You see those amazing retreats for business, in gorgeous places, with experts on hand, and cocktails in the evening, full of likeminded people, and you think to yourself how wonderful it would be to have three whole days to work on your business, uninterrupted.
Then you look at the price tag and instantly tell yourself you can’t indulge in that, it’s far too much money and you can’t justify it.
And when you’re new in business, in those first months or years when money can be tight and you’re investing in equipment or training which takes up any spare money you do have, perhaps you can’t.
But there’s no reason at all why you should deny yourself decent planning time, just because you can’t afford the posh retreats right now. (And you totally will get to the point where you can go on all the ones you drooled over!)
And the best bit – you don’t have to fly halfway across the world to make a big impact on your business!
Time to DIY!
You can either do this alone or with other likeminded people – depending on your (and their) preferences, and also schedules etc. I’ve done both, and got an almost unfeasible amount done in both formats. Though as I live alone, the non-solo retreat had a lot of added value!
You can also tailor it to your budget – cheap and cheerful or luxury indulgence!
You will need:
A hotel within an hour’s drive or train journey of where you live
– this is purely for practical reasons and can be ignored if you wish. My most successful retreat to date was with Louise Rose Couture in Wincanton, a good four hour drive from home. Utterly lovely in every way, except the five hour traffic-filled journey home on a rainy Sunday. Stay within an hour’s radius and you can spend more time immersed in planning and less time travelling, while still feeling like you’re away from home, and not popping back to check on the washing, or whatever.
Whether your hotel has an attached spa or other activities or not is totally down to you – I’m eyeing up this one with horse riding nearby for my next business escape!
A booking for ideally two nights
– this gives you a full 24 hours there as well as the day you arrive and the day you leave, which is surprisingly useful. You can do it on one night if you want to, but try two if you can sort the pet/child care.
Whatever planning tools float your boat
– mine are invariably flipchart pads and markers so I can dream big, my journal for working through tangles of thoughts, a tablet or camera so I can photograph my finished pieces, and my actual camera for documenting the journey. Though I often get so absorbed in doing the work that I totally forget to take photos along the way!
Your favourite books, courses and articles
– or any you’ve flagged during the previous six months or so which caught your attention – a retreat is the perfect time to get stuck into those exercises you know will help but you never normally have time for.
I like to take mini speakers with me in case I can’t plug my tablet into the TV in my room. I have been known to make Spotify playlists for concentrating, for ideas sessions and for mini dance breaks 🙂
People to plan with (optional)
– it can be really lovely to do this with people, go out for lunch in between, bounce ideas off each other, plan collaborations and laugh at terrible names you’ve come up with for perfectly good products. But it can also be a beautiful experience to really immerse yourself solely in YOUR business, to work on only what you know you and your business need, and not to have to worry about anyone else’s timescales.
If there are a group of you, see if there are any skills you can swap in scheduled sessions – is someone a graphic designer and would be happy to advise on pinnable images, in return for having some decent photographs taken for their website? Is there a coach who would love to swap some in depth coaching for some equally in depth marketing strategy and advice?
What this means will depend on the purpose of your retreat. The last one I went on required nothing more than a tablet to look up places for dinner and check out domain names for new projects. If your intention for your retreat is to write and produce blog posts or an ebook, you might be happier taking your laptop with you!
Most hotels have a wifi connection either included or for a few pounds per stay. Again, whether you take advantage of this is up to you – for me it varies, as some of the places I book are chosen deliberately for their lack of phone signal so I can get right away from it all. Adding wifi to that would defeat the purpose somewhat!
What do you do when you’re there? Well, you should have a little bit of settling in time – choosing rooms if you’re with other people, unpacking, getting yourself organised.
Beyond that – make a cuppa and GET STARTED!
(it’s also more or less compulsory to eat cake during your retreat…)
I like to start by pinning sheets of flipchart paper to the wall, and getting a visual map of all my current projects and businesses.
Then I branch out into one sheet for each business or project, and list out what I currently offer – products, services, opt ins, freebies, in person and online.
By the time I’ve done this for everything I do, I’m usually in the swing of it and have a good idea of what I can say goodbye to with gratitude, and what I want to expand, and ideas for new products and services, workshops and creations.
From there it’s in your hands! You’ll find that inspiration strikes as you go – the most important thing is to take action and start.
You could try…
- spend time getting inside the head of your ideal client
- write a set number of blog posts so you’re sorted for several months
- take a walk and get some photographs to use in your social media scheduling in future
- make a list of questions you’ve been asked in the past year (professionally or personally). Could you turn those into services or products that would help people?
- rewrite the front page of your website so it reflects you and your personality, and isn’t a clone of sites you used in your corporate days
- take a step back and assess all the elements of your portfolio career, or your income streams if you have more than one. Is the balance right for you? Is there anything you’d like to change?
- dedicate a portion of the retreat, or the whole thing, to learning a new skill that you need or would like in your business. This could be anything from product photography to copywriting, WordPress DIY to collaging… your imagination is the limit. You could teach yourself online, invite a specialist to the retreat, or you could base your retreat near somewhere that teaches what you’re after and incorporate the course or workshop into it.
- write a book. Yes, a whole book!
- make a film to share with your followers and subscribers – let them see the real person behind your business
- schedule a call with a mentor or coach halfway through your retreat – let them help you work out any tangles you’re encountering
- make art. Even if you’re not an artist – see what you come up with.
- journal. Actually, I’d say journal anyway, alongside everything else you do, because it remains the single best way I know for getting thoughts out of my head and making some sense on paper!
Have you been on a business retreat? Or been inspired to plan your own? Let me know – I’d love to hear about it!