CEDAR LAKE | Freelancing and self–promotion were the hot topics among the creative industry at the fourth INsight Design Conference on Thursday night at the Community Arts Center.

Valparaiso resident Joe Gonzalez created INsight as a way to give back to the design community. Gonzalez and event co-chairman Kevin Bruinsma not only want to build a creative community in Northwest Indiana but design their conferences to be more than just a "sit–in–your–seat" type of event. In addition to expert speakers the conference included portfolio reviews, DJ music and a rock, paper, scissors competition.

The co–chairs chose to focus this year's conference on freelance and self–promotion.

"The freelancing angle came from last year's survey where everybody said they wanted to learn more about," Gonzalez said. "I think it was a sign of the economy with big businesses looking for freelancers to fill their creative needs instead of going to a big agency. So the boom for freelancers kind of came out of the economic downturn."

Discussing freelancing was Jason Schwartz, principal at Chicago–based design agency Bright Bright Great, who said it's important for freelancers to "go legit" and register with their city or state.

"There's some respect you get when you're actually an organization versus a single person who does this from their second bedroom," he said.

Schwartz said freelancers should use processes that companies use, such as having business bank accounts, using project management tools and professional email addresses.

"Nothing kills legitimacy more than using 'dancing–clown holding balloons' checks," he said.

INsight guest speakers included Jana Kinsman and Jennifer Sisson of Quite Strong, a Chicago–based creative collaborative. Kinsman said engaging in the community is a crucial step in self–promotion.

"Not only do we believe in attending design events such as this, we also believe in attending parties, small scale meet–ups, music concerts, movie premieres, art openings," she said. "Anything you guys are interested in is an opportunity.

Kinsman believes in putting oneself in unfamiliar situations.

"You never know where inspiration is going to come from," she said. "So get uncomfortable."