View Full Version : Contract landscape construction or do it yourself?
Chisolm Trail Landscape
12-07-2004, 03:13 PM
I will try this post in here as I got no response from it being in the landscape forum!
My wife and I are starting our first landscape business and want to have a nice menu of things to offer our clients! We will be starting with lawn maintenance, then getting our pestiside license. Our question is: Can you make decent money off doing computer aided designs and contracting the work out to people with a construction knowledge, or do we need to know how to design and build ourselves to really make any money off the lanscape part of the business?
Any advise would be great!
12-07-2004, 08:19 PM
You should start off doing as much as you can. But first there are some important rules to mind, then I'll get into future planning.
1) Don't do anything you're not licensed to do. Your state may require that you be licensed and bonded before you do any real landscape construction or even design work. So check local laws and rules first.
2) Don't do anything you aren't proficient at. Don't use your customers as guinea pigs. Don't install a retaining wall if you aren't totally sure you know everything about installing retaining walls. Same with new lawns, irrigation, etc. Better to hire out for these things if you aren't totally confortable with the idea of doing it yourself. You'll learn eventually. But for now, just do the stuff you KNOW you can do, and do right.
3) If you ever DO break rule number 2, then make sure it's cool with your customer. That is, a customer may need a really small retaining wall built. It might just be 10' long and 2' high in their back yard and it might go around a small garden area or something. You may look at this small job and say to yourself, "Well, I haven't ever done one of these before but it looks pretty simple. I bet with some help from the guys at Home Depot and from a book I could probably figure this one out." Fine. Go ahead and take on a small project like that. But be honest with your customer first. Tell them, "Listen. I gotta admit. I don't have a lot of experience with retaining walls. But I am pretty sure I can do this job and do it right with some advice from some guys I know. I just want to let you know this upfront. In fact, if I don't do the job to your liking, then I won't make you pay for it." This is a great way to learn and be honest at the same time. If you screw it up, they don't pay, but you'll learn a very valuable lesson and you'll do a lot better next time. Chances are, you WILL do it right and get some good help and everyone will be happy. But again, only do this on small stuff where you're fairly confident you can pull it off. If you look a job and ever think to yourself, "Wow. That's some good money. But I don't know if I could do this right." Then DON'T do it!
Now onto the future; If you aren't comfortable doing some things or don't have expertise or don't have the license, etc. Then this is how you learn: For now, just do maintenance and related things that you are comfortable with. Find a licensed landscape contractor (who doesn't like to do maintenance - a lot of them don't.) and work out a deal. He refers all the maintenance to you and you refer all the installation stuff to him. In return, he also lets you help him sometimes. That's how you learn.
You can do the same thing with irrigation. Find an irrigation contractor who doesn't do maintenance and work out the same deal.
As for design, if you feel you can make a nice design, and you're able to in your area (with or without a license, however it may be) then do it. You're probably not excellent at design. But you'll get better and you're probably at LEAST better than most homeowners are. Get a book or two on the basics of landscape design and read those. You will probably also find that many landscape contractors need a good designer too. We often don't have time to do our own design work.
Finally, start reading and teaching yourself. One of the best books you could ever buy is "Landscape Construction" by Sauter. It is barnone, the best book on landscaping I've ever read. Details like you can't imagine! You'll feel 10x more confident and be 10x more informed after reading this book. You can teach yourself a lot of things. There are some great books out there on all sorts of subjects. Get one or two new books each month and start educating yourself.
That's pretty much how I did it. So there's my 2 cents.
12-08-2004, 09:02 AM
landscape installation requires alot more experience, knowledge and skill.
you have to know plant selection, construction meathods, etc....
We do our own installations, but I also Draw designs for some of my competitor friends. I only charge them $65.00/ hr to cad thier designs.
the main benefit for them other than having a professional looking drawing, is that you can do an exact material take off from the drawing.
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