The Nina case study: making the ultimate job application

One of the case studies that has most inspired me in my life is the story of Nina Mufleh – the person behind the stroke-of-genius campaign Nina4airbnb

Her campaign was the result of a single-minded determination to join Airbnb’s team after having joined their community as a host and falling in love with their ethos.

Nina applied to join their team in the traditional way you’d expect; by completing an application and submitting it alongside those of many other hopefuls. 

Unfortunately their response wasn’t what she hoped for.

Nina wasn’t deterred though, and remained dead set on joining the AirBnB team. As it turned out, their rejection inspired one of the most creative modern approaches to demonstrating value to a prospective employer that I’ve ever seen. 

Nina created an online holding page using Airbnb’s branding and on it posted a research-based infographic she’d created from scratch. 

On it she detailed; 

  • Her understanding of Airbnb and its values; 
  • Six areas where she felt she could provide value to the Airbnb team, and;
  • A gap she’d identified in the global tourism market where Airbnb didn’t have extensive presence.

The crown jewel of this report was, of course, her final point and it’s a spectacular piece of work. 

Not only did she identify that Airbnb had only a minor presence in the Middle-East, but she broke down why the market had significant potential value, how Airbnb could begin entering that market and even listed 9 potential partners that Airbnb could collaborate with to get the ball rolling

She spared no detail and created a report as if she intended to present it directly to the company CEO in their boardroom…and she kinda did!

Nina tweeted the report direct to Airbnb, as well as to Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky and CMO, Jonathan Mildenhall

Needless to say that did the trick. 

Ok. You floored me with this brilliance. We’ll set something up for us to meet.
I love your smarts. Very much.

— Jonathan Mildenhall (@Mildenhall) 21 April 2015

Not only did Nina get the interview that she hoped for from some seriously impressed directors, but her campaign garnered much social media attention.

This led to Nina receiving emails of interest from the tech giants Uber, UpWork and LinkedIn.

That attitude of using creativity to stand out from your competitors in such a bold way is something that always stuck with me.

When I talked about applying for my first communications role in ‘The story behind Inkbike’, I took inspiration from Nina and decided to format my cover letter and CV in the style of our company branding. 

That was one of the best things that I could have done. 

As it turned out, by choosing to format my application in that way, I’d demonstrated that I could perform several of the main responsibilities that the position required (in this case; the ability to recreate company branding, write in the company tone of voice and a level of creativity in delivering messages). 

This meant that they had confidence in me as a candidate before I’d actually spoken to anyone in that room, despite having no significant professional experience in the field.

I feel that there’s such a good lesson to be learned from Nina’s story, and it’s one that isn’t just for creatives. 

The importance is in realising that traditional routes of securing employment aren’t always the most effective. Sometimes finding the courage to try something a little different is the best way to get results. 

When Nina originally applied for a position at Airbnb, her application clearly didn’t do the proper job of demonstrating the level of value she’d be able to add if she were employed.

That isn’t a poor reflection of Nina’s ability to write an application. When you fill one out, you never know who else you’re up against or even how much attention your application is getting from the reviewer after you’ve sent it through.

Sometimes it pays to do something a little extra to get across to an employer that you’re the right person for the job.

You can be damn sure that your competition isn’t going to think of doing anything other than fill in their application; so it just becomes a question of whether you’re willing to invest a little extra time to be certain that you’ll stand out, and whether you recognise that you have the opportunity to do so.

Besides, by giving something like that a try you have absolutely nothing to lose. At worst, you’ll have spend some time creating a report or graphic which you can use as your very own template for impressing future employers.

I also totally appreciate that the execution of Nina’s seems to inherently require extensive creative skills and this can make it seem intimidating to people without a background in design –  but the idea behind it is something that could be executed by anyone. 

What Nina did wouldn’t need to be recreated exactly in order be effective, anyone that doesn’t find the idea of creating and designing a holding page attractive can instead create an infographic for example.

Tools like Canva are free to use and make creative design accessible to anyone with an internet connection. 

Since it offers exactly one metric sh*t ton of infographic templates to help you as well as a drag-and-drop style of design (meaning you don’t need extensive training or skill to create professional quality products), it leaves the design aspect suddenly more achievable.

That way, instead of sending a link for a holding page to your company of choice, you can just send your infographic as an image instead.

The only thing left to do is research – research the business, what they do and what their competitors are doing.

Look at the marketing materials of their competitors – does it look like someone else has recognised an opportunity that the company you want to work for might have missed? 

See what you can come up with after a couple hours of research and you might be amazed with what you find.

The main takeaway that I want you to have is that, without needing to spend a single penny and just with access to the internet, you can create an opportunity to get attention from employers in a way that very few people are taking advantage of. 

Nina’s campaign provides a framework for that.

I personally took inspiration from aspects of Nina’s campaign in applications I’ve submitted, and it was one of the best things I could have done to progress my career. I truly, truly believe that it could do the same for you.

Need a little more inspiration? Great! That just gives me the perfect segue into an interview I’m incredibly excited to present in this issue. 

Bethany Thielen is a brilliant creative from San Fransisco who decided that the traditional model for seeking employment just wasn’t worth the bother – and instead created the Hire Bethany campaign to stop her having to get in touch with businesses, and make them contact her directly instead. 

Read here to learn more about her brilliant journey.


5 things I wish I knew as a creative working with my first client

Has everyone here watched 500 Days of Summer? I hope so, because the only way I can think of starting this article is by ripping off that bit where they do the expectation vs. reality type-thing. 

Expectation: When you work with your clients, you’re going to smash the job out in your first try. I mean, why wouldn’t you? The client has presumably seen your style of work and they’ve hired you; so it would make sense for them to trust you to create yet another piece of epic design that they’ll fall in love with.

Harsh, harsh reality…: Delivering creative work can be messy for a number of reasons. Revisions are a given and it’s so easy for things to get wildly complicated during the process of fine-tuning. 

I’ve recently had the pleasure of being on the other end of the client/creative relationship as my team at work commissioned an agency to develop the branding, website and printed materials for a programme.

This process taught me some pretty essential lessons that I wish I knew when I first started working with clients, and guess what! I’m passing them on because CONTENT.

1. Make a delivery Gantt chart

All of you that already know what a Gantt chart is are probably undergoing some sort of PTSD-like symptoms as you get flashbacks to some horrible project that shaved about 7 years off of your total life expectancy. 

To the blissfully uninitiated, Gantt charts are tools used primarily by project  teams (those people in your office with sunken eyes and a vaguely haunted look) to scope out how long each part of a project should take, and when project items should be delivered by.

There are loads of fancy pants software packages available that you could use to create a Gantt chart, but a plain ol’ Google Docs spreadsheet will serve just as well so there’s no need to fork out for this. In fact, they have Gantt chart templates available for you to use so you don’t have to spend time setting one up. 

Why bother?

A couple of reasons; firstly because it forces both you and the client to agree on acceptable timescales for reviewing and delivering content.

It’s important that you set deadlines for clients to submit feedback by, because realistically your client will have other deadlines in their job and so anything they feel isn’t time sensitive will of course just be pushed to the bottom of their to-do list. 

Give them a deadline to submit any feedback so that your project isn’t put on hold and you aren’t sat twiddling your hard-workin’ thumbs. 

Secondly, when you have successfully landed a couple of clients in one go, it helps you to keep track of where every project is at.

It might sound like something that’s easy to keep track of in your head, but trust me…when the project is running and you have emails flying back and forth between you and the client team you’re working with, it’s ridiculously easy to lose track. 

2. Create an amends tracker on Google Docs

If you’re like me then you probably have the idea of taking on as much responsibility for each stage of the project as you can because you want to provide the best customer experience.

Don’t make compiling feedback your job. 

Why bother?

You’re a creative because you want to make a living making things, not because you want to spend an age trolling copy and pasting points from a bunch of emails into a spreadsheet.

Google Docs lets you create a web-based spreadsheet for free that you and your client can both access at the same time. 

Save yourself a boring job; just create the spreadsheet with the proper headers and then leave your client to fill it up for you.

3. Be vigilant with subject lines

I’ve already mentioned it, but over the course of a larger creative project, there can be a lot of emails flying around. 

Most people’s first habit is to just keep hitting reply on the last email they received from someone and start typing, regardless of whether their next emails has anything to do with the last or not.

Why bother?

The scenario you’ll find yourself in as a result, is that in two weeks you’ll be looking back for a specific email that was sent and you’ll find it’s a mission to track it down.

Using the search function in your inbox is out because all the emails have the same subject line and so you’ll end up losing a whole bunch of your time scrolling back.

Your time is worth more than that, so every time it looks like the topic of discussion shifts in an email, change the subject line to something relevant before you click send. 

This also has the benefit of passively demonstrating to your client that you’re focused and on the ball which is no bad thing.

4. Send an early preview of your work

Listen, I get it…when you’re making something, you never want anyone to see it while it’s a work-in-progress.

You’re worried that the people around you will realise that for the first 95% of the time you spend working on it, your design is an awful mess; and you’re terrified that people will think your work sucks because they don’t understand that it only starts to look pretty towards the end.

The fact is that you need to get good at finding ways of demonstrating what the end product will look like before you have to spend all that time and energy finishing it.

Why bother?

Even though you deffo know better than your client what looks cool innit, the truth is that they might disagree for one reason or another (cretin!).

You need to be able to minimise the amount of wasted time spent on designs that won’t be approved, because unless you’re paid by the hour, time spent on doomed projects is time you’re not getting paid for.

Bite the bullet, find a way to get across to them what the end product will look like and get their feedback as early in the creative process as possible. Like I said before, your time is valuable, even if you don’t feel like it is in the beginning, so treat it that way. 

5. Speak on the phone

No-one on the planet likes a long email, because there are very few occasions where a long email doesn’t demand a long reply. 

If you or your client has so much to say that they can’t fit it into two reasonably small paragraphs; pick up the phone.

Why bother?

If either of you has that much to say about anything to do with the work, conveying your points will be much, much easier over the phone. 

Don’t be shy, just pick up the phone and clear things up. There wasn’t a single time that I spoke to someone at the digital agency on the phone and regretted doing so. 

There we have it, five things that I wish I knew before I started working with my first client on a bigger project. 

I know there are a lot of list articles floating around the web and it’s basically a given that 80% of the points listed in any of them are bound to be ignored. 

The thing is, even if you read through them all and didn’t think about it again until you start working, vaguely following just one of the tips listed will save you loads of time and stress; so just aim for that.

Finally, the first project is there to make mistakes on (obv don’t tell you client that, fake it to make it etc.). These tips might work for you or they might not, the important thing to remember is that landing a client in the first place is AWESOME. 

If you get to the stage where you need any of this information then you’re officially a legend in my book – keep on doing what you’re doing.

If you enjoyed this article, then why not sign up to get my latest posts delivered straight to your inbox? Just type your email into the box at the bottom of the page .

I post content new issues once every sometimes, so adding your email means that you’re being both super supportive (yay!) and avoiding the need to check the website for new content.


How to structure your first client meeting

Let me paint the scene, after following all the steps outlined in the Inkbike guide to landing your first paying client, you do in fact…land your first client.

After demonstrating your value by presenting to them a quality, bespoke piece of work – you get a call saying that they have an idea for a creative project and they’d like to bring you in for the job.

Absolute result! But what happens next?

If you’re not sure, or have been through this process before but are interested in a different approach then this article was written for you.

The first thing you need to do is ask them to send you an email containing an outline of the work they require – another term for this is a ‘creative brief’.

Make sure they send you this brief in writing, and not just over the phone. We’ll get into why this is important later.

An exploratory meeting in person is super important for several reasons;It gives you the ability to build rapport and an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and enthusiasm for the project.

Remember, you are as much the product that you’re selling as the work that you create. Demonstrating expertise reassures the client that they’re in safe hands which can also give you a basis for later word-of-mouth referrals.Not every person that writes a creative brief is going to be good at it – there might be aspects of the job that they think are clear in the brief but actually require elaboration.

Things can be misinterpreted over email, and people can be distracted while on the phone – meet them in person so you can understand more than just what the client wants, understand what their goals are.

Your client might not be the best at articulating exactly what they want designed if they’re not a designer themselves. What they can articulate however, is exactly what they hope to achieve by having assets designed.

Use that information to inform your design to help ensure that you deliver a product that your client will be thrilled with.With any creative venture involving multiple people, it’s easy for different parties to end up with very different visions for what an end product should look like.

It’s even easier for these alternate visions of a perfect end product to reveal themselves until the moment that you show off your initial designs resulting in a self-confidence crushing silence from your client when you were hoping for gasps of awe.

This meeting doesn’t have to take long (not every client is going to be able to spare an hour), but it’s essential to cover certain topics…he said casually segwaying into the next section of the article…

This is where your brief comes in handy.

The easiest way to start your preparation is to figure out what you’re hoping to have agreed by the end of it, and that’s;

  • An itemised list of deliverables
    Get this signed by yourself and the client, it’s the most important document you’ll take away from this meeting because it’s there to protect you both. One the one hand it makes you accountable for the work that the client’s paying you for, but also it guarantees that you aren’t asked to create a whole bunch of additional content which is outside of the scope of what you agreed to be paid to provide;
  • An agreed price for your work
    Some designers will ask for payment to be made upfront, or for 50% of the cost to be paid upfront and 50% when the work is submitted. How you negotiate this is entirely dependant on what you feel comfortable with, regardless you just need to make sure that you agree the price upfront;
  • An agreed number of revisions
    This is mostly a safeguard to ensure that the number of times that a client asks you to make changes doesn’t get ridiculous. You don’t want to be 3 months past the deadline and still receiving emails from your client for ‘one more little tweak’ that takes up your time and doesn’t provide any income. If anything, agreeing a set number of revisions just encourages the client to be organised in providing their feedback;
  • An agreement on submission dates
    Though it seems obvious, it’s best just to clarify this to make sure that you’re both on the same page and avoid any stressy ‘where the hell is that asset’ emails in your inbox. Make sure you give yourself as much time to deliver as possible; delivering early = a pleasant surprise for the client, whereas delivering late is where things can get uncomfortable. I know which one I’d choose to aim for.

If meeting face-to-face makes you feel nervous, then it helps to have everything you’ve prepared packed into a presentation. That way you have visual cues to keep you on track, cover all your points and help convey key points to your client.

As any creative knows; design speaks volumes. Sadly, there are few things drier than a blocky PowerPoint presentation, and it can take AGES to make an attractive presentation using it. 

Thankfully, this month, I discovered a new tool for creating beautiful slideshows – Beautiful AI.

Much like Canva, Beautiful AI is an online-only tool that seeks to make expert designers out of us all by doing most of the heavy lifting. 

It’s got a series of smart templates with modern designs that make your presentations really pop. 

They seem like they’re just getting themselves up and running so at the moment their platform is completely free to use (likely to grow an initial user base). You just need to make an account and you’re good to go. 

Anyway, it sounds like I’m working on commission here but I’m really not (not that I’m not open to it Beautiful AI if you’re reading this – *finger pistols and cheesy grin*), I just think that this is too good of a free tool to not encourage people to take advantage of.

I was seriously impressed – definitely check it out.

Anyway…not sure where to start when putting all of the above into a presentation?

Don’t worry, I’ve created a template on Beautiful AI which you can follow to create your own. View it here.


September issue now live!

The tech issue

On this latest release, you can read the following articles;

On the interview front, this is an awesome issue which spans Leeds and Canada!

Enjoyed this issue? Checking the website every day for new content is exhausting right? Subscribe to be the first to know when a new issue is released by typing your email in the footer below!

Can you be professional videographer with only a phone?

The Pixel 2XL. If you’ve read anything about it then it’ll be no surprise that the feature I’m focusing on is, of course, the camera. The camera on this phone is incredible, an opinion shared throughout the internet in reviews by the likes of TechRadar, Trusted Reviews and Forbes.

Hopefully you’ll be pleased to know that this review of the Pixel 2XL aims to do something different to the others. That’s because all the reviews I’ve read or watched tend to follow a format pretty similar when they discuss cameras on any phone.

It goes something like this;

  • They start by just talking about how good the camera is;
  • As a follow up, they’ll generally throw a bunch of specs at you (which, if you’re anything like me, tend to fly straight over your head);
  • And finally my favourite, they’ll take random images of city streets and friends to give as examples (often shown with duplicate images taken with other phone cameras because…y’know who doesn’t want to see the same image three times over with small changes to sharpness or saturation?).

This doesn’t make any sense to me; if you’re ready to spend that much time reading about a smartphone camera, I feel like it’s because there’s a reason you need it.

You probably intend to do something with it; whether it be because you want to get serious on Instagram, start creating content for YouTube or because you want something that’s good enough to avoid having to investing in a more expensive, dedicated camera.

That’s certainly why I persevered through so many long articles and eventually opted to get the Pixel 2XL. Now I have it, I wanted to write a review that practically demonstrates how the camera might be used and how this device, as a tool, might enable someone to either start a new hobby or even a professional venture…and honestly, I also just want an excuse to shoot some cool sh*t.

The structure header


Practicing what I aim to preach, here’s what I went out and did with this camera;

  • I shot two short films vlog-style using the Pixel 2XL, and edited them to create videos you might expect to find on YouTube;
  • I did a couple of photo shoots with myself and willing friends to see how the phone performed when creating professional-looking images for marketing needs;
  • I used it to produce accompanying images for almost every article in this months issue so be sure to give them a read and see what you think.

I’m hoping that by the time this review is finished, I might have provided a close enough example to a need you might have that it helps you make an informed decision as to whether this device suits your needs.

Happy? All strapped-in? Great – let’s get cracking then!

Film header

To reiterate, each of the below videos was shot entirely using the Pixel 2XL and I’d never tried doing anything like this before.

The only accessories used to shoot with were two Joby Gorrilapod stands ; a magnetic one and a standard one.

If you’re planning to get started shooting video or pictures with your phone, I wholly recommend the GorrillaPod stands. They can balance on pretty much anything as well as wrap around anything like poles, posts and lampposts which makes setting up your shots  SO. MUCH. EASIER.


In the second video, I shot the majority of footage in city centres so the magnetic stand was particularly useful when I could attach my phone to railings or lampposts more securely.

They’re also just awesome gadgets in general, and are super fun to play around with…so there’s that too!

The only other thing I wish I had was a bluetooth remote control which could turn start/stop recording – something like this. Not having one wasn’t a major deal, but it just would have meant that I could have been able to leave the camera set up at a good angle and capture certain natural moments without having to reach over and mess around with the phone.

Walk Header

The perfect weekend header


Shooting experience

Shooting on the Pixel 2XL was an absolute pleasure because it captures brilliant detail first time. I can’t think of a single moment when I had to go back and reshoot something or avoid using a clip because any of the footage was out of focus.

This was especially impressive in the 2nd video when I filmed my friends reaching the top of Primrose Hill, and the buildings of the London skyline are clearly visible. I wasn’t expecting that to come out AT ALL.

Having confidence in the cameras ability to work so well meant I could focus completely on the pleasure of filming without worrying that I needed to refocus or avoid certain lighting conditions.

Another feature of the camera I really liked was that you can pause while recording.

This meant that I could shoot multiple separate ‘scenes’ in succession, but have them saved as a single clip. It might not sound like much, but when it came to editing all the footage, I found this really useful for staying organised.


Another big sell of the Pixel 2XL is that it’s able to shoot in 4K.

The obvious benefit of this being that the camera packs a huge amount of detail into the footage you produce which immediately makes your finished video appear more professional (nothing screams amateur video faster than grainy, unclear footage after all).

Unfortunately this quality isn’t best represented in the linked videos because YouTube compresses videos which are uploaded at the loss of some video quality. There is a way around this based on how you render the video in the editing process, but I was at a push to get this months Inkbike issue out as soon as possible so didn’t manage to figure it out in time.

If there’s any interest, I’ll create a follow up article in the future which addresses it. In the meantime, please trust that there exists higher resolution versions of the linked videos on my computer…

A potential issue I wasn’t expecting to encounter however, was the impact that capturing UHD video has on your available storage. I don’t know if this was just me being ignorant, but I had no idea how large 4K video files were until I started working on this article.

For reference, a 1-minute clip shot in 4K takes up roughly 350MB of storage space. For the ‘Perfect Weekend’ video, I shot maybe around 20 minutes of unedited in footage to produce the final 5-minute video, which equates to 15GB of space taken up on my phone.

My point is that the Pixel 2XL comes in two storage models, 64GB and 128GB, with no option for expandable storage. If you plan on shooting plenty in 4K, it might be worth investing in the additional storage.

It’s not a dealbreaker though, I have the 64GB model and it just means that I can’t be sentimental about my footage after I’ve finished editing and just delete it.


Another feature of the Pixel 2XL which I’ve loved is the way it’s able to stabilise shaky footage using software built-in to the camera app.

This is a huge help when you’re shooting footage while on the move. For example, in some shots I would be facing the subject and stepping backwards. Unless you’re a surgeon with gimbals for knees, keeping the camera steady while you do so is really tricky.

Demonstrating what the stabilisation software does, and how effective it is might be something best seen rather than discussed. See the below;

Having the Pixel 2XL meet me halfway with stabilisation software ensured that I got usable footage for my final video from tricky conditions, and I repeatedly found myself grateful for it while editing.


Getting back to familiar review territory – photography.

As I’ve already said up top, the camera on this phone is amazing and you can read any number of reviews throughout the internet which will tell you the exact same thing.

Since we’ve had clarified for us that this phone takes great shots of random city streets, flowers at close-up (another favourite in reviews) and random people; we can focus our attention on better things.

Our question then, sweet reader, is whether the camera on this phone is good enough for professional purposes.

That can be anything from high-resolution portraits for your LinkedIn profile picture, images to accompany a web-marketing campaign or even just imagery for a kick-ass poster.

To help demonstrate whether this was the case, I decided to create some marketing imagery for dissemination across the Inkbike social media channels.

Check them out!







Conclusions Header

At the end of it all, I hope that some of the examples I put together might be close enough to how you might intend to use the camera to help you make an informed decision as to whether or not the Pixel 2XL is suited to your needs.

If not, then I hope the above demonstrates that I’ve built up enough experience using the 2XL that you consider my final opinion reliably informed.

Simply put, I believe that in this device, you get an all-in-one tool which allows you to go beyond good-quality amateur photography. I’d never made YouTube videos before I started this review, but I was really pleased with how they came out. I think that this camera put in their hands of experienced or novice creators alike could lead to some really incredible content being created.


Another question I think important to clarify is, why did I think this review was important to make?

Because most everyone reading this will have a smartphone, and the majority will have it on a monthly contract that they barely think about. It’s just one of those bills you’ve been used to paying since your late teens.

Brand new this phone will set you back a lofty £629, the price of a good standalone DSLR camera. BUT(!), on contract you can get this phone for as low as £30pm (deal exists at the time of writing but I won’t bother linking because deals change so often – check Uswitch).

That price is likely to go down very shortly too, since the Pixel 3 will be announced in the next few weeks.

If you were already looking to get a new phone, and are looking for an opportunity to start creating visual content for professional or commercial purposes, you don’t need to spend hundreds on a new camera to keep up with your ideas.

I really believe that you can use the 2XL along with the low-cost accessories I’ve mentioned throughout the review, you’ll be shocked at the amazing content that you can film or shoot.

At the very least, it’s an entry point for you to work with until you feel that your work requires investment in more advanced hardware.

For me though, I have every confidence in what it’s capable of and I can’t wait to continue using it to carry my creative ambitions.

Inkbike out!

Thoughts? Feelings? Impressions? Any other devices you feel are more worthy of your time? Or even better – anyone who has a Pixel and used it to create some awesome content, I’d love to see and talk about it with you!

Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike