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Rachel Bailey shares her top business tips

Rachel Bailey set up her business Rachel Bailey Garden Design Ltd in June 2015, since then she has gone from strength to strength winning a Pro Landscaper Business Award for the Garden Designer category, Houzz customer service award and a Gold medal for her Long Border at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. We spoke to Rachel Bailey to find out her advice for up-and-coming businesses. 

Every business is different, even within the same industry. Nevertheless there will always be certain aspects that all businesses face when they start out. This is my experience of setting up and growing my business to date, which may help others starting out or in the early years of their business.

The greatest improvements to my productivity and enjoyment of my work has come from developing a collaborative network of contractors, nursery people, lighting designers and more recently specialist craftspeople. Taking the time to develop these relationships has built mutual respect and an understanding of our respective skills and abilities. Without this wider team it would be impossible to bring my designs to fruition.

Like many designers I am self-employed and work alone for much of the time. This can be lonely and isolating. Fortunately, I have a good support network of family and friends, and over the past few years, I have developed a wonderful network of peers through the local Society of Garden Designers cluster group. These talented people continue to offer advice, critical feedback, mutual support and friendship. Networking with local businesses as well as people in the industry has also alleviated loneliness and offered opportunities that I otherwise might not have had. For example, I met a local architect at a local business networking meeting who subsequently invited me to collaborate on a joint building and landscape design tender.

An excellent piece of advice I was given early on and took on board wholeheartedly was to manage my clients’ expectations. Very few of my clients have hired a garden designer before and many have unrealistic expectations about how long work will take, or how much materials and time cost. I have found that by explaining these costs and helping them to understand the design process from the outset and then regularly communicating with them and listening to their concerns has resulted in excellent working relationships throughout the duration of the project. On another positive note, many clients are also astonished about what a difference a well thought out and carefully implemented design makes to their garden.

No matter how busy I am, I schedule time to reflect on my work, which I feel is paramount to developing both the business and my design skills, and I regularly undertake continuing professional development. There are always new products to find out about, skills to be developed and inspiration to be gained. Whilst this takes time away from paid work, valuing my time and investing in the future has already reaped rewards. By learning Sketchup Pro, I am now saving time on my drawings and through developing other skills and collaboration, I am able to take on more challenging projects.

I have also taken on work pro-bono in an effort to give something back to the community, which at the same time I hope is raising the profile of our industry locally. I designed my daughter’s school garden, which is now providing the children with a wonderful space to learn about horticulture (and design) and is helping to change teachers’, parents’ and the next generation’s perception of our industry.

My business is definitely moving in the right direction and I hope, with the help of mentors, to grow it further over the next few years.

Visit Rachel Bailey’s website here: www.rachelbaileydesign.co.uk

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