So, if you’ve been reading this blog for over a year (ahem…Mom…) you saw that I went to a blogging conference again this year called Haven. It’s in ATL every year and, for me, it has been worth every penny. Everything has pros and cons, but the pros outweighed the cons BY FAR and I’m so glad that I have a “tradition” of going every summer. My real-life friends call it “that bloggy conference thing?” but my “internet friends” consider it the only time to actually SEE EACH OTHER in person.
Well, that might change for you VA bloggers so- watch out!
This year Chris stayed in the hotel with me and my roomie, Charlotte (family bed?), and I’m so glad he was there. He is, too. He got free wi-fi, a free pool, a gym, and a Starbucks in walking distance. Vacation heaven. Anyway, we got in the car and as soon as we were on the interstate Sunday he said, “So, how does this stack up to last year?”
Gosh. Wow. Umm…I DON’T EVEN KNOW. That is the answer.
What I basically said to him was, in year one I realized how little I knew about blogging. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go into the conference thinking, “I am so smart and such a proficient blogger,” but I left with so many action items and this glimpse that blogging could be like “a thing”. Not like, my hobby, but my THING…maybe even my career? I had a to-do list the size of my arm. It’s still almost that long, but I’m working on it. I was SO motivated…and then life hit. This past school year was full of ups and downs from August to June. I was the most tired and stressed I have ever been in a school year and generally felt like I had been hit by a bus. I feel like blogging could be a thing that I do, possibly (please, Jesus) full-time someday, but I’m going to have to balance my life in the meantime.
In year two, however, I FELT SO AMAZING. I feel like that sounds so weird and conceited, but I had FRIENDS, guys! Like, real-life-in-person-internet friends! I hung out with Bee, Charlotte, Dena (love these sweet, beautiful, REAL-LIFE FRIENDS) and SO many more.
Some of these are going to be photographically evidenced and I’m going to try to link to all the new people you should
stalk follow in the next year before I go back to Haven. With all of this love, though, can you believe I MISSED people?! I mean, some I had a fly-by-night introduction with, but there are people on my “To Tackle” list for next year. Be warned, friends. Be warned.
I went to some amazing classes. One of my favorites was Working with Brands. The speakers were Mandi from Vintage Revivals, Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl, and Diane from In My Own Style. They talked to us about pitching brands and developing a relationship that shows that you care about the product. Mandi said my favorite words, “It’s OK to work for free.” I have a bit of an… over-committing issue. It’s a serious problem and I undervalue the worth of my time. However, this said to me that establishing the relationship and reviewing the product, even without financial compensation, is important. It was just freeing for some reason…even though I’m not an experienced blogger who works with brands. Their session really gave me the knowledge to feel like it could be something I pursue confidently in the future.
Another session I enjoyed was Blogging Trade Secrets. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. The speakers were Dusty from All Things G&D, Erin from DIY On The Cheap, Jen from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, and Laura from Finding Home Online. These ladies. Wow. Such a wealth of knowledge and information. I literally have PAGES of notes of things to improve on…however, Jen said, “I still have to-dos from my first blogging conference years ago…and THAT’S OK.” LIBERATING. FOR REAL.
There was also a SUPER informative session on Google+ with Jamie from C.R.A.F.T, Randi from Dukes and Duchesses, and Kelly from Live, Laugh, Rowe. Gah. Google+ was something I didn’t think I could navigate. These ladies were SO enlightening and I can’t wait to keep implementing their tips! It was so flipping informative!
I also went to sessions on Ad Optimization (a little over my head- haha), Growing SEO, Making Money Blogging, and Indoor Photography Tips & Tricks. To say I was overwhelmed by knowledge would be an understatement. But, it was amazing and SO worth the money. Honestly, even if I hadn’t gone to a single session, the time spent meeting blog-friends, having meaningful conversations, and meeting with brand reps from the sponsor made it all worth it. Chris and I made it to almost all the brands on day 2 of the conference. They were so amazing to talk with and hear from about their brands and how they work with bloggers.
I left Haven with a lot of hope. I really want to pursue blogging more heavily and I say that ALL THE TIME, but I really want Chris and I to make our home our priority and blogging projects can be a huge part of that. I really love writing and I love interacting with “strangers on the internet” and making friends and, mostly, making our house a home of which we can be proud. So yeah, Haven was different this year. In the best way. I was more confident. I spoke to people because I know that, even though my blog isn’t huge and I’m not great at consistency, I have something to offer readers and brands. Usually, it’s that I’m sarcastic and brutally honest. My friend Bethany even said, “You’re so funny. You really need to blog more.” Such a huge compliment. My two best memories are meals we ate in hotel rooms with blog friends. It’s just an amazing and supportive community and I can’t wait to be a more active participant in it. Here’s to growth between now and Haven 2015!
I will leave you with more pictures of my amazing blog friends so you can check them out! If you follow on IG (@jwgourleygirl) you’ll also see photographic evidence of how ridiculous I am and how great our sponsors were. I’m looking at you, Ryobi, Waterpik, Frog Tape, Lacefield, GMC, Modern Masters, and Thompson’s Water Seal!
This is an amazing group of DIY couples who asked us to be in a picture! Ashley and Jamin from Handmade Home, Jacque and Matt (and Baby Joss!) from DIY Village, Shane and Stacy from Not Just A Housewife, Bethany and Nick from Sawdust & Embryos, and Katie and Jon from Sew Woodsy.
Thanks for reading and for all of you who support us and read the blog and everything else! We’re going to work extra hard to deliver in the next year!