About this episode
In this episode, we'll discuss building business skills in addition to technical skills as an agency owner plus finding your niche and creating content around it in order to build trust that attracts clients.
Matthew Munger: Hello Igor. Thank you for meeting with me today.
Igor Voroshilov: Hello, thanks for having me today.
Matthew Munger: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Igor Voroshilov: Yeah. My name is Igor. I'm running this local Webflow community here in Tokyo, although I'm not Japanese. But I'm trying to build this community of Japanese folks here. I'm really passionate about growing it bigger, kind of like expanding the Flow in Japan and maybe the other countries as well.
Matthew Munger: Tell us a little bit more about being located there in Tokyo. What is it like living there?
Igor Voroshilov: Wow, it’s actually amazing. I came to Tokyo five years ago as a student and totally love it. It’s an amazing city. Tokyo is huge. So basically it has no borders with other cities around, so it feels like a whole huge city with like 40 million people here living. Yeah, it has everything, whatever you can ever think of, and I totally love it.
Of course it's a huge economy. So in terms of potential for using Webflow, for meeting new people, for doing business, for meeting startups, it's an amazing place. It’s kind of late in terms of a startup system and this innovation stuff, but it's catching up and it's very exciting to be here.
Matthew Munger: When you go out on the town, what is a place that you like to visit?
Igor Voroshilov: Recently, I’ve got my office at my home in my favorite place here in the city. Just half a year ago I moved to the area called Omotesando. It's actually one of the most fashionable streets here in Tokyo. It has a lot of nice cafes and restaurants. We even have a huge Buddhist temple here.
A very interesting thing about that: It's located in the center of Tokyo, but it's surrounded by a real forest, actually. It’s a really nice place to go and refresh and yeah, I really like it.
But among that, Tokyo is a very energetic city. So let's say if you go a little to the south of where I live, you will come to the place called Shibuya. And it has a very famous scramble square, the intersection.
So it's about 2 million people crossing that every day, so many people and a lot of music and never finish. So I really like to go there to get that energy of the city. If you go to the north from where I live, if you go to the place called Shinjuku, it's also kind of like the biggest station, I guess, here in Tokyo.
And a lot of people like doing different stuff. I really like this contrast in Tokyo when you can kind of calm down in some temple in some forest in the middle of Tokyo, or you can go to a place which is so energetic, like so many people there. You basically find something for yourself in Tokyo all the time.
Matthew Munger: Yeah, it's very interesting. You kind of get that nice balance or duality, nature and busy city there in close proximity.
Igor Voroshilov: Yeah, definitely. That's one of the things which I really love about Tokyo.
Matthew Munger: Can you describe, if we were to sit in your chair, what does your workspace look like?
Igor Voroshilov: It's actually quite a big building. It's maybe 28 floors or something like that. I'm on the 15th floor and I have a huge window here. I really like it. It’s facing the area called Roppongi with a lot of skyscrapers and all that stuff. I kind of like to divide my place for living, but I also want to have it conveniently accessible to each other.
I actually put a lot of plants in my office and in my home because I want to have this kind of natural environment around me. I don't like to be just with artificial kinds of objects around me, and I want to make my air better. So I thought, “These greens, they will help me to stay connected with nature while working.”
Matthew Munger: Do you like to listen to music while you work?
Igor Voroshilov: That actually depends on my mood. Yeah, sometimes it's just recent pop music, which is recommendations in YouTube music. Sometimes it's some old music, old songs which I really liked when I was a kid. So yeah, that really depends. I like very different genres of music, including R&B, pop music, rock music, and EDM as well. The most easy to relax, or even concentrate, easy to catch this work and flow is probably just like lo-fi music.
Matthew Munger: So open up a lo-fi playlist and open up the Webflow Designer and get to work.
Igor Voroshilov: Yeah, recently I got my team members— so l kind of moved more to a managing position. So unfortunately I don't have that much time to work directly in Webflow recently. But still, some projects I manage myself. I kind of work on them directly.
Matthew Munger: When you're not working, do you have any kind of hobbies or interests?
Igor Voroshilov: Actually I have a huge interest, which I got maybe one year and a half ago. It's a gym. I really like working out. I work out three times a week. So usually after my concentrated work here at the office, I go to the gym, which is also very close. I work with a personal trainer all the time because I really want to have good results. So maybe in several years you will see me on the stage of Mr. Olympia or something. Yeah, so this is one of my passions.
Matthew Munger: So are you just going for overall strength, or are you into more like the heavy weight lifting?
Igor Voroshilov: I think I lift quite heavy? So it's kind of like for overall strength as well, but also I want to build muscle, be kind of like bigger. Well I was joking about Mr. Olympia competition, but who knows.
Matthew Munger: Is there anything that would surprise people to learn about you?
Igor Voroshilov: Maybe the fact that I'm not Japanese, but running in this Japanese community here.
Matthew Munger: Mm-hmm, okay. So tell us, where are you originally from?
Igor Voroshilov: I'm originally from Russia. So I was born in a really small place on the west of Russia. It was a really small town, maybe like 3000-5000 people. And I moved a lot during my life. I maybe moved already like eight times I moved my home.
I used to live in the south of Russia, near the Black Sea. Then I went to St. Petersburg— the capital of culture in Russia, a very, beautiful city— for high school. Then I moved to Moscow for my university, and then I also spent half a year as an exchange student here in Tokyo. And then, I went to China for half a year, and then I moved to Tokyo completely.
Matthew Munger: The local Meetup and Webflow Community that you run there, you're running it in Japanese, correct?
Igor Voroshilov: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. I do all of my work in Japanese, actually. Maybe 70% of me speaking is actually speaking Japanese, and maybe 20% is speaking English, and maybe like 10% is me speaking Russian to my brother, who also lives here. So we work together in one company. He's my co-founder, actually.
Matthew Munger: Oh, very nice. How did that come about, being able to learn Japanese enough to be able to use it for the majority of your day, but also to run your business and all of that? What was that like?
Igor Voroshilov: Yeah, it was actually very exciting. I started learning Japanese, earlier, while I was at Moscow University. My first trip to Japan was like a student forum. When I came here, I was just speaking English to all Japanese guys. I remember thinking, “The next time I come to Japan, I will be speaking Japanese.” I found a local community of Japanese students and Russian students who wanted to learn Japanese there in Moscow.
And they also had language meetups. So I was going there and trying to speak, just polishing my language skills. Funny thing about Japanese is that it has several levels of politeness. You have a level of politeness when you talk to friends, kind of neutral. When it comes to business, you need to speak very polite Japanese.
Matthew Munger: Yeah.
Igor Voroshilov: I've never learned how to speak really politely in Japanese, so I had to learn it just by doing business. I even remember I was at some meetings and I heard some Japanese guys. They used words and I just copied them at that exact meeting. So that's kind of like my trick to be kind of fluent in Japanese, just copy paste kind of.
Matthew Munger: Yeah, copy paste. Mimicking language or things that you see in other cultures is a really good way to get a jumpstart and until it becomes almost like a built-in reflex for you.
Igor Voroshilov: Today, when I am running this Tokyo Meetup here in Webflow, I have to be a facilitator, I have to be a leader. I have to plan out the event and I have to engage people to make them participate in the event. It's actually one of my biggest challenges because in general, Japanese culture is not very engaging. They are a little bit shy, they tend not to talk too much in front of other people.
Matthew Munger: They would rather just kind of observe the presentation from you, and you're trying to figure out how to make it more interactive.
Igor Voroshilov: Yes, definitely. That's a good point. They really like observing, they usually don't come up with many questions. And it actually comes from high school education, I guess. So they have this rule when if you ask questions, then that means that the teacher was not very clear, the teacher was not very good. So they may have this kind of thought and then they hesitate to ask questions.
Matthew Munger: Yeah. That's interesting how culturally it's almost like an insult to the teacher if you have questions.
Igor Voroshilov: Yeah, definitely. It seems to be the thing.
Matthew Munger: What is your role today at your company, and how would you describe what you do?
Igor Voroshilov: My role is Founder and Representative Director of my company. And what I do is I'm trying to build the first Webflow agency in Tokyo, in Japan, and trying to lead the team to be good professionals at what they do.
It’s also a very interesting thing because I'm also doing teaching. So I have an online school and I do quite a lot of educational video content on YouTube.
Matthew Munger: What you're teaching is Webflow or design? What is the subject?
Igor Voroshilov: Yeah. Mainly it's Webflow. It's not that much of design. So I'm not a designer myself. I don't have this sense for design. I have a very nice understanding of how HTML and CSS works with Webflow, so how to build with Webflow. I like passing this knowledge to my students, to my teammates, to members of my online school, my YouTube subscribers, and of course my Meetup members as well.
Matthew Munger: How would you say being the founder of an agency and then teaching Webflow to your students and at meetups, how is that different from what you imagined you'd be doing today?
Igor Voroshilov: Oh, that's actually very different because when I just started my company, I was doing a completely different business. We were making a mobile app. It was me and my brother as two co-founders. And we also had a team of other members. We were making the mobile app, and we were raising funding, like as a startup, here in Japan. We had a hard time during the coronavirus because we needed to change the business. Like we couldn't continue with what we were doing.
And a little bit before that, I started using Webflow for building our own website. When we needed to find a new direction for the business, I thought, “Okay, I can use Webflow, so maybe I can build websites for other people.” So, like a freelancer or agency.
I found out that everyone just wanted to have a website on WordPress. And I was really surprised because you have Webflow, it's so good, why don't you use it? I just realized that they don't really know about Webflow. And that's how I came up with the idea to make the online school first.
I recorded these courses, video courses. Eventually, people who were coming to my online school, sometimes they wanted to build their own website, but they felt like they needed to learn quite a lot. And eventually they started asking me “Can you build the website for me?” In this way, we started to get more and more clients, and started making websites as an agency. And then I got the team of my past students— yeah, that's how we grew up from a small online school into an agency building Webflow websites.
Matthew Munger: Can you tell me a little bit more about why that motivates you?
Igor Voroshilov: One of the reasons is because I remember all of these lessons, which I learned the hard way, and I understood how to avoid all those mistakes. Like how using no-code, using Webflow for websites or other tools for building mobile applications, how it can actually help to move faster, to minimize risks. I just want to pass that knowledge, that understanding, on to those who are thinking about starting their own business, to those who are thinking about starting a freelance career as well. To teach Webflow, to gather people to the meet ups to this event and try to pass some knowledge to them.
Matthew Munger: What is a resource that you think more people should know about?
Igor Voroshilov: I think when we run the agency, when we run this freelance career as Webflow developers, as a Webflow agency, I think what happens is it usually grows from our technical skills, right? But it happens that more important is actually not only technical skills, but also sales, marketing, and how you work with clients.
That's actually very important, especially when you become an agency, because you start to have responsibility for your employees as well. You need to ensure that you have good marketing, you have enough number of leads, you close your leads, and you satisfy your clients. Many people think that just having the technical skill is good enough. I would recommend probably to learn more about it, I definitely need to learn about it myself as well. So maybe it's not the resource, but the kind of direction which I think people should look at.
Matthew Munger: Yeah. So not a resource, but a recommendation that if you are growing as a freelancer, as an agency, don't just solely focus on the technical skills that you're developing and neglect the business and interpersonal skills that you need to also be successful.
Igor Voroshilov: Yeah, exactly.
Matthew Munger: Who is someone within the Webflow community that inspires you?
Igor Voroshilov: Probably Finsweet, they're amazing. And especially the founder of Finsweet. I really like how they put the content, how they impact the community, how they built all these tools. Yeah, I kind of try to follow their example. When we are working on our projects, we also sometimes come up with some workarounds with snippets of code, which allow us to overcome some limitations in the Webflow as well.
And we also built one tool on our own, it's called MemberChat. So I try to do this content marketing, this kind of a community marketing, like Finsweet is doing. They really inspire me.
Matthew Munger: Very nice shout out to Finsweet and Joe Krug.
Matthew Munger: What is some advice that you would like to share with the community?
Igor Voroshilov: It’s a really good idea to niche down as a Webflow agency or as a freelancer. When you try to get your clients, when you try to build your career, you need to have a niche, so have your own group of clients, your own target.
In my terms it's very clear because I work on the Japanese market exclusively, so I kind of niched down to Japanese companies who want to have a Webflow website. And then you can also market yourself with the content. You can build a lot of YouTube content or blogs on that topic to educate your customers and attract them. So that would be my advice, to find a niche and then build a lot of content, build a lot of trust, and use it to your advantage to get clients, to build a reputation.
Matthew Munger: Yeah. Well, Igor, thank you for chatting with me today. If there's anyone in the community who wants to reach out and connect with you, how can they do that?
Igor Voroshilov: They can find me on Twitter. So my Twitter handle is igorvoroshilov, just my name. Yeah, please find me on Twitter. Send me a DM or mention me in your tweet. I will be really happy, I will definitely answer that.