This will give you a reason to do the right thing at BlogHer (or not to go at all)

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Lifestyle blogger living in Sweden

Next week I am heading to BlogHer Conference in Chicago, and will attend the largest women’s blogging conference in the world. I wanted to dedicate a post to say hello to all of the others going (and to those who wish they were going but are not) and also perhaps give you a new way of seeing what lifestyle blogging can be, and why and why not blogging conferences are important in our business. If you would like me to say hello to you about every other Friday, please subscribe to my newsletter, it’s completely different thing from the Skimbaco Lifestyle feed subscription.

I have been blogging for 6 years, and during that time I have attended over 30 conferences and spoken in close to 20 conferences and events about social media. Most recently I spoke at the TBEX Conference in Toronto in June. This all may seem a lot of conferences, but it might surprise you when I tell you that I had a two-year-conference-break and the TBEX was the first conference I attended and spoke in TWO years.

Partial reason for my conference breaks has been that I moved to Sweden last year, and now I just sit in my “corner office” in the Swedish countryside and write, instead of traveling to blogging conferences all the time, like I used to.

My new “corner office” pictured above.

The other home office I had this winter in our other Swedish home.

rethink your office - make it a traveling one

I actually haven’t been just sitting home even though you haven’t seen me in the conferences and blogging events. The past two years I have actually had a chance to travel even more to many amazing locations, including Singapore, Bali, Mexico, Canada (twice!), France (three times!), Iceland (twice!) and Italy (twice!) and many more, including some of the world’s smallest countries like Vatican and Monaco – hey, they still count as countries! In fact I have been to 17 countries in the past two years (Ok, fine, I do count Thailand too, although I just had a layover there).

instagram-book-travel


I even wrote an ebook earlier this year (get it here: Instagram as your Guide to the World – How, What and Who to Search and Follow on Instagram to Help You Travel the World) inspired by my travels.

Why am I telling you this?
I’m telling you this that blogging allowed me create a career with social media although my addresses and locations change all the time. More importantly, it supports the lifestyle I want to live (like being able to take my kids to school everyday, and to this day, my oldest being 13, we still haven’t had a babysitter). I did not start traveling because I started getting press trips from blogging conference connections, but I started traveling 16 years ago when I moved out of Finland and since meeting my husband in Germany we have traveled together and lived in several countries and states, even our 3 children were born in different countries.

I dedicated four years to building my blog, and learning about blogging, social media marketing, both from a blogger’s perspective and from the brands’ perspectives (my background is in PR, marketing and sales, although I studied engineering). I did social media marketing for living (from home) for almost two years and created some very big budget campaigns for some of the largest brands and retailers of the US (and the world) while also writing for two TV network’s websites and growing Skimbaco. I worked 60-70 hours a week during that time, and also traveled a lot during that time. It is actually relatively easy to make a good living by blogging in the USA, if you are willing to work hard and travel a lot, and especially if you focus in making money and not building a brand. In my best year I made more money than my husband ever has in a year. I did travel a lot. To conferences, to meetings, to press events, even did a media tour in Finland.

I think a lot of the opportunities I was able to get were thanks to conferences and networking with the right people. I know a lot of great people, and I was always willing to help everyone, without always/often thinking what was the best for me. I am thankful for so many memories and so many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities blogging has given me and my family, and I will continue giving my support to many of the people I have gotten to know well during my blogging years.

However, the fact that my kids have swum in hot springs in Iceland, skied in the mountains of Norway, seen the art in Louvre, eaten street food in NYC and artichokes in Rome in the past six months has nothing to do with my blogging and social media career (or connections), and all of those trips would not have been possible if I hadn’t QUIT going to every single conference and hadn’t fully focused in what I wanted to do in life and with my business.

I really want to emphasis to many of those bloggers who are just starting and who see the allure of the free trips, experiences, consulting hours and swag (I’m so old school that I don’t even know if it’s called swag anymore), that please keep in mind the BIG picture of what YOU really want to accomplish. Is the blogging and “getting stuff and experiences” just a fling for you, or are you building something that will last for longer? Nothing wrong with having as much fun as it lasts, but flings rarely turn into marriages and you might get your heart broken.

This video kind of shows what my brand is about.
I’m in this for long run. This is not a fling for me.

Simply said: my mission is to inspire people live life to the fullest, and I am selling an IDEA, a FEELING and a sense of BELONGING to the global community. The product I am “selling” is so important, and I know so many people have “bought it” but there is no money in selling ideas. In fact, my blogging income is ridiculously low, blogs that have 1/4 of my readership make double the money I do. Or probably 10 times.

Not going to blogging conferences and not networking does come without a price tag – and not just meaning you don’t have to invest money into going, but also meaning that not as many people want to know your price tag anymore. The good thing is that when you stop worrying about your price tag, your community and readers also see that and they kind of like the fact. The best though is that I have full freedom to do whatever I want to with my site, and to build a lifestyle brand that yes, hopefully sells products one day, but more importantly inspires people, and on a personal level lets me live my life the way I want to. There is no price tag in loving what you do everyday. Luckily many of our business partners and sponsors have seen that there is actually much more value in what we do at Skimbaco for the very fact that we are not constantly selling what we do.

There are many ways to make money in social media and blogging, but only a few are able to make a living with passive income of affiliate sales and just by sitting on a beach somewhere while people click on their links and buy stuff. Most bloggers I know make the best money from consulting, from social media work outside their blogs (tweeting, pinning, instagramming) or from creating content for other sites. Most bloggers are not enjoying a significant amount of passive income (the top 5% perhaps) but the blogging income is bigger the more hours you put in it, like in most line of work you do on hourly basis. If you are looking for certain income level with blogging, realize that it can come with certain lifestyle, like being on 24/7. Summa summarum, when you are planning your blogging business, make sure you know what success looks like. If you are looking for six figure income, understand that it doesn’t come with having a certain amount of Twitter followers, but it comes from doing the work, and a lot of it. I have no trouble doing the work, but today I only do the work I can do on my terms and fits in the message I am “selling” to my audience.

It’s also important to understand that you don’t have to follow the same recipe for success than others do. Build your own path.

blogging as a lifestyle choice as seen on

I wrote a post two years ago blogging as a lifestyle choice, where I recommended people thinking if they are looking into building a business of blogging or building a lifestyle they want, or perhaps a little bit of both (like me).

Maybe this will give you a permit to have a girls’ weekend in Chicago – because blogging can be just that, connecting with other women who are passionate about the same things as you are.

Or maybe this will give you a push to truly focus in blogging as a business – because it is a fantastic platform to have your voice heard and to help you reach your career goals.

Perhaps you will sigh in relief that you are not trying to think what to pack for the parties, and that you are spending the weekend home with your loved ones instead, with no pressure whatsoever to try to fit in, and make the right connections.

katja and leigh

Skimbaco is my business and my brand, but I have built it in a way that it allows me to live the lifestyle what I want. In fact, when people like Leigh (on the right), pictured above with me (on the left), work with me, we create together something that helps them in either their lifestyle or business goals. Even within my own team, our goals are very different. And it’s OK.

Make blogging work for you, not just you working for the blog.

I hope to connect with you while in BlogHer. And seriously, if you are one of those rare people who read all the way here, you should get my newsletter, because obviously we were meant chat more.

My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter as well that I sent out sometimes on Fridays.

About Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal is an international lifestyle expert, originally from Finland. Katja shows how to live globally inspired life to the fullest. She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks. She is a board member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association, award-winning social media strategist, and a well-known speaker in the social media conferences. Katja has lived in four different countries, and seven states in the USA, and married to a helicopter pilot. Their three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.

Get Katja's first book Instagram as your Guide to the World - How, What and Who to Search and Follow on Instagram to Help You Travel the World for free, and follow Katja's travel account @skimbaco on Instagram.

Comments

  1. I hope to meet you at BlogHer. This will be my second blogging conference, and it might be my last for a while … I’ve just taken a full time (unrelated) job, and need to focus on that, though my boss wants me to help shape and direct our social media presence. I’ve struggled with my small following and my lack of interest in selling myself … because EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING IT … weren’t they? Only … the people I admire the most, aren’t. :) Thanks for the reminder, and the reassurance.

    • Congrats on your new job! I understand what you mean, and I do sell… I sell myself and my idea of living life to the fullest everyday. And everyday before I do anything else, I post a “good morning from Sweden” photo on Instagram and hope that it inspires people around the world. It’s just different kind of “selling” and there is nothing wrong about selling the message you believe in. I am fortunate that with some sponsors who believe in my message, it helps me to sell my message and also make a living just from selling “happiness” – I couldn’t imagine anything better. It does take a lot of self-discipline to not to be a sell-out though and it’s tough to have to also say no to many things… I hope to meet you at BlogHer too!

  2. Great post Katja (love the video too). Travelling full time means I don’t get to meet up with friends as often as I would like so I do enjoy conferences for the parties and reconnecting with friends. As far as business goes, I don’t find I get much out of them regarding building my brand or readership or even increasing revenues, that comes with working hard producing great content and useful products/services. I’m not going to BlogHer but I do hope we get to meet at some point!

    • I’m glad to hear in a way that you say that delivering content is more important in making the connections than the mingling in the conferences. I have been working so hard on the content side, but for me the revenue has not gone up since the quality of the content did, unfortunately. I hope to meet you somewhere too – ideally not in a conference, but somewhere during our other travels :) And thanks for watching the video.

      • I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what type of content to produce and am trying write more ‘shareable’ content. I love to write about less visited places, like in the Balkans for example, but those posts are never as popular as when I write about food or sights in Paris or Rome. So I’m trying do produce a mix of what I like and what my readers like. The increased revenues have come with the increased traffic but it’s still quite low unfortunately.

  3. This is such a great post of conscience Katja! It’s like when you hear that voice inside going, it’s not you don’t do it, you don’t have to. I’ve only been blogging 2 years but this year I quickly realized what gives me the greatest peace is building my brand not someone else’s. Last year was my first trip to blogher and I got caught up in going to every brand party I was invited too. I left the conference incredibly disappointed and was not going to go this year because of my experience last year. But a conference is what you make of it. This year although I have double the invites I had last year, I’m choosing very (very) few to attend and focusing on what I should have last year meeting bloggers and finally going to sessions! It’s easy to get caught up in the invite scene but you have to evaluate if that even fits your goals of what you want. Hope to meet you! Safe travels!

    • I hope to meet you too! I hear what you are saying, and I have nothing against the parties. In fact usually you can discuss better in smaller settings and really connect with people better than in large events. But you are so right – each conference is what you make out of it, and that’s why having your own personal goals are so important and not get caught what other people think are important for them – or for you. I know many bloggers like to give hundreds of business cards out each conference, but I don’t think I have ever given more than 100 in any conference, because I like to have more meaningful conversations with less people, than the other way around.

  4. Amen! My secret to “success” is getting out and meeting people and letting them know I am a professional. I’ve created the lifestyle I want and at this point, it’s easier to pick and choose and change directions if I want. I think you give great advice. It’s what you make it and there is no single path. You create your own path and I think that’s why the blogging and social media world is where I’ve felt the most comfortable professionally!

    • Yes, I love this world because it IS so flexible and it’s easy to adapt to change! Looking forward seeing you! And BTW, I still remember when I met you the first time at Type-A conference it was your professionalism that caught my eye.

  5. I finally figured out at last year’s BlogHer (my first conference) that I don’t care about hooking up with brands – I just want to write. It doesn’t bring the money in – yet – but I love the freedom I have with my blog. I really only write about the things I want to write about. And I’m excited to go back to BlogHer and have a girls weekend away. That’s my main objective, apart from meeting new people.

    • I love that you know what your passion and your path is and you have found blogging a way to express yourself. I love the writing part too, but also find it intimidating. Sometimes it’s difficult to have guts to write what you really want to say, like it was difficult and scary for me to publish this post.

  6. Lovely post Katja, and one that just makes me miss you a little bit more. i loved spending time with you in Canada & hope that we get to do so again – soon. xxx

    • I miss you too Amanda!! The absolute best part about conferences and press trips is to meet people like you. And I hope you know that you now have someone in the other side of the world thinking about you. We have to make a reuninon happen.

  7. Jo-Lynne Shane :

    I love this post. You are such an inspiration! I love the press trips and conferences but the get pretty speedy – even expenses paid ones. But I am so in your page about doing what you love. Build it and they will come. :-) I think people can sense it when you truly love what you do and aren’t doing it for the paycheck.

    • I love the press trips when I get lot of content for my site that otherwise I wouldn’t get, and for hanging out with great people, but I just don’t think I can build a business plan around “I hope I get as many press trips as possible.”

  8. Sometimes I feel like an oddball because I don’t get out and go to the conferences. I also decline a lot of press trips.

    For me, my children are very young, and my main goal attached with a blogging-career is to be at home with them during this period as much as possible.

    It isn’t that I don’t see the value in conferences, and networking, and trips, I DO, and I hope to get out a little more going forward, but, I am very clear and focused in my goals.So far, those goals just haven’t included jet-setting.

    What they HAVE included is making a solid living, having the ultimate platform to be a creative individual, and having the freedom to be home with my kids every day! :)

    • I am so happy you commented Crissy because you are one of those women whom I truly admire in this industry how you have created amazing platforms, and a solid income in what you do, and like you said: focused in what is important in your life, your family. I think it’s good to be an oddball, and create your own way of doing things.

  9. It really is DIFFERENT for everyone and I’m taking away what you’re saying, that we all have to make our own path to achieve our own goals. You have to have it clear in your mind what you want to create and what you want to get out of this “thing”. Thanks for the inspirational post.

    • I completely agree! I think it’s best to have a plan and realistic expectations about what you can and want to do, and not get too carried away when you see other people doing something completely different. There is a lot of great information out there about building a brand, making money blogging, or becoming a freelance writer or using social media to your professional branding but you need to curate the info also the way that it applies to YOUR goals!

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