Meet Other Solopreneurs at 2012 Creative Freelancer Conference

The Creative Freelancer Conference is a business-focused event for solopreneurs in design, writing, photography, and illustration. In addition to face-to-face networking with creative pros from complementary disciplines, you can learn some fresh approaches to marketing, client relations, productivity, and money management.

The 2012 Creative Freelancer Conference takes place Thursday, June 21 and Friday, June 22 as part of the HOW Design Live Conference June 21 to June 25 in Boston.  The Creative Freelancer Conference is held in partnership with the Marketing Mentor creative-business consulting firm.

Here are some sessions being planned:

Planning for Your First Year of Freelancing
Shane Pearlman will recommend ways to avoid common rookie mistakes and be more successful during your first year on your own. Among other things, he will explain the importance of creating contracts, getting deposits from clients, and tracking finances.

Options for Growth
Luke Mysse will discuss traditional and non-traditional ways to grow your business, and talk about how to decide which of three business models is right for you: solo, solo plus a virtual team, or full staff.

Why a Bigger Business Isn’t Always Better
For many owners of creative businesses, success is more about satisfaction than size. Adelaide Lancaster will present examples of many different ways entrepreneurs think about business growth. While gaining clarity on growth options, you will learn how to determine the right direction for your business and recognize your ability to create work based on your needs and goals.

Building Your Prospect List: Quality vs. Quantity
Success in any business start-up requires knowing how to identify your addressable market and build a marketing funnel to convert prospects into customers. Allen Murabayashi will offer practical advice on identifying your prospects, building a prospect list, and converting the prospects on your list into paying clients.

Skillful Communications with Clients
Understanding what your clients really want and giving it to them doesn’t mean you have to function simply as an order taker. Many clients expect you to take a leadership role and prove that your expertise can truly help their businesses. Marcia Hoeck explains how to start client relationships out right, by setting the tone for conversations and becoming a valued resource without being a doormat. Learn how to discuss tough issues like a pro, and put yourself in a position of strength.

Is Your Website Generating Business?
To ensure that your website is generating quality leads for your business, Mark O’Brien will take you through Newfangled’s 9-Step Website Planning Process. Learn how to use SEO to attract the right prospects, craft a content strategy that will convince prospects of your expertise, and generate quality leads through clear calls to action.

The Nuts and Bolts of Pricing and Negotiating
Creating a pricing structure for your business can be tricky. Do you base your pricing on the value of your services? Or is there another (better) metric? Sarah Durham will show you how her time-tracking structure works, and offer advice for implementing it. Learn how to realistically create estimates and methodically manage pricing to ensure you end up profitable. Get tips on talking money with potential clients and using figures from the past to inform future projects.

How to Create and Execute Your Marketing Plan
An inconsistent, haphazard approach to marketing can lock you into the dreaded feast-or-famine cycle of freelance work. And, it may force you to take on undesirable clients and projects and accept sub-par fees. Ed Gandia will share a practical framework for developing a marketing plan aligned with your goals and personality. Discover strategies that can help you enjoy the process of marketing your services.

Live Audit
Marketing Mentor founder Ilise Braun and David C. Baker will provide a rare behind-the-scenes look at a fellow creative freelancer’s business. They will examine in-depth the freelancer’s finances, day-to-day business practices, and work style. During the audit, Braun and Baker will identify the freelancer’s successes and mistakes and suggest the type of results they can attain and the opportunities they should seize.


2012 Creative Freelancer Conference

HOW Design Live

Marketing Mentor

Freelancers Should Consider Themselves Entrepreneurs

WRITERS. DESIGNERS. It doesn’t really matter whether you became a freelancer by choice or “accidentally” (through downsizing). To make the most of this career phase, treat your freelance business like a real business. That means having strategies for attracting clients, managing productivity, pricing your services, hiring and orienting employees, maintaining cash flow, marketing your services, closing the sale, serving your customers, and planning for growth.

As a freelancer myself, I hadn’t really given these issues much thought until I attended the free conference celebrating International Freelancers Day on September 23.

Like other women, I have freelanced at different stages of my career—first, as a young mother balancing work and family and now as a “maturing” single woman/displaced magazine editor striving to finish my writing career more like I had originally envisioned. My freelance business plans have been complicated by how radically the world, publishing and communications technology, and the economy have changed since my first go-round with freelancing. (Back then, the “World Wide Web” had just been introduced and the Apple IIci computer was state-of-the-art in ad agencies).

So, I was happy to attend the International Freelancers Day Conference organized by Ed Gandia and his partners at The International Freelancers Academy. The content was so relevant and inspiring that I gladly spent $29 to buy the post-conference package of session transcripts, audio recordings, and video replays.

After reviewing the sessions, I was struck by how well-balanced the content was. The 20-minute online videos were presented by a stellar mix of book authors, entrepreneurs, design-firm owners, bloggers, motivational speakers, and financial experts. They highlighted the many different ways freelancers could attain greater financial success by being more entrepreneurial in their thinking. Below are just a few themes that caught my attention.

Make Marketing Less of a Chore

Let’s face it. Freelancers often let marketing lapse when we get busy. This is partly because we tend to feel uncomfortable hyping ourselves or closing the sale. Or, we fear getting flooded with more work than one person can reasonably handle. Many conference speakers emphasized that marketing doesn’t have to be painful, if you do it in a way that feels authentic.

Do work you are passionate about. “Passion is the fuel to creativity,” says Peleg Top, author of the soon-to-be-released book “Designing Abundance: A Creative Guide to High Growth.” Doing work you are passionate about will motivate you to do more work: “It will motivate you to grow your business and do the things that you need to do to grow your business.” When you can express your passion through your marketing, “you start attracting and winning the kind of clients” who will respect your passion.

Carve out a niche. “When you’re really good at what you do, or you have a niche that few others can claim, the marketing that you do will be more productive because repeat business and referrals will come naturally,” explained Peter Bowerman, author of “The Well-Fed Writer.” That means you will have to do less marketing on an ongoing basis. This is particularly true if you can carve out a niche where few others are operating. As Bowerman puts it, “The narrower niche, the less necessary it is to be the best writer in the business.”

Another advantage of having a niche, says Rebecca Matter of American Writers & Artists, Inc., is that you can work smarter and faster because you won’t face a brand-new learning curve with every project you undertake. Plus, you can build on the work and research that you’ve done for one project, and turn it into another project for another client.

Dedicate time every day to marketing yourself or building your business. It can be as simple as following up with a potential client, adding a new sample to your website, or writing a blog post, says Matter. “It can take you ten minutes, but try to get in the habit of doing one thing every day that will help build your business.”

Establish Financial Security

Several sessions provided tips for pricing your work and raising your rates as demand for your services grow. Others addressed the issue of financial security in more general terms.

Build on your strengths. “Competence is at the heart of freelance security,” stated Peter Bowerman. He pointed out that a well-established freelance practitioner who has a “diversified portfolio” of clients and multiple revenue streams can feel far more secure than a salaried employee these days.

Set up three online bank accounts for (1) tax money, (2) retirement savings, and (3) emergencies. Keep these three accounts separate from the standard bank account you maintain for everyday spending, said Denise Kiernan, co-author of “The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed.” She recommended having an ATM card only for your everyday spending account: “Try to throw up as many obstacles as possible between you and the money you’ve put away in savings.”

Join Forces with Other Freelancers

The conference highlighted online resources through which we can connect with other freelancers who can help us build “virtual teams” for different project assignments or workloads. As Sean Hedge of FreelanceSwitch puts it, “It may feel like freelancing is a solo mission, but there is a whole ecosystem we can tap into to grow our businesses, and there are clear advantages to doing so,”

Do not hire someone just like you. Hire someone with complementary skills, advises Mike McDerment, the entrepreneur who founded FreshBooks online invoicing service for solopreneurs. “Bring in people who are going to enable you to do more of what you are good at and comes easily to you.”

Streamline employee training. In his presentation on “How to Profitably Grow Beyond a Business of One,” Hedge suggested documenting guidelines and procedures so each new hire and project partner can get up to speed quickly. Then, you don’t have to spend a lot of time verbally repeating the same instructions to each new person you work with.

Take Risks

If your niche begins to feel boring and repetitive, don’t be afraid to take some risks.

Go after projects you think you’re unqualified for. “The most important projects you’ll ever do are the ones who get you noticed and make you feel fulfilled,” says Tyler Tervooren in his presentation “Smart Risk-Taking for Savvy Freelancers.” Although it’s natural to want to feel comfortable with the work you’re doing, Tervooren noted that “Comfort doesn’t propel a career, and it doesn’t prepare you for bigger and better things.” If you step out of your comfort zone, you’ll probably be highly motivated to get the job done right.

Say no to projects that won’t get you closer to your goals. “It’s hard to say no to guaranteed money, but it is absolutely essential to do so if you ever want to focus your business on something meaningful to you and get known for the type of work you actually want to do,” says Tervooren.

If you missed the 2011 International Freelancer’s Day Conference, you can visit the Facebook page for updates on next year’s event. Or, check out some of the same kinds of training videos that will be presented year-round through The International Freelance Academy.

Onlne Resources

International Creative Freelancers Day
(Sign up for e-mail new about the 2012 event)

The International Freelancers Academy

American Artists & Writers

Advanced Riskology: Better Living Through Uncertainty


The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman

The Wealthy Freelancer by Ed Gandia, Steve Slaunwhite, and Pete Savage

The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed by Joseph D’Angneses and Denise Kiernan


Conference Celebrates International Freelancers Day


Conference Celebrates International Freelancers Day Sept. 23

International Freelancers Day is a global initiative to celebrate independent workers and the tremendous impact they have on our economic growth. The movement was founded by three long-term freelancers–Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage and Ed Gandia–who are experts in the freelance market, making the transition into self-employment, and building a profitable and enjoyable solo business.

International Freelancers Day will be celebrated on Friday, September 23 with a free, online video conference that is expected to connect tens of thousands of independent workers and other viewers from all over the globe. The conference will start at 10 am EST and run through 6:30 pm.

Gandia, Savage, Slaunwhite, and 14 other authors and thought leaders will present sessions on topics such as pricing, attracting clients, working more productively, outsourcing administrative tasks, promoting yourself, and growing your business. The goal of the conference is to offer strategies that can help take your “business of one” to the next level.

“With many economists and thought leaders heralding the arrival of the ‘freelance economy,’ there’s never been a better time to celebrate freelancers and solo professionals the world over,” says Ed Gandia, co-author of “The Wealthy Freelancer.”

A record number of professionals are currently pursuing freelance work — either by necessity or simply because they want to. According U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, one-third of the workforce is now self-employed or freelance. As a growing portion of the labor force continues to shift in this direction (a 10% year-to-date increase, according to SurePayroll’s Small Business Scorecard Review in July) many of these professionals are now seeking better ways to not just survive — but to thrive — in the new “gig economy.”

Register for the free conference at:

2011 Freelance Industry Report

Earlier this month, Ed Gandia released the “2011 Freelance Industry Report: Data and Analysis of Freelancer Demographics, Earnings, Habits, and Attitudes.” The report presents data from more than 1200 freelancers who responded to a survey conducted through Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail during a nine-day period in August, 2011.

Self-employed individuals from 37 different fields responded to Gandia’s survey. The report tabulated statistics and findings from the top 10 fields represented among the respondents:

  • Writer (18% of respondents)
  • Copywriter (12%)
  • Designer (11%)
  • Translator (9%)
  • Web developer (7%)
  • Editor/copy editor (6%)
  • Marketing professional (4%)
  • Business consultant (4%)
  • Software developer (3%)
  • Virtual assistant (2%)

2011 Freelance Industry Report by Ed GandiaOther types of freelancers who responded to the survey included bloggers, illustrators, photographers, video editors, authors, SEO specialists/consultants, fashion designers, videographers, accountants, engineers, bookkeepers, and social-media consultants.

The report includes 70 charts that provide insight such as:

  • The biggest challenges freelancers face and how those challenges differ by profession, location, experience and other factors.
  • Attitudes toward freelancing, the economy’s impact on freelance work, and freelancers’ business outlook for the next 12 months.
  • Income trends, hourly rates, billable time, and how different freelancers price their services.
  • Lifestyle choices, including average hours worked, the importance of free time and flexibility, and attitudes toward re-entering the traditional workforce.
  • How freelancers attract clients today, how much time they spend promoting their services and what marketing strategies they’re planning to implement over the next year.

One major finding is that “Professionals who are freelancing as a result of a layoff or being downsized are more likely to earn less as a freelancer than peers who planned their way to self-employment. However, 80% of these ‘accidental’ freelancers are much happier now than they were as employees.”

Download the free 50-page report  from the International Freelancers Day website.


International Freelancers Day Conference

2011 Freelance Industry Report by Ed Gandia

Book: The Wealthy Freelancer: 12 Secrets to a Great Income and an Enviable Lifestyle


Should Freelancers Be Called Independent Workers?

I have worked long enough to have experienced multiple recession/recovery cycles. In the past, when employers downsized during recessions, they typically turned to freelancers to get them through the crunch periods. Then, when the economy picked up again, they offered full-time jobs to the best available talent. In a strong economy, the term  “freelancer” sometimes described a part-time worker who was temporarily between full-time jobs.

Things are much different now, even though many colleges,  job-training programs, and government statisticians haven’t yet realized it. The  severity of the current economic downturn, the rapidity of technological change, and the ease of global outsourcing have made it economically attractive for managers to hire fewer full-time employees. Today, companies can use online employment agencies to quickly assemble “virtual teams” of “independent workers” with specialized skills from throughout the U.S. and around the world.

The Q2, 2011 Report from Elance and an article by Sara Horowitz in The Atlantic Magazine show two sides of this story, and suggest the emergence of a permanent class of “independent workers.”

Elance Reports Record Growth

Elance®, a worldwide platform for online employment, promotes its ability to help businesses hire and manage projects “in the cloud.” In their Q2 report for 2011, they reported that businesses are hiring online more than ever, “driving record earnings for online workers across all sectors, including IT, Creative, Marketing, and Operations.”  according to the report:

The number of active clients jumped 23% to 160,756. The 453,461 online workers who find gigs through Elance earned a record $34.3 million in Q2, up 48% from Q2 in 2010.

Demand for skills such as WordPress Programming, Game Development, and iOS Programming, continued to make IT the largest category of employment, with a 107% increase in jobs posted compared to the end of Q2 in 2010.

In the Creative category, there was a 79% year-over-year increase in demand. Skills such as business writing, photography, and illustration helped fuel this growth, but the largest jump in demand (148%) occurred in the field of Infographics.

The full report can be downloaded from the Elance website. It includes a variety of charts and graphs including:

  • total earning by category
  • who clients are hiring
  • number of job posts by category
  • what online workers are earning
  • contractor earnings by category
  • geography hot spots
  • top hiring U.S. cities
  • top earning U.S. cities
  • top states by contractor earnings

Of the top 20 skills in demand, 9 were in the creative fields. In-demand creative skills include:

  • article writing (ranked 3)
  • graphic design (4)
  • Photoshop (8)
  • content writing (10)
  • blogs (12)
  • Illustrator (13)
  • research (16)
  • logo design (18)
  • web content (20)

In a Sept. 7 press release, Elance notes that businesses gain flexibility and time savings by hiring contingent workers online. An August survey of Elance clients showed that 83% of the businesses plan to hire at least 50% of their workers online in the next 12 months, and nearly half of the businesses plan to make 90% of their hires online.


Elance Online Employment Report: Q2 2011

Press Release: Elance Survey Shows Small Businesses Taking an Online Road to Recovery

A New Industrial Revolution?

In the first of a series of  columns on the website of The Atlantic magazine, Sara Horowitz writes that, “Everywhere we look, we can see the U.S. workforce undergoing a massive change.” Instead of working for the same company for 25 years and reaping the benefits of full-time employment, she says, “Today careers consist of piecing together various types of work, juggling multiple clients, learning to be marketing and accounting experts, and creating offices in bedrooms, coffeeshops, or co-working spaces.” She points out that, “We’re no longer simply lawyers,  or photographers, or writers. Instead, we’re part-time lawyers-cum-amateur  photographers who write on the side.”

Today’s surge in freelancing might ultimately be as consequential as a modern Industrial Revolution. Yet, as Horowitz points out, the government doesn’t count independent workers in a meaningful and accurate way. Nor are there provisions for some of the protections that independent workers need in order to build economic security (e.g. unemployment insurance, protection from unpaid wages, etc.)

Sara Horowitz is the founder of The Freelancers Union, which was described in the post “Three Organizations that Can Help Freelance Creative Pros.”


The Atlantic Magazine: The Freelance Surge Is The Industrial Revolution of Our Time
by Sara Horowitz

The Freelancers Union


Three Organizations that Can Help Freelance Creative Pros


New Freelance Job Marketplace for Experienced Writers

Logo for All Freelance WritingWRITERS. All has launched a new freelance writing marketplace designed to help clients find highly qualified, experienced professionals without having to sort through countless profiles or bids from unqualified individuals. Clients who are uncomfortable posting higher-paying gigs can browse the profiles of experienced professionals to find the right individual for their projects.

Jennifer Mattern, the freelance writer who founded,
wants to distinguish the job marketplace on her site from job sites that are
saturated with extremely low-paying gigs. She believes that setting a minimum compensation level for jobs will help accomplish that goal. The job board also prohibits ads from content mills (also known as content farms) which famously underpay their
content producers.

Maintaining professional standards for writers allows serious buyers to separate themselves from the negative reputation that many freelance marketplaces have earned by focusing on ultra-low-paying jobs.

“The race to the bottom mentality behind freelance bidding sites often makes them a bad deal for the most qualified freelancers” says Mattern. “Many of the best freelance-writing jobs are never publicly advertised because clients fear being bombarded with unqualified applicants who jump at any higher-paying opportunity.”

There are two sides to the new freelance marketplace: Clients can either post ads about specific gigs or browse through the profiles of professional writers.

Clients can place a standard 30-day job ad for $14.95 or opt for a featured 30-day ad for $24.95, and get better ad placement on the site.

Writers can purchase a permanent professional writer profile on the site for $14.95. Users can edit their profiles as their experience expands. Writers are not required to purchase a profile in order to apply for any of the jobs posted on the job board. But if you want your profile to be seen by companies who prefer not to publicly advertise higher-paying jobs, consider buying a profile.

In order to post a profile, writers must agree to charge a minimum rate. The goal is to enable professional writers to market their services in an environment free of hobbyists and candidates without professional writing experience.

The types of job categories featured on the site include: business writing, freelance editing, print writing, technical writng, web content writing/blogging, web content writing/other, and freelance writing/other.

For more information, visit AllFreelanceWriting. com. In addition to a job board, the site includes a freelance writing blog, writer’s markets, rate calculators, a keyword density analyzer, writing forums, e-books, a virtual book club, and more.



AllFreelanceWriting Job Board


Learn to Use Online Marketing for Your Freelance Business

PhotoShelter E-Book Cover Freelancer's Online Marketing BlueprintThe Freelancer’s Online Marketing Blueprint.” is the newest e-book from PhotoShelter, a leading provider of portfolio websites and sales and marketing tools for photographers. The free 53-page guide explains how creative freelancers can use online marketing to generate more clients and increase revenue. It can be downloaded from the PhotoShelter website.

“When you’re a freelancer, it can be a real challenge to balance self-promotion with client demands,” says Allen Murabayashi, CEO of PhotoShelter. “This e-book is meant to coach freelancers on effective marketing strategies that will help optimize their online exposure and reach a larger pool of prospective clients.”

The Freelancer’s Online Marketing Blueprint includes practical, step-by-step tips on how to generate inbound website traffic, build a successful leads list for email marketing, and optimize your website to increase the conversion of visitors to paying clients.

For example, the guide includes a checklist of 23 ways to grow your online footprint. In addition to increasing the likelihood that prospects can find you, creating multiple online destinations also helps you manage your brand by suppressing any negative commentary that might show up about you on the first page of a Google search.

The guide also discusses how to efficiently manage your time, allocate scarce marketing budgets, and benefit from pay-per-click advertising. Also included are contributions from internet marketing and creative business-management experts at companies such as Conversion Rate Experts, SEO software developer SEOmoz, Marketing Mentor, and email-marketing service Emma.

PhotoShelterLogoThe Freelancer’s Online Marketing Blueprint complements PhotoShelter’s ongoing series of free business and marketing e-books for photographers. Other e-books in the PhotoShelter library provide detailed advice on email marketing, Facebook pages, search engine optimization, and starting a photography business.



E-Book: The Freelancer’s Online Marketing Blueprint