View Full Version : Landscape Designs
11-29-2005, 04:11 AM
I was a little taken back lately when I returned a client's phone call the other day. The lead came from Service Magic. Say what you will about them, I get lots of great leads from them. Only reason I bring up Service Magic is because it's pertinent to the conversation I had with this client.
The client was looking for landscape design work. We have several great landscape designers who work for our company on a freelance basis and we've done a lot of geat design work. So before I could even get to that, the customer said, "Oh, thanks for calling me back. I was reading up about the 3 firms that Service Magic referred to me. It seems like your specialty is more in the installation phase of landscaping rather than design. I am really looking for just design work."
I said, "Oh, Well we have a number of excellent landscape designers - one in particular who I really like. I'd be glad to arrange an appointment."
He just didn't really want to hear anything I had to say from that point on. It was as if he didn't believe we really could do anything except installation. His next response was something like, "Yah...Ok...Well, I'll let you know...I really want to hire a company with some experience in landscape design. No offense. But I'll call you back if I am interested, thanks."
So that really hit a nerve. Because I think the designers we work with are top notch. But it's true that if you look at our website (before today) we really had no mention or examples of landscape designs we had done.
So long story short - I've posted several pictures of some landscape designs we've done. I just want some feedback. Are these nice enough to make a new client feel confident that they can hire us to do design work? Any of the designs you see that you WOULD NOT include in the list?
I looked at your site. The plans are very professional.
Lots of people get filled with notions and preconceived ideas either on their own or from other people. I think this is more true with the internet age. So many people get hooked on the computer and the cyber experts to solve all their needs.
This person has an inability to think and reason and therefore they lock onto statements of opinions as fact. Someone told this person that landscapers are all incapable of doing design work and that all designers are brilliant.
Reasonable people can be reasoned with even if they start off with assumptions.
Let's face it, there are a lot of people in the landscape installation field that have no ability to design. But, lets also face it that there are a lot of designers out there who don't build who are equally as bad. A reasonable person would want to talk to the designer (design/build or design only), look at their designs, look at their portfolio of built work, and then decide who is right for them. That client was not a reasoning person.
You might have one other thing working against you because you are in Oregon. You have an overactive government who has convinced everyone in the state that they can not use toilet paper without the government to protect them. OK, maybe not that, but you are incapable of pumping your own gas according to them. Anyway, I have seen lots of articles and internet posts about landscape designers being licensed in Oregon. These articles have had all of these reasons why it is important that the designer is licensed and how with that license they are all experts. It sort of makes an us against them mentality between contractors and designers. Your moron potential client got sucked in, I think.
Who knows better? You who design and build and maintain over and over and over, or someone from art school who sketches and then needs you to make it work? Now I know that is a stereotype of designers, but if they stereotype contractors it is fair game.
Don't let one idiot make you question your capability. This guy could not even pick his own designer, he needed service magic to make the decision for him. I think you don't need this guy.
11-29-2005, 08:47 AM
Look at it this way. This guy may have helped you out by pointing out a weakness in your site. Now you have it fixed and are better off. I have run in to the same type of people...Can't tell them anything, their mind is already made up. Best to spend your energy on customers that recognize and respect your ability. The designs look good. What is the going rate for design work and renderings in your area?
Dreams To Designs
11-29-2005, 09:26 AM
Jim, the designs you have posted look to be of very professional quality, but is that what the phone call was about? As Andrew has suggested, we live in the cyber age, where people think that a computer and a software program are what creates the designs. Did he need to see before pictures, 3D imaging and the installation pictures.
I do not find most of my clients are impressed with the plan drawing, but in the results. My drawings are all very technically accurate and carefully drawn, even colored for the client presentation, but their eyes seem to gloss over until the 3D imaging pics and the the Horticopia generated plant photos and information are presented. You do have to explain that the imaging is just a representation of the vision, but the client can now "see" what the design will look like in "real" time. It is all about perception, not always about the facts.
You are a wise man to seek the assistance of designers to enhance the professionalism of you business. Many firms that have a "design team" get caught in the same old landscape rut. By seeking outside sources you have been able to broaden your choices. Maybe that is what you need to highlight, not just the drawings, but the diversity of "your" design staff. The selection of proper plants and placement and the choices of hardscape and utility. I work with quite a few landscapers and their clients eyes light up when I am introduced as the designer. They feel that the landscaper is the muscle and the designer is the brains. Not always true or accurate, but it is a common perception. The skill of the design is not necessarily on the paper, but in the plant & material selection and the placement in concept on the property. A good designer is more than someone that can draw, or use software for pretty pictures. They should be a plant expert, knowledgeable about hardscapes, lighting, irrigation and all other facets of what goes into a good landscape.
11-29-2005, 01:09 PM
You might have one other thing working against you because you are in Oregon. You have an overactive government who has convinced everyone in the state that they can not use toilet paper without the government to protect them.
That's the understatement of the year! I tell you, it's getting REALLY old having to deal with the rediculous laws and rules we have here. I often think of moving to another state just for that reason.
Thanks for the other comments. I appreciate them. I read them all.
11-29-2005, 05:09 PM
I think you should show the drawing and then a live picture. People are all about results. I want to see color and actual homes and before and after. The tech drawings are the last thing a client cares about. Give a client a tech sheet and see the look of confusion.
I don't give a tech sheet until I get a signed agreement. I usually submit the 3-d shot with an agreement. That way, the client can't give the tech sheet to another installer at least without the plant desc. and lay-out specs.
12-06-2005, 04:09 AM
He saw the designs on our site and now he called me back wanting to make an appointment. Go figure! How funny.
12-06-2005, 08:13 AM
your designs look great
Dreams To Designs
12-06-2005, 11:39 AM
Jim, just goes to show, most consumers are impressed by pretty pictures. Glad you got the second oppurtunity with this potential client. Now you can really wow him with your work.
12-06-2005, 08:51 PM
just a suggestion.
perhaps scanning the images in as opposed to taking pictures of them that show the table and the like. Especially #7 and #5 is very blurry.
The designs look really nice, but we are people that can understand them. Your average General Public person wants to see pretty pictures, colors. The same people that want to plant oak trees really close to create immediate pricacy.
My other suggestion would be to group the designs. Put the before picture, then the design, then an after picture and perhaps a 2 years later picture. That way the potential client can see the whole process. Sort of a line up of 4 thumbnails in chronological order with labels below or something.
12-06-2005, 08:53 PM
LOL. Have you ever tried scanning a document that is 24" x 22" ???
The only place that can do it is Kinko's and they want over $50 for each scan!!! So this was the only affordable way for me to do it. But I agree with what you are saying. I just didn't have any other affordable way to do it.
12-06-2005, 09:36 PM
I like the idea Jim, I may add that feature to my site :) There may be services that can scan the plans for you though the pics are not terrible. I to do a fair amount of design work even though that is not the specialty of the company.
12-06-2005, 10:42 PM
24x22 would make things a little more difficult.
Still I think the before, design, after and mature idea would be really helpful for the average Joe to visualize things.
John B Laidlaw
12-07-2005, 12:52 PM
If I may add my 2 cents worth. Marketing is a complex aspect for any business. Ask yourself questions that a person unfamilar with your business may ask. To do this, have friends or relatives play the part of a potential customer.
The pictures of the plans are fine but personally I would give just enough to entice them to call for more information. This way you have the chance to wow them with your knowledge and you get to schedule a hot lead without the effort of starting from a cold lead status. You obviously have a portfolio so you can show potential clients this in person. You have a much better chance to close the deal.
B&G Lawn Service
12-08-2005, 12:01 PM
Being in Engineering for a large Conv. Store chain in the NE, I see plans everyday. We are constitly looking at our Landscaping/Irrigation plans. A large part is how the plants, hardscape, irrgation is laid out. Not too many people think hand drawings are "professional". Not saying you plans are not, I think they are very good! I would look into design software to create these renderings. (Photoshop etc.) If you decide to impress important clients I would try the software approach.
I would not let that bother you....like someone said he cannot even make his mind up....sounds like he be a pain! I see did you call him back? Are you going to do the job?
Good Luck.....just my 2 cents!
12-10-2005, 09:40 AM
This is my first post on this site. I have read alot of great info already. With the end of the year coming i'm looking to spend some money and want to do so with as much info as possible. I think i'm going to buy a mini tracked loader. My questions are which one and will it really be useful to me. I already have a bobcat S185 cat 257b and a case cx-31 mini excavator? I like the fact that these smaller machines (mini's) are very easy to transport, easy to use and should fill the need of moving materials on smaller jobs without have to transport a 7000lb machine. I have tried the dingo tx413 tx420 don't think they will fit my needs. I just tried the boxer 224 viable tracks with honda engine, I was sure I would love it but as an experianced operator of various equipment it was not easy to operate at all. I didn't think I would want the mt52 but it is looking better everyday (haven't tried it yet) Let me know what you guys think. thanks Jim
12-11-2005, 05:56 PM
Well,I think putting your landscape plans on-line is giving your desighners ideas away free.
They can be taken right off the site and used by anybody.
I think when a designers do a design..they "own" it
just like an author owns a book or a producer or writer owns a script.They own it and even if they work for you,it should not be givin away free or offered up free of charge.I do not think it neccesary to get the work.When I get a call like that,I will e-mail a file of pics of work I have done to the client and let them look at those.
But not my designs.
Just finished jobs.
12-12-2005, 07:07 PM
No. I bought and paid for each of those designs and I own the rights to them. And you must be confused because authors don't own their book. They sell the rights to their book to a publisher and the publisher agrees to give them a percentage of sales. But the publisher has the rights to reproduce in any way they want to.
As for giving their ideas away for free, I don't see how these designs could really be stolen and used for someone else's landscape. Designs are specific to each landscape. It's not like you can take a design for someone else's landscape and them impliment it at your house. It isn't going to work. Your home has a different shape, your hardscapes are different, your lawn is a different shape, your slopes are different, the amount of sun or shade isn't going to be the same at your house, etc. Besides, on most of the designs that I have posted, you can't see enough detail to see which plants it called for, material specifications, etc.
I do have one nice design there that shows a perspective view of a nice flagstone patio, pergola, fireplace, and water feature. I suppose someone could steal that "idea" and impliment something similar in their yard. But these kind of ideas are in just about every outdoor gardening magazine and on thousands of sites across the internet anyway. So it's not like that idea of a pergola and a fireplace and a patio is anything unique that we came up with. It's a very common landscape idea. What makes the design unique is that we designed it, to-scale, specifically to fit our client's back yard.
I agree with Jim that a good landscape design is specific to the project. Sure people can see the composition and plant combinations and can "steal' them. But landscape design is problem solving. Part of that is aesthetic problem solving. The effect would seldom be the same when applied somewhere else.
The same can be said when you meet with a client and toss out ideas. My feeling is that they can get some ideas from me, but that anything that I can say while walking around a site is not of such detail and value that I am afraid to give it up. They will by me if they like my ideas. If they don't buy me, they can try to run with those ideas and I don't mind. If I get to the point where those ideas are valued so highly by me that I can not expend them to try to sell design work, I have to wonder if there will be anyone who can afford the rest of what I do.
I sell design work which in turn sells the construction job. That is where the real money is. Sometimes, they try to implement the plan themselves or hire a cheaper landscaper. The result is not the same. Way more often than not, they know that and hire us. It is an investment that I am very comfortable with.
12-13-2005, 02:47 PM
Jim, the designs and your website are great. I also use outsiders to do my landscape designs.
I think that customers sometimes feel like you are going to mark up the price if you hire out any part of the job. Maybe that was what this guy initially thought. He probably did some calling around and ran into higher prices than he expected.
How much do your designers typically charge for the drawings, and do any of them also do installations?
12-13-2005, 08:57 PM
I work with 4 different designers currently. And I used to have one on staff full time. His designs were amazing. The best ones you see there are from him. The nice one with the fireplace, the one that is in color, etc. But I couldn't keep him busy enough so we finally parted ways. Anyway, I still have 4 others who are strictly landscape designers. They don't install anything.
Their fees vary wildly from one to another. And it depends on their popularity, really. One is the president of the state landscape designers' association. She does designs with AutoCAD and puts in a little too many hours and too much detail into every design. Her hourly rate is the highest. I think around $50 or $60 per hour. And her designs typically run at least $1000 and up to $2000 or more.
The other 3 designers all charge around $35 per hour or so but each of them take different amounts of time to complete a design. One might 8 hours to do what another one could do in 3 or 4 hours. I don't know if that's because one is padding the time or the other isn't charging enough or what. And then of course, they vary in degrees of perfection too. Some are sticklers about making things perfectly to-scale. Others are just sort-of to-scale. And some of the designers can do perspective view designs (3D rendering) as well as plan-view designs (top down view) while others can only do the plan-view designs. So who I use depends on what I need done, the level of expertise I require, their availability at any given time, etc.
If I use one of the more affordable ones, I can usually get a nice to-scale design done for an entire property for less than $300. So sometimes I'll mark that up, sometimes, and sell it to the customer. Other times, I just let the designer invoice the customer directly and I don't make anything except on the install. It all depends on the situation. If I feel like there's a really strong likelihood that the client is going to use us for the install, then I won't try to gouge them on the design. But if I feel like they are shopping me around then I'm going to mark up the design and at least make a little money.
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