The report from CFC & HOW

Just got back from a whirlwind five days at both the Creative Freelancer Conference and HOW Conference. I mean, wow! What an experience.

This was my second CFC and my first HOW. CFC was a wonderful time and also a mini-reunion with a few of the folks I met last year in San Diego — Tricia Okin, Genevieve Margherio, Jenn Cole, Kirk Roberts. I also finally got to meet many of the people I only knew online through message boards and e-mail groups, so that was neat.

I took away a lot from both conferences — my brain is in near overload right now — but here are the big nuggets. Because the nuggets and highlights are most helpful anyway, no?

The CFC stuff:

* Luke Mysse made a great presentation on the first day about being your own boss. It was inspirational and made me feel so empowered. His big point: Your life balance is on your hands. You can train clients not to call you at odd hours or e-mail you at midnight. You can stop feeling like you need to work until 3 a.m. You’re the one in control. We complain so much about how our clients are all over us or about how we’re sleeping very little, yet we violate our own boundaries. This was very eye-opening. I think I’m going to start taking back my time NOW!

* Samantha Bennett had a great presentation about prioritizing and getting things done. My favorite tip from her — it was directed at the procrastinators that like to say, “oh, I would do this if I had an hour to spare … or two” — was this: Set aside 15 minutes each day to do something. It can be the same thing, or maybe something on your to-do list that got lost in the shuffle the day before. That way, you’ll always have a block of time to get something done.

My 15 minutes will be spent on our exercise bike. I know that’s not a lot of time, but to me, 15 minutes everyday is better than zero. Because I do suffer from the time lament — oh, I wish I had an hour to go swimming. Or walking. Or bike riding. With this, I get something that I want to do done. And I still have the choice to play tennis with the husband, go to the gym or swim later in the day should I be feeling so inclined (or carve out a larger portion of time).

* I always enjoy Dyana Valentine‘s energy and passion in helping people pitch their businesses. It was helpful seeing her do a live demo with one person. And she really got everyone thinking about how we make our clients feel and how we want them to feel when they’re done working with us. And she reminded us that other people are actually our best evangelists. If we get our friends excited, they’ll talk about us excitedly to everyone thy know too.

* Galia Gichon did a presentation about money and managing money (oooh, the scary topic!). I really like that she had very practical advice and broke down such a complex hairball of a topic. Two of my favorite tips: 1) Put all your goals in numbers. They’re much easier to reach that way. (For instance, “I’m going to pay down $2,000 in debt in three months” instead of “I’m going to pay off this credit card.”) 2) Set aside a day each week to deal with your finances. Just pay all your bills, check on all your accounts, do all the money-related things that one day and one time. And then you don’t have to freak out unnecessarily as your bills come in.

Point No. 1 really does work, I have to say. Several years ago, I would make up these crazy Excel spreadsheets listing my debts and how much I was going to pay toward them each month. I would calculate whether I had extra money in the budget and adjust these totals as necessary. It was quite a system. But it really worked. I paid stuff down. And then I got away from it and my finances feel like this giant hairball of a mess. Gotta get back to the old ways.

* Jean Perwin did a presentation of copyrights and contracts, and that was probably the most useful and practical session there was. It was very educational. And I also have a basis from which I can write my contracts!

HOW stuff:

First off, this was my first HOW Conference. It was incredibly daunting at first — and the expo was a madhouse, but the swag was freaking awesome — but I’m glad to say I went. I also enjoyed selling at the Designers’ Marketplace and meeting fellow crafty designers. It was a positive experience and I would definitely consider going again!

* Von Glitschka did a presentation about having the tools to come up with killer concepts. First off, it was a reminder to do all the fun brainstorming exercises that sometimes get lost in the rush to produce, produce, produce. But he also spoke a truth that is very near and dear to me because it was also true in my former life as a journalist — the best designers come up with killer concepts because they’re very well-rounded and well-read and very educated. When you have a broad pool of experiences and reference to draw from, you come up with more (and better) ideas. He emphasized the need to not only be well-read and educated in design, but in other areas too. We sometimes know too much about design and shape and form and color and not enough about why a design speaks to people and moves them to action, or why a design would be offensive to a certain culture or why a design wouldn’t work for a certain client/audience/project. Von was also kind enough to share his presentation and brainstorming ideas here:

* My other favorite presentation was from Nancy Duarte, who talked about weaving stories into our presentations. It was a new spin on what makes effective presentations. I mean, she brought in concepts from screenwriting and film, which was cool. She also used the Gettysburg Address as an example of an effective presentation (also something I would have never thought of, but hey, Abraham Lincoln knew how to make a point effectively, no doubt!). Her main message was that your presentations have to transform an audience, and effective ones get them to go out there and either evangelize your idea or buy something you’re selling because they connect with them on a human level. My last favorite point from her was that you know you’ve made an effective speech/presentation when no one is tweeting during the show.

So yes, my head is swimming with stuff. But I’m really excited to put a lot of what I learned into practice!

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One Response to The report from CFC & HOW

  1. Christine says:

    I can’t thank you enough for posting Von Glitschka’s presentation on 5ive Alarm Designs. As a recovering left-brain addict (no thanks to the American work ethic), I’ve been making a concerted effort to turn my attention to the right for some months now. Without schooling, I’ve been relying on books and the generosity of designers online. This is undoubtedly the best, practical presentation I’ve seen so far. Thanks again.

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