Last week I attended FreelanceCamp Pro in San Francisco, hosted by the offices of the newly open coworking facility of the main sponsor and organizer NextSpace. This event is based on a model of a BarCamp for freelancers and independent contractors.
If you don’t know what a barcamp is, this is a an “international network of user generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants. The day consists of sessions proposed by attendees and the schedule is created on site the morning of the event. BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn from each other in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants.”
This was my first barcamp, or unconference type of event I’ve attended and I must say it has been by far the most interesting conference I’ve ever participated. So much better, engaging and with great conversation than a the usual conference where someone on the stage presents his slides. I’ve learned many things and this post is to outline my takeaways from this event. Here are just the most important ones:
Takeaway 1: meeting with other freelances. Designers, photographers, writers, programers, or lawyers, all were freelancers. Even if working in different fields and with different experiences it was great to see that others have the same problems, and experience the same joy to work as freelancers. It is great to meet other people that are the same as yourself, and have the same values.
Takeaway 2: working from home… or not… During the session about how people are working from home and maintain their sanity, I realized that for each person that works from home the situation is different. Some like it to work from home, some tried various solutions like working from a caffe shop, a library, a store, or even while driving in a train. My takeaway is to look for what works best for each individual and the particular type of work.
Takeaway 3: coworking I’ve heard before about coworking and thought it is a very interesting concept and wanted to give it a try. Still from what I knew before I thought it was just a place to work, where you pay a free and have your desk, power and internet connection to do your thing. Now I realized that this is much more than that, and normally in such places the most important thing is the community of people that work there, that help and support each other. I would love to find a close by coworking place in the south bay area, but unfortunately as nextspace, most of them are in the city to far for a daily commute.
Takeaway 4: volunteer work; helping the community. I was very proud to see that many freelances are involved in volunteer work and community projects. Even if we are so busy with projects there is always time for such great actions where everyone can contribute with their experience and expertise for their community. I know for sure that I will dedicate more time for this in the future.
Takeaway 5: networking, connections, promote your services. You need to have an elevator pitch for your yourself, being able to explain who you are, what you do and why you are good the job in less that 30 sec. A freelancer needs to always market his services and not stop doing this even when he has a full plate of work; workflow can change in the future, and it will be much harder then to do this when pressured by the need to find new works quickly. I must admit that I’ve done this myself, being much to busy with regular work to have the time to market myself, and even dropped some potential clients because I didn’t had time. I will definitely have to change this approach.
Takeaway 6: productivity technique - pomodoro Chris Burbridge mentioned about this great method he has been using to increase his productivity called pomodoro. It is a time boxing technique where you focus on only one task for 25 mins and then take a 5min brake; this is called a pomodoro after the name in italian of a kitchen timer in the form of a tomato. After 4 pomodoro’s you take a longer brake. For more details check out the online docs at http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/ It makes sense to me, and I will try it out to see if it’s working for my workflow that is rather heretic with many interruptions as you would expect for a busy sysadmin ;)
In conclusion this was an awesome event and I will definitely try to attend the next one in Santa Cruz - October, 2nd 2010.