Working alone together… and working together

A guest post from our member Holly-Anne Whyte on our first business retreat.

Laura Elvin, David Stockings, Holly-Anne Whyte, Frances Clarke and Anikó Pető-Mordovski on retreat

We all know that freelancing can be a lonely life and we can easily get stuck in a rut. Fortunately, we have a fantastic local network of colleagues with a wealth of experience and our first joint business retreat was a great opportunity to make the most of it.

Following the retreat we prepared an article for the Bulletin on how it worked and what we achieved. I won’t repeat that here. And while I was tempted to go into the logistics of organizing the event (and wrote a few hundred words on the topic), I scrapped that version in favour of some more general reflections.

What is a business retreat?

Put simply, it’s an opportunity to work on our business, rather than in it. An opportunity to consider what we want from our business, what it looks like now, what we want it to look like and how we might get there.

While I had always taken time out to work on my business (easily done in the early days when projects are few and far between), the idea of structuring the process more formally was inspired by the Deliberate Freelancer podcast: (Host Melanie has done a few more episodes on her own business retreats, so I’d definitely recommend checking them out.)

What do you actually do at a business retreat?

I tend to split the “behind the scenes” of my business into four main categories, each of which has several sub-categories:

Services and training

  • Service offerings
  • Side projects
  • CPD audit


  • Clients profiles (current and desired)
  • USP and value proposition
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing
    • Branding
    • Online presence
    • Etc.


  • Tools and technology
  • Physical infrastructure (desk, etc.)
  • Daily routine


  • Analysis of current situation
  • Goals
  • Rates
  • Expenses

A business retreat gives us the time to analyse some of all or these areas with a critical eye, to think about what works – and what doesn’t – and to set SMART goals to shape our businesses the way we want.

Working alone together…

For much of the business retreat we worked alone. So what was the point in meeting up? There’s something about working in a room with other people (people to whom you’ll report what you’ve actually done) that holds us accountable for actually focusing and doing those things.

The change of scenery helps too. It puts our brains in a different mode, one more prepared to think outside the box, innovate and take risks. I think that’s really important when we want to find new ways to move our businesses forward or get them back on the right track.

… and working together

Being able to bounce ideas off people who “just get it” was, for me, incredibly invigorating. Whether it was a brief interruption during our solo working time or as part of group activities, everyone’s enthusiasm for sharing ideas, relating and helping each other was palpable. We are social animals after all and or brains weren’t designed to solve problems alone (see*

What’s more, it’s always heartening to know that others share your struggles and take joy in your successes. Who better to understand our lives than other freelance translators. Online is really no substitute for the buzz of someone finishing your sentence to build on an idea, seeing them roll their eyes in sympathy when you talk about a nightmare client or sharing that relief in hearing everyone is wrangling with the bigger picture.

The aftermath

Since the retreat, I have found I am more focused, more purposeful and more productive. I’m getting things off the backburner that should never have been there in the first place. I feel more connected to our translator community and beyond grateful for it.

I can’t wait for the next edition. See you there?

*Yes, I love podcasts…