Yesterday mid-afternoon, I had to take the difficult decision to cancel Going Solo Leeds. The reason for this is that a bit over two weeks before the event, there are simply not enough registrations for it to take place under the conditions I envisioned for it.
After discussing the situation with my advisors, I reached the conclusion that the most responsible course of action right now was to cancel as soon as I could.
I’m aware that for some of the people who have arranged to travel to Leeds, it’s already too late to cancel travel plans. If you’re going to be in Leeds anyway, how about doing something together? Let’s gather on the 12th for a free SoloCamp where we will discuss soloist issues amongst ourselves in an informal way.
The Going Solo conference concept and the community around it live on. There will be a third edition of Going Solo — I’ve learnt a tremendous amount of things preparing both the Lausanne and the Leeds editions, and will be taking advantage of those lessons to do things slightly differently. How, when and where are still unknowns, but if you are subscribed to the newsletter you’ll be informed in good time.
I’d like to extend a huge thanks to all the people who took part in the Going Solo Leeds adventure: people who registered, sponsors and media partners, bloggers who promoted the event though blog posts or badges on their sites, advisors, speakers, and friends who helped out. To all of you who believed in this project: thanks so much for your help.
I’ve included below a mini-FAQ and will update it if other questions show up.
Why did you cancel?
Two weeks and a half before the event, just over 25 people are registered to be present at the event. Even though Going Solo aims to be an intimate event, I don’t consider it is fair towards the attendees, sponsors and speakers to run it with such a thin crowd.
There were 60 people in Lausanne, which made for a good audience. A conference with 25 people present is not the event I designed and advertised — and not what people paid for.
I considered giving it another week, doing the maximum to drive registrations, but in all honesty time was getting too short. Expecting another 25 registrations in 3-4 days was utopian. If the event has to be canceled, I would rather do it two weeks and a half before the date than 10 days or a week.
What about the people who had paid a registration fee?
People who paid the registration fee will be refunded. They will also be given a 50% discount if they sign up to a future Going Solo conference, when time comes.
Are you doing anything instead of Going Solo Leeds?
Yes. As we’re in town, we’ll meet up to talk about freelance issues, but in a very informal way: that’ll be SoloCamp. I’m not sure exactly what shape it will take, but it will be free and I’m hoping we can have a venue for it at OBH, where Going Solo Leeds was to take place.
It would be nice to have a sense of how many people will be present (5 or 30 makes a difference!) so let me know if you think you’ll be there, and if you want to get involved.
Will there ever be another Going Solo conference?
Yes. I still believe in the concept and format of the conference. The Lausanne event was a success, and the general enthusiasm for Going Solo has been huge (media partnerships, coverage, post-event feedback and general comments).
That it did not translate into actual registrations is more a question of circumstances. We learn as freelancers that how well you do does not necessarily reflect how good you are at your actual job, and I think the same is true everywhere. Having a good idea is not an immediate recipe for success — other ingredients are needed.
There will be future Going Solo conferences. I will approach the organisation differently, based on what I’ve learned over the last year. I’ll be writing more about what I’ve learned over the next weeks.
Why didn’t people register this time around?
That’s the big question, and I’ve spent the last month banging my head against the wall (not literally) trying to answer it. I think there are a bunch of reasons we can identify, and probably another bunch which are just “random” (having read Fooled by Randomness recently, I’ve come to understand that there are no absolute recipes for success or failure — chance plays a part in both). Here are some ideas.
I think the Leeds event was too close (in space and time) to the Lausanne event. People came from Lausanne from all over Europe. Those who wanted to attend Going Solo did so in Lausanne. The first event “exhausted” the pool of potential attendees, in a way.
The word “recession” has been showing up regularly on my radar over the last months. Though not everybody is hit, of course, I think freelancers are particularly vulnerable when the economy starts wavering: it’s easier to cancel the freelancer or not hire her than fire an employee.
The pound has gone down. I don’t know exactly how much impact that could have, but it does mean that the British economy on the whole is suffering a bit (just like we’re all feeling the rise of oil prices).
What about you? Do you have any ideas? If Going Solo seemed interesting to you and you are a freelancer, what kept from signing up?