Friday, July 24, 2015

My First Experience at Haven Conference

Many of you already know that I went to my first blogging conference last week.  The Haven Conference is for DIY bloggers.  In October, this blog of mine will be three years old, and this was the very first time I have went to Haven.  I first learned about Haven from so many of the blogs that I read on a daily basis.  I would see them write recaps about being there, and share pictures of the fun they were having on social media.  And I envied them.  I knew that a blogging conference was where I needed to be if I wanted to get serious about blogging.  But there were two things stopping me from going.  #1- I couldn’t afford it, and #2- I was paralyzed with fear.  The fact that I couldn’t afford it may come as no surprise to you, since I am the girl with champagne taste and a tight budget (it says so right in the header of my blog, after all). 

But the fact that I was scared may come as a surprise.  I knew there would be hundreds of other DIY Bloggers attending, and I knew that all of the big celebrity bloggers who I so admire would be there as well, and I felt intimidated.  I was afraid to put myself out there, what if people laughed at me, what if they were mean and catty?  I knew I would feel kind of like the new kid in school, and I feel like it is totally out of my comfort zone to just insert myself into a group of people and try to make friends.  But at the same time, I knew I needed to connect with these people if I want to grow my blog.  So this year, for the first time ever, I made enough money from my blog that I was able to pay for my trip to Haven without it coming out of our family budget- yay!  So I bit the bullet, and in spite of being afraid to put myself out there, I bought a ticket!  And today I want to tell you some of the things I learned at Haven.  So if you are a blogger, and you have never been, hopefully this post will speak to you.  And if you are not a blogger, you are welcome to keep reading too if you are interested. 

We received two  awesome swag bags, one when we registered (pictured below), and then when I returned to my room late Friday evening, I was surprised with two awesome swag bags from Home Depot.  Little did they know that I was  not sharing a room with another blogger, I was sharing it with my husband!  So I received two of everything!  Stay tuned, because I have decided to give away all of the swag I received in the extra bag to one lucky reader, so if you were not able to attend Haven, but wanted to, here is your chance to have a little slice of Haven.  Or, if you are not a blogger at all, that is OK too!  You will still enjoy the goodies!

On the evening before the conference began, there was a newbie meet and greet, and I was probably the most nervous to go to that.  Luckily, I had connected with another blogger online, Joy from The Aspiring Home, who was also feeling the same as me, so we met beforehand and walked down together to register and to the party.  While registering, we met another newbie who was super sweet named Tammy from the blog Hey Fitzy.  Those two things made me feel immensely better, but still extremely nervous.  At the newbie party, I tried my best to put myself out there and introduce myself, smile, and make eye contact.  And guess what, it worked!  I actually met some people and chatted the evening away.  By the time I went back to my room for the evening, I was feeling much more at ease. 

The next morning Joy and I walked down to breakfast and to hear the keynote speaker.  His name was John Acuff, and to be honest, I had never heard of him before, but I will never forget him now!  He was funny, witty, and smart.  He is a very successful blogger and author, and what he told us truly resonated with me, and I know many people felt the same way.  The one thing he said that resonated the most with me was “Care about what the people you care about care about”.  He said read less minds and ask more questions.  After hearing him speak, I realized I needed to ask myself some hard questions if I want to take my blog to the next level.  More on that later on in this post. 

There were so many brands and sponsors there, and I wanted to connect with every single one of them!  I did make a couple of connections with some brands that I think I will be working with in the near future, but I didn’t do as much of connecting with brands as I originally wanted to.  This was my thought process, being my first tie at Haven, my main goal was to attend all of the classes I wanted to attend.  I wanted to learn every single last morsel of information I could get to help me grow my blog, so I put the brands on the back burner because of that.  I don’t know if it was the best decision, but I told myself that next year when I go back (hopefully), I will focus more on connecting with brands.  So that is the goal.  I did get a chance to take a quick picture with these two guys in the crazy suits, those suits are made from Lazy Boy upholstery fabric, too funny!

One of the workshops I attended was a Make and Take workshop, where we got to build something to take home with us.  We built this cute little mason jar tote, and I used a Ryobi nail gun for the first time.  I loved it and I have to have one for myself!  I will be painting and styling this so stay tuned for that!

And bonus, I won this Kreg Jig during that workshop.  I need a circular saw in order to use it, and sadly I don’t have one, but it is on my wish list, so I will save this for later. 

I attended a workshop about photo styling and the presenter was Lucy Akins from the Craftberry Bush.  I was thrilled to hear her speak because I read her blog, and her photos are absolutely gorgeous!  She taught me so many useful things that I can actually use to make my photos better.  I really need to invest in a better camera, but she didn’t seem to think that the type of camera you use will make or break you, so that made me feel better.  She told us to tell a story with our photos, to have an emotion attached to our pictures.  She also share that she takes about 150 pictures of a subject, and uses only 15 of those in her actual post.  She also gave lots of tips about props and editing.  I felt like I walked away from that session inspired to take better photos, so thanks Lucy!

Next up was a class about Instagram, and the presenter’s were Liz Marie Galvan of Liz Marie Blog, whom I was so thrilled to meet because I read her blog too!  She presented along with Jennifer Robison from Stylehouse Interiors.  Together, they did a fantastic job!  I think I took away more from this class than any other.  And I learned that my approach to Instagram was all wrong.  No wonder I have been having such a difficult time growing my following.  As soon as I got back to my room that night, I started making changes to my Instagram account, and hopefully I will start to see growth in that area. 

On Friday, we just happened to be sitting at the same lunch table as two of my most favorite bloggers, Kari Anne from Thistlewood Farms (second from the right below) and Laura from Finding Home Farms (second from the left below).  They were both so kind, funny, and gracious!  It was such a thrill for me to chat them up and get to know their personalities.  Honestly it was the highlight of my time spent at Haven!  The other two women in this picture are currently starring on the new HGTV series Beach Flip, so it was great to meet them too, I will definitely be tuning in to catch them on the show!

I also had the privilege of attending a class called The Power and Profit of Moving from a Blog to a Brand, and Kari Anne and Laura were presenter, along with Jenna from Rain on a tin Roof, whom I am also a follower of.  I learned that my blog is a brand, and that I need to define my brand and develop my brand.  And they gave us so many good tips to actually start that process.  They also gave us great tips for working with sponsors and brands, and I left that class with a long list of things to work on.  I can’t wait to get started on the things I learned!  These ladies were hilarious, entertaining and knowledgeable, so I thank all three of them for sharing that knowledge. 
I also learned a lot about making money with affiliates from Mandy Rose of House of Rose and Cindy Spivy from Grace and Beauty.  They gave so much great advice and tips for making money with affiliates, and I walked away from that with so much information and a list of things to do as well. 

I have been wanting to start a newsletter for a while now, but felt overwhelmed with it and gave up, so I attended a class about newsletters, presented by Kristen from Sweet Tea and Saving Grace.  Wow, she was a wealth of information, and although I still feel overwhelmed, I got some great tips from her and feel like I can tackle it soon.  The most important thing I realized from listening to her speak was that I need to get to know my readers.  I realized I don’t know most of you at all, you are virtual strangers to me, and that is going to start changing pronto.  I need to connect with the people who read my blog, I need to know who you are and what makes you tick, and I am going to be asking you guys some questions very soon. 

I also attended another make and take class sponosred by HomeRight and presented by Gina from Shabby Creek Cottage.  We used a heat gun to make this cute little iPad stand.  It was so easy too!  And Gina was so sweet and totally down to earth.  hers is another blog that I read a lot so it was awesome to meet her!

At the end, we got to hear Mandy from Vintage Revivals Speak, and man, she was awesome!  I really felt connected to her because she has a husband who is a recovering addict, she made me cry, and I wanted to walk up and tell her all about my own story,  so there was that.  But it was ore than that.  She talked about being authentic, and believing that what we have to say is valuable.  And one thing she said that really resonated with me is “don’t be a bad version of someone else’s blog”.  I wanted to hug her so hard after she finished.  She gave me so much food for thought, and I know it will help me grow my blog. 

So was Haven everything I thought it would be?  It was all of that and so much more!  I got to meet and lay eyes on so many bloggers whom I admire, I got to meet so many new bloggers who I did not know about, and have yet to visit their blogs.  And I was even approached by one blogger who knew who I was and is a reader of my blog!  That really made my day, it was the first time that had ever happened to me- that a perfect stranger recognized me, so that was awesome!  I learned more than I can even convey in this post, and I walked away with a burning passion to make my blog all that I want it to be, and no one else can do that but me. 

Have a great weekend, I will be back to my regular blogging schedule next week, so please stop by !

Back to School Event at Eleventh Avenue

This is where I party:

Found and Foraged