Freelancers: A room full of potential clients!

Tom T bugSuccess Tips for this year’s Freelancer Showcase & Matchmaking Happy Hour at HOWLive/CFBC.

Last year I made enough new client connections at the first Freelancer Showcase & Matchmaking Happy Hour to cover the entire cost of my trip to the Creative Freelancer Conference in San Francisco—including travel, meals, and all that jazz—and I’m still getting good gigs from the contacts I made. Designer Kristin Kieffer, who worked on one of the same projects, did even better (see Ilise’s recent post for more details) and other freelancers came away from the evening with success stories of their own.

So when I signed up for this year’s Creative Freelancer Business Conference (hey, you’ve gotta “freshen” the packaging every now and then, right?), you can bet I checked the box to be part of this year’s Freelancer Showcase. In fact, I recently learned from Ilise that just about everyone who’s coming has checked that box. Either word has gotten around about how great it was last year, or it just sounds like such a good idea that everybody’s clicking the box.

But just in case you have a burning question or two, here’s a few tips about this amazing event to make sure you get the most from it:

What’s this Freelancer Showcase all about, anyway?

The Freelancer Showcase is an opportunity for CFBCers to show off their stuff to attendees of the In-House Management Conference and other segments of How Design Live. Most of the folks coming through will be managers of in-house design departments…people who work for large companies with real, live marketing budgets.

One of the big topics at IHMC last year was their growing need for freelancers, so just by showing up you’re essentially saying: “Hi! I’m a solution to one of your biggest challenges.” And don’t forget that freelancers hire other freelancers as they grow, so the other freelancers in the room will be prospective collaborators you’ll definitely want to meet too.

How does it work?

You’ll get half a table to display your stuff on (note that the tables are often round). Some of the best prospects you’re likely to meet all year—many of them overworked corporate types who desperately need freelancers—will wander by and ask you about your work with hardly any effort required on your part apart from showing up and putting your stuff or a tablet with sample files in it on a table. It’s probably the only time all year that your work will get to speak for itself.

(If you have a question or want to sign up, send a message to

What should I bring?

Whatever you like—this isn’t as formal as the portfolio review—but you’ll want to come prepared as if you were pitching your services to any other client. It might not hurt to make a table sign or bring something eye-catching, but don’t spend a lot of money or pack an extra suitcase. The point of this event is to meet people and have face-to-face conversations. You can always send a link to your online portfolio later. It’s also worth noting that there won’t be any electrical outlets available.

If you’re tempted to go hog wild or spend a chunk of change on a huge display, please relax. I scored four figures worth of business at this event last year with a few color laser prints scattered on half a round table. I might add a small sign this year, but I still plan to keep it simple.

And while this should go without saying, there were a few people who showed up at last year’s Freelancer Showcase without business cards. Don’t. Do. That.

Where can I put my stuff during the day?

The organizers will have a secure room set aside on site where you can stow your showcase items. Ilise will let you know where the room is—and give you additional networking tips—during her session “The Sky’s The Limit for Fearless Freelancers (and Networking Prep)” on Wednesday, May 14.

Not signed up for CFBC yet? You can still get in on this event—and the rest of the powerful sessions at this year’s conference in Boston, May 14-16. Use the code “HDLSPEAKER” to save $50 off your ticket. Hope to see you there!

Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for designers, creative agencies and green businesses. He publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month and periodically shares more casual wisdom on the WordStream of Consciousness Blog. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at


One thought on “Freelancers: A room full of potential clients!

  1. Laura Foley

    One tip I’d like to pass on is not to be enjoying drinkie-poos while you’re trying to get business during this event. Although the Matchmaking Happy Hour is concurrent with the cocktail hour, you’ll want to be on top of your game when you’re meeting potential business partners. You can generate some goodwill by giving away your free drink chit!