I just returned from BlogU! It was an awesome conference that I highly recommend to bloggers. I have attended 5 different blog conferences now and each one gave me loads of practical information, networking opportunities and a huge shot of inspiration.
I try to attend one local and one non-local conference each year. BlogU was about an hour drive from my house, and my room and conference ticket were paid for because I was a speaker, so I did the budget happy dance! Each year they set up shop at a college campus (dorms and all!), so even if you do have to pay, it is much more budget-friendly than a lot of other conferences out there. While other conferences have more impact on the budget and require some planning to get the best travel deals, they are often worth the investment. Many conferences like BlogHer typically offer options to spend time at the event working registration or other tasks in return for comp in the form of conference registration.
Now that I have hopefully convinced you to get planning for next year, I completely understand that conference costs can be a deal breaker for many of us and it may not be in the cards for everyone this summer.
In fact, I have been on the sidelines for many a conference season. There are 3 and 4 day stretches when all you see in your Facebook Feed are conference references and photos from your online blogger friends. Sometimes it seems like all your buddies are there and it can be a major bummer not to be in on the excitement.
Believe it or not, there are some really good alternatives out there offering many of the benefits you get from attending a conference, but in the comfort of your own home, and without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas.
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Take an online writing course – Many conferences offer sessions on writing and editing and even hands on workshops. One of my favorite writing courses I have taken outside of a conference is Write Your Way To A Better Blog, an interactive self-paced course. The next installment starts June 20th and spans a wide range of topics and writing styles. You also get the benefit of feedback from your instructors and peers. This is a great way to get some of that interaction you’ll find at a conference without the travel costs. If you’re really watching your wallet, consider their non-interactive self-paced courses. You won’t have the direct interaction with instructors and peers, but you will have access to the accompanying Facebook group for added support, and during their summer sale, these courses are available for just $39.
Attend a virtual summit – More and more virtual blog conferences/summits are popping up. Some are even free, and many have materials/recorded content that can be purchased after the event. Write Publish Sell’s inaugural virtual summit is free for attendees and runs June 13th-19th, 2016. Materials will be available for free for three days after each session, and If you miss it, conference content will be available for purchase purchase.
Take a blogging course – If you read the first part of this article, you’ll see I just returned from the fabulous BlogU Conference. Did you know that they offer online courses like Organize Your Blog for just $35? Blog Clarity (I took their Pinterest course) and Fabulous Blogging are just a few other sites that offer courses on various blog-related topics. Parenting bloggers may want out check out Mom Blog Academy, a self-paced course with practical information for starting a profitable blog.
A Facebook group ‘Tribe Conference” – If you have a tribe of online friends in the same boat as you, why not start a Facebook group for the purpose of learning and sharing information that you might otherwise get at a blog conference? Group members could either sign up to share specific topics they are knowledgeable about or you could assign topics for members to study about by reading articles and doing research and then come back and share with the group. Sharing could be in the form of Q&A threads, Facebook Live video or other formats.
BlogHer resources – I am a big fan of BlogHer and attended BlogHer ’15 in New York City. I plan to attend BlogHer ’17 next year as well. Did you know that many of the conference sessions were recorded from last summer’s conference and are available for you to listen to? You can start with a panel I participated in with writing coach Estelle Erasmus called: The Creative Life: “Kill All Your Darlings” (Editors and Editing). For more sessions, visit the BlogHer ’15 page and scroll down to ‘Schedule’. Click on any session to access the recording if available. BlogHer’s website also offers a section called BlogHer University. They publish great articles each week on important topics for bloggers like writing about your family, making videos, and writer’s block just to name a few. They often hold Twitter parties related to these topics where you can jump in and ask questions and participate in discussion.
Read your Pins – If you are like me, you have pinned TONS of articles about blogging, monetizing, writing and more in your Pinterest accounts. Set aside some time to do nothing by dive into those pins and actually read the content. You’ll most likely find lots of practical ideas to apply to your blog/writing, so keep a note pad handy. If you are not an active Pinner, check out Beyond Your Blog’s Pinterest boards, or find other Pinterest boards that are already loaded with some great content to immerse yourself in.
Learn from friends – I always ask the server at restaurants what the best thing on the menu is because they cut to the chase and give me the valuable info I need to make a decision. Where am I going for this? Chances are that many of your blog friends are attending conferences. Welcome them back as they return through social media and in Facebook groups. Don’t forget to ask them about the conference to get feedback that might help you narrow your future conferences choices, and learn from them by asking what one or two of the most useful things they learned were.
Read a blogging book – There are TONS of books and ebooks out there about various blogging and writing topics. Pick a topic you really want to learn more about and find a resource to help you. Gift yourself with some dedicated time to read and take notes and then implement what you learn. Make Money to Write About Your Kids will tell you how to get started submitting to regional and family magazines and re-selling your work multiple times. Check out the extensive list of books available on Amazon about blogging and writing for additional ideas.
Listen to podcasts – There are also TONS of free podcasts out there on the topics of writing, freelancing, blogging etc. Queue up a few of these to enhance your time spent washing dishes or lounging on the beach. The Write Life’s 15 Inspiring Writing Podcasts To Subscribe To Right Now or The Freelancer’s 6 Podcasts Every Freelancer Should Listen To are great places to start.
Subscribe to a blog Magazine – Does anyone out there still prefer paper magazines to reading to digital (I do!). Last summer after I cam home from BlogHer, I subscribed to the print version of iBlog Magazine after reading the copy I found in my swag bag. Each issue comes to my mailbox monthly, and is a fun and informative treat . I always finish it with dog-eared pages and notes for things I want to try with my own website. And if you HAVE advanced into the digital age unlike me, they offer that format too.
What is your favorite non-conference learning or networking resource for blogging or writing?