This grant was provided to me by Collective Bias, Inc. All opinions are mine alone. #SoFabUOTR #CollectiveBias
So if you follow any of my social media channels, then you probably noticed that I was away for a long weekend in the Windy City, one of my favorite cities, Chicago. I was awarded a grant to attend a conference called SoFabU On The Road, which is a traveling conference, helping bloggers grow their websites, meet other bloggers, and keep their finger on the pulse of what’s new in regards to online marketing (which is really just a fancy way of explaining how people like me manage to make a living by writing free resources for people like you to read). I’m pretty pumped about the whole thing. I met some really talented ladies (and gentlemen), and having fantastic virtual “co-workers” like this makes me love my job even more.
Now, I know most of you who read here don’t have a blog – you just love the quick creativity. I’ll be getting back to that as soon as I’m caught up on laundry after 3 days away with Dad holding down the fort by himself (no disrespect there – two kids are a lot to keep up with 24 hours a day by yourself!) So some of what you’ll hear about today might not be applicable, but because there are some bloggers who read here often, I want to share my thoughts on attending SoFabU On The Road. If you have a blog of any size, and want to take it to the next level, this conference is tailored specifically for you. I talked to people at my table that ranged from just transitioning from writing recreationally to starting to make a little bit of money, to people who have turned their blog into a family business – and everywhere in between.
The fact that it’s a traveling conference is huge – it means that one of the stops is probably coming close to you – or at least closer than everyone traveling to just one location. It also means that as I was talking to fellow bloggers, I found some that live right in my town, and I didn’t even know it. You can start to feel a little bit like a hermit sometimes when you work from home, talking to people online, so to meet people who do what I do in my hometown was a huge perk. Now, I’ve never attended a conference before, and that’s because the cost is just prohibitive. If you’ve been in the same boat – then start with SoFabU On The Road. Not only did I not have to travel far, but there was a room block set up to help us save a little money, and our generous sponsors provided meals and snacks the day of the conference.
In Chicago’s lineup, MJ Tam and Beth Rosen spoke on creating great video content. Video is big, and it’s just getting bigger with apps like Periscope, and the fact that media is becoming increasingly more visual. And Jennifer Evers from Me, Myself and Jen shared a lot of ways both big and small to take your blog from a hobby to a legitimate business, which is the transition I’ve been working on this past year. Each city’s lineup is a little bit different, and I enjoyed the Chicago event so much that I’m considering attending a second stop with different speakers and topics.
But while I love hearing what leaders in our field recommend, my favorite part was getting to network with some really talented bloggers, including taking an excursion with Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. to get some photos of the city.
In the rain, but hey, you can still have a lot of fun, even when you’re getting wet. It certainly made for a memorable trip, and our guide was fantastic. The best part of teaming up with Chicago Trolley is that passes are good for 48 hours – which meant the following day (after the rain had passed), I spent a significant portion of time enjoying the city, the breeze, and soaking up a little sunshine. You can hop on and off at some of the go-to destinations in town, so I hit up everything I wanted to see (and got the history behind it) before my train left town to come back home.
If you’ve been considering going to a conference, then I highly recommend this one. It’s low-pressure because you spend time with your peers, working on the mechanics of improving yourself, your writing, and your business. It’s community-focused, and it really taps into why we write – whether for a living or as a hobby – and brings those joyful experiences into the conference, so it’s a lot of fun! Plus, because the event itself was just one day, I was able to take my networking out into the city during other parts of the weekend. It gave me the opportunity to enjoy laid-back meals, tours, collaborative video, and exploring other parts of the city with the talented people in my industry. That’s a perk I just can’t get at home (though if you’re a west Michigan blogger, or you find yourself visiting Grand Rapids, be sure to drop me a note).
My bottom line? Invest in yourself – you totally deserve it. I’m really glad I did! There are still a couple of conferences left on this year’s tour (you can check the SoFabOTR website to get dates, locations and more details) and you can save a few bucks on your ticket when you register early.