Violeta Nedkova built a reputation as one of those online marketers who were so good at thinking outside the proverbial box, that they used it as a stepping stool – also known as a Growth Hacker. Startups were her specialty.
“Meeting so many entrepreneurs with big dreams who are hustling, you’re inspired. But after a while, you have to find something that’s a better fit for you.”
Today, if you ask Violeta what she loves most, it has nothing to do with Silicon Valley.
“More than anything I love polar bears, time travel, and Gilmore Girls.”
Embracing her multi-passionate side, she now helps “creative rebels” to build businesses that feel true to them and authentic to their audiences.
Meet Violeta Nedkova, one of the most brilliant women I’ve known in Growth Hacking and outside of it. What inspires me most about her is her journey from doing what so many of us do – driving up numbers by living on the cutting edge of marketing and technology – to thoughtfully crafting a business that is purely her own. This is her story.
I am Violeta Nedkova, a multi-passionate writer /marketer / solopreneur, who likes to make friends with and help fellow creative rebels – people who know who they are and how to use that to create a lifestyle and brand, which are as unique as they are.
You’ve had an interesting journey from working with startups to working with creative rebels. What are creative rebels, and how did you decide that you want to work with them?
Well, first of all, I work with people who know who they are and who don’t want to do things like everyone else. Followers do not fall under the “creative rebel” description. The creative rebel’s motto is pretty much “Do it your way.”
The people who come to me are similar to me in that they have many passions and ideas, but are finding it hard to come up with a business model that encompasses everything they want to do in life. Or maybe they’re on the cusp of change and in need of clarity.
I offer my experience and marketing expertise to help them, or rather coach them, to a place where they feel comfortable with their business, meaning they feel like it’s a part of them. I also encourage people to develop personal brands, not just business ones. I call it authentic marketing.
That’s the part I missed in the startup world, the human element. I tried to “educate” startup founders about the benefits of authentic marketing, but they were not a good fit. They’re under a lot of pressure, which is not quite the same in the solopreneurship world. They wanted frameworks, methods and blueprints, and “growth hacks” were more important than the people-centered approach I prefer. I got tired of marketing, what it stood for, how people viewed it. And I was angry that I was good at it, even though it wasn’t really me. But I was also viewing marketing as everyone else was – I was following those frameworks, methods and blueprints.
But over time, it became clear to me that someone’s business should be as unique as they are, and their marketing should be as unique as they are too. That’s how I got into marketing coaching and eventually life coaching.
What advice do you have for people interested in authentic marketing?
Go with your gut when everyone tells you you’re crazy.
Make the risks that take you closer to who you are and what you want to do in this life – the kind of contribution you want to have.
Who are two or three of your favorite creative rebels and why?
I have an entire list on my blog, but let me tell you about two groups of creative rebels that I ADORE. The first group is the “celebrities.” Some famous creative rebels I follow and worship are: Gary Vaynerchuk, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Sophia Amoruso. They’re all rebellious and unique in their own ways, and inspire you to be yourself, fight your demons, and get shit done.
They’re people of strong convictions who don’t make excuses and fight.
The other group is the “peers” group. They’re not famous yet, but give them a couple of years and everyone will know their names. We creative rebels know that money and fame is not all there is to success. My creative rebel peers are: Jen Carrington, Sian Richardson, and Ash Ambirge.
They, each in their own unique way, inspire me with their content, thoughts, ideas, and openness online. They’re brave in what they say, generous in what they share, and make no excuses or justifications about who they are. They’re leaders, not followers.
One of your new ventures is training – tell us about your “From Fans to Friends” course!
It’s my first course! It’s not officially launched yet, but it’s everything I want marketing to be. But not in a vain, kind of naive, rebellious way. I’ve taught myself modern marketing, as a result of which, I have learned everything there is to it. I’ve taken methods from different industries because I’ve worked with writers, artists, startup founders, and all kinds of business owners.
After I learned everything there was to know about modern marketing, I almost had a falling out with it because of all the things I didn’t like about it. But THEN I realized, I didn’t have to do every kind of marketing, just the kind that works AND fits with my personal style.
Now I’m helping people find what that means for them – what THEIR kind of marketing looks like – and this course helps them to develop their own unique marketing formulas, as well as build their happy and engaged tribes of raving friends online. 🙂
You’ve also mentioned a 30-day challenge, what is that about?
I’m jumping the gun a little bit here, but I can tell you that this challenge will be the first of a series of challenges. I like how challenges engage people on a different level and help them create and build habits that will hopefully stick with them for a lifetime.
As you know, I’m both a marketing and a self-development person, and I’ve always worked on habit-formation and self-improvement in a way, but only for myself. Now I’m working on the same things with other people, and I think the challenge will be a great start for that.
Also, people complain too much, and if you ask me, there’s no excuse. We have more tools and opportunities now than ever, so complaining is just pointless.
The challenge is simple: To stop procrastinating. The habit is simple: Get things done instead of putting them off. And part of the challenge format is to have a community of supporters who will help you stay accountable.
You often tweet about #GirlBoss – tell us about what it is and how it inspires you.
This book is a revelation! Sophia Amoruso – the author – has had the most fascinating life – from dumpster diving and shoplifting to rising to be the CEO and creative director of this rebellious fashion empire called “Nasty Gal”. At first I wasn’t sure I should read a mainstream bestseller, as they don’t always deliver, but this one was SO worth it. I even got a hard copy!
I think Sophia is the perfect example of a creative rebel – she took what she was passionate about and good at (photography, fashion, etc.) and turned it into this successful brand. She didn’t start out to be successful or make tons of money, but she ended up achieving it because she was true to herself and gave free reign to all of her crazy, creative whims and ideas.
You recently tweeted, “Spending the day listening to my favorite songs of all time.” What are some of your favorite songs of all time?
Home by Daughtry and Atlas by Coldplay are emotionally precious songs to me. The first one reminds me I’ll always have a home and the second inspires me to explore.
Recent favorites are The Mad Ones and Let It Go, which are definitely songs for creative rebels.
I also ADORE feel-good songs like The Good Life and My Wish (Rascal Flatts).
All of my playlists are on SoundCloud if you want to check them out.
You’re one of my favorite sources of inspiration – who are some of your sources of inspiration (songs, people, books, etc.)?
Elizabeth Gilbert is everything I want to be – wise, original, and brave. She inspires me to the core.
J.K. Rowling is someone with immense strength and wisdom. I also love the way she writes and speaks, and her entire life is an inspiration, too. Plus if it weren’t for Harry Potter, I might have never started writing fiction or dreaming of becoming a novelist one day.
The kinds of books that inspire me are the ones that are written in a beautiful, human, and insightful way. #GIRLBOSS is one, Big Magic another, and I’ve recently also fallen in love with the writing of Ash Ambirge on The Middle Finger Project blog. Her kind of writing is through storytelling, which is the purest kind of writing, and she hooks me every single time.
One of your awesome mottos is, “Are you an entrepreneur or not? Stop asking for permission.” What did you observe that lead you to this conclusion?
People come to me with all kinds of fears, and I see those fears online, too. The fact that bloggers address these fears confirms that we are all controlled by them, and one of the biggest modern fears is: Who am I to start my own business? Who’s going to take me seriously?
This fear (along with the fear of failure) stops a lot of people from starting their own businesses. I believe that if you’re an entrepreneur deep inside, you just know it. I like how Sophia Amoruso said in her book #GIRLBOSS: “I became an entrepreneur because I was unemployable.” So you see, she did it out of necessity, and so did I. Every time I would try a traditional job or even a remote one, I would end up unhappy about having a boss and being told what to do.
I had no choice because I’m the kind of person who likes to run the parade. But there are other reasons for becoming one, too. I just don’t want people to let their fears stop them from leading the lives they want to lead and becoming the people they want to be.
Like James Altucher says, “you must choose yourself.”
What are your goals for 2016?
My goals are pretty big, and I’ve had to struggle with that a little because big expectations come with big pressure. In the past, I’ve let pressure stop my projects, but now I believe I’ve built myself a pretty big safety net in terms of everything that could go wrong.
If I get bored, I’ll allow myself to move on. If I fail, I’ll forgive myself. If I don’t reach my goal, I’ll accept it. If I don’t make enough money, I have savings.
Basically, I’ve endured so many personal and professional “failures” that I’ve learned a lot. Mainly that you have to have fallback systems like this, and they are as much financial as they are mental. Your mindset can set you free or hold your prisoner.
You do something for a while, you fail, you feel bad, and you look for “that one thing,” but it only comes as a combination of all of those little things you’ve learned throughout your life.
People don’t realize that “the big picture” is only clear after a lot of small failures.
You introduce yourself as a “multi-passionate” – what does that mean to you?
I’ve gone through just about every creative phase you can think of: photography, psychology, writing (fiction, non-fiction, and poetry), painting, design, marketing, and so on. Throughout all of these passions, I learned that the skills I picked up while going through these phases have stuck with me and are now leading me to the next stage of my creative lifestyle.
Some people can choose one thing, one lifelong passion, one dream to pursue. It’s so prevalent in our culture that the pressure to find “that one thing” makes the rest of us feel left out if we can’t.
That’s the beauty of embracing being a multi-passionate – you don’t need one thing. You just need for things to compound and eventually click into this unique thing that only makes sense for you to be doing. And the mistake most people make is to think about what they want and wish for something to happen, but if you don’t work and try different things, if you don’t DO, you’ll never figure this stuff out.
Follow Violeta Nedkova on Twitter: @VioletaNedkova.
Get inspired with her blog,
Check out the absolutely free The Creative Rebel’s Guide to Starting a Business.