Freelancer Boot Camp ’09 – April 18, 2009

By Paul Chin

On April 18, Marianopolis College played host to the annual PWAC Quebec Freelancer Boot Camp. Although this was the third consecutive Boot Camp I attended, organizers once again managed to put together an interesting line-up of speakers that kept my attention from wandering to the emphatic “Power Rangers kick ass” declaration permanently engraved on my desk.

The event was kicked off by Gazette technology writer Roberto Rocha, who highlighted some useful research tools, Web sites, and advanced Google operators that enable writers and journalists to uncover some of the Web’s lesser known nooks and crannies.

Roberto was followed by Montreal shopping consultant Sandra Phillips, author of the book “Smart Shopping Montreal” and her own shopping blog (which she calls a “schlog”). Drawing on years of experience and research, Sandra gave Boot Camp attendees the low-down on how to find everything short of a banjo-plucking Mogwai.

Up next was freelance writer and Web designer (and PWAC member) Carole Zabbal, who owns and operates the design company Silvertree Media. As a former Web developer myself, I was afraid this segment would aggravate my post-traumatic design stress disorder and force me to seek refuge underneath my kitchen sink. But Carole’s presentation was very enjoyable and provided a well-balanced overview of Web site design, search engine optimization (SEO) principles, and basic branding techniques.

I was particularly looking forward to the fourth speaker, Nadine Benny of the legal and business consulting firm R.A.M. Management. With tons of published Web content, I often wonder how I can best keep some nasty, one-eyed troglodyte from stealing what doesn’t belong to them. Nadine covered the basics of copyright law, including what and how works can be copyrighted, the concept of fair use, and the public domain. She also introduced the Copyright Depository, an electronic copyrighting service that works in conjunction with the United States Postal Service.

The last speaker, Shari Reinhart, a motivational speaker, started her presentation with an account of her own personal and professional crossroads. This was meant to be an interactive session at which attendees would share their own experiences, both good and bad. But unfortunately, it had been a long day and many participants were on the tail end of a Pixy Stix sugar high, so the room was relatively quiet.

This year’s speakers covered a wide array of topics that are both relevant and interesting to professional freelance writers. Although I have no idea whether Power Rangers really do kick ass, this year’s Boot Camp certainly did.

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