Personal Statement 2019: Call for new projects!
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I got my first computer when I was 14. I just moved to Austria and didn’t speak much German. I remember using Skype, searching for people in Vienna and sending them a contact request, then chatting with them and eventually meeting them in person. Back then, it was considered a bit crazy to meet strangers for coffee. Yet I was desperately trying to make Vienna my home.

Then in 2015, I went on vacation with someone I met on an app called Wander four years prior to this incredible adventure. Wander was an app dedicated to connecting people who lived in different countries to learn more about the cultural differences and what unites people regardless their heritage from locals. When Roy and I met on Wander in 2011, no one knew how breakfast looked in Australia or what sort of public transport people took in South Korea. After our week, our connection through the app was over, so Roy and I followed one another on Instagram.

Given I always wanted to see South Africa, yet I didn’t want to visit the country as a tourist, I gathered all my courage and asked Roy if he would go on a road trip through his country with me. I thought that after following someone on Instagram for four years, I had a pretty good idea what that person valued and how it would be to hang out with them. (And I was right.)

To this day, I consider this the most incredible trip I’ve ever taken! I got to see Roy’s country with the knowledge only a local has and he got to rediscover his home through my fresh eyes. We both demonstrated trust and respect and most of all, we’ve created a beautiful friendship that will last forever.

The social web has always been a place for me to find like-minds and build trust with people regardless their heritage. I’ve had meaningful conversations and received so much kindness from strangers who I “only knew” digitally. It was all these tiny experiences that made me so excited about the social web and its possibilities.

I used Instagram when I first moved to Utrecht to meet locals. I did again when I moved to Berlin. I love how with the help of Instagram, Airbnb, Meetup, Couchsurfing, Foursquare, and probably some other social apps it’s become easy to feel connected immediately. I love how Etsy, Kickstarter, Creative Market, EyeEm, Skillshare, etc. give everyone the possibility to start a business and grow it regardless of where they were from or who they know. It’s these platforms that make me excited about my career as a community strategist.

When studying interior architecture, I was most excited about using spaces as a platform to merge different industries. I was excited about using spaces to bring together people. And I was excited about drafting floor plans and thinking about how people moved through spaces and connected with one another. To this day, it’s never been much of a surprise to me that I started working as a digital community strategist when the social web was all about defining how people met and connected on this new platform. Coming at it with the mindset of a designer made my approach unique and my work incredibly exciting.

All of my work has always been about building bridges between people. About using space – digital or physical – to create platforms for people to meet. Not necessarily just as friends or professional contacts; often – and especially during my time leading the outreach initiative for Kickstarter in Europe – with the aim to exchange money for a service or a product. My approach to communication has always been based on the ideology to help people live by their values, to find their tribe, and to feel a part of something.

In recent years, I’ve noticed how much less I’ve cared about the ordinary approach to online communication and marketing. I’ve noticed how much my focus has shifted to focus on how people connect offline. To me, online has become a tool to provide information and make it easily understandable whether a product or a service is suitable for the consumer/reader. It’s about speaking clear language, yet it’s definitely not about distracting people through an endless flow of Instagram posts, Facebook updates, tweets, etc. To me, it’s much more about creating a digital experience where people find what they’re looking for clearly outlined, structured, and readily available.

With my work, I care to create real value; I care to create value propositions and help ideate offerings for people to easily understand it’s an offer they’ll appreciate. I care to create experiences and gatherings for people to connect and find the value they’re missing and seeking. To me, such is about defining a very clear, targeted offering that’s communicated clearly. It’s about defining instructions and a framework to make people feel welcome and invited. And it’s about considering how people meet and interact to feel connected and like they are “in the right place.”

In 2019 and with my work I’d like to focus on:

  • concept, creation, and production of temporary and permanent spaces dedicated to intensify communication between people

and

  • audience facilitation at events

In the past, I’ve worked on projects for companies such as Kickstarter or LifeStart by Virgin Money. In the future, I’d like to work on projects with innovative, future-minded corporates, public sector organizations, museums, and the like.

I’d love to do things such as rethink how people meet and interact with one another at airports.

I’d love to oversee the audience engagement at conferences.

I’d love to rally communities around a common cause, such as the upcoming European Election.

I’d love to work on projects that help people live a more intentional, creative life and that create a world where people dare to go on a vacation with a stranger.

You might think I’m idealistic. All I’m saying is I care about the cause, the possibility, and the (human) experience.

Please email me (helloATmkanokovaDOTcom) if you have a project in mind or know of someone I should talk to. I’m available for new projects starting January, 14th!

Monika Kanokova
It’s a wrap! December 2018

Kicking off December with a workshop for people who would like to become creative freelancers hosted by the Creative Region in Linz, I had to think about the projects I’ve worked and how life has been since going freelance four years ago. What I’ve always loved about freelancing is that project briefs are specific, goals are clearly defined, and people respect one’s time. People prepare for meetings. It’s kind of amazing. I’ve loved the trust that comes with working as a freelancer. But what also comes with freelancing is that many projects have a deadline. At the end of December, my contract with Hanzo to work on Student LifeStart ended and I handed over my duties to my most incredible junior, Cleo Anderson, who’s been a shining star all along.

I’m super glad we got to travel to Madrid once more to celebrate together with the Hanzo team and get to know the people we’ve mostly only communicated with over Slack the past couple of months. It was an incredibly fun end to the project and I’m incredibly grateful my wonderful friend Eva Liparova thought of me when they were looking for people to create formats for community engagement. (You can read some more about it in this case study.)

I’ve spent most of December thinking about what projects I’d like to take on in 2019, which I’ve summarized in a personal statement.

I’ve also kept working on the book project I’m currently researching, which is about gatherings and creating spaces for people to meet and connect with the help of food. In this book, I’m portraying initiatives such as the Restaurant Day, Clam Club, Spring Street Social Society, Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations, Norn, etc. I’m looking for a publisher to help me shape my vision and make my idea come to life. It’s time to try something different than self-publishing via Kickstarter as I’ve done in the past.

I’m available for projects starting mid January. In 2019 and with my work I’d like to focus on:

  • concept, creation, and production of temporary and permanent spaces dedicated to intensify communication between people

and

  • audience facilitation at events

In the past, I’ve worked on projects for companies such as Kickstarter or LifeStart by Virgin Money. In the future, I’d like to work on projects with innovative, future-minded corporates, public sector organizations, museums, and the like.

I’d love to do things, such as rethink how people meet and interact with one another at airports. I’d love to oversee the audience engagement at conferences. I’d love to rally communities around a common cause, such as the upcoming European Election. I’d love to work on projects that help people live a more intentional, creative life and that create a world where people dare to go on a vacation with a stranger. You might think I’m idealistic. All I’m saying is I care about the cause, the possibility, and the (human) experience.

Please email me (helloATmkanokovaDOTcom) if you have a project in mind or know of someone I should talk to.

I’m available for new projects starting January, 14th!

It's a wrap! November 2018
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Oh. Wow. NOVEMBER! A lot has happened this month.

Besides me going to Paris to join one of Jim Haynes’ legendary Sunday suppers, I’ve also managed to start working on an event series myself. Together with Kate Sagovsky from Moving Dust, we’re planning a series of 12 live performances to spark an honest, soothing conversation between people of all ages and cultural backgrounds, but more on that later!

I spent parts of the month transcribing interviews for the book I’m currently working on. While I don’t have a name for it just yet, I’ve been collecting stories of people who organize dinners and brunch clubs to bring people together in their communities.

As much as I’ve always loved the internet for bringing like-minded people together, over time I’ve become very aware of how important it is to also gather people who don’t have the same opinion. It’s become increasingly important to create gatherings for strangers of diverse backgrounds to talk and exchange thoughts and experiences. Speaking to people such as Timo Santala, the founder of the Restaurant Day, the tireless idealist Joe Edelman, who loves to play with how people make a connection, Maciej Chmara, who together with his wife ran the Mobile Hospitality where they hosted people despite being just visitors in different cities, and others has inspired me greatly. So far, I have 14 interviews of which I’ve already transcribed six, and given I’ve always been most productive in the winter months, I’m pretty excited about how this project is evolving.

For this particular book, I’m actually not so sure if Kickstarter’s the best way to launch it, so instead I’ll be looking for a publishing house to help me shape the final product. I believe this might be interesting to a publishing house that focuses on coffee table books, city building books, and similar. If you know someone who knows someone, you know where to find me! And should your lead get to something, I promise you a seat at one of the live performances I’ve mentioned above.

On a personal note, in 2019 I’m planning to move into more hands-on community building by running events and offline initiatives. I’d love to get involved with conferences to bring people together, in team building initiatives. I’d also like to work on more customer-focused experiences, such as the LifeStartFest I got to program earlier today. Maybe, I’d even like to become more political and get involved in the European election next year. If you know someone who needs someone, I’m currently looking for new projects starting on the 14th of January. Please don’t hesitate to introduce us via hello@mkanokova.com.

It’s not just future outlook I want to talk about in this monthly summary...

In this past month, I got to collaborate on the launch of the Virgin Galactic Unite LifeStart Challenge that gives UK students the chance to submit to an idea competition and win a trip to the Virgin Galactic Space Port in Mojave, California and up to £1000 in cash. The Challenge is open until the 10th of December, 2018.

Last but not least, and potentially of interest to all freelancers, I’ve launched a new Skillshare class explaining how to frame side projects and use social media to spread the word about them.

Anyway, thank you for reading until the end of this report and please do get in touch if you know of any projects I can get involved with starting in January!

My very first Thanksgiving. In Paris. In the company of an 85-year-old man.
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On Sunday, I hopped on a plane to Paris to join a Sunday gathering at Jim Haynes’ atelier where I would also stay for two nights. It’s not that I knew James. As a matter of fact, I had not heard about him until I googled “Conversation Salons” and stumbled upon a video posted on the Guardian just a few weeks prior to my visit. I knew he was the sort of person I really needed to interview for the book I’m currently working on. Yet, I must admit, this was the first time I flew somewhere for an in-person interview.

When I arrived at the atelier on a dreamy Parisian street, I entered the door code, pushed the heavy gate open, and found myself in a leafy backyard with beautiful brick buildings with large windows. I quickly found the door I was looking for and when I knocked, I pushed it open and fell straight into the kitchen. A woman who immediately introduced herself as Mary and a man called Michael welcomed me warmly, even though they didn’t quite know who I was. Jim, the man I came to visit, was tucked under a blanket in the corner enjoying the slightly ridiculous scene I caused. Both Mary and Jim were cooking in what must have been 20l pots.

Jim, who just turned 85, has been hosting Sunday dinners for the past 40 years. Every Sunday, and even if he wasn’t in town, he’d arrange for the dinner to happen. Over the years, it’s become a regular gathering of expats, tourists, and locals who’d mingle and enjoy home cooked meals and as many glasses of wine as they wished to drink.

The hospitality of this man, and also his assistant, Christian, knows no boundaries. Upon my initial email request, more or less the same one I have sent to everyone who I ever emailed wanting to feature them in one of my books, this has been the first time someone asked me to come in person. “Given the subject matter, we believe you should come to Paris.” And given Jim’s age, I knew I should and also would love to. For a small contribution, they also offered for me to stay at the atelier.

Knowing about the dinners, I thought the space would be large and would have tables of some sort. Yet I quickly learned that the two-story building was the actual space on which these dinners would happen. Downstairs and within the maybe 35-square-meter kitchen (without a dishwasher!), the gatherings took place. Often, up to 90 people would gather there in the winters and during summers, thanks to the backyard, it can be up to 120 guests.

The dinners start every Sunday at 8pm. Forty years ago, these gatherings started as (flea) markets initiated to help support the creative community. There, one of Jim’s friends, a dancer, offered to cook. The event grew in popularity. It was Jim’s ask to always bring someone he didn’t know that made the community grow organically. From a retired dominatrix to a conductor or a young poet, you’d never know who you would get to meet on Sundays. The crowd is indeed quite eclectic.

Jim’s always had a thing for gathering people; he’s one of the founding figures of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the cofounder of the International Drama Conference, and the creator of the Wet Dream Film Festival, which pretty much is what you think it is. :)

Once the crowds started pouring through the door and a queue would build to snatch some of the incredible Thanksgiving dinner, I felt incredibly grateful for the possibility to move freely between the countries in Europe and stuff my face with a few slices of turkey, a proper American filling, brussels sprouts, carrots, pecan pie, and of course, a piece of pumpkin pie with cream served by Paul, who’s been in charge of cutting the festive turkey for the past eight years. I felt grateful for the opportunity to connect with people outside my age group and my social bubble in a city far away from home.

Often, they start cooking on Thursdays. Jim has always had someone cook. When Cathy, the first chef of Jim’s dinners, couldn’t make it as she had to go to a rehearsal, she organized someone to cook instead of her and that’s when Jim knew this was a thing to stay. Somehow, he’s always had people who offered to take on the task, gather friends to help, and cook up a meal for the people who’ve requested to join the meal via email or telephone.

For Jim, it’s always been about connecting people. During the communist time, he’d publish books filled with names, addresses, and telephone numbers of people living in countries, such as Romania, Czechoslovakia, or Poland, you could call up in case you were visiting and wanted to meet someone local.

Even though the format’s different, the spirit in all his work is sort of the same; people who join on Sundays are a curious crowd with a lust for exploration. One of the guests, David, recited parts of Shakespeare to me. Leslie, a woman in her 60s who’s left the USA for the first time, laughed so wholeheartedly I forgot to ask her how she felt about her first international trip to a country where she didn’t speak the language. You really never know who you get to talk to here on a Sunday, yet when you ask Jim, he’ll say many marriages, friendships, and babies have been a result, and one baby who is now in her 40s was even conceived upstairs in one of the rooms.

I admire Jim for his dedication to show up each week. For his hospitality to welcome a complete stranger in his house and have me stay for two nights to conduct an interview. I admire Jim for the community he’s created. And I really do wish for more spaces where I’d get to talk to such an eclectic crowd more regularly.

The past few weeks working on this new book has been a journey; I got to think about dinners as theatre performances, dinners as platforms for political activism, dinners to inspire meaningful conversations, and also dinners to give you the platform to peak outside your bubble and speak to a poet from Nepal who somehow also happens to be here, on a Sunday, at Jim’s party.

Many have asked me what the angle or format of this new book is going to be, and even though I’ve already conducted 14 interviews, I still don’t quite know what I want to make out of it. A how to guide? A coffee table book on gatherings? A collection of short stories about how I got to experience these events and what I admire and love about the people who host them?

What would you say you’d be interested in? Or is this not a topic you care about at all?

The practical matters of personal finance for freelancers

Here are parts of my weekly newsletter I write for fellow freelancers: you can subscribe to my newsletter to get the full articles to your mailbox.

First of all, I have two separate bank accounts. I have a business account with a traditional German bank, which is where I receive all incoming payments and use for all business expenses. Then, I also have a private account. My personal account is with N26, which I absolutely love and would recommend any day! (If you consider signing up, please use my referral code – monikak3108 – which will give us both a €15 bonus.)

Recently, N26 introduced an incredible new feature and I couldn’t be happier! Customers can now create sub-accounts called spaces that enable them to assign a purpose to each. (mint.com does this in the US). One can also set a saving goal and see one’s progress. In the past couple of months, I’ve gamified how I use spaces, which is something I thought I’d share.

Next to my main account, I have the following sub-accounts:

A freelancer fund I’m aiming to save up the equivalent of how much I need for three months. My plan is to get to that goal and once I do, I’ll start paying towards my investment fund.

An investment fund where I plan to save up €2.000 and once I have that, get back to the book on investing my friend Clemens Bomsdorf wrote.

A holiday fund. I’ve set a goal of €3.000, which I know is enough money to cover flights, accommodation, and all my expenses to leave on a vacation for one month.

A relationship fund where I put money aside whenever someone pays for something I could have also paid for myself.

And a monthly savings account. I mentioned in Work Trips and Road Trips that I keep track of how much I spend every day. Whenever I spend less than €30 in a day, I move the difference into this space for me to see at the end of the month how much I put aside. On the first of each month, I move all the money from this space and also what’s left on my main account to one of the saving spaces. (Which at this point is my FreelancerFund or as my friend Theresa Lachner would call it, My Fuck You Fund). Btw. And if I haven’t mentioned it anywhere else, it’s a saving space you create to build up a safe blanket so that when you face a dry month, you don’t panic about it.

The advantage of me freelancing is that I earn money from different sources. I find this quite handy because it makes allocating money to my sub-accounts much more fun. I do that as follows:

I transfer 45% of everything I’ve earned from my business account to my private account. I’m keeping 55% on my business account to cover all my business expenses, taxes, and health insurance. On my private account, I split the money as follows:

I transfer…

40% of what I earn from my main client I keep as spending money.

5% of what I earn from my main client I immediately transfer to the FreelancerFund. In case I have another somewhat larger project going on, I move all of the 45% I earn with them to the FreelancerFund as well.

45% of all earnings I make from my books, my webinars on Skillshare, my photos I sell on EyeEm, and from small one-off projects I move to the HolidayFund.

If you feel like you too might want to consider creating multiple income streams, I’ve recently published three Skillshare classes to help with that:

Watch editing and monetizing your smartphone photos to learn more about how I monetise the pictures I take on the go.

If you’d like to set up a project but don’t know quite know how, I’ve put together a step by step class to help you come up with side projects to eventually monetize them.

And given we’re talking about monetization, you might also want to check out my class on Kickstarter and how to use the platform to finance creative projects.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out.

New Skillshare class: Brand yourself on social media through side projects

Have you ever asked yourself how to use social media effectively?

This class is for you..

  • if you’d like to learn how to make the most out of social media

  • if you’d like to know how to brand your business as a freelancer

  • if you’d like to know how to create a side income

  • ... or if you want to build your reputation to eventually find a more suitable job.

In this class, I’ll deconstruct what it means to create. I’ll explain

  • how to frame creative projects

  • gain the self-confidence to create and publish

  • ... and will also talk about how to use social media in a meaningful way.

I’ve decided to create this class to help you utilize social media and unlock its full potential. You don’t need to be a creative to benefit from this class. 

It’s now live on Skillshare: https://skl.sh/2zraT5R

It’s a wrap! October 2018
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What’s a conversation you’d love to have and with whom?

Every time I started working on a new book, I’d start by asking myself just that; what would I love to know and who do I want to have a discussion with? Then I’d reach out to those people and have the sort of conversations I was craving.

If you’ve been reading these monthly reports for what’s now been exactly four years, you might have noticed I’ve had an obsession with “conversations” and how technology is impacting the way we communicate and spend time together. For my upcoming book project, I’ve reached out to people who gather friends and strangers to ask them more about how they see their role as a host and how they orchestrate gatherings that leave an impression; gatherings people ponder about even days or weeks after.

This new project has been filling me up with joy, in addition to a new client I’ve started working with: Norn.

To me, Norn is one of the most exciting ventures I’ve come across in recent years, and at least since I started working with Kickstarter. As conversation hubs, Norn’s aiming at bringing people together to help them facilitate meaningful conversations.

Together, we’re refining their customer journey and experience and also reworking their messaging. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend following them on Instagram.

Along these lines, yet slightly extended in their sense, I’d also like to recommend the following articles written by my friend Joe Edelman, who I consider one of the most inspiring philosophers of modern times:

Five Question Rethinking Civilisation

Non-Goal Drives

As for LifeStart, we’ll soon be launching new challenges on the platform after closing a challenge with Virgin Money Giving and Sony Pictures. I’ve managed to hire a couple of students to help us create interesting content for students. We’re still looking should you know a student who’s based in the UK looking for part-time work, and is a great storyteller.

I’m also in the process of launching a new Skillshare class on how to use social media as a creative, which should launch within the next couple of weeks.

What city dwellers can learn from young people who’ve moved to the countryside
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How do you feel about living in a city versus what do you associate with living in the countryside? For years, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much longer it might take until people start fleeing cities. Paying rent has become such a widely discussed topic, so it would only make sense for people to just give up on it. Yet, of course, it seems crazy to just give up on the friends we’ve found and start from scratch all over again. And, it especially might seem crazy to you that I’m bringing up this topic, given it’s not too long since I myself exchanged Vienna for Berlin, one of the cities with the most rapidly rising rents.

Personally, I’m not planning to leave Berlin anytime soon. I fully acknowledge the move has bumped up my monthly fixed costs by €500, which has clearly also impacted my priorities and how I’m spending my time. I acknowledge it and feel fortunate for being able to live the life I do. Regardless of whether it means I’m now more conscious of money than I previously had to be. However, despite all that, the topic of moving to the countryside remains an interesting one.

When I came across the recently published book City Quitters, I didn’t hesitate getting it even for just a second. I was curious. I understood why people would move away, but as someone who loves living in the city, yet also someone who grew up in the countryside and hated it, I wanted to understand how people ‘actually’ made it work.

Over two hundred pages later, I believe to have found a shared pattern and what many of the people who are happier living in villages seem to have in common. It’s how they practice intention.

It’s obvious paying less rent gives people the necessary time to be intentional. They consciously create the environments they want to live in. They are the ones who make things happen. The ones who initiate. The ones who gather, craft, and make. They host book club potlucks, they organize regular food share gatherings, they teach themselves about the traits unique to their environment and pass on the knowledge to visitors, but also locals. By doing all these things, they build communities and with that, a sense of belonging.

By being the ones who create, who proactively think about how to make their environment better, they feel happie

In a city, there’s so much to choose from. Initiating gatherings, and especially doing so regularly, might feel like a constraint. Which is why not that many do. Planning to meet up with one busy friend often feels like a hassle already. Organizing a group that’s larger, and given everyone’s busy with their careers and their millions of other commitments, creating regularity and gathering people is quite the task. If someone dares to do that, one can’t do it and only care partially. Not if a gathering should be remembered as meaningful.

Since moving back to Berlin, I’ve been thinking a lot about gatherings and organizing activities. This email might have been an unfinished thought, yet one I wanted to share, given it’s what I’m thinking about a lot lately and especially because of the book project I’m currently working on. I know it’s early on a Wednesday morning, yet I’d love to leave you with the prompt to think about something you’d love to see happen in your community. Then take the first step to making it happen.