Whether it be development based, design focused or an area that I specialise in such as WordPress, I’ve never had the urge to attend a web conference.

Being a developer with preference to work remotely, I’d imagine that I’m not completely on my own here. My reasoning may differ from what you’d expect, or it may resonate with you – either way this isn’t intended to demean.

Why Have I Never Attended a Web Conference?

I remember in my early days working in web being intrigued by conferences; talks from famous faces in the industry hosted at amazing locations, it sounded great. That said, I never attended any, primarily due to ticket/travel costs and at that stage of my career I couldn’t afford to take time out on the few contracts I had.

This reasoning still holds true, to some extent, with my feelings on conferences today:

Expense and Time

Conferences aren’t cheap. Ticket, travel and accommodation costs are one thing, but the main cost factor that puts me off going to conferences is the break from the working week.

As a freelancer taking time out effects my business on a large scale. Whenever I take a holiday, I need to prepare heavily – deadlines on current projects need to be met, plans need to be put in place for work upon my return and I need to financially work out how much taking the holiday will cost my business. This isn’t just the price of what I paid for the trip, but the cost of revenue lost.

I have an instance fresh in my mind where a week’s holiday directly cost me a contract that I’d been negotiating before my time off. Five working days out of the office was enough for the potential client to look elsewhere, even though I’d explained my forthcoming absence well in advance. So alongside the money spent on going to the event itself, I always consider the money lost from taking the time off to attend. This is usually too much for me to forfeit.

Taking time off for me = expensive, and being honest, I’d rather use it for holidays with family than conferences.

Educational Value

The web industry is fast moving and there’s always something new to learn. I totally get how many people will thrive on learning information in a conference setting, I’m just not one of those. Throughout my education, I found going away and reading alone or actually doing, would be of far more educational value to me than digesting information from my tutors directly.

When deciding on an eCommerce platform for another project of mine, I arrived at Shopify. I knew nothing previously about the platform and it would be the first time I’d used liquid templating, but the site got built in two weeks by learning on the job.

For me, a technical talk at a conference just isn’t going to sink in much. I’m not saying I couldn’t come away inspired in another direction, but as a purely educational tool for my profession – it’s not going to be worth it.

Social Aspects

I’d forgive you for reading up to this point thinking I’m an introverted remote developer, who doesn’t like social settings, looking for excuses.

Considering web conferences are largely social, or there’s usually a “social” at the end of the day, I can see how this could be intimidating for a web developer who prefers to spend a lot of time alone. It probably would be for myself a little, but it’s not a pressing issue as to why I haven’t been to an event for social reasons.

Coding websites is a passion and I consider myself really fortunate that I enjoy my job – but spending social time talking about code, doesn’t always appeal. That might sound like an odd statement, especially in the current climate of “constant hustle” in the tech community, I just need my off topic time. It keeps me fresh and focused on my work.

I have friends in the industry who I work with regularly and if we go out for a something to eat or drink socially, we rarely talk about our latest projects. It feels healthier to me that way.

What Am I Missing Out On?

I hear a lot of people saying conference are the best place to make contacts and subsequently gain good quality leads. Of course, this would be a major plus point for anyone running their own business. That considered, there’s only so much work one developer can take on.

The self-growth and learning aspects of conferences I fully understand is a major pull for a lot of attendees. I sometimes get a burst of motivation from a book I’ve read or a film I’ve watched, and often hear about stand out talks being of similar inspiration to people. Perhaps that’s my route in to finding value.

Would I Attend a Web Conference in the Future?

I don’t see why not.

An angle that could work for me would be attending a conference as a team exercise within a start-up or agency setup; building internal relationships based on experiences and similar interests usually creates overall good feeling, productivity and loyalty. If I find myself in either of these arrangements in the future, I would certainly consider a conference visit.

In my current role as a freelancer, I’d have to get into a position where I could justify the overall cost, time commitments and level of value I could pull from the event.

At this moment in time, no single occasion is ticking those boxes.

Posted by Tom Hirst

Freelance WordPress developer, front-end developer and clothing line owner available for hire.

2 Comments

  1. Yeah me neither. Though I could always use the instruction, I feel my time is best spent going where the clients are. On the other hand I’ve found my local CreativeMornings chapter to be thought provoking. Ours is cross-disciplinary, not “hard design”. There’s one in Sheffield https://creativemornings.com/cities/shd !

    Reply

    1. That looks interesting Brian and would be something I’d more likely be interested in than typical design and dev conferences.

      That said, I’m still not sure I could justify the time out during the busier periods!

      Reply

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