“Out of our garrets”
As I approach my first anniversary of becoming a full-time freelancer, I am excited to once again be attending the Communication Central conference, Sept. 26-27, 2014, in Rochester, NY. This gathering is something I look forward to because of how beneficial it’s been to me. Each time I’ve gone, I’ve learned something new about being a writer and editor.
I’ve also gotten to know Communication Central organizer Ruth E. Thaler-Carter over the last few years, and one of the reasons I keep going back to this conference is Ruth’s warm and helpful attitude to other editors and writers. (So helpful that she’s extended the early-bird conference rates just for readers of this blog! See below*)
Ruth is a fellow member of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) and the American Copy Editors Society (ACES), and is a regular participant in Copyediting-L, a discussion group for editorial professionals.
This week I spoke with Ruth about Communication Central. I asked her about the history of the conference, what’s new this year, and what attendees can expect to get out of it.
Q: What prompted you to start this conference eight years ago?
A. I chaired a conference for one of my professional organizations in 2005, and was upset that they weren’t going to continue the event. I told a couple friends that I believed I could plan my own conference, and they dared me to do it, so I did! I had also helped plan an international conference for another association I was involved with, so I knew a little bit about putting these events together. But I was really lucky that, through various professional associations, I knew an awful lot of people . . . who not only were doing freelance editorial work but could talk about it.
Q. What have you personally gained from running the Communication Central conference, and what do participants gain from attending?
A. I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of new colleagues, some of whom have become friends, and sometimes I’ve gotten to know people whom previously I only knew online. I haven’t made a lot of money from the conference, but I’ve learned a lot. I sit in on the sessions and learn from my colleagues. I don’t know if speakers get as much out of it as participants, except for the camaraderie, but the camaraderie is pretty valuable.
Participants? They have the opportunity to meet people who are leaders in our fields, sometimes even people who are considered editorial freelance “gurus.” They also get hands-on exposure to new tools, and get to meet colleagues in person. That’s very important to a lot of freelancers because so many of us work alone. This conference gets us out of our garrets and interacting in person.
Q. Have you heard any particular success stories about freelancers who have attended Communication Central?
A. I know a few people who have gotten projects from each other after meeting at the conference. A few people have improved their websites as a result. But mostly, folks say that after the conference they’ve felt less isolated and they’ve improved their personal productivity. When freelancers get to know each other, they feel they have more support and more confidence in standing up for themselves.
Check out the testimonials at the Communication Central site.
Q. So, networking and socializing is a large part of the conference?
A. Yes. A lot of people might know each other online, but this is an opportunity to meet in person. A few well-established freelancers I know tell me they don’t need the content so much as the getting together. They like coming back to see people, which I find very flattering.
Q. What’s new and exciting this year?
A. I’ve planned a summit on self-publishing, to be led by writer/editor Ally Machate of Ambitious Enterprises, book producer Dick Margulis of Dick Margulis Creative Services, and Greg Ioannou, publisher and COO at Iguana Books, among others. Many editors are struggling with how to work with independent authors and still make money … and some are becoming authors themselves and need guidance.
There’s also going to be a session on organization—how to track projects, payments, and plans—led by April Michelle Davis, owner of Editorial Inspirations. And I’m very excited about my keynote speaker this year, Jake “Dr. Freelance” Poinier. This is the first time the keynote will focus on writing. I cannot wait; I think he’s going to be wonderful, and his insights will apply to everyone there.
The session I’ll be presenting on Saturday is about starting a freelance business, which I think will help lots of people.
Q. What is the state of freelancing these days? Is this a good time to be starting a freelance business?
A. I think this is a very good time to be going freelance. There are so many new opportunities in publishing and communications. It is at the same time very tricky. There are so many trying to do it, many for next to nothing. There has always been competition from newbies and amateurs, and there are many more ways for amateurs to get business than before. So our biggest challenge is finding and keeping clients who value our skills and experience, and who will pay for those skills and experience.
Q: What else can you tell me about the conference?
A. The Communication Central conference is a wonderful place to hang out with like-minded people and to get together with colleagues.
Yes, there is some competition among those of us who offer similar services, but there are so many ways to be an editorial freelancer, and there are so many new outlets every day, that most of us are not in direct competition.
Getting together, we can learn from each other and help each other stand out from the rest of the competition.
*Early-bird rates have been extended to August 10 for readers of this blog, so if you’re thinking of attending, please contact Ruth and let her know you saw this at Write.Edit.Share.Repeat.
Editorial Bootcamp: This takes place on Sunday, September 28, and is separate from the Communication Central conference, but held in the same hotel. Registrants of either event are given discounts to the other event. Bootcamp registration is on last page of the Communication Central registration form.
Door prizes: Ruth holds a giveaway at the close of each conference. If participants would like to contribute a prize, please let her know as soon as possible.
Things to do while in Rochester: For spouses, partners and kids of participants, Ruth has prepared a list of interesting places to visit, downloadable here.
For more about the content of this year’s event, see my previous post.