What do you do over winter?

As a freelancer this dreaded question starts to pop up around Autumn for me. Throughout 2018 I had a steady flow of work up until the end of November and by that point I was pretty much done except for one weekend in December. I was also exhausted. I am not qualified as a Winter Mountain Leader, so my mountain adventures are limited for work over winter but here are some of the things I get up to.

  1. Update my website

    This year I stripped back my whole website and started again. This took a lot of time and thought, which I based on looking at my analytics and traffic. From this I was able to see that the majority of my visitors use a mobile device to view content, that my blog is the most popular area of my site (by a long way!) and that most of my traffic is directed here through social media. Having clear feedback helps to focus on making responsive improvements, rather than just making individual decisions about what looks good. Why should people click on your site? What do people look at? Where are they coming from? How are they viewing it?

  2. Sort out my finances

    I hate dealing with spreadsheets and numbers, I generally have circus music twirling around in my head whenever I have to think about any kind of calculations. So, it makes sense that waiting for a wet, winter’s day when I don’t have many options for distracting adventures is a good time to wrestle my finances into some kind of presentable state. This gives me a chance to reflect on whether the energy I focused on specific avenues for work was financially worthwhile, as well as whether it met my development and enjoyment needs, and it also gives me focus to set some financial goals for next year.

  3. Continuous Professional Development

Last year I spent much of the winter in Grenoble, developing my knowledge of journeying in snow-covered terrain and gaining quality mountain days in preparation for registering for the International Mountain Leader Award.  I have since completed my summer training and Speed Navigation Assessment and in January I will be attending the Winter training course in Germany, which puts me on my way towards consolidation ready for assessment.

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So far this December, I have already participated in a Top Access Tidal Validation course and a Vertical Positioning for Climbing Photography workshop.  The top access course helped me to develop my knowledge and understanding for working with groups at tidal venues that involve abseiling to access the climbing.  The main focus was on rigging hoists for assisted and unassisted rescues, something that will enable me to broaden my opportunities for work and feed into my own personal climbing next year.  I helped out with the photography side of things on the climbing photography workshop.  It was great to put my experience as a photography teacher into a climbing context, but I was also there as a participant and refined my skills to keep myself safe and comfortable whilst ascending and descending a rope and stabilising myself in a hanging position, so that I can focus on my photos!

4. Relax

Between April and October life is pretty full on as a Freelancer and so I take plenty of time off in December to sleep, relax, recover, unwind and to spend time with family and friends.  It is part of our professional responsibility to make sure we are not over-worked at any time in the year, but I’m sure we all feel pretty wiped by the time winter comes!

5. Adventures

I haven’t had much time to invest in my own personal adventures this year, although we have managed to squeeze in a few incredible mountain journeys, oh and we got married in May.  It’s really important to make time for our own adventures not only to feed the passion we hope to instil in others but also to keep our personal skills sharp and well above the level we are working at with groups.  It’s also just been nice to get out and about for some winter fun with my adventure buddies! Last week I was introduced to the joys of caving and I’ve managed to get outside on a couple of climbing days when the weather allows.

For the rest of the winter, Zlatko and I will be based over in Slovenia. I am learning Slovenian, and I need to be there if I want to improve any more than my current basic level. We will both be working while we are out there but I will also be focusing on getting into the mountains as much as possible. This is also CPD, as I will be doing plenty of snowshoeing and winter mountaineering towards my IML. Ice climbing is also on the cards and I am planning a multi-day winter journey for February.

Zlatko snowshoeing across a blustery Velika Planina.

Zlatko snowshoeing across a blustery Velika Planina.

6. Plan for 2019

My diary is almost full already for 2019, but before I start booking in work I have to sit down and think about my priorities. Was I happy with the previous year? What do I want to change? How can I change it? This all goes into deciding on what to book, where I would like to work and how many gaps to leave for unexpected but exciting opportunities that might present themselves. If I just wait a little bit and not get carried away with filling every available chance for freelancing then who knows what adventures might present themselves!

It also gives me the opportunity to reflect on the relationships I have with the companies I work with and consider any new relationships I might like to build. Alongside the excellent companies I already work with, this year I am also looking forward to collaborating with Ruth Pickvance over at Element. We are both interested in how we can combine Adventure, Creativity and Curiosity and are currently planning a new weekend called ‘A Sense of Place’ that brings these elements together in a beautiful setting.

7. Photography, writing, reading, thinking

Over the winter I have the space to think creatively and to engage in some of the ideas that have developed over the year, but which I haven’t had the time to explore. I can also plan ahead and consider some of the creative opportunities I could explore for next year.

So, although DofE may be tucked away for the winter, I don’t go into hibernation, the winter is my time to play, learn, develop and reflect!