When I think back to the 18+ years I spent in various forms of school, my main memories involve the many breaks we would enjoy each year. From the family-oriented fall and winter breaks, to the much livelier spring break and of course the much-loved summer break, schools get one thing right: giving students several times a year to spend with their families or go on vacation. Throughout my recent years of self employment, I’ve been strategic to form my work patterns in a similar format to school break schedules. The nice part is, I’m no longer confined to a couple measly weeks of vacation each year, so if I want to spend a month of the year with my family and another month exploring another part of the world, I can do just that. In previous years, I’ve spent part of March either at SXSW in Austin, Texas, or in the case of last year, cruising through Thailand for the first time. This year, I decided it was time to head home to Hawaii. My Monthly Highlights post for the month goes over some thoughts about working while on vacation, as well as implications for how I’m approaching freelancing going forward.
Miles driven in Maui, Hawaii
*tracked by Hertz Rent-a-Car[/tw-column]
Hours worked while on a 17-day vacation
*tracked by Toggl[/tw-column]
Photo shoots completed
*tracked by Sunrise Calendar[/tw-column]
*tracked by FitBit[/tw-column]
*tracked by Strava[/tw-column]
What Went Well
March was one of those months were I decided to take a much-needed vacation back home to Hawaii. I spent ten days vacationing on Maui, and another week lazing around my childhood home on Oahu. Working ahead for even 10 days to cover my vacation was tough — there’s no one to cover for me if I don’t work, so I had to work double the hours the week before we left. Even then, one of our client websites BROKE the day we were supposed to leave, so I still had to dedicate a few hours here and there to work even during the vacation bit. In all, I worked about 7 and a half hours during my dedicated vacation time, and 8-ish hours during my family time at home. When I finally had moments to forget about work, I sunk into such deep states of blissful relaxation that it was definitely tough to get back into the work groove afterward. Now that’s a sign of a great vacation!
Maintained Work and Income
Despite going out of town for over half the month, I still made a decent amount of income. Part of that was thanks to the 70+ hours of work I did the week before vacation to make sure I completed regularly scheduled work for clients in my absence. I also spent a few hours working during vacation to write a product review for a piece of photography equipment that I tested out using vacation photos (this was more fun than work!). I was also able to squeeze in quite a few photos shoots in the days before I left and the days immediately following my return. Some photography highlights of the month included a fashion shoot for a local small business in the cannabis industry (photos + case study to come!), a couple days of Emerald City Comicon, an evening with George Takei and Anthony Daniels, and an all-day conference held at Google’s Kirkland campus.
Resumed Contributions to my Retirement Savings Account
Speaking of work and money, I was relieved to finally feel stable enough financially to resume contributing monthly to my IRA account. I built up a pretty solid 401k account during my corporate years and recently had it properly transferred into a Roth IRA account. As I expected, I was too nervous financially during my first two years of self employment to even think about savings accounts. Over the last year though, I began investing again in a savings account and at the end of March, set up monthly allocations into my IRA. It feels nice to have comfortable monthly income levels again to be investing in the future.
Currently Taking Action on Changing Aspects of Life
During my extremely blissed out moments of vacation, I ruminated on several things that have been bothering me lately. One was my realization that I’ve been spreading myself too thin and my overall productivity plus social life have been suffering tremendously as a result. As I blogged about last week, self employment can be an extremely lonely journey, so I resolved while on vacation to fix that upon returning to Seattle. I actually took action a few days beforehand by attending a couple of Meetups in Honolulu to try and meet inspiring people in Hawaii. One meetup was great and the other satisfactory, but I did walk away with some new contacts who I’d love to collaborate with in the future. That leads me to my second point.
I decided that I not only needed to expand my social circle, but also look for other creatives to possibly team up with to share the work load on projects. My meetups in Honolulu introduced me to a duo who are actually based in Portland, so there’s a nice opportunity that we may be able to collaborate someday. Meeting with that duo also encouraged me to do something I’ve been considering for a long time: creating a public Facebook Group for freelance and self employed creatives in the Pacific Northwest. The idea is to form a support group as well as introduce solopreneur creatives to each other for the possibility of being able to work together on projects. You can check out the group here, and if you’re a creative based in the Pacific Northwest, I’d love it if you joined!
Things That Could Be Improved
I’m still on a massive vacation high. Those 10 days of pure relaxation were truly what I needed to reignite the creative spark. As a result, I can’t remember much negativity about the month, with the exception of an ever-growing problem:
Too Much Time Spent Working
As I mentioned earlier, vacation time doesn’t come with my version of self employment. If I want time off, I often have to build up free time by working double hours at some point, or sometimes even be on call while on vacation. The fact that I had to work 70+ hours the week before vacation was something I think could be improved upon. I expect to be working hard as a solopreneur, but that was still an insane amount of work I put on myself. This is among many reasons why I’m now being very serious about looking for opportunities to share my workload with others, ideally in the form of mutually beneficial creative collaboration. Fingers crossed that this is a dream that pans out into reality soon!
Even though we’re only a few days into April, I already feel like I’m deep within the month of April. This month will bring quite a few big concerts and events to town including the annual We Day festivities at KeyArena, and it will also give way to the madness that is the month of May with SIFF and Sasquatch galore. April will be a ramp up month, but it will also contain a couple of things I’m excited about.
1. Reaching out to a few creatives I’ve been wanting to work with and attempt to build a creative team to take on larger projects. This is already in the works, and I’m incredibly excited about all of these prospects!
2. Recently, I tuned into a conference call led by my Location Rebel idol Sean Ogle. He validated a lot of my theories about how to advocate for and properly inspire others to jump into the location independence movement, and he also advocated for a program that I unwittingly find myself signed up for: Copy Hour intensive course, meant to sharpen my copywriting skills with daily assignments. I’m pretty excited to be learning something new for the next few months. Stay tuned for a review of the program as I go through it.