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charging for landscape design

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by tractrpowr45, Jun 1, 2006.

  1. tractrpowr45

    tractrpowr45 LawnSite Member
    from NY
    Posts: 32

    Hi, I am fairly new to the landscaping business, so I won't say I know everything about landscape design, but I had a guy call me today and he told me he needed the front of his house landscaped, and that he had just removed the existing plants and shrubs. I told him I could come out the next day and give him an estimate and draw up a landscape design plan. When I told him I charge $150.00 for a design, he said "I'm not paying for a design; just tell me what it costs". I told him I couldn't just look at the site and tell him the cost without figuring out how many trees/shrubs/etc. would be needed depending on space and site conditions. I also told him any landscape professional would charge upfront for a design, and he told me I'll find someone else. I told him go ahead because I don't work for free. Do you think I was wrong in the the way I worded it or am I charging to much? I want to get jobs and don't want to scare potential clients away. What do you other landscapers do? Thanks:cool2:
  2. procut

    procut LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,853

    What a lot of companies are doing around here is charging about $250 for the design. Then, if the cusomer wants the work done, the $250 is credited toward the total job.

    You were probably smart to pass on this one. He wanted an 'estimate' but in order to come up with that you need to do a design. No sense in working for free.
  3. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    Once you been doing it for awhile you can look at a property and give a ball park figure in a few minutes. If there's still interested I carry some plans they can choose from with prices, substitutions can be made simply. Anything more and they buy a custom design that they can shop to every LCO they want. If they hire me the cost of the design is deducted.

    Most important thing is getting them to sign while your there.
    So you need something to show them.
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    That is smart, very smart.

    Learn something new every day, up to now I've always started out with smaller jobs until the trust is built, just because of the reason you mentioned. Fact is, a lot of these folks just want a written estimate so they can call another Lco and play us off against each other.

    And that would be the reason most all of my estimates are verbal, but I like this $150 or $250 semi-refundable design fee.

    Wonder if I can do this for a grass-cutting estimate, when they want it in writing, 20 dollar semi-refundable gottathinkofityet fee.
  5. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    In my state you can't sell landscape designs unless you are a licenced Landscape Architect. So you have to do it like for an hourly rate.The job sites vary so much around here it is almost impossible to have pre-plans for them to choose from.
    I usually charge for three hours at 45.00 each and like the others if you hire me for the project then I credit that amount back to them.Written estimates are free and you can sure do an estimate for work requested without giving them a plan with it.
    You DO have to see the jobsite first and get inpput from the potential client about what they want , what they like , irrigation needed site specs , access , soil conditions , any hardscaping needed ect , ect ,.
    Without that info you can't give them a good close estimate. I NEVER give a price over the phone without evaluating the site first .
    ALL my estimates are in writing I keep one on file in my computer and give a paper copy to the client. If they do not hire me for the work any plan I made is going to be billed for.
  6. emil35

    emil35 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 213

    I'm glad to hear that you can charge for a drawing/estimate. My question is I have a few drawings I've just done and spent some good time on them...think I can charge for them if I don't get picked? I didn't say anything about it but can I just charge for it in the end if needed? Thanks
  7. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,742

    There is a point where a simple design should be part of your estimate. That point is when the value of the actual plan to the homeowner is less than the value taking the time to price out the job.

    I would expect that a quick sketch on the back of an envelope showing the house and 10 circles for plants could have gotten the job done and it would not have been a big investment in time. That said, it does seem that you did not value trying to get this job enough to do that. There is nothing wrong with that unless you needed the work.

    It is the time you, as a contractor, invest in a quick plan that you measure the value of a plan. To the homeowner, it is only the value of the content of the plan that impacts them. If they only want a few shrubs, they have no added value from the plan and they won't pay.
  8. AAELI

    AAELI LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 362

    Show up to look the place over, listen to the prospect to determine what he is really looking for and build the design costs into your estimate. The more elaborate his desires the higher the costs right? Make a design for your records and make your bid estimate based on your design. Make a presentation of your proposal and give him the opportunity to accept or decline. Do not leave your design unless he is willing to pay for the design. At least then he can make an intelligent decision about hiring you for your expertise or comparing with other bid proposals.
    As a homeowner I usually have my own idea as to what I want done and I do try to get competitive bids for work on my property that I do not care to do myself. As long as all are bidding on the same apple or orange I am assured of getting competitive bids. I assume you are not the only game in town so you should consider there will be competition and treat this like a bid on the job. If this is all too much work then raise your price in order to make it worth getting the job should you be selected.

    Just my thoughts.
  9. dKoester

    dKoester LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,257

    Don't put up with customers like that! Get rid of them. You might want to consider going to school for landscape design. It will help out a great deal.
  10. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,742

    It sounds like this could be a small house with a clean slate and the homeowner only needs a plant list and description of work to sign the contract. If that is the case, a scaled drawing is not necessary for either you or the homeowner. In that case, it would only take ten minutes to measure the front of the house and five minutes to sketch it on graph paper - who wants to pay $150 for that? There is not a whole lot of creativity at stake here. This type of plan is not an investment in creativity and unique applied knowledge, so they are not paying for anything more than a support document for your contract.

    Still, it is a matter of whether you want a job like this or not. If the job is as simple as I described it, I'm sure someone came out and gave him a plant list and price without charging $150 and got the job.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with you refusing to do this without a plan and to charge the $150. But, I don't think it is unreasonable for the homeowner to not want to pay for a service that another landscaper won't add on. Neither is outrageous.

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