Thoughts on Freelance Camp

Freelance Camp at the New Westminster location of The Network Hub. Photo: Jeremy Lim
Freelance Camp at the New Westminster location of The Network Hub. Photo: Jeremy Lim

I was lucky to win a couple of tickets to this years incarnation of Freelance Camp, thanks to Tenth to the Fraser! Freelance Camp is billed as an unconference; where presenters are chosen by the audience to speak to all matters relating to the freelance industry.

This year’s event was held on the second floor of the newly renovated River Market. It’s certainly a nice change to see an event promoting freelancing, networking, and technology come to little New Westminster. I think our newly emerging downtown needs this kind of exposure; perhaps spurring the growth of some technology based sectors in the area.
So what was my impression of Freelance Camp? My worry was that there would be maybe three of us sitting in a large conference room awkwardly staring at each other. Not a chance; there were approximately 170 attendees from all over the Lower Mainland.

If I had one complaint (actually, I have a few), it’s that it was perhaps oversold. The second floor of the River Market is a large open space with a few conference rooms, a toy store, and of course a circus school.

Given the large number of attendees and presenters, it was decided to break the sessions into four groups. I was little confounded when two of those sessions were held virtually next to each other in the mezzanine, while a yoga session with boom box was doing their thing in the adjacent circus school. Needless to say the presenters tried to speak above all forms of background noise. I think the event should have been capped to whatever seating could be accommodated in both conference rooms – that, or book the circus school as well.

Small quibbles aside, I managed to pick up quite a few pointers regarding my own freelance career. I should stress that for many, a freelance career is serious business. It’s certainly not something that happens on its own. I think the people who chose this route do so in order to find balance in their lives. You often hear that the real money is working for yourself. I can’t yet venture to confirm this, but it would be safe to say most struggle with it for many years before seeing real money. But it does allow a chance to reestablish a balance between work and family life. Many freelancers, myself included, have young kids in school and the schedule of dropping off and picking up leaves a pretty hacked up day in which to “go to a job”.

I sat in on a session that talked about contracts and how to protect yourself financially; a handy skill to have when working for yourself. My last session was with an inspiring young woman who transitioned to sales training from working as an electrical engineer! Needless to say it was quite refreshing to learn that anyone, engineers included can learn the art of salesmanship. And while I don’t endevour to become a salesperson; when working for yourself you’d better get used to the idea.

Freelance Camp comes to New Westminster (plus, we have two tickets to give away!)

Since embarking on my own entrepreneurial endeavours I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see just how many people augment or even replace their 9-to-5 with freelance work. I always find it inspiring to meet people with the gumption to work on their terms. Some do it in a quest to seek balance, some are pursuing their passions and others are just making a little extra money on the side. Above all, it seems the biggest appeal is the flexibility and autonomy of a freelancer’s life.

It sounds like a dream, but freelancing has its challenges too. Support from mentors and peers can really make a difference. That’s where Vancouver Freelance Camp comes in. The second annual ‘unconference’ is coming up Saturday, September 10, from 9am to 5pm, just a few days before The Network Hub‘s grand opening at their brand new second location in New Westminster’s River Market.

An unconference doesn’t follow the usual program of speakers and panels at a conference. At most conferences the best part is meeting and learning from other people in your field. At an unconference, there is no divide between speakers and audience. The schedule is created the morning of the conference, and it is whatever the attendees make it. Anyone can make a pitch to be a presenter, and the freelancers vote on who they want to hear speak. Last year’s event offered a choice of 22 presentations for the 130 people attending, including some coming from as far away as Kelowna, Victoria and Seattle. This year’s event aims to be even bigger. This will be the first local event to use Google+ Hangouts to empower up to 25 people to view presentations and ask questions from anywhere in the world.

Registration to Freelance Camp is just $10 with the proceeds going to charity. For more information, or to register for the event, visit the website at http://www.thenetworkhub.ca/freelancecamp/ and follow Vancouver Freelance Camp on twitter at @604freelancers. If you’d like to enter to win two free tickets to Vancouver Freelance Camp, please leave a comment on this post before 2pm PST on Tuesday, September 6. Tell us about your freelance business (or the freelance business you’d like to start) and one piece of advice for other freelancers or one thing you wish you knew about freelancing. Once a winner is picked, Jen will let you know who won in the comments (the winner will also be notified by email, so make sure you include a valid email in the comment form).

The Network Hub is a coworking space, where freelancers and other entrepreneurs can rent desk and meeting space as they need it, one day a week, one day a month or all year round. It’s the place you go when you wear out your welcome at wifi-ed coffee shops but don’t necessarily want to rent your own office. The really good stuff isn’t the desk or the wifi or even the meeting rooms and mail service. It’s the opportunity to meet other freelancers, to learn from each other, expand your network of contacts and support each other as your businesses grow. As you can tell, I think it’s a good idea! (I’m planning to give it a try myself.) The Network Hub’s New Westminster location will open for business September 15. Pricing starts at $5 per hour or $35 per day for drop-in, $100 a month for a five-day pass, or $250 per month for permanent, dedicated desk space.