Oct. 27--Nobody wore pajamas, and only at FinCon might that be worth mentioning.
FinCon is a convention of personal finance bloggers. Hundreds of them convened a week ago at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch.
Financial bloggers need never feel sunlight. It's a clothing-optional occupation, where people work alone from home, banging at their computers.
Out onto the Internet goes advice on buying cars, handling insurance, cutting expenses, picking credit cards and, in one case, the recipe for cheesy broccoli potato soup.
At the Hyatt, they dressed for the occasion -- lots of blue jeans and T-shirts, no PJs. This is a business of twenty- and thirty-somethings, many of whom see in blogging their hope for a personal escape from the rat race.
Blog well and you can draw a crowd to your site, and with it comes advertising, commissions from insurance companies and the like, a chance to sell your book or your T-shirts to an online fan base.
In other words -- freedom and independence.
Jesse Michelson, 26, is trying for that. He started out in Kanab, Utah, a one-stoplight town known as the backdrop to old cowboy movies. As a teen, he found himself one of the few guys around who knew how to fix computers, so he started a part-time business at age 18.
By his 20s, he had joined the 9-to-5 world as a computer tech. "I worked for a trucking company and I had to crawl under people's desks to fix their computers. I smelled oil everywhere. But the company required everybody wear a suit to work. I was wearing a suit -- a freaking suit to work."
Michelson started his own business again, helping bloggers and others with technical problems. From that was born antinecktie.com -- a blog that he hopes to fill with ideas for people starting businesses, although his main post currently deals with his one-year struggle to find himself as an entrepreneur.
Some get to blogging through distress. Erin Shanendoah Baker of Seattle started after her husband lost a job, leaving them to support their daughter on Erin's income alone.
"We had to go on a very strict budget and set rules for ourselves," she said. "But when we got to the point where we could live on my income, it was a huge relief."
Out of that was born the "Dog Ate My Wallet" blog about ways to live cheap and budget.
On the other end of the age scale is Kathie Sutin, who has been around St. Louis for decades as a journalist, PR person and freelance writer. She's now running St. Louis On the Cheap, part of a national alliance of city websites dedicated to finding stuff free and cheap.
Recent posts on her blog highlighted Fitness Fridays at the Magic House, a free keeper talk at the World Bird Sanctuary, and a free author lecture at the History Museum.
The crowd at FinCon doesn't care to impress Wall Street. Few try to copy the Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha or other investing blogs.
They're more likely point out a cheap deal on chicken at the grocery store than a cheap stock. PTMoney.com, one of the more successful efforts, features "Ten hardcore tattoos to express your financial self" and "Ten shockingly stupid money-saving moments," including "living without toilet paper."
The blog also features more serious posts on the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, college savings plans and other important topics.
The writing tends to the down-home and first-person. A lot read like letters from a friend.
"Greetings from Aruba, the 30th country on my world travels," writes Paula Pan, 30, on her AffordAnything.com blog. It's advice on how to make enough money to live a world-wandering life.
"I landed yesterday, touching down into a colorful airport with live band jamming next to the baggage carousel.
"Ma'am, are you bringing any alcohol into the country?," a customs agent asked me.
"No, sir," I replied.
He scoffed. "You're no fun."
Philip Taylor, who runs PT Money was a certified public accountant who took to blogging as a natural sideline. A CPA gives lots of personal finance advice to clients. By 2010, the blog was going so well that he took to it full-time. "I work from home, set my own schedule. There's a lot of free time with my kid that I've enjoyed," said Taylor.
That's the holy grail for people at FinCon, and much of the convention was about how to make money blogging. They sign up to carry advertising through programs such as Google's Adsense. Some write e-books or offer e-courses, then sell them on their blog. There are "sponsored posts" -- a company pays to post its comment on the blog.
Honest bloggers identify these. PTMoney's home page, for instance, has a post titled "Three Reasons Every Traveler Needs a MasterCard." It is marked in gray type as a sponsored spot.
Then there is affiliate marketing. Mention a company and add a link to its website. If the reader clicks and buys something, the blogger gets a commission.
Of course, that sets up a conflict of interest. Did the blogger mention the company because it offers a good product, or to land that commission?
That depends on the honesty of the blogger. "The companies you talk about are the ones you're comfortable working with," Taylor said.
To make all that work, a blogger has to draw viewers. That turns personal finance bloggers into a network of mutual backscratchers. They post and add comments to each others' blogs, hoping readers of one blog will click over to the other. They are constant twitterers and use Facebook to draw attention.
Those who pull it off get to work in their pajamas.