Self-Employed In The Country! The Varied Life of Professional Outdoorist, Lynne Allbutt
Best known as a TV & Radio Presenter, ‘Professional Outdoorist’ Lynne Allbutt’s love and enthusiasm of the natural world is inspiring, infectious and utterly uplifting. She is an avid writer and speaker whose humour and energy make for informative and lively talks, walks and interviews on the great outdoors and ‘nature as teacher’. Being self-employed all her life Lynne explains how she faces a recession every year which she calls a “rest-session”, her varied work week, motivation and how she is tentatively tackling Social Media.
Can you briefly describe the work you have done?
I started my own Garden Maintenance business at 18 years old and developed it into Landscaping and Design; I still manage it today and am still very hands on! I inadvertently created a path into the Media after producing a “Calendar Girls” calendar for Charity that I handed personally to Prince Charles at the Royal Welsh Show many years ago, long before the ladies that made that name famous. This ‘exposure’ led to being offered professionally led presenting work for BBC Wales. I fronted two garden makeover series and went on to do much the same for SKY TV. The media work has also included numerous ‘guest appearances’ on the likes of the Paul O Grady Show, with Dermot O Leary, Alan Titchmarsh and BBC Breakfast TV.
I have written regular gardening columns for a number of National Newspapers for many years. I have also trained and qualified in various holistic therapies and my love of Nature, herbs and animals has led to working with them holistically in a number of ways, including Zoopharmacognosy – how animals self-medicate in the wild. I also engrave slate and stone (combining my love of natural products and words), keep bees, breed mini pet pigs and do a fair amount of public speaking.
Whenever I am asked what I do as a living, I ask, “which day are you interested in?”
I decided to create a “tiny holding” here in South Wales and bought three micro pigs with the view to breeding them and Pepperpot Pigs was born. The three pigs had 24 piglets and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. I now have a lot of piglets looking for good homes – which of course I vet first as they are only meant to be pets. I’ve also recently had Allbutt’s Almanac published which is a Nature lover’s companion and gardening guide so I’m busy promoting that at the moment. It’s a project I’ve been working on most of this year and it’s great to see the finished product. The first of many. I always have something going on as well as my day jobs.
At the moment what would your “normal” working week be?
Monday’s I try to spend in front of my computer (which can be very difficult if the sun is shining), writing up the three weekly columns I do for The Western Mail (Wales’s National Newspaper), The Abergavenny Chronicle and Positive Weather Solutions website.
Tuesday is normally spent engraving and collecting suitable stone from quarries as well as delivering pieces I’ve completed.
Wednesday and Thursday are spent out on site landscaping. Last week I worked with the boys landscaping a piece of waste ground and incorporating it into a client’s garden. We exported 25 ton of stones and imported 50 ton of topsoil which was graded and levelled. I was lucky in-so-far-as I did get to spend some time on the digger as well as the shovel and rake!
Friday is spent interviewing celebrities for my Western Mail column, and generally catching up on the ‘left-overs’ of the week. You could say I lead a varied week in my business.
As well as working full days, I look after my 25 pigs and piglets, three bee hives and chickens. Occasionally I will have a speaking engagement one evening, or a ‘Bee Meeting’ to attend as Press Officer of the Gwent Bee Keeper’s Association. The weekends are usually spent ‘working’ as I believe I have vocations rather than a job. So it’s more of the same, pricing work, looking after my own garden, maybe an after-dinner talk, or stocking up on hay and straw. Next Saturday I have a book signing for Allbutt’s Almanac. No two weeks are ever the same in my life!
You have been self-employed all your life – would you ever consider being an employee?
Very occasionally after a very wet, cold week; but I am reminded of my brother’s comment, “Forget it Lynne, you are unemployable now”. I see that as a good thing by the way! I do believe that everyone should have a year or two as a self-employed person so they appreciate the huge difference in having to generate or find your work, do your work, invoice for it and all the other administrative and financial commitments that go with it as opposed to tipping up for work at 9am and strolling out at 5pm.
Self-employment takes motivation – what motivates you?
Thankfully I was born motivated. I was also bullied badly at school and I think that has resulted in an almost subconscious drive to make something of my life. I have always been more of a ‘human doing’ than a ‘human being’.
No matter what your trade if you are self-employed you have to have some business savvy to succeed – what would you say is yours?
Love what you do and do what you love. If you are really passionate about what you do you cannot fail. I couldn’t do what I do if it was just a job, it would be too hard. Also treat every client, supplier and employee as you would want to be treated and try to give a little bit more than they expect; they will always remember (and recommend) you. Oh and keep on top of the paperwork!
A lot of your work would be seasonal – how do you manage during the quiet times?
Landscape gardening is difficult as it is weather dependant and seasonal as well as being incredibly physical and male orientated. Not that that’s ever been a problem; I have earned a great deal of respect from the lads by working alongside of them and never asking them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. I still get to wash the cement mixer out at the end of the day!
In the 25 years I have run the Landscaping business, every winter has been a ‘recession’; I cut my cloth accordingly, am grateful to loyal client’s and plan as much as I can for the spring. Spring always follows winter, day follows night, good times will always follow difficult times. I have learned to accept the quiet times as a ‘rest-session’. Nature teaches that for healthy growth, quiet times are necessary and it is often in the quieter months that my most creative ideas and projects are born. Go with the flow, not against it. Worrying and fretting will not make the phone ring.
What type of advertising do you do?
Mostly word-of-mouth, though the numerous articles and columns I write and the talks I give ensure I keep a presence in people’s minds which I think is important. I have never paid for an advert in my life. My first column was created 25 years ago when I suggested to a local newspaper that I write a weekly column for free in exchange for an advert to go alongside of it. I have written a weekly column for that paper – The Tindle Group – ever since.
Do you use Social Media at all?
I was ‘dragged’ into Social media and the more I use it the more I realise the benefit of it. I use my Facebook page more than Twitter but I’m getting there. I even have a LinkedIn page but that is early days. You reach so many people; people who are interested in what you do. I can’t go so far as to say I enjoy it but I realise it’s value to my businesses. My main problem is finding the time.
From your interviews you must have some famous names in your phone book – can you name some favourites?
As well as celebrities I also insist on interviewing ‘people of interest’ now and then – they are usually the most interesting. I have interviewed the World’s oldest twins (who are Welsh), the owner of the World’s largest Leech farm (also here in Wales) and a fabulous Native American Indian Healer. Celebrities include Bill Bailey, Julian Clary, Sarah Beeny, Dara O’Briain, most of the Welsh Rugby team, Bill Turnbull, Joe Calzaghe and the Barefoot Doctor. Julian Clary called me out of the blue one evening to talk about buying a couple of my little piglets, it was weird hearing him say, “Hi Lynne, Julian here, have you got a minute ….”
What is planned in the near future for the Lynne Allbutt Enterprise?
Next year promises some very exciting harvests. I have spend the last couple of years sowing seeds that are about to come to fruition. The biggest project will be the Zoopharmacognosy, and I am working with the incredible Caroline Ingraham planning workshops and talks galore to bring this amazing concept to every household that has a pet. I also have two books to write and several other projects to develop as well as continuing to find time to just stop and smell the roses on this amazing journey!
Thank you for taking time out for this interview Lynne. Good luck in your future ventures and I’m sure with your drive and enthusiasm you will succeed in everything you try your hand at.