For Photographers: Plan Your Own Personal Business Retreat

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My First Personal Business Retreat

My Reflections

Last month I went on my first Personal Business Retreat after hearing the idea from my girl Lashonda and reading a little more about a personal retreat here and here. Recently, I have also picked up on a new-ish trend of batch working: the practice of batching important tasks like scheduling social media posts, writing for blogs and other publications, and taking care of office maintenance tasks. So as 2017 was wrapping up and I was in the midst of a lot of personal reflecting, I decided one of my goals for 2018 would be to experiment with a personal retreat as well as batch working. Why not do both at the same time?! :)

I planned my getaway for one night away from my family as I knew this would probably be as much as I could get away with without having other people involved (i.e. accountability). I scheduled it at the same time I knew my husband would also be out of town, as I knew this would be the easiest way to offer the least disruption in our household. I arranged for the girls to be with their Grandma and since their dad was already out of town, he wouldn’t have to miss any of us anymore than he already did. :) The timing worked out great!

It didn’t take me long to know exactly what I was going to do on my retreat. My blog had been silent for over six months and I was ready to bring it back to life! While I know it isn’t ideal for any small business owner to let their blog be silent, I was still receiving a healthy amount of work and marketing my business didn’t have to be at the top of my priority list during that season of my business. Sometimes we walk through periods of life when we are forced to make decisions and let things go, and in retrospect, I honestly wish I had given myself more grace about my silent blog all that time. But no matter, I was excited at the new opportunity to have time to bring life back to my little corner of the internet!

During the few days leading up to the retreat I brainstormed a list of all of the sessions over the past year or two that I wanted to share on my blog. I simply jotted them in the notes app on my phone as they came to me (as you will see below, I was parenting while preparing for this trip). Eventually, I copied and pasted my little list into a google document and categorized and scheduled them strategically based on my 2018 marketing plan. All of this helped me know exactly what I would be working on while on my retreat.

Also during the week leading up to the retreat, it snowed and my kids were out of school 4 out of 5 days. Due to this, my house was in utter chaos once the weekend arrived. I also had to reschedule a session due to the snow to the morning of my retreat day. And, to top things off, the morning I was supposed to leave for the retreat, my mother in law let me know she was sick and it would be better to find someone else to take care of them. Ahh! While I was able to work it all out and still shoot the session too, it was a whirlwind and I ended up arriving to the hotel about 3 hours later than I had hoped I would. I came very close to canceling the retreat altogether, and the truth is, the only reason I didn’t was because I would have had to give up my payment for the hotel room. But let me tell you - mom guilt was HEAVY that day, for sure! I left my house a wreck, my kids with one babysitter with plans to transition to another a few hours later, and an overall sense of “You don’t deserve to go be alone in a nice hotel room right now with this craziness going on.”

But I am so. glad. I. went!!!

 

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Once I arrived and settled into my room, I got right to work! I started writing and keywording and resizing pictures for the blog. I designed a fancy Instastory template to use to share my blog posts (follow me on Instagram to get a glimpse!), wrote out a specific marketing plan for the upcoming six weeks of content as well as a general marketing plan for the next 6 months, and even created monthly blogging templates to use on google drive for the next round of batch writing!

I worked pretty late into the night (for me, anyway) but still woke up with enough time to knock out more work in the morning. I was sad to hear that a late check out at this particular hotel was only 30 minutes later than their normal check out. In the end, I didn’t get the full 24 hours I originally thought I would for this retreat, but I still got in a lot of work and that’s what it was all about!

Will I do this again?

Absolutely. I knocked out almost two full months of content creation for business marketing purposes in less than 24 hours. This was absolutely worth my time and it was also very rejuvenating! I left feeling excited to share all that I had worked on as well as eager to come back and do it all over again soon!

Having content pre-written and ready to share also gives me the confidence to start sharing more about my business and brand on social media in general. Since I have a plan and I know the upcoming story I plan to share, I am no longer afraid to share all the in-between moments in fear that they won’t lead to any follow-up! It’s been so fun already!

What I’ll Do Differently

I did invite a friend to meet me for dinner and while that was a fun little interruption, I didn’t have the discipline to end dinner when I should have. I lost a good amount of time socializing that I could have spent getting more writing done. Of course a personal retreat can be whatever you want it to be and there’s nothing wrong with socializing. But, in this case, I really wanted to put my head down and get some writing done during this time away. Dinner was lovely, but next time I’ll just order in and try to stay focused at the task at hand.

 

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I do think I would benefit from a longer retreat, possibly 2-3 days. I think with more time I could squeeze in a little more rest and rejuvenation. However, I am not at a place where I can justify that much time away from my family four times a year. And I’ve already decided, at the pace I was able to work, it looks like this will be a quarterly activity.

So I think a good compromise here is that next time I will try to find a hotel with either a jaccuzi hot tub in the pool area, or I’ll request a honeymoon suite with a large jacuzzi tub. No joke. I love a long, warm bath as a form of rest and rejuvenation in the midst of a lot of work, and it’s a must-have for me on any future retreat. In the future, it’ll be a priority when booking a place to stay.

Quick Tips For A Successful Business Retreat

  • I’d recommend going somewhere at least 20+ minutes away. I went to a nearby hotel (one of my favorites!) and I think being a little further down the road would have helped clear my mind a little more and not worry so much about what was going on at home.
  • Book through Expedia.com (low prices) and pass on the travel insurance - so once you’ve booked it, you’re in! There’s no cancelling now!
  • Use the Do Not Disturb function on your phone. When you arrive, let your tribe know where you are, your room number, and tell them to call the hotel in case of an emergency. Then put your phone on Do Not Disturb and put the door hanger on your hotel room door as well.
  • Close your email. Weekends aren’t the time to respond to client emails anyway! Take it from me. I received one email and one text that both distracted me greatly from the task at hand. Next time there won’t be any “just in case” check-ins! Not worth it!
  • Take Breaks! I set an alarm on my phone for every 50 minutes. (It’s pretty easy. I just said “Siri, set an alarm in 50 minutes.”) Get up, walk around. Or, grab another bottle of water and your laptop and move to the lobby. Whatever it takes to get a breather!
  • Have a back-up plan for childcare in place just in case your Plan A falls through.
  • Decide what your goals are for your retreat ahead of time and do as much prep work as possible to help get the most out of your time away.

What To Pack

  • Laptop, charger and any external hard drives needed
  • Cell phone & charger
  • A bluetooth speaker or your favorite headphones
  • Your favorite snacks and drinks
  • Favorite coffee fixings to use with your in-room coffee maker
  • Comfy clothes (that are appropriate enough to wear in the halls of a hotel)
  • Swim or workout attire to make the most of any hotel amenities
  • Your own pillow if you like to take it with you

 

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One Last Thing

I will say that one unexpected challenge I encountered from this retreat was not being able to turn my brain off after I returned home. I continued to work on content creation for a few days after my return, even though I had a million other things to take care of. It felt like once my brain started rolling, it was nearly impossible to stop it! Eventually I got all of my thoughts and ideas written down and organized in a way that I felt safe enough to walk away and turn my brain off for a while. But it did take me a few days to settle everything down in my mind! :)

In Conclusion

Overall, this retreat was a huge success and I already have another one on the calendar! I am excited to churn out some more content and possibly begin work on some fun new projects!

Have you ever considered a personal business retreat? If so, what are some of the things you would work on while away? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Note: All photos of the hotel in this post were snagged directly from their website. :) I take no credit!

Liz Cook is a familybirth and wedding photographer in Central Virginia. She loves to photograph emotional and discreet birth stories, the details of parenthood, and fun and easygoing couples in love.

Liz Cook

Liz Cook is a wedding, birth, and motherhood photographer based in Central Virginia. Her intuition and creative perspective allow her to connect both professionally and personally with her subjects, and thus, her portfolio is saturated with authentic emotion. Whether she's sharing her story with fellow entrepreneurs or enjoying quality time with her husband and two daughters, Liz is both present and passionate about capturing and celebrating life. Her work has been featured by O "Oprah" Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Glitter Guide, Essence Magazine, domino, Rue Magazine, among others.