Author Archives: martin

About martin

Works at Copify

Startup Stories – Natalia Komis – iamsociable/iamadventures

Founder of iamsociable Natalia Komis-2

If you ask an entrepreneur why they decided to start their own business, one of then most common answers is:

“I wanted to do my own thing and create something that I can call my own.”

Natalia Komis, founder of Startups iamsociable and iamadventures is no different.

I caught up with her to talk about the two businesses, how she got them off the ground, and what has helped her along the way.

Q) Can you explain your business model in very simple terms?

A) iamsociable helps individual creatives, or creative entrepreneurs with in business, with marketing, social media, new business and guidance support. We also work with larger companies on offering these in a creative way.

With iamadventures we take artists and creative entrepreneurs on creative adventures all over the world to ignite their creative and help them develop their personal potential. We simply create the trips and open them up for people to apply to come along and be part of it, we have facilitators that are adventure mentors – who have specific skill sets that they can offer to the group.

Q) Can you tell us how the business got started, where did the idea come from?

A) Not knowing what route to take after Art School, I ended up in Marketing whilst still trying to hold on to the art world through collaborations and being part of art collectives. Once I realised I couldn’t juggle both I gave up with the corporate world & started freelancing as an arts producer. Still unhappy & knowing I wanted to start my own thing, I took the leap & launched iamsociable and later iamadventures.

I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do something that I can call my own, I guess I just never knew what. I’d go from one idea to the next without pausing for air and clarity. Being a creative person I seem to come up with ideas easily, but find it difficult to follow them through.

I’d wanted to start my own business and had a general idea for it for a while. But nothing felt right, the timing, the idea itself and I guess I just didn’t feel confident enough to go ahead with it. It came to a point when my relationship was over, I had to move house, I had no secure job and I suddenly had to reassess my situation. And I realised, that I had been running around for everyone else but secretly feeling resentful for it. I wanted to run around for myself! Make me happy and do something that I wanted to do!

After I left my corporate job I’d been travelling to art fairs and running events all over Europe and was the producer and PR manager for the British Section of the Kathmandu Arts Festival in Nepal, where I also ran master classes in arts marketing for the British Council. With this came a whole new outlook on life, an approach to do things that I actually cared about and wanted to do for myself. So, when the opportunity to reassess my situation did come along I was ready to take a risk and try something of my own. I’d been thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago for many years as a personal challenge, a place to let go and be free and allow space and time for new inspiration, so I planned for this whilst also setting up iamsociable.

iamadventures.co.uk

iamadventures.com

iamsociable kicked off slowly but surely and grew with its clients. The main objective? To help creatives in business; help them find and create their dreams through creative marketing and guidance support. Whilst making the preparations for my trip to Spain to walk the Camino I realised that I should be combining my thirst for adventure, inspiration and social change with my guidance support and personal development and offer this combination of services to others. This is where the iamadventures was born. With no back up plan and no extra money I did just that and launched two start-ups in less than 9 months. Now, it has developed into taking artists, entrepreneurs and social innovators on creative adventures all over the world. Offering the chance to be inspired, explore, learn and be guided to reach their personal potential.”

Q) What does your team look like?

A) I am the director of both companies and both companies use a trusted and talented team of freelancers as and when needed, to cut down costs for both the customer and company, but also to make sure we can bring the best of the bunch for each specific project.

Q) How have you funded the business?

A) Through own work and persistence – slowly growing it without taking money from loans or grants.

Q) How did you get from idea to product, was there much project management involved?

A) Sure there was project management involved – but my attitude is get up and do and without that nothing will ever happen. Both businesses are of the type that if you don’t get out there doing then nothing will ever happen. It’s more about spreading the word at the beginning as much as it is about having the skills and offers in place.

Q) How much competition is there in your space? How do you stand out?

A) There’s plenty of competition, but the difference is that we’re a bunch of young creative talent, working for and with other creatives. We do it for the love of it, rather than the money aspect. Everything is intertwined and equally important.

iamsociable

Q) What does your typical customer look like?

A) For iamsociable they may be a creative who wants to really start focusing on their practice and make a living from this (an artist, writer, musician, photographer etc) or they may be a creative start-up/company that needs that extra hand, that don’t want to hire someone full time but need and want someone to take over certain tasks – the marketing, social media or even new business.

For iamadventures, it’s slightly different – it’s again a creative person, or someone who wants to explore their creative practice and get out in the world – away from their normal not so exciting every day lives and do something different to re-energise them.

Q) What have been your major hurdles when starting up, how have you overcome them?

A) Money of course is always a major hurdle when starting up, however I think for me, it’s been trying to do everything at once and on my own and as soon as I realised that and accepted that I couldn’t life got much easier.

Q) Are there any services or tools that you can recommend for startups who need help with getting stuff done?

A) I’ve been part of the School for Creative Startups – that’s great for fresh creatives needing more direction and Doug Richard’s book is helpful too. As is UKTI and their Sirius program (that’s for those who live abroad or who are starting up a company with non UK citizens).

escapethecity.org

escapethecity.org

Q) What customer recruitment channels are you using, and which are the most effective in terms of conversion?

A) I use Escape the City and Ideas Tap, as well as Twitter a lot. These are all great for the types of people I’m looking to recruit. However, Cahootify is a great place to find freelancers and new projects that are happening also.

Q) What are your long-term plans for the business?

A) Long term there will be plenty more people involved on a larger scale all over the world. iamadventures will have specific mentors for different trips and iamsociable will have a good team of freelancers who can take over specific projects longer term.

Meet the copywriter – Iain Houten

This week we talk to Iain Houten about his journey from nursing to copywriting, and why there is no place for writer’s block in the modern agency. 13801

Q) Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into copywriting?

A) I trained as a nurse (badly) before realising it wasn’t for me a decade ago. After managing betting offices for four years, I then went back to university to undertake an English Literature degree. I’ve been working as a writer in London during the 18 months since graduating.

Q) What does a typical day look like for you?

A) At the moment I don’t have typical days, which will be explained in the next question.

Q) Do you have a full-time job, or are you freelance?

A) After working as a freelancer during my first 11 months in London, generally as an untrained stenographer – or ‘logger’ – in medical fitness to practice hearings, I got a job as a full-time staff writer with a creative web agency, writing about sports betting for most of the big bookmakers’ news sites.

Unfortunately, due to some of the company’s contracts coming back and forth, I was taken off staff and brought back as a four-day freelancer after six months. I fill any free days with logger shifts and/or copywriting.

Q) How do you get over writer’s block?

A) At the creative web agency, there’s no such thing as writer’s block – you get through your work or you’re out. It wouldn’t even occur to me to stop writing, because I have to pay my rent.

When it comes to personal projects – such as my blog, the book I’m working on and Copify – escaping writer’s block is somewhat more difficult. The best way I’ve found of counteracting is to write down big questions and try to answer them, such as ‘Why is the Scottish Independence campaign in such chaos?’ or ‘What is going on at Liverpool football club?’ I find this helps.

Q) What do you like about copywriting?

A) I did some copywriting work for a communications agency in Kentish Town last year and found it was a useful way to supplement my income, as well as good practice. Now, after producing five/six 350-word articles per day for six months, turning around content is relatively straightforward.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 12.10.40 pm

Iain’s dream client – The Economist

Q) What frustrates you about copywriting?

A) The money’s poor, but that’s a given and I signed up to Copify with my eyes wide open. However, I do get frustrated when I log in and there’s nothing but assignments on ecommerce etc. That’s not really my bag, to be honest.

Q) What tools do you use every day to get the job done?

A) For travel articles in particular, Wikipedia is a great starting point. The BBC website is a fantastic, authoritative source of information. When writing about sport in my ‘day job’, I use sites such as Racing Post (and their Soccerbase), Planet Rugby, WhoScored? and Newsnow.

Q) Content mills – necessary evil or just plain evil?!

A) Well, they work for me. As I’ve already stated, the money is poor but I signed up to Copify with my eyes wide open and not at gunpoint.

You get through your work or you’re out. It wouldn’t even occur to me to stop writing, because I have to pay my rent.

Q) How much do you know about SEO? How does it impact on how you write?

A) From writing with a creative web agency, I know plenty about search engine optimisation and what the likes of Google picks up and passes by. I can’t say I give SEO as much attention regarding Copify pieces, as many of the searchable terms in the content are provided by the client. I just make sure they are in there.

Q) Who would be your dream client to write copy for?

A) It is a dream and you’ve got to have them. The Economist.

right-said-fred-5075f5c7df6a3

 

Q) Who are your copywriting role models?

A) Ian Write, the Write brothers and Write Said Fred.

Startup Stories – Eclectic Enchantments

Most businesses start a blog after they launch, to promote their products and service, and engage  with their target audience.

Erika Holt

Erika Holt

Erika Holt of Eclectic Enchantments has done it the other way around. What started off as a blog for her to write about her passion (jewellery) has gradually turned into a business, as more and more of her readers requested handmade pieces from her.

In the latest of our Startup Stories, I caught up with Erika to talk about her journey from blogger to businesswoman.

Q) Can you tell us how the business got started, where did the idea come from?

A) I was forced to give up work through ill health some years ago and was terribly bored being housebound. It was suggested to me that as I have a love of making things, I should try jewellery making.

So, I gave it a go and quickly became hooked. I only made for me and my mum though.

Then, I decided to give myself a make over to build my confidence and help me see more of life than just my illness, which lead onto me starting my own blog, another of my passions being writing.

From there people started to comment on the jewellery I had made and started to ask me if I sold it.  Eventually I was encouraged about a month ago to take the plunge and open an online shop.

Q) What does your team look like?

A) My team is just me!

Q) How have you funded the business?

A) With my own money. It didn’t cost me too much to move from a hobby to business. I already had a website for my blog by the time my business started, so my outlay was relatively small.

Q) How did you get from idea to product, was there much project management involved? 

A) I try my best to record new ideas in my sketch book, making noted about specific gemstones, crystals, metals I want to work with, then I make my first attempt. Sometimes it comes out great and others I end up reevaluating the process I was using.

Every so often though, mistakes lead to fantastic new ideas!

One of Erika's creations

One of Erika’s creations

Q) How much competition is there in your space? How do you stand out? 

A) There is a tremendous amount of competition for jewellery based businesses, from small businesses like mine, to larger industrial made jewellery businesses. I feel that I stand out from the crowd as my jewellery is completely unique. I handcraft everything and no two pieces are the same. I use natural gemstones and a lot of my work is wire based, this means my work is very free form and different to what you might find on the high street. I take enormous pride in my jewellery and like to make sure that everything is just right.

Q) What does your typical customer look like?

A) My typical customer is really hard to pin down. With jewellery being such a universal accessory and my pieces being as unique as the people who buy them, it would be wrong to say any one type of person would be drawn to my work.

Q) What have been your major hurdles when starting up, how have you overcome them?

A) My illness is definitely the biggest hurdle. I don’t know from one day to the next how I will feel, so I have found I need to try and plan ahead, having stock in place and any relevant promotional work done and ready for those days where I can’t do anything.

Confidence is another big road bump. I have suffered terribly with a lack of it and realised I need to believe more in myself. I think that a crisis of confidence is most likely quite normal, but when you are working alone, you have to rely on yourself to keep up morale. Luckily I have a wonderful network of family and friends that support and encourage me, however the biggest confidence boost has been feedback from my customers.

Eclectic Enchantments

Eclectic Enchantments

Q) Are there any services or tools that you can recommend for startups who need help with getting stuff done?

A) Have a system in place before you start, plan out every little detail. I spent months before even setting the business up, planning and organising how I would make it work. What filing system would I use? How would I promote it? What are my legal obligations? Do I need insurance, to pay tax, register to VAT? I asked myself as many questions as I could and answered them.

As to services, if you are starting an online business, find a good webhost, someone you can contact at the drop of a hat, that knows about the type of site you want to have and could help with any problems that might arise. Mine have been invaluable.

Q) What customer recruitment channels are you using, and which are the most effective in terms of conversion?

A) I think first and foremost my blog has provided me with the greatest way to connect to people who are interested in my jewellery. The next most effective way has to be Twitter. It seems that everyone is using Twitter now and it is such a simple way to connect with people, in a concise and articulate way.

Q) What are your long-term plans for the business?

A) My long term plans are to connect with more people and introduce them to my jewellery. I have been told that when I am working I have a smile on my face, so long as I can keep doing that, I will be happy.

Meet the copywriter – Paul Philbin

This week we talk to Liverpudlian writer Paul Philbin about night-time writing, SEO copy and the evils of daytime telly!  DSCF0040r

Q) How did you get into copywriting?

A) 20 years ago, I was told I had to give up working on building sites due to a progressive wasting disease in my spine. I was foolish enough to ignore this advice for a while but soon found out the hard way that surgeons actually know a thing or two.

A change of career was needed and I enrolled myself into the University of Liverpool to study creative writing.

Degrees are pretty useless to someone who spends most of their time at home, and I struggled at first to find a channel for my new found creativity.

Then I discovered the world of copywriting.

Q) What does a typical day look like for you?

A) Dark is the easy answer here. After many months of trying to find the right daytime formula to be at my most creative, I discovered that night-time was the best option.

There are no kids playing football in the street, nobody knocking to sell me useless household products and best of all – the phone never rings.

The biggest plus for me of using content mills is the diversity of jobs on offer….these sites are a great way of keeping yourself sharp, and in tune with the current trend of copy in demand.

Q) How do you get over writer’s block?

A) To be honest I think this is a myth – or an excuse for a day off.

I think inspiration can be found anywhere, and… erm… erm……. ah well never mind.

Q) Do you have a full-time job, or are you freelance?

A) Yes! Freelancing is my only source of income, but one of the drawbacks to night writing is having to become the Cook, Cleaner and Child Picker-upper, while everyone else is at work.

This also helps you to realise that day time TV is the Devil.

Being a freelancer means resisting the temptation to watch Bargain Hunt

Freelancers must resist the urge to watch Bargain Hunt

Q) What do you like about copywriting?

A) I enjoy the challenge of finding new angles to be creative.

The diversity of projects on offer is staggering and each one brings with it an opportunity to blow the client, or audience away.

Achieving blow-ability every time is demanding. This is a great motivator and a source of self satisfaction when you get there.

Q) What frustrates you about copywriting?

A) Clients who value keywords over content.

Stifled creativity syndrome is the bane of my life.

Q) What tools do you use everyday to get the job done?

A) Good coffee and great music are my weapons of choice.

Trying to write without background music, would be like having a T-bone steak without first opening a bottle of Merlot.

The coffee is essential – especially for night watchmen like myself. Anything instant would be sacrilege.

Q) Content mills – necessary evil or just plain evil?

A) The biggest plus for me of using content mills is the diversity of jobs on offer. Pay per word rates are not always as important as honing your skills and these sites are a great way of keeping yourself sharp, and in tune with the current trend of copy in demand.

Q) How much do you know about SEO? How does it impact on how you write?

A) This ever changing beast has to be considered in almost everything I write, but many clients make the mistake of using it in the wrong way.

I believe the most effective SEO is in the long game. Regular quality content is far more valuable than quick fixing someone’s ranking, and will keep you near the top for much longer.

Q) Who would be your dream client to write copy for?

A) Anyone with a great idea – and a blank canvas.

Claude Hopkins

Claude Hopkins

 

Q) Who are your copywriting role models?

A) Claude Hopkins – David Ogilvy – John Carlton.

Modern day choice would have to be the Copyblogger tribe. Awesome.