Freelancer Lifeline is a resource destination where FX members can find grant opportunities, loan information, digital events, creative tools, and more. We hope it serves as a source of comfort, inspiration, and support as we navigate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic together.

How to Prepare for the 2023 FX Portfolio Showcase

The Freelance Exchange’s annual Portfolio Showcase is coming up on November 8th. Are you ready??

FX puts on this signature B2B trade show to give you, the freelancers, a prime opportunity to get yourself and your work in front of the very people who are looking for you, including ad agencies, design shops, large corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and more.

For those looking for freelance talent, it’s a one-stop shop. They can find the one freelancer they need or put together an entire virtual agency. The possibilities are endless!

When / Where / What

First, the logistics:

Wednesday, November 8th

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. Exhibitor Setup
  • 5 – 8 p.m. Portfolio Show/Open House, appetizers & drinks 
  • 8 – 8:30 p.m. Teardown

Portfolio displays and tables are to be set up prior to the doors opening at 5 p.m. We recommend allowing ample time to set up … and go around and meet your fellow FX members and view their portfolios!

Please unload your vehicle up front and then move it to a space further away so that attendees can have easy parking. There is plenty of parking available including:

  • at KCYA
  • across Main St. to the east
  • at The Whole Person, just north of KCYA

A cash bar will be on hand to purchase beverages throughout the event, and appetizers will be available (for free) from Chef Kansas City.

Best Practices for the Best Exhibits

You’ll choose either 4 or 6 feet of table space (or sponsor for 8 feet). The tables are rectangular and will be covered with a black tablecloth.

You can customize your display as much or as little as you want. For examples of table displays from past Showcases, look at pictures (see albums) on our Facebook page.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Think visually. The more visually appealing the display, the better chances of results.
  • Don’t just think flat table display. Utilize vertical and get crafty! That said, don’t get too ambitious and have a huge display that blocks your – or your neighbor’s! – view. Also, no floor displays are allowed.
  • Showcase your brand. Have your logo prominently on display, use signage, and bring plenty of business cards. Consider brochures, sample books, giveaways, raffle prizes, promotional items, etc.
  • Have an array of work available to view: Different mediums, industries, one-off projects, complete campaigns, etc.
  • Not a creative type and no portfolio to show? No problem! Consider having testimonials, case studies, and more available. Use this opportunity as a meet-and-greet to share your services.
  • Be organized. Use a flipbook, brochure stand, or any other piece that will help accomplish this goal. Laptops and monitors are commonplace as well.
  • Need electricity? If you didn’t note that when you signed up, your table may not be near an outlet. Let us know ASAP: [email protected]. Otherwise, plan to bring an extension cord; we’ll see what we can do.

Be Prepared

Aside from getting your portfolio and table display ready, there are a few things you can do to prepare, such as:

  • Determine your Unique Selling Point (USP). Figure out what makes you unique/different/better, and highlight that.
  • Write up your elevator speech. And practice it so it comes across naturally.
  • Bring a note pad and pen. Use this to take notes of what you spoke about and with whom so you can remember when you follow up.
  • See the big picture. Figure out how you can best communicate value to your prospects. Remember, you are not just a writer, designer, etc. You are part of this amazing collective in which you can partner with—and refer!—others on projects, form a virtual agency, and refer other members who may be perfect for a job.
  • Don’t just hand out your card. Have a conversation. Engage with your visitors! And get any prospect’s card as well.
  • Prepare for all types of questions. You may be asked about your capabilities, availability, and rates. While you get to determine how you want to answer these questions, FX suggests – in particular – you deflect any questions about your rate. Communicate your value, and ask for the opportunity to put together a formal project estimate instead.
  • Don’t be surprised. While we target heavily those looking to hire freelancers in our promotional efforts, we can’t prevent others (i.e., vendors, other freelancers, students) from coming to the trade show. We recommend greeting every visitor and engaging them in conversation up front to determine how much time you’d like to spend with them.
  • After the event: Follow up. Follow up. Follow up! Don’t miss out on a great opportunity. Make yourself memorable and begin a great relationship with your best prospects. Connect on LinkedIn, follow on other social media channels, send articles, emails, invitations for a coffee meeting, etc. (But not too much or too often. You don’t want to be a pest!)

Keep in mind, results may vary. Some years may generate some amazing hot leads. Others not so much. But it’s all about brand awareness and recognition. Meeting your peers. Getting referred and offering referrals. And who knows? You may end up with an amazing project years down the road from someone you met at this year’s show! So do your best to have a successful show, and keep the hope alive!

What You Can Do to Help

We promote this event far and wide through the use of email, web, social media, PR, outreach, and more. See more about our efforts in the FAQs section on the event page on our website.

Please help us spread the word and invite your contacts as well! Forward emails, share on social media, and help us get the word out.

Questions about the event? Contact FX Director Shauna Clark at [email protected].

AI Is Another Technology We Must Embrace

I now have TikTok on my phone, and it’s all because of artificial intelligence (AI).

The connection is not as crazy as it sounds, because each tool is part of the communications revolution that is unfolding before our eyes. It was Burton Kelso who connected the dots during a recent lunch presentation for The Freelance Exchange (FX).

Kelso is a technology guru and the owner of a computer-service company. His main topic was AI, including ChatGPT.

But one of his main messages was that savvy freelancers and solopreneurs have no choice but to at least gain a working knowledge of all the new electronic tools that are out there— be they video apps, AI platforms, or social media sites like LinkedIn.

“Instead of saying, ‘Well, I don’t know anything about LinkedIn,’” Kelso said. “It’s your job to figure out how LinkedIn works, and especially how it can benefit your business.”

The same thing goes for AI, he said. We need to understand it so we can better serve our clients — and remain relevant. The challenge, as with any new technological innovation, is carving out the time to learn how to use it.

Kelso walked us through a dozen AI products, including Dall • E2, which creates art from a text description, and Jenni, a text tool that promises to “supercharge your next research paper” along with crafting blog posts, speeches, and more. He also introduced us to Murf, your new AI friend who makes “studio-quality voice overs in minutes.”

AI is not infallible. Products like ChatGPT generate copy with mistakes and falsehoods.

Yet, it’s hard to fathom that Dall • E2 does not pose a challenge to graphic artists or that Jenni or Murf do not threaten the livelihoods of writers or broadcast specialists. 

“People do business with people,” Kelso reassured his audience.

I agree, but in a recent conversation, one local nonprofit executive told me he uses ChatGPT to generate rough drafts of blog posts. He is smart enough to double-check the supposed facts the AI tool includes, and he also massages the text to make it sound more like him. Nevertheless, he considers it a huge timesaver and did not dispute my assertion that AI could eat into my business. 

Humans can produce better material, but I can certainly envision a cost-conscious manager slashing a freelance budget or eliminating a position when AI can generate something that is adequate.

Part of me says, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” There’s nothing stopping me from using AI to draft narratives. I could be more efficient for my clients and free up time for other things.

But I don’t want to do that. I like the creative process. It’s why I have stuck with journalism and writing for so long.

I hope that’s not a step down the road to professional extinction, but with all the advances of AI, it’s hard not to worry.

From my many years in newspapers, I know what a fatal mistake it can be to misjudge the threat of a new communications technology. The internet was a long way toward destroying our business model before industry executives started fighting back. But by then, it was too little, too late.

So, I will heed Kelso’s advice. I pledge to dig into some of these AI platforms — and I might kill two birds with one stone by posting about my experiences on LinkedIn!

Also, on my list is gaining some proficiency with TikTok, but the app has already paid some personal dividends. Our 13-year-old son smiled when I told him I had downloaded it, and then he took a little bit of time to give dear old dad a quick tutorial.

Guest blogger: Mike Sherry is the principal of OnPoint Communications, which specializes in storytelling for nonprofits. With more than 30 years of print and online journalism experience, Mike produces narratives that drive fund development and marketing success. His cost-effective approach ensures that his content serves many purposes, including copy for e-newsletters, grant applications, gratitude reports, websites, and more.

Media Planning and Buying 101

What is media planning and buying?

I’ve been asked that question more times than I care to count during the past 20 years. The easiest way to describe media planning and buying is by saying, “It’s discovering where the people you want to target will be and then buying space or time.” Sounds simple, right?

Let me break it down a little further.

In media planning, you locate the intended audience by studying habits, demographics, and other characteristics.

Don’t worry, there are resource guides to help you find all this information. Examples include Comscore, SRDS, Nielsen, Quantcast and many more. All those tools analyze behaviors that range from TV viewership to social media preferences, app downloads, and even favorite restaurants. So if you want to find women ages 25-54 who eat healthy, you would know where to find this audience, whether it was nationally, regionally or locally.

Media buying is where you purchase the space or time to reach your target audience.

It could be on the tops of cabs, sides of buses, or on TV or radio. The ad space or time slot allows you to reach people at optimum times, such as between 6 and 7 in the morning or Tuesday thru Thursday, if you are buying ad space on broadcast or the internet. Maybe there’s a new restaurant or theater you want to promote, so you might consider advertising on a bus, billboard, or some other place outside of the home. Your vendor will tell you how many people you reached and how many times you reached them.

When media planning and buying work together, you find the right media mix that best hits your target audience.

Once you’ve found the perfect space or time to purchase, you’ll want to complement the media with the right creative element. You can buy media all day long, but if the creative isn’t good and geared towards your target audience, no one will care.

For example, advertising Louboutin in Sports Illustrated makes no sense. But if you are marketing Nikes, that’s a different story. The opposite applies as well: You can have the best creative imaginable … but if no one sees it, what was the point in creating it!?

Advertising campaigns often overlook media buying and planning, just like Star Wars viewers might under appreciate Chewbacca. The loyal Wookie was an asset no matter what the circumstances … just like media planning and buying is integral to any advertising campaign. 

Even if you aren’t sure you completely understand media planning and buying, you can at least appreciate how it works!

Guest blogger, Kelly Dobyns Ziegler, has been buying media for over 20 years. She has worked in small, medium and large agencies in the Kansas City area. In 2021, Kelly started her own solopreneur career at Numerical Tree. She started her company on the principal that understanding and utilizing data is the smartest way to grow any business. Find out what works and build on it. When data leads, growth ultimately follows.

FX is Now Celebrating 20 Years!

January 2023 marked 20 years for The Freelance Exchange of Kansas City.

Twenty years of helping advertising and marketing freelancers in the KC region and beyond. Twenty years of serving as KC’s premier, free, and easy-to-use resource to find freelance talent.

So, how did FX come to be?

Here’s the story as told by our Founder, Julie Cortés:

“It all started on a whim. I’d been very active and serving on the board of a large industry organization. When my term came to an end, I wondered what was next.

I looked around at the existing professional clubs in town and wondered why no one had anything specifically for freelancers … no discounted rates for membership or events, no programming directed at the self-employed, no nothing.

Even though I’d made these requests while active in the one organization, no one seemed to care. Yet, I knew there was a huge need for it.

So, I decided to do something about it.

I was familiar with an effort that local industry headhunter, Don Dye (may he rest in peace), had spearheaded previously, getting a small group of freelancers together for lunch on a regular basis. I also knew that, at that point in time, he’d had to hang up his hat in doing that when he went to take a full-time job.

Not wanting to step on toes, I called him up to see if I could resurrect the idea. “You have at it, kid!” he told me.

And so I did.

I opened up my Rolodex and industry club roster, and emailed roughly 50 freelancers, asking to get together. In January of 2003, we met at McCoy’s in Westport where about 20 people showed up.

Everyone seemed to love the idea of a community just for freelancers. Ideas were running rampant. “You should do monthly luncheons!” “You should have a freelance directory!” “You should have a ‘company’ holiday party!”

The energy was inspiring. Yet I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

I asked for volunteers and was able to quickly form a board of directors. We got to work and wrote bylaws, club policies, developed a brand, planned programs, and determined membership levels and pricing.

Within six months we were up and running as an official not-for-profit 501(c)6 industry organization and, just a couple months after that, we’d already surpassed 100 members!”

Things just took off from there. FX hosted its first Portfolio Showcase that next year, produced a printed and digital membership directory, and held plenty of monthly educational and social events. Throughout the years, it’s hosted award shows, participated in philanthropy efforts, and helped plan holiday parties with other local industry clubs.

The club was founded on a mission of offering continuing education and community for advertising/marketing freelancers, while also serving as a resource to make it easy for ad agencies and businesses alike to find freelance talent they needed.

That mission continues to this day as we continue to find innovative ways to inspire, motivate, and gather. In addition to our monthly luncheons and social meetups, we continue the tradition of the Portfolio Showcase and joint holiday party, while additionally offering a Freelance Bootcamp and other educational, networking, outreach, and promotional opportunities. 

We are forever grateful to the volunteers who’ve helped us achieve this big milestone, the sponsors and associate members who’ve helped fund our efforts, and the hundreds, if not thousands, of freelancers who’ve come through our doors throughout the years.

As we look back and reflect on the successes of FX throughout the last 20 years, we can’t help but be excited for what the next 20 have in store.

Not a member? Join today. Need a freelancer? Find freelance talent here.

Want to get involved? Attend an upcoming event or volunteer.

Stay up-to-date with all things FX. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or sign up for our email newsletter.

FX is Proud to Support the Freelancers Union

It was a pivotal moment in early January: literally freelancers supporting freelancers. The Freelance Exchange (FX) of Kansas City presented a significant donation to the Freelancers Union in New York City. With a large Publisher’s Clearinghouse-type check, our member-at-large, Jeremy Lips, hand-delivered this surprise in person. You may have seen the picture or video on social media.

What is the Freelancers Union?

Freelancers Union is the largest organization representing the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce: independent workers. It offers a powerful support system and voice through policy advocacy, benefits, resources, and community. Its goal is to secure a better future for freelancers as a whole.

Since it was founded in 1995, the organization has:

  • provided high-quality, affordable, and portable health insurance
  • advocated for new healthcare models for the self-employed
  • fought for and won protections for freelance workers
  • enacted the Freelance Isn’t Free legislation, giving freelancers protections from nonpayment. 

How is FX Working with Freelancers Union?

In the spring of 2022, our founder and president, Julie Cortés, was invited to speak at and sit on a panel at a regional conference in western New York. Sitting alongside her on the panel was Freelancers Union’s president and executive director Rafael Espinal. Since meeting, the two have been Zooming regularly to discuss the different ways FX and the Union can work together. 

As it’s always been a dream to take FX national, this seemed like a good place to start. If you look around, you’ll see that other industry-related organizations such as Ad Club, AIGA, PRSA, BMA, Social Media Club, etc., all have a national presence … chapters in other cities as well as a national umbrella for club management and national benefits. There are no national professional organizations just for freelancers. Now celebrating our 20-year anniversary, and knowing we’ve got a successful business model, what better time than the present to see this dream come true? 

The second part of this partnership is to introduce and help pass the Freelance Isn’t Free (FIF) Law here in Kansas City, if not statewide in Missouri and Kansas as well. This groundbreaking law is designed to protect freelancers from nonpayment. How many of you have received late payments from clients … or no payments at all? Unfortunately, it happens all too often. This is exactly what the legislation aims to combat. 

This law would apply to both sole proprietors and those incorporated as either an independent LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp. Since its inception in 2017, FIF has passed already in New York City, Minneapolis, and Seattle. Los Angeles is currently under review. While a national law would be ideal, these baby steps will help move us toward that pie in the sky. Our goal is to bring it to the Midwest to help protect freelancers here, as well as to set an example and encourage those in other smaller to midsize cities to do the same. To learn more, visit the law’s plain language guide here.

Couldn’t We Do This on Our Own?

We could, but why reinvent the wheel? 

Freelancers Union has the national connections to help us reach our goal of taking FX national. While the concept ought to be easily replicated in other cities, the problem lies in finding the movers and shakers (the volunteers) in those other cities to run the organization. Between its national (free) membership and community events, Freelancers Union has those connections

Additionally, Freelancers Union has literally written the playbook and put together the toolkit to help introduce, advocate, and pass the Freelance Isn’t Free law. They’ve already been helping us in identifying and contacting the appropriate local representatives and have provided guidance with the language of the proposed Law for the Missouri state legislature. 

This donation was approved unanimously amongst The Freelance Exchange Board, as we feel it will help strengthen our bond with the Freelancers Union, show a vested interest, and help us continue to give back to the freelance community. 

We are excited for what the future holds and cannot wait to see our dreams come to fruition!

If you have any questions or want to get involved with any of these efforts, please contact us. If you’d like to make a donation as well to the Freelancers Union, you can do that here