I’ve been organizing professional events for about two and a half years now for Seattle 2.0. I thought after doing a few events I’d be able to totally milk that cow. It was going to be easy, generate a lot of “free” cash, and live the good life. You guessed the punch line.
If I wanted to make $80,000 a year, I probably could do that through events. Not a lot of money, but enough to buy food and gas and pay a few bills. However, I would have to work very, very hard to reach that level of profit (BTW, events generate a lot of cash flow, but not a lot of profit). That would mean 40-60 hours per week and a high-stress business. At the end of a full year, I would probably have an income of $80,000 if I did 10-15 big events.
But there are two problems with events. First, the next year it starts all over again. It’s a non-scalable sales process. Each event is a new marketing and a new sale. You have to do it all over again. The second issue is that the more events you do, the less your audience will pay attention to your events and the harder it gets. In other words, if you do 4 events a year and make $5,000 in profit on each of them and you decide to make 8 events in the hope of doubling your profit, you’ll probably just make $3,000 in profit per event, so you worked twice as hard to make 20% more. There are scalable business (grow exponentially), there are linear business (grows linearly, like services and consultant) and then there are events (the more you do the less you make).
That’s because people have limited availability and budget (sponsors, speakers and attendees). Unless you have almost non-overlapping audiences, it’s hard to grow.
Why do I what I do?
So why would I spent year after year after year of my life in a business that would make me $80,000 a year? I would do that if I thought that was my dream job and if there wasn’t a better dream job out there. Get this: Doing events is not my dream job and there are a lot of better things for me to do out there!
I keep doing the Seattle 2.0 events because it’s my opinion if I stop no one will pick up. Sure, there are plenty of events, particularly from NWEN, WTIA, etc. But they are not exactly “it”. Some of those events are great and I attend them, but just go to any event in the Bay Area, NY or SXSW and you’ll see Seattle really lacks some awesome event execution.
I thought a lot about it, and I believe we don’t have great events because we are too inclusive. Seattle people like to be pleasant, agreeable and inclusive. People around here prefer to err on the side of inclusion than of exclusion. They don’t want to deviate too much from the norm. That creates bland and “sterile” events. Everyone has a good time (not a great time), everyone leaves satisfied (not ecstatic), everyone involved get a pat in the back and an atta-boy (not a whole-shit-this-was-awesome!).
I came from a different country and culture, and even on my own country and culture I stood out. Here in Seattle I stand out even more. I’m pushing the boundaries of the events I put together, and inevitably I’ll rub people the wrong way. Not only events, but on everything I do I’m pushing the boundary. I just don’t like it-always-been-this-way beliefs. I challenge a lot of things and test a lot of things. So, expect nothing ordinary from me. It might suck badly or it might be awesome, but it won’t be “meh”.