Let me take my Event coordinator hat off for just one moment, and replace it with my “Hey, I’m a freelancer – why should I fork our hundreds of dollars to go to a conference” hat (I have a lot of very specific hats). Miles Burke recently wrote about why you should attend two conferences every year, but what about you, my fellow freelancers, who have to watch the pennies? I personally think freelancers have the most to gain from attending conferences – think about it:
- Learning new stuff. As a freelancer, every minute you aren’t working on a client project is money you aren’t making. When do you get a chance to find out about new stuff? It’s usually squeezed in around lunch time or after hours, which is cool but how can you moot the benefits of a new tech? Although things like twitter or forums fill the gap a little, nothing beats old school, real word face-to-face talks. There are lots of people at conferences who’s minds are focused purely on new stuff.
- Meet famous people. Conferences are really just an excuse for the organisers to fly over people they admire. The thing is, because these people are only really famous on the internet, they are still usually really down to earth and approachable and are more than happy to chew-the-fat over a beer or three.
- Inspiration. Smart people hang out at conferences. Smart people talk about smart stuff at conferences. Smart ideas are inspirational. Every time I come back from a conference I have a head full of crazy ideas that I wish I had more time to implement.
- Networking. I don’t care what anyone says – the MOST important skill a freelancer can have is the ability to network. 90% of my freelance work comes through people I’ve met (And I’d put money on the fact that most freelancers are the same). Freelancers by definition won’t have a dedicated marketing person, or a huge marketing budget, so networking is really a cheap and easy way to meet new clients (and more importantly new friends). Conferences have many people in a small area who could potentially want to talk to you. (Don’t forget your business cards).
- Tax Deduction. ‘Nuff Said
Ok, ok talk is cheap (thank god, otherwise I’d be bankrupt) but there really isn’t a way to describe the experience of a conference – the only way you’ll understand is to go to one. Now, you sandgropers are lucky because we have Edge of the Web on our doorstep. I had to fly to Sydney and sleep on a mates floor to get my first conference experience, and it still cost me nearly $2000 (but it was freaking awesome). You can get the same experience for $495 – I’m no Dr. Maths, but that sounds a truck load better.
Seriously, if you are umming and ahhing, just do it. I’ll see you in November :)