How Taking Care Of Gardens Turned Into A Full-Time Career

Ask most people what their dream occupation is and they’ll usually mention one that involves a particular hobby or passion of theirs. The perceived satisfaction of being able to make money whilst working in a field that you’re passionate about is an elusive one, and also one that remains theoretical for most.

I’m lucky enough to report that it is indeed wonderful being able to go to work and also follow your passion, but the road that took me to this point was by no means easy.

I first started gardening for other people as a hobby. At the time I was working a in a lifeless office job, getting paid an OK salary but feeling like I was wasting my time nonetheless. I would spend most days hungrily looking forward to the weekend which would usually involve a trip to the garden centre, followed by hours of gardening. I loved the little garden behind my terraced house. Although it was small, I spent all my time packing it with as much life as possible, however it wasn’t long until I felt that I was running out of space. This is when I decided to offer my services to my neighbours.

I was fortunate enough to be on good terms with most of my neighbours, our walls were so thin that we were often able to hear each other through the walls, so it helped to know each other on a personal level. After reaching out to my neighbours on either side of me, my weekends became focused on planning and transforming their little gardens. Each space offered it’s own challenges which made the task all the more interesting and I soon found myself doodling designs in my spare time at work.

The first garden I tackled was Marjorie’s a sweet old lady who unfortunately is no longer with us. Marjorie had been quite the gardener during her youth, but as her mobility had faltered in later life her little garden had begun to get quite overgrown with some nasty invasive plants. When I first started hacking back the mass of plants, I was alarmed to discover a huge patch of Japanese knotweed. This bamboo like plant can ruin the value of a house, not mention bring up serious legal implications for the owner of the property should they allow it to spread to neighbouring properties.

For the sake of all of our house prices I stopped all my other projects and started focusing on systematically treating all the Japanese knotweed in the neighbourhood, a service that many were more than happy to compensate me for. Today I own a business that specialised in removing invasive plants and weeds from people’s gardens. I get real satisfaction on a daily basis from finding overgrown properties and turning them into spaces with potential.

Despite having no professional experience in this field I’ve been able to carve out a niche for myself that I wouldn’t have been able to do without my passion for gardening. My recommendation for those who are stuck in jobs that they do not care about is to ask what really makes you happy and how you can incorporate that into a career.

Just be prepared to put the time in and take a few risks!

‘Where will you be in five years time?’

This is the kind of question that is asked all around the world, it’s meant to incite the respondent to consider their future in the long-term and help give them insight into where they might be heading, although it can more often than not it can lead to a soul-crushing mind-blank.

Writers around the internet acknowledge that your twenties are the most difficult period of your life, there are literally hundreds of blogs all offering differing opinions on how to tackle this awkward time, when you’re set loose on the world with a handful of qualifications (if you’re lucky) and all the time you like to make the world you oyster if you know how.

Unfortunately, there is no simple ‘hack’ to finding your way through this bewildering time, however there are a few things that you can do to point yourself in a direction.

I say ‘a direction’ rather than ‘the right direction’ because it is so difficult to recommend a course of action to anyone who’s feeling a little lost. In truth only that person will know what direction is right for them will be you, and it’s unlikely that you’ll find an answer on the internet that will give you a meaningful purpose in life because that’s an answer that the human race has been trying to get to the bottom of for their existence.

All I can do is offer a few tips, hints really on how to focus your mind and put yourself in a good place to make the right calls when the time comes to it:

Get your sleep!

Your mind works at its best when you’re getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. It can be tempting to make the most of your evenings and stay up late to make the most of your days, but if you’re cutting into your sleep time then your well-being will be likely to take a hit. Regular good sleep resets your brain, boost your immune system and puts you in the best position to hit the day with a smile on your face.

Avoid drinking regularly

Following on from the last point, drinking regularly is likely to have a serious impact on the quality of your sleep, it’s also expensive and can lead to wasted time. Whilst drinking in a social setting certainly has its benefits, regular heavy drinking is best avoided if you feel like your future is a little uncertain. You won’t find your answers at the bottom of a bottle and heavy drinking rarely leads to good decision making.

ABS: Always Be Saving (Money)

Whilst avoiding regular drinking is a good way of saving money, you can go the extra mile by taking those savings and putting them somewhere that you can’t touch them like an ISA. Regardless of how much money you’re earning, you should always be able to afford to put a little money, whether it’s for a rainy day or for a bigger investment in the future you’ll feel like you’re making progress when you’re saving money each month.

Make plans, then stick to them

Finally, making a plan is the first step to taking affirmative action in your life. Whether you’re writing a ‘To Do list’, making a plan for the year to come or laying out a schedule for the week – make your plan and then stick to it. By accomplishing tasks on a daily basis you can build on your achievement and push towards bigger, better goals.

Fancy a holiday in the south of France?

I can make it happen!

The culture of travelling has changed a lot in the last 20 years, or at least so my boss tells me. When he was a bright and bushy-eared teenager at the turn of the Millennium the only way to book a holiday was by heading into town and talk to a travel agent.

To some younger people this might well sound like madness, but believe me, this was actually how it used to work. The travel agent would usually be a sharply-dressed individual (usually female) and would smell strongly of perfume, in fact the whole shop would smell of perfume. Carefully painted fingernails would tap loudly on keyboards and glossy brochures would point you in the direction of your next holiday.

You’d pick your destination from these brochures, find a hotel suitable for your budget and book your flights—all in one place. There’s no denying that this system was certainly efficient, but it’s not surprising that the young people of today go elsewhere when booking their trips away.

The company that I work for specialising in providing villas to rent in south France. It’s an online shop, a world away from the brick-and-mortar travel agencies of yesteryear, that offers a selection of luxury properties that holiday-makers can choose from. My job is chiefly concerned with uploading properties onto the website, answering emails from customers and researching new locations to add to the site. Although I’m serving a similar role as the traditional travel agents, I’m much more specialised in my approach and do not deal with any customers face-to-face.

Traditionally, before entering into this industry, it was expected that prospective travel agents should take an NVQ or a similar course in Tourism or Hospitality. My boss still has his certificate from 2002 proudly framed on the wall behind his desk. As much as these qualifications still offer useful information to young people, in truth you can pick up much of this information on the job, which is exactly what I’ve done.

After leaving school I decided to focus my efforts on learning how to code. It began as a hobby, but soon turned into a serious passion. I got myself on to a Programming A Level and with the experience I gained from that I was able to secure my first job. Although I was initially hired to help out with the development of the site, I soon found that I was being put to work with other tasks that I’d not initially been prepared before.

What had started out as just a temporary job soon turned into a fulfilling first step on a career ladder that I had no idea existed!

My case was certainly one of right place, right time. I joined the company just as it made the transition to online-only; they needed a young ambitious person who was eager to learn more about digital marketing and I was more than ready to take on the challenge. I had a very rigid notion of how careers worked whilst I was in college, but working here has allowed me to expand my horizons and appreciate that in the 21st century the sky’s really the limit!

Doomed to die in retail?

When you’re nearly four years into a retail job that is offering no further progression, there’s something so soul-crushing about answering the question: ‘So what have you been up to?’

I started my job at a certain nationwide bakery (that will henceforth go unnamed) when I was fresh out of school. My parents said it would be a good idea to get something on my CV and I wasn’t opposed to having the extra cash. They’d both spotted that the shop was looking for assistants and they’d even done me the service of printing off the application form. I dutifully filled it in, gave it back to them and went back to my video games, simultaneously forgetting all about it.

Two weeks later my phone vibrated and told me to meet my new manager at a High Street location of a nationwide bakery, apparently I’d got the job off the back of my sterling GCSEs and I was just the kind of person that they were looking for. Other than playing video games and hanging out with my friends, I didn’t really have any plans for the Summer, what’s the worse that could happen?

Wearing the iconic uniform and hairnet didn’t feel half as embarrassing as I’d initially expected. In fact, after 5 long years in school the prospect of actually doing something was exciting, not to mention earning some money in the process. OK, so I was on minimum wage, but that was still more of a wage than most of my other friends and this also meant that I had some much-coveted ‘work experience’ on my CV, something that I was told would serve me well in later life.

A month later and I’d spent close to 100 hours serving sausage rolls and steak bakes to the general public. School friends had come in to have a gawp at their mate who was working behind the counter, but were surprised with how confidently I took their order and how cheerfully I handed them their baked goods.

I was more surprised than anyone else, that this casual summer job had turned into an almost daily vocation that was fulfilling a need in my brain that I had been previously unaware of. I celebrated my first pay check by taking my parents out to dinner, they told me that it was them who should be paying but I wanted to show them my appreciation for my new found happiness. This happiness, unfortunately, was to be short-lived.

The first pangs of jealousy came when I saw my friends heading out for their travels. They were headed out to South East Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia – all places that were a world away from my humble day job. Day by day, as the photos on social media started to filter through and more of my friends stopped calling, my life behind the counter began to grate on me. Small details about my routine began to get to me; the stale smell of the bus on the way in, the regular monotonous beep of the ovens demanding to be emptied of goods, the one cash register which would get stuck.

I began to detest every aspect of my life, but I did nothing about it. What they don’t tell you about these jobs is that there’s a strange kind of comfort in the monotony. Once you’ve learnt the job, you’re rarely asked to do anything out of the ordinary, and you’re not expected to do anything either. You’re unhappy, but you’re also comfortable. You’re not cash rich, but you’re not skint. It took me four years to realise that the much coveted work experience on my resume was now more of a black mark than a commendation.

Oddly enough, my parents were pleased when I handed my notice in…