupied mind. It’s still in progress and I’m still not sure where this journey will lead me and who’ll help me collaborate on this, but I know writing these stories is filling my soul and helping me practice a different style of writing.

Not having much paid work also gives me the necessary mental space to re-think my habits, analyze what I consume, and implement changes.

Last year I decided to go vegan, which is easy to live by at home, but not so easy once you leave your door. If you’re wondering how someone goes from meat eater to vegan, it was mostly thanks to Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals that made me decide to quit animal products. But of course, implementing changes isn’t easy, so it took until the end of the year for me to buy a container to make my own lunches in the morning. I got one from Berlin Eco Brotbox and I’m so in love with this decision. It’s really been life changing and money saving at the same time.

I’ve also finally bought a can for organic trash and have been feeling incredibly happy every time I’d go downstairs to empty it. I realized most of what I consume can be recycled and I don’t actually make that much trash, given I buy most of my groceries at the farmer’s market (a change I implemented in 2016) and try to avoid regular supermarkets as much as I can.

I’ve also experimented with solid bar shampoos and found the most amazing one from Rosenrot Manufaktur, which was first gifted to me by Sarah Reindl from Das Gramm in Graz, who I met during the TEDx event. I also no longer use shower gel. Instead I’ve bought a soap bag made out of sisal, which helps soaps foam.

I’m sharing this here because reducing one’s trash and opting in for the more sustainable options is hard, takes effort, and often needs role models to even understand what’s possible. And of course, because it’s not that one doesn’t do anything when there are no paid projects. One can take the time to pursue personal passions and try to work out how one can live up to one’s values.

It’s been good.

But it’s not like I had nothing to do in March. It was the month I started teaching social media again at the New Design University. I’ve recently published a case study on how I’ve designed the curricula, so before going into much detail, I’d love to invite you to read it if you’d like to learn more about my approach.

Additionally, I’ve also helped the team at Vollpension submit a funding proposal for an exciting project they’re currently working on.

And of course, I was looking for projects, which is why I’m currently fully booked for April, but happy to take on new clients from May and June on. Last but not least, I’m currently looking for remote projects for the summer as I’m planning a bigger trip around Europe. But on that another time! Thank you for reading to this bittersweet end.