“I can’t afford to go to a writers conference.”
I hear this writer’s lament a lot. And there were years I stared down that seemingly insurmountable CAN’T, all the while longing to go to a conference and learn, network, and yes, have fun.
Harsh Reality: A writers conference is nowhere in your budget.
Writer Reality: You can’t afford not to go to a writers conference.
So how do you get past the first reality, conquer the financial obstacle, and get registered for your first writers conference? Here are some things that worked for me:
1. Start local. Yes, we all want to go to the big national conferences: ACFW, Mount Hermon, and any – okay, all of the MBT retreats. But when you add airfare and hotel on top of conference registration, your budget collapses. Hop on Google and search for writers conferences in your town or one-day conferences within a day’s drive.
2. Save up. One of the first conferences I attended had an arrangement where they charged a certain (reasonable) amount of the registration on my credit card for twelve months leading up to the conference. By the time the conference rolled around, it was paid for. Set up your own conference savings account and put a set amount aside each month for conference registration. What’s that you say? It might take you two years to save up for the Deep Thinkers or ACFW? Okay then. Get started now.
3. Buddy up. If you’re traveling out of town to a conference, there’s no need to get a hotel room all by yourself. I take that back – some people do prefer to sleep alone. But, if you can, share a hotel and split the costs two, three, even four ways. If the conference is within driving distance, see if anyone else wants to ride with you and share the cost of gasoline.
4. Book early. Don’t wait until the last minute to book your plane flight or your hotel room. The closer you get to your departure date, the pricier your plane ticket. And hotels fill up fast, especially when the conference offers a discounted rate for attendees. You can, of course, choose to stay at a less-expensive hotel close to the one where the conference is being held – but make those reservations early too.
5. Avoid extras. Yes, early bird sessions and after-conference sessions with big-name speakers are nice. But these are optional – not mandatory. Bookstores with all your favorite authors’ books – and the chance to have those books signed! – is another temptation, as are auctions to raise money for worthy causes. Think ahead: Is this in your budget or not? If you do go to the bookstore, know how much you’re going to spend. Pay cash if that’s the only way you won’t go over your limit.
What about you? How have you budgeted for a writers conference?