This weekend, I attended a conference for financial bloggers called FinCon. I had two purposes in attending FinCon: to connect with people who would pay me to write, and to FanGirl some of my favorite bloggers. In retrospect, I did a lot better at the first than the second, and the reason that I did better at the first is that I prepared for it.
I prepared for FinCon the same way that I prepare for a job interview. I had a 30 second elevator pitch (that The Roamer heard 72 times, sorry Roamer), a one minute explanation of my expertise, and a list of relevant stories and accomplishments that showed expertise in an arena where I am significantly less accomplished than many of the people that I met.
I handed out these business cards, I wore 3.5 inch, close toed pumps, and I dressed in professional clothes that hid my baby bump. And in the very conversations where I spoke knowledgeably about Sentiment Analysis, quantitative marketing, and the difference between Iron Condors, Covered Calls, and Basic options, I also spoke about the need for stories, authenticity and connecting real people to real needs.
Why did I prepare this way, and why did I present myself this way?
Nobody else will tell you how awesome I am
Whether I'm interviewing for a job or networking for a client, if I want you to hand me money at some point, I'm not going to make you think I'm a schlarb. Employees (and consultants and freelancers) don't come with warning labels like packs of cigarettes, because, unlike cigarettes, we aren't inherently dangerous.
If I have ideas about how to grow you business, and I have the power to bring those ideas to life, then to you, I am awesome. How are you going to know how awesome I am, if I don't tell you?
Personally, I love when people market themselves to me. If someone tells me that they will fix my problems if I give them money, I'm pretty pumped to give them some money. And if they actually solve my problem, I'm thankful beyond words. Despite my gratitude, I'm not quick to pass on a recommendation... because life.
Let me give you an example: my roof was redone three months ago; I am still thankful every single day for the roofers who did it. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the company that did the roofing, and I'm not going to go through my bank account statements to figure it out (unless a friend asks, then I will).
I say this because I think that many people believe that their excellent reputation will precede them, and to a certain extent it will, but really shoving your excellent reputation in front of people's faces is a much better way to get the attention you want.
My awesome doesn't preclude my authenticity
Part of what makes me awesome, is that I'm a nerd. During FinCon, there was a tech start up competition. Do you know how hard core I geeked out during that competition? Can you imagine how much fun it was for me to talk with TickerTags about the ways that they plan to use big data in the future? Or how I waxed poetic while talking with Bill Dwight from FamZoo.com, about his product (that I think will revolutionize the way that parents teach kids about money)? Or about the missions to make insuring yourself less painful (like the folks from Policy Genius) who believe that buying life insurance should be easier than filing for divorce while in line at the DMV.
Yes, I presented myself as awesome to these companies, but I was also authentic. Their products and missions get me pumped up.
On the flip side, I had several conversations during this conference where I realized that I would not be an awesome fit for this person's need. You want someone to write about credit card comparisons? I've had one credit card, and I only keep it around for rental cars and hotels (and to make matters worse, its not even a travel credit card).
I had one person who really wanted me to promote her product, and it took me a long time to explain that writing about her product on my site would not be worth her money. Instead of accepting a sponsored post, I helped her connect with other bloggers, and I helped suggest how to be creative about their compensation structures.
Part of being authentic is caring enough about someone else's mission that you won't let it fail on your account. No business owner wants a disengaged employee (or freelancer or consultant). During a few of my conversations, I sensed that some people were disappointed that I wouldn't be following up for anything work related except to pass on other names (because, let's be honest, I do a great elevator pitch). In the long run, they won't be disappointed, I am authentic enough to let them know that there are better people.
Authentic people are awesome people
A few weeks back, Melanie, from DearDebt.com asked, "What's your honest bio?" I cracked up at some of the bios, and even shared my own, but I also mentioned that I prefer my word-smithed version. I said this because I think that many people think that authentic means the worst version of yourself. I disagree. When you are talking about the things that you love the most, then you are being as awesome as you'll ever be.
I got to have lunch with Tonya from Budget and The Beach, and I realized that she was totally authentic in her pursuit of happiness. That's awesome!
One of my favorite interactions of the conference was when Abigail told me, "I really want to be interesting right now, but I'm looking for my mom because she has a knife, so I can slice my drugs in half." I love the way that she makes it easier to be imperfect.
One of the big surprises of the conference was an expert round table with Cat Alford. I haven't followed her career very closely, but I was surprised by her authentic desire to see other people succeed. She gave me some great advice about who to pitch, and how much money to request. Definitely authentic, and definitely awesome.
I care about writing new scripts about the intersection of family, career and money. I care about helping parents understand that we can have it all, but not all at once, and I think that's awesome.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.