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bcg
04-28-2011, 10:49 PM
I know it's my own fault but...

I did a bid for a guy last fall who lived down the street from the job I entered in the AOLP contest last year. Thinking that it being down the street from that job would pretty much make it a slam dunk, I decided to leave a copy of the design with the guy at no charge. Well, I'm working on a house across the street from it and doing the night time adjust this evening, I happened to notice that the house is lit and that although the landscape isn't even close to what I suggested, the architectural lighting is exactly what I proposed. It looks like they even used the fixtures and wattages I suggested.

Lesson learned, and I charge for design proposals now, but it still pi$$e$ me off a little...

S&MLL
04-29-2011, 12:32 AM
I know it's my own fault but...

I did a bid for a guy last fall who lived down the street from the job I entered in the AOLP contest last year. Thinking that it being down the street from that job would pretty much make it a slam dunk, I decided to leave a copy of the design with the guy at no charge. Well, I'm working on a house across the street from it and doing the night time adjust this evening, I happened to notice that the house is lit and that although the landscape isn't even close to what I suggested, the architectural lighting is exactly what I proposed. It looks like they even used the fixtures and wattages I suggested.

Lesson learned, and I charge for design proposals now, but it still pi$$e$ me off a little...

Thats sucks. Its happened to me 1 time that I know of. Homeowner was i guess a diy type guy. Now my proposals no longer include fixture numbers. Only spotlight Not 15733

AOLP
04-29-2011, 12:49 AM
Good for you, men and women in the sales are some of the only ones that give their time away, worse...you're costing your business $$$. Keep your design info to yourself as much as possible. Try not to spill your candy. What are your plans moving forward? How will you charge?

emby
04-29-2011, 10:23 AM
What an awful experience for you Bernie.

Although this scenario has never happened to myself I have thought about it previously. One of the ways that I have eliminated that issue from taking place, is that I charge the client a design fee before I begin the actual design. Once the payment has been made I proceed. In my initial contact with the client I explain that the original investment of the design will have to be payed up front.

I have often thought about the whole process from the original phone call or email to the completion of the project.
We are in business to make money (and for the love of landscape lighting) but generally your time is worth something. Your overhead costs should incorporate your associated costs such as gas and your hourly rate when first visiting the client. After my first year of business I reviewed my costs associated with meeting with clients for the first time and I was shocked at the numbers. I was not charging for this initial consultation. These numbers included my time and gas to travel to the site and sometimes an hour or two to proceed with the design. These numbers did not reflect any profit for my company so now I incorporate that into the design fee as well.
In my opinion it is very important to question your clients very carefully when first contact is made. You can discuss a budget which determines how much detail you can incorporate into the design and then explain to them the costs associated with the whole process of a professional outdoor lighting system.
Following this procedure allows me to quickly decide if this client is serious about investing in a professional outdoor landscape lighting system. This initial fee ensures that I will be compensated for my time, associated costs and a profit when providing the client with the design.

This is how I have proceeded, but I would be very interested in hearing how others have dealt with this issue too.

Ken

starry night
04-29-2011, 10:47 AM
Ken and others, I am still studying and not yet ready to advertise or seek out clients for lighting. When I have met with clients concerning landscaping, I have mentioned to them the costs of producing a full-blown plan versus merely discussing the concept and the featured plants. (Bear in mind, these were smaller jobs, up to about $6000 to $7000.)
Most of the clients opted just for the discussion and general sketch.

Do you think this will work with lighting clients? Or, in your experience, would most clients want to know all the details of each and every fixture?

bcg
04-29-2011, 05:48 PM
I'm going out to do the initial consultation for free where we'll talk about what they want, their budget (which I'm also trying to screen on the phone before that meeting) and how I'd go about achieving the effect they'd like. At that time, I'm giving a ballpark number and if it's in the realm they want to be in, I charge them $450 for the design, which I collect before leaving the consultation. I tell them the design cost will be credited to the job if they go with us.

On the designs themselves, I've changed from specific fixture models and/or wattage and beam spread to generic terms like LED uplight, Accent Light, etc. to make it a little harder to duplicate my design.

On the flip side of the first post, I guess I should be flattered that he thought enough of the design to shop it around until he found someone that would do it for his price. It's really kind of lame that he didn't give me an opportunity to quote just the part he ended up doing though, it would have probably been about 1/2 the original bid. Oh well, it sucks but not much I can do about it and I can take some comfort in knowing that whoever did it did a poor job of adjusting it so it doesn't look nearly as nice as it could with just a 30 minute tune up.

cuttin-to-the-Max
04-29-2011, 10:48 PM
Man that sucks! Thats why i dont let them have my designs unless i have some sort of percentage of the project or even a deposit.

Dr.NewEarth
04-29-2011, 11:37 PM
Up here, we need the money up front before we hand over a design.

The builders lien act won't help us get paid unless we have actually
done some kind of physical improvement to the property.

Lite4
04-30-2011, 12:49 AM
Our initial contact is free, however, if the design is extensive we tell the homeowner up front about design fees. (usually just on projects of 50 fixtures or more). At the second meeting we review the plan and ask for the sale. If they hum and haw, I will either take the plan with me or I will offer to let them purchase it. We do the same with the landscape plans and it has worked out pretty well. To be perfectly honest, I have never had anyone ever present a competitors lighting plan to me for bid. Either it doesn't happen that often or my competitors don't draw up designs. Rarely when I meet with a prospect will they be shopping 2-3 lighting contractors. Usually it is just me about 75-80% of the time.

How is everyone presenting their designs? I use autocad for my designs and as built drawings.
Posted via Mobile Device

niteliters
04-30-2011, 09:09 AM
What an awful experience for you Bernie.

Although this scenario has never happened to myself I have thought about it previously. One of the ways that I have eliminated that issue from taking place, is that I charge the client a design fee before I begin the actual design. Once the payment has been made I proceed. In my initial contact with the client I explain that the original investment of the design will have to be payed up front.

I have often thought about the whole process from the original phone call or email to the completion of the project.
We are in business to make money (and for the love of landscape lighting) but generally your time is worth something. Your overhead costs should incorporate your associated costs such as gas and your hourly rate when first visiting the client. After my first year of business I reviewed my costs associated with meeting with clients for the first time and I was shocked at the numbers. I was not charging for this initial consultation. These numbers included my time and gas to travel to the site and sometimes an hour or two to proceed with the design. These numbers did not reflect any profit for my company so now I incorporate that into the design fee as well.
In my opinion it is very important to question your clients very carefully when first contact is made. You can discuss a budget which determines how much detail you can incorporate into the design and then explain to them the costs associated with the whole process of a professional outdoor lighting system.
Following this procedure allows me to quickly decide if this client is serious about investing in a professional outdoor landscape lighting system. This initial fee ensures that I will be compensated for my time, associated costs and a profit when providing the client with the design.

This is how I have proceeded, but I would be very interested in hearing how others have dealt with this issue too.

Ken

hey Ken, when you're talking budget, how do you approach?

niteliters
04-30-2011, 09:15 AM
I'm going out to do the initial consultation for free where we'll talk about what they want, their budget (which I'm also trying to screen on the phone before that meeting) and how I'd go about achieving the effect they'd like. At that time, I'm giving a ballpark number and if it's in the realm they want to be in, I charge them $450 for the design, which I collect before leaving the consultation. I tell them the design cost will be credited to the job if they go with us.

On the designs themselves, I've changed from specific fixture models and/or wattage and beam spread to generic terms like LED uplight, Accent Light, etc. to make it a little harder to duplicate my design.

On the flip side of the first post, I guess I should be flattered that he thought enough of the design to shop it around until he found someone that would do it for his price. It's really kind of lame that he didn't give me an opportunity to quote just the part he ended up doing though, it would have probably been about 1/2 the original bid. Oh well, it sucks but not much I can do about it and I can take some comfort in knowing that whoever did it did a poor job of adjusting it so it doesn't look nearly as nice as it could with just a 30 minute tune up.

Why do you credit the design fee back to the client if they accept proposal? You have real cost in going thru the process of preparing bid. Are these costs built into the methods/systems you use to prepare your proposal and you credit back so you're not charging twice or are you discounting the project and losing that revenue if proposal is accepted?

bcg
04-30-2011, 12:38 PM
The design cost is built into the proposal, I'm not losing profit by crediting it back.

GreenI.A.
04-30-2011, 01:14 PM
hey Ken, when you're talking budget, how do you approach?

not sure of Ken's approach but for me it is pretty easy. I was aprehensive about this the first few times I asked the client on lighting or irrigation installs but I learnt pretty quickly.

I pretty much fraise it like this: "What budget window are you looking to be in? The reason I ask is I can give you an ok design that will do the job for $xxxx or I can do an ideal design for $xxxx highlight your property." I go into explaining the benefit of upgrading to LED, for energy savings and longterm benefits of he system.

Budget really shouldn't be a hard question to ask about, the customer should have their budget set in their head. If the called a kitchen contractor he would want to know so that he knows weather to bid cherry cabinets and granite or mdf cabinets. You just need to approach it right, some customers may come into the design process thinking every company will give them the same design (happens all the time with irrigation), you just simply need to explain the difference in quality of product and energy savings and amount of lights and effect with different budgets. Once you do this with the first couple customers you wont ever think twice about it again

David Gretzmier
04-30-2011, 02:38 PM
sorry your design got used for free. this has happened to me several times when I did more landscape design and install.

Perhaps I am old school, but I do not provide a lighting design unless they ask for it. my bid includes no details other than the number of uplights, downlights, pathlights, tranformers, also mention items that are included, wire, connections, labor, etc.

90% of my jobs I bid are probably 50 fixtures or less, so perhaps the design phase is more applicable and fees make sense when you get into the 50 plus fixture market more regularly.

emby
05-01-2011, 11:31 PM
Lots of feed back from everybody and thank you very much for sharing your experiences.

Chris, that's a very short question but a very big question. I will try to explain as best as I can. Of coarse this is just my humble opinion and how I approach the budget discussion and it might not be for everybody but so far its worked well with my clients.

I approach the budget topic with the design in mind. I discuss several topics with the client to determine what particular areas they would like to illuminate. This can range from outdoor entertainment areas to curb appeal or simply just a group of trees. I ask a lot of questions ensuring to gain as much knowledge as possible of how they use their outdoor/indoor spaces and especially what they expect from the overall lighting system. I insist that they provide me with a budget so that I can determine how much detail (more fixtures) I can incorporate into the overall design. Power requirements and control options are a must to discuss as well as this part of the project can be labour intensive and expensive.
When they commit to a design investment I then begin to capture all of the clients requests with great detail (more fixtures less wattage) and then proceed to include other parts of the property so that it will blend all together. This is where I spend a lot of my time as I like to be creative and ensure that I apply all the knowledge that I have been taught. (Landscape Lighting Institute-Jan and mentors).
Fixture placement is a huge factor as you know since you might just require several soffit fixtures and we all know how time consuming these can be. But to achieve the overall design its a must in my opinion.

Once I have completed the grand design I then break it up into manageable zones and calculate my costs, profit, etc. for a price per zone. I find that I usually exceed the budgets suggested but it allows more options for the client and provides future work as they almost always want the other zones completed.
One other thing that I would like to share is my demeanor when discussing the budget topic with the client. I speak very softly and try to communicate my true passion for landscape lighting to the client. In my mind I always look at every project like it will be judged by my peers and want it to be nothing more than perfect and spectacular. If I cannot achieve this myself I look to others for assistance. I know I am pathetic.
I hope this answered that short but very big question.

Ken

NightScenes
05-02-2011, 10:47 AM
I know it's my own fault but...

I did a bid for a guy last fall who lived down the street from the job I entered in the AOLP contest last year. Thinking that it being down the street from that job would pretty much make it a slam dunk, I decided to leave a copy of the design with the guy at no charge. Well, I'm working on a house across the street from it and doing the night time adjust this evening, I happened to notice that the house is lit and that although the landscape isn't even close to what I suggested, the architectural lighting is exactly what I proposed. It looks like they even used the fixtures and wattages I suggested.

Lesson learned, and I charge for design proposals now, but it still pi$$e$ me off a little...

Yup, lesson learned. Never give free designs, you earned the money so charge for your time and effort.