I spent most of 2018 trying to get my blogs off the ground and earning real money.
I quit my job early in the year when I was making nowhere NEAR a full-time salary, so I spent the majority of the calendar year hustling my butt off writing and promoting content.
And it worked! By the time January 2019 rolled around, I was making respectable money online.
2019, then, was the year that I turned my blogging into an honest business. I'm talkin' LLC, an accountant, business bank accounts, the works.
It was also the year that I attended my first blogging conference — the 2019 Mediavine Conference in Austin, Texas.
Here's what I learned there, some things I loved, some things I didn't love, and my thoughts on whether you should spend the money to go to a blogging conference.
1) Other bloggers exist
The absolute best thing I took away from attending this blogging conference was the face time I got with other bloggers.
That sounds obvious, but online marketing is truly an isolating and lonely venture most of the time.
It was amazing to sit and talk shop with people about nerdy things like ad RPM, SEO, affiliate deals, etc.
I find I often have trouble connecting with people who have "real jobs."
Of course, I've had tons of those, but I'm not in that world anymore and I find there's little common ground between running your own online content business from home and working in an office 9-5.
It really energized me and fed my soul to be around "my people."
2) Diversify your business
Very few of the speakers onstage at Mediavine were "just bloggers."
Many were professional speakers, event organizers, social media influencers, nonprofit heads, and more.
I met people who made great money with sponsorships and sponsored content, sponsored travel, affiliate marketing, digital products, and of course, ads.
I walked away with a ton of ideas for how to branch out, protect myself from the volatility of online business, and ultimately earn more money.
(I might have walked away with TOO many ideas, but that's a topic for another post.)
But as cool as it was to get the ideas, it was even cooler meeting people in real-life who were actually doing them already.
You can't put a price on the sense of possibility you'll gain when you spend time with other successful entrepreneurs like you, who do things TOTALLY different from the way you do them!
3) Be aggressive and dream big
It was cool hearing from speakers and meeting other bloggers who, for lack of a better term, are not fucking around.
It's hard to value yourself and your time properly, yet that was a common theme among many of the speakers, and I heard it echoed in my conversations with other bloggers.
It's OKAY to need, and heck, WANT, to make money.
You're not a bad person for insisting to be compensated for your valuable time, resources, and knowledge. So stop apologizing and start asking for what you're worth.
(Whether that's saying No to "just getting coffee" with someone who needs your help, or standing up to a brand or affiliate partner that's trying to walk all over you.)
I do a lot of things for free that I probably shouldn't, and my time at MVCON definitely helped put that into perspective.
3 things I loved about the conference
Diversity and representation
I've never seen so many kickass female business owners, and black female business owners, on stage as I did at Mediavine.
It was really, really cool to see and I appreciated hearing from people with different voices and different backgrounds.
Take it from a straight, middle-class white man. I hear enough from people like me.
It's refreshing to hear different kinds of stories whenever possible.
The food! (And drinks)
If you figured a blogging conference filled with mostly food bloggers would bring their A-game on the refreshments, you'd be right.
We ate QUITE well in Austin.
(Shoutout to taco lunch and churros with tres-leches cake in a glass for dessert. Damn.)
And they were pretty liberal with the libations, as well, with a few open bars and cocktail/networking hour to break up some of the sessions.
The Austin bar scene was fun, too, and let's just say my 8am flight back home after the conference was no picnic.
There's good swag, and there's bad swag.
I thought the swag at Mediavine was fantastic!
I'm particularly fond of the pens, notebook, and a deck of cards from Agathon Hosting that I walked away with.
Not to mention the cool canvas bag it all came in.
What I didn't love
A lot of sitting.
The session days felt long. Not because the sessions weren't great, but because many of them were stacked back to back to back in the same room.
Next year, Mediavine is offering two different learning tracks, so you'll have a chance to move around to different rooms, attend smaller and more intimate sessions, and meet different folks.
That would have been a welcome addition to the Austin agenda.
A bit clique-ish
Now, just to couch this a bit, every single person I met at MVCON was absolutely delightful. And I met a TON of amazing folks.
But I will say that, at times, I felt a little like an outsider. There were more groups that seemed to already know each other quite well than I would have guessed.
To be honest, I didn't see too many lone-wolf types wandering around the convention — a few, of course, but not as many as you would think.
My theory is that a lot of bloggers in the same space (mainly food) know each other already, or have met at previous conferences and become good friends.
This isn't anyone's fault! And again, everyone I talked to was great.
But I think it would be cool at future MV conferences to include small group work or breakout sessions, or maybe some ice-breaker type activities to help the solo travelers find their way.
Lack of beginner/advanced tracks
I mentioned this above, and I believe this will be a big part of future MV conferences.
But I did feel like some of the sessions were a bit 101 for me, and I got less out of those than I would have liked.
It would have been nice to skip some of the basics in favor of deeper-dives.
Is a blogging conference worth the investment?
All told, my trip to Austin, Texas wasn't cheap.
I paid for:
- Round-trip flight
- Three nights in a high-end hotel
- Two dinners out
- Numerous beverages
- Transportation to and from the airport
- Airport parking
Oof, it hurts to list it all out like that!
So was it worth it?
I would say, resoundingly, yes. But I'd add a caveat that you can quickly go broke going to several of these types of events every year.
For my first one, it was an absolute blast just to have the experience and have a good time with new blogging friends.
In the future, I'll need to be really strategic with how many I go to per year (1-2 is likely my sweet spot) and making sure I make the most of those opportunities as far as networking, promoting my work, etc.
(I've also submitted a speaking session idea for the next Mediavine event, so fingers crossed!)
In the end, I'm really happy that I went to Mediavine 2019 in Austin.
I walked away inspired and with some good action items to work on, but more importantly, with some fellow blogger connections I'll hopefully keep for a long time.
It wasn't cheap, and I'll probably have to limit how often I do this sort of thing, but if you've never been to a blogging conference, MVCON is a great one to experience!
If you're just getting started with your own blogs, check out my tool bag with everything I use to run a profitable blogging business.
And go to Mediavine's event page to find out about 2020 conference dates and beyond.