It’s confession time.
As many of you in the personal finance blogging world know, FinCon was around two weeks ago.
I had made the decision to attend during last year’s FinCon because, well, that’s usually what people do.
Almost everyone I know has dubbed attending as a “no-brainer” after attending once.
And while that was the case for me the first two times I attended, I can’t say I came away feeling the same this year.
Let me explain why.
My Big Networking Mistake
Well, I made a few mistakes going into this year’s FinCon.
First, I didn’t have a goal.
What’s the one thing people usually say to have going into a conference?
Yep, a goal.
You should have some purpose in mind – something you want to accomplish – because conferences can be a whirlwind experience, and the once-a-year chances you might have expire quickly.
I mean, I sort of had a goal, but it was a very general one: to see my friends and reconnect after a year of not blogging.
I accomplished that somewhat, but most of my friends were busy with other events and networking.
Some of my other goals included connecting with my clients, and getting to see San Diego, since it was my first time on the west coast.
So…where does networking play into this?
Well, to put it short, I made some changes to my business earlier this year.
Those changes involved transitioning into full-time work for two of my clients. It’s been an interesting transition, and since my position is relatively stable, I didn’t really have a need to network. My plate is full.
And as you can guess, that’s mostly what FinCon is all about.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to meet new people without an “agenda,” but without that goal – without a “Hi, I’m Erin, and this is why I’m here!” kind-of-elevator-pitch, I fell flat.
I Had a Clear Identity Crisis Going On
If it hasn’t been clear from my lack of blogging, I honestly felt like I had a bit of an identity crisis happening all year.
I didn’t feel like a freelance writer anymore because I had dropped all but one of my writing clients.
I didn’t feel like a solopreneur or business owner because I’m technically devoting most of my time to other people’s businesses.
I didn’t feel like a blogger because I obviously wasn’t blogging.
So what the hell was I doing there?
It became even clearer to me as the days of the conference went on. Every time I saw “community” I found myself asking, Is this my community anymore?
And the answer I arrived at made me uncomfortable.
Thankfully, I didn’t feel as alone once I got to chat with Tonya over dinner.
Tonya has been one of the few people I’ve felt like I could go to with my “I am overworked and I’m sick of it” feelings. She’s a huge proponent of seeking balance and she guards her time well, and I love that about her because it’s so refreshing.
Is This My Community?
I’m going to come out and say that I feel like our community has a lot of pros (super friendly and encouraging are at the top), but some cons as well.
One of those cons, to me, is that we’re all about the hustle. We’re all about getting out there, working our asses off, and making more money.
That’s great in and of itself, but I feel like it’s been magnified tenfold by income reports, side hustle and entrepreneur profiles, and this general mentality that we need to be productive every single second of our lives.
I know I’m not alone in feeling like I can’t disconnect because I’ll miss something important from a client, miss an opportunity, or miss something.
We’re connected at all times and because we have good work ethics, we feel like we need to respond at all times, too.
Grant Baldwin gave a great closing keynote at FinCon last year on being careful about filling our cup to the point where it’s overflowing. So many heads were nodding there, but have our stories changed?
Now, some of that in moderation is good. I’m all about making your own way and being successful, but it seems like our definition of success has been warped a little, based on the success our peers have been experiencing.
FinCon seems to be a reflection of that. As some other people have noted, many of the sessions are based around “profit” and how to earn more money from your blog, or how to build a business/product.
What about blogging because you enjoy it? If your mission is simply to earn money, I don’t think that makes for a very fulfilling journey.
I read a post by J.D. on how blogging has changed over the last decade, and even though I haven’t been blogging for nearly that long, I share a lot of the same thoughts.
Upon further reflection, it seems like most of the personal finance blogs I first started following years ago have changed angles. I see more posts about business and earning more than I do about finance sometimes.
So, is this my community? I think I need to find it again, and hanging out with some lovely people like Mrs. Our Next Life, Gwen from Fiery Millennials, Tonya, and the general low-key vibe around the FIRE crowd was nice.
I want to give blogging more time before I call it quits on FinCon, but expect to see a follow-up post on this “earn more!!” idea from me soon, because it doesn’t fit with my values anymore.
I shouldn’t feel bad because earning a six-figure income within the next year or two isn’t at the top of my priority list. I shouldn’t feel bad about my income. I shouldn’t feel bad that I want to focus on living more than working.
But I do, and as a result, I feel like an outsider more often than not.
One last note on FinCon – I wish there was more discussion around money and how to connect with readers on the topic. How to teach it. What to talk about. Because that’s why I started this blog, and that’s a huge part of why I continue writing here.
What I Did Enjoy
One of the highlights of FinCon this year was volunteering. When the call went out for various positions, I signed up immediately.
What can I say? After working two huge conventions in Austin, TX, I’ve become accustomed to being “behind-the-scenes,” and I find it interesting to see how the event is run.
Plus, I figured with no clear goal, I should put my time to good use by giving back to the community and FinCon staff.
I really enjoyed working at registration, where I got to see some familiar faces and some new. I also became acquainted with Jessica and her amazing team. (And of course, PT, who we all know is awesome.)
In my opinion, volunteering is one of the best experiences you can have at a conference because you’re usually around friendly people, and you usually have something in common with them. It’s a great way to kickstart your networking for the event.
I made a few blunders in not planning appropriately for FinCon. I assumed most people would be around to hang out with, but attendance jumped from 800 last year to 1,200 this year. I didn’t even catch a glimpse of some people I wish I had seen, and most of the evening events were crazy loud. Being an introvert and quiet made it hard to connect with people.
I had no clear goal in mind – and for a conference focused predominantly on networking – that was a definite mistake.
I also didn’t know what I was attending as. A blogger? Freelancer? Business owner? Kind-of-sort-of employee? Just myself?
Unfortunately, due to these mistakes and feeling like I just didn’t belong anymore, I felt myself wishing I had put my money and time elsewhere for the week.
So case in point – for anyone thinking of going to FinCon or a different industry conference, know exactly why you’re going, and have a plan beforehand!
Have at least three things you want to get out of the conference written down so you can check in and make progress throughout the three to four days you’re there.
Know how you’re going to present yourself, the connections and meetings you want to have, and what you want to walk away with.
Don’t wing it like I did, as that doesn’t produce great results.
What’s the biggest networking mistake you’ve made, whether at a conference or in general? Do you have any regrets about FinCon or anything you learned that you’re going to do differently next year?