21 May 2009

Writing on the Road: Tips for Working while you Travel

As you probably know, I'm going on vacation this week.  (Hooray!)  Hubby and I are leaving as soon as he gets home from work on Wednesday, and we'll be back Tuesday, May 26th.

I'm really excited about our road trip.  It's been way too long since I've seen my family, and this will be the only time I get to see them until August.  So I'm doing everything I can to get my writing/work done by Wednesday so I can enjoy my time out of town rather than needing to spend it working.

However, I'm realistic.  I know it's likely that I'll need to do at least a little work while I'm on the road, so I'm trying to prepare for that.  I'm going to take a little time today to update my active client files to take with me in case I need that information.  (Luckily, most of the information I need is online.)  I've also been trying to think of things I can do to make things easier to work on the road.

Have the information you need.  Just as I'm updating my client files to take on the road with me (which includes scribbling notes about the client or project so I don't forget), you should be sure to have what you need to work on a project.  Basically, anything you'd look up at home should be available to you on the road.  Old project info, client contact information, whatever you think you'll need.  And when in doubt, bring it.  I've learned time and time again that if you leave it at home, you'll need it.

Let your clients know you'll be out of town.  This is important if you have a business phone line you can't take with you (an office or your home number).  Your clients need to know how to get in touch with you, so they need to know if you won't be at your regular number.  If there's a question a client has about a project, or wants to give you more information, or request a change, you need to be available.  (Clients like to be able to get in touch.  Funny how that works.)

Think ahead to your deadlines.  If you know that being out of town will keep you from making a deadline, talk to your client about the project and see what you can work out.  For example, I have a client who needs some newsletter content completed.  She hasn't given me the details yet, but when I told her I'd be out of town, she let me know she didn't need it right away, so I'm going to go ahead and get the information from her.  She knows she won't get it until after vacation, and that's fine.

Going along with thinking ahead to your deadlines, keep your travel days in mind when you're budgeting your vacation time.  If you have an article due on a day you'll be driving and won't have Internet access, you may want to get the article done early so you can get it in before deadline and not have to rush to a library or restaurant with Wi-Fi during a travel day so you can get it done and in on time.

Set yourself up to be on vacation.  Yes, I realize and accept that I'll be spending at least a little time during this vacation working, but I'm still trying to get as much done as I can before Wednesday so I won't be working all day every day when I'm supposed to be spending time with my family.  I'd rather not be stuck in front of my laptop while everyone else is at a picnic.  If you were working a traditional 9-to-5 job with paid vacation time, you'd get projects done before vacation.  In cases like this, you have to think of freelance writing in the same way.  Get what you can done ahead of time.  It'll mean you can enjoy your vacation more, and you won't have as much chaos to come back to afterward.

Keep things in perspective.  When I'm at home working, every project is important.  But in getting ready for vacation, I divide my projects between what I need to get done before I leave, what I need to take with me to finish, and what can wait until I get back.  If something can wait until you get back, let it.  There's no need to stress yourself getting it done if you can use that time to get other, higher priority projects completed instead.  And remember, you have to get your personal life ready for vacation, too!

Stay organized while you're out of town.  If you take files with you on the road, be sure to keep them organized.  I keep different files in clearly labeled manila folders, which I keep in a messenger bag.  I take a file out if I need it, then put it back in the messenger bag when I'm done.  Being out of my office space makes me feel disorganized as it is, so keeping everything in order while I'm out helps somewhat.  Plus, it makes it easier to get back into my office space when I get back.

It's not always fun to work on vacation, but sometimes you have to.  And if you do, there are things you can do ahead of time (and while you're on the road) to make it a little easier, and make sure you can enjoy your vacation, even if you do have to write a few articles.

Ultimately, you have to come up with methods that work for your personal work and writing style, just like everything else in freelancing.  What works for me may not work for you.

What do you do when writing on the road?

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