A couple weekends ago, I had the opportunity to attend Arkansas Women Bloggers University…the annual conference for Arkansas Women Bloggers. This year was a bit different in several ways in that it was at a hotel (instead of a campground type place) and we had a few guys join us! James, Ryan and Peter fit in just fine with the about a 100 women who were in attendance.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to writing about this conference considering it was entirely about blogging! The three days were packed with fun, learning and friends. I won’t bore you with all my notes but if you do want to learn about a specific session, you can find them soon at the Arkansas Women Bloggers website. The pre-session descriptions are there now and those of us who spoke were asked to write summaries of our sessions and those will be posted on the ARWB blog soon. Oh, by the way: I was part of three-person panel who spoke about breaking into freelancing/self-employment as a writer. It was fun!
Before I go on, here’s a thank you to all our sponsors! The content and swag they helped provide was top notch. Seriously, I came home with four bags of swag which is more than any other conference I’ve attended. And it was all good stuff!
A quick #AWBU recap
The weekend started with Foodie Friday. We learned about improving our food photography, buying and cooking with local food, canning local pickles, the local food security movement through a local ministry, and about local food grown in Arkansas.
Friday night we all went to Rogers Little Theater and heard from Sock Monkey Improv. Two friends of mine are in this troupe and it’s so funny! Think that show “Whose Line Is It Anyways?”. I won tickets to an event for Cobblestone Project (the featured organization at Foodie Friday) that was the following weekend and that blog is coming soon!
Saturday was filled with one great session after another and an inspiring yet very practical keynote from popular blogger and speaker Alli Worthington. Saturday night we were on our own for dinner and I mostly hung out in the Hospitality Room with other bloggers. Sunday was filled with more workshops and some great general sessions. We had bloggers visiting from other women blogger groups around the state and I even met a new friend from my hometown.
My three major decisions that brewed at #AWBU
Wondering what’s up with the above picture? I learned how to use a Keurig. I made coffee. Like by myself and stuff.
I learned so much at this conference and really had my mind and eyes opened to a few ideas. Here are three major (to me) decisions that I made based on what I learned at #AWBU:
- I will convert Jamie’s Notebook to an LLC and become an employee of the the company I own. This is wiser for so many different reasons and I came to realize that it’s the best decision. I also learned that a lot of perceived roadblocks or reasons to not become an LLC were not accurate. I plan on getting on this right away.
- I have now adjusted my hourly rates. I knew I charged less than other area professionals per hour but didn’t realize it was at least half to 60 percent less than other area professionals. Many of those professionals in my industry have the same amount or less experience than I do. I need to follow my own advice that I gave in our session about freelancing which was to charge for the industry you’re in, not the industry you came from. I am used to the grossly underpaid world of journalism but as a consultant with more than almost 15 years of writing experience, that is no longer my industry. I will not be raising existing clients’ rates to the new amount but there will be a slight increase at the beginning of 2015.
- I have settled a year-long internal struggle about the way I do this blog, Jamie’s Thots. I created my first blog to provide family with life updates. It’s turned into way to make some money and even a ministry of sorts. I feel like I can reach people with simply sharing about my life and sharing my “thots.” To make more money and to get more followers, the advice is to usually pay painstakingly close attention to your analytics and write what readers want to read. Write about stuff people want to find. Where I struggle with that is, that takes me out of the equation. This blog does serve brands in some form, but it’s still my blog, my thots. It will remain that. I believe that if I have a passion and a message, that the right readers will find it and join me in this journey. Sure, I will still promote the blog and try to grow a following. But that will be from sharing what I have to offer, not morphing myself into something I’m not to please others. Seems like a good lesson about life in general, doesn’t it? As our fearless leader Stephanie said, “be yourself and extraordinary things will happen.”
More nuggets of wisdom I gained at #AWBU
Here’s just a few notes I made throughout the three days:
- A menu should be built around what food is available and in season, not ingredients sought to fill in a certain menu.
- Arkansas food includes a landscape of cultures.
- Sweating an onion is the process of adding a bit of salt while you saute so that the onion gets cooked but not carmelized.
- Salt is a seasoning. Pepper is a flavor.
- Rice bran oil rocks for its higher smoke point and more diverse uses.
- Northern natural light is best for food photography and is the most consistent throughout the year.
- As the time of year changes, the best location and time to take photographs will change.
- Each photo I shoot is part of a larger story.
- Add another ingredient like a chip or even olive oil to “gloppy” food so that it changes the texture of the photo without masking the food.
- Use lights made for Seasonal Affective Disorder if you don’t have ready access to good natural light.
- Farm to Table is an amazing concept that we only view as “new.” More about this in my blog coming soon about Cobblestone Project.
- Photos are a window to the past that allows us to visually share our story.
- If you don’t name your photos, they won’t show up in search.
- I really need to create my own watermark.
- I need to give Evernote more of a chance.
- I am a writer no matter what size my audience.
- Good contracts have defined terms, scope of services, and liability clause.
Time with my tribe
One of the best aspects of Arkansas Women Bloggers University is the people. Bloggers come from diverse backgrounds, cultures and belief systems. But there’s just something about each other that we just “get.”
I didn’t get pictures with everyone I wanted to, but here are a few from Instagram and other places.