freelance conferences

Freelance Conferences to Attend in the US in 2016

Lauren Bonk

Everyone freelances differently, which is one of the things that makes this business so liberating and, frankly, kick-ass.

With technology becoming increasingly readily available, web-based freelancing is growing and changing at breakneck pace. This makes it easier for all of those different freelancers to get their work done from the comfort of their own homes… which can be both good and bad. Becoming a freelancing hermit isn’t good for anyone, and it’s not great for business, either. The solution? Attend a freelance conference.

I’m tempted to say that attending a conference is important, but I don’t think that’s strong enough. When you’re freelancing, attending a conference is one of the most beneficial things you can do to grow your freelance business.

Attending a conference takes your face from behind the computer, and places it in front of other people. This is a prime environment for networking. With a smile and a solid elevator pitch, you can turn “What do you do?” from small-talk to a signed contract.

In addition to the networking potential, a conference can provide you with a wealth of valuable knowledge. The knowledge shared by conference speakers can help you grow your business exponentially, and is often worth far more than the fee you paid to attend.

Another thing to remember is that you don’t specifically have to attend a freelance conference in order to help your business. Finding local conferences within your niche will help you connect with important people in your industry, or the industry you serve.

So where do you find these conferences? All over. You just have to do a little research and determine which event is right for you.

Ready to check out our handy list of conferences that will enhance your freelancing mojo?

SXSW Interactive (Austin, TX)

It’s not breaking news that Austin TX’s South by Southwest festival is an epic meeting of creative minds. People purchase tickets months in advance to see shows by their favorite musicians or filmmakers. The entertainment’s not the only draw to SXSW, though. SXSW Interactive is described as an “incubator of cutting edge technologies and digital creativity.” This is a dynamic opportunity to see how current technology can help you run your business, and is also an incredible networking event.

WordCamp (All over the danged place.)

WordCamp is one of my personal favorites. This is a community-organized conference, held in cities all across the globe. Tickets are highly affordable (especially compared to some of the bigger events), and there’s a good chance that one is being held in a city near you. Geared toward both WordPress users and developers, this is truly a “freelance conference,” even if it’s not marketed that way.

WordPress empowers entrepreneurs to take their websites into their own hands (if they want to), and is an invaluable freelancing tool. Because the community is so vast, the networking possibilities at a WordCamp are both global and local.

Content Marketing World (Cleveland, OH)

Content Marketing is quickly becoming the “way of the web world,” and is necessary for anyone with work to promote. Providing good content is just good business, and is a skill that can be utilized by anyone from dance teachers to web designers. The Content Marketing World conference is a bit of a doozy price-wise, but is a legitimately huge event, scoring big-name speakers like Rand Fishkin of Moz, and the illustrious John Cleese. This four-day event provides over 80 sessions from leaders in the marketing industry, and is definitely worth the ticket price if you can afford it without causing yourself financial stress.

Self Employment in the Arts Annual Conference (Lisle, IL)

This conference is “geared toward emerging visual, performing, literary, and media artists.” The goal is to equip those who would like to enter the arts as their own bosses with the knowledge they need to be successful. With a ticket price under $200 and options for scholarships and group rates, this is an affordable and highly educational opportunity for freelancers with their eyes on a field in the arts.

America’s Small Business Summit (Washington, D.C.)

This summit is a mix of inspiration, networking, and politics. Focusing on the small-business community and how it factors into the American economy and political scene, this conference held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is both educational and empowering. High-powered speakers, small sessions, and networking events are just the tip of this iceberg.

Inbound by HubSpot (Boston, MA)

Inbound is a conference celebrating the incredible potential that lies in creating high-quality, human-centered content. Rather than trying to sell to potential customers, inbound marketing aims to invite potential clients to your business via client-focused content and resources. Huge names like Seth Godin and Darren Rowse are just the very beginning of an incredible lineup of keynote speakers. This one’s definitely on the pricier side, and is a large conference… but it’s definitely a bucket-list kind of conference.

Barcamp (Possibly Your Favorite Bar, Anywhere, Earth)

This is another favorite conference of mine… which isn’t surprising, as it’s affordable and easily accessible. Barcamp is an “unconference” in which the attendees are the presenters. I’ve seen presentations on everything from “Improving Your Workflow” to “How to Make a Green Smoothie.” This conference is fantastic for networking, gaining a jolt of inspiration, and realizing that everyone has something of worth to bring to the table. Like Wordcamp, these events are community-organized and full of local networking potential, so be sure to check the Barcamp website to see if there’s an event within driving distance.

Value upon value… upon even more value.

It’s true; conferences can be a little intimidating. They can also be expensive and cost multiple workdays… but you owe it to yourself and your business to try one out.

Remember, the conferences on this list are merely suggestions. The easiest way to get to a conference is to look to your local niche. If you’re a writer who specializes in agricultural or farm-based writing, attending a local farming expo or ag conference will not only place you among hundreds of potential clients, but also provide you with fresh, new topics and education that will help to hone your skills. Look to your strengths and interests, and find out what industry-related happenings are going on right in your own backyard.

Giving yourself the gift of a freelance conference means giving yourself the gifts of opportunity, education, growth, and inspiration. We could all use a little of those, right?

So get out from behind that computer and treat yourself. What’s stopping you?

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