Life lessons from Problogger
This is a guest post from Megan Hogarth, travel blogger extraordinaire from Pegs On The Line - thanks Megan! I was ridiculously nervous before going to my first conference as a travel blogger. I'd had my site for two years, been a professional journalist for six, yet I felt embarrassingly out of my depth. I was just waiting for someone to tell me I shouldn't be there. That I wasn't good enough. That I didn't belong.
But no one said that. Most people I spoke to felt the same as me. A lot of us were trying to find our way in the industry and stepping out from behind our blogs and Twitter profiles was daunting. I had a blast, learnt a lot, made a bunch of friends and told myself that next time I really shouldn't be such a pussy about this kind of thing.
The following year I found myself in a similar situation.
This time the conference in question was ProBlogger Event - Australia's biggest blogging event. More than 550 people would be spending the weekend on the Gold Coast talking about all things blogging. The guest lists included some of the country’s top bloggers. And me.
Once again I felt completely out of my depth. The ticket was expensive (especially when I'd only worked four months in the last 13), but a wise friend assured me I'd never regret going.
Of course he was right. But I think we all saw that coming.
Days after the conference my head was still spinning and it took weeks for things to settle down in my mind. Only now, a month after the event, am I daring to look at the to-do list I optimistically scribbled over that weekend. If you're an aspiring blogger, ProBlogger and ProBlogger Event is incredibly useful. I learnt things I didn't even know I needed to learn. But the real value of the event, for me, was nothing to do with blogging. Whether it was a gem delivered by a speaker or a lightbulb moment of my own, the most valuable takeaways from PB Event have wider relevance.
Find people who 'get' you
"You become most like the people you spend the most time with. Create little groups of people who 'get' you."
These words came from Candice DeVille, the fabulously-dressed blogger behind Vintage Current, but it was also something that has really hit home while I've been travelling for the last three years. As we go through school and university and enter the workforce, we don't often spend a lot of time choosing the people closest to us. I can not remember how my best friend and I met. But we did and 18 years later, we're still friends, even though we hardly have anything in common. My friends at uni and work were usually selected by circumstance. As in "who's free to go to the pub on Saturday night?". Most of the yes votes came from those single and under 30. It just happens like that. Some of those friendships stand the test of time, others don't. If it's the latter it's usually because we're not the same people we were when the friendship started. And as we grow up we become more complex as people. It's unlikely we'll find one person that understands all sides of our quirky personalities. A lot of my friends don't really get the "whole blogging thing" or "the whole travelling thing" but there are those who do, even if they're on the other side of the world. Sometimes I need someone to vent to about my lack of motivation to write a blog post or to day dream with about far-flung destinations. And it's really great when they know exactly what you mean.
Don't be afraid to be yourself
Geraldine DeRuiter is the kind of person you just want to hate a little bit because you know you'll never be as cool as her. At PB Event she gave an amazing talk about how bloggers can make their readers fall in love with them, which resulted in most of the room falling in love with her. She was funny, inspirational and made some damn good points. Among those, was this: "Don't be afraid to be yourself."
Geraldine said that to motivate bloggers to be true to themselves in their writing and blog because there will be an audience out there who will relate to them. But it resonated with me in a different way. I'm 29 and have spent the last three years living overseas. I'd love to say I was travelling the whole time, but I also worked, either as a waitress or in a youth hostel. If you'd asked 22-year-old me what life had in store, serving afternoon tea in a posh suburb of Vancouver wouldn't have been on the short list. Now, while I was off doing all of that, my friends were making impressive progress in their careers, getting married and having kids. I don't regret my decisions and I wouldn't change anything, yet that doesn't make it any easier to follow a less-trodden path. In times of doubt I need to be reminded that doing what I want and pursuing my dreams is always the right more.
Geraldine's advice also stood out because she didn't just say "be yourself", she recognised that it's not as simple as that. There is an element of fear involved.
Be the thing you've been waiting for
Another Geraldine Gem.
"When I was a little kid I dreamed about having this amazing romance and I thought he's just going to come and sweep me off my feet blah blah blah It took me a long time to realise that you can't be a passive actor in any of that. You have to put yourself out there and have people know 'oh OK she's waiting for the guy to come and sweep her up off her feet', but you also have to be someone who's worthy of being swooped."
This isn't relationship advice, it's life advice. If you want something, go after it and deserve it. Of course, there's no guarantees but you'll have a better shot than taking no action at all while still expecting it all just to magically happen.
Surround yourself with people who will help you with your goals
We all have people who will support our dreams and goals. It's listed on the job description of friends, family members and loved ones. But supporting you and helping you is not the same thing.
During ProBlogger Event I shared an apartment with four wonderful ladies. I'm going to give them a shout out because they deserve it: Holly Galbraith (@HollyGalbraith), Kristin Repsher (@aussiestompy), Brooke Schoenman (@brookeschoenman) and Jade Johnston (@our_oyster). At the end of the conference we each shared some goals we'd developed over the weekend. A private Facebook group was set up and we use it to share our progress, ideas and, most importantly, support each other.
It definitely helps that we're like-minded people and our goals relate to subjects we all know something about and this is important to keep in mind if you want to assemble a support group of your own. If you have career goals, talk to people in the same industry. If you want to work for yourself, find people who already are.
There's only one you
There is a hardly a market or industry that you couldn't call saturated or competitive. Wherever we are trying to make our mark, we will never be the only ones. So how do we set ourselves apart? One of the final, and most entertaining, speakers at PB Event was British entrepreneur Chris Ducker. He had several pieces of advice but the one that I think stood out to everyone in the room was this:
"When you build the Business of You nobody can copy it. It's 100% original."
Chris emphasised the importance of building a personal brand regardless of your niche. He was talking to a room of bloggers, but it's relevant to everyone. We sell ourselves to employers, to clients, to opportunities. We sell our skills and our experience. But those have the potential to be matched. What can't be? You and your brand. Build it. Sell it.