Early this month, the FedEx man delivered a package to my door: a shiny new iPad air. I’ve never owned a tablet computer before, so the whole experience is pretty exciting. But far more important to me is what the arrival of this parcel represents.
It’s the reward I promised myself for paying off the last of my debt.
A lot of things got me to this point, from austere budgeting to stepping up my marketing machine. The clear tipping point, however, was the 2013 Creative Freelancer Conference in San Francisco.
Many people think conferences are a frivolous expense, but my experience has always been different. In fact, every time my career has taken a major leap forward, it’s been the direct result of relationships I’ve forged and strengthened at major industry gatherings. Many of my best clients, most-valued mentors, and even some great friends have come directly from attending these events. I can also trace a substantial percentage of my referral business back to these connections.
CFC 2013 was hands-down the best conference experience I’ve had so far. Well before I got on the plane to come home, I had lined up several jobs with a combined value in the four-figure range. And that’s not counting all the great people I met and reconnected with, some of whom are likely to send me new work in the next 6-12 months. I came home knowing there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t an oncoming train.
Success at conferences doesn’t depend on collecting several hundred business cards or trying to “bump” as many people as possible. Just one great connection can easily make a conference worth your while. As it happens, my expenses for CFC were more than covered by a single assignment from one of the new contacts I made. (And that’s just from my first gig with them.)
How you define success at a conference can vary depending on what you need most. One of the in-house managers I spoke to was sent to San Francisco with a very specific goal from her boss: “Find a good copywriter.” She did.
There’s also a lot to be said for revisiting the same event year after year. Becoming a regular gives you the chance to deepen relationships you made in previous years and get “face time” with contacts who live in other cities. It also enhances your credibility with potential contacts who aren’t ready to work with you the first time you meet.
Now I don’t expect to have the same amazing results every time I go to a conference in the future. Nor am I saying that you can do the same just by showing up at CFC in Boston next May. But if you’re ready to make a quantum leap forward, there’s no better place to slant the odds in your favor.
See you in Boston!
Registration for 2014 is open. Find details here...
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 www.wordstreamcopy.com.