Working as a one-woman band, mostly from home, can be pretty insular and lonely at times. A couple of weeks ago, I went on a retreat at Tynrhyd in Wales and it gave me the creative boost I so desperately needed.
I dropped my four at breakfast club (they love it so much they didn’t even wave me goodbye!). Straight afterwards, I ran home (literally), grabbed my suitcase and jumped in a taxi. True to my travelling style, I made my train with thirty seconds to spare (only because it was delayed by three minutes!). Does it even count if you’re not sweaty and out of breath for an hour when you start your journey?
Flea Retreats take place over a whole weekend (Friday to Sunday) and accommodate a lot less bloggers than traditional conferences. It means you actually get to know the people who attend with you. Because the sessions are much smaller, you really get to grips with the topics covered.
What really sets Flea Retreat events apart in my opinion is the fact the sessions are led by people who are at the top of their game in the areas they cover. Bloggers’ conferences normally work as follows, you see: a large audience with a range of sessions you can go to, mostly led by bloggers.
The format above works really well because we learn from each other and what others have built seems a lot more manageable because most of the speakers started from scratch. I like the model and I tend to be a speaker at a couple of conferences every year, leading sessions like time management, how to make money as a blogger, organisation and photography.
The thing, though, is when you’ve been freelancing for over five years, you get to the stage where you need a bit more of a push. Since everything I do for work is self-taught, I do a lot of CPD to make sure I keep learning and fill the gaps in my knowledge, from food photography courses to photographing big cats to cooking classes to online webinars and specific courses like food styling, wellbeing or pitching.
A retreat is the most effective format for a professional development event I think as it combines a bit of fun, being away from our usual routine and a lot of things covered in a short amount of time. Time is optimised to the maximum and I find it pretty cost-efficient.
Whenever the team at Flea Ents organise a conference or retreat, I am in! I have been going to their events for five years, and they invariably leave me feeling inspired and motivated. What’s more, everyone is always friendly.
The lovely Holly at ‘Holly Made Life‘ took the photo above using my camera.
Professional development led by specialists in their field is invaluable. At the Flea Retreat, we had the opportunity to learn from an impressive list of pros. We also got to put our newly learnt skills into practice straight away. We were also given immediate feedback (honest, unbiased and objective).
Naomi Campbell, a local photographer, joined the Bushcraft session planned the waterfall walk and ran the session all about photographing kids.
Tom Arber ran the sunrise photography workshop (pesky clouds!) and a Lightroom session.
Derek Lomas ran the headshots workshop, product photography and an evening photo walk.
- Video workshops
Tony Hindhaugh, producer and presenting trainer, ran all of the video workshops, focusing on social media cooks who want training in on-camera skills.
It wasn’t all work, work, work though and we all had the opportunity to bond over a bit of a team building game. We could also use the huge hot tub whenever we wanted. We made the most of the breathtaking Welsh scenery with a canoeing session at twilight (it was optional) and some of us had a go at bushcraft cookery and even gorge walking with the great team at Adventure Beyond.
The lovely Jamie did people’s nails throughout the weekend, using the new GEMINI range which is available from BioSculpture technicians nationwide (we were all given a couple of samples).
The creative weekend took place at Tynrhyd Retreat, near Aberystwyth. The venue was the perfect place for a large group to get together without feeling on top of each other. It had a rustic yet modern feel to it, with white walls, high ceilings with visible beams and large comfortable bedrooms. There was even a large hot tub to relieve our aching muscles after the more active sessions.
The food at the retreat was lovely and we didn’t have to lift a finger. It really felt like a fully inclusive mini break, and the cherry on the cake was learning new skills and tricks. I had the best time and it was worth every penny. I’ve already decided I’m going to the next one! Thanks to the team at Flea Ents and the helpers, Jen at ‘Mum in the Madhouse,’ Afra at ‘Mad Mum of 7’ and Jess at ‘Jessica in Your Ear.’