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Does anyone just do designs??

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by chrisvinky, Sep 11, 2007.

  1. chrisvinky

    chrisvinky LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 350

    I am just getting into the mowing business, but really my passion is landscape design. I have no formal education in that area, but I feel that I have an eye for design.

    I would love to just be able to do designs for people and consult them. Is there a viable business there or do most people plant and install the designs??

    I know lots of home owners that wouldn't mind doing the work, they just don't know what to do.
  2. Mike33

    Mike33 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,649

    It takes more than what you think if you have an eye for it. It is very tough i have been doing landscaping for 10 years now ( srw and new yard installs ) Some shrubbery work on a low end side. Right now i have just employed my friend ( Dreams To Designs ) whom im sure will reply to your thread to help me with my new home. For example i have a small area on front of my home with an off set. It consists of being shaded, in deer country, and i dont want something high to block my arched window of dining room that only sits 2.5' off of grade. Also i have a 30x40 pole garage with parking area past my home for my business. This needs to be blended so my home is seen more than mike has a new bobcat sitting there taking the attention from my new home. Not to cut you short but i would not employ any one with out some education in design. I have learned a lot from Kirk in the last few weeks his prof. knowledge of design is just important as doing the actual planting. My mom knows plants very well but not know low browse, balance, proper placement for am or pm sun.
  3. bigviclbi

    bigviclbi LawnSite Senior Member
    from nj
    Posts: 894

    I think having an eye for design is more important than anything. Lately I have someone draw my designs. I can lay the whole thing out but can't draw for cr$p. My best selling point was to have customers go to one of my houses and take a look at my past jobs. I never had formal training but worked under someone else and payed attention. Of course everything helps but having enthusiasm and experience with local materials are the best two qualifications as far as I'm concerned. Of course I would suggest taking classes if you don't have the field experience, and even if you do there's always more to learn. I really wish that there was somewhere close for me to go.

    STRINGALATION LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 777

    i took a couse with p. c. d. i. that was very informative. that is a niche market
  5. procut

    procut LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,853

    Its a niche market for sure, but it is possible. I know of one guy in my area that does this. I believe he has a bachlors in landscape architecture and is a state registered landscape architect. I think this type of education and certification would be nessecery if you were going to do nothing but design/consulting.
  6. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    I do a lot of design plans.

    In the office and even outdoors.


    Since high school, I had the "eye" too. Took a trophy in woodwork design in a local mall, my senior year.

    Fortunately, furniture does not get diseases nor grow bigger each year.

    Maintain your "eye" and persue your dream - just make sure to develop the technical / knowledge edge that you will need to be good. The resources are out there.

  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,840

    I have relationships with about 5 "designers". That is, people who strictly do design or who want to, but find they also need a part time or full time job because they can't ever make enough money to do design only.

    Of them, only 3 of them are able to do it without any side job to supplement their income. And both of them have husbands who is far and away the major bread winner of the family.

    Can it be done? Maybe. But in my experience, you'd be in the upper 1% of all designers if you were making what I would consider a good living at it.
  8. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 863


    All good points .

    Always follow your gut/dream, but the reality is it will more likely be a second job for you, get a good business plan/marketing plan put together and in 5 years it could become reality.

    Check with your state licensing burrow, some require degrees and x # of hours of viable experience before you can call yourself a landscape architect. Usually a designer does not need such qualification but you won't be able to charge as much.

    People have a hard time understanding the time involved in making a good looking/working design, thus won't pay what you really deserve for it. In the last 3 years no-one has paid for just a design (I haven't pushed very hard though either) and I have only been able to get my money back for hours put in by doing the actual install. Granted the good design did allow me to up-sell, so that is a bonus. I did have one (copyrighted) design ripped off but pursuit of damages is pointless.

    You MUST know your plants, and having an understanding of how stuff gets maintained really helps for a good long lasting design.
  9. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,943

    From a business perspective, since I think that's what you're asking about...

    While there's a market doing designs for the DIY homeowner, it's not huge and it's not lucrative. After all, if they're doing it themselves, they're either doing it to save money (because they don't have a lot to go around), or they know (or at least think they know) a lot about landscaping already, so if they think you aren't as sharp as they are, you're toast. Regardless, you're probably not looking at a ton of money per design- couple hundred bucks? Can you sell enough of those to make a good living?

    In the middle is the homeowner with a hard budget, but enough of one to pay an installer. Many companies have a designer on staff, or at least think they do, and your busy homeowner is likely going to favor one-stop shopping, especially with so many companies willing to give a "free design" to land the work. You've got to be good at selling yourself to explain why they should pay you your fee (which many will think exorbitant) AND pay someone else to interpret or install. Ideally you'll want to be involved on the install, which means more money from the homeowner, which is more to sell.

    Then you have the upper tier clientele. There's not a lot of them, and they're not rich because they give away their money. The fees may be high, but so are the expectations, and unless you're one of them, they're probably not next door to your office. Expect some windshield time.

    So can it be done? I guess, since I know a few designers like that. But it's not easy. If you don't have educational credentials, you need one hell of a portfolio. If a formal education isn't in the cards, be it time, money, whatever, I'll always recommend working for a good designer. I've always had a good eye, but what made me a good designer was working with, and learning from, good designers.
  10. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,943

    Oh, and also- if you're going to design hardscapes, you'd better know how they go together. If you want to go from hero to zero in 2.1 seconds, design something that cannot physically work with the site.

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