Loud rooms packed with strange people chatting away in small circles are normally the stuff of nightmares for me.
I once nearly passed out in front of my 8th grade English class because the teacher wanted me to recite a poem about flirting in front of twenty other students (four of whom I had crushes on but was too afraid to talk to).
Luckily, no one’s asked me to do that in a long time, but that doesn’t mean it’s gotten any easier for me to speak to people in real life. Last month, though, I attended my first side hustle conference, and I think I rocked it.
Conferences are one of the most expensive investments you can make in your side hustle business, especially if you’ve got a low-overhead business like freelance writing. I spent $579.18 on attending FinCon, and that was even with a free first-time attendee and airplane ticket!
But, attending the conference was well-worth it despite the expense and social awkwardness. Not all conferences are worth the cost, though, so how do you decide if you should invest in yourself by attending a conference?
I asked myself four questions that helped me decide whether it would be worth it to go. I’ll be using this standard as a guide on whether or not to attend future conferences, but I’ll walk you through FinCon as a case study using these criteria.
Will you see a return on your investment?
I spent $579.18, and so I expect to make back at least that much from attending.
I’m doing this directly through several ways:
- Finding new, higher-paying clients
- Finding new ways to grow, improve, and monetize this blog
- Asking for pay raises from current clients
I’ve got several leads out right now for potential new clients. I also developed the confidence to ask for a raise from my clients, and now I’ll be making at least another $200/month. My investment will already have paid off in about 3 months from this one act alone.
Will you develop and increase your skill set?
FinCon was chock-full of awesome workshops, seminars, and skill clinics. Most of the seminars were recorded, so I will definitely be going back to those later to learn even more. In the short amount of time I did actually spend in these programs, I learned how to do new things:
- Write better
- Write about controversial issues (and not get sued)
- Create an endless fountain of ideas for stories
- Increase my freelance writing income
- Make short videos for Facebook using just my cell phone
- Be more productive
- Make time for fun things (#yolo)
- Boost my blog traffic from Pinterest
Related: Write Better Right Now: The Reluctant Writer’s Guide To Confident Communication And Self-Assured Style by Mary-Kate Mackey
Will you make new connections?
Reputation is everything in niche industries (just ask Pee-Wee Herman). You’re much more likely to succeed if you make genuine connections with people. This is doubly true if you work in the online space.
People seem more real if you’ve met them before. You actually know the person on the other end of the email. They’re not some overseas obese man masquerading as someone else (something I was glad to see after I met my now-husband in real life after talking online for several weeks).
This makes it more likely that you’ll be willing to help each other out in your own projects.
I met tons of awesome people while at FinCon. A lot of them were the people who taught me everything I know about finance today through blogs and podcasts. I felt a bit like a fangirl, but I’m hoping that I can help them in the future to repay them, and just maybe they can help me as well.
In no particular order, I’d like to say it was awesome to meet: Jessica Moorhouse, Andrew and Laura Fiebert, Joe Saul-Sehy, Arindam Nag, Doria Lavagnino, Belinda Rosenblum, Jackie Beck, Victoria Araj, Crystal Stemberger, Jason Butler, Alma Lugtu, Sandy Smith, Emilie Lima Burke, Richelle Thomas, Thomas Frank, Anna Ellenberger, Derek Olsen, Jordon Cox, Femme Frugality, Traci Antonovich, Claudia Pennington, Kimberly Rotter, Claire Tak, Donna Freedman, Catherine Alford, Chonce Maddox, Jackie Lam, Ty (don’t know last name – from Get Rich Quickish), Pauline Paquin, Shannon McLay, Melanie Lockert, Charlotte and Eva Baker, Kayla Sloan, Katasha (don’t know last name – from Broke Girl Rehab), Len Penzo, David Chandler, Jami Barnett, Kate Williams, Aliyyah Camp, J. Money, Kate Dore, Lauryn Williams, Revanche, Mrs. Frugalwoods, Craig (don’t know last name – from Retire Before Dad), and Sarah Allison.
Whew. What a list. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone.
Will you have fun?
What’s the point in going if you’ll be bored to tears? That’s no way to make good connections.
This is an important consideration, but it’s probably the last thing you should consider. It’s not going to do you any good to travel across the country to not learn anything, not increase your income, and not help you in your work. That’s just called a party.
FinCon was without a doubt the most fun conference I’ve ever attended. I’ve never been to a conference where rapid-fire motivational speeches were held in an underground nightclub. The final speech of the night was given by a dude who described how he’d always wanted to be a DJ, and then he kicked the night off by starting the party. Ain’t no scientists ever partied like that.
FinCon’s Only Downsides
FinCon was an amazing experience, and I’ve already bought my ticket for next year.
That said, there were a couple downsides to it.
The thing that stuck out the most to me was the final keynote speaker. I had been fully on board with the conference up until that point, but this changed it for me. The dude was rich (he wanted everyone to be well-aware of that fact), he was cocky, and he was arrogant.
I left this session questioning whether or not I want to be a part of a group that promotes this message. My goal with this blog is first and foremost to help people who have been in my shoes before, not make a giant wad of cash so I can go up on stage in front of hundreds of people someday and brag about my sexual exploits in the company bathroom (yes, he did that.).
Sure, I’m trying to make money from this blog, but it’s not my primary goal. In fact, so far I have yet to actually see a single cent in my bank account from this blog despite ten months of running this show.
The only other downside was that it felt a bit like I was crashing someone else’s party. I knew a lot of people from online interactions, but everyone else knew each other from previous FinCon conferences. It felt very awkward at times to be trying to speak to people who instead were trying to reconnect with long-lost friends. I can’t blame them, but the awkward factor was still alive and present.
Overall, though, I’m glad I went to the conference. I boosted my income, I’m working to grow this blog, I made new friends, and I had a ton of fun. What more could you ask for?
Have you ever wanted to invest in yourself by attending a conference?
Or, if you were at FinCon, what were your main takeaways? Leave a comment below!