A few weekends ago I attended the first ever FreelanceCamp Vancouver at The Network Hub downtown.

Freelance Camp Vancouver

This was very well-spent $10 admission, but with an unconference style only some of the talks appealed to me.

The first talk I attended was The Importance of Proper Branding for Small Businesses by Kevin Simcock from 1000Watts. This really hit home with me as it seems every freelance client I design logos or business cards for needs to be taught about proper business branding. Kevin reminded us that every interaction speaks about your brand. With all of your products (logo, business card, website) you need to convey the same brand positioning statement.

Kevin posed some questions to ask ourselves about our branding: what is your key business statement? what does your logo say/reflect? does your company name reflect what you do? does your website go well with your logo/colours/etc.? does any social media add to your message, not detract? One really important message Kevin said was that people buy outcomes, not a brand/person/product.

The next session I attended was Business Card Science with Sam Zipursky from Advice Tap. This was a little more like business card etiquette and things to do and not to do with your physical business card. He had some good points about business meetings and when/how to hand out your business card, such as waiting until the end of a conversation.

I decided to excuse myself and go check out Email Marketing with Corwin Hiebert of Red Wagon Management which was running at the same time. I almost wish I’d been in this session the whole time! The whiteboard was covered in points and columns of “Hate”, “Love”, “Best Practice”, and “Tools”.

Users hate too many emails, when they are generic or impersonal, with they are too sales/pitchy, and when they are irrelevant. Do not send an email blast just for the sake of sending an email blast. Make sure you have a message. Also, make sure your subject line is not to sales/pitchy.

People Love when they are targeted, less disruptive, selective, and media rich. Best practices for sending email blasts are Tuesday at 9:30am, sending content rich messages. Corwin said that reviewing your open rate and click rate is important. He said if there is less than 50% open rate and 15% click rate, he would review the marketing strategy because something isn’t working.

I stuck around in that room to listen to the next session, Networking & CoWorking with Raul Pacheco-Vega (aka Hummingbird604) and Jay Catalan of The Network Hub. Unfortunately it felt a little pitchy about The Network Hub and (I hate to say) but it didn’t grab my attention. I wandered out to check out some other sessions (three session run simultaneously during each block).

I ended up at How to Manage a Creative Project with Corwin Hiebert again. This was extremely relevant to the work I do at my regular job. Corwin talked about giving the team updates, having a meeting agenda, not just having notes in email and more. He mentioned that it is important to make sure the scope of work is clearly outlined, that there is one point person, and you reassess often. Some tools mentioned for group management were SmartSheet, ActionMethod, Basecamp, and a book called Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky.

Then we had a lunch break and there were some featured speakers and sponsored lunch. I decided to pop down to Waves Coffee shop and grab an panini instead.

Next, I attended Pricing For Freelance Services with Tom Varjan from Dynamic Innovation Squad. This was more of a Q&A session which seemed to work well. The one take-away point is that fixed rates generate 87% more income than hourly rates and clients prefer to know up-front what they’ll pay.

The next session I attended was Promote Yourself Using Free Tools with Bonnie Sainsbury from Duet Media. After the first couple points about making sure you’re visible online, it turned into more of “Twitter 101”. I decided to pop upstairs and check out another session.

At the Freelance Is Not Free session by Raul Pacheco-Vegas, he spoke from personal experience of working for free or for pay. He said he has stopped working for free for things that doesn’t have value. If it is a project that he believes in or finds value in, he’ll help out for free.

The second-to-last session I attended was Apps & Gadgets for Freelancers with Shan Shan Fu. This was a really neat session to sit in on. While it wasn’t exactly apps specifically for freelancers, they were all apps for productivity. In a room of 20 people, there were 8 iPhones, 3 Android phones, 3 Blackberries, 2 Palms and 1 windows mobile phone. The apps suggested for all these different devices also had Apple dominating the market. But something that Shan Shan noted was that while Apple may have 100,000 apps and Android only 10,000, there are probably 100 farting apps on Apple and maybe 10 farting apps for Android.

We talked about cloud techonology, Evernote, DropBox, HoursTracker, Tripcase, Jotnote, wifi apps, and more. Shan Shan also showed us slidetype which is called “Swype” by Verizon and “SlideIT” in Canada. It’s going to replace touch-typing for phones and is currently available on just a handful of phones. Watch this YouTube video demoing slide-typing to see the difference. Shan Shan also told us about all the new features coming in Windows Office 2010 (she works for Windows but wasn’t representing them at the conference, just spreading news about new features she thought were cool).

The final talk I attended was about Intellectual Property with Kemp Edmonds. He had battled with his intellectual property (read: something he’d written/created) stolen and re-purposed by another company. First of all, he told us his tale. Then, he suggested a bunch of tools and a bunch of possible forms of action when dealing with intellectual property infringement. One suggestion was setting up GoogleAlerts with “AND” and “OR” statements to find where your name is mentioned. Some other suggestions included: setting up Creative Commons, CopyScape to track your stuff on the ‘net, TinEye for reverse image searches. There were a number of other methods mentioned and it was reiterated to just make sure you are protecting your work and make others aware that you are the owner.

Overall it was a very informative day and I hope that there are more 604 FreelanceCamps in the future. Thanks to all the organizers, sponsors, volunteers and attendees for making this unconference a great day.