Why Trade Shows Are Important

Freelancers can benefit from taking part in business trade shows and exhibitions. There is surely no better way to increase your exposure to a specific section of your target market than through your attendance at an industry-specific trade show.

Done properly, the events can provide a wealth of opportunity–new contacts, new clients and most importantly: new income.

Freelancing can be difficult when you suddenly find that you don’t have enough work coming in. Trade shows are often an ideal solution to this problem.

One of the most important aspects of freelancing is marketing yourself and your services. There are many ways to do this, but in this post we’re going to look at one that is far too often overlooked.

Trade Shows–Worth the Effort?

Attending trade exhibitions might seem like an additional expense, but doing so will be more than worth it when you gain extra work and contacts because of the effort you put in. True, it takes up more time and resources than other marketing activities such as online adverts or direct mailing–and then there are the travel costs of actually getting there. But the rewards will more than make up for these minor one-off inconveniences. Who knows, you might even have a good time!

While promoting yourself online or via print contacting clients can turn into a relatively faceless activity. In contrast, showing up at an exhibition in person and presenting what you have to offer directly to your target audience gives you a chance to get some personality across. It gives you the opportunity to stand out from the faceless masses of other similar businesses online.

Online portfolios are useful for demonstrating your abilities to prospective clients, but being able to physically show them your work while answering any questions they may have on the spot is far more effective. Not only is it more memorable, but it also begins that all-important dialogue between you and the client, making them more likely to respond positively to future contact.

Speaking to prospective clients in person also makes it possible to tailor your approach. While they might look at an advert and dismiss it as ‘not for them,’ by speaking to them face to face you can pitch the strengths you have to offer that are most suited to their needs. You can also address any concerns they might have in utilizing your services.

Showcase Your Work

If you’re a freelancer working in a highly visual medium such as design or photography, banners can be incredibly effective in capturing the attention of prospective clients. You might use them to display a collage of your work, or even line up a number of large full-print banner stands to display your best work in all its glory.

The important thing here is that you’re getting up close and personal, setting out your pitch for the world (or at least the exhibition hall) to see.

Aside from attracting new clients, exhibiting your work can also be a massive confidence boost. It’s always encouraging to receive compliments and interest in your work, so an exhibition day can be a very fulfilling day for freelancers.

As well as the leads and opportunities you might gain by attending an exhibition, you may also come away with some fresh ideas for your business. Not only can you pick the brains of those whose business you seek, but you may also find inspiration from chatting to those who are exhibiting as well. Attending an exhibition can also be a much-needed chance for lone freelancers to socialize and network with like-minded people, build up valuable contacts and even form friendships.


Being a regular attendee of trade shows and exhibitions in your specialized field can help you build your reputation as a hardy freelancer with a broad knowledge of your industry. It can be worth it to mention your trade show attendance to current and potential clients. Your attendance at a high profile professional event should be flaunted at every possible opportunity. Use it as an opportunity to further your current relationships with your existing contacts.

Tip: Use your website to advertise your attendance and invite everyone to visit with clear directions to the event and to your individual booth.

An Opportunity to Learn

Trade shows also offer a perfect opportunity to learn. Learn from competitors, learn from your clients, learn from the experience. It’s an ideal way in which to observe what your competitors are doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Don’t be so foolhardy as to think you can’t learn something from other attendees.

You can also speak to your audience directly. There are few chances in business to find out what your clients really require from your services, but exhibitions offer that chance. Take advantage today or you might soon find it’s too late!

Your Turn

Have you participated in an industry-specific trade show?

Share your experience in the comments.


  1. says

    You’ve heard this before: There were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Somebody would do it. But Nobody asked Anybody.

    It ended up that the trad show job was not done, and Everybody blamed Somebody, when actually, Nobody asked Anybody.

    Question is… What is the trade show job? The job that Anybody can do, and Everybody thinks Somebody will do, but winds up being that Nobody does is the lead follow-up activity that is essential after the event is over.

  2. says

    I find it that most of the people who man the trade shows are not the ones that are the decision makers. Also I think it is only fair for the companies who have paid fair amount of money to get a spot at these trade shows, to sell their products to potential clients. If a freelancer wishes to promote their services, they too need to purchase a spot.

  3. says

    We develop websites for accountants and we just attended our first trade show out in California. It was successful, but we found that to make the most of the considerable expense to get out there, we had to be very organized about who we wanted to speak with, when we would do it, and where to find them.

    So my advice is, if you do decide to go to a trade show, research as much as you can beforehand. Don’t just show up and float from booth to booth.

  4. says

    It’s so funny you should post this today, because I was just wondering whether I should research this marketing effort. And I think I will. The trick is figuring out which show is best suited to you – which also means coming up with a couple niches for your work.

    Do you have any advice on how to research trade shows?

  5. says

    When you have clients nationwide, I have found that trade shows are a great time to meet them face to face. Meeting your clients in person can go a long way to turning them into raving fans.

  6. Laurie Lewis says

    Last week I committed to attend a trade show, and I’ve been having qualms about spending so much money. This post reminded me of all the potential benefits. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

  7. says

    This is a really great idea! I’m already thinking of a great way to market my voice acting skills.

    However, how exactly do we find trade shows? Do they cost anything to become an ‘exhibit’?

  8. says

    Yes – it nearly always costs to exhibit your business at a trade show – but these are costs that are usually outweighed by the benefits. If you sign up just one new client from the show then it is likely to have been worth the cost (depending on what you do exactly).

    In terms of researching for shows – I’d always recommend you make full use of the internet. If you have any friends or colleagues who might have attended a show in the past then make sure to ask them for advice.

    Best of luck to anyone planning to attend a show in the near future!

  9. says

    Great post – I often get companies call me about attending various trade shows that will ‘guarantee me loads of new leads’ etc.. but they are so expensive and are quite a commitment. It’s important to target the right type of conference to exhibit at to ensure the right target audience is attending.. Budget permitting we will attend/exhibit at a trade show next year.

  10. says

    The ROI on trade shows is much higher then inbound marketing, but it does afford you the opportunity to build a more lasting relationship with your clientele.

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