How a Background in Architecture Led to a Bright Future in Digital Marketing— with Monika Kanokova
Monika Kanokova is a freelance community strategist that bridges the gap between businesses and their customers
Where are you based?
Currently, I feel like I’m mostly “based” on the plane. I work between Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands, so I really feel like I work (hard) anywhere. Right now, I’m sitting in a café in Berlin, however tomorrow morning I’m flying back to Vienna to work at my dining table and if the weather allows, on my balcony.
Why and how did you get into community strategy/digital marketing?
After finishing university, I joined an agency that was trying to set up a division for branded spaces. I got fired after less than three months and needed a plan B. My super lucky plan B turned out to be a job offer from an agency I had been on friendly terms with.
I jumped at the chance head over heels and within just a couple of weeks, I was managing several Facebook pages for international clients. So that’s how it all started.
In the agency business, you have to make long-term plans and approve everything months in advance, so it takes a while until you convince a client that trying out a new platform or a new strategy might make more sense than spending even more money on Facebook ads. I decided to join a startup where I had no budget at all but full creative freedom to experiment with everything that was available at that time. I’ve kept my attitude and curiosity to try out new things, so I’m mostly consulting others on how to communicate with their audience.
How long have you been a freelancer?
I’ve registered my business in November 2014 and I’ve been incredibly lucky with my clients. I work with social businesses and NGOs and I have also started an indie self-publishing business that enables me to hire incredible people and work with them on creative side projects.
“Oh, wow! Someone offers to pay me for my hobby”
What was the moment that made you decide to pursue digital marketing professionally?
I started a blog to collect images that I could then google in my second year of university. Pinterest didn’t exist just yet quite obviously.
An agency found out about my blog and one day, when they were looking for someone to join their team, I happened to be the person that came to their mind.
It wasn’t necessarily that I chose that path. It felt more like that path had chosen me. I thought: “Oh, wow! Someone offers to pay me for my hobby,” and given I hadn’t had any time to look for a job, or even worse, an unpaid internship, which seems common for entry level interior architects, I decided to run with the offer.
Given how new the digital space is, I feel that the social web could do with some more architects keen to get involved and help create structures that bring people together. To me, the way I think about the digital space isn’t that different from how I think about physical spaces. Digital and physical architecture both deal with interpersonal relationships, trying to bridge between people from different backgrounds while respecting their culture.
What’s the toughest challenge you face (or faced) as a freelancer?
When I first started out, I published a guide for creative freelancers. I conducted 23 interviews that, now that I think about it, helped me avoid a lot of the common mistakes many others run into. It feels ridiculous to recommend a book I wrote to you like this, but writing and publishing This Year Will Be Different: An insightful guide to becoming a freelancer has prepared me for just about anything! I really haven’t had any major catastrophes since becoming self-employed.
Any digital community/designer/brand strategist you look up to? Why?
Are you working on any personal projects you’d like share?
I’m currently working on a third guide about work, travel, and taking time off, which will be called Work Trips and Road Trips, and I’ve also launched Travel Story Guides, an open call to hobby writers who want to see their work published (a paid gig!).
I’d really love if some of the readers would check out these two projects and maybe even submit some of their personal short story essays!
What advice would you give a novice in freelancing for the digital community?
To always work on a personal project that demonstrates to others what one would like to be hired for. I’ve given this approach more thought in My Creative (Side) Business, for which I interviewed creatives who turned their hobbies and side projects into full-time creative businesses. Hearing that it’s possible to make money off a passion project made me realize the diverse possibilities the internet has to offer for all of us.
Do you have a favorite workspace outside of home and corporate offices?
I really like to work out of cafés. I love The CoffeeWorks Project in London, Phil in Vienna, St. Oberholz in Berlin, Budin in New York,.. just to name some of my favourite hangout spots.
Tips for Creating a Self-Sustaining Digital Community
I know one thing that many looking into this field wonder is (when you have new members), how do you go from encouraging them to interact in the community, to having them consistently engage on their own? Was this ever a challenge that you had to face and is there a typical process to this?
Yes, I feel like I’m facing that challenge all the time and what I’d recommend to every community manager is this:
- Introduce people to one another who will benefit from knowing each other and learn to be really good at introducing people. Say what’s special about each person you’re introducing and why you think they should meet up in person.
- That said, location matters! being a part of the global community many seem to underestimate that most people only relate or want to relate to people who are local.
- plus, every digital community is fuelled by IRL interactions and so try to facilitate events and meet ups that people benefit from.
Best way to connect: