In March I contacted my key clients to advise I would be working overseas during May and asked to meet to discuss any projects they could foresee.
I loaded Creative Cloud and fonts onto my laptop and packed three 'mirror' hard drives. Two held approximately 6 years of archived projects and the third contained my current WIP and a backup of our photo library.
The only new piece of software we bought was Parallels. It gave us access to our desktop computers and proved invaluable.
We also had iPads and iPhones.
May has traditionally been a quiet month for me as budgets dry up at the end of the financial year, however, as luck would have it, this year I've had more work than anticipated.
An insurance client decided they needed collateral to launch a new product just as I packed up my computer to leave. My overheads have been covered by that job alone.
The project included design, design approval, copywriting and artwork of a 52pp PDS as well as coordinating the build of a series of sophisticated application forms in Microsoft Word. For that I worked with my guru back in Australia. The project isn't finalised: lawyers are still approving copy, so work will continue through into next month.
Apart from that project, there's been smaller ongoing work including some quite complicated signage onto an existing building and the update of two booklets from 2012 so I'm glad I brought the archive drives.
Copy for another large project was delivered, and then thankfully cancelled as sections had to be rewritten. I was pleased: it would have been quite time consuming.
I also wrote a few submissions for upcoming projects so June looks good.
I probably worked 5 hours per day – three in the morning before we left the apartment, and a couple between 5 and 7pm (with a glass of wine) before we headed out for dinner. There was one day it rained that we both worked which helped catch up on a lot of smaller tasks. None of the work proved arduous.
I didn't receive one negative comment about the experiment – in fact the overwhelming emotions were jealousy and curiosity. Most wanted to know where I had been and what I had seen as much as they wanted updates about their projects.
One client suggested we catch up with a former work colleague now working in Paris, which we did. The result was a great night in a bar/café that we would never have found.
Only one – a new client – requested a meeting. Hearing that I was one the other side of the world she was happy to postpone it until the first week in June. Phew. It does mean a shorter deadline than perfect but it's still do-able and worth the extra hours I may need to work.
The only thing that I would change is to put more feelers out for contacts in Paris. The locals we did meet really added to the experience.
We met academics in the Design Management world, locals via a website called Eat with, and a friend of a friend living in Paris. All were really generous with their time and offered insights that were invaluable.
The only contact that fell through was an Australian graphic designer that formerly lived in Brisbane and now works in Paris. He sounded interested to begin but in the end was 'too busy' which was a shame, there were heaps of questions I would have liked to ask. It's a reminder to have an open door policy if OS designers contact us in Melbourne.
The apartment worked well and I think that's because we were really prescriptive about our needs.
We knew we wanted a dining table/desk large enough to sit two and our computer paraphernalia. We knew we wanted good Wi-Fi connection and free international calls.
We also wanted to be right in the centre of Paris in case we had to work more than anticipated and we could only snatch small amounts of time outside.
As it was there was only one day we had to work all day but it was still worth the budget to be in a central location.
The phones were a disaster, despite all of Greg’s research. We wanted to keep our numbers so buying a local sim card wasn’t a solution but nor did we want to pay huge download fees. Greg thought he had a plan perfected but despite assurances we were well and truly Telstra-ed. Greg took this up with telstra on our return and was able to get one month's credit added to both our phones.
Greg had just come out of a few weeks travelling Australia running workshops and mentoring, all of which he did using an iPad, so he decided to leave his laptop at home. That didn’t work well. While writing is fine, he found updating his website and other tasks time-consuming and frustrating on the iPad.
The next trip is already in planning. The destination is still being discussed but we think it may involve train travel (fast trains have free Wi-Fi), Shanghai and Amsterdam.
Happy to take suggestions.
Carol is co-founder of Mackay Branson, a design studio currently celebrating 30 years in business.
Her expertise is in the use of design to package complex content into bite-sized chunks of information that is easy to understand and digest. She does that with clients in the corporate, cultural, government and not for profit sectors. More at mbdesign.com.au