Airplane Thoughts: A Quick Review of #FinCon17

It’s bittersweet to leave FinCon 17 to return to “real life” back home.

Then again, my “real life” with Tiller Money is all about the principles we talked about at FinCon: money matters because life matters more.

Over the past few days, I met hundreds of people from around the world. I met entrepreneurs and executives from leading banks and media companies. I met dozens of incredible writers at all stages of their careers. I met internet celebrities and celebrity-celebrities. (Not that there’s really a difference anymore.)

I noticed all these amazing, diverse people have four traits in common:

  • They are massively driven.
  • They are self-motivated.
  • They are independence-minded, building a life on their terms.
  • And, despite the point above, they are incredibly collaborative and open to sharing tips and workflows that have worked for them.

Four Insights About FinCon17

1 – The Audience for Personal Finance and Money Media is Vast. The Creators Working in This Space Are Surprisingly Open and Generous.

At FinCon 17, I met people on the rise, and people who had risen to the top of their respective fields. All were excited to share what they had learned and were learning along the way.

I was surprised everyone was eager to share their winning ideas and strategies. “Weren’t they worried about competition?” I wondered. I soon realized two things:

  • The audience for financial media is vast, global, and highly diverse. There are tens of thousands of valuable and important niches here. And with AI, cryptocurrency, and changes of law, economy, and government, new niches emerge weekly. So many people at FinCon aren’t really competing for the same audience.
  • FinCon attendees have built a real community over the years. People know each other here by name and are rooting for mutual success.

2 – When It Comes to Building a Digital Platform, Expert Advice Seems Split Into Seemingly Opposed Camps:

  1. Follow your bliss by crafting media exclusively connected to your personal passion. Don’t try and “serve your audience” as that will water down your message and turn self-expression into a chore. This was exemplified by Paula Pant’s keynote talk.

  2. Or learn about your audience and craft media that speaks to them and their needs. This was exemplified by Darren Rouse of ProBlogger’s keynote. While he also reminded the audience to follow their passion, he also strongly recommended building a platform informed by audience insights, analytics, and avatars (marketing personas) to deliberately create media for them.

(Side note – My thought about this topic: define and create media about what excites you – what you’re a nerd about. Then, find your fellow travelers and investigate what they want to learn, understand, and celebrate. Use those insights to inform your growth strategy.)

3 – Lots of People Feel the Tension Between Developing a Side Hustle vs Growing a Full-Time Gig

Author and podcaster Chris Guillebeau gave one of my favorite keynote presentations based on his new book “Side Hustle.” He offered inspiring and expert advice on this topic. (“If you find money under a rock, take it.”)

While his keynote was a distillation of insights about successful side-hustles, I noticed many FinCon attendees were hoping to turn their side-hustles of financial blogging, software development, and money coaching into their primary, full-time job. They wanted their side hustle to become their solo hustle.

At dinner the night before Chris’s keynote, the Tiller crew had a lively discussion about how most of us have mothballed our side-hustles to fully focus on growing Tiller. And we talked about the success and peace of mind that comes from ruthless focus.

Our takeaway from FinCon: side-hustles are valuable, educational, fun, and often necessary. But they also have a time and place. That said, I bought Chris’ book for my Kindle. I plan on digging in after I post this article.

4 – I Have Deeper Understanding and New Insights About Our Brand

By talking to so many people about Tiller, I gained useful new insights about our brand. For example, while there’s a vast tribe of proud spreadsheet fanatics, many people are almost bashful that they “still use spreadsheets” instead of “something more powerful.”

Going home, it’s my job to remind those folks that they should take pride in their mastery of spreadsheets, a timeless and powerful tool.  

Also, answering hundreds of questions in person about Tiller helped me better understand people’s needs. It also helped me sharpen messaging about our service. And it also revealed new ways our team can improve it. 

What I Hope For at FinCon 18

  • I would love to see more talks and conversations about cryptocurrency and blockchain tech. It’s going to disrupt this industry.

  • Likewise, automation and AI are quickly moving the finance industry to a tipping point where human coaches and advisors will have vastly different roles than now. It would be great to see more conversations on that topic.   

  • More discussion around specific marketing tools and workflows. (I know can be tricky with sponsorships.)

See you in Orlando!

Edward Shepard | Marketing Lead |