Originally Posted by McFarland_Lawn_Care
For any projects like this you need a written contract and explanation. As soon as the budget will allow, I would purchase a program where you can show her a good picture of what the completed project will look like. This will reduce change orders somewhat - a picture's worth so much more. The other guys above have great advice, just realize people are going to change their minds all the time, that's just part of it - but you need to keep making money so stick to your guns and explain it will be more for this or that. Sometimes if a customer is not 100% sure of 2 or 3 things, I'll give them a price for all three difference scenarios and they can decide. Just some ideas....good luck!
^ a picture is worth a thousand words.
Design is the first component of any project we do. Doesn't have to be a Rembrandt drawing, but I don't know how to make an accurate estimate unless I have a dimensioned plan of what it is that I am estimating. Check with your local governing licensing body, as most states allow only landscape architects to charge for designs, however anyone can use a drawing they've generated for internal purposes. This also establishes a clear line in the sand. What is on the drawing is included, what isn't is not. Some folks are experienced in what is called "project creep." They do little change orders repeatedly and can end up spending twice the budget, if you let them. If you let them, you just gave them the job and then some. When a change order comes, stop right there and do an estimate. Get their approval before continuing. ALSO, I think it is key what was mentioned above about several options. Sometimes spouses want to play you against the other during a project when the truth is they can't decide between themselves what they want. Several options can be helpful but it is best not to proceed until THEY are on the same page. Meet with both if both will be paying the bill. If they don't approve the change order, finish what you've estimated and move on. You CAN be selective with jobs. Better to do 3 jobs selectively and make money on all three than to make money on one, lose money on one, and make money on a third. You've done three jobs both times and worked your butt off but when you're not selective you only got essentially paid for one.