As a freelance writer the word “free” comes up a lot. Yes, there are the free lunches, but the old saying “there is no free lunch” is very true. Every free lunch means listening to product pitches, seeing demos of products I might never cover and these just take up a lot of time I don’t always have. But in fairness, being a freelance writer does mean that I do have a bit more flexibility than most. I do have “free” time, but of course if I don’t work I don’t eat…unless you count the free lunches.
But being a freelance writer, or any sort of very small business worker, means that travel can be a sticky point. I don’t usually take extended vacations because I can’t afford the time. Here is where things aren’t so free. Every vacation I’ve taken in the last 10 years has had some degree of work involved.
Because I’m not staff I never tend to turn work down. And despite my best efforts to have every assignment finished ahead of time things tend to come up. This has meant that I’ve had to rewrite stories in cybercaf?s in Amsterdam or cancel a trip to a museum in Paris so I could “make a few calls.” I do these things because it is my job.
Americans today are working harder than ever, and even my fully employed friends and colleagues tell me that during vacations they tend to have to do some work too. I have a cousin who is an analyst in the oil industry and every morning of his “vacation” he had to dial into the daily conference call. That doesn’t exactly sound like a vacation to me; and I’m the one who had to write a story at 2 a.m. in a dirty cybercaf? in Amsterdam!
But the question is whether a small business worker can mix business and pleasure? My answer would be yes and no, but it depends on what you need to do. Vacation is a good time to clear your head and relax. If you spend every morning on a conference call, but can relax at the beach all afternoon and enjoy the nightlife with friends than work and pleasure can mix.
You need to keep the work to a minimum, otherwise what’s the point in traveling a great distance if you have to work at a hotel desk and spend all day on your mobile phone? Doing some work on a vacation is fine, but don’t overdo the work.
Likewise, even a corporate retreat or business trip can have moments of relaxation. If you’re traveling for business a lot, I’d recommend setting some time aside to visit a museum, go shopping or just make an hour to go swimming. The latter is especially recommended during those colder winter months when swimming is otherwise all but impossible!
One factor to consider is whether you can squeeze in just a tiny amount of work during a vacation. This can include a lunch or dinner with a client or colleague that might be in the same city. This might even work out to that aforementioned “free” lunch!
Likewise, check in with the office while you’re traveling. If you’re on a two-week vacation you might want to call in to see how things are going. Hopefully the place isn’t burning down, but your colleagues back in the home office will appreciate that you took the time to think about it.