9 Game-Changing Blogging Takeaways from FinCon 2017

The blogging takeaways from FinCon was originally a podcast. Listen on iTunes \\ Stitcher \\ Google Play \\ Overcast. Also, don’t forget the FREE bonus video showing my biggest blogging weakness, and how a millionaire blogger said I should fix it!

Have you ever had the feeling…

“Omg, I have to remember this moment for the rest of my life.”

One of those when you’re still IN that moment…but can already feel it’s long-lasting impact?

That was FinCon 2017.

In addition to meeting hundreds of people I’d only read/listened to online…and instantly becoming friends…there were 2-3 powerful moments that will likely shape me and my business for years to come.

I’m not joking.

I’m not playing things up for this blog post.

So the conference is life-changing…but what about for non-attendees?

Or heck,

What about attendees that simply didn’t hear the conversations I heard?

The wisdom, strategies, and ideas deserve to be heard by all bloggers everywhere.

They need to be heard by bloggers.

Hence this post.

WARNING: Please realize this: Clickbait or NOT, the last takeaway is the most important. Read/listen to the end folks.

1 – Sell the transformation

For standard copywriting, you might hear “sell the benefits, not just features!”

As in, don’t sell “my product has X, Y, and Z features.”

Sell “my product has XYZ features that brings you this incredible end result.

Got it?

Now take it a step further…

“My product has XYZ feature that brings this incredible result and here’s the amazing type of person you’re going to be after you buy this product.

BUT PETE I don’t sell anything on my blog, dawg.

Ohhhhh yes you do.

You may not have info product launches or t-shirts, but you sell something.

You might sell an idea. Or an action. But you’re definitely selling some sort of change (i.e. transformation).

And Darren Rowse (keynote speaker at FinCon17) says you should focus more on selling the transformation.

In your copywriting, opt-in forms, homepage, email subject lines, blog post headlines, CTAs, sell the transformation.

Here’s a step-by-step formula, sorta:

  1. Identify the change you are trying to make in your readers.
  2. Define the person they’ll be once the change is complete.
  3. Sell them on that idea.

For example, I run Do You Even Blog (duh?).

The change I’m guiding people through is this: Society has pushed you down a certain path all your life. High school, college, good grades, graduate, full-time job, retirement.


This is not the correct path for many people. Maybe you.

I’m here to help you realize this point…then help you forge your own path in life, specifically by creating income in your blogs. That’s the change I’m seeking to make.

So who’s on the other side?

  • You, making a sustainable income from an impactful blog.
  • You, who have survived the first year or two of mediocre blog results, and persisted and drove through to the other side.
  • You, who also seeks to change people through your meaningful, transparent, impactful blog.

So… I need to sell you on that transformation, and I need to keep that transformation at the forefront of everything I produce on this blog.

Starting right now.

2 – Take your ‘avatar’ to the next level

We all have our avatars figured out, yes?

Yes? Wait…..no?

Ok, an avatar is a visual representation of your ideal target reader.

How old is your reader? How many kids? How much income? What’s their life like? What do they struggle with? etc.

Explicitly defined.

(My avatar is named Pat btw)

Got your avatar? Now let’s level up.

Define your relationship with your avatar.

In Darren’s keynote, he gave examples of different relationships you could have with your readers.

  • Are you the professor? One of teaches based on facts, data, maybe assigns homework? All-knowing and researching?
  • Are you the companion? One who is slightly ahead on the same path your readers are on? Slightly ahead so you can relay the lessons you just learned?
  • Are you the friend? Loyal and caring. One on the same level who shares everything, including wins, losses, emotion, etc.
  • Are you the innovative leader? Passionate, inspiring, motivating. One who paints a picture of a different future, and stop at nothing to get everywhere else there.
  • Are you the journalist? Researching, interviewing, fact-finding, opportunity seeking….and relayer of important information through outside sources? (Ding ding ding that’s me).

There are loads more, and you could have multiple personas for your avatar relationship.

I tend to be the companion, leader, and journalist personas above.

The important part is that you identify the relationship that your best at, and that will fit with your audience the best.

This might take a while, but it’ll be worth it. Level up your connection to your audience.

3 – Face and label rejection as a missed opportunity…for your rejectors.

I LOVE this story, though it may come off as egotistical or aggressive…

David Bach (the other huge keynote at FC17) has been on Oprah 6 times, written loads of NYT Best Sellers (Automatic MillionaireSmart Couples Finish Rich, etc)…and told this story:

Way back before those accomplishments, David couldn’t get his first book published.

He wrote dozens of publishers, none of whom were interested. He was stuck and frustrated.

But something he mentioned stuck with me…what he did with the physical rejection letters he received.

He put a large bowl on his kitchen counter and called it his “dumb fuckers bowl.” He placed each rejection letter in the bowl.

The point?

He was going to persist, win, get his book published, get on Oprah 49 times, and be huge. And the dumb publishers?

They’re going to wish they had said ‘yes.’

It may be a little grandiose and big-headed….but I’m ok with it. It’s not like he actually wrote back to the publishers screaming at them…this was just a little attitude trick for himself.

Face rejection like it is: a missed opportunity for the other person.

4 – Serving your audience might not look like what you thought it would look like.

Paula Pant (another keynoter) literally stood on stage and told us to ignore our audience.

In a way.

She asked us to question this act: a loyal reader of yours email you and asks you to write on a certain subject.

Let’s say…email list-building for beginners.

“Great! A reader suggested a content idea! This must be what my audience wants! I should definitely write this.”

Should you? Think about it…

  • The rest of your audience might not care as much, or need the content…
  • You’re letting another person run your blog?
  • Does that reader really know what’s best for them? (incoming controversy)
  • Is that topic what you’re really prepared to write on right now?
  • Is that topic directly related to the change you’re seeking to make?

The point is, serving your audience might not look like what you think it looks like.

Another example…blog ghost writers.

I met a rather large blogger at FinCon who stated he no longer writes his own blog posts…despite his name being attached to them.

Sketchy? In-authentic? Lame? Maybe…but his reasoning sold me…

Writing blog posts is not how he can best serve his audience right now.

Running the business, making sure content goes out at appropriate times to the appropriate channels, managing his team, and 1-on-1 interactions w/ followers is the best of use of his time. Not writing the blog posts.

Question for you then… How can you best serve your audience today? What does that look like?

pin me pin me! I like being pinned!

5 – Relationships are still more important than ever.

Do you want to have a long-term blog? Make long-term revenues? Quit the job, blah blah?

Perhaps the single best tactic for achieving this is to blog regularly and produce meaningful content.

Ok ok ok.

The second best tactic for achieving that is to build relationships with other bloggers.

PETE PETE I comment on 5 blogs every morning before breakfast.

Fantastic, but that’s a drop in the bucket.

Start building real friendships.

  • Reach out to bloggers and help them out. For free.
  • Give them honest, constructive feedback, asking nothing in return.
  • Give them thoughtful praise.
  • Interview them via Skype/phone, then promote them (works for me)
  • Attend in-person meet ups, like Nick Loper’s, or um…like FinCon 2018.

Only good can come of this. Fellow bloggers are going to be your biggest source of inspiration, critique, accountability, shares, and other unknown opportunities.

Grow your blog? Befriend bloggers.

6 – Stop fearing and being intimidated by bloggers bigger than yourself.

No joke, Wednesday at FinCon I spotted Darren Rowse walking around the expo hall at FinCon.

By himself.

On 3 different occasions.

This guy is half responsible for a million bloggers doing what they do, makes like 13 figures a year, reaches a staggering % of the Earth’s population every month, and is otherwise the keynote speaker at FinCon.

Why was he walking by himself? (Also, it wasn’t like he was walking somewhere for a purpose, he was meandering.)

Folks were intimidated and afraid. I know I was.

But this fear is incredibly stupid for the following reason:

Big-time bloggers are normal people too.

They experience the same emotions we do. The same struggles we do. The same imposter-syndrome we do (well maybe not David Bach).

So I pushed through the fear and went up to Darren the next time I saw him. And what was he like?

Delightfully human. Sincerely nice and down-to-earth guy.

So let’s be more fearless, yes?

On a conference expo hall, on Twitter, via Email. Big bloggers are human too. Do not be afraid or intimidated to walk up and say “Hello, and thank you.”

meeting Darren Rowse!

7 – We ALL suffer from imposter syndrome.

Saturday at FinCon, I needed a break.

I needed 10 minutes of introvert time (which means I really just wanted to sneak away to the sports bar in the hotel and watch the UGA game. Go Dawgs.)

So I did. I was 3.5 minutes into my football-watching when I felt a tug at my arm…

It was Rosemarie Groner!

A brilliant blogger who I look up to a TON asked me to come sit at her table for dinner. So I left the football game, sat with her, Heather, and Lee….and proceeded to have a life-changing conversation for the next two hours.

Like, seriously a once-in-a-lifetime conversation for me.

Rosemarie “bulldozed” me (i.e. gave me harsh, much-needed criticism for my podcast/blog)…which was difficult but glorious.

Her 2nd-best piece of advice? We all suffer from imposter syndrome.

So cut it out.

Stop worrying about not being good enough or not having all the answers. Nobody has all the answers. Not Rosemarie, not Darren, not Pat Flynn, not anyone.

Take comfort in that, and push through any doubts you might have about yourself, regardless of whether they apply or not.

No great work has ever come from you doubting yourself.

Well-founded doubts or not. Push through, do good work, and change people. We all have imposter syndrome.

8 – Find (and hold) your damn focus, and chase ROI.

Two steps here, the first of which is to hold on to your focus.

  1. What’s the overarching goal/purpose of your blog?
  2. Based on that, create a ‘direction’ from where your’e currently at….to that goal.
  3. For every action and decision, ask yourself, “Does this get me closer to my goal?”

Is this side-venture on the path to my goal? No? Losing focus.

Is this 2nd blog directlyon the path to my goal? No? Losing focus.

Take only those actions in the direction of your focus.

Step 2

During the one and only session I attended at FinCon (Rosemarie’s. Lol), I got a schooling in calculating ROI and how to apply it to blogging.

In short, ROI = those blogging tasks, marketing channels, products, or actions that contribute the MOST revenue as it relates to EXPENSES and TIME.

Basically, for every “step” that can be taken on the way to your goal…you must choose which step to take based on ROI.

For example… If my goal is maxing out email subscribers next month (ding ding ding. It is), and I have the following options to choose from, what should I choose?

  • Option 1 – Drive FB ads to high converting blog post
  • Option 2 – Manually reaching out to new people and on-boarding them to the email list
  • Option 3 – Spend extra time creating a juicy opt-in freebie, and related mega-post to launch it.
  • Option 4 – Running an amazing giveaway.

For each of these options, I should calculate (estimate really) ROI.

  1. How much revenue will this bring me?
  2. How much cash does it cost me?
  3. How much time does it cost me? (Hours x hourly rate)

Does this process sound like a pain in the butt? Good. It should.

It means your competition won’t put forth the effort to do it, leaving you an opportunity to capitalize on. There’s not better way to systematically grow a business.

Maintain focus, chase ROI.

Heather, Rosemarie, Me, and Lee (sorry for weird filter)

9 – 2018 is the year of authenticity and transparency.

Time for the grand finale.

This didn’t come from a keynote, or a conversation over beers at FinCon. This comes from me.

From my perspective of everyone producing content right now with the intention of growth and revenues.

The answer starts with the question: How can I set myself apart in 2018?

We asked the same question in 2011 by the way, though things were different.

2012-2017 too.

The answer to “How can I set myself apart” is constantly changing in the blog-o-sphere…and in 2018, the answer will be authenticity and transparency.

My non-expert opinion: When we look BACK on 2018 a year from now, I believe the blogs that grew the best will have done so through authenticity and transparency.

Boom. There’s your answer.

To wrap up, here’s some actionable ways to pursue this:

  • Be open in your stories. In your income reports. Share failures just as much, if not more, than wins.
  • Go deeper. Go beyond the surface level of your own life and experiences on your blog. Open up and share small details (which often turn out to be the big details, yes?)
  • Don’t fear emotion: 2018 will be the year of emotional headlines, so don’t be afraid to open up here (I’d also suggest using emotion in your social sharing copywriting.)
  • Don’t write anything you don’t 1,110% believe in.

Let’s explore that last one for a second.

This goes back to point 4 above from Paula…stop writing things for any reason besides to make the change you seek to make.

How can you best serve your audience right now? What do they need to read, even if they don’t want to, or don’t know it yet?

Produce that content.

Don’t push out content just for the latest digital marketing hack, or because that other blogger did that other post.

Push out your content. Make your change.

You may have noticed I skipped Rosemarie’s #1 piece of advice.

That information isn’t free.

It’s gonna cost you….your email. It’s called a content upgrade. A freebie. A grab at your email address.

(Hey, I told you email growth is my focus for November)


BONUS – the people I was most impressed with at FinCon.

Chris at Keep Thrifty (on the podcast here) essentially crushed networking last week. He seemed to be everywhere, in so many conversations. This blog is going places.

Ms. Montana is a lot smarter than we all think (and I’m pretty sure we think she’s smart anyways). Also a great networker (and super fun person), I got a small glimpse into some of the stuff she has coming up, as well as her blog mentees 🙂

John at ESI Money is the man. Energy, attitude, smarts, friendships with the OG blogging crew. John has a TON to offer in this blog-o-sphere, and I was super impressed with this story (which not incidentally will be featured on the podcast soon).

Nick Loper, duh He’s amazing. Follow him. (on the podcast here)

Rosemarie Groner, duh. She’s amazing. Follower her. (on the podcast here)

PT Money himself (on the podcast here). This dude is the real deal. He’s largely responsible for the incredible blogging and personal finance communities, and he runs a KILLER conference. Couldn’t be more impressed.

Mediavine. Yes, the ad company. Yes, I’m (mostly) against bloggers showing ads on their site. BUT, I did have a chance to meet with their team, and was super impressed with that they’re doing for bloggers and how they go about serving ads. I’m doing a podcast with one of the co-founders (Hi Amber!), as I think their message needs to be spread.

J Money.Meeting him in person was exactly what I expected. He’s entirely too much fun (and also responsible for this incredible community).

J Money (right) and “Jim Money” (i.e. Route to Retire dressing up as J)

Chris at Popcorn Finance. His short-form podcast has only been around for a few months, but it’s good. I really, really like Chris. He has a fantastic attitude, and is definitely going places with the podcast.

Jim at Route to Retire and Fritz at The Retirement Manifesto. I had heard of these guys, but read only a few posts on their blogs before. Turns out, they are some of the FUNNEST (screw grammar) guys to hang out with. Ever. They also might’ve changed an Uber driver’s life.

Just Fritz changing an Uber driver’s life.

Amy at Life Zemplified was kind of like glue, in a good way. I feel like she was always building up and holding together a crowd of bloggers. She has that welcoming spirit. She was a delight 🙂

Monica Louie (coming up on the podcast next actually!) has unbelievable moves on the dance floor, for one…and is otherwise a strong networker and connecter. She introduced me to several people. Oh, and she’s one of THE top growing names when it comes to Facebook ads. Period. She’s amazing.

Me, Adam at minafi.com, and Miss Thrifty all went out for coffee/donuts on Saturday morning. I already knew Adam (who is a brilliant blogger), but sincerely enjoyed getting to meet and engage with a top UK personal finance blogger, Miss Thrifty! Kudos to them for waking up early. It was super fun 🙂

My bud Lee at Bald Thoughts travel blog gave THE best ignite presentation. He absolutely killed on stage.

Pat Flynn. Though he was incredibly busy, I did get a chance to meet him briefly, then play basketball with him. I BLOCKED HIS SHOT. This is my current blogging claim to fame. Let it be known.

There were many, many more.

If you are one of the people I hung out with at FinCon17, you should know that I enjoyed your company. (unless you’re the one tall dude with black hair who always rubbed me the wrong way. But you’re not. That dude won’t make it to this blog post).

I cherish you. Thank you for helping make last week’s experience so amazing! And sorry if I left anyone out of the list above. Don’t feel bad. Those were just the “top of mind” folks. 🙂 🙂

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58 Responses

  1. Dude Pete…this article was incredible!

    I knew many bloggers were going to be doing wrap ups for Fincon 2017 but this was something special.

    So informative and transparent. I really felt like I was just having a conversation with you.

    BTW totally have to give you my email again for the content upgrade. Well done lol.

    Ps- Your a savage for blocking Pat Flynn. Next year we will have to get a big game of basketball going.

    1. It’s my only skill in basketball = being tall. Pat lacks that (nevermind the fact that he outscored me 10 to 1 probably and is *actually* twice as fast as me).

      He’s a baller.

      And thanks Kelan, I sincerely to appreciate it.

      Ps – How do I know this wasn’t Brittany?

      1. Hahaha that’s the question we always struggle with being a dual author blog. Next time I will put “- Kelan”. But since I called you a savage it’s probably fairly obvious.

        I am actually really excited now for a basketball game next year in FL.

  2. “That dude won’t make it to this blog post” – lol I think he did bro!

    This is a great post, I actually feel like I was there. If things keep going well, next year, I will be. Thanks for taking the time to put this together for those of us that couldn’t hit up FinCon.

    1. NB!

      Thanks will undoubtedly (sp?) keep going well, because you’re going to stick with it, yes? TOTALLY should go in Orlando next year. I’m tell ya. It’s worth it.

  3. Hmmm, maybe I’ll start “Do You Even Podcast”…

    I had a blast on our impromptu podcasting adventure! It was a pleasure to meet you 🙂

    1. I’m not joking either. Unless you have some prior experience we don’t know about…almost nobody could just take a mic and and start doing intros, asking good questions, and cut down on excess awkward pauses. It was crazy.

      It was awesome meeting you as well 🙂

  4. Such a great post! It was a great conference and there were so many people to chat with. People I never heard of, but are doing or about to do great things! It was my first time there. But I’m excited for what might come in the coming years. Oh, and Darren totally jacked a lot of my content. 😉 It’s ok. Common knowledge, right?

    1. Wait what?? What content did he jack? lol

      Send it to me? I’d be curious 🙂 Looking forward to see where your mini-retirement course goes

  5. Love it! I’m think you’re right on 2018 being the year of authenticity. I definitely left FinCon with plans to push further in that direction.

    Was great getting to meet you in person! And I second the vote of confidence on Mrs. AR’s interviewing skills from the little piece that I encountered.

  6. Pete,
    What a great post about Fincon17. Thanks for all that info and insight. You’ve worked hard since you came onto the scene with DYEB. I look for good things from you in 2018.
    Good luck!

  7. Pete, it was fantastic getting to know you some. Like you, I met many great folks (in fact, many of the same ones) and loved it. FinCon is a game-changer.

  8. Great post and podcast. It got me thinking about my avatar and I realized I didn’t really have one. When I tried to picture myself as a teacher or companion.. I couldn’t because my avatar doesn’t have the right face. Time to refocus and rebuild… Thanks for your help Pete.

  9. Fantastic post Pete. As the one blogger that missed this event, I appreciate you and everybody else giving us this feedback. So much to learn. Being anonymous may make it harder to be authentic but I think I may be able to pull it off.

    1. I do see that being a bit more difficult for anonymous folks, but I still think it’s worth aiming for.

      The best example I can think of is J Money, who is still incredibly open and authentic (the persona helps of course) 🙂

  10. This is so wonderfully written! The two big takeaways I got were about selling the transformation and Darren’s talk about an avatar. I’m familiar with creating an ideal reader profile but he put it into words that made it so much easier to approach and tackle.

    This was my 2nd time going to FinCon and it felt a lot better than the last. I’ve found my blogging voice and I made an effort to really get out and stop being so intimidated to approach bigger bloggers.

    I saw you at least a three dozen times while at the conference but I was always in a conversation or doing something. I should have said hi!

  11. Pete, you’re one cool guy! It was awesome to meet you and hang out… and of course, to help save a man’s life on an Uber ride!

    I agree 100% that turned out to be a life-changing experience for me as well. And for me, it wasn’t the sessions really, but it was just being around the people. Everyone wanted to be there, shared the same passion, and wanted to get to know each other personally. It was such a place of energy that I still haven’t gotten a chance to fully take it all in.

    Awesome post! Let’s have some good times in Orlando next year as well!

    — Jim

    1. 100% agree, as I only went to 1 session anyways. You were a PLEASURE to meet and hang out with Jim. Sincerely mean that.

  12. Pete, these are absolutely fantastic takeaways, I couldn’t be at FinCon yet I feel incredibly inspired reading this. BTW, how tall is Pat Flynn? I mean, he seems like he’s a hair over 5 feet in pictures, how hard could it be? Haha, I kid. Very cool indeed. : )

  13. Pete, this is an AMAZING post. I love every single takeaway. I didn’t get a chance to go to Fincon this year, but after a case of serious FOMO, I immediately signed up for next year! I particularly love your last takeaway about authenticity and transparency. For me, that’s been my #1 priority over any tactics (like Pinterest, etc.), and I think it’s really helped me grow my audience.

  14. Pete, thank you so much for the kind mention. I loved recording with you today, and I’m more than happy to answer yours or anyone’s questions about how we do things differently. The balance between user experience and income is possible!

  15. Great article, Pete! It can be super difficult to stay focused, not just on ROI, but the task at hand. What usually brings me back into focus is the following quote: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius. It helps me decide on a goal and figure out which obstacles I need to overcome to be successful.

    In regards to getting more email subs, have you thought about including an email signup box/link at the end of your posts or as part of the show notes?

    1. Oops! I used my wife’s gravatar there. Replying to make it easier to match the name with the face. -Andreaus

    2. I’m not a huge fan of non-descript opt-in boxes, but I usually do have content upgrades for most pieces of content.

      I probably should have SOMETHING though, yeah? Yeah. I should.


  16. The article is a real Gem! I am astound!!! I am going to read it as many times it takes to grasp every single advise that you shared, Pete.
    My biggest take away on first read :
    ‘stop writing things for any reason besides to make the change you seek to make’.

    Thanks a billion!!!

  17. Wow, nice list Pete! This definitely is one of those lists that takes a minute to read but a lifetime to implement. And goes beyond blogging. It’s really a manifesto for any business. I’m going to aim to come back and visit this again and again to refresh the mind. You don’t mind if I print it out and keep it on my project wall of reminders?

    Thank you for writing it,

  18. Hi Pete
    It’s my first time on your site, and I have to say – What an amazing post!
    I took away so much from your Fincon insights.
    I particularly want to hone in on #9. I refer to it as telling “H.I.T Stories” on my site i.e. Selling the transformation through Honesty, Integrity and Transparency.
    What I’ve noticed is that this builds trust like you’d never believe.
    The reason is because, we are dealing with other human beings and a big part of selling etc is really about using our non-physical characteristics.
    The other piece to throw in is that the above leads to building an Ethical brand.

    Thanks again for such a great post. I’ll share it on Twitter.
    Hoping to attend Fincon one day.

  19. Wonderful article, Pete! I`m finding some really good and practical tips on your blog as a newbie blogger, you are helping a lot with your experience!

  20. This is an awesome post. I really like it and enjoy. Actually, I am an affiliate marketer, your strategy helps me a lot. Thanks for sharing this with us. I like your strategy too much. I have a request, you can tell me more about email list building strategy. I hope you will reply.

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