When I first joined the Facebook group Homeschool Blogger Network in the summer of 2017, I didn’t know much about the owner or its members. It was just another homeschool blogging group. Or, so I thought. Little did I know that one simple click to join would lead me to the first Blogging at the Beach Retreat with Heather Bowen!
Before this time, I had just wrapped up a fairly long Technical Assistant job for a profitable wellness company. And, I decided to change my client niche to homeschoolers. At the core, I was a homeschooler — it just made sense to hang out with others who understood the hills and valleys of homeschooling. During this transition, I accepted a job teaching Chinese students online while writing for a homeschool blog. This set the stage for ramping up additional virtual assistant skill sets.
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HOMESCHOOL BLOGGING GROUPS
Immediately, I noticed a huge difference in this particular homeschool group, Homeschool Blogger Network. Everyone was so encouraging, respectful and uplifting towards one another. I didn’t catch any controversy or adversity in this group, along with a few other impressive homeschool groups. It was enough for me to confirm it was the right decision to specialize in a homeschooling niche.
I had just started blogging again along with setting up an email provider when an intriguing Facebook post came across my screen. A Christian blogging group advertised Heather’s Email list blogging course. I wasn’t thrilled with my current email service and wanted to learn more. I jumped on Facebook to watch the recorded video. As Heather wrapped up the video with an additional discount offer, this frugal girl had to sign up! It was my first investment in blogging!
After learning how to build my list and go from a measly 5 subscribers to over 2K subscribers using Heather’s course, I felt more prepared and on a roll! At this point, I realized being a blogger could be what God wanted me to pursue. So, I decided to virtual assist other homeschool bloggers while blogging on my own site at the same time.
I was so impressed with what I learned in Heather’s email course, I got involved in many other opportunities she offered. Then, when she advertised her first Blogging at the Beach Retreat, I gave it serious thought. I loved the beach and my parents lived close to the retreat’s location. Initially, I did have a conflict with my schedule but that changed right before a spot opened up. I took it as a sign it was time to start planning a trip to the south!
BLOGGING AT THE BEACH RETREAT WITH HEATHER BOWEN
When I first arrived, Heather’s first priority was making sure everyone got there safely. We chatted awhile and had a fascinating conversation about her trials and triumphs. When the last ‘lady blogger’ arrived, we immediately ran off to dinner at an Italian restaurant.
I was so blessed to be a part of this special group. Heather spoiled us with a gift bag of goodies (see picture below). Danielle blessed us with a book written by her 14-year old daughter…wow! Deana surprised the ladies with a thoughtful garden theme of gifts. Gwen was my comforter when I “lost” my camera and my vivacious friend as we froze together trying to take pictures at the beach. Lovely ladies with servant’s hearts! By the way, you can check out Gwen’s take on our retreat by clicking here.
WORK SMARTER NOT HARDER
The first day was such a pleasant and relaxing Friday — I was relieved that work was not scheduled that night. We just focused on getting to know each other. On Saturday, after filling ourselves with yummy pastured eggs, muffins, and homemade toast, we set sail for a blogging retreat session we would not forget anytime soon. Heather started with prayer and explained why Jesus was the beginning of her day. That, my friend, is my kind of girl I want to hang around.
The first hour we talked about content creation and in just a few minutes, I was inspired enough to write 20 titles from 5 of my top posts. Score! Most of us bloggers tend to lose concentration on our priorities. Dings from our smartphones and devices are always sucking the productivity out of us. If we were more intentional with our schedule, we’d have so much more done! Plus, extra time with the family! It was an eye-opener for me.
Heather scheduled a time slot for each blogger to get on the “hot seat”. Every one of us took a half hour to ask any question on blogging — whether it was critiquing your website or tips on how to create a media kit. Honestly, the entire retreat was like having a FREE private coach for 48 hours! So, the hot seat was really just a formality, in my humble opinion. And, no, it wasn’t intimidating at all. In fact, it was fun and enlightening. In case you are wondering — yep. I’m an introvert.
We also discussed our social media plans (or lack of!) as she shared her best strategies. The Time Management session was very informative — my favorite tips were setting strict office hours and assigning specific tasks on certain days (ie Write Posts on Monday, Create Images on Tuesdays etc).
As she shared her greatest tips on plugins and schedulers, many of the bloggers were intrigued about SmarterQueue. I had signed up through Heather’s link about a month ago so I was aware of its success in managing your social media. However, most of the ladies were not aware of its powerful productivity features. SmarterQueue claims to reduce 5 hours of your work week — it lives up to that statement!
What’s awesome about SmarterQueue is there’s no commitment, no credit card required. They offer you a trial period of 30 days — however, I received an extra 30 days! Woo Hoo — that’s 60 days! Plus, the clock doesn’t start ticking until you set up your queue! How cool is that! And, to keep you motivated and updated, every day there’s an email waiting in your inbox with tips on how to efficiently set up your queue. For $16/month, you can’t beat it! If you’d like to check out more about SmarterQueue, I would love it if you would use my referral link here.
Heather also had some great tips on goal setting. She informed us that she had ‘God’ goals (too big for her to achieve) along with small and medium goals and they should be measurable. In other words, we should create SMART Goals.
Our last and my most difficult subject, Product Creation, gave us a ton of ideas on how we can streamline and create amazing products for our subscribers’ niche. I took back pages of notes that I’m still implementing into my schedule.
As Saturday night rolled around and it was time to wind down, we chatted at dinner and enjoyed some delicious Chinese food. Afterward, we drove home and were blessed to watch the movie Like Arrows, thanks to Danielle’s daughter Elleina Papageorgiou being part of the cast! It’s in select theatres May 1st and May 3rd. Check it out on Facebook for more information. You don’t want to miss such a fantastic movie! It’s a tear jerker and a wonderful reminder for those who are discouraged about their path in life. It’s never too late to make changes in your life that have an eternal impact.
I don’t want to forget discussing my new lady blogger friends! Each one of them contributed fantastic ideas as well! Speaking of my these amazing women, I believe we have developed friendships that will last a lifetime. We all bring unique characteristics to the blogging table — I appreciate this intentional weekend we shared together as Christians, friends and of course — as bloggers. My first Blogging at the Beach experience was fantastic, and I highly recommend it!
Wrapping up, here is what surprised me the most about Heather. I thought she would hold back and keep her best secrets to herself. Instead, she dropped names and her strategies without hesitation or refrain. It is true what she claims — she does want us to succeed. That is what makes her so special. There is no doubt in my mind after spending time with her at this retreat. And, she wants YOU to succeed too! Hope to see you this fall at the next retreat — I suspect it’s going to be even better! Until next time my friends…
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