Weaving seasonal stories to entrance and delight

From the Croatian countryside to what makes your brand special

Life is all about collecting and sharing good stories, and not just at this time of year.

It's among the most primal ways we connect and communicate as humans, and for thousands of years, the only way we could share and develop a collective identity that drew us together and spanned generations.

Back in the days of oral histories around the campfire, those with the longest lives had the richest stories to tell, and were revered as the keeper of memories for the tribe. They didn't have Insta or Facebook Memories to pop up and remind everyone later, so our brains are wired to hunger for sequential plots which make sense in a linear way.

We are still storied mammals, it's just the technology and the context which have evolved - as my podcast guest this week Lidia Rumley, The Brand Storyteller, explains:

A branding consultant like Lidia can help you find and draw out your own unique story, whatever your business, which as a freelancer can be challenging sometimes. As we need to compete in a global marketplace, we have to set ourselves apart somehow, while at the same time providing clarity and reassurance to our ideal client about what it is we have to offer.

Storytelling is the answer, whether you do it to help your clients, or to define yourself to them - seek the help of an expert like Lidia, if you can't figure out a great through line for your personal plot. We can often be too close to the trees, to see it for ourselves.

It's the same for any product striving to discover its unique narrative, like Central Istria, Croatia, where I was lucky enough to spend time recently as part of a 'Digital Nomads in Residence programme', with Saltwater Nomads and a bunch of wonderful remote work, tourism and digital nomad professionals.

The story of Central Istrian tourism is one of landscape, culture, and gastronomy. Their outstanding natural beauty and wealth of natural resources deserves year-round attention, and a new wave of diverse remote workers are the perfect target audience for off-peak longer-stay visits.

Exploring small towns and villages dotted in picturesque valleys, for me it felt like the perfect retreat destination. I would like to hole up here for a month or two alone to write the next book, and walk in the forests, being inspired by the landscapes and the stones. To feel the rhythm of the changing seasons... Certainly I could see myself returning when it's warmer, to experience this beautiful spot in spring or autumn, away from the summer tourists, and witnessing the changing colours of the trees and fields.

As a group we worked with the tourism board to create a strategy to attract remote workers, who can stay for up to a year under the digital nomad visa. To connect the needs of this new kind of visitor with the tourism-oriented present offerings will take some adaptation, but it's all doable.

For longer stays and workations, the region definitely needs to consider:

💡 Flexible coliving accommodation, offering a blend of privacy and community - bridging the gap between hotel stays and self-catering with a mixture of individual units giving access to shared facilities to work and socialise

🏡 Longer-stay deals, on an individual/per-room basis, not as presently priced per-night

🥦 Choices of cuisine, celebrating the abundance of gourmet local produce with zero food miles for sure, but also offering variety, especially for non-meat-eaters

🚍 Varied public/shared transport options, to connect the isolated villages, and make it possible to explore independently in a sustainable way

👩🏻‍💻 Dedicated coworking spots in different locations, creating choice about where and how to get work done

👯‍♂️ Organised and accessible community events on a regular basis, bringing local people and digital nomads together, to synergise and socialise

🍷 Offers which reflect the changing demographics of the today's remote worker - varied ages, budgets, and inclinations.

🧗‍♀️ Year-round attractions and activities (or clear information about what is and is not open at any time), as well as excursions and advice for self-guided options for day trips or short breaks - using the region as a base, but offering variation and choice, for long stay guests to diversify their adventures.

The beats of the story are all there already in place, with the dots waiting to be joined.

Istria can learn from the examples we heard about, from industry experts working in Scotland and Australia. By centring an immersive multisensory experience on a clear narrative, you can extend the brand and add value, tying additional elements in to the tale: Connecting products with places, relating to the legends and histories which make each spot special, anticipating visual/shareable opportunities, and using the story itself to create an unforgettable experience.

I can't wait to share more about this exciting digital nomad hotspot in 2023, so make sure you are subscribed to the Future is Freelance show, wherever you get your podcasts... Because Season 3 will be back on January 6th. It's going to be an AMAZING year!

Your own freelance brand story might have very different themes to work with as the beautiful Istrian peninsular, but you can still describe your offering in terms of a narrative journey: the transformative experience you offer to your clients.

From pain point to happy resolution, it's the field-to-fork tale to be told, which ties up all the plot points into one delicious outcome. But you need to understand each character's sources of tension, and the conclusion they're seeking. The beginning, middle, and end of the tale, where everybody lives happily ever after.

At this time of reflection, enjoy exploring your own story.

I hope you enjoy wondrous celebrations and a proper break (yes, even you freelancers), over the next few weeks. And I wish you all you seek from 2023

Maya Middlemiss