Thoughts on Freelance Camp

I was lucky to win a couple of tickets to this years incarnation of Freelance Camp, an 'unconference' hosted by The Network Hub. It's certainly a nice change to see an event promoting freelancing, networking, and technology come to little New Westminster.

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.

Matt Lorenzi

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