Creative Freelance Conference: Re-cap Pt. 2

Recently Jeremy and I visited San Francisco for the Creative Freelancers Design conference, hosted by Ilise Benun and HOW. Because the conference was jam-packed with helpful information, I’ve had to break up the posts. You can read about day one here.

Day two started a little quieter. It didn’t have the same energy in the morning, but who can expect that after a full day of conferencing, networking, and after party to boot?

The breakfast roundtables were first. I chose to sit at Alisa Bonsignore’s table with a few others including Tiffany Estes, Dian Fraser, and Jennifer De la Fuente (sorry if I missed someone, the business cards got jumbled in my suitcase). What I really admired about Alisa was her approachability. She’s the kind of person I’d be comfortable with hashing out client horror stories over coffee. I still had a few questions for her from the previous day’s talk, which was perfect to get the roundtable conversation started. I asked her more about her Master Services Agreement, and she talked about a few very important clauses that she always has in her agreements:

kill fee clause for when a client wants to kill the project after work has been created. This ensures that you get a percentage of your fee for your time.

An out clause that allows either party to give their 2 week notice. This is the way you can fire your clients if they become rude or obnoxious to work with.

re-start fee in the case that a client goes silent for a long period of time and then wants to start the project back up again.

As the roundtable came to a close, we all exchanged business cards and swapped tables for more networking.

Next came the highly anticipated Jessica Hische talking about “The Dark Art of Pricing”. Jessica is one cool chick. I’ve had a designer crush on her for a few years, ever since I discovered her daily drop cap website. Not only is she super talented and successful, but she has a great sense of humor, and has done a lot to share her knowledge with others through her personal projects and “thoughts” articles on her website. I’ve always admired her for her beautiful illustration and lettering, but what really wows me about her is that she has SO many side projects including The Daily Drop capThe accidental HipsterShould I work for FreeMom this is how Twitter worksand MORE.

Jessica opened by advising us to have confidence in your pricing because “We all need to make money so that we’re not assholes”. And she’s totally right. There are plenty of people who don’t understand their value and will under-quote themselves just to win the job and then risk resenting their client for working so hard for little pay (I know I’ve been there!). Jessica gave us some tips and tricks on how to talk about pricing, what to include in contracts, and even broke it down to nitty gritty details based off of different scenarios based off type of work, type of client, and the usage duration. You can read all about her dark art of pricing here.

Jessica Suggested we breech our price like so:

“Based on a few similar jobs I worked on, this was what I was thinking on the fee. Let me know what you think…”

This is a great way to talk to your clients because it tells them that you’ve done this before, and it gives them a chance to feel like they have a little leeway. She suggested that if the client’s project is super cool but the budget is no where close to your price, you can offer a one time discount on the estimate, showing the actual value of your services as well as what they are getting it for. It makes them feel like they are special, builds repoire, and they know that it is a one time price so if they wanted to work with you again, they would have to pay the full price of your services. GENIUS I say.



Colleen Waignwright was simply a delight to watch, which is very appropriate to her topic, “Making people love you madly”. About half way through I realized what she was really talking about was making people love you through “good user experience”. What I really LOVED about Colleen was her enthusiasm and charisma. She has a great speaking style because it was both entertaining and she did one thing that not many others did, and that was teaching by example. She also seemed to be really enjoying herself on stage which intern made it more enjoyable for me. She also took a really broad topic and gave us 4 really simple ideas to follow so that we might make people love us madly:

1) Be useful

2) Be specific

3) Be nice

4) Be authentic

My goal for the next year is to really work on “being nicer”. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I let my passion to do what is right get in the way of being nice and I say it like it is, which doesn’t win me any favors with my clients.

Following Colleen was June Walker, long time tax expert. Her message was clear: Freelancers often cheat themselves by not deducting all that they can. We’re “timid” with our deductions mostly because we don’t know what we can deduct or have been advised not to by our tax professionals. A few takeaways:

1) Generalists can deduct more than specialists

2) Dont ignore an expense because it has a personal element

3) Anything to do with a visual is an expense (because you can call it research).

4) You can write off anything that relates to your work, stimulates or enhances your business, nurtures creativity, improves skills, increases chances at making a sale, or wins recognition.

On the next CFC Lab we heard business best practices from Jen Lombardi, Jason Early, Jenn David Connolly, and Erin Pheil.

Jen Lombardi’s topic “How I Effed up as a New Freelancer” really resonated with what I write about here on Creatively Driven. She shared the 5 business practices that she “didn’t do” starting out. One of them was not having a “sales cycle” which is her 7 step cycle of contact potential clients throughout the year to gain business, outlined below:

1) Introductory email: short and sweet
2) Packet + bribe: Starbucks gift card = incentive to “get coffee together” and talk.
3) phone call “hey, did you use that gift card? let’s go out for coffee and talk.”
4) LinkedIn invite: always include a personal message in the request.
5) Email
6) phone call
7) email : then put the lead on hold until next year and start the cycle over.

Erin Pheil (Below: far right) talked about “client pain” and it’s vital role in keeping projects alive. She said that client pain is that frustration, worry, concern, fear, and stress that comes with having a design problem and “the desire to be free or reduce the pain is the reason [the client] comes to us”.

By the end of the day I was pretty tired, but there was still more brilliance to hear. Jim Krause and Dyana Valentine made a great duo in the “30 in 60” talk. They shared 15 tips each on staying creative and on track, most of which were all about trying new things including “get naked in public” .


Luke Mysse brought the conference full circle with his closing the message not to misinterpret fear as failure and “Don’t be cream of wheat!”, meaning don’t be just “meh”; risk a little fear and strive for extraordinary.

During the break, I met up with Jen LombardiShannon ScheelsNick MatareseAmy Herbert and two others (sorry! my business cards got mixed up in my suitcase!) for dinner. We walked down to the Thirsty Bear, an organic brewery and had a bite before the keynote. We ended up coming back late so i decided just to wait for the exhibit hall to open.

It was a bit of a frenzy being the first in line for the exhibit hall, but I made sure to grab my free bag of goodies and my awesome How Design 2013 T-shirt. All of the typical paper venders were there with their free samples but my favorite goodies were the blurb paper samples, the moo business card samples, and the french paper book.

I also have to give a shout out to LabelWorks for providing the awesome charging station throughout the conference as well as coasters and stickers with design humor on them. My favorites are “Photoshop is not a verb” and “Just make it pop”.

I left the exhibit hall mentally exhausted and loaded down with awesome stuff to share with my co-workers who could not afford the trip. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the CFC this year and can’t wait to put into practice everything I’ve learned. Thank you to all the amazing speakers, the vendors, and Ilise Benun for making it possible. See you next year in Boston!

  • ok sorry about the mixup. The article is fixed finally!>> Creative Freelancer Conference recap pt 2: http://t.co/6RIJpMTCaY #cfconf #HOWLive

    3 July, 2013 at 10:14 pm
  • @jessicahische thanks again for speaking at #cfconf. I finally posted my day two re-cap and you were mentioned. http://t.co/6RIJpMTCaY

    3 July, 2013 at 10:32 pm
  • @DyanaValentine you rocked #cfconf! Thank you so much! I finally posted my day two re-cap and you were mentioned. http://t.co/6RIJpMTCaY

    3 July, 2013 at 10:33 pm
  • @clearwriter thanks again for speaking at #cfconf. I finally posted my day two re-cap and you were mentioned. http://t.co/6RIJpMTCaY

    3 July, 2013 at 10:34 pm
  • @KiwiCreativeOH it was great meeting you at #cfconf. I finally posted my day two re-cap and you were mentioned. http://t.co/6RIJpMTCaY

    3 July, 2013 at 10:37 pm
  • @KorabelleDesign Thanks for letting me use the photo you took! You can see it on my re-cap of day two of #cfconf >> http://t.co/6RIJpMTCaY

    3 July, 2013 at 10:54 pm
  • RT @LorettaMay: @clearwriter thanks again for speaking at #cfconf. I finally posted my day two re-cap and you were mentioned. http://t.co/6…

    3 July, 2013 at 11:15 pm
  • RT @LorettaMay: @KiwiCreativeOH it was great meeting you at #cfconf. I finally posted my day two re-cap and you were mentioned. http://t.co…

    3 July, 2013 at 11:35 pm
  • Hey Loretta – great recap. I love your graphics + pics. Stunning!

    I missed Colleen’s presentation but your write-up is making me want to download the MP3. Good stuff :)

    4 July, 2013 at 9:17 am
  • Thanks @LorettaMay for the #CFConf re-caps. @clearwriter @comminicatrix @jimkrause4 @MMToolbox @lukemysse . http://t.co/cUUrIHRtbR

    4 July, 2013 at 6:27 pm
  • What a fantastic recap! I don’t think anyone has ever broken down one of my talks so clearly and simply. And you’re right: it really is about providing a fantastic user experience, online and off. I will be lifting that—with credit, of course! Thanks, and glad I could be part of what sounds like a really fruitful conference experience.

    8 July, 2013 at 12:40 pm