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Growing a freelance business

I used to think gardening was for old people, but I’ve really got into it over the last year or so. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I’m enjoying it though.

I’ve also started to see the similarities with freelance life. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that freelance life is a lot like gardening.

I’ve learnt so much during my first year as a freelancer, just as I’ve learnt to take care of a garden (thanks to Monty).

We’ve used our gardens to help us understand life. There’s got to be a way to apply similar lessons to growing a freelance business. 

1. It helps to have a plan

For a garden to look in good shape, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. Tasks like weeding, pruning and sweeping up.

In a business, that’s like the admin and finance stuff we have to keep on top of. Even though it’s annoying and it takes up more time than we’d like, it’s essential work.

I can’t pretend to be an expert here. I’m a bit scattergun when it comes to planning and organisation. I’m trying to get better. Routine helps.

Amanda Appiagyei, on the other hand, is an expert. She shares 5 mini-tutorials in one blog post here that might actually get you excited about tackling some admin.

5 Things You Should Schedule to Keep You Organised & Productive.

Admin is a bit like weeding. It’s a boring job and it needs doing regularly, but things always look and feel a lot better after it’s done.

2. Get the right tools for the job

Gardening can be hard work if you don’t have the right tools. Ever tried to dig a massive hole with only a trowel?

It’s the same in business.

Sometimes it’s worth investing in the right tools for the job, whether that’s specialist software, handy apps or a reliable laptop.

And you get what you pay for. Cheap garden forks don’t last very long. Sometimes paying a bit more will save you money in the long run.

Here’s a list of 25 of the best tools for freelancers, via Creative Boom.

3. Things take time, be patient

Your business isn’t going to grow overnight any more than your garden would. Have patience, good things take time to establish themselves.

You’ll have seasons where things grow quickly and others where it’s time to rest. It’s good to understand which season you’re in so you can make the most of it.

This blog post from Stephanie Pollock explains the idea in more detail: What season of business are you in? (and why it matters).


I hope this is all making sense so far. I’d hate to let Monty down.

Speaking of Monty…

We’re not all him.

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4. Sometimes you need to ask for help

It might just be a few words of advice or some instructions on how to take care of something, or you might need to bring in outside help to handle a big or repeat job.

It’s okay that you can’t do everything yourself. If you want your business (or your garden) to be at its best, get help where you need it.

When we give up the security of employment, we also lose the benefits of things like paid-for training, half a day with a colleague to learn a new system and tech support from Dave in IT.

That leaves a lot resting on one pair of shoulders, and that’s just the start of it.

Finding support is essential. And it feels good to give back, too.

Freelancer-run communities make a huge difference. Start with Being FreelanceDoing It For The KidsMuseum FreelanceIndependent Work and Freelance Heroes and you won’t go wrong.

5. Make sure you enjoy it along the way

Some things in your garden will be low maintenance, but others need lots of attention. And there are always things you want to add or change.

It’s the same when you’re growing a freelance business. It feels like there’s always more to do.

Try to have fun with that.

Hopefully, you enjoy working on your business as much as you enjoy a good potter around the garden (if that’s your thing).

It’s good that things keep growing and evolving, and that you have lots of ideas for how you can make your business better.

The pressure comes when we expect everything to happen so quickly.

Just like in the garden, it’s about trusting that you’re growing something you can be proud of, and that a little bit of progress each day or week will add up.

And, most of all, it’s about enjoying it along the way.


Monty’s jobs for the weekend

Or for whenever – you’re the boss. Don’t let anyone tell you when you have to work. Not even Monty Don.

(Do let him tell you when to plant stuff, though. He’s good at that.)

1 Spend an hour doing the weeding. Just one hour on admin. I bet you’ll feel better after it’s done. (Tips from Amanda: 5 Things You Should Schedule to Keep You Organised & Productive)

2 Figure out which season of business you’re in (and why it matters).

3 Join a new community and, if you need help, start asking questions. If you’re already part of a community but have been AWOL for a while (I’m guilty of this), jump back in. Ask some burning questions. Try to help others.

4 Equip yourself with some new tools that’ll make your life easier and your work better.

5 Enjoy the process, whichever season you’re in.

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