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Design Time

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by AGLA, Jan 22, 2004.

  1. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,742

    How many hours do most of you spend on a design?

    Over the months that I have spent on this site, I have seen several threads on design fees. Many people mention hourly rates while others mention flat fees for a design. Very few mention how much time is spent on the design.

    I would guess that some charge $100 per hour and are doing 2 hour plans while others might be charging $50 per hour and doing 20 hour plans.

    I'm curious as to what the mix might be, how many designs are done a year, and the ratio of design fee to gross price of the landscape for those in design/build.
  2. One Degree

    One Degree LawnSite Member
    Posts: 29

    I am in a small market in Oklahoma. I have a degree in Landscape Design. I do a computer CAD image and a 3-D picture of the property. I will also come up with a materials list. For a normal sized property (i.e. residential lots 1/2 acre or less I will charge about $500 for all and I may have a total of 6-10 hours in the project, which 3-4 are on the CPU and the rest is meeting time/measuring time.) Larger properties such as 1 acre or houses that want elaborate I charge about $700-$800. It may require an additional 3-5 hours of time. If I get the landscape job then I do not charge a design fee.
  3. WeatherMan

    WeatherMan LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 693

    I charge $75.00 an hour for design work
  4. ElephantNest

    ElephantNest LawnSite Bronze Member
    from La.
    Posts: 1,878

    10% of job gross.
  5. Peach

    Peach LawnSite Member
    Posts: 86

    I have to be honest .... I charge by qualifying the customer. If I don't know them I use the design fee to help me qualify them and get the installation.

    I tell the potential customer I get $50/hour ... but that I do not charge for the entire time I spend. Then I tell them ..whatever..depending on what they want. "It's going to be $200," for instance.
    What this does is communicate clearly to them that I am not trying to make money off design or consultation .... simply protect myself from wasting time. They seem to get the impression that I like them - that I want their work.
    I have never had anyone say no thanks. It's a reasonable arrangement. Any design payment..which of course is due before they get any hard copy, is deducted from the first LABOR charge. That is something noone has mentioned in any of these threads but one time a customer thought they could have the design free if they bought a single tree from my previous employer. Nope. They were trying to get a free tree.

    But then I am mainly after the installation. I have met designers (non-installers) who detest this practice. They resent the competition and feel our customers are not getting professional design.

    I disagree. In my case - since I do not advertise and work solely by referal... I am highly motivated to give potential customers the best possible design. I average 6 hrs on any design and charge an average $200.

    And I am a pretty good designer ... lasy year I did three designs for competitors who had landed good customers and wanted more than they could provide. I think that's a pretty nice vote on my rep as a designer.

    For the big ones I usually decline design payment..after the it's done. This is a way of telling them I am enthusiastic about THEIR landscape. I close a ridiculously high percentage ... I can only recall two designs I have not closed in 2 .5 yrs of business.

    The funny thing is - I've gotten four or five jobs for which the customer hired a mucky muck designer ... paid several hundred dollars for the design .. and then let me paint by number. I love that when that happens .... cause design is tough work I think. And the designing firm then hates me ... they've lost a BIG job they thought they had! They were arrogant and the customer pick up on that. I've heard all kinds of warnings to the customer ... 'he can't do it' ... 'he won't know what plants to install' . Of course I can and do. It's not rocket science. The customers .. by telling me these things... are really telling me that my approach is what landed the job and they can see through negative sales approaches. They prefer mine .... which is I want this job and I'm an honest...fair priced landscaper. I am never better than the job I am after. I never will be. Ol' Peach gets Christmas cards from some of his customers. I get strong referals.

    So basically... simply... for me design is a tool to get work. I charge whatever fee tells the customer " I am willing to give you all my attention - just don't steal my time. " It works. People like to give a hard worker a chance.

    Now if I could only learn how to profit from this work I love to do!

    I'll keep you updated. I think I'm too cheap ... or disorganized or something. I've done over a half mil and made pennies on the dollar.

  6. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,742

    Thanks Peach.

    You gave time, rate, and sound reasoning as to how and why those are your rates. It sounds to me like it is very successful for qualifying customers, not scaring them away, getting control of your work, and closing on the build contract.

    In the end, the big picture is what counts. It is great if you get $200 per hour, but not if you are losing a lot more from the build profits.

    Design rates are for one persons hours. There is no crew to bill out, inconsequential expenses to mark up, and no significant product to bill for. Leaving "money on the table" for design fees can be the best investment you can make.

    Designers that don't build have a difficult time competing with you unless they are providing design that requires a much deeper skill set. Most homeowners really want to deal with one company from start to finish.

    Very few designers get the magic 10% on complete landscape jobs. It is not for design. It is for design and project administration. Once again, one company to deal with directly that is managing all of the subs. That money is usually well earned.
  7. Vernier

    Vernier LawnSite Member
    Posts: 1

    In Atlanta, on a 3/4 acre lot, we will perform a design for $500 for the entire yard. Front only for $350. We will provide a design and materials list. If we perform the work, we will credit the design fee.
  8. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,742

    Again, my question is a three parter.

    1. Rate (or flat fee) on average __________

    2. How many hours on average __________

    3. Gross price of landscape job __________

    When someone says $100 per hour, it can be a 2 hour planor 20.
    When someone says 10%, it could be an $800 job or a $100,000.
    When someone says $500, it could take 2 hours or 20 hours.

    The reason I ask, is that there has been several threads where people have asked how do you charge for design work. Without the complete information the question is unanswered.

    There is a very big difference between a plan that shows a foundation planting, a walk, and a couple of trees drawn around a house vs. accurate lot lines, instrument locations of existing features including topography and septic, proposed pool, retaining walls, driveways, walkways, patios, ... That is not to say that one is more necessary than the other (depends on circumstance), but it is to say that they are not an apples to apples comparison.

    It is a waste of time to go through too much to produce a plan that takes 10 hours at $100 per hour for a simple foundation planting of $3,000. By the same token, it is not enough to spend 6 hours to draw a plan that includes a pool, patio, retained elevation changes, ... for 10% of the gross.

    If we really want to give insight to people that are trying to find their way in designing landscapes, we have to give them more information than "$800", or "10%", or "$100 per hour" because that does not say anything.

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