Consultation Fees - for the 1018th time!

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by DVS Hardscaper, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    Ya, people think they can just level out the ground and throw some pavers down and call it good.

    Then about 3 months later they are calling someone to come fix their project.

    I blame it all on the DIY shows, they make anything look like it can get done in a weekend. Too bad most of those shows are shot in locations that have little to no frost/freeze issues and don't require much prep or base work.
     
  2. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,984


    Some patios are cut and dry, no extensive grading, easy to price. A customer is not going to understand you getting all high falutin with charging them just to tell them how much the job is going to cost.

    Now if you have to due custom design work, and make drawings for their approval, then the customer can see you putting in too much time to give them a freebie.

    You lost time and maybe the job waiting to hear which stone they wanted. Well doesn't stone A cost so much a ft and stone be cost so much a ft, then why not give them the price both ways?

    Maybe they would of seen the plans sooner then and gone with you. Though that doesn't mean they would of not liked the other guy's design more.
     
  3. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,401

    1st of all, we're dealing with the public.

    A zillion personalities. There is no sound proof way to handle every single person who's backyard you step foot in.

    There is no blaming myself by any stretch.

    And I am certain this has happened to every veteran contractor here. Whether they know it or not is the thing.

    It's just one of those things. Nothin you can do about it.

    Its foolish for contractors to be investing time and knowledge on people that turn out to be dead ends. I do it and it's foolish. I've primarily done it to get through the recession. Yet others ARE DOING it as routine operations.

    No two households are the same. I had LESS than a 24 hr turn around with a design and proposal. For the scope of the work - thats a damn sweet turn around.

    They had a decent budget. Yet, they wanted more than the budget could handle, so it took some effort to work the design to give them everything and still come in at what they had to spend.

    Selecting materials is a personal choice just at the clothing we each choose to wear. The Mrs. was not sounding happy with the Mr about the paver he wanted. Made me feel a tad uncomfortable. Couples know how to work things out, And it's better they discuss things when they're not in the presence of strangers.


    I am thinking I will do the consultation at no charge. And I will charge for the simpler designs I do inhouse. You don't wanna pay for my time I'm investing in your strangerness to me - no problemo, thats time I can spend cutting our dog's toenails!


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    Last edited: Mar 2, 2011
  4. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    Yep, and if you are just imposing your hardscaping will onto your customers then you run the risk of them being dissatisfied after the project is done.

    Sure, I'd love to push one or two different pavers, or wall blocks on every project, but where's the creativity and challenge in that.
     
  5. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,401

    I'll make suggestions either when asked or when I think a client needs help.

    But if I'm in their dining room and their home is decorated beautifully, all decked out with fancy flooring, fancy counter tops, trim, molding, color schemes on the walls, etc - then they probably are capable of selecting their own materials.


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  6. StoneFaced

    StoneFaced LawnSite Member
    Posts: 201

    I can appreciate all too well where your coming from, and I honestly don't feel there was much more you could have done in that scenario. I've been there plenty. It reminds me of a couple of times when clients insisted on having their Interior Decorator involved in the process. It just doesn't work, to put it politely.

    I haven't charged an initial consultation fee in my 21+ years of doing my own contracting. If it works for some, I can only respect that. For me, my strategy has always been somewhat different. For the record, I've squeezed out competitors because of their up front fees. The only reason I know that, is because it comes out in the consultation process. This is the part of the process where I let my client vent, so to speak. It doesn't mean I agree w/ the client, it just means that for some reason the other contractor "rubbed them wrong" during the most delicate part of the "building trust & credibility" interview. Again, I have no problem w/ those who do it...I just don't feel that it works to my advantage.

    I'm not clear on why clients have a problem w/ it, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's mostly the timing part of the contractor. Often times, contractors can be overconfident and do come across as being full of themselves...I've heard that a lot. In other words, they didn't spend enough time somewhere w/ the client, that the client doesn't yet feel ready to make even the smallest of commitments. In the back of their mind there are walls going up because all they heard was $$. In the mean time, the contractor can talk about the project for the next hour, while all along the client is still thinking about that fee/fee's/rate per hour...and not a word registered there after, as to what the contractor was saying.

    My point w/ that would be this: If you feel the need to charge a fee, then by all means do it. Just realize, the timing part is a very delicate one. My clients will have a reasonable idea, as to what things cost before I begin the design process. They will have a range, as I don't lock myself in on anything. Their response will dictate where things go from there. If I feel them pulling away from me, then it's time to back up. If that process exhausts itself, I have to decide if it's time to move on.

    My final point would be...I wear them down. I measure/gage what direction things are to go, based mostly on there enthusiasm and the comfort level that I feel has been established. I will take as much time as necessary to address their concerns and develop my repore w/ them....comfort level.

    I honestly don't know of too many who will go to the length that I will, which makes it that much less difficult to sell. The client, in many cases will not follow through w/ the others, for whatever reasons. All I can say beyond that, is I will be the last guy in the door...even if it means creating a "loose end" to get me there. That can be a revision of the plan, a pic of some material, whatever it takes.

    I don't really chase the small stuff so much unless it's practically handed to me, that's where there's usually too much traffic & sifting to do, and quite honestly will give me a headache. I work harder, much harder at the complex projects that would typically cause the client to utilize 2-3 contractors, instead of one.

    By the time we are even mid way through my process, the client simply doesn't have the time nor the interest in going through the process again w/ someone else, let alone 2-3 more contractors for the other work that the other companies might not handle. If they did, they would realize that they would risk not getting things done until the following season. Chances are, one won't be happy about it and the other will finally give in and say, "fine lets just do it." By now they are probably sick of the mud that the dog & kids keep tracking into the house. The price is no longer so much of an issue, the only issue is, "when can you start."

    Didn't mean to write a book, but that's a watered down version of how things may go in my world. Great discussion and ideas on here otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2011
  7. cecilmac

    cecilmac LawnSite Member
    from nj
    Posts: 49

    Consult fees ah maybe on large projects. But design fees hell ya I know what we paid for dyanscape and all the add ons plus the time spent to learn how to use the software the printer to go with it the print charges for full scale blueprints the time to design the project the salary for the designer and time spent to sell the project not to mention changes in the design. It all adds up plus it sets aside the clients who r serious and who r not.
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  8. cecilmac

    cecilmac LawnSite Member
    from nj
    Posts: 49

    Also I know alot of guys will say thats why u sell the job to make a profit but if u take the total hrs spent to sell/design the job then subtract them w ur overhead and what u think was ur profit is now this. Just another way to look at it..
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  9. PatriotLandscape

    PatriotLandscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MA
    Posts: 1,209

    I budget myself as a salesman at the beginning of the year. Doing it that way everyone pays for my proposals. I do some designs for existing customers without prepayment but add it to the proposal. They only get the design if/when they sign.
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  10. PatriotLandscape

    PatriotLandscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MA
    Posts: 1,209

    There is nothing for free even a free estimate.
    Posted via Mobile Device
     

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