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Episode 82 – Natalia Talkowska – Natalka Design

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Episode 82 – Natalia Talkowska – Natalka Design

Chris Simmance (00:50.138)
Thanks very much, VoiceOverGuy. And on the podcast today, we’ve got Natalia, and I’m going to get this wrong. Natalia, Natalka design? Hey, there we go. I’m not even going to try your surname. You can do that in your own intro right now. Who are you?

Natalia Talkowska (00:56.937)
Yes! Well done. Oh, hi guys! I’m Natalia. I run a business called Natalka Design and we visualize stories for brands and companies to for them to be seen for their stories to be seen.

Chris Simmance (01:15.714)
Being able to do something like that effectively is now a hugely sought after skill. I’m sure that’s why you’ve set up the business. Um, a long time ago, a spreadsheet and a couple of, uh, rows in the spreadsheet with some numbers and a green arrow pointing up was just about enough. But I think things are so much more complex these days that you need a proper narrative and a story and you need to be able to visualize. Um, it’s a heck of a lot more, um, intense these days. How did you get into that kind of thing?

Natalia Talkowska (01:46.205)
I always say do you want the espresso version or the wine version?

Chris Simmance (01:50.184)
We’ve got 24 minutes left, so let’s do the espresso version and see where we go.

Natalia Talkowska (01:54.97)
Well, espresso version, I will always say it’s the right amount of luck, the right timing, the right moment, tweeting someone as I would as a curious human I was and a bit depressed in the job that I was and I met then my, then who became my mentor, a businessman, a charity owner named Darren Robson and we had, as I call it, power hour and I was like…

I was very, very sad in a startup job and after years of doing not what I want to do, one of those, but also having to earn money because you’re in London. And I was like, I’ve got all these skills. I draw, I do this, I do that. Didn’t make any sense. 20 something chicken in London. And basically kind of in one sentence, he was like, you’re just wasting your time. What the hell is this? Like, I’m not even kidding. That was the vibe of the meeting.

And long story short, because it’s Espresso, he decided to be my mentor. He kicked my ass for six next months. He supported me. He mentored me, coached me, whatever you want to call it, because I’ve never done anything in business or illustration or whatever. And here I am on my going on 13th year. Oops.

Chris Simmance (03:05.71)
there we go. And I was going to ask how long you’ve been doing it for. It’s almost like you knew the questions. And so 13 years you’ve been going, what do you think apart from kind of completing 13 years of existing as an agency, what is it that you would say has been one of the biggest successes that you’ve seen?

Natalia Talkowska (03:08.444)

Natalia Talkowska (03:24.345)
in one of the projects or

Chris Simmance (03:26.502)
anything like, you know, as a, as a business owner, as a leader in the, or in your space, you know, what’s been one of the largest successes that you’ve, that you’ve seen.

Natalia Talkowska (03:36.985)
I think just purely focusing on the business, I was really, I would be very content and happy and appreciative if I could, if I ended up working with, let’s say individuals or very small businesses or charities or something. I had no clue where this thing can go. I had no expectations, pretty much also like very much self doubt and all that stuff that everyone talks about, especially when you start. And did it blow my mind that one of the first projects where with massive brands in my first year I ended up at 10 Downing Street.

Chris Simmance (03:51.002)

Natalia Talkowska (04:04.869)
visualizing prime minister’s speech and I was like, huh, there’s something there. What? Yeah, you know, so that’s crazy. That’s to me. Yeah.

Chris Simmance (04:10.49)
Yeah. What is that I’ve got? This is great. Yeah. So with that in mind, then is there some, you know, when you, when you started out, did you, uh, how much has changed since you started in the, in the last 13 years? Cause I know that tech has changed a lot and the, the tools and things like that, but has, have expectations changed as complexity grown? What, what, what have you managed to kind of keep, uh, um, in your structure the whole way through?

Natalia Talkowska (04:39.177)
I would say it’s always been, always even unofficially when I started, it’s always been a three step process. Like I didn’t even know at the beginning I have a process and I always had it. Basically like, well, when you think about it, a lot of people have processes, but sometimes they don’t know. So that stayed the same, that there’s always a problem, someone comes with a problem.

Chris Simmance (04:48.043)

Natalia Talkowska (04:56.085)
We try to solve it in whatever ways you want to describe it, strategize it. Then you decide on how you’re going to execute it, how you’re going to storytell in our world. And then often more than not, they like what they see. They see that it works and they want to scale that idea.

and we go into other avenues, right? So that’s been the same, but what has changed, as you just rightly said, technology, sizes of companies, speed of everything, the amount of information, which to be fair with you, give me more, because the more information you have, the more confused you are, the more no one engages, the more no one cares. So therefore people like us, which these days they call sense makers, I’ll take it, sounds cool.

Chris Simmance (05:37.803)
I like that.

Natalia Talkowska (05:38.858)
Yeah, you know, we’re busy because it’s just so much information.

Chris Simmance (05:41.042)
Yeah. And, and it’s often, I guess, the type of clients that would come to you are people that need sense-making of their own information and for that sense to be accessible to their audience as well. So you’re having to sort of translate twice, I guess.

Natalia Talkowska (05:57.957)
Yeah, so it depends. It could be internal, it could be external, but at the end of the day, when you think about it, it is using these visual solutions to sense make, but equally, we need to synthesize with words, we need to synthesize the thinking, we need to get rid of tons of things that neuroscience says that people won’t care about. So I really base all my work on data, on what we know about information, how people…

perceive it, how people process it, how people remember or not. And you know, the first conversation is always, I know everything is so important to you, but we can’t put the whole damn thing on one page. So what are we going to choose?

Chris Simmance (06:33.214)
Yeah. You got to pick. Got to pick.

Chris Simmance (06:52.542)
You know what, new year, same guy interrupting my podcast. Thanks very much, voiceover guy again. Um, sorry about that, if you were to go back, say 13 and a half years, just as you’re kind of thinking about setting up, just as you’re at the beginnings of all of this, um, imagine you could go back in time and speak to your younger self. Is there anything that you would say to yourself, any advice you might give that would either set you up for current success, uh, or

propel you in a different direction. Um, what would you say?

Natalia Talkowska (07:24.513)
The problem is I never planned to start it. So, you know, that is interesting. But what I can say is I’ve always been thinking about doing something. I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I had my first business as a kid selling my mom’s, I don’t know, herbs at home and begging for my brother to come and buy it. You know, the idea was always there. How can I serve other people? How can I bring value, I guess. But what it stays the same, and I wish I could always bang on her head the younger version of me more and more,

Chris Simmance (07:27.251)

Chris Simmance (07:47.438)

Natalia Talkowska (07:54.467)
please, please believe in yourself. Because there’s always going to be someone and many people who will say no, and there’s always going to be someone who will say yes. And I just wish I was just, you know, in that head space much more, but I equally understand that it comes with age and experience.

Chris Simmance (08:12.274)
Yeah, it’s almost like a sad thing that you have to learn, if that makes sense. You kind of have to go through the pain of those kinds of, of rejections and of, um, no’s that, that you, um, that help you learn how to get the yes and let help you learn how to see the win. Um, and, and I think, you know, you’re, you’re right. It is an, it is an age and experience thing to a certain degree.

And I don’t think really anyone ever gets comfortable with, with that kind of thing. If you do, you’re arrogant probably. Um, uh, but you know, you, if you’re getting yeses all the time, maybe your prices are too low. If you’re getting yeses all the time, maybe, maybe you’re the only one doing something and that might be a thing to look at, um, and then add your prices. Um, but like the, um, the reality is that the, if you have to explain what you do,

consistently, not everyone’s going to buy it, whether they want it, whether they can afford it, whether they need it, it’s up to them to decide. And sometimes a no is a good part of the long-term success. Do you think that if you were to have gone back in time and told yourself to believe in yourself more, do you think you’d have done it?

Natalia Talkowska (09:24.345)
I think at that time, me saying this to myself, no, I was more reliant on someone saying this to myself. That’s why it was such a huge impact for me to know, have even a mentor. I was like, what the hell is that role? So him propelling me to where I was, I still feel that energy in me. Now I am much more comfortable with myself. I know who I am. I know what I bring to the table. I know how people think of me and what we do and how much value we give. Therefore I can say to myself, you can do this.

Chris Simmance (09:35.967)

Natalia Talkowska (09:54.359)
You’re a valuable person in that room, take up space and it’s going to be great. So it’s just so much easier again now and before it was much more external.

Chris Simmance (10:04.658)
Yeah. And, and, and not to do an OMG pitch or anything, but I, I totally agree with you. When we, all of the, um, the advisors that work in the OMG center, one of the key things that, that we all kind of agree on is this consistency of like, um, uh, supportive approach, but consistent messaging. So, you know, yes, you can do it. Yes, you’ve got the hang of it, but also here’s where to work and here’s what to look for. And those are the things that you, if you haven’t, if it’s not in your head as like your

own muscle, will hold you up with it a little bit. And it’s quite nice to see, have someone hold a mirror once in a while and, you know, help you through those sorts of things. And is there anything that you, over the course of the years, you know, you wish you’d done differently or wish you’d done sooner?

Natalia Talkowska (10:40.621)

Natalia Talkowska (10:51.513)
I would say always, no matter what the strategy always could be, more talk to people, connect.

ask questions. So I actually to connect with amazing guest, you had Anthony Long as well. That’s kind of what I shared with him years ago. And it’s funny how he uses it as his main strategy, as he calls it every year, but really is down to that like, so sometimes I would kind of get bogged down with details or behind the, you know, screen too much or something. And kind of that’s, that’s where it’s at. It’s all about connections. It’s all about creating community around what you do. And again, as you say, you know, it’s kind of like who enjoys your orbit at the end of the day,

Chris Simmance (11:04.814)

Natalia Talkowska (11:29.227)
A lot of people do what we do, a lot of people do what you do or someone does, doesn’t matter. But what kind of feeling are you creating? What kind of experience? What is there more to it? To me, USP is not even like, oh, because we do this technical thing, that’s why it’s USP. No, it’s kind of how people experience your world when they enter it and they leave it.

Chris Simmance (11:33.76)

Chris Simmance (11:50.122)
Yeah. And, and the, the getting out and being there a bit is, it’s often quite hard. And it is easy to sit behind a screen as you know, especially these days after the whole pandemic thing and all that sort of stuff, it’s, it’s a lot easier to kind of hide away and stuff. But yeah, when you’re trying to grow a business, first of all, you need to be in front of people who might buy from you for obvious reasons, because they will buy from you, but you should also be in front of the people who are essentially your peers because they…

A recommendation from a peer is a really easy way of getting a sale. And the best thing to do is surround yourself with smart people that you respect because those people will inevitably have a need that needs filling just as, just as you will. And that will then create a nice little internal referral network between each other and everyone will win and everyone will feel happy, but you keep broadening that network out and, and you build a real series of partnerships from a business point of view.

One of the things I love the most about this industry and it’s the, the list of things gets ever smaller every year, but some of the things I really love about this industry are the, are the, is the willingness to network and the willingness to, to help each other as much as possible. Um, there’s enough, uh, there’s enough dinner on the table for everyone to eat. And as long as you remember that, um, you can make some really good, you know, um, business, uh, connections and, and make a really good life of it.

Natalia Talkowska (13:16.157)
And for me, it’s like the more the merrier. Like I’ve always been such a fan of also learning from other people doing things together. So say if we have a project where, I don’t know, recently we’ve done a huge mural for TCS, and then we had to layer AR piece on top of it. So it’s storytells when you hover with your phone, literally what it says. I don’t do AR. My team, my clothes team doesn’t, but I have the best network and partners and Blackbook to call up. And as you said, the more the merrier.

Chris Simmance (13:22.626)

Chris Simmance (13:34.708)
Oh yeah.

Chris Simmance (13:41.143)

Natalia Talkowska (13:46.191)
on the table and it just opens again new avenues because then new ideas and new projects come it’s just like a ripple effect so yeah.

Chris Simmance (13:52.554)
Yeah. And, and, and sometimes those, um, uh, those other perspectives on stuff teaches you something about your own way of working with clients. Um, I, I remember working with, um, another agency that built websites when we were, um, only doing SEO. And yes, SEO is to a, to a certain extent, black and white. Um, but when I was working with this web development company, I realized that

This is back in 2013, 2014. I realized very quickly that it is black and white except for when it’s not. And it usually isn’t when you’re trying to deal with someone building something that’s beautiful website kind of thing. And the, the way I learned to, to deal with web developers was making a connection and a friendship with a web developer who ran their own business. So I could understand the business aspect of, of their decisions, but also

the impact of their decisions and the way that they, um, the way they discussed with clients, which gave me an entirely different perspective on how to handle other clients where we don’t have a relationship with the developers and things like that. Um, and you can get a lot out of network in that same, same sense. Um, if you were to, if you were to look at like, um, the business as a whole, is there one thing that, that you think that if you could cherry pick one thing to change, like right now with a magic wand, what, what do you think it might be?

Natalia Talkowska (15:19.869)
more systems and more organization, which very much behind the scenes we’re working on. So it’s very exciting. I mean, it’s, we’ve been doing well as it is, you know, like kind of almost like you don’t have to change anything, but I always like to change because then I feel like I’m learning and growing and all that. And it’s time to very much simplify and organize and systematize things. So that’s kind of what we’ve been doing in the past. And if I could, I would do it earlier.

Chris Simmance (15:24.27)

Chris Simmance (15:43.23)
Yeah, it’s this, this is the, um, the problem and the benefit of starting an agency that is an accidental agency. Quite a lot of agencies start kind of by mistake in a sense. Um, but you build the plane as you’re flying it and your processes are just how you did it that day. And then you hire people and people come and go and they change and they develop and then they become some kind of unmeasurable mess. Um,

And I think, you know, you, you must have in your team, like an awful lot of specialists, thinkers, and clever people. And I think the, the balance that is really hard to strike. It’s incredibly hard. If you’ve got to balance the, I need to be able to, uh, consistently deliver consistent quality, but also not tie people down to a checklist that then stops them being allowed. So we say to be creative. Um, how are you?

How are you working on that? Are you collaborating with the team to develop processes and things like that? Are you looking at building things and then letting them help you sort of adjust them? What’s the plan?

Natalia Talkowska (16:48.029)
I kind of do a bit of both, like learning from other people how they do it. I’ve got a business partner behind the scenes as well, and you know, kind of building those things, literally pillars of that, pillars of this. So my goal is to kind of like, no matter what’s the touch point in the business, I’ve got something I can pick. I’ve got something that I can easily template. I’ve got something that I can easily represent and present to a new person in the business. So for example, next week, we’re excited someone’s joining our business in terms of communications and sales.

Chris Simmance (16:54.091)

Natalia Talkowska (17:17.983)
it as smooth as possible for that person to understand things. Equally, when he or she, let’s say, moves on or anything like that, we’re not left with a mess and someone can pick this up in a second. Right. So it’s just it just all makes sense. It’s as you say, whilst you’re flying the bloody plane, you know, like you’re more worried about getting to the destination. But actually, it’s so important that you’ve got the fuel. You’ve got the latest seeds. I’ve got the food, whatever. Right. So.

Chris Simmance (17:27.106)

Chris Simmance (17:42.038)
Yeah, exactly. And the key thing I think with stuff like this is that when it comes to sort of building processes, it’s very easy for people in a team to think that it’s to control, but if you’ve got the right people and they understand and you make it clear what the reasons for that are, it becomes a lot easier to kind of explain to them that I used to say, you know, if you got abducted by aliens tomorrow,

someone else will need to pick up your work. We’ll be, we’ll be sad that you’ve been abducted by aliens, but there’s nothing we can do about it. So we’ll just have to keep doing your work for you. Um, we need a consistent way of doing it so that someone else can pick it up without like a drop off or any kind of risk to the client’s successes. Um, it’s like the communication of how you do it and how collaboratively you do it and so on and so forth is like, it’s vital, especially if it’s a specialist role, like sales and business development type stuff as well.

Um, someone’s just come along and they’ve knocked on your office door and they’ve come in and they’ve said to you, Natalia, I’m thinking of starting an agency, um, what piece of advice have you got for me? What one thing can I walk out of this door with? What do you, what are you going to give them?

Natalia Talkowska (18:55.601)
Again, I would say what I just said before, talk to people, connect and ask questions. And I mean this with all my heart. At the end of the day, we can buy the most smart books and create some sort of, you know, crazy business plans and everything. And that’s all important. But there’s no agency without people being in your world.

So the first thing I would say is go out there. That’s brilliant. Good luck. You know, buckle up on that plane, but go out there and start quickly talking about it. And it is really down to your energy and everything. Cause as I said, there could be five other Natalia’s out there, but why someone picking ask me my energy versus someone else’s right. So, and just establish that sort of like, you know, what is your story? What is your special kind of, I don’t know, USP within what you do? Why should I access your orbit?

Chris Simmance (19:30.027)

Chris Simmance (19:41.482)
Yeah, why, why should they care about you? Because there’s 10 of you doing the same job. They should care about you because you’ve gone and you’ve said hello and you’ve made an effort and you’ve tried and, and so on and so forth. And you’ve created a relationship, which that’s exactly, that sounds exactly right. Great advice. Brilliant advice. Thank you very much for coming on the podcast and delivering that advice. And hope.

Natalia Talkowska (20:04.051)
Thank you so much for having me. That was a pleasure.

Chris Simmance (20:06.934)
Hopefully we’ll have you on in about a year or so’s time to talk about how things have developed and I’ll definitely ask you about how your process development has gone as well. And hopefully.

Natalia Talkowska (20:15.58)
Oh, now you’re giving me a deadline, which is very good for a creative business mind as mine. So thank you for the deadline for sure.

Chris Simmance (20:22.174)
Yeah, you’ve got exactly a year.

Natalia Talkowska (20:24.859)
Oh my god, okay, you’re holding me to it. That’s gonna happen. Brilliant.

Chris Simmance (20:28.962)
Thank you so much for coming on the podcast and speak to you soon. And in our next episode, we’ll be speaking with another agency leader to hear their story and the lessons they learned along the way. Thanks very much for listening.

Natalia Talkowska (20:31.521)
Thank you.