The Top 10 Things I Learned at the Creative Freelancer Conference

The 6th Annual Creative Freelancer Conference took place last weekend, June 22–24, 2013, in San Francisco, and I had an amazing time! Over 600 designers, copywriters, writers, photographers, and other creative folks gathered together to learn how to grow and build their business as a freelancer and/or small design studio. I had so much fun making new friends, learning fresh ideas to grow as a freelancer, and smoozing with other creative to promote my web design business. Here are a few moments and thoughts that stand out to me as worth mentioning:

1. Work when you’re working, don’t when you’re not. Graphic designer, Jim Krause gave an incredible talk called “How to Stuff 10 Pounds of You Know What Into a 5-Day Week.” He gave a lot of great strategies to get more out of your day, especially the idea that you should really focus while you’re working. Eliminate distractions and try not to multitask while working on a project so you can work as efficiently as possible. Likewise, leave work at the door during your downtime so you can really enjoy your time and regroup. Then you are more refreshed and ready to go when it is time for work.

2. Define your values. Sarah Durham, principal and founder of Big Duck, gave an inspiring talk about “Integrating Your Values and Your Positioning.” She stressed that defining your values can help you deal with any conflict that arises—the conflict usually stems from not being aligned with one of your values. Knowing your values also makes sure you are transparent with clients so they know exactly what to expect while working with you. I’m definitely going to add a page about my values to my site.

3. Growing doesn’t always mean getting bigger. During the panel discussion “From the Trenches: How to Grow Into a Small Business,” four designers shared their thoughts on growing their business. Three of these designers had grown into a small agency, and one designer, Kirk Roberts, talked about how growth to him didn’t necessarily mean expanding beyond one person. Amen to that! I’m quite content being a one-person shop.

4. You are never too young to learn. 14-year old student Richard Medina attended the conference. I met him at the Breakfast Roundtable I hosted with Bryn Mooth titled “Your Market Smart Brand: From Websites to Business Cards.” Richard is an inspiring young man. It’s so refreshing to see someone so young care so much about learning the craft.

5. Ask for help. Join an accountability group and/or find a mentor to help you grow your business. I can definitely attest to the wonderfulness that comes from having a mentor as I’ve been working with Ilise Benun, Marketing Mentor, to help me keep up my marketing. With her help I’ve increased my business 17% through the content strategy we’ve developed.

I’m also a member of the Creatives Roundtable, an accountability group of fellow designers that meet monthly on a Google hangout. We set 6 month goals and review our progress towards those goals every month. It’s a great way to get a virtual slap in the face if I’m not keeping up to snuff.

6. Jessica Hische is hilarious. I had the honor of introducing one of the speakers, Jessica Hische, letterer and illustrator extraordinaire. She gave a witty and informative talk on the Dark Art of Pricing. While discussing contracts, she nonchalantly said “Contracts should be written on a napkin that says, ‘You be cool. I be cool.'” If only it was that easy :)

7. Don’t “should” on yourself. One of my favorite speakers from the conference, Dyana Valentine commanded the stage as she presented “Pitch Perfect: Never Be a Deer in Headlights Again.” Dyana helped us get to the meat of what we say when we describe what we do. She reminded us to do what feels authentic instead of what we “should” do.

8. Write 500 words of content every week. Newfangled CEO Mark O’Brien presented an awesome workshop titled “You Don’t Know What You Know: Developing Your Content Strategy.” He challenged all of us to write a minimum of 2,000 words of content a month as that’s the magic number where your content strategy really starts working for you. That’s one blog post a week. I better get to writing . . . Speaking of which,  I just installed the WP Word Count plugin to show me the number of words for each post, which I’m finding super useful as I write this post. For example, this post has 951 words. This should make Mark happy.

9. Easy SEO things you can handle. Mark O’Brien also mentioned the top 3 sections you should pay attention to on Google Analytics (you do have this installed on your website, right?):

  • Trends in Traffics
  • Search Phrases
  • Top Pages

Regarding where to start with SEO, as you write your content, focus on:

  • The title tag of each page or post (what appears at the very top of your browser window)
  • The actual title of the page or post
  • SEO-friendly URLs (does the URL of the page or post contain the main words people are searching for?)

For more on this subject, just search for SEO on Newfangled’s website.

10. Twitter is really awesome at conferences. By using hashtags, tweeting favorite quotes and moments, and connecting with fellow attendees, Twitter is a great way to be social during a conference and after as well. As I’m writing this post, I’m checking the #cfconf hashtag on Twitter to remember all the valuable nuggets of information everyone shared in each session.

If you also attended CFC, please share your favorite a-ha! moment in the comments below. If you couldn’t make it, plan on going to next year’s Creative Freelancer Conference, May 12–16, 2014, in Boston. You won’t regret it :)

About Jill Anderson

Hi, I’m Jill, a WordPress WordPress designer/developer who partners with talented designers, copywriters, and agencies on their websites, and their client’s sites. I’m passionate about crafting beautiful and innovative WordPress websites focused on clear positioning and positive user experiences. Get my free report, Get Your Website Done: 12 Actionable Steps for Designers, and check out my Client Onboarding Toolkit, a simple 4-step digital course for converting prospects into a paying clients.


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6 thoughts on “The Top 10 Things I Learned at the Creative Freelancer Conference

  1. Well summarized! Jim Krause’s ideas/suggestions for making the most of workday were invaluable to me! Ditto Kirk Roberts point about staying solo.
    It was my first time attending the CFC, and I thought it was great.
    And finally, your site and positioning are great-maybe I should enlist Ilise’s help as well :)

  2. Great synopsis Jill. I’m working with Ilise as well and she often refers me to your site and it’s positioning as a great example. I’m hoping we can meet at next year’s CFC and maybe collaborate one day. Thanks again for the great run down of helpful info!

  3. Awesome summary, wish I could have gone!! Love point #2, that’s something that I’ve kept putting back on the back burner. Shout out to Ilise Benum, booya! :)

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