This post was written by Michelle Kane, Solo PR Pro Premium member and founder of VoiceMatters.
Earning a living as a solo communications professional has its advantages. For the most part, we’re free to choose the type of work we enjoy, set our own schedules, and pivot our business model as needed. What is challenging is taking a proper vacation or reenergizing our work with a change of scene. Are we going to let these challenges stop us? No way. We’re savvy enough to be in business for ourselves; we’ve got this.
All it takes is Wi-Fi and a dream
The same vehicle that allows us to conduct our businesses as solos – the Internet – is also what frees us to work from anywhere we please. Providing your presence isn’t required on-site for client meetings or other in-person contact on a regular basis, taking your job on the road can be liberating and rejuvenating.
This is not a recommendation to never unplug or take time off from working. Work-free vacations are the ideal and should be among your business goals. The reality often is, without PTO, it’s tempting to let years go by without any type of break.
Quite a few of our fellow Solo PR Pros have taken the leap of working while away and are graciously sharing their wisdom.
Kristie Aylett, of The KARD Group, shares, “We did it! I've said for years that I can work from anywhere, as long as I have good internet and phone service. So, during a slow client time, we took our laptops to Costa Rica for eight days. We were celebrating a milestone birthday and anniversary, but I was able to work a little each day to stay on top of my to-do list. It wasn't a 100% vacation, but totally worth it.”
Rachel Sutherland of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Rachel Sutherland Communications spent the summer of 2016 as a “digital gypsy,” when she, her husband, and two children paid an extended visit to their home state of Michigan. “We really just need strong, dependable Wi-Fi and we can work anywhere. I’ve done work on the beach in Hilton Head, in a car driving down I-85, even from the kids clothing department of Dick’s Sporting Goods at SouthPark mall, but this was different. We’d really be picking up our lives, including two cars, two kids and two dogs, and moving almost 900 miles away for what would end up being five weeks. Know what? It worked. Like a charm.”
Lisa Gerber of Big Leap Creative gave all of us office envy when she and her husband spent a month in France. She adds, “Plan for time zones! What hours of the day will be best for you to check in each day? Set a schedule and let your clients know.”
Our professional lives are built on managing expectations, from press placements to crisis management, so planning to work while away is no different. What is key is managing your expectations as well as those of your clients.
Kristie Aylett: “I told client contacts that I'd be out of the country but still working. They were confused. Was I available as usual or only for emergencies? How responsive did I want to be? Could they call me? And so on. People who have paid personal time off don't quite understand those of us who don't.”
Lisa Gerber: “…don't even think you're going to work as much as you think you will. Nuh. Uh.”
It’s important to let clients know how often you will be checking email and voicemail. Predetermining a schedule for yourself is also vital so you can fully enjoy your free time.
- Clearly communicate with clients the hours of the day when you will be in work mode. Will you work an hour in the morning and check email each evening? Tell them, so they know what to expect.
- Use your email autoresponder wisely. Include in your out-of-office message the hours of the day you will be working.
- Establish a relationship with a fellow communications professional, someone you trust, as a back-up contact in cases of emergencies. Offer to reciprocate. If that’s not an option, engage with a virtual assistant now so they can provide a certain level of back-up while you are away.
We’ve managed expectations, now let’s manage our tech. In addition to setting up an email autoresponder, use automation to forward emails to a folder, your project management tool, or a virtual assistant so that you know things are handled and organized for your return.
Change your automated alerts on your cell phone and tablet to reflect your new schedule. You won’t be relaxed if your beach reading is constantly interrupted by email inbox notifications. There are also apps to help you auto-reply to text messages.
To outsmart the hotels and Airbnb’s offering Wi-Fi that turns out to be less than spectacular, make sure you have options.
Kristie Aylett: “For those who travel internationally: we bought unlocked Android phones (Moto G6) and signed up for Google's Project Fi as our carrier/network. It will save us money every month and works in 170 countries for data/texts, just like we're at home.”
Lisa Gerber: “For international travel, I highly recommend getting a pocket Wi-Fi. Wherever I go, I Google “pocket Wi-Fi” plus the country and can rent something for my time there. I usually pick it up at the airport or they send to where you are staying. One time, they sent it to my house before I left. They give you a shipper to return before you leave the country. Just drop in the post box. It gives you reliable Wi-Fi all day! I don't even sign up for the international plan on my phone and can connect to it while out and about.”
Karma is another on-the-go, pay-as-you-go option for personal Wi-Fi.
If it’s proving difficult to fully focus while poolside or at the café, don’t settle for the dreary hotel business center. Spend your office hours at a coworking space. Find the place that’s right for you using one of these directories:
Change of Scene, Change in Perspective
To receive the full impact of working while away, it’s important to make the mindset shift. Set mini-goals like learning something new about the culture you’re visiting, trying a new activity or having your office hours in a different location each day. Trust in the serendipity of this because you never know when a casual conversation between you and a fellow traveler or a local can help your business. Being intentional about having new experiences enriches your mind, fueling your creativity.
Whether it’s making the effort to work one day a month at a new co-working space, taking that dream trip while maintaining modest office hours, or becoming a full-time digital nomad, we hope we’ve inspired you to shake things up and see where it leads.
Have you taken your solo show on the road? Tell us about your experiences.