Friday, August 29, 2008

Greetings from the Creative Freelancer Conference, Day 3

Inspiring. Invigorating. Challenging. Uplifting. Educational. Connecting.

Just a few of the words that come to mind as I reflect on my experience at this first-ever Creative Freelancer Conference. I have come away with so many wonderful ideas, to improve my business and myself. I've been inspired to truly follow my passion, and focus in on the work I really want. It's actually quite liberating to think that it's OK to do only the work I love.

First thing this morning, I sat in on the Breakfast Roundtable facilitated by Scott Morrison. The subject there was, "The Agency of One: The new model for success." I gleaned a couple of interesting tidbits from the conversation, but I don't feel I got everything I'd hoped from it. Part of the problem was simply that I couldn't hear everything being said by all the participants, which reduced my ability to take part as well. The room was quite noisy with so many discussions going on all at once.

The opening session was "How to Find the Time to Build Your Freelance Business," led by author and serial entrepreneur Lee Silber. The session was tremendously enjoyable, and very informative. Personally, I was already familiar with his writing, since I own three of his 14(!) books... but hearing him speak was an entirely different experience. His humor was (almost always) dead-on, and really a perfect way to start the day. His message that it is OK for us right-brained folks to do things the way it makes sense for us is fantastic. I think my favorite bit of advice was when he described how he has drawn a stove-top on his desk. On the front three burners (it's obviously a commercial stove), he places the three most important projects requiring his attention. On the back burners, he places three less important projects. The visualization of this was perfect for me. I'm often having to stop and think about that needs to be done, and then trying to determine what needs to be done first. This concept will help me organize those thoughts so much better.

Jeff Fisher (LogoMotives) closed the conference with, "Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence." His advice and insight gained from 30 years of freelancing was amazing. He made many great points, the primary one being, "it's your business, you get to set the rules." So often, I think that we, as independent professionals, allow ourselves to be treated as employees by our clients. We forget that we're the boss of our own business, and as such, have the right and the power to tell others when we work, how we work, and what we want to work on. It's a beautiful thing. There's plenty to go around, especially if we're all focused on taking on only the work we love best.

Thank you so much to HOW Magazine and Marketing Mentor for hosting this conference. So much of this was just the kick in the pants I needed to really get my business on track. Some things I knew, others I didn't... but even if nothing new is said - to hear it from a new face, in a new place sometimes is just the thing you need to have it all make sense. And the connections made between colleagues are priceless.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Greetings from the Creative Freelancer Conference, Day 2

Another day full of information and ideas!

The morning was spent learning about client care and retention. It's much easier to keep a current client happy than to win a new one! Speaker Joan Gladstone (Gladstone International) gave us a great deal of excellent information about nurturing client relationships, and ways to get things back on track when they've begun to derail. She discussed the use of surveys to assess client satisfaction, and advocated communication as the best way to keep clients happy. One of my favorite statements from her talk was, "there are few things clients love more than learning the status of a project without asking." This is definitely something I will keep in mind!

Following Joan was the dynamic duo of Ilise Benun and Colleen Wainwright presenting, "Building a Well-Oiled Marketing Machine." They were entertaining and enlightening and educational, making this a very enjoyable session. Three components to the successful marketing machine: Focus, Tools, and Attention, were discussed, the tools at great length. Those tools include:
1. Networking - go meet people, in the real world and online. Know your blurb, and be prepared to whip it out on a moment's notice. (I have two, because, as I told the assembled group today, I have two personalities... and thanks to Rainmakers, mine were ready, polished, and kick-ass!)
2. Research Calling (no more Cold Calling - no one likes that anyway.)
3. Email Marketing - newsletters are good, and don't forget to use your email signature!
4. Marketing-Savvy Website - make it work for you, keep it updated, help people contact you.
5. Print Materials - of all the options here, I think the most powerful is the handwritten note.

(By the way, you should go visit Colleen's site. She's competing in a contest to become Southwest Airlines next blogospondent, and needs your vote. And, her video's awesome! Go vote!)

The special presentation by Jan Kabili of was okay. I picked up a few good Photoshop tips. I felt the presentation didn't really connect to the audience very well, and that Jan didn't understand the questions people were having. The information was good, but the delivery was only average.

Following the lunch break (which I spent walking outside - it had obviously rained earlier, but the sun was out, and it was nice to escape to the outdoors for a while. I need sunshine...) we began our money-themed afternoon. This kicked-off with Peleg Top's session entitled "How to Talk to Your Clients About Fees." I enjoyed this information-packed session tremendously. I took notes furiously, even though Peleg assurred us the slides from his presentation would be available. Some of the most profound points he made were not even directly about money. He talked about making a mindset shift, to go from saying, "I want to be a well-paid, highly respected, successful designer," to saying, "I AM a well-paid, highly respected, successful designer." It's subtle, but oh-so-important. He also covered ways of talking about money with clients, breaching the subject, and handling the selling process. The closing remark was perfect -a fortune cookie fortune he'd received years ago: "Sell your ideas. They are worth much money." How true.

Illustrator Lloyd Dangle continued the money conversaion in his session, "A Quick and Dirty Look at Proposals and Contracts." He gave some great information, although I sensed there were some major idealogical differences between he & Peleg - in the way they approach proposals especially - and felt they would have been well-served to have collaborated a bit more before giving their presentations. Peleg also ended up stealing some of Lloyd's thunder by going over proposals at length in his own presentation. Overall, Lloyd's advice was excellent, and I'm really hoping to get copies of his sample boilerplate proposal and contract, for comparison to my own. I know there's some language I need to adjust.

Ami Kassar of gave a short session on idea sharing, including an excercise in ideablobbing. His key point was, Community is About Give and Get, and "AHA" moments happen every day on ideablob. A very intriguing concept.

My evening ended with a review of my marketing materials with Jeff Fisher (LogoMotives). I asked him to review my recently completed circle•the•date brochure. He seemed impressed enough, and gave me some great ideas to implement with the group, as well as suggested starting a blog specifically for invitations, which I will definitely be doing soon! Thanks, Jeff!

A very long, exciting, stimulating, but tiring day. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, though!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Greetings from the Creative Freelancer Conference, Day 1

What a day! After making my way to Chicago this morning, a working afternoon at the hotel, and then joining my creative contemporaries at the conference, I'm a bit tired! But let me tell you, the conference is going to be great. Actually, it already is!

Ilise Benun (Marketing Mentor) and Peleg Top (Top Design) gave an excellent opening presentation, "Secrets of a Successful Solopreneur." They spoke about several areas creative professionals must focus upon to maintain balance and ultimately achieve the freedom of choice freelancing can grant. The eight keys included: Client Relations, Marketing, Money Management, Business Policies, Time Management, Work/Life Balance, Creativity, and Collaboration. They highlighted some important points for each topic, whetting our appetites for several of the upcoming sessions.

After a brief break - Ilise and Peleg ran over, answering questions from the audience - Dyana Valentine took the stage to speak about Creative Collaboration. She led the audience through an exercise to help each person identify their own struggles and strengths, and then through collaboration, find ways of leveraging their own strengths to find solutions for the struggles. It was an interesting exercise, although there really wasn't enough time to complete the process, which was disappointing. I do believe some good connections began to form during the activity, however. This was a workshop topic with which I already felt a reasonable level of competence, considering the recent creation of circle•the•date. We've already got the "complimentary creatives can help each other" thing down! :-)

During the "Opening Happy Hour," attendees had the opportunity to mix and mingle. Peleg offered an activity (a Rainmaker classic), Two Truths and a Lie. Mine were: 1. I have traveld to 9 countries outside the U.S.; 2. I am working on my Masters of Music; 3. My favorite color is green. Know which one is my lie? Unfortunately, not many participated, but it was fun to strike up a few conversations with those who did.

I was pleasantly surprised by how far some people had traveled to be at the conference - I met folks from Seattle, Washington all the way to Massachusetts!

So, tomorrow kicks off with the breakfast roundtables, and then into a full day of sessions. More tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


As I post the first entry into this blog, I am preparing to leave for the Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago, IL tomorrow. I'm very excited to be attending this conference, as I believe I will have many opportunities to gain valuable information about running my design business. I'll post updates from the conference here, for anyone interested in my perspective on the event.

Most of the time, this blog will be home to information about recent projects I've completed, news, and comments on design. My other blog, Bright Ideas (coming soon!) will focus on design and marketing tips for business owners.