Haven Recap (Part 2) Class Cliff Notes

As promised, Part 2 of my Haven blog conference recap focuses on the Cliff notes I took during the classes I attended.  You can read Part 1 here.  Before I dive into the class notes though, I wanted to share my own insights about developing relationships inside the blogging community, especially when you’re at a blog conference.  If you’re not a blogger, the advice below could also apply to networking in your career.
When you attend a blog conference, like Haven, you obviously want to make as many connections as possible because that’s where most of your opportunity for growth as a blogger comes from.  Make sure to mingle with as many people as possible and don’t stay in your comfort zone, only chatting with people you already know.  Be open to meeting everyone you come in contact with.  Stuck in the same elevator or in the lunch line together?  Introduce yourself and say hi!  A couple super easy conversation starters begin with simple questions:  Where are you from?  How long have you been blogging?  What class(es) are you attending?  Most people are there to meet other people too, so they will welcome you starting the conversation.  

Open yourself up to meeting blog authors with different size influences.  Don’t be afraid to approach someone just because their blog might be more visible than yours.  The “smaller” blogs will become the “bigger” blogs in time!  Keep in mind that everyone at a blog conference is just a person who loves blogging.  If you happen upon someone who acts distant or cold, it may just be their own nerves.  But, it’s easy enough to just move on if you’re not connecting. 

I was intimidated at my first blog conference to meet the women who I looked up to as mentor bloggers like Centsational Girl and Thrifty Decor Chick.  They both couldn’t have been more gracious as I approached and got to tell them how much their blogs inspired me to start my own.  I introduced myself, looked them in the eye and offered my sincere words of thanks.  Our first in-person conversations were only a couple minutes long.  That’s okay! At Haven this year, I got to chat with Sarah many times and she felt like a familiar, old friend.  If you continue in the blogging world for a consistent amount of time, you’ll probably have the opportunity to meet up with many bloggers repeatedly, and the more contact you have, the more “natural” it feels to interact each time you see each other in person.  Three and a half years ago, the Haven ladies had no idea of who I was, and last year I was honored to be invited to speak at their conference.

If you have ambitions to grow your blog or work with other bloggers, simply be genuine and kind, continue to build your own great blog content, share it on your social network outlets and with other bloggers, and make yourself visible to bloggers by thoughtfully commenting on their blog posts, Facebook pages, and Instagrams.  

Over time, some of the bloggers you once admired from afar can turn into your best girlfriends!


Haven offered classes on everything from woodworking to working with brands.   I went to four classes: Blogging Trade Secrets: What We Wish We Knew When, How to Achieve High-End DIY, Photography Styling: Creating Beautiful Shots, and Let’s Make a Book Deal (eBook Writing).  The classes were super informative and I took notes on my phone.
This energetic crew Finding Home, DIY on the Cheap, All Things G&D, and Balancing Beauty and Bedlam led a great session packing about 4 hours of content into 1 1/2 hours.  

Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

Comparison is the thief of joy.  Let’s make sure our blogging experience is an enjoyable one.

Brainstorm what makes you unique.

Define what your brand is. 
Make a list of who you are and who you are not.  
You and your content are the product being offered.
Know why readers visit and should return to your blog. 
Find your top 25 posts and see what is resonating with your readers. 

Prepare a Media kit to share with brands and sponsors. The Media Kit can outline your target audience; services offered; testimonials, rates/pricing; popular post examples; SEO and keywords.   

Approach brands and sponsors instead of waiting for them to come to you.  For which brands to approach, think about:
-what you already love or need?
-what brands are following you on social media?
-who do you have relationships with already?
-use twitter to start a chat with brands, then email the proper individual.

Ask “what’s your budget?” if you aren’t comfortable stating your rate.

Sidebar ads: Google Adsense, Burse Media, Federated Media, Mode Media/Glam, BlogHer, Sovrn, Technorati
Google Adsense – set up channels and DFP to manage ads 
Ad Networks: Clever Girls Collective, The Blueprint Social, Pollinate Media, Weave Media, IZEA, The SITS Girls/Massive Sway, Linqia, Social Fabric/Collective Bias, Martha’s Circle, BlogHer, Mode Media/Glam
Affiliate links- eBay, commission junction, shopsense 
Increasing Blog Traffic:  Submit content to feature sites (Apartment Therapy, DesignSponge, CraftGawker, DwellingGawker, Hometalk, Roadkill Rescue, Looksi Square, Crat Gossip, Knock Off Decor, 30 Minute Crafts, Craft Quickies, Daily Do It Yourself.
Participate in link parties, guest post, network with other bloggers.

You don’t have to have a big blog with huge pageviews to earn money blogging.  A smaller, well-engaged audience is better than a big blog with less engagement. 

Become an influence in your town, create income away from your blog, share your skills, find speaking opportunities, pitch local news stations, speak to MOPS groups, make a you tube video so your readers are familiar with your voice. 

Start a Facebook chat with other bloggers (pick a topic to discuss) and invite readers to participate.  

Start a local city bloggers group.

Just start. 


Interior designers/bloggers 6th Street Design SchoolA Thoughtful Place, and Danielle Oakey Interiors taught this class and their combined talent is inspiring.  Definitely check out their work on their blogs when you have time.   

Deconstruct high-end looks from high-end retailers.  See their websites, catalogs, and magazine layouts for looks to recreate.
Affix a shower curtain on a large piece of wood for inexpensive, dramatic art.
Embroidery makes everything look more expensive.
Marble contact paper can transform a small space.  Purchase it online and possibly share with a friend (split the cost) because it comes in a large roll. 
Framed fabric makes instant art.
Details make the space.
Professional photography makes any room look better.  
Trade services for things you can’t afford.

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Simple projects can go viral. For example the leaf garland on 6th Street Design School.

Anything gold or glitter looks great online. 

Use foam board for a simple background for a project.  
Buy one pillow and make it into two by putting plain fabric on the reverse side.   
Invest in a mat cutter for framing your own photographs.
See Daniel Oakey’s blog for a tutorial on how to create an abstract painting. 
Color splashes in a neutral room look great.
Fun painted baskets and global elements are trending right now. 

Spread the love, feature other bloggers.
Get started, do what you love, go outside, spend time with your family, and don’t overthink blogging. 

On Instagram, tag your own High-End DIY Projects #highenddiy 



There was audible gasping from the audience when Craftberry Bush and The Hunted Interior shared their gorgeous photography.  Getting to hear how they approach styling and photographing a space or vignette was eye-opening.
How things look in real life, especially living spaces, don’t always make the best photograph.
Move things around so that the shot looks natural, even if in person, it looks weird.  For example, in one of Kirstin’s dining room photos, the dining table is pushed through the french doors (but you can’t tell it in the picture).
Take your time to attempt a good shot.  Play around, have fun. 

Using the grid in your camera or mind’s eye, move things to center, off center, left or right.

Move things in your home around- they don’t have to live in only one place.

Utilize an accessory closet for staging your shots.

Make your photos approachable, humanize the experience.  I.E. shoes laying casually by the sofa, food partly eaten.

Photoshop elements has everything you need to edit your photos and is much less expensive than Photoshop.

Actions – Kristen uses Mullet God’s actions and 
contrast without color shift.

Take photos that appear a bit over and under- exposed on the camera screen because sometimes they look different on the computer. 

When styling a vignette, thing about the subject, story, tone, and mood.

Have props on hand to help set the stage, tell the story.

Plywood can make a beautiful, natural background.

Thank about the composition of a photograph.

Use layers and pattern, but edit if the shot gets too cluttered or busy.

PicMonkey (free online photo editing site) is great for editing photos.  Use the Dodge tool to remove shadows and the burn tool to darken areas, great for flowers.

For most blogs, 650×900 is a good photo size.

Use a tripod and timer to take photos. 

Good photo apps: Afterlight, VSOcam, A Beautiful Mess, Snapseed


The ebook Writing Class was taught by published authors The Handmade Home, Jen Rizzo, and Shabby Creek Cottage.  It was really eye-opening to hear how much behind-the-scenes things are happening when your book is being published and how little money you actually make after all the costs are computed.
Cliff Notes
Develop your blog content and grow your brand.
Think forward about brand recognition.
What are you offering your readers? 
Each post is a part of your portfolio.
Focus on writing and your voice.
You will not “get rich” with a book deal.  In fact, you may not make much money at all.
You will make more money self-publishing, but you need the skills to do so, i.e. graphic design. 
There are hidden costs in self-publishing, for example photography, publishing programs, travel time, supplies used in creating the book content.  Jen spent $2300 just in crafting supplies to do each project in her book.
Ejunkie can help you sell your book.
You can use affiliate links to help promote and sell your book. 

Working with publishers – find out where they will sell your book, ask for books they’ve already published, contact editors. 

Be good to people.  Editors move around often and you will run into them over the course of your career. 


This conference wouldn’t even have happened if it weren’t for Chris, Sarah, Beth, Rhoda, and Traci.  Thank you so much for hosting a first class event, providing knowledgeable speakers, and bringing us girls together!  I had a great time and everyone else I talked to did too.  Now go get some must-needed rest! 
For more blog tips, you can visit my BLOG Pinterest board.


  1. July 15, 2014 / 1:00 pm

    This was amazingly helpful! Thanks for sharing and helping me cheat with the Cliff Notes! I hope to go to Haven someday, and hopefully meet some of my favorite bloggers (you!) as well 😉 ~ Kim

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:22 pm

      So glad this helped! I'd love to meet you too Kim!

  2. July 15, 2014 / 1:17 pm

    Thank you so much for taking all the time to post this! I have been writing my blog, Old House to New Home, for about six months and I am trying to improve and grow it everyday. I loved all of these tips and hope someday I will have a big enough blog to go to a conference!

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:23 pm

      Congrats on your new blog! You don't need a "big" blog to go to a conference. I think I went to my first conference when my blog was about 6 months old too. 😉

  3. July 15, 2014 / 2:19 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your notes. I am a beginning blogger and truly appreciate your knowledge of blogging.

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:23 pm

      Good! I've never written any posts on blogging, but these classes were so good I had to share!

  4. July 15, 2014 / 2:34 pm

    This is great Megan! I'm booking marking it and going to really study it! So many great tips I feel like I was there!! Love your blog!! Best~Kathy@The Daily Nest

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:24 pm

      I'll be re-reading it too! Love hearing you like my blog Kathy!

  5. July 15, 2014 / 3:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing what you learned Megan! Hoping to make it next year.

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:24 pm

      That was the biggest bummer, that I didn't get to meet you this year Lauren. 🙁

  6. July 15, 2014 / 4:23 pm

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing so much of what you learned. I seriously need to get my booty in gear and get to this conference next year.

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:25 pm

      Yes! I came back all energized to put more effort into my blog and blog content.

  7. July 15, 2014 / 4:25 pm

    This was super helpful Megan! Thank you for taking the time to do these recaps for us.

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:25 pm

      No prob! 😉

  8. July 15, 2014 / 4:32 pm

    Thank you so much for the cliff notes! I was actually sitting right beside you during the blogging trade secrets, but was too shy to say hi. i'm not a shy person, but i just didn't want to bother you! haha, i know, i know! silly huh?! Thanks again for the notes and your recap 🙂

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:28 pm

      I understand, but now I'm wishing we introduced ourselves to each other! Next time! Did I miss anything from that class?? I tried to get it all, but there was so much info.

  9. July 15, 2014 / 5:51 pm

    Megan! Thank you so much for sharing all of this great info with us! I was hoping to make it this year, but I think next year I'm going to do it! I'm normally so "behind the scenes" and reserved that I would totally feel out of place at a conference like this, but your tips and advice make me feel like I can attend and not feel too out of place. Thank you!!!

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:27 pm

      We'll have to look for each other next year Samantha!

  10. July 15, 2014 / 6:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing, great suggestions!!!

  11. July 15, 2014 / 10:33 pm

    I'm loving these recaps of yours! I am super sad I couldn't make it to Haven this year (silly newborns!), this recap makes me feel like I was there 😛 Love the cliff notes too. I can't wait for next year to meet you and all these other inspiring ladies!

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:28 pm

      Baby fever!! Next year for sure!

  12. July 16, 2014 / 6:07 am

    Loved this! Thank you for sharing what you learned at the conference! Love all the pics and your advice for what to expect and what you should do!

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:29 pm

      So glad this was helpful Jessica!

  13. July 16, 2014 / 7:29 am

    Love your Cliff notes! I am pinning this! Now I can even benefit from the classes I missed at Haven. Thanks for sharing!!

  14. Chic Coastal Living
    July 17, 2014 / 3:11 am

    Great tips sweetie! Love everything! I'll need to go next year if you go! We should plan on it! XOXO

    • July 17, 2014 / 3:29 pm

      I'd love to see you again Desiree!

  15. July 23, 2014 / 12:59 am

    Great Recap of Haven! I started blogging in February and attended my first conference (Haven) this year. I agree about mingling. I found it a little difficult just because of the way things were maybe set up, but I met some wonderful ladies with awesome ideas. Would love to meet you… NEXT TIME!! ~Emily @ 11gables.blogspot.com

  16. jojo
    July 16, 2022 / 6:22 am


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