It’s traditional to make resolutions for the year on January 1st, but it’s always the coming of spring that really gets me energized to clean out the literal and figurative junk and get started on fun new projects.
So for me, Avery Swartz’s Breakfast Club presentation came right on time - the first day of spring (never mind the snow that’s still hanging around Montreal).
Avery’s presentation was personal, fun, and inspirational. It resonated with me on a few different levels. She started by bringing us through her unlikely path to tech entrepreneurship: by way of theatre school and several years working for arts organizations in Toronto. Eventually the desire to be financially solvent pulled her out of the theatre world and into freelance web design. It was the exact same desire (pretty solid need, actually) that pulled me from doing freelance costume design to joining the team at Plank.
Avery shared the top five things she’s learned in the 10 years she’s spent as a freelancer and entrepreneur.
- Stop idolizing jerkfaces. Seek out people who are doing cool things while staying kind, and look to them as role models.
- Not everyone will understand what you’re trying to accomplish. That’s ok. Find your tribe and look to them for support.
- Figure out your unique advantage. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Avery’s is the ability to explain technical things in a way that non-technical people can understand. It’s the secret to Camp Tech’s success, and an inspiration to keep doing what she’s doing.
- Professional success does not equal personal success. You can fail professionally and still succeed as a person. And vice versa: see #1.
- Don’t let fear hold you back. You might feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, but so does everybody else. Don’t wait. Just start. Start small, but start.
I loved hearing about how Camp Tech got started and has been growing. Avery saw how her colleagues in the arts and small businesses struggled to master new technology. Essential tools like social media, WordPress, email marketing - all had a learning curve just a touch too steep to incorporate into an already large and diverse workload. So she decided to offer a workshop in WordPress for beginners. It sold out. And then so did the next one. Now she and her team of experts offer a variety of workshops to give non-technical people a leg up. It’s a story of organic growth that resulted from responding to a genuine need.
Beyond hashtag inspiration
I’m sick to death of the ubiquitous canned inspiration and glorification of the #hustle that social media is drenched in. Yes, it’s great to get out there and start something, but it’s much better when it’s something truly useful, not just some bogus #followyourbliss fluff.
Avery got me thinking about all of those side projects that have been hibernating for too long, and gave me a sparkling new lens to prioritize which ones to focus on. I’m looking forward to starting something new, starting it small and seeing where it goes.
Thanks for the kick in the butt, Avery!
Now, what are YOU going to get started on this spring?