Living in Vienna for a week

With love and gratitude for Illia

So my good friend lives in Vienna. I was planning to go visit him for ages. And being back from China for two months, felt like as good a reason as any to finally make it happen.

Strangely enough, with EU across the street from Ukraine, it was my first fully-fledged European experience. And the plan was to see if I want to live there and if I’d feel at least kind of in the right place. As you can see, unlike my trips to the USA and China, I decided to do some scouting first.

I booked the plane tickets, synced up our schedules, got hyped, and got going.

It was my first trip this far where no one took care of all the transfers for me. So I had to pull myself together, turn on my attentive side and take on responsibility for not getting lost in the big world where you take care of yourself.

Before actually embarking on a journey, getting there looked like a big undertaking. Too many moving pieces and things that needed to work out exactly as planned. The train, the express to the airport that constantly breaks down, the airlines that wanted my backpack to be smaller than 40x20x30cm, the plane, the bus which leaves an hour after the plane lands. But step by step it just worked.

Looks like it was meant to be. But also, it appears that traveling isn’t rocket science after all.

Being thankful and relieved as I am for the fact that the road went exactly as planned, the thing that impressed me most was passing the customs in Bratislava as easily. It really felt as if I’m a worthy citizen. And not just of Ukraine but of the world. When you don’t need to go through lengthy checks and no one questions your reasons for coming or the fact that you have money (I’m looking at you USA), you really feel like a decent human being with rights, not just responsibilities.

Long story short, at exactly 00:40 my bus arrived and I made it to Vienna, Austria. My friend was waiting for me at the bus stop which was a huge relief since my roaming internet didn’t work and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find his dorm myself. We hugged it out and the exploration of Vienna began with a 15-minute stroll of a rural area of the city.

And here are the most important things I felt about Vienna after living and working there remotely for a week.


Of course, a week is nothing. And yes, my way of blending in by means of working full-time from my friend’s dorm room isn’t equal to actually living in Vienna. But I think I managed to bring it as close as I could to feeling as if I relocated there. And the thing I liked most about Vienna were its people.

It feels like the city isn’t in a hurry. Like the people just live, without the neverending rush, without the ever-present hectic run towards the paycheck. The number of clear, intellectual and calm faces even in the subway was off the charts. And it may be just the impression I got, but it felt like in Vienna there’s no judgment of those who are just looking for themselves, who haven’t got life figured out.

I felt like no one actually cared about one’s profession or great deeds in something not important (like marketing). I felt that the people are far more focused on your intellectual and cultural capabilities rather than the particular area you apply them in.

I wasn’t able to let go of my cemented but unnatural values in the short week I’ve spent there. But I did see how liberating it may be – to not be defined by your choice of a career. First and foremost when it comes to not pushing yourself and beating yourself up for not being the best at something you don’t care about.


I’m not that big of a fan of architecture and landmarks. I feel like all the old cities are pretty much just a rearranged version of something you saw before in another old city. And even though Vienna is clean and can boast quite a few nice buildings, I didn’t pay that much attention to them separately. At the same time, they did give a strong feeling of a wholesome ensemble conveying stability and, you know, calmness. The city growing and modernizing yet staying true to its original style.

Overall, the feeling you get from Vienna is what you’d imagine the old Europe to be in the 21st century. Leftist students demanding more liberal laws (not knowing what exactly they are unhappy with),  grownups feeling safe (being calm and sure about their future), people enjoying the culture that survived centuries and isn’t going anywhere, a ton of expats really trying to blend in and live happily and thankfully to the country that took them.


As I was saying, I didn’t feel that people in Vienna are as obsessed with the productivity bullshit we often become slaves to. When you can afford to live a decent life working 20 hours a week and you don’t feel like upgrading your car is something that will strengthen your social standing, you can kind of let go.

I had a few chances to observe the students who can easily be considered grownups in my world and it felt like they just aren’t in that much hurry to become adults. Yes, they study hard, at least some of them, but they don’t give away the last 2-3 years of youth to work more hours than they need to afford the life that they want.


Whew, the prices in Vienna, my, oh, my. You better stop converting them to your local currency in your head right from the start.

But you look around and see where all this money goes to. All the infrastructure, all the things that wouldn’t be free back home, the quality of life and the onwards and upwards trajectory of the country. It all costs money. So I guess paying enormous taxes and getting coffee for € 5 may not suck as much when you live in such a great place.

How cool was coming back home and what it means

I spent the week in Vienna with one of my closest friends. We had a great time talking, eating, playing games, drinking, exploring the city, and soaking in Therme Wien. I loved pretty much all the aspects of the city and culture I got to see. Despite all that, coming home still felt great.

Travelling is awesome. Meeting new people, exploring new cultures, pushing your limits – you should do all that. But it feels so much better when you have somewhere to come back to.

Making drastic changes in life

I recently saw a big flaw in my attitude towards big life decisions. Once again.

I used to think that the jobs I had were the defining parts of my life in which I should find the reason for being. And I just didn’t get why I wasn’t happy, why none of them gave me full satisfaction and the feeling of living the complete life I felt I could have. Only after a long search, I started seeing that even though our profession is the go-to response to the identity questions, that’s not really a good answer. Because saying “I’m a marketer” is a huge understatement of who and what you are.

And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t work hard whatever we do.  Because we should. But at the same time, our generation has the most freedom to do whatever the fuck we want at any given moment. And we should use this freedom. At least till we turn into family people and get limited by commitments and responsibilities to the point where we can’t just flip everything off and try something radically new.

At the same time, I’m all for taking on responsibilities in general. But only the ones that make you more whole and happy in return, not blindly grabbing all those the society says you should have at your age. Because the standards change. And if 40 is the new 30, then 25 is the new 15.

One of the big reasons for my depression was the fact that I didn’t see any substantial meaning in being a marketer and in devoting the whole of myself to it. I felt that there’s so much more happening on the inside that wasn’t utilized by simply doing my job as good as I could. But I would stubbornly concentrate all my energy on work, neglecting relationships, friendships and all the other things I was lucky enough to have. Even though I was physically there for the people I loved, I kept thinking about work, constantly digging a deeper hole of insufficient meaning for myself.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of meaning in honest work, in growing, in becoming the best possible professional version of you. But this doesn’t require all the immense energy sources your body and mind are producing for love, socialization, creativity, etc.

I learned it the hard way.

A couple of months ago I thought that marketing as a profession wasn’t fulfilling for me, even though on paper it’s kind if the perfect fit. So I put that career on hold and decided to go to China to become a coach. I always thought that coaching is kind of cool, so my logic at the time could be condensed to “why not, I’m unhappy anyway”. And so, feeling courageous and slightly judged for irresponsibility, I came to China.

Imagine my shock and despair when after a month in a completely new culture, with a completely new social circle and a completely new career I felt the same things I felt at all my previous jobs. Unfulfillment, boredom.

I clearly saw that yeah, I can do this, and yeah, I can be successful in it. But what’s the point? Where does this path bring me? Is it the best way to use up my time? Do I feel that my life is or will be meaningful here, far from all the loved ones?

I’ll level with you, I got really scared for a little while. I felt that this was just the way I am: unhappy, emptied and burned out. And the only choices I saw were:

1. To force myself to do something I saw no point whatsoever in doing.

2. To live in constant stress of getting used to new challenges.

And then it struck me. What if the meaning of life isn’t only in work? What if the spheres I neglected are just as (if not more) important than getting to the top of a corporate ladder?

You probably think that this was also the moment I felt sorry for going to China and for changing everything in my life so drastically and so quickly.

Well, not really.

I felt good. I felt relaxed. All the resources I poured into this trip were justified that very second since I’m not sure I would have realized the same things have I kept on going down my old path.

Catch my drift?  Would I have stayed, I would’ve been miserable for who knows how much longer. Which brings me to the main point I want to make in this text.

Even when you’re young it’s very easy to settle down and get used to stuff. A job that pays well, a city you don’t like that much, okay people. It’s easy to start telling yourself one or several points of the following:

  • If I change everything it can get worse
  • It’s just a normal life
  • Many people are far less happy
  • Many people live like this so that’s fine
  • I have invested a ton of time into this so I can’t quit

For some people, it works. But I also know for a fact that many people like me try to convince themselves that everything’s fine but don’t believe it.

And guess what it means.

It means that you’re not in the right place. It means that you can and should look for a way out, for a drastic change, for a new route to take. It means that all the reasons listed above that feel like concrete walls you can’t break – are just in your head.

If your being asks for change, it will get it. No matter how much you struggle to fight it, you can’t win in a fight against yourself. Some part of you loses either way. So why not trust yourself and at least consider the way your subconscious hints you at.

I think it’s worth completely changing surroundings when you feel stuck. When you find yourself in a new place with people you just met and doing stuff you’re not that good at, some survival mechanisms kick in and you start growing like crazy. And in this pumped up adrenaline-filled state, you have a decent chance to jump over several steps on a ladder which you were trying to conquer for years before that.

The truth is that some people never find ecstatic happiness. Some people do just live okay lives in okay cities with okay people. And for some people it’s fine. But imagine how sorry you’ll feel if you don’t try and see if you happen to be one of the lucky ones.

What if your fulfilled life was around the corner and you decided that the job you don’t like that much pays well for now?

You know what’s the scariest thing that can happen really if you find the strength to do what you want?

I will tell you cause it happened to me. You will start over. That easy. But this time with the new insights you gained, new experiences you had, and a ton of stories to tell.

What I learned my first 2 weeks in China

It’s been slightly over 2 weeks since I’m in the People’s Republic of China. I’ll share some of the things I would have wanted to know before coming here.


  1. There are literal millions of places to eat, ranging from pompous restaurants to ugly dirty holes in the windows and scooters with boxes of food on top of them. The rule of thumb generally is to try and eat in the places with the most locals. And even there it feels like a lottery on whether or not you’ll get sick. Often it’s a place you’d never eat in if you were just listening to your understanding of hygiene, but it’s accepted that the food there is okay. And even though there’s plenty of places to go to and you can find some food at every corner, you just risk less when you eat at the same places as the Chinese.
  2. As I’m not a big fan of eating in dirty places, no matter how authentic they are. And for a while, I didn’t have a kitchen to cook for myself. So the choice kind of boiled down to eating at international chains like McDonald’s, getting ready-made meals at stores or just getting by on bananas and dairy products. That sucks. Make sure that you do have a kitchen ASAP if you’re moving here.
  3. There’s drastically less meat than we’re used to in everything. If feels like you’re punishing your body for something by eating carbs all the time. Noodles, rice, sauces, some weird stuff you can’t identify. And the weird thing is that you get used to the carbs so you keep on eating them which isn’t all that good for you. So you better start cooking for yourself soon.
  4. If you’ve eaten Chinese food before, you won’t get shocked or really even surprised by the food here. It’s the Chinese cuisine you know. And pretty soon you’ll get tired of it. Try eating Chinese for a couple of days straight where you live. It gets old really quick, it’s not for everyone.
  5. It’s rather cheap to eat out but it’s still even cheaper to cook for yourself. Don’t worry you won’t be missing anything groundbreaking from the local chefs.


  1. Beijing is the capital, so generally, people are here to make money. Everyone’s in a hurry, on bikes, on cars, or bicycles, on foot, you name it.
  2. People don’t really lift their heads from their phones. They may be driving a school bus or crossing an extremely busy road, it doesn’t matter. They are always on the phone. Playing stupid games, watching tv shows with full volume on in a public place, they don’t care. The phone here really became a part of the body. Without a phone and internet connection you’re lost, without any money, means to contact anyone, without directions, transport, translator, etc.
  3. People don’t speak English. Very-very rarely can you find someone who’ll understand the very simplified sentences. Of course, there are people who have great English, but they are so rare that you’ll feel almost like they don’t exist at all. But then again, if you’re coming to a sphere like IT, it’ll probably be okay.
  4. People are very open to communication and some will want to take pictures with you. Kids will look at you in wonder. It’s fun.
  5. People sleep wherever and whenever they feel like it. When we have a lunch break, Chinese coaches just lay down and sleep for a solid hour on a football field with people running around and yelling. I have no idea how they do it.


  1. Be ready that the second you put in a Chinese sim card into your phone it will get significantly slower. I don’t know why that’s just how it is.
  2. There are cameras everywhere. Literally, no matter where you stand, if you look around, you’ll be able to find at least one camera. On the one hand, it makes you feel safe and you can be rather relaxed even in crowded places like subway, but on the other hand it’s very “black mirrory” and shows us exactly where the whole civilization is headed in terms of mass surveillance.
  3. UX, UI and user flows in apps and in other digital products are very different and unintuitive if you’re used to the way they do it in the West.
  4. The vast majority of vitally important online products and services aren’t localized for English speaking users.
  5. Beijing is extremely digitalized. Even the smallest stores and business owners prefer to get paid through WeChat and each has their own QR code printed out and ready to be used. And it really does make life much easier. At the same time, if something happens to the phones or the electricity in a big city, it will be paralyzed.


  1. I’m no scientist and it’s hard for me to gauge how bad the air here is, but it’s obvious that even on sunny days with a clear sky, you can see that the skyscrapers in the city center are kind of in a fog. It’s not that dense, but it’s definitely there and you’re breathing it. At the same time, relatively few people wear face masks. I hear they don’t help all the much, so maybe that’s the reason.
  2. There are many parks and the air there is much better, at least it feels like it. Overall, I expected Beijing to have fewer trees while in reality, you can tell that the authorities make an effort to have more things producing oxygen.


  1. People are friendly and ready to help. But the problem is that the language barrier happens to be too high to ignore it. So you may try and try to explain something simple using your body and hands but it just isn’t enough. But then you can always turn to a translator app on your phone and it will all be all right. There’s even something comforting and humbling in surfing through millions of people, who are not just complete strangers but even won’t understand you if you use your communication instruments.
  2. If you meet someone who looks white or hear your native tongue somewhere in the crowd, it’s completely normal to come closer and meet the new people. Honestly, in 2 weeks here, I’ve met 10 times as many new cool people as I did in the last several years in Ukraine. Meeting Europeans or Americans or Mexicans, you instantly feel like they’re a member of your social group and it’s a pleasure to talk proper English or Russian. I have even met a guy from Ivano Frankivsk with whom I can speak Ukrainian. It’s extremely heartwarming when you’re that far from home.


  1. Beijing subway is very intuitive and developed, so even if it’s your first big city, you will be able to find your way from one station to another. The signs with directions are everywhere and if you have your phone with the map in your hand at all times you may even feel relaxed there. Even though the subway is really fast, it still takes a ton of time to get anywhere.
  2. There are thousands of bikes for rent laying around the public spots. You unlock them through, (once again) your WeChat and go anywhere you want. It’s really cheap and given that your destination might be an hour walk from the subway, they are extremely helpful. It feels though as if the rules don’t apply to people on bikes and bicycles. They can be riding in the middle of a highway, on the sidewalk, in the bike lane. So you got to always be aware of the possibility of some biker looking in their phone, driving directly at you and not paying any attention.
  3. People who know they are settling in Beijing get themselves electric bikes that for now don’t require a driver’s license. At the same time, you can go up to 70km on a fully charged battery and that’s more than enough for a regular working day. I’m not sure what they do in winter though.
  4. I haven’t had a chance to ride on a bus here yet, but they should also be just fine. Just like buses in any other developed country.
  5. If you’re going somewhere and can split a cab ride, it will be really cheap, but keep in mind that distances here can get out of hand, so make sure to ask or check the price beforehand.

The Regime

  1. You really feel that big brother is watching you at all times. And as long as you know that you operate in the legal field it’s fine. But if the authorities do want to find you or learn more about you for some reason, they have access to all the possible information. They know where you eat, where you sleep, what subway stations you enter and exit, where you work and who you’re talking to.
  2. Communist propaganda isn’t too aggressive here. You can see a red flag or some Soviet attributes here and there, but it doesn’t really catch the eye. The reason being that at the same time you’re surrounded by an immense spectacle showcasing all the capitalistic achievements of the world.
  3. From what I hear, to the government, Chinese people come first. So if a foreigner gets in a fight or even touches a local in a wrong way, they will be found guilty. And there are examples of people who spend time in prison for a minor misbehavior not even getting a chance to be deported. So that’s that. That’s why you want to avoid any kind of drama and conflicts here.

Final thoughts

Even though I don’t like big cities and love Ukraine, I really like it here. From the first day, it felt right and interesting. Spending some time here is definitely a perspective-shifting experience that will stick with you for a long long time, if not for life. But be ready to face at the same time a very different and very similar reality. Completely digital yet very personal, hectic but relaxed.

Why I left everything and went to work in China

I went to work to China to work as a coach to feel alive again. To experience new culture and look at my life from the farthest spot possible and reevaluate the things it consists of. I went to China to escape the office work that had me sitting on my ass for the bigger part of my life, talking to pretend specialists about the things no one cared about.

I know people who would do this kind of work gladly and just get paid for making a serious face and pretending to listen during meetings. And that’s fine. I totally get that. It’s just that for me, at the age of 18-23 it was soul crushing. And not that much because of the work itself, but because I tried to find the reason to live in it and in its fruits.  

It’s hard for me to write about where is all started for some reason. I know all the reasons perfectly well, but I’m kind of tired thinking about them.

Nonetheless, several months ago I finally figured out that my job and my relationships weren’t right for me at that time. Even though everything was objectively going fie, I was really unhappy. Truth be told, the main reason for it was me. It was my forth year working in marketing and over the years I kept getting more stressed out, critical of myself and unhappy. Even though I had some amazing work opportunities and climbed the career ladder rather fast, I wasn’t enjoying it.

I won’t get too deep into all of the reasons for that, that’s for me and my shrink to discuss, but in a nutshell, I wasn’t able to just come in and do my job halfassedly. I had to deliver, I had to always prove something to everyone. I had to push myself to the verge rather than just work and do a decent job of it. I had some great bosses, some coworkers became my good friends, and my fiancee at the time was an extremely kind and the sweet person.

For now, sounds like I’m just humble bragging, right?

Well, I’m not. Because for three years or more, I was very, very depressed. I limited MYSELF and stopped meeting new people, I became reserved and bitter, I had an awfully hard time getting out of bed every morning and none of the things I did or had were making me happy. I felt royally ungrateful and pressured myself into feeling even worth for not being happier. Not a good strategy, FYI.

At some point, having gained 17 kilos I didn’t need, having developed mild health issues, having made everyone around me significantly less happy just by being miserable myself, I saw that something was wrong in my life and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Because if I did and kept on going the same route I was going, I’d become the type of person I dreaded becoming most. Namely, someone who’s given up, who accepted the status quo, who doesn’t care about neither their close ones nor themselves. Someone who stopped in every sense of the word and turned from a promising kid into a disappointing grown up.

The thing is that what society accepts as doing good isn’t always what you need. You may want a family and a career at some point. But if you’re not happy pursuing that now, why do it?

I’m being longwinded, I know. But I want to give anyone reading some context and possibly show them that there are ways to fix the awful state of a long-long depression. And it doesn’t necessarily mean working in China. It’s about believing that it can get better and therefore finding the strength to fix the things that are out of place.

Because speaking from experience, I didn’t think it I would ever get better. I was dead sure that this half living state was forever, that it was just the way I was and nothing could be done. So whenever anyone told me that I will feel better at some point, I was just getting more and more angry at the world that didn’t see the effort I put into daily functioning and how much it worth me.

I know that there are many of us out there who maintain decent social lives, look good on social media, build careers and stay in relationships at the same time feeling absolutely devastated. I’ve been there and it’s awful.

So, to cut a long story short, after I broke up with my fiancee and put most of my marketing projects on hold, I already felt significantly better. But now I needed some proof of concept to show me that my newly gained freedom is really something I imagined it would be. That’s why I googled around and found an agency that would help me find a job in China (doing whatever, I didn’t care all that much).

I wasn’t specifically keen on going to China. It’s not like I dreamt about working there or even visiting for years. I just thought about the biggest change of surroundings I could make, that biggest shift I can make in the shortest period of time. And China seemed like a far better spot than the stuffy old Europe.

For some reason, on every step of the way, when the perspective to go to China was getting more and more real, I wasn’t anxious or stressed out. I just chilled, saw the girl I really-really liked and finally felt relaxed and calm. It was so unlike me that every so often I’d snap out of it and ask myself why I wasn’t panicking. But this new happy state of being was so unbelievable and refreshing for me that I just kept on living.

The 2 month of preparation, while extremely packed with events and emotions, were the calmest times I’ve lived since I was probably 13. I just knew that I was doing the right things in my life on a bigger scale. I felt like I moved the huge pieces that were holding me back, so everything else started falling in the right places automatically.

As I was saying, I felt skeptical about this trip working out. On each and every step something could go wrong and I wouldn’t be able go. But at first the agency found the company where I’d work, then I passed all the interviews successfully, then the documents started moving between cities and all the to-dos required were just happening. Strangely enough, me not stressing out didn’t make this whole venture harder to happen. On the contrary, I just showed up, did what I had to do, everyone else did their part and it all kind of happened.

Because going to China to work isn’t rocket science, despite what it looks like from inside the box. It just takes one person willing to come and a couple of other people willing to give them work. That’s it. The bureaucracy and papers may be messy. But overall, it’s very doable.  

Only while I was flying over Beijing, it struck me that all this is really happening. That I just decided I wanted it, did all the needed steps and here I was, looking at this amazingly huge entity from the sky, with 21.7 million people sleeping right below me. For several minutes I was overwhelmed by the fears I used to live in. The ones that try to block you and rob of any joy you might feel.

But then, they faded away. And you know why? Because in the last months I learned that even if something in China will be making me unhappy, that’s not a problem. I will either fix it or change it. I learned that leaving in fear of being unhappy in the future limits you incredibly in terms of the choices you have today. And even if you are unhappy because of the choices you made in the past, it’s not that big of a deal. Take new conditions into considerations, work out a new acceptable plan and stick to it. If the plan doesn’t work – adapt.  If you fail at something, don’t give up and try again.

I artificially limited myself for several years. And I know that a ton of people in their twenties do to. That’s no way to live your life. You can and should be happy. It’s not something only the chosen ones are worthy of. You just have to try. And of course there can be tough moments. Deal with them and move on. I promise you, it feels so much better to feel alive than to feel unrealized but secure.

11 Cooperation Rules for Designers and Content Marketers

Over the years I’ve had quite a few projects where as a marketer I needed to communicate with design teams directly. Sometimes it worked like a charm and the result outperformed our expectations. But often there were issues. We still delivered, but it was more stressful than it should have been.

There were miscommunications and problems that could be easily avoided had we known how to work with each other the right way. That’s exactly why I decided to put together a list of best practices that will help streamline cooperation between marketing and design teams.

What kind of tasks marketers and designers have in common

First, it’s worth mentioning what tasks do marketers and designers work on together. Arguably, marketers cooperate with designers far more than with any other specialists. Simply put, whenever a company needs any kind of creative output, the two departments collide. And here are just some of the work types in which designers and marketers tightly depend on each other:

  • Landing pages
  • Blog content visuals
  • Infographics
  • Competitor research
  • Company presentations
  • Banners for promo campaigns
  • Production of new products

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Whenever there’s a need for high-quality branded content, marketers need design help to make it the best version possible. And whenever a company needs to design a new entity, it’s crucial to evaluate it from a marketing perspective.

One can even go as far as to say that if you want creative work to perform best in the cut-throat environment of today’s web, you need to have designers and marketers put the right and left sides of their brains together.

The 11 rules to follow for efficient design-marketing cooperation

As I was saying, marketers and designers think a bit differently, so there can be massive miscommunications along the way. Below are the rules that I distilled for myself in the last 3 years. These rules proved to make the work easier and more enjoyable for both sides. And this kind of work always brings better results.

1. Use their language

Naturally, marketers are more used to verbally expressing their thoughts and requirements. And designers tend to gravitate towards visual examples and analogies. And this difference can be used to greatly benefit the product they are working on. But first, you need to understand that in order to be heard by your partner you need to try and use their communication toolset.

So if you’re a marketer putting together page requirements for a designer, don’t just practice your skill of writing, look for examples that you like, solutions that can be used for inspiration and anything that can visually show, what is it you’d like to them to make. This is especially good since you don’t necessarily need to gear up on all the design terminology. If you just show them an example of what you like, the designer will know loose leading from tight leading when they see it and you might not.

And if you’re a designer, try to explain your thoughts with words and be patient with us when we ask many questions and request clarifications.

2.Specific requirements and feedback

Both marketers and designers, when creating tasks for one another need to do their best at extracting all their expectations and hopes for the end result and putting them into specs. And when a task is completed, don’t be shy and provide as much real feedback as you can. The perspective of a specialist on the other side of a spectrum helps us look at a problem differently and often results in unexpected benefits for the company.

3. When possible, start with content

This one is controversial, but I’m a strong believer that when creating a website page, or basically any other branded entity, it’s better to start with the content that will need to be displayed. Of course, it may not be the final version, but marketer needs to at least know what message they’ll need to broadcast, what sections they need to have and what content will fill these sections. Then it’s easier for a designer to visualize the data and present it in the most user-friendly and appealing way.

If you’re not convinced that content should come first, let me show an example. The most common case of when design comes before the content are the website templates. You buy a theme with a dozen of neat “lorem ipsum” pages with predefined layouts and start to fill them with your own content. When you inevitably need to adjust the order, size and positioning of blocks the design is instantly off and the page loses all its charm. If you ever used a ready-made website template, you know that that’s exactly what happens. So to make it right, you’d need to have a designer adjustment to the page before the release. This isn’t necessary when the page is designed specifically for the content.

So to eliminate unnecessary iterations and make the design creation easier, I recommend starting with content whenever possible. Of course if the entity you need to create is content-based. If it’s a rock band poster – you can start with design.

4. Proofread final version before sending

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to avoid all the typos and unfortunate phrasing when sending a larger body of text to a designer. But you can do all you can to avoid mistakes:

  • proofread your work yourself
  • ask a colleague to proofread it
  • revisit it with a fresh eye a day after you’re done.

The reason why it’s so important is that often the layouts on the page and overall good look of the sections depends on the volume of text in them. If you’re going to change those AFTER you’ve sent the alleged final version of the texts to a designer, you may very well expect their rightful annoyance.

So keep in mind that design looks best the way it was intended. And the best way to ensure it is to provide your designer with the content of highest possible quality.

5. Ask all the questions you have

When it comes to cooperation between designers and marketers – guesses and assumptions are your greatest enemies. The more real questions are asked, the higher the chances that you’ll be on the same page and deliver the optimal results. It’s better to ask a silly question than to uncover a misunderstanding too late in the process.

So try to verbalize all the important information about the content you’re working on. Everything goes: from your understanding of the target users and a big picture role of the page for the website to possible changes that will need to be made in a couple of months.

6. Always discuss deadlines to align expectations

We’ve all been there:
Even though the deadline was yesterday, the work you needed to be done isn’t ready yet. It’s maddening, but you’ll be even more disappointed if the work isn’t submitted to you since you didn’t clearly discuss the deadline.

Of course, you can just say that you need something ASAP. But keep in mind that both designers and marketers can go too deep into the rabbit hole. The thing is that you can improve upon creative work pretty much endlessly. And the longer you work on something, the more imperfect it’ll feel to you. So limiting creatives with deadlines is a good thing.

Even if it’s obvious to you, it’s worth reiterating that any type of work(design or marketing) needs to have an agreed upon deadline. And preferably it should be documented via email and during a meeting with more than two people in the room. This isn’t to show that you disrespect the other party. On the contrary, if you do respect them, discuss and come to an agreement on mutually acceptable rules of cooperation and work submission.

7. Discuss possible revisions beforehand

Creatives are often slightly hurt each time someone asks them to adjust the work they did. But sometimes it takes several iterations to get a page or any other content polished. It’s worth discussing beforehand that a task may be moved from “Reviewing” back to “ToDo” as many times as it’ll take to create an acceptable solution. That that goes both for marketers and designers.

8. Ask for opinions/comments/feedback

I know how hard it is to ask for help and accept critical feedback sometimes. Especially if the person critiquing you isn’t working in your field. But in a professional environment, you have to fight your impostor syndrome and embrace any feedback and comments that may come your way. Designers and marketers have a dramatically different vision and understanding of data. So don’t be afraid to point out the things you don’t agree with in copy or design and ask why it was done this way. More often than you think, you’re thinking inside a box and a suggestion from outside may very well help you.

9. Involve each other in discussions

I’m not saying that designers and marketers should sit in during all the scrum events of each other’s departments. But it might be a good idea to involve designers in marketing meetings where you discuss informational architecture and other things that may influence design. This way if you come up with an idea that contradicts some ancient but crucial design best practice, you might save dozens of work hours which would be required to uncover the problem otherwise.

10. Get a grasp of each other’s work

From my observations, more and more marketers start to get a pretty good grasp on design terminology and tools and designers, especially UX, tend to study the marketing books. And it’s a great practice that brings the two closer together and helps them speak the same language.

Even if you’re not working with each other directly now, the two fields are getting closer together, so it definitely can’t hurt study the basics. Just like HTML and CSS knowledge isn’t the most important thing for both designers and marketers, but it certainly helps. So read up to have a basic understanding of design principles and tools that your colleagues are using.

11. Avoid one-time freelance

I learned this one the hard way. But in retrospective, it seems obvious that a one-time freelance contractor, no matter how good, will not be able to dive deep into your project and deliver the result you need. So if you have to outsource work to freelancers from time to time, I strongly recommend to start building relations with several people, or one company, rather than use a different person each time.

Final thoughts

The competition for the eyeballs and minds of users online keeps getting more fierce in all the business domains. This means that design and marketing teams will have to work even closer together in order to deliver messages and experiences to the audiences in an optimal way. The lessons listed in this article proved to be effective in my experience, so I highly recommend to implement them in your work process. Do you have any other advice for streamlining cooperation between designers and marketers? Let me know in the comment section below!

How I gained 16 kilos, what I did to fight it and what I learned

When I was a teenager, I often heard that till I’m 30 I can relax and rely on my fast metabolism to take care of all the food I ate. Well, as it turns out – it was a lie. I realized that when I was 23 and just gained 16 kilograms (35 pounds) of fat. Fat that wouldn’t go away despite me going to the gym and trying to eat healthily.

Classic how did I end up here moment, eh?

How I tricked myself into gaining weight

Well, it all started when I was 18. I was a semi-professional high jumper at the time. And when you’re a high jumper, you need to stay as lean as you possibly can. After all, you’re fighting gravity to climb over that bar. And it’s easier to fight gravity when you’re light on your feet. In my competing shape, I could weigh 75 kilos (165 pounds) being 194cm (6,3 feet) tall.

I did track and field for 6 years and I loved every day of it. But when an athlete is 18, you can tell with a high degree of certainty if they are going to win an Olympic medal. And it was clear that I wasn’t going to. In addition, since I had to study, I couldn’t keep up with my teammates who fully concentrated on sport. So I switched high jump for regular gym workouts.

All the good stories start with a goal. And so did the story of me uncontrollably gaining 35 pounds.

When I was 18, I looked in the mirror and thought that I definitely need to gain some muscle if I want to be popular when I enter the workforce. I often hear arguments about today’s unrealistic body standards for women. And rightfully so. But young men also have a very specific image in mind when they want to be handsome and popular.

A simple example is the iconic womanizer 50 years ago and now:

Sean Connery as James Bond – just a regular guy. Daniel Craig as James Bond – probably prepared for this shot for a year

The exact process that got me to gain 35 pounds

So I was one of many boys who think that they need to have a ton of muscles to be handsome. That was a starting point for me gaining 35 pounds. But I didn’t put on all that weight in an instant. In retrospective, I see that I felt and looked best when I weighed 86 kilos (189 pounds). From there I started putting on weight up until the scales showed 102kg (224 pounds).

Before (86kg) after (102kg)

Here’s what I did to put on this weight:

Burning out at work

For me, the main catalyst for gaining weight and for other health problems is the problem of priorities. As soon as the work I didn’t like got more important to me than health and personal interests, I became very unhappy. But I forced myself to keep doing the things that drained me. Just for the sake of being a high achiever.

After a while, I became typically burned out. This led to me eating and drinking everything I wanted at any time. In addition, very often I wouldn’t have the energy to go to the gym after work. At least I thought so.

Even though I knew for a fact that this new lifestyle isn’t healthy, I kept on lying to myself that the majority of the weight I gain is muscle mass. Which certainly wasn’t the case.

For 3 or 4 years I felt chronically tired and unhappy. I thought I’ll get over it and it’ll all be okay at some point. But the only thing that really helped me was taking a month off work. At that time I have already accumulated some minor health problems due to my lifestyle, so I used this time to take care of myself. Other than visiting doctors, I just walked in parks, talked to the close ones and did my best to let go of all the bullshit I deemed so important.

I can’t say that when I came back to the office in 5 weeks, I was a changed, happy man. But this break certainly started the healing processes I needed. I got a chance to catch a breath, look around, evaluate my decisions. From there I started the slow recovery process that would take who knows how much more time. But one of the first things I started to want after this break was to work out regularly again.

Fewer workouts

I got my first office job at 19. And the first thing in my life that took a hit because of that transition to adulthood was the amount of physical activity. I still went to the gym regularly, but I didn’t put in all the effort I should have. As I gained weight, I got tired quicker, joints started to bother me and I wasn’t able to do as many rounds and repeats in any of exercises.

As you know, there are mirrors everywhere in gyms. So my workouts became just another reason for stress and unhappiness. I wasn’t satisfied with how I looked and I didn’t have the energy to change that. Overall, I wasn’t the version of myself I could be even remotely proud of.

No cardio

No arguing that cardio is a crucial part of any training process. But for as long as I remember myself, I wasn’t a fan. I got tired quickly and got bored even quicker. So when I was gaining weight, I had no willpower to do cardio whatsoever. So the very limited stamina I had left from my track and field days was fading away as well.

Fried food and snacks

As you know, eating, especially eating rubbish, often makes you feel better. So when I felt that I couldn’t keep annoying my close ones with repetitive whining, I turned to food for comfort. And once you get into it, feels like you really need all those calories to keep you on the same level of happiness/energy. When I look back, I understand that for several years I was really out of control in terms of eating.

I can go on and on about everything that was wrong with my eating habits. But to cut a long story short, I ate too much. And the majority of that food was something fried or some kind of a snack. Unfortunately, by snacks I don’t mean dried meat and mini carrots, I mean hardcore chips and sweets.

What I did to stop gaining weight and get back in shape

Fixing mental state (20%)

I’ve been postponing the month-long break I mentioned before for several years. I thought that it was something a weak person would do, something I should be ashamed of, something I can’t afford, etc. And all those excuses were bullshit that I shouldn’t have believed.

Now I see that I should have taken this pause a long time ago, saving myself quite a few breakdowns and mistakes. I shouldn’t have been so high-minded, because in reality, I AM weak, taking a break is NOTHING to be ashamed of and I CAN afford not to pretend to be stronger than I am.

Before this break, I didn’t want anything. The days were filled with anxiety about missing out and messing up. I didn’t have the energy or motivation for work, relationship or sport. Miraculously, I kept on showing up to work, but each day was a struggle.

When I came back, I became more or less aware of what was going on with me. I felt like I started to wake up from being heavily sedated. I looked at myself and didn’t recognize the person I knew. Scary stuff. I wondered, how could I be so not in control of what I was doing to myself. And I couldn’t but be thankful that the worst thing that happened to me in this stasis was putting on some weight.

Running, swimming and lifting weights (30%)

The first thing that I started to fix in my life after getting out of that ugly burnout pit, were regular gym visits. At first, I had to force myself, but gradually, it became more fulfilling to be active physically, to work more intensely and go to the gym more often. I stuck to a regular 3-day split but aimed at stamina rather than muscle mass.

At the same time, I realized that I should add cardio to the equation. For motivation, we signed up for a half marathon 6 months from then. At first, I ran in short 5-minute intervals for half an hour. Step by step, I’ve reduced the walking times and improved running pace and time. To make things more fun, I added swimming workouts as often as I could and sauna for recovery every week.

As you can tell, that’s a lot. I’m sure that if I tried to make myself do all of that being burned out, I’d be miserable for a week and then quit. That’s why now I only add new things when I WANT it.

So I started to have 5-6 workouts per week. I felt much healthier and way more energetic. But you know what? The number on the scales didn’t change. That’s how I knew I got to make serious conscious dietary improvements.

Eating healthy (50%)

As you understand, I’m not a nutritionist. I love McFlurries and bacon. But I was challenged with a task: I needed to come up with a diet that would work for me in terms of weight loss, would give me enough energy and wouldn’t drive me crazy.

Just like you’d do, I started reading, listening to podcasts, researching and testing things. In the process, I’ve distilled several practices that worked for me:

  • Drastic reduction of the carbs intake – first week or so was hard, but now the energy levels throughout the day are evenly high and overall, I feel much better. I still do eat “clean” things like vegetables.
  • Intermittent fasting – I started with 14:10 for a week or so, then I went up to 16:8 and continued to gradually experiment with reducing eating windows.
  • Eliminating unhealthy snacks and sugar in sweets and products like sauces.

If you asked me a year ago – I’d say that one should eat every 2-3 hours and never feel really hungry. After this whole experience, I can clearly see that this leads us to overeating.

I work in the office. There’s no way I burn 4-3 thousand calories a day. No wonder that the excess energy is stored somewhere in my body. And the way body will store it is in form of fat.

Another thing I believed religiously is that without carbs I will have no energy. Well, as it turns out, the body is smart enough to start using fat for energy. Otherwise, what would be the point of storing it?

I think that the three practices I list above play the biggest role in the process of weight loss for me. I highly recommend playing with them, but first, read up on each topic, be careful and always consult with your doctor.

The results

Three months into my new lifestyle the results are as follows:

  • I lost about 15 kilos (33 pounds)
  • From certain angles, I appear to have abs again
  • I feel much healthier and way more energetic
  • It feels great to achieve a goal

How I deal with the body standards now

Sport, eating and fighting off depression led me to lose 35 pounds in 3 months. That’s a lot.  I feel much better, but for the optimal form, I’ll need to go down a little bit more. And this means that by society’s definition, I’ll be rather skinny. But I am really happy with the progress I’m making. Putting together a system, sticking to it and seeing it work gave me the feeling of controlling something in my life again.

The thing that I learned and that changed my perspective on masculinity quite a bit was the realization, that my body is first and foremost a tool and a reflection of what’s going on inside me. And I want this tool to be lean, sharp, quick and agile. That’s exactly what 6 workouts a week and eating habits I described above do to a body.

In addition, I asked myself, why I wanted to be muscular. And the honest answer was that I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be respected and celebrated for the fine work I’ve done with my body. But the fact is that the people whose opinions matter will recognize a lean athlete and how much work it took. And the people who only look for bulging biceps aren’t really my audience.

What I learned from this whole story

  1. Losing weight is hard. Even at 23.
  2. Changing habits and resisting temptations is extremely hard.
  3. Fixing mental health issues is scary and hard as well. And this process seems to be about a lot more than just losing weight.
  4. If you want to get lean and stay lean, eating healthy and working out harder than ever is a new lifestyle, not a temporary thing to help you get in shape for summer.

You can’t just force yourself to do all of the things I wrote about if you’re not ready. You only stand a fighting chance of changing your lifestyle if you consciously understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. And you’ll have to start with the microscopic steps that don’t seem to work in short-term perspective.

It doesn’t matter if someone is ahead of you. It doesn’t matter if you’re much weaker than you thought you were. It doesn’t matter what people around you think. What matters is that you understood that you want to change, you showed up and you put in the work.

Online marketing to-do list for a new company

I used to work in tech support. I helped people set up their websites and fill them with content.

Often clients would come to me for months pretty much every day for some little tweaks on their sites. They would give me access to servers and admin panels so I saw exactly how their new online business was doing.

More often than not, they weren’t doing that well. They launched websites, wrote some content from the top of their heads and shared it on their personal social media accounts.

Understandably, this approach to marketing didn’t work. I visited websites of the memorable clients a few months after the last chat with support and often by that time they were already abandoned.

Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of businesses launching their online presences and trying to put together a working marketing workflow. And each time I see how overwhelmed people are when they start thinking of all the things they need to do marketing-wise to get their business on the radar of the potential consumer.

No surprise, since there’s really a ton of things to do, no matter how small your business is at the start.

At the same time, I’m certain, that a business owner who doesn’t have money to hire a marketing person straight away, can do most or all of the things I list in this post on their own. Because no one knows you and your business better than you do. So you just need a proper checklist to follow.

That’s why I’ve decided to put together a list of the most important things you’ll need to learn and do in order to start promoting your business online. And to begin with, here are the things you should have before you get into strictly marketing tasks.


  1. A domain name that’s catchy and short, but isn’t associated with any other business yet. If you don’t have that, you can use Rand Fishkin’s advice.
  2. A website that runs on an easy-to-use engine (WordPress) and a reliable hosting (research best option for your country, but watch out for sponsored articles).
  3. A well-designed (or a very simple) website and design attributes like a logo, color scheme, and branding elements for promo materials.
  4. Competitor research: what they’re doing, which channels work for them, which don’t.
  5. Properly set up Google Analytics and Google Webmasters Tools.

Once you have these things done, you might think that you’re ready to share the first version of your homepage with the world. But you’re not. At this point, you just have the very basic and technical foundation.  Next come the research and the creative work.

Content generation (one-time and ongoing)

There’s no arguing that content you put on your website should be genuine rather than openly promotional. Each text and page should serve some specific goal and answer a need of your visitors. And here are the content-related tasks you’ll need to take care of before and after the launch:

  • Keyword research:

Before you write and publish content on your website, I strongly recommend using a tool like Ahrefs or SemRush to find the specific keywords you will be trying to rank for. Here’s a keyword research guide by my former boss, Tim Soulo, on how to do that within Ahrefs.

The rule of thumb is creating content that covers larger topics in more details. This way you tend to rank for more long-tail keywords that you might not even know about. This strategy replaced keyword stuffing and concentrating each page on a single specific keyword.

  • Copywriting for your website

Writing about yourself is hard. Luckily, many of the topics and pages you’ll need to cover will be dictated by what your competitors are doing and by keyword research.

While generating content, keep in mind that each of the pages on your site should bring value to your readers, not just copy the competition or please the search engines.

creating Static and dynamic pages

First, take care of the core pages like Home, Products/Services, About us, Our team, Contact us. The most important ones here are Homepage (don’t call it that on your site) and Products/Services landings as they most probably will be the most highly converting ones.

It’s also important to show that your website is alive and frequently updated. For that, you should have a decent blog. But don’t put pressure on yourself thinking that you have to write sophisticated posts that need to immediately get thousands of shares. That just won’t happen. Instead, just write about what you know in the style that feels natural.

You can create in-depth how-to content for your product or describe how your services help your customers, share success and failure stories, write about news, updates, etc. But keep keyword research in mind. So when you find a keyword with high traffic potential and low competition, devote some time to writing a detailed article on the topic.

Well-written, optimized copy on the website backed by some link building is a surefire recipe to start ranking.

Which brings me to…

SEO activities

Other than doing keyword research prior to and while creating content, there’s plenty of SEO activities to take care of. There’s pretty much no limit to how much time and resources you can pour into SEO. But if you’re running a one-man operation, you only have so much time.

Not to drop the ball in any other marketing spheres, you’ll probably need to concentrate on the basic SEO best practices like:

  • If you already have a website, perform an SEO audit, to see what you have and how you can improve.
  • Cover topics you write about in much detail.
  • Write descriptive meta titles and meta descriptions for improved click-through rates from search.
  • Spend some time on common sense on-page optimization. Things like meaningful anchor texts, informative headings and logical structure through HTML tags haven’t hurt anyone.
  • Make sure that the pages are properly interlinked and easy to find from Home.
  • Before launching, ask your friends to test your website’s usability. The things that you find obvious due to close work on the website are often confusing to new users. And user behavior now influences rankings as well.
  • As you go, keep an eye on the basic technical SEO aspects. In a nutshell, your website should work smoothly on all the devices, search engine robots should be able to index all the important pages, and content on these pages shouldn’t be duplicated. Of course, there’s more to it, so by all means, do read on about it. But keep technical SEO within limits that make sense for you in terms of time investment.

Link building

An SEO aspect worth concentrating on separately is link building.

For as long as SEO exists, specialists are arguing over how much links influence rankings. And even though Google and other search engines are becoming creepily smart in analyzing and understanding content, links still tend to appear among the most influential factors.

Link building for a website owner means very few activities:

  • Publishing original content that people would want to link to.
  • Finding relevant websites/influencers in your niche and getting an organic link to your content from them.

If we’re talking about white-hat techniques (so not buying links) the most effective strategies would be to:

  • Look for posts that mention competitors or your niche. Find an email of the admin/author and try to get linked to from existing content.
  • Write guest posts for websites relevant to your niche. But don’t pitch press releases about your product. Just get in touch and suggest several topics you could write about. And really write a decent text. Most adequate website owners won’t say no to getting quality content for free.
  • Get on the radar of influencers in your niche and tell them what you do.  If you have a product, consider giving it to them to check out and see its quality. If you’re offering a service, you can do something small for them if you feel that it might be worth it. Engage with them on social media and comment on their posts. This way, when they write about something related to your niche, they’ll think of you and give you a shoutout.

Social media presence

Business owners are too busy to spend time on social media. But it’s still important to keep an active SM presence. One of the easiest ways to go is setting up social media automation with a tool like HootSuite or Buffer.

In a nutshell, you spend several hours once every 1-2 weeks and schedule all the posts that will be published during this time from your accounts. You can still log in to check user engagement and talk to commenters, but you’re freed from the obligation to spend time on publishing something every day.

Starting a business, you probably already know in which social media the majority of your users is hanging out, so concentrate on it. Syndicate content from it to all the other ones.

In order to increase reach and gain momentum, you might want to boost your top posts through ads but always start small. As a  rule, native ad platforms on social media are very user-friendly, so there shouldn’t be any problems there. We’ll go a bit deeper into ads later in the guide.

As to types of content to publish on social media, I’d recommend considering the following:

  1. Sharing news relevant to your niche, which you personally found interesting. Even better if you can add some insightful comments.
  2. Links to your blog posts with custom excerpts.
  3. Links to landings of your products/services with custom descriptions and CTAs for each SM.
  4. Commenting/replying to threads/posts in niche communities.
  5. Other formats that your competitors successfully exploit.

One more thing.

In addition to conventional social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin, I recommend looking into promoting your business on platforms like Quora and Reddit. These two will work best for international businesses and English-speaking markets. So if you’re targeting other languages, look for forums and online discussion boards in your language to repurpose your content there.

Email marketing

In case you run a small business and there are few email subscriptions coming your way, you probably feel okay without some fancy automation. But it’s better to set up a communication tool like MailChimp on early stages to save yourself trouble when you grow. Here’s a guide from MailChimp team on starting out with email marketing.

They go into a ton of details, but in the beginning, you’ll need to:

  • Set up a custom automatic greeting email for new subscribers.
  • Possibly create an email chain that sends people 5-10 onboarding emails about you and your product/service (probably not more often than once a week.)
  • If you have enough content and updates, consider starting a newsletter once you feel the number of subscribers is worth the effort.

Paid advertisement

Now, I’m more fond of organic growth and content marketing, so I wouldn’t feel right giving you advice on the things I don’t do well myself. But for many businesses paid promotion through channels like AdWords is a life-saver. And even with content marketing – it can do miracles (if done right).

So I asked a friend of mine, Alex Panchuk, PPC specialist at Reply to share his insights into getting started with pay-per-click.

Take it away, Alex:

The world of PPC is quite catchy these days. There are a lot of platforms and each has its own unique targeting options. They change rapidly, and it needs a bit of practice to understand some things, which can be challenging for a beginner. But fear not, there are ways to learn and not waste everything to the last penny doing so. Just follow these simple and straightforward tips:

  • Before launching paid adverts, make sure you’ve set up tags for Analytics & other platforms correctly. Without tracking, you won’t be able to tell whether your clicks are worth something or not. I recommend using Google Tag Manager. With the help of this tool, you’ll be able to install any tracking code without breaking the source code of your website.
  • Link your Adwords account with Analytics. You may wonder why you need Analytics if you can set up conversions in the Adwords interface. Data is my answer. You won’t be able to tell why there are no conversions in Adwords (if there are none) without such data as Bounce Rate or Pages per Session from Analytics. Moreover, it will gain you insights about your audience, like their countries, age, gender, devices, etc.
  • Create remarketing audiences either in Adwords (Bing, Facebook,…) or Analytics. I prefer the last one. It’s more precise and allows to import created audiences in Adwords. Why should you bother with this? Well, after you try Adwords for some time, you might wanna try remarketing as well. But when you decide, you will have already created audiences that are ready to target.
  • Choose keyword match type very carefully (especially if it is broad or broad match modifier you thinking of) & think of negative keywords that are irrelevant for your business. It might save you a few hundred dollars, if not thousands.
  • Create as many ad extensions as are relevant for you. The more extensions you have, the more visible and complete will be your ad.

There are other advertising platforms that might be useful for you: Bing Ads, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. There’s no common opinion which one you should use.  It’s hard to tell which one will be more profitable and cost-effective for you. This choice is yours to make and depends on your business. But here are trusted resources to make that choice easier:

  1. Adwords:
  2. Bing:
  3. Facebook:
  4. Linkedin:

Checklist of all the things you’ll need to do marketing-wise in a new business


We’ve covered quite a few topics today. In future, I’ll be digging into them separately to help anyone in need with more specific questions.

This post’s goal was to provide a business owner with a list of the most important things they’ll need to do in terms of marketing to stay sane and get results.

Here’s a short recap:

  • Competitor research
  • Design for your website and promo materials
  • Set up Google Analytics and Search Console
  • Keyword research
  • Keyword-based copywriting for static pages
  • On-page optimization
  • Blog launch
  • Blog post writing
  • Link building activities
  • Influencer research
  • Social media launch
  • Social media activities
  • Influencer marketing
  • Blog content generation
  • Tracking rankings
  • Email marketing
  • Quora and Reddit engagement
  • Ad campaigns
  • Keep it going and gradually remove the activities that don’t work for you, do more of those that do work and try out new things when you have a chance.

Minimalistic list of tools you’ll need to do all of the above:

  • Ahrefs/SemRush
  • Hunter IO/
  • BuzzSumo (optional)
  • BuzzStream (optional)
  • Google Analytics
  • Search Console
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Yoast
  • Canva
  • Photoshop(optional)
  • HootSuite(or alternative)
  • Intercom/Helpcrunch (or alternative)
  • TBD.

Final thoughts

I don’t think I’m in a position to teach anyone marketing. I’m very much still learning myself. But I did see one too many businesses who suffer from not understanding what they need to do in terms of marketing and where to begin.

So I decided to do what I can to help them.

Even though kickstarting marketing for your business is hard, many people have already done it and achieved great results. You just need to learn and adjust fast, test new things and try to keep your cool.

As is, I feel like this post would have helped many of the business owners I’ve encountered in the past. But I’ll be updating it as new things come to mind. Let me know if you think there are any crucial elements I’ve missed and if we agree, I’ll be sure to add them 🙂

How to approach online marketing best practices


Ever since the 1990s finding and buying stuff online wasn’t dictated by the quality of products and content. Rather the decisions were influenced by marketing techniques that some people used better than the others.

Internet used to be a really bad place. Everyone lied and no one brought value to their users/readers/customers.

The demand was huge and supply was little so producers and content makers didn’t have to put in much effort to get clients.

Obviously, the industry made a huge leap since then.

But marketers and developers aren’t the ones to thank.

It’s the competition that drives improvements. Marketers who fight each other and content platforms that fight for users accidentally made those users smarter.

Search engines have to compete and improve algorithms, marketers have to compete to trick the algorithms, marketing software companies have to compete to help marketers lie better.


Over the last couple of years, marketing niche got very saturated with newcomers.

Like yours truly.

The rule of thumb is that in order to get clients, you need to become an “authority”.

And for that, you need to publish guest posts, build your personal brand and in general, do what you can to stay in the news feeds and on SERPs.

But as I was saying, the new influencers don’t know anything about anything. Most of them have just read Moz’s beginners guide to SEO and a couple of posts on Ahrefs’ and Brian Dean’s blogs.

These accomplishments make them feel like they have to start writing about what they learned straight away.

Because of this if you look at the part of the web devoted to marketing, it consists of the same advice told over and over by thousands of people.

And that’s probably fine.

The problem is that while the majority of marketers repeat what someone else said, they actually never applied it in practice.

And I’ve faced that myself.


When you’re entrusted with the first commercial project where you get to call the shots, you freeze.

It’s easy to start thinking that marketing is as easy as we’re led to believe online. That there is a ready-made plan you can just implement and live happily ever after.

Pretty much any online marketing resource and all the self-proclaimed gurus who produce content die to tell you 3-5-10 simple steps you’ll need to take to rank high/convert users/engage audiences.

What they don’t tell you is that the more generic their advice and the easier it is to implement, the higher the chances that everyone in your niche is already doing it.

So to outperform rivals you need to either do more of the same things everyone does, do them more creatively or do something original.

And there’s no recipe for that. You just need to come up with this stuff yourself.


But there are still dark areas of marketing where you don’t need creativity and you really need to follow a set of simple steps. In these areas of marketing, you sell scammy/dangerous/useless/cheap products to uneducated audiences.

For example:

I’m an agency. I get a client who works with forex or binary options. Reasonably, they want to show their ads to people who don’t know that forex is a scam.

We agree with them that I, the agency, will bring them paying clients.

And for each person my ads bring them, I get theoretical $10.

The minimum amount the client will make on each paying user I bring them is a theoretical $100.  So even if out of 10 registered users only 5 become paying customers, the client is happy.

To get customers this cheaply ($10), I’ll get in touch with special networks or with shitty news/sports/gaming/celebrity gossip websites directly.

The worse the media, the lower content quality the better.

Bad content with a ton of traffic means that I’ve found the perfect target audience for my client’s scammy product.

So I get those websites to place my ads for super low prices. And they will be happy to sell me millions of impressions or clicks because they know that their audience will easily buy my product. And they also know that no self-respecting company or product will ever advertise with them.

All that’s left to me is to write clickbait titles and find stock images for the ads.

It’s always something like “You won’t believe how much money company_name made her” with an image of Julia Roberts.

Or “Oprah lost 50 pounds on this diet” and an image with Oprah’s head badly photoshopped on a slim and young body.

And everyone’s happy. As long as no party in this equation has a soul.

This kind of marketing always works on the people it targets. But as technology advances, fewer people fall for such dumb techniques.


If we’re not talking about this kind of marketing – and I hope we’re not – there’s no single set of best practices and steps you can take to achieve stellar ROI and boost your sales.

You will need to put in work and research.

You will need to try multiple things and fail in most.

You will need to hate yourself for not thinking of the right thing at once.

That’s all okay, I guess.

Best practices are a good thing. Right now they indicate that overall quality of content rises and users get smarter when choosing products.

But best practices don’t cut it anymore. If they ever did. They are just a very low starting point.

No matter what business, no matter how saturated the industry, you need to put in work and you need to find the way to stand out.

Because if online marketing was as easy as following this season’s best practices, everyone would have the same equally effective brand.

But that’s not the case. Only those who stand out and do original work, make it.

The rise of a bullshit marketer

The online marketing niche is crawling with new “influencers”.  They don’t have much relevant experience. But they are all very active on social media and write at least several guest posts a month, they take parts in roundups and are very open about their opinions.

I totally get why they do it – the more presence they have online, the easier it is to convert new clients. And I’m not judging. But I do feel very sorry for those clients.

The problem is that for this kind of marketers it’s easier to get clients through quantity of content, not quality. So they got into a loop of Infinite Content (Arcade Fire reference). They need to create more content to stay relevant and that’s why it is and will be so basic and unoriginal.

Don’t know about you, but as an online marketer, I’m constantly bombarded with content about marketing.  On social media, via email, on websites I follow, etc.

I can judge this content based on some practical experience I have. And I can tell you one thing – be very careful with online marketing advice you read or listen to.  Because most of it is written without any evidence, research, and experience.

What’s worse, usually it’s not written to solve a need or to answer your question. They say that that’s their sole goal, but it’s not. This content is written to trick you into thinking you need some particular marketing software or services of the author or their company.

The amount of marketing content published every day could be hundreds of times smaller and no one in the world would bat an eye. There are literally thousands of posts on the same topics that bring nothing new to the table.

In my opinion, the online marketers who really know what they are doing and could share some valuable insights usually remain silent. Because, honestly, there’s nothing noble in sharing your tips and tricks with the “community”.

And the pros who find time and motivation to share, do it rarely because they have better things to do.

So the majority of marketing content isn’t written by professionals. And the majority of so-called “marketing influencers” are just people who either write obvious things or rewrite what someone smart wrote before them.

But how do these people get all those shares and links to their websites, you might ask.

That’s a valid question, thanks!

All of those shares and links are:

  • from other bullshit marketers who share and link to stuff just for the sake of networking;
  • from regular people who believed these influencers are real;
  • from a new batch of marketers who also still believe in influencers.

Developers, QAs, engineers, devops or HR specialists – they don’t have this compulsive urge to write, record videos and create infographics. If someday they feel like they have something to contribute to their field, they will put together a research or a post and publish it somewhere.

And it will be good because it will be dictated by an honest will to help and say something new.

But that isn’t the case for us, the egocentric marketers. Since many of us exist in this constant need to process and create information, it becomes a habit.

And since we work with other marketers, we start to think similarly and feel like each of us should have a platform to share our thoughts (oh so few).

Additionally, when you see that someone a lot dumber than you gets praise in your field, you get jealous and want to put yourself on the map too.

In reality, you can count the people who add value to the conversation about online marketing on one hand. Yet almost every marketer feels like they need to have their say.

We call it creating a personal brand. You get a website, you get more followers in social media, you start selling stuff.

I even fell for that motivation myself a while back. But the things I write about don’t really make up for a good personal brand, so I’m clean.

Nevertheless, there are good websites that try to bring value to this market. But they too get caught up in the never-ending stream of updates and recurring topics.

There are a lot of smart people in the field, but the niche works like this for a while now and there’s no changing it in the foreseeable future.


I can rant about it for a really long time.

What I wanted to say is that when it comes to marketing content, you can’t blindly trust the first link Google spits at you. Use your critical thinking.

But then again, that advice is true for pretty much any situation.

Why I quit 3 times in the last year and a half and what I learned

I’ve been doing different kinds of sports ever since I was 5. And when I was little I had my own cherished understanding and respect for loyalty.

For some reason I really hated people who often switched from one sport to another rather than sticking to something.

Hard to tell, where I got this notion from. Probably one of my first coaches told me that you can only achieve success in sport(and life) through dedication.  And I took it as an absolute truth.

For a while, that was the way I felt about commitment and loyalty. Yet, every so often I had to go on and do a different sport. Because my family moved, because swimming fitted me better than acrobatics, because I didn’t like the thing I did before anymore.

Yet, I kept on thinking that loyalty and commitment are extremely important and those who switch sports often and leave my team or group are traitors. But at some point I started to develop critical thinking and understood that I myself wasn’t really an example of loyalty.

First I did acrobatics, then volleyball, then swimming, then high jump.

So I understood that life just happens. You do one thing, then you do something else. And most things don’t last forever.

And that’s okay. I’m happy I didn’t stay in acrobatics for my entire life. I was really bad — I once got a silver medal in a competition where there were just two participants.  So yeah. Switching lanes is okay.

But when I was starting to work, deep in me I still had the same excessive passion for loyalty.

I was thinking that if you stay in a company long enough, they will inevitably start valuing you and you’ll become one of them, and you’ll be really good and you’ll be forever happy.

And there are cases when that’s true. It is possible that you found the perfect company, team and work on first try.

But for most, it isn’t like this. And you owe it to yourself to understand it and to find the courage to move on.

In the last year and a half I changed 4 good companies. Neither of them fired me. I  quit all of those jobs.  And each time it was really emotional and hard. I’m not proud of it and I know that it might look bad on the CV. But if something isn’t right, you got to do everything in your power to feel peace.

So why did I quit those jobs?

Short answer: I didn’t like it there.

Something was always off – attitude of the colleagues, the boss, the salary, the little things.  But one of those things always led to another and what looked like a great opportunity during an interview became a very stressful experience couple of months in.

And in each company there are always employees who have been there for years and those who just love it there.

Good for them.

But you don’t have to adjust and try to fit in just because someone else likes the place you’re uncomfortable in.

Even though I always left having a new offer, leaving was scary every time. Telling your boss you’re leaving is incredibly scary. Waiting for the first day in the new company is scary. Losing everything is scary. Finding out that the new place is worse than the previous is scary. But you got to take the risk if you feel that you’re in the wrong place.

Anyway, here are some of the conclusions I’ve made after working for those 4 companies in a year and a half time span:

  • You need to talk to your superior if you don’t like something. They can’t and won’t read your mind to see how you feel. I wasn’t talking to any of my bosses honestly before. I just bitched about problems with my colleagues and when unhappiness pilled up, I quit. I didn’t talk to my bosses because I was scared they would get angry, I’d lose their graces and get fired. But the result is the same if I don’t talk and quit the job. So why not try talking?
  • You need to quit when the company isn’t giving you anything new. You can get everything from a company in a month, a year, 10 years. But when there’s no way for you to grow in terms of expertise and salary – there’s no point in staying. Unless you’re the CEO, CTO, CMO or other C-suite, when you reached the ceiling in the company, start looking for new opportunities.
  • Don’t feel like you have to tell anyone in the company that you’re looking for a new job. Unless you have real meaningful relations with someone there. Other than that, you don’t have to tell them anything. Considering other options and being open to opportunities is okay.
  • It’s okay to quit when a great opportunity arises. Your boss would do the same, probably did in the past and is likely to do it again in the future.
  • No one can disrespect you and belittle you. No matter who they are in the organization. If the company put a bad person in charge – screw them. Your professional dignity is crucial. If they don’t respect you – they won’t pay you adequately or help you grow. But most importantly – no one can humiliate you.
  • Bosses make mistakes too.  It’s okay to double-check what they say and make sure they didn’t mess up.
  • Wanting a raise isn’t a crime. If you see that your price on the market is higher – make it clear to the management. If they can’t help you – consider other options.
  • Taking sick days is okay. Even more so, it’s obligatory. If you’re sick – you have no right to come and contaminate the whole office.
  • Make sure to use your vacation days every year. Even if you don’t have any big plans.
  • A company needs you just as much, if not more than you need it. You don’t owe a company anything that isn’t specified in the contract.  A company won’t stay loyal to you if you’re not essential. People are viewed as resources by companies. Employees should view companies as tools for achieving goals.
  • Read contracts very carefully. Some companies put really messed up obligations in them.
  • Don’t give too many chances. If a company failed you twice, chances are, it will happen again. Don’t believe in last times.
  • No matter how unhappy I was when quitting, I never messed up my relations with anyone in the companies I was leaving. Some people might still be upset that I left. But I know that I did what I had to do and I didn’t lose face doing so. You will need a professional network later on in your life, so don’t trade it for being emotionally honest in an exit interview.
  • Extra hours cost extra.
  • It takes about half a year to get comfortable in a company. So when you decide to switch jobs, keep in mind that the next 6 months or so might be a little stressful.
  • If you’ve decided to leave, and have an offer pending, don’t take counter offers and just leave. If you stay and everyone knows you’ll leave if you’re given $100 more, that’s not good for your image.
  • Always keep your CV and LinkedIn account up to date and clean.

I’m not saying that I stick to all these rules now.  But I really try since I know they make employee’s life better.

I know switching jobs is scary. And it’s not always the right solution. Sometimes you need to solve problems and stay put. But there’s also nothing criminal in looking for new opportunities and taking the ones you think are good for you.