I recently stumbled upon a website that is now my favorite, hands down. I was googling for a free, outside event with live music that my husband and I could attend this weekend (we’re always looking for things like that and it’s strangely hard to find a comprehensive list) and stumbled on this gem: AustinFreeEvents.com. Apparently the creator of this site, Jennifer Weltz, had a similar issue with finding free Austin events listed in one place, so I got in touch with her for a little Q & A.
How did you come up with the idea for AustinFreeEvents.com?
I was laid off in 2009 and had more time for “fun” stuff, like exploring Austin, volunteering and more. Then people on Facebook started commenting that they started “following” me because I always seemed to be having fun. Then someone said I should be on Twitter and possibly start a blog to talk about my adventures in Austin. Somewhere along the way this turned into an idea to start an event website. I had been looking for a website that posted free events but there were few and the ones that did were pretty incomplete. I am also very visual and wanted to post an actual event calendar but none of the blog sites (WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger) could support one. After coming up with the name Austin Free Events I started the Twitter account in early 2011. The website came later in July.
How do you find free events in Austin?
Since I’ve always had medium-paying jobs, I’m cheap and pretty familiar with some of the free events in town. I’ve also been in Austin 11 years, so it was just a matter of learning how to research. I started with posting about 100 events per month. Today, I average 250 events a month. And every month I discover a new source. Austin360 is a greatsource as well as the Austin Events Calendar—a wall calendar that lists all the major events going on in town. I also follow about 500 local businesses on Facebook and Twitter. In the past few months people have even started emailing me events, which is great.
Do you only post free events?
Originally, but after a few months I decided to add ones that were $10 and under if I felt they were fun and different and/or a one-time thing.
Are there events you don’t list?
I tend not to list anything for downtown or 6th St.—it’s a given there will be music. I also don’t list things outside Austin. If I had help I’d consider it, but I just don’t have the time to look in other towns and post their events.
How much time does compiling these events take?
It’s become increasingly time consuming. I like to get all events for the next month in before the 1st. So I start the 18th of the previous month and spend about 30 hours a week on it for about a week and a half and then it slows down a bit. But I’m always searching for new events to add to the calendar. It’s a rare night when I’m not on the website adding an event.
Where do you see AustinFreeEvents.com in the future? In the next 3 months?
Having a site costs money—with domain and hosting fees—so I’m interested in finding local businesses to advertise at some point. I also plan on posting more volunteer events and possibly a monthly local business spotlight post. I might also recruit guest bloggers who want to review local events or businesses. As for the next 3 months—I really only look a month ahead!
Which events do you recommend for Austinites?
I think the most underutilized free events are from UT. The Butler School of Music has nightly events, and UT offers a lot of free lectures on a variety of topics. While most of the free music series are ending for the year, there are still a ton of free movie events at places like Jo’s Coffee, Austin Java and the libraries. We also have great museums, most of which are free. BookPeople is also a great place for free author readings and I love the music series at Central Market. Halloween should have some fun stuff going on as well, but I am still researching.
So there you have it. The next time you’re looking for some free fun, you might want to check AustinFreeEvents.com first. Considering how much work Jennifer puts into her site, it can only save you time.