Austin Freelance Conference 2014The first ever Austin Freelance Conference is less than a month away! With some great speakers and even better networking opportunities it’s a great way to meet up with some other local freelancers, and learn a little too!

Check out our interview with founder and organizer Emily Leach about this fantastic new conference, and some of the unique things that are coming along with this event!

If you are heading to the conference Austin Virtual Workers is holding a drop-in co-working session at Mozart’s next door if you need to get a little work done during the day!

How long have you been involved in the freelancing world, and what drew you to it?

I first got started in freelancing back in 1992 when I quit my job in Houston on a Tuesday and lived in Albuquerque, NM on Saturday (I thought the name of the city was cool). I was too young to know that wasn’t supposed to work, but it did! I picked up the phone book and started calling Engineering firms looking for a job as an Engineering Designer … by the end of the day I had a freelance gig because I had a skillset that was extremely hard to find in that area. My naivety was rescued by my skillset … even though I took a few more real J-O-B’s and different gigs since that adventure the past 14 years have been solely freelance and I’ve never looked back. I fell in to freelancing, but the freedom to run my lifestyle and be a stay-at-home single mom kept me coming back until I stayed.

Where did the idea for the conference come from?

This past summer I wanted to go to a conference just about being a freelancer, connect with other freelancers from around the country and talk our “trade”, I didn’t want another industry conference. Turns out there wasn’t one, so with all my experience with organizing TEDx events and my years of experience in freelancing I decided to create the conference I was looking for. Turns out, there is a lot of other freelancers looking for the same experience, I cannot wait to see it all in action.

What is the Freelance Conference all about, what makes it special?

It’s about the freelancer, their business, the struggles to get past roadblocks of making enough money, handling client loads, when and how to bring on additional support to manage bandwidth, and the list goes on. A freelance business is unique and needs support through peers and mentorship, the Freelance Conference is going to be the catalyst to make that happen. This is the only conference I have found that will not be teaching how to use some software package, we will be focusing on how to work through the business end of issues to help freelancers make more money!

Is this the first conference you have created yourself?

For myself, yes. But it is not my first rodeo by any means. I was one of the original co-founders for TEDxABQ (one of the largest TEDX events in North America) and the founder of TEDxCorpusChristi as well as the founder of the SEO Academy of the Southwest back in 2008. I love putting on events, creating the community and connecting people to solutions.

How did you select the speakers for the Freelance Conference?

I reached out to freelancers and asked for their top roadblocks, made a list, picked the top 4 then started researching events and products that addressed those issues to reach out to. I curated the speakers, there was no speaker call this year. The requirement is that each speaker run an interactive workshop format, not a talking-head speech to the audience. The mission is for the attendees to learn new skills, not just hear about them.

What are you hoping your attendees learn the most from the conference?

How to make more money and achieve more freedom in running their business.

You know that a lot of freelancers can’t always afford to attend conferences, and you came up with an elegant solution. Can you tell us more about that?

This is true, many freelancers are struggling to make ends meet. Although they could benefit greatly from a conference it just isn’t in the cards … so, I decided to take advantage of the crowdfunding concept to allow freelancers to get help from friends and family to attend the conference. It opens up a way for a person to reach out and ask for help from multiple people with a lot less anxiety than asking for a specific amount from any one person. At $92 it is probably pretty easy to find 10 people to donate $10 or so dollars, and then whatever is left (if anything) can be paid by the attendee.

The conference is going to be at Abel’s on the Lake, it’s not your usual conference venue, what made you choose it?

We’re freelancers, we like to have fun while we learn, connect and build our businesses. A conference is no different. Statistics elude to how the environment makes such a huge difference on how much an attendee will participate and retain information, so I decided to take the lessons I learned with TEDx and create an experience within the conference – starting with the venue.

What influenced your decision to pick Austin as the home of your conference, and are you planning to expand this event to other cities in the future?

The jury is still out on whether this conference will move around the country or just grow right here in Austin. Our city has a fabulous freelance community that is actively coming together to share work, learn from each other and attack known freelancing issues. It felt like the perfect place to birth the first Freelance Conference.


A huge thank you to Emily Leach for the interview, and organizing the Freelance Conference, if you want to join, sign up here!

Can’t make the conference, you can still stop by the co-working session next door!

Oliver Whitham

Oliver Whitham

Founder at In ATX
Oliver is a Business and Marketing Consultant by day and owner of In ATX and Austin Virtual Workers by night. He lives, drinks, works and eats in this fine city, and figured that it was time to write something about it!
Oliver Whitham