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Designer Reimbursement Advice

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by mbella, Jan 6, 2005.

  1. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    I have been speaking with a former co-worker who has expressed an interest in working with me. I want to bring him on board, but I cannot afford to hire him until at least April or May. In the meantime, I would like him to do some designs for me. I would like to send him out to meet with potential customers and put together designs. I would then work with him to put numbers on each of the jobs and it would be up to him to sell from there.

    I am spending the majority of my time following up on hardscape leads. I would have him follow up on softscape leads that I don't have time to pursue.

    My question is, how would you reimburse this person until he is full time? I have some ideas, but I am looking for imput.
  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    First thing; designs should never be free.

    If this person is skilled at landscape design (that is, actually creates to-scale, professional, well thought out designs) then he should be charging your customer accordingly. Freelance landscape designers in my area make anywhere from $45 per hour to $100 per hour. He should just do the design, and explain to the customer up front what the fees are and approximately what he expects the total to be for the design work.

    Then, YOU should make it clear to the customer that once you have the design, you'll put together a firm bid for them. And if they use your company to do the install, you will take the price they paid for the design right off of your bid. That is, if they paid your friend, the designer, $325.00 for the design, if they use you for the install, they can take $325.00 off the final payment for your work.

    This way, your friend wins either way. If they don't hire you to do the design, at least your friend gets paid for his time. If they DO hire you, you make your bid such that you can afford to take $325.00 off their bill. Your friend still gets to keep his $$.

    This is the customary way to do it.
  3. cgland

    cgland LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,929


    We are doing the exact same thing! My guy does the initial meeting, design, and pricing (within our guidelines) Then I look over everything to give it the final approval. He does everything on his own time. If he lands the job we give him 5% commission, which is already built into the price. He gets paid after the job has been completed and paid for. If the job was underestimated and a profit was not realized he gets nothing. If we make a profit, but not as much as was estimated we adjust his %. Now this guy also does the installs on the jobs he quotes, so he is responsible for the whole deal. If we get a complaint from that job within 1 year we dock his commission on his next job, this way he is more apt to do a good job.
    If your guy is just doing designs, you can use the same formula I guess.
    Let me know, I can explainit to you in more detail.

    P.S. If he is looking for money now, you can throw him like 1% from the deposit and adjust later. Hopefully you trust that this guy won't bolt before the season starts.
  4. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    Chris, my idea was the same as what Jim said. We'll charge a design fee to cover his time and then if the job sells, we'll deduct the charge from the bid. Hopefully, this is a short term arrangement. The hope is that I can bring him on full time in the spring.
  5. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    P.S. If he is looking for money now, you can throw him like 1% from the deposit and adjust later. Hopefully you trust that this guy won't bolt before the season starts.

    I've known him for almost four years. We worked together for two. He will do the design and the sale. My crews will do the installs. The real goal here is to create a backlog for another crew in the spring. This will justify bringing him onboard, as an employee, in the spring.
  6. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    Tell 'em Jim !!
    :cool2: :cool2: :cool2:

    (Ever see the original Star Trek episode where - I think it was the kids - kept saying "tell 'em Jim", "tell 'em Jim"?

    Anyway, yeah, I agree with the LewisMeister quite a bit.

    One thing I've change a lot the past year - NO MORE free intitial visits for design. The intitial consultation costs at least $80 to $100 because they will gain that value in consulting in that hour no matter how we dice the potatoes.

    I often refund that fee if they accept my design estimate and hire me at the proposed price.

    :cool2: :cool2: :cool2:
  7. jreiff

    jreiff LawnSite Senior Member
    from MN
    Posts: 402

    JUst a quick question, so say you get a call from a potential customer that wants some landscaping done and wants to meet with you. So you charge them to drive there and talk with them right? What does this meeting include? talk about what they want done and so on... Then do you also charge them to measure out the site and do a design up for them?

    I am assuming that you charge them to meet with them and then also charge them to do a design. Then if they have you do the work, you deduct it out of the bid.

    Just wanted to make sure that i was clear on how you go about doing it. Thanks...
  8. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    I wasn't planning on charging for an initial visit. I was planning on charging if, after the initial visit, the customer wants to move forward.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    No, Mario was talking about charging for the initial visit.

    I think that works for Mario, in his position. But I am not sure that's sound advice for everyone, especially those who are trying to grow their company and expand.

    Mario comes from a different perspective than many of the rest of us here on Lawnsite. His academic and certification credentials are outstanding. His reputation in the area as a designer is excellent, as are his skills as design. He gets a lot of work off of referrals, which makes it easier for him to demand a payment for an initial visit. And he isn't looking to expand greatly. He does well just as he is. So he has the room and clout to sort of "call the shots".
  10. earthwerks unlimited

    earthwerks unlimited LawnSite Member
    Posts: 43

    MDVADEN, I agree with you about no more free initial visits. I don't do a lot landscaping (I mostly do the roughing-in for residential customers who do their own). What I found is, now that the economy in our area (SE Michigan) hasn't rebounded, people are a lot more savvy and clever about squeezing freebies out of unsuspecting or trusting contractors like myself; by that I mean they tell you "oh sure you got the job" but what they really mean is "tell me how you are going to do it, what equipment you are going to use and I'll rent it, and me and my brother-in-law will do it ourselves". So as of last year I tell them when they call that estimates to perform a certain task are free. BUT if I get the least indication that I am "consulting" (example: how to solve a drainage or grading issue) I am on the clock for consulting at $75 an hour starting from the time I got there. 50% decline an initial estimate, the other 50% have me show up, and of that about 10% still try to weasel a freebie consultation out of me.

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