6 Ways to Build Your Writing Conference Credentials!

Ready for Part 3 of how to pitch to teach at conferences: How to build your conference credentials! 💪 If you missed the first segment on why teaching at conferences is great for your career, make sure to read it!

Have you been thinking about what you want to teach at a writing conference? Keep the subject you’re interested in on your mind while going through the list of how to build your credentials. You want your work and effort to have the most impact.

And if you’re feeling daunted, hang in there! We’re making a plan ahead. When I first decided I would be teaching at a major conference in a year I had a few books that were struggling to sell, a blog I didn’t upkeep super well, and one panelist conference I was accepted to but hadn’t taught at yet. A year later, I had taught at over 7 conferences and landed the one I considered my ultimate goal!

If I can do it, you can too!

Images from all over the world and the text "Psst. It's your turn. Explore." Introduces the section on how to build conference credentials.

What Conference Credentials Do I Already Possess?

Before we get into building new credentials, take a look at the ones you may already have. What have you already accomplished that you could teach about? This could include:

  • blog posts on a certain subject
  • mini-classes or topics you’ve presented to a smaller writing group or class
  • proven results! (Did your newsletter increase from zero to 100? That counts! Did your sales increase? Do you get compliments on your covers? Has your productivity skyrocketed? All these things count!)
  • a social media following
  • past involvement with writing conferences (presenter, volunteer, member, even attending!)
  • any wins in writing contests

And so much more! Be creative. Where have you seen progress that makes you proud?

Put all your accomplishments in a list–we’ll use them later when applying! Now, let’s take a look at what could help you fill in the gaps. If you didn’t write anything down, no worries. This is the part where we start building up your resume. This is also the part that could take some time, depending on your goals and classes you want to teach.

"Share your vision" used to introduce the section on analyzing what credentials you already have.

How to Build Your Writing Conference Credentials:

To build your conference credentials, let’s take a look at the list above and start filling in where there are gaps!

1. Blog Posts

If you’ve never submitted a blog post, could you? You don’t have to start your own blog like I did, but having a few articles out (especially on what you want to teach) helps you look professional and knowledgeable. If you’re looking to put a blog post out in the world but don’t know where to start, find a good writing blog that you want to submit to and reach out! Vanilla Grass is always looking for awesome guest blog posts, too.

Even better, pitching to write a post on a certain topic is like a soft pitch to teach that class at a conference! Write an email to the owner of the blog (kyro@eightmoonspublishing if you’d like to post on VG) and include the topic you’d like to write a post about and when you could have it ready (or if it is already written). Even better, pitch a couple! The more available and flexible you appear, the better your odds.

2. Mini-Classes

Have your own personal writing group? Ask them to let you teach a small lesson on the topic you want to teach! Then, when you fill out your application, you can say you’ve taught your lesson before, or at least a part of it! Libraries and schools will sometimes let authors come teach as well. See what’s open to pitches and get practicing selling yourself and building your credentials!

An image of an old timey classroom to emphasize the importance of teaching mini writing classes.

3. Proven Results

This one is fantastic because it encompasses so much! Take a look at what you want to teach and ask yourself “What would impress me if I was taking this class?” If you’re teaching about newsletters, put in a concerted and focused effort to improve your open rate or grow your list over the next few months. If you want to teach on productivity, go back and get data from how productive you used to be, how productive you are now, and see if you can beat that too. This is where having an idea in mind can really help utilize time and effort wisely.

4. Social Media

This is optional depending on your goals but having one area where you’re growing a following can often be a big boost. I struggle with social media, personally, but have been able to grow my newsletter list, post lots of blog articles, and make tons of connections at conferences that have helped take the place of an Insta or TikTok following. Look at your strengths and find out what is reasonable for you. If you’re more of an in-person person like me, then go to more conferences and make connections! If you love BookTok, go to town. But don’t try to do it all. You’re a writer first and foremost. Pick the one that will help most with your teaching goals and build that one. One bridge at a time, friend.

An image of a phone with instagram, facebook, and twitter pulled up to emphasize the importance of social media in building writing conference credentials.

5. Writing Conferences

This one is tricky because the point of this is to teach at writing conferences, right? But there are other things you can do! Attending specialized conferences looks good on applications because it shows you’re invested in learning. Volunteering at conferences helps you meet important people who make teaching decisions and puts your name in their heads. It also shows you’re a team player. What could you do for some local conferences to be helpful and impactful?

Also, if you need to build some conference credentials, consider applying to smaller ones first. I realized that to prove myself to bigger conferences, I had to put in the work and prove myself on a smaller scale first. I applied for LTUE in Provo because they take panelists and are fairly big, increasing my chances. I applied for FyreCon which is a tiny online conference because they really needed presenters. Are they the most prestigious? No. But they are writing conferences that offer good value to the people who attend, and they’re awesome resume builders. Would you bring in a painter who has never painted a wall before? Show you can teach on a smaller scale to build your credentials for bigger cons!

6. Writing Contest Wins

Don’t have any yet? Enter! My goal last year was to teach at conferences and work my way to Storymakers. My goal this year is to submit to a contest of some sort once a month. You never know unless you try and these wins–though they may be little–can make a big difference. Going into submitting to conferences, I had some Beginning of Book wins from attending an American Night Writer’s Association conference and entering their contest! Guess what? That helped me get a spot teaching at the ANWA conference and build my resume!

Feel like a lot to you? Never won a contest before? Do the same thing we’re doing for bigger conferences and start with smaller contests. Even if it’s winning a smaller poetry contest at your local gardens, being able to add “award-winning” to your title is an effective way to build your credentials! Guess what, I did this one, too. And I love my poetry contest win. It’s smaller, yes, but just as effective to say I won a legit poetry contest and had my poem posted in a garden! Don’t discount any contest. Enter and enter and get feedback and enter more and you’ll win eventually. I promise.

Rows of trophies to emphasize the importance of submitting to contests over and over because eventually, you'll win.

Building Conference Credentials Conclusion

I hope you’re feeling inspired to start building your credentials! With focused effort and a goal in mind, you’ll have a bulky and impressive resume in no time!

Did I miss some ways to start building your credentials? Let me know so I can add them to the list! Now, get building your credentials!

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