Over the past year, I’ve spent a pretty decent chunk of change attending various conferences and meetups. As I write this, I’ll be spending the next couple of days at FinCon, the major financial blogger conference that’s held each year.
Compared to some conferences, FinCon can actually be pretty affordable. But it’s still not cheap once you add up all of the costs that come with attending a big conference – flights, hotels, food, etc. Last year, my FinCon trip cost a little over $1,700 for myself and my business partner to attend (or about $800 per person). I’ll likely spend about the same amount this year. If you add up all of the other events that I’ve attended over the year, I’ll probably end up spending about $4,000 to attend these conferences and meetups.
In a lot of ways, these conferences and meetups can seem like an oxymoron – personal finance bloggers and enthusiasts paying a bunch of money to meet up with other people and talk about all of the ways we don’t spend money. It sounds like a waste of money.
But as I’ve continued to grow this blog and continue along this content creation path, my view on these conferences has evolved. Yes, conferences cost money. But what matters isn’t the cost. It’s the value that they bring. As long as you get more in value than what you pay, these conferences are worth it.
These days, I understand conferences for what they are – they’re investments in yourself and your business. Even though I’ve spent some money on conferences this year, I’ve already seen returns from attending them. And if I haven’t gotten a return on my investment yet, I’m confident that I will in the future.
Reasons To Spend Money On Conferences
1. Build Your Brand. Building brand awareness is a key part of any business. You can have the best stuff in the world, but you can only help people if people know that you exist.
I think advertising is one of the things a lot of content creators just seem to forget about. There’s this idea that you’re just supposed to be found naturally – if you write it, people will just show up. I’ve learned that’s not how it works, however.
Conferences, in many ways, are basically you putting money into advertising spend. When you go to conferences, you’re representing your brand and putting your brand out into the world. If it gets your brand out there, those conference fees might be worth it for that alone.
2. Learn. It goes without saying, but you should hopefully be learning something when you go to these conferences. There’s always more learning to be done, even if you’re an expert.
I spent $87,000 to go to law school (a bargain compared to what many of my fellow attorneys spent). My wife spent much more to go to dental school and then her residency. Conferences might very well be a bargain when you think about how much education otherwise costs.
3. Meet People. The most important part of conferences might not be the learning or the brand awareness – it’s probably meeting people. You can learn a lot on your own, so if learning was the sole motivation, you could go read books and learn it all yourself as you go along.
The magic of the conference comes with meeting people. It’s a big world out there, and NO ONE can do it all alone. You need to meet people, and where else can you do it better than at a conference with tons of people looking to do the same thing.
4. People Like You More When They Meet You In Person. This builds a little bit on my previous point, but there’s something to be said about meeting people in person. The nice thing about the online world is that you can make tons of friends. But you can only put so much of yourself out there virtually.
When people meet you in person, they’ll be able to see your enthusiasm or whatever else it is that makes you, you. And they’ll remember you far better than just talking to you in an email or through Twitter. My closest blogging friends are all people that I’ve met with in person. When opportunities come up for either of us, who do you think they’ll remember?
5. Boost Your Motivation. Building an online business is a grind. One little side benefit of attending conferences is just how much of a motivation boost you’ll get. I came back from my first FinCon absolutely pumped, and my blog grew quite a bit after that conference. I don’t think that was a coincidence.
If you ever need a motivation boost, going to conferences is where it’s at (you can also listen to Gary Vee and let him scream at you about how lazy you are). You’re basically surrounding yourself with hundreds of people who do the same thing as you and who have the drive to spend their time and money meeting up with other people in their same space. You’re a product of who you surround yourself with, and when you surround yourself with fellow hustlers, you can’t help but want to get out there and hustle too.
Spend Money On Yourself
There are a lot of ways to spend money. Most of us spend money in ways that can never actually pay us back. It’s spent once and then is gone forever.
A conference, though, can be an investment if done right. And the nice thing about an investment is that you can get that money back. You might spend a couple hundred bucks. But you can make that back many times over. Plus, if you’re going to invest, why not invest in something that you should believe in more than anything – yourself.
Additional Thoughts. What if your business isn’t making any income yet? If that’s the case, the solution is simple – find a way to make money somewhere else and use that money to invest back into yourself. Let’s say you need $1,000 per year to go to conferences. You just need to earn $83 per month to fully bootstrap your costs. If you can make just $20 an hour doing something, you only need to work an extra 4 to 5 hours per month to pay for your costs. It’s the easiest bootstrapping you’ll ever do.