7 Ways to Attend Writers’ Conferences (or Any Conference!) for Less
Writers’ conferences are a great opportunity to network, get industry insight, learn new skills, expose yourself to new markets, and collect editors’ business cards — but the one negative is their price tag. Conference badges seem to constantly increase in cost, not to mention the two or three days of work you’ll be missing out on to attend.
Getting a free pass can be like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for a newbie freelance writer. These tried and true strategies have led to some free and discounted conferences passes – no leprechauns required.
Large conferences often require volunteers who are willing to work part of the event in exchange for being able to attend a few sessions. I scored access to a national writing conference this way and gained just as much from working my volunteer shifts as I did from the sessions.
While behind the desk, I handed out conference passes to editors of some of the magazines I wrote for and others that I didn’t (yet), and got to attend a second day of sessions for free. I not only got to come face to face with editors, but was handed a few business cards too – ones I never would have received had I not been a volunteer.
These sought-after positions often go quickly, so be sure to contact event organizers early!
2. Ask for a Media Pass
Many conferences set aside a certain number of media passes. This tip works best for non-writing conferences, which are a great way to score leads on trending ideas and provide you with a ready-made audience dying to tell their stories to anyone who asks.
Depending on the event, you may only need to show a business card, while others may ask that you have an association card (such as an ASJA membership card) or a letter from a publication stating that you will be writing an article about the event. If you have an established blog, you may qualify for a free pass also.
Of course, simply being a writer won’t get you a free pass to a writer’s conference unless you have an assignment letter, but I’ve scored free passes to numerous non-writing conferences and trade shows simply by emailing the event organizers ahead of time and presenting my business card on site.
3. Score a Scholarship
Some large conferences offer scholarships to prospective attendees who simply can’t foot the hefty fill. This has been a strategy used by many conferences to diversify their attendance, often looking for students, recent graduates, or newbie freelance writers to fill the seats. It’s worth checking out if you qualify.
4. Work your Student ID
If you’re still a student, or take part-time courses at a community college or university, you may be able to cash in on your student ID for a discounted, or sometimes, a free ticket.
5. Join the Association
If the conference is put on by an association, there is often a reduced rate for members. Sometimes the membership fee is worth it simply because of the conference discount. Being a member also entitles you to other benefits, including contests for free conference passes.
Cash may be king, but the good old barter system isn’t dead yet. Try to barter your writing services for a workshop or two. While larger conferences likely have a full staff to handle the copywriting and guide publishing, smaller events may not. It’s always worth an ask. (Again, this tip works best for non-writing conferences!)
7. Buy an Exhibit Pass or Lunch-Only Ticket
While this isn’t your ticket to conference sessions, it can be just what you need to network and make some worthwhile connections. Simply having the option to network at a lunch table with seven or eight other individuals can help your writing career get off on the right foot. This cheaper option can also help you test the waters to see if it’s worth saving up to attend the conference next year.
How about you – have you ever gotten into a writers’ conference — or non-writing conference — for free or cheap? Please share your experiences and tips in the Comments below!
Lisa Evans is a freelance writer from Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in national and international publications including Alive, Canadian Living, Entrepreneur.com, Experience Life, The Globe and Mail, Longevity, Montreal Gazette, Parents Canada, The Toronto Star and What’s Up Families. Visit her at her website and at Connecting Flights.
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