Shauna here — this week, I’m in Palm Springs for Designer Vaca, an annual retreat for female creatives. I’ve said it many times before and I will say it again: attending this event for the first time four years ago completely changed the course of my career by giving me the confidence to quit all outside work and launch my own studio.
Retreats, workshops and conventions can be a big investment but it’s completely true that you get back out what you put in. Stepping away from your computer to network can really work wonders — those personal connections can take you so much further than social media.
The five biggest benefits of attending a live gathering include:
Working as a freelancer, while extremely rewarding, can also be isolating. Chances are that you spend a lot of your day alone and it’s easy to forget that your kindred spirits ARE out there. Running a small business has its share of challenges and it’s reassuring to know that there’s a group of people that get you who are just an email, Skype session or coffee date away.
Oh, that old chestnut! Even in the internet age, networking in person is NOT dead! Each year that I’ve attended Designer Vaca, my business has grown substantially and it’s no coincidence. The women I’ve met regularly refer work the way of Branch and we have a list of design referrals made up almost entirely of attendees I’ve met face-to-face. It’s a total win-win situation.
We spend so much time in front of our computers creating that it can be difficult to see the forest through the trees. Getting away from work and shaking up routines even for a few days can do wonders for your creative spirit. New ideas begin to flow because there aren’t the constraints and noise that regularly fill our minds.
Hearing the stories of how other creatives run their studios gives you plenty of ideas to apply to your own. A lot of the processes Branch now has in place were inspired by attending talks and asking a lot of questions. There’s always going to be a mix of participants, from beginners to experts, but that’s precisely what makes it so great — everyone has a different way of running their business and you can pick and choose what works best for you.
It’s a wonderful feeling to meet fellow peers and see what they’ve accomplished. Suddenly, what seemed impossible is within reach. During the first year of attending Designer Vaca, I was unsure that I was capable of running a studio of my own — taking the leap from stable income streams felt paralyzing. But, meeting others who were doing it and having great success showed me that everything I wanted wasn’t a far-fetched pipe dream.
Less than a year after attending the first Designer Vaca, I launched Branch and never looked back. Two years into running my business, I can’t imagine doing anything else. While stepping out from behind your computer and hopping on a plane does take time and cost a pretty penny, the return in investment you get may be more than you ever expected.
If you’d like to attend Designer Vaca next year, tickets sell out fast so sign up for the mailing list to be notified of when registration re-opens. Hope to see you there! —Shauna