So, What's Going Solo About? [en]

[fr] Un avant-goût du programme de Going Solo. Il ne suffit pas de "savoir faire des trucs" pour avoir du succès en tant qu'indépendant. Il y a plein d'aspects "business" au boulot d'indépendant que l'on sous-estime souvent au départ, et qu'on doit apprendre sur le tas. Going Solo, ce sera l'occasion d'apprendre des choses comme par exemple comment fixer ses tarifs, se faire connaître, effectivement décrocher des mandats (et se faire payer!), trouver des clients ou les laisser nous trouver, expliquer au monde ce que l'on fait, trouver un équilibre entre travail et "vie" (pas évident quand on a fait de sa passion son métier), ou encore gérer l'administratif qui accompagne la vie réseautée que nous vivons aujourd'hui.

Je donne dans ce billet un plan des sujets que je désire couvrir durant la journée de conférences que sera Going Solo. Trois orateurs sont d'ores et déjà annoncés: Stowe Boyd, Suw Charman, et Martin Roell -- vous les connaissez probablement de nom. Je suis à la recherche d'autres bons orateurs, particulièrement un peu à l'extérieur de mon réseau, donc n'hésitez pas à me faire part de vos propositions!

Here we go, with the promised post. I swear I’ve been wanting to write this “tomorrow” for a few weeks now, but something always gets in the way. It’s late and I have a mighty cold, but as I promised, here I am, typing away on my chubby MacBook rather late at night (my MacBook looks chubby now because the MacBook Air has just been announced… and it’d make any laptop look overweight).

When I decided to set foot in the event business, I pretty soon had a whole bunch of ideas for conference topics. As a first, I picked the one that seemed the most exciting to me: a conference about freelancing.

As a freelancer, I’ve learnt — sometimes the hard way — that it’s not sufficient to know how to “do stuff” well to be successful in business. I think many of us freelancers are in the business because we have a passion for which there is a demand (ie, people are ready to pay for this stuff!), and we often struggle with the “business” side of being self-employed.

Going Solo is a chance to learn how to do things like set your rates, make yourself known, close deals, find clients or let them find you, explain what you do to the world, find a life-work balance, or deal with administrivia in the networked world we web people work in.

I know that the best value people usually get out of conferences is the networking and the contacts, more than the actual content of the talks. I’ve had the impression, however, that this is starting to be used as an excuse for poor content, “false advertising” of talk topics, and lousy speakers. I want none of that. Of course, I want you to come to Going Solo and meet great people, chat with colleagues, enjoy the coffee with friends, and code in the bean-bags (I want bean-bags in the lounge — anybody got any?) But I also want the content to be rich, coherent, and well-presented. After all, that is primarily what you’re paying for.

Here is an initial outline of the topics I think are important. (This doesn’t mean that these are talk titles — this is stuff I want the various talks to cover.) I’d really like to hear you if you think I’m missing stuff out or including things that are irrelevant. This is for you, after all.

  • skills a freelancer needs (doing the work, marketing and networking, contracts and cash flow)
  • fixing prices, closing deals, negotiating contracts (the hardcore businessy stuff)
  • what kind of work freelancers in the 2.0 world do (some jobs are more suitable for soloists than others)
  • marketing and taking care of one’s social capital (blogging… and being a good online citizen)
  • tools of the trade (what software/tools/methods can assist you as a freelancer?)
  • coworking and staying in touch with “colleagues” (compensating for “working alone” — we remain social animals)
  • challenges in making a passion into a job, dealing with the blurring of the life/work distinction
  • international clients, travel, different laws and tax rules, accounting
  • soloist or small business?
  • adapting to different kinds of clients (in particular, how do you deal with big corporations that you approach or who have approached you)

As you can see, there is plenty in there to keep us busy for a day!

I’m happy to announce that Suw Charman, Stowe Boyd, and Martin Roell (all three great speakers and good friends) have accepted my invitation to come and share their experience as soloists and help you benefit from what they have learned over the years. We’re still in the process of determining the exact topics they will cover in their talks, but I already wanted to let you know that they would be here in Lausanne on the 16th.

As we will have more than three speakers (four if you count me, as I’ll probably grab the microphone to say a few words ;-)), I’m open to suggestions. If you know good speakers who could cover part of the program I’m outlining above, do let me know. I’m particularly interested in bringing in people from outside my immediate network — and for that I need you.

I hope you find this first draft of the programme as exciting as I do, and I’m looking forward to reading your feedback.

Cross-posted on the Going Solo blog.

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Working For Fame Or For Cash [en]

[fr] En organisant la journée de conférences Going Solo, je me trouve directement aux prises avec mes difficultés face à l'économie du peer. J'organise un événement qui dégagera je l'espère assez de bénéfice pour que je puisse me payer, ainsi que mes partenaires. En même temps, j'espère trouver des personnes prêtes à donner de leur temps en échange de la visibilité que leur apportera leur association avec Going Solo. Mais je ne sais pas trop comment m'y prendre. Je trouve difficile de rendre les choses claires.

I’d like to introduce this reflection by quoting [Tara Hunt](http://horsepigcow.com/), who writes the following in a post titled [Please Stop Crowdsourcing Me](http://www.horsepigcow.com/2007/12/21/please-stop-crowdsourcing-me/):

> I came and I thought, hey, this is kind of neat-o and it empowered me at first. I thought, “Awesome! They want my opinion! They listen!” and I offered it and the feedback was, “Great idea!” and I watched as you implemented it, then benefitted from it and I felt good. I was great at first, but then after a while, I started to feel a little dirty…a little used…a little like cheap labor, replacing people you probably laid off or decided to save money on not hiring because you were getting so much great value out of my time. Maybe it was because it seemed that you believed you could ‘tap’ my well of ideas or ‘pick my brain’ endlessly? Maybe it was because my generosity goes so far and you overstepped your bounds? Maybe it was because you had a chance to reward my efforts, but dropped me like a wet rag as soon as I asked?

Tara Hunt, Please Stop Crowdsourcing Me

I just came upon her article a few minutes ago as I was aimlessly clicking around in my newsreader. It’s funny, because I’ve been thinking of this post I wanted to write for a few days now, and it’s right on the same topic.

I’ve already [felt uneasy about the “Peer Economy”](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2006/12/09/donnant-donnant/) (if I may call it like that before). About the fact that certain businesses actually get a lot of stuff for free from their enthusiastic users — stuff they would have to pay for, otherwise. The point I understood about a year ago is that the fact that people contribute voluntarily to help improve services like WordPress, GMail, Twitter, and countless others is what allows us (the community) to benefit from great tools like these free of cost or way cheaper than what they’re worth. I’m comfortable with that.

However, I agree with Tara, there is a fine line to tread. As a company, you don’t want people to feel used. And like Tara, I’ve had more of my share of people/companies who want me to “take a look” at their stuff and “tell them what I think” — picking my brain for free. And I don’t like it. If I’m [passionate](http://headrush.typepad.com/) about your product, then yes — I’ll give you feedback. You probably won’t even have to ask me. I’ll blog about it. If you’re smart, you’ll point out what I wrote, give me credit and link-love, thank me publicly. But I didn’t do it for that. I did it because I liked your product, or because talking about your product fulfilled one of my agenda, in a way. I’ve given products/companies like [WordPress](http://wordpress.org), [Dopplr](http://dopplr.com), [Twitter](http://twitter.com), [coComment](http://cocomment.com), [Seesmic](http://seesmic.com) and a bunch of others valuable feedback *because I wanted to*, because I loved their stuff.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll do it for any product or service that crosses my path. If you’re one of the lucky ones, well, good for you. If you’re not, you’ll have to pay cash ([experiential marketing](http://climbtothestars.org/focus/experiential-marketing/) is one of the ways a company can use cash to make up for lack of immediate passion on the part of this particular human being). Just like I’ll help my friends out for free and open blogs for them just because I love them, some companies out there benefit from “free intelligence”. Others need to pay for a similar service.

You get the idea, I think.

Now, here’s what I really wanted to bring up with this post.

As you know, I’m putting together an event for the month of May, [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net). (If you’re a freelancer or a small business owner, you should plan to come, by the way ;-).) This is my first event. I’m not going to be doing it alone. Thing is, I realised I’m a bit shy about asking my friends to help me out, because on the one hand, I want to keep the event expenses to a minimum, and on the other hand, I don’t want people to get the impression I’m trying to “crowdsource them” — as Tara expresses above.

This is made worse (and way more uncomfortable for me) by the fact that this is not a non-profit venture. I’m going to be investing quite a lot of time in this adventure, and I hope to be able to pay myself enough to have made it worthwhile. Ditto for my sales and logistics partners. So, yes, we’re hoping the event will make a profit (against all odds, it seems — everybody tells me that if you’re first event breaks even, you’re very lucky).

So, I know that part of the difficulty I’m facing here is my own inner workings. Despite what some people on IRC may think 😉 I’m somebody who doesn’t find it easy to ask for help/stuff. I always feel I owe people (except when I feel I’m owed, in a kind of weird back-swing dynamic).

There are certain things that I need for the conference, where I’m hoping I’ll manage to find somebody who is willing to “work for fame”. Taking care of the website is one. Design is another. Similarly, I’m hoping to strike up a partnership for the WiFi and bandwidth we need for the event.

In fact, there is some similarity between “working for fame” and being a sponsor/partner. You provide stuff for free (or almost), and in return you get visibility. So maybe I need to switch mindsets. Instead of looking for “people to help me”, I’m looking for “individual partners” for the event.

I feel like this is a thought in progress. I’m not exactly sure what I think, or what to do, or what is “right”. I’m particularly embarrassed when I start talking with friends or contacts about this or that they could do for the event, because it’s not clear from the start if we’re talking about a partnership (work for fame) or Real Work (work for cash).

Any insights appreciated. I feel like I need to step out of my mind a bit to find a way out, and you can help me out with that by sharing your thoughts.

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About a Date [en]

[fr] La journée de conférences Going Solo aura lieu le 16 mai et non le 9. Mes excuses à ceux auprès de qui j'avais confirmé la première date.

Oh. Sorry to disappoint you — not *that* kind of date. Yeah, just a calendar one. Before Christmas and end-of-year festivities interrupted my [blogging about Going Solo](/tags/going-solo/), I wrote about [the headache involved in picking a date for an event](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/16/headache-picking-a-date-for-an-event/).

Over the last few days quite a few people have been asking me if the date I announced (May 9th) was “final”. My answer was: as final as it gets at this stage.

I met yesterday with my sales partner, and amongst other things, we double-checked the date. Two problems popped up: the first — and not the least — was that she would be in Africa on a business trip at that date. Oops. The second is that there are quite a few bank holidays around the 9th. The French are off on the 8th (victory WWII I think), and Monday is a bank holiday in Switzerland as well as France. Not mentioning that the previous week-end is a four-day week-end.

So, we looked at other dates. 16th May was good (there is even a possibly exciting collision with a music festival here in Lausanne in the evening — I’ll tell you more when I can) except for the fact that the [Next08](http://www.next-conference.com/next08/) conference is the day before in Hamburg. Well, the public isn’t exactly the same… so it’s not such a huge deal. My apologies, however, to the conference geeks out there who would like to make both of the events and who will end up having to squeeze travel in between.

So, please pull out your calendars, and scratch out 9th May (you’d written it down, hadn’t you?) and replace it with May 16th, the next Friday.

More news? Coming. I’ve been wanting to blog about the content I’m planning for Going Solo for quite some time now (always “tomorrow” — bad, I know) but “other stuff” seems to have developed a habit of getting in the way. No more of that, I promise. You can expect regular “Going Solo” news from now on — shortly on a dedicated blog which will be ready for public consumption as soon as I’ve imported all these posts and added a little content.

Aside from that, I met with a designer this afternoon to talk about visuals (a huge scary and opaque domain for me, I want to blog more about that) and we’re narrowing down on a venue.

Should I also give you some Going Solo updates via Seesmic, I’m wondering?

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November 2007 Recap [en]

[fr] Un résumé des divers billets que j'ai écrits en novembre 2007. Je sens que je devrais faire une version française complète de cet article... mais honnêtement, pas le courage de m'y remettre juste là!

A few days ago, I had an idea: why don’t I write a “recap” post of what I wrote during the month? Sometimes I go on writing binges and it gets a bit hard to follow, so maybe this will help. *Note that some of the links here point to older posts, I’m not being 100% strict about “November” — but everything is indeed related to that month.*

So, what was the deal for [November 2007](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/)? Looking back, it was a busy month. Mainly conferences, as I travelled to Berlin for Web2.0Expo, Serbia for BlogOpen, and Paris for ParisWeb in the space of two weeks, giving a talk each time — and [a fourth in Zurich](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/26/blogging-in-internal-communications/) when I got back. I also decided and announced that I was [starting a company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/), and [moved CTTS](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/28/server-move/) back to my server, [upgrading WordPress](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/29/upgrade-shmupgrade/) while I was at it.

### Talks and Conferences

#### Berlin, [Web2.0Expo](http://berlin.web2expo.com/)

Although I did [live-blog](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/08/01/on-liveblogging/) quite a few of the sessions that I attended, I didn’t write a “summary” post like I did for [FoWA](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/05/my-notes-of-fowa-autumn-2007/) or [WordCamp](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/07/22/a-day-at-wordcamp-2007/) earlier this year — heading off for Serbia and Paris right after, **and** being sick, I guess, didn’t exactly make for ideal conditions to be a model blogger. So, here’s a list of the sessions I blogged about:

– [Kathy Sierra: Creating Passionate Users Workshop](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/05/kathy-sierra-creating-passionate-users-web20expo-berlin/), and also [her Keynote](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/06/kathy-sierra-keynote-web20expo-berlin/) the next day (I got personal thanks from her for these notes, and many people seemed to appreciate them)
– [Jeremy Keith: The Beauty in Standards and Accessibility](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/06/jeremy-keith-the-beauty-in-standards-and-accessibility-web20expo-berlin/) (I really enjoyed his talk)
– [Jesse James Garrett: Delivering Rich Experiences](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/07/jesse-james-garrett-delivering-rich-experiences-web-20-expo-berlin/) (only got the end of the talk, unfortunately)
– [Ankur Shah & Gi Fernando: (Facebook API) Disrupting the Platform](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/07/ankur-shah-gi-fernando-facebook-api-disrupting-the-platform-web-20-expo-berlin/)
– [Lars Trieloff: i18n for Web 2.0](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/07/lars-trieloff-i18n-for-web-20-web-20-expo-berlin/)
– [Cory Doctorow: Europe’s Copyright Wars – Do We Have to Repeat the American Mistake?](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/08/cory-doctorow-copyright-wars/)

My [talk proposal](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/08/09/another-multilingual-talk-proposal-web-20-expo-berlin/) didn’t make it, but I had a chance to give [“Waiting for the Babel Fish” at Web2Open](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/05/reminder-speaking-tuesday-at-web2open-berlin/), the parallel unconference running during Web2.0Expo, in the Expo area. Somebody filmed a part of it, but unfortunately it never made it to me. It was fun, though — starting out with three people, and finishing with about 20 (the room was clearly hard to find, I myself got quite lost on the way).

I took [photos of the conference (and a few of Berlin)](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157602926000696/), of course.

#### Novi Sad (Serbia), [BlogOpen](http://blogopen.eu/)

I was [invited to Novi Sad in Serbia](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/12/blogopen-in-novi-sad-serbia/) to give a talk about [my experience as a blogging consultant](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/12/being-a-blogging-consultant/). I had a great time giving the talk (and before that, taking [silly facial expression photos](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157603111529724/) to illustrate my slides) and was taken good care of by [Sanja](http://auroraborealis.blog381.com/), who volunteered to act as my host during my stay.

Unfortunately I fell ill there (food poisoning), but did have time to go out and catch [some photos of Novi Sad](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157603111523044/), in addition of [those of the conference](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157603145532635/).

My talk got [quite a lot of coverage](http://del.icio.us/steph/coverage%2Bblogopentalk) (in Serbian!), including [two short video snippets](http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=blogopen+stephanie+booth&search=Search) (thanks again!).

My departure from Berlin had been quite hectic (wrong airport!) and I was provided with the most scary landing experience in my life, courtesy of JAT airways, when we arrived in Belgrade. Leaving through Belgrade airport to go to Paris was not exactly a fun experience, either. I tell it all in [Berlin, Belgrade: Two Contrasting Airport Experiences](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/14/berlin-belgrade-two-contrasting-airport-experiences/).

#### Paris, [ParisWeb](http://2007.paris-web.fr/)

It was nice to be in Paris, see my friend [Steph](http://unadorned.org/dandruff/) again after many years, and meet all the fine people behind ParisWeb and the francophone web standards movement — some of whom I’ve known online for years through their involvement in [Pompage.net](http://pompage.net), a [web standards-oriented translation magazine I founded](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2001/03/21/faire-part/) way back in 2001.

I was pretty ill though and just wanted to go home — no live-blogging, and not many photos. More than half of the photos in my [ParisWeb set](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/72157603546219446/) were kindly taken by [Fabien](http://arkhi.org/blog/) while I was pretending to be a window for [Chris Heilmann’s demonstration of Javascript event listeners](http://www.wait-till-i.com/2007/11/18/minified-metro-sticky-event-handling-and-and-great-new-encounters-that-was-parisweb-2007/) ((http://www.dailymotion.com/ennui/video/x3irwh_chris-heilmanns-javascript-workshop_fun)). You should definitely check out [Fabien’s photos](http://www.23hq.com/an.archi/paris%20web%202007) rather than mine if you want some visuals from the conference.

A video of the talk I gave should be available in a few weeks.

#### Zurich, ASCI

After the success of my talk [How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/09/24/how-blogging-brings-dialogue-to-corporate-communications/) in September, I was invited to Zurich again to give a similar talk focused on internal communications: [Blogging in Internal Communications](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/26/blogging-in-internal-communications/).

### Starting a Company

November was a busy month not only because of all the speaking and the travelling, but also because I took the decision to become a full-fledged business woman and create my own company. I [announced this](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/) and also blogged some of my first musings as an entrepreneur: [Competition, Colleagues, or Partners?](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/19/competition-colleagues-or-partners/). Way more about this in December or under the [Going Solo tag](http://climbtothestars.org/tags/going-solo/).

### Geeky and Other Stuff

I didn’t just blog about conferences and business stuff. As I mentioned, I also [changed servers](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/28/server-move/) and [upgraded WordPress](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/29/upgrade-shmupgrade/) on this blog, leading to [an update of my Basic Bilingual plugin](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/30/basic-bilingual-03-for-multilingual-blogging/) (update which was actually [broken, but has since then been fixed](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/18/nasty-problem-with-basic-bilingual-plugin/) — please upgrade if you haven’t), and some [tortured thoughts about cleaning up categories on CTTS](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/30/tags-and-categories-oh-my/) (I still haven’t done anything about this).

I also [tried creating a Netvibes widget](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/17/netvibes-widget-of-my-shared-items/) (a rather disappointing experience, in hindsight, though it was some fun geeking out).

Last but not least, I [created a focus page on experiential marketing](http://climbtothestars.org/focus/experiential-marketing/) after a [quick round-up of Stowe Boyd’s writings on the topic](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/20/stowe-boyd-on-experiential-marketing/). (I’ve done some more thinking since then and need to update the page, by the way).

### Selection

If you were to read only three posts?

– [Kathy Sierra: Creating Passionate Users (Web2.0Expo, Berlin)](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/05/kathy-sierra-creating-passionate-users-web20expo-berlin/)
– [Being a Blogging Consultant](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/12/being-a-blogging-consultant/)
– [Experiential Marketing](http://climbtothestars.org/focus/experiential-marketing/)

Five? Add these two:

– [Blogging in Internal Communications](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/26/blogging-in-internal-communications/)
– [I’m Starting a Company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/)

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Websites and Blogs, Where Does One Start? [en]

[fr] Petite prise de tête (j'aime bien ça!) au sujet du site pour Going Solo et l'entreprise (pas encore existante légalement) qui est derrière. Quel nom de domaine utiliser? (J'en ai enregistré toute une série autour de cette idée de conférences, ça m'a d'ailleurs coûté un saladier.) Il va me falloir une identité visuelle. Que bloguer où? Créer déjà un site pour l'entreprise? Bienvenue dans les méandres de mes questionnements.

Along the lines of [rediscovering some aspects of blogging](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/17/feeling-like-a-born-again-blogger/), I’m rediscovering some tricky online presence questions which I’m more used to hearing in the mouths of my clients than in my head.

Questions like: do I create a separate blog for my company? for my event? how? when? who will blog on them? what will we blog on them?

To be honest, those questions aren’t actually all that tricky. For example, of course I’m going to create a site-blog (website with a blog) for [Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/). Is it too early to create a site for the company, though? I’ve got a good mind for the moment to [hold off incorporating](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/17/advisors-boards-companies-partners-oh-my/) it until the first event is done. I mean, not to be pessimistic, but if Going Solo doesn’t work out as well as I hope, and I decide to leave the event business at that, it will have saved me the trouble and grief of setting up the company “for nothing”, right? Other opinions on the topic?

A few weeks ago, I booked a pile of domain names (my poor credit card can testify). For the company, for Going Solo, for other events I already have in mind. I got .nets, .coms, .orgs, and even .co.uks. You don’t want a porn site as a neighbour, right? And if you’re going to build a name or a brand, who knows what you might want to do with the other TLDs 3 years from now? Better have them handy. Well, this isn’t really the topic of this post, but gosh, does it add up to a pile of money.

Of course, to make things easy, one of the .coms I didn’t manage to get is going-solo.com (it’s an insulin pump, so not much to do with what I’m plotting). Which leaves me with a choice of .co.uk, .ch, .net, .org. I’d say .org is out, as this is a commercial venture. As the event is going to [take place in Switzerland](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/16/picking-a-city-for-an-event-lausanne/), .ch would make sense, but then what happens when we reproduce the event in other countries? (I’ve actually already been talking about that with a few people — and can you imagine: the first event hasn’t even happened yet that they are already showing interest…)

Leaves us with .net and .co.uk, the latter making sense if the mother company is indeed incorporated in the UK as I plan, but as it hasn’t actually happened yet, it could change. So, I guess for the moment I’d go with going-solo.net and set up a blog there, to start with.

I don’t have any visual identity yet so that means it would be pretty bland at first. (This is where I really regret not being a bit of a designer myself.) I’m half-tempted to try and recruit [Bread and Butter](http://www.bread-and-butter.ch/) (look at the [beautiful art they did for Adsclick](http://www.bread-and-butter.ch/portfolio.php?tags=adsclick)), but they’re already doing LIFT (maybe a bit of a conflict) and as they’re already nicely established, I’m a bit afraid about the price tag. My more realistic idea is to try to find a small design shop in Lausanne which could use the visibility (local and international) Going Solo will bring them, or see if anything could be set up involving [students from the ECAL](http://www.ecal.ch/).

As for the company, should I set up a website already, even if it doesn’t “legally” exist? (God, I wish I were a lawyer and understood all this stuff.) I’ll need a visual identity (at least a logo) and some content. I guess there will be a lot of cross-posting between the Going Solo blog and this one, at least at the start.

Also, languages! Oh my! Actually, no. Going Solo will be held in English, therefore the site will be in English. I’ll provide some French content for local sponsors to dig through, but I’m not going to do the whole [multilingual space](http://climbtothestars.org/focus/multilingual/) thing yet for it. Could be an idea in the long run, though… hmm.

Well, thanks for following my thought process. I’ll be setting up going-solo.net soon and cross-posting relevant content there so that we can all start linking to it! 🙂

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Advisors, Boards, Companies, Partners, Oh My! [en]

Welcome to the area where I feel I’m swimming rather than standing on firm ground. Thankfully, I have advisors for this, but I’m still the person who needs to make the decisions. Let’s dive into the swimming-pool: it’s called [Starting a Company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/), in the city of Oh-My-God-Is-It-Really-A-Good-Idea-To-Blog-All-This.

I have one event underway, [Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/). If all goes well (and I intend it to) this will be the first of many — whether they cater to the same audience or not is still something I’m thinking about. So, I want to create a company which will be behind these events. Good for branding, allows me to bring in partners, pay myself a salary, etc. (Actually, I realise now that I’m not 100% sure why it’s a good idea to create a company — I’m sure it is, but I have trouble explaining it. Enlightened comments welcome.)

This company has a board of advisors. I haven’t drawn up any contracts or anything yet, but we have verbal agreements. I do want to get things down on paper, though. In French, we say *les bons comptes font les bons amis*, meaning that keeping money/business issues clear and clean preserves friendship (or makes it, depending how you understand it).

I need to incorporate the company, too. I live in Switzerland, I’m a British-Swiss dual citizen. In Switzerland, to have an “SA” company (the equivalent of an Ltd.) you need to show up with 100K CHF on the table. Even an SàRL requires 20K. From what I hear, it costs virtually nothing to set up a company in the UK. My focus is events on the European market, so basically, I see no real reason for the company to be Swiss. I’m no specialist of these kinds of decisions, though, so I’m basically listening to what people tell me and reading up here and there.

It seems to me that the simplest thing to do is to set up the company in the UK. I could have a subsidiary (? = succursale) in Switzerland, but again, I don’t understand how this makes things easier. (This isn’t making me look good, is it?)

I’m also not sure what happens with my “independant” status in Switzerland. I’m not going to stop being “independant” because I set up the company (ie, not looking at becoming a full-time employee of my company yet), so is there a way I can preserve this — it’s particularly important from a tax point of view, for example.

Then, advisors. I want the advisors to the company to have a (small) financial stake in it (I think that’s rather common), so I need to write up agreements for that. Do I need a lawyer (eeek)? Can I just do it myself? How do I know what to write in it? I’m a bit uncomfortable about saying who the advisors are publicly before the formalities are done — am I worrying for nothing?

Which also brings up another issue: many people around me are being very helpful by providing their advice and support. But if I bring them all onto the advisory board, as I’d be tempted to do, that means I’m going to have a (possibly) important amount of very little shareholders, which can create trouble if I want to bring partners into the company, or investors, or sell (they have to approve, don’t they?) So, can I have two kinds of advisors — advisors with a financial stake in the company, and others without?

Those of you out there who own companies with advisory boards or who are on advisory boards — would you mind telling us a bit more about how this works? And this is Europe, not the US (in case it changes anything — I suspect it does). Also, should I set up the company now, or wait until the first event is done?

Same kind of questions about partners. At the moment, there will be three of us doing the bulk of the organisation of Going Solo. We’ll be subcontracting other companies or individuals for some pieces of work, of course (any tips about where to go shopping for Wifi That Stays Up, by the way?) So, as far as Going Solo is concerned, we can draft out an agreement between the three of use to determine how much and how we get paid for our work, and what happens with any extra money we might have (ok, might be dreaming here). If this first event goes well, and we’re happy working together, it could make sense to have them enter the company, wouldn’t it? (This is where the when-how-howmuch stuff comes in, but I’m aware we’re not there yet.)

So, maybe my question is this: what are usual models for paying people who organise events? From what I’ve heard, bringing in sponsorships should earn you a cut of what you brought in, though it gets complicated when the sponsorship in question is not just cash, but covering the expenses for certain parts of the conference, or bringing in goods/services. It also gets complicated if the event doesn’t make as much money as planned, or makes a loss — should the person in charge of the sponsorships be paid while others are not? So many questions.

Also — trademarks? Do I need to trademark anything?

Any pointers, advice, or opinions that can help me see clearer here will be most welcome.

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Headache: Picking a Date for an Event [en]

[fr] Une journée de conférences nécessite un lieu et une date. Le lieu étant fixé, la date a été source de quelques maux de tête -- en particulier pour choisir le jour de la semaine.

Je me suis arrêtée sur vendredi, qui est un jour léger côté business, en général, et qui permet aux personnes faisant le déplacement de rester à Lausanne pour le week-end, rentabilisant ainsi le voyage. Je trouverais également bien que l'on organise un barcamp à cette occasion.

Concrètement, je pense au 9 mai. Voyez-vous des conflits? Y a-t-il des choses prévues à Lausanne à cette date, déjà? 1000 paires d'yeux valent mieux qu'une. Je compte sur vous pour me dire si j'ai raté quelque chose.

When you [organise an event](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/), not only do you need a [location](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/16/picking-a-city-for-an-event-lausanne/), you also need a date. You know, things happen at the intersection of time and space.

A rough glance at the calendar made me choose early May, as it’s far away enough to give us time to put things together (some people have gasped at how short it was, but I’m sure we can pull it off), and it’s also kind of empty on the conference front. I’ve asked around and gone through upcoming, and that time of the year seems pretty conflict-free.

Then, the trouble starts. We decided to go for a one-day event to start with. This means that we expect people to fly in for **a day**, which… well, might seem “not worth it” to some.

My initial idea (which, after much detours, I’ve come back to) was to hold the event on a Friday, so that people could stay an extra day or two during the week-end to make the trip worth it. I even thought about motivating the local [barcamp community](http://barcamp.org/) of the city we’d be holding the event in to place a barcamp on that week-end.

Then, the headache started. Maybe Friday wasn’t such a good day after all, because with a week of work behind them and stuff creeping up to be dealt with before the week-end, we would suffer lots of defections. So, how about Monday? Well, Monday is usually a heavy business day, and people are all sluggish from the week-end, so they might drop out too. So I sent out a quick poll on Twitter, asking people what seemed the best day to organise an event for freelancers.

Needless to say roughly each day of the week and week-end was suggested, along with very good reasons for or against each one.

In the end, I listened to the voice of reason, impersonated by [Suw](http://chocolateandvodka.com/), telling me there was no perfect day and that the most important thing was to put on a great event, with valuable content that would make it worth the trip for people to come, and that this would be the deciding factor for people rather than the place and day of the week.

In addition to that, I got feedback from a couple of tech event organisers who said that Friday could be quite good for one-day events. So, Friday it will be.

Let’s get practical: I’m looking at Friday May 9th, but before I set it in stone and we book a venue for that date, I’d like to know if you see any conflicts (1000 pairs of eyes are better than one). Is there anything with that date I haven’t thought of?

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Picking a City for an Event: Lausanne [en]

[fr] La journée de conférences Going Solo que je mets sur pied pour mai avec deux autres Lausannoises aura lieu à... Lausanne. Si Lausanne était mon premier choix (j'aime ma ville) je craignais que cela soit un choix plus émotionnel que raisonné. S'adressant à un public européen, nous avons donc pensé à Paris, Berlin, Londres... Mais finalement, ce sera Lausanne. L'argumentaire, en bref:

  • Facile d'accès: on sort de l'avion à Genève, on saute dans le train (200m de la douane) et 30-40 minutes plus tard, on est à Lausanne.
  • Organisation plus aisée: nous sommes les trois de Lausanne, donc on évite tous les problèmes liés à l'organisation d'un événement à distance. En plus, on connaît les entreprises locales, ce qui peut ouvrir des opportunités de sponsoring. Je compte aussi approcher la ville pour leur proposer de soutenir ce projet.
  • Lausanne est un cadre magnifique, la région autour aussi. Si on se déplace pour une journée de conférences et qu'on veut en profiter pour se relaxer durant le week-end, c'est le lieu idéal.
  • Plus abordable que Paris, Londres, ou même Genève.
  • Ville à taille humaine, bons transports publics. On ne passe pas 1h à se rendre à un autre endroit de la ville.
  • Changement bienvenu des "villes de conférences 2.0" habituelles!

A bientôt à Lausanne, donc!

When you decide to organise an event, other than having a good idea for the content/audience (ie, “what’s it about? what kind of event?”), two things you need to figure out quite quickly are *when* and *where* it’ll happen. This post is about the “where?” question.

My initial reaction when I took the decision to go ahead with [this wacky “organising events” idea](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/16/why-events/) was somewhere along the line of “great! I’ll do it in [Lausanne](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/collections/72157600210597000/)!”. A bit of a selfish reaction, as it makes things easier for me, and I really love Lausanne.

Next, I started thinking. Who is this event going to be for? Where is the highest number of people likely to come for my event? Maybe Lausanne is my favourite personal choice, but it doesn’t necessarily make business sense. From the start, I’ve thought of my event as **European**, with the idea to attract people from all over the continent. So of course, I expect attendees to travel — but there is always a high local population at events, as the absence of travel lowers the barrier to entry (cost, travel time, stress).

Well, quite possibly, the answer to that question (where is the highest concentration of freelancers in the tech industry in Europe?) would be “London”. On the other hand, London is horrendously expensive (isn’t it?), so, why not something nearby, like… Brighton? Cheaper, but still rather easy to get to.

At that point, I decided we needed a choice of cities, and we should check them out for venue options and hotel pricing, to see if anything stood out. Obviously, we’d need to pick cities which are easy to get to from other places in Europe. So, for starters… let’s look at London/Brighton, Paris, and Berlin. Paris is very close to London with the Eurostar, and Berlin (Germany) is cheaper than both London and Paris, but it’s still an Easyjet city. Because, if you’re in Europe, chances are you’re going to be flying Easyjet or some other low-cost airline. (I should think about asking them to sponsor the event, actually…)

So, armed with those three options (London, Paris, Berlin), I set off to [Le Web 3](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/12/news-from-leweb3/) to start talking with possible sponsors, and also to bounce ideas off my friends and peers. To my surprise, quite a few people said “but why don’t you do it in Lausanne?” when I mentioned the location wasn’t set yet. So, I started thinking. Because even if Lausanne is a personal, almost emotional choice for me, it doesn’t mean it cannot also be a good business decision.

Let’s look at Lausanne as a possible city to host my event, with a cool business mind:

– First and foremost, it’s actually **really easy to access**: get off your plane in Geneva airport, walk 200m from customs, hop on the train (yes, the train station is *inside* the airport), and 30-40 minutes later you’re in central Lausanne. (You’re in for at least the same kind of ride to get to central London from LGW or LHR, or central Paris from CDG.) Geneva airport is an international airport which is easily reached from all over Europe, [with Easyjet for example](http://www.easyjet.com/EN/routemap/). However, it’s way less busy than CDG, LHR, LGW, which makes the arrival/departure experience much more pleasant.
– **I live in Lausanne**, and so do my two main partners-in-crime: holding the event in Lausanne will make organisation much smoother for us, and allow us to ensure we don’t bump into any issues with the venue due to managing things remotely. Not to mention opportunities for sponsorships by local businesses — being locals, we know who they are and have existing connections we can use. There are also many important companies settled in the Lausanne area, like Nestle, Philip Morris, or Orange Switzerland. *And* it’s the Olympic Capital. (OK, drifting off-topic here…)
– [Lausanne](http://www.lausanne.ch/) is **a beautiful city**, in the midst of a beautiful region: it’s on Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), but as opposed to Geneva which is at the end of the lake, Lausanne is in the middle. The view over the lake and mountains is just breath-taking. If you’re coming for a one-day conference and plan to spend a nice week-end somewhere while you’re at it, Lausanne is ideal. The city is lovely and walkable, France is 20 minutes away by boat (just across the lake), and the surrounding countryside and lakeshore is also worth a visit (for example, [Le Lavaux](http://wikitravel.org/en/Lavaux), Unesco world heritage site, is just to the east of Lausanne). I’ll be digging out photos to convince you to come if you’re not sold yet ;-).
– Even though Switzerland is a rather expensive country (by European standards), holding an event in Lausanne is going to be **more affordable** than London, Paris, or Geneva.
– Lausanne is a **human-sized city**: it’s the [fifth most important city in Switzerland](http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villes_de_Suisse) with 120’000 inhabitants in the city itself. It has everything one needs, but it’s not so large that you can get very lost in it or spend insane amounts of time commuting from one part of the city to the other. Public transport is very efficient.
– Finally, Lausanne will be **a welcome change** for all of us on the “2.0 conference circuit”, as it’s not one of the usual “conference cities”, and probably a city you haven’t visited before much (which is a pity! you should!).

Check out:

– [Official Lausanne website](http://www.lausanne.ch/)
– [Official Lausanne tourism website](http://www.lausanne-tourisme.ch/)
– [Lausanne on WikiTravel](http://wikitravel.org/en/Lausanne)
– [Lausanne on Wikipedia](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lausanne)
– [Lausanne Flickr Pool (photographs)](http://www.flickr.com/groups/lausanne/)

So, here we go. [Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/) will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland — I’m looking forward to welcoming you all here in a few months.

Now tell me — did I do a good job of selling you Lausanne as a conference-city? 🙂

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Why Events? [en]

[fr] J'explique dans ce billet pourquoi je me lance dans l'organisation de conférences-événements. (Le français c'est ambigu: une conférence ça peut être un blabla par une personne, ou bien une journée entière avec plusieurs intervenants. Je parle de ce dernier cas de figure. Faites signe si vous avez un meilleur mot.)

J'ai perdu le compte des conférences auxquelles je suis allée assister au cours des derniers 18 mois. Au point que j'en ai un peu marre, j'avoue. Les organisateurs de conférence commencent à avoir l'habitude de lire mes critiques au sujet de leurs événements, donc je sais qu'on va m'attendre au contour.

Donc, je commence à voir un peu de quoi c'est fait, ces fichues conférences. C'est l'occasion de me lancer dans un projet un peu plus à long terme que ce que je fais d'habitude, de m'entourer de personnes compétentes (parce que finalement, je me rends compte que j'en connais une pile), et d'utiliser ma connaissance du milieu web/tech pour monter un programme qui non seulement tienne debout, mais danse la valse.

Donc, voilà. Comme je l'ai déjà dit, cela ne veut pas dire que je mets un frein à mes activités de consultante ou de conférencière (j'ai d'ailleurs des idées à ce sujet que je vais développer dans un prochain billet).

The idea of [starting a company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/) and organising conferences like [Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/) is the result of a conversation I had a bit over a month ago, just before Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin.

Even though it sounded like a wacky idea to me at first, organising events now really seems like the “right thing to do” today. I’ve been to more conferences during the last 18 months than I can remember, so I’m starting to get a good sense of the ingredients. I have a good network. I have a “generalist’s” view of the web/tech world. I’m also a detail-oriented person. It’s also time I became more active in my professional life (ie, “taking things into my own hands”), and I like the idea of building something over the long term (well, long term by my standards).

If you’re a reader of this blog, you know I’ve become a bit [conference-weary](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/06/too-many-people/) lately. I’m also known (to conference organisers, at least) for my sometimes nasty (but heart-felt!) feedback on their events. So, rather than continue complaining, I’m going to organise **conferences I’d like to attend**. I’m perfectly aware that given my track-record for finding fault with conference organisation, you’re all going to be waiting for me when I do mine. So be it ;-).

I believe it isn’t possible to please everybody: my intention isn’t therefore to organise the “perfect event”, as I know that it doesn’t exist. However, I’m strongly committed to getting **all** the basic stuff right, and to providing something slightly different from what already exists. More will unfold about that over the next weeks.

I’d like to state again that **I am continuing with my speaking and consulting business** (I actually even have plans for it in the near future, particularly in Lausanne). I know organising a conference is a lot of work (and luckily I’m not alone for that, I have two great partners and a bunch of very precious advisors), but that doesn’t mean I’m dropping everything else while I organise it.

*Going Solo* will be my first event, but I already have ideas for events to follow on other topics. The responses so far to my desire to organise an event for freelancers and very small businesses as been very encouraging, and has caused me to start thinking about what else I could set up for this audience/public (which I’m part of).

So, please, keep the feedback coming — I’m off to start writing my next post. (Feeling like a serial blogger just now.)

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