How to “Pumpkin Plan” your business

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This is a guest post by Rebekah Mays, the owner of Thrive Copywriting. She helps sustainable and purpose-driven brands grow their leads and sales through SEO content strategy and writing. You can learn more about her and her growing community of conscientious marketers at

How to “Pumpkin Plan” your business

What can business owners learn from prize-winning pumpkin farmers? 

This is a question that Mike Michalowiz, business coach and bestselling author, answers in his book The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field.

The book is now ten years old, but that doesn’t mean the strategy doesn’t hold up today.

The idea is simple.

If you want to grow a truly remarkable business, Mike says, all you need to do is look at how farmers manage to grow massive pumpkins – and copy their strategy.

The strategy can be broken down into a few main steps:

  • Step 1: Plant the best seeds
  • Step 2: Water like crazy
  • Step 3: Regularly remove the bad pumpkins from the vine
  • Step 4: Weed like there’s no tomorrow
  • Step 5: Focus on the strongest pumpkins and remove all the others from the vine. 

And so on.

In the analogy, the vine is your freelance business. And the pumpkins are your freelance clients. 

While there are several steps in the Pumpkin Plan, I’d like to focus on one that a lot of us freelancers are scared to do … firing clients.

Regularly phasing out or firing the “diseased” clients, as Mike puts it, is crucial to allowing your business to grow and thrive. 

But it’s hard enough to get clients (or so we tell ourselves). So why the heck should we fire a client?

Why you need to fire your “diseased” clients

Here’s what I mean by a diseased client:

  • They never pay on time (or at all!)
  • They are constantly complaining about your work
  • They don’t respect you
  • They make you cringe every time you hear from them.

Hopefully you don’t have these kinds of clients!

But if you do, these no-good clients drain your energy and leave you with nothing left to give the ones who are actually good to you.

Worse still, the diseased clients take away time and energy that you could be spending marketing yourself and getting more of the good ones.

So – if you have any toxic clients, it’s time to fire them. 

You may not be able to do it today … but find a way to make it happen ASAP.

The moment you do it, you’ll have freed up your time and energy for something better.

How to evaluate your clients

So what about your other clients — the good ones and the okay ones? How do you even know who’s “good”?

Mike suggests evaluating each client according to several factors:

  • How much you’ve earned from them in the past 12 months
  • How much they make you cringe (or not)
  • How quickly they pay
  • How likely it is you’ll have repeat revenue from them in the future
  • How well they communicate
  • How well they align with your values

If a client scores well on many or all these factors, then you may have yourself an “ideal” client — a winning pumpkin.

If a client scores badly on many or all of these factors … then it might be time to phase them out and go get better ones.

If the client scores somewhere in the middle, it’s okay to keep them around for now … but make sure they’re not taking up more of your time than they should.

How to get more of the winning clients

Let’s say you do have a winning client or two. That’s great news!

Because once you’ve identified your winning clients, the first order of business is to make them as happy as possible. 

As I described in my recent guest post on this blog, “The 4 Floors of Your Business,” these great clients are the VIPS – the ones you roll out the red carpet for.

You’re going to bring all your creativity to figure out how to make them even more happy with you … and what services you could offer that would truly transform their business.

When you find out what they need, tailor your business to their needs.

Then, you’re going to market those services to attract new, great clients that are also winners. 

In other words, by focusing on your best clients, you’ll build a remarkable, thriving business with many awesome, happy clients. 

Baby step: evaluate your “pumpkins”

If you’re just getting started with your first couple of clients -- or you’re overwhelmed just thinking about firing a single client -- here’s my baby step for you.

This week, spend some time evaluating your clients on each of the factors I listed above.

Then, make an action plan – how you’re going to phase out the bad ones, and focus on getting more of the good ones. 

If you’re ready to embrace the whole strategy, I definitely recommend reading the book. 

You’ll definitely learn something — if not uncover a plan that will transform your entire business.

If you need a marketing plan to get those VIP clients in 2023, the Simplest Marketing Plan can help. Check it out.

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