This Saturday, November 9th at The Pheasant Plucker on Augusta Street starting at 2pm, join local freelancers Chad Fullerton (@chad_fullerton) and Brian Hogg (@brianhogg) for an inaugural meetup event for entrepreneurs in Hamilton. It is chance for local freelancers to get together, support each other, talk business, and connect on projects. The event is open to any type of freelancer that does work for clients (eg. graphic/web designers, developers, marketers, writers, photographers, consultants, etc), as well as anyone new to freelancing and wants to start a freelance business.
Chad and Brian will be doing presentations about building and growing a freelance business, facilitating networking time for everyone to meet each other, and opening the floor up to ideas for local workshop events that will be held throughout the year.
It is a free event, open to anyone. The duo hope to turn it into a regular meet-up event with workshops to teach new skills and business tips.
I am a designer and entrepreneur, specializing in building brands and communities online. I’ve been doing freelance design, digital strategy and business consulting for over 10 years. I’m a proud born and raised Hamiltonian and Mac grad. I work at CORUS as an Interactive Content Manager managing three radio station web properties by day (Y108.ca, 900chml.com, and 953FreshFM.com), and by night run my own company “Fullerton Media Inc.” which provides marketing services as well as tools and training to small businesses and fellow entrepreneurs. As you can guess, I don’t get much sleep… but hey, I love what I do.
What can you tell us about the upcoming Freelancer Meetup?
After being a part of the great events put on by Software Hamilton (DemoCamp, StartupDrinks), it became clear that very talented and skilled individuals in creative fields that weren’t necessarily development-centric such as graphic design, writing, photography, PR, marketing, etc. were attending the events mainly to network and connect with like-minded local people, but there was no specific event for them. Most had been doing freelance projects or contract work for a while, some had companies with a solid client base, while others had great skills but weren’t sure how to build up a client base to monetize doing what they were passionate about.
So I started talking with fellow freelancers about starting up a meetup event open to all creative professionals. Brian Hogg (@brianhogg), a friend I met through working on a freelance project together, is a full-time freelance developer and was just as excited about the idea as I was. “Freelancers Group” was formed. We started an online meetup group at http://www.freelancersgroup.com and almost immediately started to see individuals joining the group before we had a chance to tell anyone about it. A meetup event in-person seemed the obvious next step.
We plan to host regular in-person local meetup events and workshops for freelancers in Hamilton, starting with our inaugural event this Saturday November 9th.
What do you hope attendees come away with from the Freelancer Meetup?
The primary goal of the meetup is to bring freelancers in Hamilton together to network with each other, chat with like-minded creative people, and learn ways to build and grow our own freelance businesses. As a freelancer, you’re usually working as a solopreneur, on your own doing everything yourself. With meetups like this one, we hope to not only support each other but find local freelancers with skills that compliment our own which opens up the possibility for working on projects together.
The first event this weekend will define what the group will be doing in future meetups. It really depends on who shows up and the type of people that want to participate on a regular basis. This isn’t about Brian or myself, it is about the group as a whole and how we can help each other out. We’re hoping to get a diverse group of individuals with a lot of ideas that we can turn into workshops that will be held throughout the year to share skills and tips.
How has your experience been as a freelancer?
My experience doing freelance design and consulting has been very exciting, it’s a roller coaster ride starting your own business but when it’s based off something you’re passionate about, it doesn’t feel like work.
Being a freelancer is very rewarding, not only are you helping clients solve problems but you get to use your talents that you’re passionate about and make money doing what you love to do. You feel empowered being able to pick and choose which clients to work with and what projects to work on. No two projects are the same, you’re constantly learning new skills and staying on top of trends.
It is a fast-paced environment, one with tight deadlines and a lot of late nights, but the end result is totally worth it. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a diverse range of really fascinating people, and work on projects for some amazing brands. Seeing your work online, in print, on billboards and buses brings an incredible feeling of accomplishment, but it’s the smile on your client’s face when they see what you’ve built for them and being able to watch others interact with your work that makes it such a great experience.
What’s the most challenging thing about freelancing?
Knowing how to price your services so you aren’t undervaluing yourself, how to say ‘no’ to clients, how to accurately estimate time a project will take, and how to deal with difficult or demanding clients can be challenging. When you start out as a freelancer and begin to build your client base and portfolio, you tend to take any sort of project that comes your way in order to gain experience, but it’s very easy to fall into the trap of not setting standards for yourself and sticking to them. Know what value you bring to the table, and don’t be afraid to charge what you feel your services are truly worth.
What’s the best thing about being a freelancer?
Freelancing is flexible, you can take on as much or as little amount of work you feel you can handle. You get to choose which projects to work on, which clients to work with, and what rates to charge. You set your own schedule and work hours. You choose where to do work from. All you need is a computer and internet connection, your overhead costs are very low to get started. Everything is decided by you. This is what attracted me to freelancing the most, and allowed me to work on projects while attending school and working part-time.
What would you most suggest or recommend to people considering freelancing?
Jump in and start right away, don’t wait. You don’t have to be an expert to be a freelancer. Freelancing is a broad term that incorporates many different skills and industries. If you are skilled at something, passionate about it, and want to help others then freelancing can be a great way to make money by offering your skills as a service to clients. Just because there are more established people with more experience than you doesn’t mean you can’t give it a try, you have to start out somewhere! So start looking for small projects, gain client testimonials, and build your portfolio. Learn as you go. Focus on what you’re best at, and then start to learn more skills to offer as additional services for your clients.
How can a stronger freelancing community help Hamilton’s renewal?
Successful small businesses are extremely important to Hamilton’s renewal. We need more entrepreneurs staying in and building businesses in our city. Having a strong freelancing community in Hamilton will help elevate all of the businesses in the area, because freelancers utilize their skills to help local business owners build, market, and grow their stores and products. It’s a win-win scenario, the freelancer is able to make money doing what they are passionate about, and the local business owner can hire someone with expertise to help them for the amount of time they need to complete a project. It is in a freelancer’s best interest to do everything they can to help their clients succeed, because as their client’s business grows, more opportunities open up for bigger and more expensive projects as well as referral business.
How can the community in Hamilton help you with this new initiative?
The grassroots energy in our city surrounding start-ups and entrepreneurship is outstanding and growing rapidly. Add that energy with the vibrant and strong creative industry in Hamilton and you have a winning formula for success.
There are fantastic resources for businesses if you are just getting started setting up a freelancing business (Innovation Factory, The Hamilton Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC), everyone at the Hamilton’s Economic Development Office, the list goes on..), plenty of events to learn new skills for freelancing (Ladies Learning Code, Coder Camp, various workshop events that happen throughout the year, conferences, etc), as well as office space and co-working space (Platform 302, Intelligent Office, IF’s Factory Floor at McMaster Innovation Park, The Seedworks Urban Offices, etc).
What can you tell us about the online community for freelancers you’re creating?
Aside from the meetup event, I am also starting an online community for web-focused creative professionals called WebInsiders. I created a community for McMaster Students called MacInsiders back in 2007 (www.macinsiders.com) which is very successful with over 30,000 members and hundreds of thousands of pageviews a month. Taking what I’ve learned from starting that community, WebInsiders will be based on the same platform but with a focus on building a freelancing business. It is free to join, and users can sign up at http://www.webinsiders.com to learn more once it launches.