“The best investment you can make is in yourself.” — Warren Buffet. So why not start by attending one of fast-growing conferences and festivals centered around freelancers, writers, and creative professionals in 2020.
Content marketing, social media, productivity. Our lives and work now require so much of us. Sometimes it is hard to know what to focus on. But underneath all those skills is you. There is no greater return on investment than investing in yourself.
Yearly conferences are a wonderful way to up your writing, design and tech skills while giving your creativity a boost. You learn, you network, and you open to new possibilities. You make connections that can last a lifetime. But, there is a problem. With so many conferences out there you can end up spending more than the value you get out of it if you do not choose carefully. That’s why we are bringing you this guide to help you decide what 2020 conferences will be most valuable to you throughout the new year as a writer, freelancer or creative entrepreneur — to help you connect with colleagues or find freelance opportunities.
If you are looking for marketing-focused conferences, check out The Ultimate List of Marketing Conferences in 2020.
Best conferences for freelance writers and creative professionals in 2020
StartupGrind Global Conference
Dates: Feb. 11-12, 2020
Location: Redwood City, California
Cost: Tickets are $220-$1,250, depending on package
Description: Silicon Valley is the place to be to discuss startups, and this conference is sure to deliver. A global startup community of 1,000,000 entrepreneurs, 120 countries, and 350 cities. That is a big network to join together to create this conference.
Attended by industry leaders like Forbes, Slack, and Facebook. Make friends that you can grow with and get the resources you need to make your business successful. Brainstorm, write, network and play. Come ready to give and share ideas using top networking technology. “These are our people.” Sam Altman, Y Combinator
Great for: Business owners, startup founders, creative entrepreneurs
Association of Writers and Writing Programs
Date: Mar. 4-7, 2020
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Cost: Rates vary according to purchase date, category, and membership.
Description: Largest literary conference in North America where visitors gather for four days to discuss contemporary literature and network. Readings, panels, and lectures, along with a large bookfair make this conference engaging for the more than 12,000 attendees.
Helena Maria Viramontes, author of ‘The Moths and Other Stories’, is the scheduled keynote speaker for the 2020 conference. The book fair brings together over 800 exhibitors and is open to all registered conference attendees. This conference boasts its own app. Use hashtag #AWP20 to keep up with the conference on social media.
Great for: Writers and authors
The South by Southwest® (SXSW®)
SPECIAL NOTE: SXSW announced they are canceling the festival in Austin for 2020.
Dates: Mar. 13-22, 2020
Location: Austin, Texas
Description: The SXSW® Conference began to help creatives achieve their goals through the celebration of the film and music industries.
Behind BIG ideas are points of inspiration that everyone can learn from. Industry leaders, artists, and filmmakers celebrate music, art, comedy, and technology with exhibits, screenings, and festivals. Meetups, lounges, and parties provide the opportunity to make connections that will inspire you to dream bigger. Listen to industry leaders who are changing things up. The 2019 track included everything from coding to experimental storytelling to virtual reality, and 2020 is sure to be a hit. The SXSW Conference combines mentor sessions, workshops, and roundtable sessions with networking opportunities and media events, so there is a learning style for everyone.
Great for: Writers, authors, artists, filmmakers, YouTubers, musicians
Dates: March 24-25, 2020
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Cost: Conference passes range $245-$1,195
Sponsor: DigitalSummit and Global Partners
Description: More than 45 sessions and workshops with practical takeaways on the digital economy. Leading experts and brands are represented including Nike, Airbnb, Microsoft and more. Designers, creatives, and marketers can mingle together to brainstorm and network. Attendees and speakers have included the likes of Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, and Susan Bennett the voice of Siri.
The conference will cover email marketing, storytelling, and relationship building through your content. When you purchase a ticket you get access to speaker slides and recordings to review later, share with your team, or use for your own marketing.
Great for: Business owners, startup founders, creative entrepreneurs, online marketers
HOW Design Live
Dates: May 4-7, 2020
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Cost: TBA. You can submit an inquiry on their site to get emailed when registration opens.
Sponsor: HOW Design
Description: Helping designers to be more creative and inspired, HOW began as a design magazine and expanded from there to help designers in building connections and improving their skills.
The conference is for designers working with clients and for creative leaders who want to make a positive impact. HOW presents opportunities to test-drive new technologies and gain insight to benefit both your clients and your team — in a four-day event that will improve your whole year. Vendors share implementable resource materials with attendees. Networking opportunities lead to lifelong business connections and friendships. Connect with people, support one another and collaborate on projects.
Great for: Business owners, designers, creative leaders
Social Innovation Summit
Dates: June 2-3, 2020
Location: Washington, D.C.
Cost: Full-conference pass $1,895; single-day passes $1,295
Sponsor: Landmark Ventures
Description: The Social Innovation Summit is about exploring the next big idea and then not just talking about it but building it. The conference focuses on action: “Those who are playing at the nexus of technology, investment, philanthropy, international development, and business come together to investigate solutions and catalyze inspired partnerships that are disrupting history.” Previous speakers include representatives from eBay, Google Ventures, Johnson & Johnson, and more. On the agenda is everything from cultivating creativity to using artificial intelligence for good.
Great for: Entrepreneurs
Adobe 99U Conference
Dates: June 3-5, 2020
Location: New York City
Cost: $899+ (sells out early). You subscribe to their newsletter to get updates on 99U.
Description: “A creative knowledge conference of inspirational proportions.” The 99U conference is ready to help you build a creative career you love. Industry leaders come together to bring insights and trends in technology, leadership, productivity and more.
The conference is made up of stage talks, breakout sessions, and labs. 99U loves to end their conference with a closing party at the iconic Museum of Modern Art.
Past speakers have included well-known writers, entrepreneurs and creatives like Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, and Seth Godin. A great opportunity to network and reignite your creative passions.
Great for: Writers, artists and creative leaders
Creative Pro Week
Dates: June 1-5, 2020
Location: Austin, Texas
Cost: $645+ for one-day pass, $2,395+ for full five days; virtual passes $295+
Sponsor: Creative Pro Network
Description: “The giants of the Web assemble,” according to The Wall Street Journal. A practical how-to conference with Adobe and ePublishing. Photoshop and InDesign, along with print and epublishing topics. This conference will help you bridge the print-to-digital gap while optimizing online design productivity.
The conference focuses on creating a learning environment where you can get your pressing Adobe design and publishing questions answered. Both beginner and experienced designers and illustrators can benefit from productivity tips, learning how to increase the quality of images, creating digital documents, best layouts, and more. You can learn how to work more efficiently both on desktop and mobile.
Great for: Graphic designers, artists, and publishers
Dates: June 17-20, 2020
Location: Anaheim, California
Cost: Early bird rates started at $90-$550
Sponsor: Various Brands
Description: VidCon is a YouTube creator conference, community festival, and industry rolled into one celebratory conference. There are three tracks available:
- The community track is for visitors to celebrate their favorite online videos and meet their favorite creators.
- The creator track is to help creators develop better content, understand their audiences, and meet fellow creators.
- The industry track focuses on expert secrets and strategies.
Featured creators for 2020 included many of YouTube’s most popular stars.
Great for: Video creators and online marketers
Dates: TBA; last occurred Sept. 6-8, 2019
Location: Franklin, Tennessee
Cost: Previously $349 – $549 (standard or premium tickets)
Sponsor: Jeff Goins
Description: The Tribe Conference was created by author and blogger Jeff Goins to gather writers, authors and other creative entrepreneurial types together.
The focus is on growing your craft and sharing your work in a way to attract and engage your tribe of fans. As one of Jeff’s books states, “Real artists don’t starve.” The conference teaches participants how to leverage their artistic sides while making a good living and life. Grow your platform and learn how to share your purpose and message. Along with your conference ticket, you get all the videos from the previous conferences. A conference for clarity and connection.
Great for: Writers, authors, artists, work-from-home entrepreneurs
Dates: October 17-21, 2020
Location: Los Angeles, California
Cost: Passes have ranged from $200 to $1,495 in the past. They’re offering $500 discounts through April 30, 2020.
Description: “Get inspired. Learn skills. Play.” It’s the epicenter of creativity. Experts leading sessions, labs, and workshops will show you how to launch or expand your creative career. Learn from your design experts while perfecting your skills and getting re-inspired. Past sessions have including upping your creativity, creating on the iPad, photography and much more. There is a lot of space given for networking opportunities to help you share and develop new ideas too.
Great for: Creative directors, photographers, writers and business strategists
Things to consider for your 2020 conferences
Think about your return on investment in terms of both business and personal development. When choosing a conference also think about your distance, travel time and hotel options. Many conference websites give suggested hotels and some even offer discounts to conference attendees.
Be sure to get the most out of the networking opportunities by having business cards ready, or consider a more unique handout to share with all the new friends you will meet. Try to relax and be present in the moment to get the most out of each opportunity. Be sure to take great notes too and lots of them. Use a note-taking app to record details about people you meet to follow up with them later. A good conference can be a game-changer in your life and career.
Most of all enjoy, learn and grow.