Meet a Creative Freelancer: Alisa Bonsignore

We weren’t surprised to learn that Bay Area writer/marketing consultant Alisa Bonsignore was the first person to register for this year’s Creative Freelancer Conference. She’s been to the first two. I recently interviewed Alisa about what she’s learned from past CFC’s and what she hopes to gain from the event in Denver.

First, Alisa, give me the details about you and your business: Where are you located, what kind of work do you do, where do you work and what’s your target market? Give me your elevator speech!
Giving you my elevator pitch is actually a great CFC story. When I attended CFC08, Dyana Valentine did her “Hello, I’m really good at” session. I sat at the table and lumbered through my usual explanation: “I work with high tech and healthcare companies, and I do marketing, light technical and clinical writing to help a variety of audiences make sense of the company’s products and technical benefits….” It was awful. And as these three ladies tossed some phrases around, I ended up streamlining bit by bit: I help people understand technical jargon. I make complicated ideas seem more clear. And then, out of the blue, came “I clarify complex ideas.” That’s now my website and tagline, something quick and straightforward that fits on a business card (or in Dyana’s case, a name tag!)

The official elevator pitch: I clarify complex ideas for high tech and healthcare clients, transforming sophisticated technical and clinical concepts into concise communications that get results.

I live and work in the San Francisco bay area. I have a home office, but I try to spend two afternoons a week at the coffee shop so that I can get outside the house and have a bit of contact with the outside world. And you’d be amazed by how many people I run into and network with, just by parking myself at a table with my computer.

You’ve been to the first two Creative Freelancer Conferences—how has the information you learned affected your freelance business?

CFC08 was a complete revelation. It reminded me that even though I’m just one person, I am a business. In the first month after the conference, I gathered the courage to fire the nightmare client; I consulted with an attorney to create a new contract and project proposal; I developed my new brand and tagline; I overhauled my marketing materials and website so everything had one consistent look, feel and voice; and I completely changed my pricing structure.

And then a year passed. By the time CFC09 rolled around, I had started backsliding into some bad habits. It came at just the right time to give me a fresh kick in the butt and remind myself that I need to get outside my little creative head and remember to think like a business. I came out of that conference with a renewed commitment to work/life balance and thanks to June Walker’s session, I started thinking more about taxes and deductions.

Who’s been your favorite CFC speaker, and why?
Of course I’ve learned something from every speaker, but it’s the most energetic ones that are the most memorable. Colleen Wainwright is great, but I have a special place in my heart for Dyana Valentine because of that “a-ha!” moment at her ’08 session.

What kind of connections have you made with other freelancers? Has that helped your business?
I’ve met tons of designers, and that’s come in very handy for me. I’ve had clients who needed design-side recommendations, and it’s great to have a large stack of business cards to choose from. Clients always appreciate a personal recommendation.

What are you most looking forward to in Denver?
I always leave the conferences feeling very invigorated. Most conferences help you creatively, but this conference exists solely to help you improve yourself professionally. When you check out of the hotel, you have a completely different mindset about your business than you did when you checked in. That’s huge. As I said earlier, I need that annual reminder and kick in the butt to do the things that will help my business grow.

I think that this year will be even better because of the chance to cross paths with the HOW and In-HOWse attendees. I’m hoping for some great networking opportunities that we didn’t have when the conferences were separated by time and distance.

What prompted you to sign up so quickly when registration opened?
I knew that I wanted to go again this year, and was planning to take advantage of the early bird discount in January. But with a few days left in the year, it occurred to me that it would be worth a call to my accountant to see if I could register and take the deduction against my 2009 income. He gave it the green light and I signed up immediately. I wouldn’t have done that two years ago, but now I give thought to how the timing of different expenditures can have business and tax benefits.