In Praise of What We Do Not Do

weeds In a town of beautiful gardens (as evidenced by the photos I talked about in a previous blog post), I am at best a haphazard gardener. I get great gushes of inspiration, fly into a frenzy of weeding and planting and watering, and then, when I realize that something has to be done in the garden every single day, I lose interest. This attitude, as you can imagine, does not lead to a spectacular looking garden.

This photo is of what happened when my husband and I decided, several years ago, that our concord grape arbor was doing fine without our interference. It turns out that grapes are the mothers-in-law of gardens. They wrap themselves around anything they can find and slowly, stealthily, grow around it until the thing is subsumed. This year, when we finally decided to tackle the grape vines and wrestle our trees back from their grasps, the resulting pile of vines and unsalvagable tree branches covered an area roughly the size of Rhode Island.


In short, I don't do gardening well enough to call myself a gardener. Really, I have two choices. One option is to continue to do it poorly, as I have, and I'll get the results I've been getting: sometimes it looks nice, for short bursts; sometimes, there's a mountain of weeds on my patio; and sometimes, the neglect gets to the point that I close the windows that face my yard just to save myself from the guilt. The other option is to hire someone else to garden for me -- someone who knows what they're doing and who will be required to be consistent, because I'll be paying them.

The same thing can be said for the things that I don't do for Jebraweb clients. In my early days as a freelancer, I tried to be everything to everyone. I did web design. I did database development and integration and even data entry. I built search functions. I designed marketing emails in Constant Contact. I did research. I wrote content. I helped people write RFPs. I did some SEO (search engine optimization). I did a dozen other things, only some of them well, some of them not often enough to stay on top of innovation and changes in technology or trends. Because of this, sometimes I lost money on a project because, though I said I could do what they wanted, I hadn't done it in so long that I had to take time to re-learn it -- time for which I could not bill the client. This was a bad strategy. I've let it go.

yellow rosesNow, I focus on the things I do well, and I find other people who are experts at the things I've chosen to let go. I outsource SEO now, to a trusted firm whose entire focus is on search engines and online marketing. I hire social media experts for my clients who want someone else to do their facebook/twitter/pinterest posting. If they want someone to write the content for their site, I hire a marketing writer. If I am working with a client launching a new company, and they have no logo yet, I hire a logo designer to do not just the online logo, but to provide a whole suite of print-ready versions. Those other people are great at those things because that is what they do.

If I let these things -- gardens, search engine optimization, logo design -- be done by people who know exactly what they're doing, they're far more likely to be done well. It will be hard for me to write that check to the gardener, knowing that I could do it myself if only I put my mind to it. The reality is, though, that when I care about the quality of my garden enough to put the time into it that it really requires, that time will have to come out of something I am already good at doing: running my business, cooking, spending time with my kids (who hate gardening more than I do), playing my fiddle, or any number of other things. When I do write that check, I'm sure there will be a moment of guilt -- but when I look out into the garden and enjoy the beauty there, and the peace of mind that will come from taking it off my perpetual to-do list, the flowers will be well worth it.

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