Posts tagged this year will be different
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

The moment you feel it’s time to get a new job
oriontheofficemanager

When I discontinued Kickstarter as a client, I didn’t really know what I’d do afterwards. I had ideas, but nothing was set in stone. I knew I didn’t want to wake up in different beds or on couches as much as I used to. I wanted to spend more time at home and in my own bed. Even though it felt crazy giving up a dream client without having something better lined up, I needed it. It had become hard for me to remember and distinguish people because I dealt with so many, and I often felt overwhelmed and not as friendly as I wanted to be. However, after leaving, (and something I’ve mentioned in my last private newsletter.. if you'd like to receive these, sign up here: http://eepurl.com/bs0iKv), I felt a lot of emptiness. It felt like I had given up what gave me purpose for two years. 

When writing Work Trips and Road Trips, I thought a lot about one's purpose and how as a freelancer, it’s your job to think ahead and make decisions. How it’s important to rethink your status quo every single day. And so there were multiple things I did: 

One of the things was to apply for Teach For Austria. I knew it was something I should do to give back. However, I didn’t pass the assessment center, so this most certainly wasn’t the way ahead. Then, I had a coffee with someone. My friend told me of an available position that truly would've been a dream job and combine all my skills and interests in architecture, media, and technology. It would've been a position as a product and innovation manager at a hotel chain. I built a website to apply, but got a phone call from the recruiter saying they were only open to applicants from within the hospitality sector. Right. I needed to think further about what I’d want to do, so I sat down with a glass of wine and post-its. I wrote down what mattered to me and what skills I’d like to use in my day-to-day. How I’d like my day-to-day be. I once recorded a Skillshare class on this subject. After this exercise, I realized it was time for me to rebrand. I then split the keywords in three different piles and decided to restructure my online presence, which led me to creating another Skillshare class on how to structure your website when you’re a freelancer. 

Now, when I said being a product and innovation manager in the hospitality sector would be a dream job, I had some clues what to do next. I’m currently working on an innovation white paper about hotels and restaurants and building a web presence for a boutique agency with that target group. I’ve also just relaunched this, my personal, website to summarize where I’m coming from. I’d love your feedback and I’d love to hear your story on how you’ve restructured your life and how you changed the direction of where you were headed.

It’s a Wrap! January

New year, new adventures! 

I spent most of January preparing the Kickstarter campaign for Work Trips and Road Trips. It’s already live and you can see it here!

Ewelina, the illustrator I hired to create the collages for #WTART has, once again, done an amazing job! I knew she’s incredible, given she illustrated This Year Will Be Different, but the collages she made of the women I interviewed blew my mind. We’ve also found a designer, so be ready to help us choose a cover for Work Trips and Road Trips! I’ll post about it on this blog and also write a Kickstarter update once we’re ready to share the designs with you!

Before the end of the year, I’ve agreed with Sean, who I work with at Kickstarter, that I’d focus on the fashion category the next three months. As part of this sprint, I’ve attended the Fashion Fairs in Berlin and also Modefabriek in Amsterdam. I’ve hosted an event for fashion designers, which was part of the Embrace Your Hustle series, and I was also fortunate to be able to organize a lunch for fashion journalists.

I wanted to make the lunch really special, so I hired Sophia Hoffmann to host it. She then, being a perfectionist herself, asked the Rag'N'Bone Man team to create the flower arrangements. The event looked beautiful and the food was so tasty! I can only recommend Sophia’s cookbooks. She truly is the vegan queen!

If you’re a fashion designer and are reading this, please get in touch, as I’m currently working closely with designers on launching their Kickstarter campaign!

We’re 68% there. This is what happened this past week.

The average book sells 250 times a year in the US. I am incredibly proud that after less than two weeks since launching this campaign we have already surpassed that number! Thank you to everyone who's pre-ordered their copy of #MCFSB

I’ve sent the manuscript to some incredible people to ask them for feedback and here is what they said about the book:

Paul Jarvis, the creator of the Creative Class said:

"I truly believe side-projects are necessary for all freelancers. Monika does a brilliant job of summing up why as well as how to tackle them in this book!”

Katy Cowan, the Founding Editor of Creative Boom and MD at Boomerang PR described #MCFSB as:

"Packed full of inspiring interviews with women all across the world who have successfully gone freelance or turned their side projects into multiple revenue streams, it’s something even the most established business owner should add to their reading list.”

Sean Blanda, the Editor-in-Chief and Director at 99U said:

“With so much blustery, useless career advice out there #MCFSB is a revelation: actionable practical advice that you can use the moment you put down the book. A must read for those looking to develop their side hustle." 

.. and John Lee Dumas, our favourite Entrepreneur on Fire described #MCFSB as an:

"Excellent read for entrepreneurs who are ready to be challenged to think outside of the box about their businesses and IGNITE." 

All looking good and I am incredibly excited! Yay!

Also, I wanted to thank you. I don’t know who of you is responsible for this but there has been some incredible coverage in various outlets in the past couple of days. If you want to read some more about the process, what I usually do or just want to see who had something nice to say, here are some articles:

#MCFSB has been featured on:

Design Taxi (High Five to whoever is responsible for this)

Creative Boom (The lovely Mark interviewed me for the newly re-designed CB)

AdWeek’s GalleyCat (I shouldn’t check my phone at 6am. I saw this and couldn’t go back to sleep anymore)

The Austrian Gap Magazine (If you prefer to read something in German)

Frau, frei und (The German go-to-page for freelancers)

There has even been a snapshot of the campaign on The Next Web (Woohoo)

I’d love it if we could reach 100% of the funding goal in the next couple of days. Please spread the word. Tell anyone who you believe might benefit from reading #MCFSB or get a second book to give it to them. I have been reaching out to companies to get some vouchers for you to make your everyday life as a freelancer a more pleasant one. I cannot wait to share the goodies that I have collected for all the supporters of the Kickstarter pre-order round. 

#MCFSB: Meet the team and see what we are currently working on

As you can imagine, I could never write a book all by myself. I deeply believe that part of being a professional means you have to find people who have the skills you lack to help you make a product that you’re incredibly proud of.

Last year, when working on This Year Will Be Different: An Insightful Guide to Becoming a Freelancer, I published an ad on Elance and found Diana J. Joiner. The message she sent to me was definitely not one you would send when applying for freelance gigs; it was a message you would send to someone you want to be friends with. We scheduled a Skype call and clicked immediately! 

At the moment, Diana and I have finished editing the book to a stage where we were able to send it to Diana Ovezea to implement the text in the layout. (I’d prefer to call the girls by their first name, but it gets too confusing. Note: Diana’s are amazing to work with.) We prefer to do the last couple of editing rounds in the finished layout to make sure there aren’t any mistakes in the final version. 

Diana Ovezea and I used to study together, however, she was in the graphic design department and we only met once a week during the joined cultural studies classes. Diana is an incredibly hard-working and deep-thinking individual who I’ve always admired for her dedication and wit. I reached out to her to interview her for #TYWBD and during our conversation, she offered to help me with the layout. She didn’t just do a smashing job with the layout, but she also designed the most incredible cover! 

I can’t even tell you how curious and excited I am about her designs for #MCFSB and the cover she’ll create. We’ll ask you soon what cover we should use for the book out of a few options, so please keep an eye out for that update. 

Working with Diana O. is great because she understands what one wants very quickly. (If you ever need a designer, you want to work with her. Trust me!) We’ve chosen the layout and she’s now testing how it works with the fonts she’s chosen and the illustrations that were created by the wonderful Sara Combs.

If you’ve read the contents, then you might have noticed that I interviewed Sara for #MCFSB. So, here’s the story: when I first discussed what kind of illustrations we wanted, Diana O. said we needed a really smart illustrator who would just get it! I couldn’t stop thinking about my conversation with Sara, so I decided to ask her.

Originally, we were thinking about hiring a letterer, which is why I didn’t hire Ewelina a second time (you need to see this girl’s portfolio). However, working with Sara, who specializes in pattern design, felt like a better choice because we wanted to work with someone with an iconic style. If you’ve worked with an illustrator such as Ewelina, it’s hard to find someone else who’s as talented as her, but now, we have Sara!

Sara is currently finishing off all 30 illustrations that you’ll see throughout the book and on the postcards that we’ll send your way too. 

As for me, I’ve been answering messages and requests and reaching out to journalists and bloggers to let them know about this project. If you know a blogger or a journalist you could introduce me to, I’d really appreciate your help. Here is my email address (hello@mkanokova.com) if you decide to make a direct intro.