a freelancer’s holiday: 5 ways to make the most of your “stay-cation”
August 19, 2009
Well, we’ve reached That Two Weeks: the ones that end in the big Bank Holiday blow-out, when everyone who’s anyone is lounging on a beach. Or eating civilised al fresco meals with their entire extended family in a gîte, or in a house in Dorset that’s been in the family for decades. Or sitting in a caravan on the North Sea coast wondering where it all went wrong.
I can tell we are in the Dead Zone, because my reader stats just plummeted. It happened on Saturday, as if my audience had just fallen off a cliff. (Guys: don’t park too close to the cliff, okay? Thanks.)
But it’s not quite everyone. Who’s anyone. Some of us are savouring (another) August at our desks. We’re on something even worse more fun than a busman’s holiday: we’re on stay-cation.
I have happy memories of, for example, editing documents on my stomach (in longhand, not on a laptop) on a beach in Wales while my then toddlers gambolled with their dad. I have done that thing where you go away for a week and then spend every other day trying to find a place with wifi. And I know that, when I was in-house and commissioning freelancers, some of them have done these things for me.
But this year I’m having none of it. And for the next two weeks no one can make anything happen, no matter how urgent it feels. If you’re at home, no one is answering your emails. If you’re in the office, you can’t action the things you had to do before September 1st, because there is no one in to approve them. Basically, nothing is that urgent.
So I’m putting these two weeks to good use, Staycation-wise. When the rest of you lot come limping back into town with ice cream stains all over your best T shirts, I’ll be up and running. We’ll see who’s an ant and who’s a grasshopper then!
The Text Pixel Guide to the Perfect Staycation
Essentially, the secret is to act like you are on holiday. The fact that you are in town is a mere detail. Wear flip flops to work. Carry a bottle of sodapop around with you. Forget to take off your sunglasses indoors. Drink wine (or beer; but probably not cocktails) at lunchtime (though not if you’re likely to actually get fired for it). Flirt with someone. Be playful in your work. In short: work as if you were on holiday.
1. POSTCARDS Sort your in-box. This, if nothing else, reminds you who you know – and, because it’s your in-box, of who knows (or wants to know) you. File those emails nicely away, and while you’re at it, why not drop those nice people a line? They’ll find it when they come back from Crete. Now go through your business cards (and while you’re at it, ditch the ones you know you’ll never use; they’re just confusing.) Now send a cheery note to those people too, telling them what you’ve been up to. Think of it as a postcard from your Staycation.
2. READ THE MAP Where are you going? What’s the destination? How are you going to get there? Plot out your route, why not! While the others are away they can’t try to steer you from the back seat. When they get back you can just put your Sat Nav on and tune them out. This applies, by the way, whether you are on your own or in an office. Sometimes you just need everyone to go away so you can figure out where you are. And whose car it is. (It’s your car.)
3. HOLIDAY READING No one really wants to read the latest 450-page blockbuster gold-titled novel, do they? I once had a splendid week lounging in the window seat of a holiday house in St Ives reading Proust. I’m not bragging. It was just wonderfully atmospheric, and made the holiday that much more vivid. (And the damn book was so long, I never had time to finish it when I got home. So read fast!)
As the atmosphere of your Staycation is (to be blunt) not all that exotic, I suggest that you use this time to read the things you’ve been putting off for your professional development. This may sound boring, but professional development is personal development, silly. What do you wish you knew more about? (To put it another way: why not read the guide book to whatever you decide your destination was? Or the instructions for getting there?) Do you wish you knew more about SEO? Making the perfect Power Point? Lateral thinking? How to negotiate with your colleagues and freelancers or your boss? The 7 habits of very successful jobsworths? I can’t recommend your reading, because I don’t know what your interest is. But I do know that there is at least one very good book about it. So read up. When the others come back you can set them a quiz.
4. TAKE UP THAT HOBBY YOU WISH YOU HAD TIME FOR ALL YEAR This is especially good if you want to practice your CSS and get your website up-to-date. Or if you absolutely love DIY. Or have a new filing system you’re dying to try out. If you’re office-based, I’d suggest playing Solitaire on your computer making the most of the colleagues who are also around: when’s the last time you had lunch? Maybe walk around the neighbourhood – chances are, with people away, you can actually take lunch – and get to see the place you’re working in. It’s probably really interesting.
I’d also suggest thinking very hard about any publications, updates, leaflets, web content or anything else you might need this autumn, so you’re ready to commission a really great copywriter. Someone who can write you some nice, clear prose, pitched at your audience, with the clearest version of your key messages that you’ve ever seen.
And if even that doesn’t amuse you, you can go around the building and stick silly pictures on all the noticeboards when no one’s looking.
5. GO SWIMMING At least once. Even if you have to sneak out of the building half an hour early when no one’s looking to get to the pool before it closes on the only day you could manage it. And when you come out of the pool, get yourself an ice cream.
Photo: Oxyman, Wikimedia Commons