Posts tagged my creative side business
5th ANNIVERSARY: The people who've helped me get where I am today.

Today is my fifth anniversary working as a freelancer.

When I first went freelance, it was because the company I worked for – and loved working for – imploded and because my partner at the time moved back to New York.

I was suddenly unemployed and in a long-distance relationship.

It felt unrealistic to apply for jobs where I'd have to promise to show up every day from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. And so, I decided to go freelance instead.

Before I had a client, I built a website listing the services I could offer. I then emailed 65 people, telling them I was available for freelance work.

Four of these people emailed me back and hired me for projects within the first three months. (THANK YOU, Michael Schmitz, Bruno Noble, Taylor McKnight, and Max Kickinger!)

I recently had a conversation about the people who boosted our confidence so we would actually dare to go freelance or start our own businesses. The conversation is what inspired this essay.

I'd love to tell you more about the sentences that are burned into my mind and the moments that helped me get where I am today.

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"Welcome to the game."

Max Kickinger, Raven & Finch

At 9 a.m. on November 6, I had an appointment at the business registration office.

At 11 a.m., I had my very first official client meeting with Raven & Finch, an Austrian sound branding agency.

Max was one of the people who’d emailed me back, hiring me for some content marketing. Upon my arrival at his studio, Max said: "Welcome to the game."

To this day, I remember him saying that to me. It's one of the sentences I like to remind myself of regularly.

That sentence takes the pressure off whenever things get hard.

Freelancing is a game, one in which you know that you sometimes win, but – sometimes – you lose.

When you see freelancing this way, it’s fun to look back at the accomplishments and failures as if it was just a game that you get to play every single day.

But something else happened with Max and Raven & Finch.

I'm very grateful to Max for hiring me back then. I recorded his thoughts and later wrote a few articles for his blog. He paid upfront, too.

The assignment wouldn't have been memorable if I didn't ask the one question that changed how I now approach client work.

"What is it that you really, really want? What's the ideal scenario, where if it happened, you'd feel hiring me was the right choice?"

Max replied that he wanted to see Raven & Finch featured in the Monocle magazine.

At that time, I didn't know anyone at Monocle.

But, as life is, within just a few months, I started meeting more and more reporters who worked there.

A year later, Raven & Finch was featured in the Monocle Podcast, a Vienna special, and also the main magazine.

Now I know it doesn't matter what people hire me for. What matters is that I deliver on their big goals.

So thank you again, Max, for your trust and your support five years ago.



"Thank you for your offer, Monika, I'll pay you more."

Taylor McKnight, Emamo

When you start as a freelancer, you don't know how the financial side of things works.

Working at a Berlin-based startup in 2014, I was earning less than € 28K a year before taxes. As a freelancer, that's nowhere close to enough. You have to pay for health insurance, pension, sick days, vacation time, and still put money aside for those times when no projects are coming in.

Taylor taught me about value evaluation. Since then, there have been many times I was able to follow his lead and do the same for others, mostly women.

What Taylor said to me changed the way I communicate about budgets. I don't like this game of asking someone how much they want if I already have a set budget for it. I say that upfront.

Of course, there have been times when I had to ask for a lower price. Yet, I prefer to keep that conversation clean and avoid exploiting others for my own benefit. A lesson learned from the incredible Taylor McKnight.




"You know, I've got a maximum of how much I want to earn every year."

Michele Pauty, Freelance Photographer

When Michele went freelance, she bought herself a car and a dog, consciously opting in for a lifestyle that suited her needs.

Sometimes she didn't earn any money; sometimes she made a lot in just a couple of days. She'd make time every day to take her dog for a walk and actually "feel" alive. It was Michele who said to me that she has a maximum figure she wants to earn per year. Because of the Austrian tax system, she made conscious decisions on how much money made sense to her.

Michele is someone with hobbies. (!) She's someone who's signed up for university and is studying in her "free time." She inspired me to think about my time the way I do.

Of course, having published three books on the topic of freelancing for which I've interviewed more than 35 women, every single one of them have had a significant impact on me. So thank you:

Oren Lasry

Maxie Matthiessen

Frances M. Thompson

Diana Ovezea

Lauren Randolph

Akilah Hughes

Gwen Boon

Saba Tark

Cristiana Ventura

Lea Hajner

Anne Riechert

Olga Skipper (Steidl)

Carola Pojer

Luna Vega

Christine Neder

Rafaela Lemos

Lisa Andersson

Breanna Musgrove

Vicky Heiler

Tanja Roos

Carina Rabeian (Schichl)

Aisha Franz

Victoria Jin

Tina Toplak

Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Julieta Ulanovsky

Lisa Glanz

Helen Johannessen

Joanna Penn

Jaymay // Jamie Seerman

Sarah Eichhorn

Susan Schmitz

Patty Golsteijn

Shayna Oliveira

Elise Blaha

Sara Combs

Maaike Boot

Sophie C Ryba

Dani Bradford

Vanessa Bruckner

Theresa Lachner

Lauren Hom

Becky Burton

Michele Pauty (again)

Yana Gilbuena

Kayleigh Owen

Jule Müller

Laura Karasinski

Yasmine Ackermark

Natalie Howard

... for being such a great source of inspiration.

Despite having read Tuesdays with Morrie a couple of years ago, it's surprising to me I'm only sharing these stories now.

Also, here are some highlights from the past five years:

Dec, 2014 One of the first projects I worked on was a real struggle, but it was this struggle that inspired me to publish This Year Will Be Different.

Dec, 2014 One of the first projects I worked on was a real struggle, but it was this struggle that inspired me to publish This Year Will Be Different.

Jan, 2015 I met Diana Joiner, my first editor, for the first time in New York after having worked with her what must have been around the clock all of the month of December.

Jan, 2015 I met Diana Joiner, my first editor, for the first time in New York after having worked with her what must have been around the clock all of the month of December.

Dec, 2016 I met Liz Wellington online and then later interviewed her for my third book. Writing these three books has given me access to the most incredible people and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Dec, 2016 I met Liz Wellington online and then later interviewed her for my third book. Writing these three books has given me access to the most incredible people and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Oct, 2016 I FREAKING MANAGED TO PAY BACK MY STUDENT LOANS! OMG! <3

Oct, 2016 I FREAKING MANAGED TO PAY BACK MY STUDENT LOANS! OMG! <3

Nov, 2016 The happiest of times, working with Diana Joiner.

Nov, 2016 The happiest of times, working with Diana Joiner.

Jun, 2017 This little munchkin, Orion, my office manager moved in.

Jun, 2017 This little munchkin, Orion, my office manager moved in.

Jul, 2017 I got to work with a team in Iceland on a project. We had to shoot a video at a horse farm which definitely was a highlight of my work as a freelancer.

Jul, 2017 I got to work with a team in Iceland on a project. We had to shoot a video at a horse farm which definitely was a highlight of my work as a freelancer.

Jul, 2018 I got to work on a great project with Hanzo and Virgin Money for which we organised workshops in Wales and the Midlands.

Jul, 2018 I got to work on a great project with Hanzo and Virgin Money for which we organised workshops in Wales and the Midlands.

Jun 2018 While I was at Veganz, I decided to move back to Berlin full time. After five months of apartment hunting, I finally managed to convince a landlord to let me move in. It also happened to be the nicest of all apartments.

Jun 2018 While I was at Veganz, I decided to move back to Berlin full time. After five months of apartment hunting, I finally managed to convince a landlord to let me move in. It also happened to be the nicest of all apartments.

Nov, 2018 As part of my research about food gatherings I flew to Paris to meet Jim Haynes, the father of the Fringe Festival.

Nov, 2018 As part of my research about food gatherings I flew to Paris to meet Jim Haynes, the father of the Fringe Festival.

Feb, 2019 I was invited to speak at TEDx at TEDxLend.

Feb, 2019 I was invited to speak at TEDx at TEDxLend.

Jan, 2015 Getting the first book published was a lot of hustle and a time filled with insecurities. I know this picture just shows a bunch of boxes but it’s one of the pictures I’m most proud of.

Jan, 2015 Getting the first book published was a lot of hustle and a time filled with insecurities. I know this picture just shows a bunch of boxes but it’s one of the pictures I’m most proud of.

Apr, 2015 Getting Kickstarter as one of my first big clients was the perfect proof of being in the right place, at the right time, (with the right references). I got to travel with (and for them) all across Europe to spread the word about their launch. Exhausting but also amazing!

Apr, 2015 Getting Kickstarter as one of my first big clients was the perfect proof of being in the right place, at the right time, (with the right references). I got to travel with (and for them) all across Europe to spread the word about their launch. Exhausting but also amazing!

Jun, 2016 After not having much to do, I decided to write another book on what to do as a freelancer when you have nothing to do (and how to build up scalable income streams for such a case)

Jun, 2016 After not having much to do, I decided to write another book on what to do as a freelancer when you have nothing to do (and how to build up scalable income streams for such a case)

Apr, 2017 After almost two years with Kickstarter, I decided it was time for something new. In my job with them I was on the road more or less constantly and my relationships with people have become extremely superficial. I felt like I needed a change and also wanted to slow down life. I went to Bali for a month and there I made quite a big decision.

Apr, 2017 After almost two years with Kickstarter, I decided it was time for something new. In my job with them I was on the road more or less constantly and my relationships with people have become extremely superficial. I felt like I needed a change and also wanted to slow down life. I went to Bali for a month and there I made quite a big decision.

Jul, 2017 I published another book. One about purpose, mindfulness, money.. the sort of thing one thinks about as a freelancer A LOT.

Jul, 2017 I published another book. One about purpose, mindfulness, money.. the sort of thing one thinks about as a freelancer A LOT.

Sept, 2017 I accidentally bumped into Helen Johannessen who I’ve interviewed for My Creative Side Business. Such a coincidence and so lovely!

Sept, 2017 I accidentally bumped into Helen Johannessen who I’ve interviewed for My Creative Side Business. Such a coincidence and so lovely!

Jan, 2018 Orion and I moved back to Berlin to work at Veganz as an interim head of marketing.

Jan, 2018 Orion and I moved back to Berlin to work at Veganz as an interim head of marketing.

May, 2018 I flew to Australia and New Zealand for a month without telling any one my clients; no one noticed for three weeks.

May, 2018 I flew to Australia and New Zealand for a month without telling any one my clients; no one noticed for three weeks.

Sept, 2018 I got to work together with this amazing lady: Cleo Anderson.

Sept, 2018 I got to work together with this amazing lady: Cleo Anderson.

May, 2019 For Swing Kitchen, I got to go to a lot of the #FridaysForFuture demonstrations.

May, 2019 For Swing Kitchen, I got to go to a lot of the #FridaysForFuture demonstrations.

Cheers and thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this journey.

I’m grateful for the projects I got involved with and the people I got to meet during the past years. What I value the most about this work status is the trust people have in me as a person and the fact that every project is something special, and there is no 9 to 5 mindset even though the work mostly happens at that time anyway.

It’s a wrap! January 2019
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When I published This Year Will Be Different four years ago, I never would have thought it would become the mantra for every year’s beginning.

I kicked off the year with a trip to Israel, Palestine, and Spain trying to soak up some sun. I’ve been trying to write about my experience crossing the border between Palestine and Israel and my feelings, especially because I get to cross where the wall in Berlin once stood each and every day, yet haven’t managed to depict my feelings. I’m still pondering about the essay and what it should be...travel writing is hard.

I’m excited about having launched another Kickstarter campaign to capture the history of Berlin’s architecture. I chose 50 buildings, trying to get to the essence of what Berlin as a city is about. The campaign will be live until the 14th of February, 2019.

Meanwhile, I’m also still working on Beyond Small Talk, the book about meaningful gatherings and how to host them. Transcribing is a lot of work, yet it’s a good feeling to be able to say that I only have one interview left until I’ve transcribed them all and can finally start editing.

This month, I was invited to join the Recharge Serviced Apartment Summit where I finally met Marc Jongerius, one of Zoku’s founders, in person. If you haven’t heard of Zoku, do check it out. It’s one of the most incredible hospitality projects I’ve personally come across.

I’ve also been invited to join the Community Summit hosted by Co-Matter, where I facilitated two sessions to explore what makes communities sustainable and what will make them sustainable in the future. It’s truly fascinating to see how the nature of communities is changing, which is also something I’m talking about with the different companies and potential clients I’m currently talking to about future work. (I’m still available for projects, so please reach out should you need help with something. Here is the list of my services.)

I was also really pleased to see another feature of my work. Inc.com recommended My Creative (Side) Business as a great book for people thinking about changing their career. I’ll be speaking more about that subject in February at TEDx in Graz. For now, I’m still practicing my speech.

It's a wrap! October
working Orion
working Orion

At the beginning of the year, I said that by the end of the year I’d love to have some time to learn new skills and deepen my knowledge. I wanted to know what works on social media and what’s no longer a thing. Because, frankly, the social web is constantly evolving and it’s hard to keep up.

Often we get so overwhelmed by our daily rut that we just keep doing what we’ve been doing because we know it's worked before. But now, maybe it doesn’t anymore. 

To give you an example, when I published This Year Will Be Different and My Creative (Side) Business, many posted pictures of the books on Instagram. Now, with Work Trips and Road Trips people posted stories, so the news about the book release vanished rather quickly and the sales remained, compared to the other titles, mediocre. It’s become hard to reach people. It’s become even harder to sell on the internet. Especially if you don’t have dedicated budget to finance ads. 

This past month, I haven't done much client work besides working on a website that will hopefully launch very soon. Instead of working on client projects, I focused on reading books I’ve had on my bucket list for a while. Here are the titles: 

Perennial Seller - Will help you understand why people still buy classics instead of going for the latest releases.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing - A must-read for everyone who works in communications, marketing, or sales. 

Service Design Business - A wonderful guide to help you understand all the details you should consider when planning a customer experience, both online and offline.

Captivate - One of the most valuable books I’ve ever had in my hands recently. It’s one of those books you’ll finish and want to start re-reading immediately. Just get it now. Don’t even read what it’s about. 

Killing Marketing - Explains the principles of good content marketing and why it makes sense for brands to invest in long-term relationship building through creating valuable content.

Sprint - If you’ve worked in a startup, you’re most likely already familiar with the sprint methodology. I really enjoyed learning more about the theory behind the practice and was able to reflect on where the company I had previously worked for had gone wrong. 

UX Strategy - Talks about the process of building human-centered products. I found it to be very controversial to what Sprint preaches, yet interesting. 

Branded Interactions - Is most likely to be called the bible of UX, UI, and overall digital design. Everyone who works in digital product management or design should read it. 

I still have some capacities in November and December. Please get in touch if you need help with your online strategy. 

Would you like me to write another book for freelancers?
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(Here is the link to answer the survey.)

It’s the end of October. Which means it’s been almost three years since I found myself in a mouldy room in London. With a leaking ceiling. Without functioning heat. Wondering whether “this” was what freelancing was about: insecurity, shitty projects, lots of struggles. Just the memory of it gives me goosebumps.

Those who know me personally know how much I loved the job at Somewhere I had before. Going freelance was something that while it made sense at the time, wasn’t anything I was planning on doing. I needed to be location independent and had no other option. I had to learn to deal with the situation and do so quickly.

Over time, I have learned that sometimes, we need to fall deep to pick ourselves up in a whole new glory.

My way out of that mess and how I was feeling then was the first book. A book I conceptualized, produced, and financed within three months. I had the idea because I needed to learn how to freelance myself, and the insights of the women were so cool, I thought I should share them, so I did.

It actually still baffles me how many people wrote me after they read the book about how much it made their year different. How it encouraged them to make a leap and go freelance.

Given for the past three years around this time, I was mostly at home interviewing people, transcribing their interviews, editing, or writing, I’m now wondering if I should do it again. Or if I should do something different. I’m also thinking about ways to make it something more.

When looking at the numbers, none of the books were financially feasible. At least not directly. Each one helped me produce the next one, and with each, I still took a personal loss. It’s not even what I would have paid everyone who worked on the books what I believe they deserved for their excellent work. Most certainly, without the three Kickstarter campaigns I ran, none of the books would have been realized. To this day, the biggest benefit I got from writing these books was the feedback I received from the ones amongst you who felt encouraged to create and do so in self-initiative.

I’ve conducted a little questionnaire. It’s for me to learn about your needs and wants. Given it’s Christmas soon and you have probably already heard “Last Christmas” at least once, I’ve decided to raffle five books amongst those who fill out the questionnaire: 

Click here to view survey

Thank you for your help,
Monika

It’s a Wrap! October

Every time I get to see Diana, my editor, the world seems suddenly much brighter! She’s such a sweetheart! One of the best things about self-initiating projects is that you get to work with the people you choose to work with and create something together. 

Besides hanging out with Diana and her friends, I got to hang out at the Kickstarter office for a full week, which, of all the offices I’ve been to in my life, is definitely my most favorite one! I was also lucky enough to get to visit the Maker Faire and see what the D&T team is up to.

Once I got back to Europe, I spoke at the Bauhaus University, at the Technical University in Wuppertal, at the wonderful Fashion Camp in Vienna and at the Business Riot Festival. I hosted an intro to Kickstarter in Vienna, Berlin, and Amsterdam! I also started a new series, Embrace Your Hustle. In 1.5 years, I’ve done around 70 or 80 Intro To Kickstarter talks and just started getting tired of the format a little. Embrace Your Hustle enables me to host events targeted by category.

For the first one, I decided to focus on tiny projects. It was an event dedicated to small projects done for the purpose of learning and personal growth. I invited Alexa Shoen, Susanne Scheerer, and Maia Beyrouti to speak about their passion projects. It was an incredible all women panel and I can’t wait to run a few more events as part of this series.

This month, my favorite creators I helped with their projects were Virtu, the sustainable Alpaca pullovers made in Peru, and Megasus Horserunners. I was also fortunate enough to attend the Dutch Design Week and meet Fancy van de Vorst and Maryann Schreurs, the Vice Mayor of Innovation, Design, Culture, and Sustainability of Eindhoven.

I’m also grateful to Violeta Nedkova sharing a wonderful review of My Creative (Side) Business on her blog and to the team at Cloudpeeps for introducing me as a Freedom Creator in one of their blog posts.

Last but not least, and probably the biggest news of this year is that I’ve finally managed to pay back my student loan! Now, please, everyone, raise your glasses, as I’m raising mine! CHEERS!

It’s a wrap! March
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Retrospectively, it feels that all I did in March was keep the post man busy. When the first proof copy of #MCFSB arrived, it wasn’t good enough, and Diana and I decided to change the font to make sure the book was easy to read. It’s the necessary corrections that slow you down and unfortunately we ,had to postpone shipping by two weeks because it took so long for everything to arrive and arrive in the quality I was happy to pass on to my Kickstarter backers.


Because of the loss I made in the previous year, I decided to switch from color print to black and white, so everyone who supported both of my Kickstarter projects got an extra copy for free.
The reason I decided to make the books black and white was because I liked the black and white copy far more than I liked the colorful one. However, if you look into the digital book, you’ll still see all of the illustrations Sara Combs made in their original (and colorful) state. 


If you have been following my approach to creating products, you know that packaging is highly important to me. It’s quite incredible that even though it’s 2016, it’s still hard to get nice envelopes that don’t cost a fortune in Austria. I ordered a huge box of envelopes from the UK and three weeks later, I sent them a follow up email wondering what happened to my parcel. I was rather bummed when they said they never shipped my package because it was too big. 
Instead of giving up and buying white envelopes, I decided to postpone shipping to be able to deliver the kind of package to my backers I’d like to receive myself. A glittery one. One that makes you say “WOW!” (I think I succeeded.)


Having had such an amazing experience with Skillshare, Sarah and I decided to make another Skillshare class. This time, my plan was to explain everything I’ve learned about self-publishing and pass it on to everyone who considers going the independent route. My plan is to share the sort of information I would have loved knowing when I first started. 
Just like last time, I bought fancy flowers and Sarah skillfully rearranged my entire apartment to make the set look visually appealing. 


As part of the shoot, we sent out books to all the backers but the ones in the US and Canada, which I shipped from New York just one week later. I still consider myself incredibly lucky for having so many people supporting all my big and small ventures. Another side effect of my trip to New York was that I was able to spend some more time with the Kickstarter team. While I’m happy working remotely, after having done it for so many months, I’ve learned to appreciate talking to people I work with face to face. 
 

It’s a wrap! February
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February was such an exciting month. After spending a month in my bedroom due to the surgery, I jumped into February head over heels, overflowing with excitement. 


On the 2nd of February, the Kickstarter campaign for My Creative (Side) Business ended successfully and we raised €10.366, which enabled me to pay an editor, an illustrator, and a designer to finalize the book, order the first print run, and cover the shipping costs. 


Given I had so many backers from the US, I immediately booked a flight to ship their books from NYC. (Yay!) It might have been more of a hassle to go to the post office in New York given how difficult it is there (you might remember my experience from last year), but it was cheaper and also more fun, which I think is the main reason why one should do a Kickstarter project. 


As a self-publisher, your job is far from done after you’ve written your book. After we raised the money, it was time to make the most important decisions and actually finalize the print and e-book files. I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the options we had our community vote on, so we continued working on an additional option based on the feedback we received. 


For the cover, I wanted to connect analog and digital even more, so we added #smartcreatives to the title for me to be able to connect with everyone who has read the book and shared about it online. My favorite part of being a self-published author is that I’m able to talk to the people who enjoy reading my titles.


Luckily, Kickstarter and I have decided to extend my contract for another six months. In the past ten months, I focused on reaching out to potential creators, but in the future, I will focus on trying to figure out tools and strategies to increase the success rate in the German-speaking countries, a much more exciting and far more challenging focus of my work efforts.


I have also began talking to the Impact Hub Vienna team about joining them as a social media coordinator, but after joining a couple of their meetings, we mutually decided that it might not be the best fit. I’ve learned in the past that work styles must align; otherwise, a collaboration is almost impossible and given my ability to spend time with the team at their office is very limited, we decided it was best not to explore this opportunity any further. 


There are so many exciting opportunities in this world, and as fun as it would be to take on all of them, we sometimes have to diplomatically say “no” and focus on what we’re able to accomplish. In other words, if something doesn’t give you a good reference, it’s not worth proceeding. And if you don’t have the time to do something properly, it’s most certainly not going to result in the feedback you’d for sure like to receive for your efforts. 


What are you currently working on and who are you working with? Feel free to hit me up on email!