Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
It is 20 years ago this month that, as a garden design student still studying at college, I had the opportunity to undertake my first paid project for a homeowner in North London. With just a few theoretical designs carried out as part of my course under my belt, it was with fear and trepidation that I visited my first potential client to carry out an initial appraisal of the garden and to learn about their expectations for the space.
I had lived near the property so had a fair idea of the type of garden I would be viewing but absolutely no further information to go on. Additionally, I had never taken a brief before but in advance of the meeting I had done a great deal of preparation and produced a questionnaire in order to gather as much information as possible about what the client wanted.
In the corporate world I hadn’t experienced the vacuum of this black hole of no experience and no support. This time it was all down to me. No household name with decades of history and reputation behind me. Just little me and a client who wanted a new garden. Little did she know that I had never designed let alone built one before!
New client in a new field
The point is that when you start out on your own in a new field with no portfolio or testimonials, it is a scary place. I had to present myself and my ability to design (and project manage the build) to someone who was entrusting me with their hard earned savings.
The point of the story is that they did choose me to design their garden and it was built on time and on budget without any hiccups.
At the time it was a steep learning curve but I learnt some very valuable lessons:
- Have confidence in yourself – I believed in my ability to provide the client with a beautiful garden which fulfilled her dreams within a budget.
- Trust those around you – I trusted the people I brought in to do the landscaping
- Communicate clearly with everyone involved – I enjoyed interacting with the client, the landscaper and the suppliers.
- If in doubt ask an expert – I learnt that if you don’t know something, there is always someone to ask.and my tutor who gave my plans the once over.
- Planning – running through the process
- Being in control of the process and the meeting
- Listen to exactly what the customer wants
The second client brought half the fear of the first, the third a fraction of the first and so on until I felt quite confident. Over the next few years it became easier as I built a portfolio of plans and photos of finished projects to show clients and a host of testimonials which brought in referrals.
By feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I was off to the races which led to 14 years of garden design and over 350 landscaping projects.