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January’s inaugural Philly Freelance Fest is ‘flipping a traditional job fair on its head’

The event, to be held at REC Philly on Jan. 30, is meant to help freelancers and businesses make connections as well as forge relationships within the freelance community.

At work. (Photo by CoWomen from Pexels)

Freelancers and the companies that hire them have the same goal — to work together — but kicking off a relationship to get to that point isn’t always easy.

It’s a challenge Alex Hillman, founder of coworking community Indy Hall, sees all the time: “We get contacted often from people looking for contractors,” he said. “And the thing is, I probably do know someone who does what they’re looking for.”

But making those connections for someone else is a little more complicated than folks making connections themselves. Building a community that convenes freelancers and those who want to hire them would be more productive.

That’s essentially the goal of Philly Freelance Fest, a day of connection making and workshops that’ll be hosted at REC Philly’s new space in the Fashion District at the end of next month. A hundred freelancers in fields like software and web development, digital marketing, technical writing, videography, content media strategy and more will come together with area companies looking to hire pros in those fields.

While its website touts that the event is “flipping a traditional job fair on its head,” the fest will feature networking time with companies like a traditional job fair. But it’ll also have workshops and other professional development opportunities throughout the day, said Hillman, who is co-organizing the event with freelance event producer Catherine Sontag.

One workshop will focus on sales and business development, finding new clients, and how to spend less time prepping for proposals and more time actually working on them, for instance. Another on the finance side will be about talking about setting and achieving financial goals and raising your rates.

Freelancers will be able to connect with clients, yes, Hillman said, but the day is also about forming a tighter community between other freelancers.

“As a former freelancer, I basically started my career because I had relationships with others. It was my network,” he said. “It’s a big part of how you get business.”

Hillman said he’d had the idea for the event for a while, and realized during a conversation with Sontag that she had the know-how and experience to pull it off. (Full disclosure, she’s also’s former events director and the brain behind major events such as Philly Tech Week presented by Comcast’s daylong conference, Introduced by

The pair is releasing tickets in waves for the Jan. 30 event — about 50 freelancer tickets have been sold, and another wave will go out early next month, Hillman said. Once they have an understanding of what skills and services attendees will be offering, they’ll bring in between 30 to 50 clients looking for contractors.

After all the tickets are sold and event organizers know who will be in the room, they’ll make a guide for attendees to take with them, so even if a freelancer didn’t get a chance to talk to a company they’d like to work with, they’ll have the right contact info to get the conversation rolling.

And if you work full time, but have a side hustle you want to make connections for, there are tickets for those who can only attend the latter half of the festival.

“The goal is not that everyone leaves with a gig or job,” Hillman said. “This day we’re designing primarily for relationship building.”

Philly Freelance Fest will take place on Thursday, Jan. 30, from 2 to 8 p.m. at REC Philly. For more info and to get tickets, sign up for update emails here.

Companies: REC Philly / Indy Hall

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