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I Popped My Cherry at BarCamp Philly

It’s almost a week later and I’m still on a high from BarCamp Philly!
BarCamp PhillyOrganized by Roz Duffy and JP Toto, BarCamp Philly took place on Saturday, November 7, 2008 at The University of the Arts. I think more than 200 people were in attendance.

If you’ve never heard of a BarCamp before, it doesn’t take place in a bar and it’s not actually a camp. BarCamp is an “unconference” — a completely unplanned day of fun self-organized by the attendees. No speakers, no schedule.

I had heard a lot about these before, but never attended one myself so when I found out that Matt Knell would be heading down, I just had to join him. Nater Kane, Matt Zarzecki and Mike Davis rounded out the New York contingent and we took Philly by storm.

Matt and I got there at 10am just as the first session was starting. In the hallway there was a bulletin board with a dozen classrooms listed along the top and seven one-hour intervals listed down. In each time slot was a blank index card that anyone could write their own session on. Matt put his name down and said I should do the same. I had absolutely no intention of presenting and haven’t presented anything publicly (outside of work) since my junior year of college. But Matt kept on insisting and I caved. I took down a card from the 5pm slot, the last session of the day, and wrote:

QUIT YOUR JOB — Pick my brain about going independent. Ask me anything.

To my utter shock and awe, more than 30 people showed up. I had nothing planned — no slides or notes — but I just started out by giving folks a bit of history on why I quit my job to be an independent consultant, and then spent the next 90 minutes answering people’s questions about how to do it. The session was only supposed to be 60 minutes, but the questions just kept coming so I stuck around.

I was really nervous at first, but it helped to see some friendly faces in the audience. The lovely Livia Labate offered to live-tweet the session (since I couldn’t live-tweet it myself!) — thanks, Liv! Take a look at her notes below:

  • @whitneyhess going to start her ‘quit your job – advice on going independent’ session
  • Oh the irony! Nobody wants to live tweet @whitneyhess‘s session because their boss’s will see LOL
  • what it means to be on your own?
  • ppl who were innies and became outties: flexibilities, charge what you want, work w/ who you want
  • the signs that it’s time to quit: u know u can do more, u feel held back, u want to try something else, u are financially stable
  • Don’t quit your job if you don’t have the resources to cushion the risks of not getting work right away
  • if you are too frustrated to see things clearly, take a week off and reconsider on return
  • you must be very honest w/ yourself. what your strengths and weaknesses are
  • props to @armano for encouraging @whitneyhess. imagine this without Whitney!!!
  • “legitimize your self online and offline to make your voice heard and your expertise known
  • “put my blog over my portfolio a long time ago”
  • “hard questions that nag: Am I good enough?”
  • “I made all decisions/attempts that prove you are good enough”
  • “Don’t listen to the nay sayers that don’t think independent is not a legitimate job”
  • building your personal brand isn’t everything. if you r not paying bills, you r not making it work.
  • “learn your value. charge what u are worth. half of independent job is running a business”
  • “if you hate the the client and love the product, charge double; charge aggravation fee”
  • “figure out how many hours you need to work. don’t forget taxes! count every dollar!”
  • “get insurance. It’s worth it, no matter what”
  • Fears: “my portfolio is not good enough”. Show your process, sketches, how you think
  • “managing your pipeline: 1. learn how to say no 2. save $ for dry spells
  • “have people you can rely on so you can pass clients to manage your pipeline”
  • “Everything you do as an independent is for professional purposes”
  • Whitney recommends Harvest for invoice tracking invoices and expenses
  • “Track when you are working on what regardless of how you are charging”
  • Fears: how to establish a client base? “getting and maintaining are very different”
  • Whitney is very formal in establishing new relationships. ‘Run your own business, protect your facebook’
  • Don’t just milk your network, give too. It also reinforces your abilities
  • professional and formal are different. once you establish a relationship less formality is needed. honesty first
  • Billing methods: retainers – pros: know exact $. cons: you may need to do a lot more than you estimate
  • Again, track everything so you learn/know your work patterns in addition to accuracy.
  • billing methods: project rate (tip: estimate on deliverables) – pro: ability to charge % upfront con: scope changes
  • Billing methods: hourly rates (good for projects you participate in definition/scoping) pro: consistent cashflow
  • firing your clients: Do it. Plenty of fish in the sea. Again, be professional, always.
  • People won’t leave Whitney’s room. And nobody can stop asking questions. @whitneyhess kicking #bcphilly ass

I feel so blessed that people enjoyed the session and felt like they got a lot out of it. A sampling of some of the feedback I got via Twitter after the session:







I am beyond thrilled by the response. Endless thanks to everyone who attended, asked wonderful questions and contributed to the session. And of course, an enormous THANK YOU to @mknell who so kindly encouraged me to do this.

I’ll be posting soon about the other sessions I attended at BarCamp Philly, by the awesome @livlab, @globalcitizen, @waltribeiro, @bethharte, and @mknell.

Check out the full schedule (with a ton of other great sessions, but unfortunately I could only be in one place at a time!). And see lots of BarCamp Philly photos here.

I just wanna say thank you again to everyone who helped make BarCamp Philly such an amazing experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

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