How Liverpool soccer club and the Chicago Bulls meet each other? Or what connects marketing management and copywriting eventually? Well, you can get some answers to these questions if you meet Daniel Kollar, whom we could introduce as a copywriter, however, this would definitely not cover the whole story behind who he is.
Did you realize early that creative writing is something for you?
Not at all, although my high-school history teacher once told me when reading an essay that I wrote that I write well. As I recall, she might have even mentioned the phrase “literary translator”, so it was quite a compliment, that I of course think of as an absolute overstatement ever since. At first, I even laughed at it because that world seemed so very far away from me. I thought this writing thing is just some lame, PHD thing for guys in glasses, while the good guys play sports and run after chicks. Looking back after all these years, this was a very simple way of thinking.
Thinking this way as a teenager was probably not uncommon, then somehow things went another direction for you.
Finding my own way must have started with my exchange student year I spent in Michigan, where I even graduated high school also. I landed on the other side of the world to find out who I am, and it even took half a year to even get permission to be able to graduate with the others there. With this document, I attended the Metropolitan University (f.k.a. BKF) in Budapest. I already knew then that marketing interests me, so I started to study economics and communication. As it turned out later, this was a very good decision from a professional point of view as school was quite training oriented there. I already started a job as a PR trainee in my third semester with a well-known company called Avantgarde Group. This was the first time I signed an NDA. I remember feeling so very serious just because of this fact.
And writing is still nowhere on the horizon?
That also arrived during my college years but not with any special stories. I just started to enjoy more and more to be able to express myself with written words in a way I never experienced before. For example, I tried out drawing and painting as a child, but even with much sweat and tears I couldn’t become very special in these, and in music, I might have a good taste but my modest talent I might be able to blow the same whistle twice… Yet writing came so naturally, without any effort, and gave me some kind of vast freedom.
So, then I guess your carrier plans also became a bit clearer, right?
Not at all. Up to this day, I have two different fields of interest. On one hand, towards creative and conceptual creation, but on the other hand, also towards planning and management of the processes of communication. If I need to give some kind of a self-definition, I usually say I am a communication expert with a slight sense of humor, in order to avoid taking myself to seriously. In my carrier, I was doing project management for quite a long time, and I was around 28 when I first decided to find a job in marketing copywriting, so it was not really early on in my life.
This gave you the final push then?
Actually yes. By then, writing has already become an integral part of my life. I was blogging about sports and on cultural topics, wrote different length fictions, so it was so very part of me, the thought, if I could make a living with it, started to circle in my mind more and more often. I started out as a senior copywriter at my next job at Friendly agency, and this was where I faced my first major professional challenges also. Being the only copywriter there, together with one head-of-art, I immediately started working on such brands as Suzuki, Profession.hu or iCentre. This was followed by a short side-swing job as a project manager at Frank Digital, then I switched in the organization to New Wave Media, where I was working with native advertising to have more insight into the world of online marketing and the native ad trends seemed like a good entry point back then. Had some work that I am looking back at with pride, like a campaign for Samsung Galaxy 8 where we had moviemakers from Budapest shoot only using these mobile phones, or a long-form article inspired by Blade Runner 2049 discussing the question what turned into reality from some of the well-known sci-fi socio predictions. Small fun fact that mobile technology has never been foreseen by any of the famous futurists of the ‘70s or ’80s.
Once I was back to my field again, one position came after the other over the last years. I have learned a lot but most importantly, I’ve acquired a very solid network and market knowledge that made it possible for me to start my freelancer career in September 2017.
Can we say you have reached what you wanted?
It was the best decision I made in my life to start freelancing despite all its risks. The last three years, even with the ups and downs, brought something like writing has before: with all the turns and directions, I finally found the way that leads me ever since. I enjoy what I do now so much, dealing both with creative creation and projects and of course with the management of my business itself. So finally, my dilemma, if I want to be a creative or account manager, turned into something positive. Of course, I see many parallels with my early sports career and my life today as a freelancer. I played basketball for 15 years, mostly as a point guard, and my job was to continuously bring decisions as fast as I could with my hands on the ball to break the opposing team’s defense and to make sure to create the best shooting position for our team. This decision-making process happened one after the other during a game so after one and a half decades, this habit of looking for the “gap” has become instinctive. Today, I spend my days trying to win and deliver different jobs with my freelance team, and I am not surrounded by guards, forwards and centers anymore but graphic designers, web designers, movie makers, and I lead them as project manager or function as a copywriter. We still look for opportunities, “gaps” the same way in sales and in our work so we can reach better and better results in communication. Great that basketball could live on in such a way at least a little, now, that I don’t have the strength in my legs anymore.
This completes your life then?
I believe many freelancers would agree that one of the best things such a change brings is that the sentences starting with “would be great but not now, because….” disappear from our lives and we jump into new ideas much easier and faster. And these might even bring some business, but if they end up as a great hobby, that’s also great. I have many love projects. For example, we run a Chicago Bulls podcast Bikavér (“Bull blood”) but also write a book about the business development story of the last ten years of Liverpool FC. I’ve been a huge Pool fan ever since, this brought one of my first blogging experience too on a page called Vörös Fonat. It is amazing how the US owners joining the club in 2010 built up today’s success team with not much money but serious visions and professionalism. Together with some blogger friends, we felt we could write an interesting book about this story, and now seeing the currently developing script and graphic content, I am very sure we are creating strong material on pro soccer.
And we also have a video game about the financial management of a soccer team called Chief Football Officer that we started developing more than one and a half years ago with a team of seven. This is a hard-core start-up project that might fulfill a personal dream I had a child: making such a creative product that many know and love across the globe. Currently, we have 120 pages of technical specifications and just started programming, but who knows where, how far, or high it will end… Our goal is to shoot high. Wish to have it ready by the beginning of next year, but only one thing is sure at this point: its algorithm makes unrealistically long calculations and modeling.
This year started with COVID-19. How has this affected your job?
I was amongst those whom the beginning of spring hit hard. Had several contracts and projects cancelled just when the market was about to speed up as normal during a year. Following the expectations in February, that this year will be calm yet busy, strong year, this came down like a real cataclysm and on top, we had to cope with the quarantine as well. It was difficult and even surreal at one point dealing with this all, but I think most of us felt like this. But at one point, something clicked in me and blew my frustration away, and I started to find huge motivation in the fact that I will need to show what I am capable of also in a crisis, mostly with new clients in completely different circumstances. And it worked. While the second quarter of the year had some turndowns, the new stamina brought good results unexpectedly fast. I can already see that the year 2020 now looks again to be busy and strong. Something I have never bet on before Easter. This new setup just made me more optimistic and made my motivation much stronger since I have become a freelancer. If I could cope with this, then I will be able to face anything that might come along in the future.
You’ve joined KAPTÁR a few months ago but have become one of the most active community members here very quickly. Do you always adjust this fast?
This is always different, obviously depends on the situation and people. This might sound weird but the pandemic helped me a lot here. I’ve only been a member for a couple of days or 1-2 weeks when the lock-down came. I thought to myself, not very good times to join communities or to get to know new people… But we had so many online programs, events, chats that I could join even from my sofa, that it somehow went very easily for me. Maybe even easier than if I would have had to get to know everyone here in person. Those who know KAPTÁR say that community building is definitely not bullshit here, and I very much can double that. So, unless you kick me out, I’d be happy to stay for a while.
If you are interested in everything Dani’s working on, check out his website at www.clippings.me/kollardaniel
Enjoy the journey!