Top 5 Highlights from this year’s CFBC

Tom TumbushMy business gets stronger every time I attend the Creative Freelancer Business Conference. I come home with more great ideas, resources, and new contacts than it seems possible to take advantage of in a single year (though that won’t stop me from trying). Here are just a few of this year’s high points:

1.    Freelancer Showcase & Matchmaking Happy Hour

Returning for a second year, this joint event brought together participants in the Creative Freelancer and In-House Management tracks. The word definitely got around about how successful this was for both groups last year (I’m still getting calls from the 2013 showcase). More than 70 creative pros had work on display.

In addition to the big names that were circulating in that room, we also made some great connections with one another. During setup alone, I found a designer at the next table who could fill a big gap in one of the creative teams I work with. By the end of the conference I had an appointment scheduled with another freelancer to discuss a collaboration project—and that’s before sending any follow-up messages.

2.    More Diverse Ways to Grow a Freelance Business

This year’s conference offered many refreshing departures from the notion that freelancers want to “evolve” into agency owners when they grow up. Ilise Benun kicked off this idea by outlining 7 ways to grow a freelance business in the opening session. Other highlights included Alina Wheeler’s presentation on re-invention and a panel of freelancers who have expanded their offerings by creating “virtual teams” of like-minded creatives.

3.    Jason Blumer’s “Three Options” Pricing Strategy

Here’s a simple but mind-blowing strategy: when you present your price, give three options instead of one. Each tier includes a broader range of services as the cost increases. For best results, include options the client could benefit from but didn’t know to ask for in the top tier. Suddenly the implied choice isn’t “should I use you,” but “which option should we choose?” Blumer’s experience suggests that 85% of prospects choose the middle option, but one freelancer who used this trick immediately afterward landed a client who picked the most expensive one!

4.    Netwalking!

I meet the most amazing people during Netwalking, which remains my favorite way to start the day at CFBC. Not only is it a great way to meet new people and enhance relationships with others I already know, it leaves participants invigorated for the rest of the day. On Thursday morning, the first six people who showed up for Breakfast Roundtables—and the most energetic—were all from that morning’s Netwalking crowd.

5.    Doug Dolan’s “Field Guide” to Problem Clients

Doug Dolan had us in stitches with his humorous guide to handling difficult customers, but his talk carried a serious message about the value of learning to work with all types of people. Attendees were making jokes about the “Coin Counter,” the “Buck Passer,” and other members of his Rogues’ Gallery for the rest of the conference. (Listen to the podcast here.)

If you weren’t able to make it this year, or if your head is full from everything you learned while you were there, don’t fret! For a limited time you can still download presentation handouts from the HOW Design Live website, and a full set of session recordings will be available soon.

See you in Chicago next year!

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