How One Conference Can Change Your Business (FinCon12 Recap)

free work paying gigs

When I started this blog in June of 2011, I never imagined how much it and the personal finance community would affect my life and my career.

There are not enough words to describe how I feel. But thankfully, I took a lot of photos to help explain how this one conference changed my life (and this blog) forever.

FinCon changed my life (again)

Last year the Financial Blogger Conference was held in Chicago and when I walked away from that weekend, I knew I’d be a financial blogger for life.

I owe everything to Phil from PT Money, because 1) he’s the genius behind this whole thing and 2) he encouraged me (plus gave me a discount) to attend the conference last year when my blog was only 2 months old.

Here are some of the other personal finance bloggers that paved the way for me to be a successful financial blogger and freelance writer.

Myself with lots of new friends!

As much as I loved last year’s location, this year the meet-up was held in Denver! And if you know anything about me, you know that I love Colorado. My family and I have been there about 10 times over the past few years to ski and snowboard the beautiful snowy mountains.

Colorado has always had a soft spot in my heart, so when they announced the conference would be there, I was thrilled. The weather was awesome but the people made it even more amazing.

The hotel keys were custom made for the conference!

On the first day the conference started, Sofia from Caviar and Quarters, set up brunch at a local eatery called Snooze. I’m a huge foodie and of all the different foods in the world, I love breakfast the best! So of course I had to go.

I highly recommend this place if you’re ever in the downtown Denver area. The food is all natural, farm raised, free range and local which makes it absolutely delicious.

Having brunch at Snooze with Cait from Blonde on a Budget (and my roomie). 

Meeting people in real life is awesome

While last year’s conference was big and slightly overwhelming, this year I felt like a veteran. It felt like those summers at camp when you’re a returning camper, so you already know what to expect and can help other newbies.

I couldn’t wait to connect with all the amazing bloggers I met last year, and finally meet some new bloggers in person. Here are some of the people that are just as cool in person as they are online.

Myself and more awesome people!

Best swag and favorite brands

One of the coolest things about going to a sponsored conference like FinCon, is all the free swag companies and bloggers are giving out to bring awareness to their brands.

Last year my favorite swag were the Credit Karma sunglasses. I even started a trend of taking a photo of yourself in the glasses which was posted on Credit Karma’s blog.

This year, the absolute best swag came from RetailMeNot with their stylus/pen combo, Power Wallet with their phone/tablet fingerprint cleaner and Ally Bank’s mini mouse. Awesome marketing!

This year I’ve been on a mission to meet some of my favorite tech brands and startups. In July I flew out to San Francisco and met the SpringCoin team along with the people from ReadyForZero.

Then at the FinCon I met up Julie from TechBargains, Brittany from Betterment, the ladies from H&R Block, Janet from Bankrate and Ashley from Wise Bread (who are both social media rockstars).

I had a blast chatting with these awesome ladies! I even got to be part of a Q&A panel during the Women’s Mixer (a big thanks to ImpulseSave for sponsoring it). 

As of September 1, 2012 I am officially part of the Payoff.com team. I’ve been working with them behind the scenes for the past 4 months and now I’m a part-time employee working as the Community and Content Manager for their blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

This promotion came at the perfect time because Payoff was the sponsor for Ignite FinCon and I was proud to be a part of it! It was my favorite presentation and many of the other bloggers thought the same thing.

A few of my favorite Ignite presentations came from my friend Steve at MoneyPlanSOS (sadly we forget to take a photo together), Agatha Kulesza and Stephanie Halligan.

Most memorable presentations and lessons learned

Shannyn, from Frugal Beautiful really knows how to get free stuff. If you want to know how to snag free products, like makeup, clothes and shoes, then she’s your girl.

The personal finance blogosphere has been dramatically under-serving the general population. Too many of us write to people who are unemployed or looking for jobs, but that’s only a small fraction of the population’s problems.

Most Americans have kept their jobs and are just trying to balance work, life and money in a successful manner. These are the people we should be focusing on.

Favorite quotes

Thanks to Ramit when someone asks where I work, instead of saying “I work from home” now I’ll say “I work from my home office”. Because it gets a totally different reaction!

  • “The blog is not the website, the blog is the writer; the person behind the site” — Gregory Go
  • “Social media is to blogging that coffee shops are to coffee. We’re building a community” — Janet Stauble
  • “Hard work trumps talent” — Barbara Friedburg
  • “Be more specific about your time and you’ll get more done” — Kylie Ofiu

These are just the key points from everything I learned from FinCon. Being a personal finance blogger has changed my life for the better and connecting with all the other amazing people at this conference every year has impacted me more than I can express.

For this introvert, it was an experience I’ll never forget.

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32 comments

  1. LifeSkill$Academy says:

    What a great post Carrie. This was my first time attending this conference and the amount of information that was shared with everyone I came in contact with was incredible! It’s funny how we can all be at the same place but each of us comes away with a different perspective of the messages that were shared – and different SWAG! I see now that i missed out on a few great ones!! I think i’ll have to follow you around next year!

  2. Shannyn says:

    I loved all the pictures! It was like being back in Denver 🙂 Thank you for the kind words- this year I want to up the ante on getting free stuff and have some ideas and big plans, plus with the “Rockstar Blogging” Guide coming out at the end of October I need to hustle!

    Loved seeing you and know you are onto really big things this year, it just keeps getting better!

    • Carrie Smith says:

      Thanks @twitter-241807950:disqus It was really great getting to see you again in person and listening to your presentation. I can’t wait till your new “Rockstar Blogging” guide comes out. I’ll be first in line to read it 🙂

  3. Jana @ Daily Money Shot says:

    It was so great to see you again, Carrie! What you’ve been able to do and to watch you just take off has been nothing short of an inspiration!

  4. See Debt Run says:

    Nice meeting you, Carrie! I left with so many ideas I want to implement on my own blog. Thanks PT for thinking of everything, and thanks to all the speakers who were inspiring and very generous with the tips! -M

    • Carrie Smith says:

      I definitely fell in love with Denver even more this time around. I could totally see myself living there one day. Maybe a bi-coastal but mid-US type of deal. Part time in Texas and part time in Colorado 🙂

    • Carrie Smith says:

      @6154d16e95dd6df5ca75bd71fef09fee:disqus I know right! They think that if you work from home all you do is lay around in your PJ’s, watch soaps and eat junk food. Ha, it’s so far from the truth…

  5. I’m all over this post just to see what people look like! That must have been so much fun to put names with faces! I’m very jealous!

    Your paragraph – “The personal finance blogosphere has been dramatically under-serving the general population. Too many of us write to people who are unemployed or looking for jobs, but that’s only a small fraction of the population’s problems. Most Americans have kept their jobs and are just trying to balance work, life and money in a successful manner. These are the people we should be focusing on.”

    I couldn’t agree more with this! Most of my blog has been written for people like me – middle class and doing okay, but ready for something bigger. I’m not necessarily drowning in debt or looking to change jobs. I just want to take my finances to the next level and do something really extraordinary like make even more money or the ultimate – retire early!

    • Carrie Smith says:

      Putting the faces to names/avatars is the thing I always look forward to the most. You learn so much more about the bloggers and their personalities when meet them in person.

      I need to take a page out of your book (or rather, blog) @MyMoneyDesign:disqus and start narrowing down my focus to reach a broader audience. Not every one is having money troubles. They’re similar to me and just trying to navigate the personal finance stuff.

  6. Great sum-up, and some really great lessons learned. I was sad that we didn’t get to touch base more than the once. (Next time there’s a conference in my hometown, I’m totally getting a hotel room anyway. It’s a much better plan.)

    Really excited to see how things are changing for you. Congratulations. 🙂

    • Carrie Smith says:

      Same here @twitter-161709061:disqus You were one of the people I was looking forward to meeting the most. Next time we will definitely have to connect more. I can’t wait till the next conference so we can chat again!

  7. Shannon_ReadyForZero says:

    Sounds like an awesome time, I really hope I can make it next year! Thanks for sharing details of your trips with us and congrats on your new gig :).

  8. Thanks for sharing this, Carrie. This touched me greatly. With all the “business” of FinCon it’s easy for me to forget the “why” of the conference. This post brought me right back where I needed to me. I’m so happy you chose to take a chance last year and more importantly that you’ve taken action since.

  9. Aloysa says:

    I need to be more specific with my time. This is m biggest pet peeve – I never have time for anything. Great quote! And great recap. Felt jealous, reading it. Oh well… next year for me.

  10. AverageJoe says:

    I’m pretty sure you were the first person I asked about going to FinCon. Without hesitation you told me “go.” Man, did I learn a ton. I have four pages of To Do’s that I’m wading through. Those were condensed from tons of pages of notes.

    It’s hard to believe that’s the first time we met. We talk so much on the podcast I felt like I already knew you, Len and Dr. Dean.

    • Carrie Smith says:

      It was absolutely a blast! And worth every penny (and more). I still have tons of things I want to do, and sessions I need to watch. It was great to meet the roundtable team in person, we have such a fun time together – both online and off!

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