How do you protect your designs

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by VO Landscape Design, Nov 26, 2006.

  1. VO Landscape Design

    VO Landscape Design LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 358

    I have noticed several people have talked about this in several threads as a by product of the thread. Trying to do some research to help protect my designs. If the customer buys the design it is theirs but if they don't how do you protect your investment? Time is money. Several places have eluded that if you say Copyrighted Material that is good enough. There probably isn't a clear cut answer, depending on different situations but some ideas would be helpful. Also what kind of recourse is there if a design gets "borrowed", Small Claims?
    With photos they put a watermark but a design is different.:confused:
    Thanks
    VO
     
  2. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,072

    Good questions!
    There are two methods common in landscape design in this area, the first, we refer to as the old school method; create the design for no additional fee, but build the cost into the estimate to do the work. The second or new school method is charge a fee for the design, collect on delivery. If the customer has not paid for the design or put down a deposit on the work, they do not get the design.

    I have given designs to customers so they can look them over and consider them without commitment. So far none have tried to keep and use the design without paying me. I no longer let the designs out of my hands until I am paid.

    As far as recourse I don't think anyone wants to do collections or small claims, it is essential to avoid this in the first place. But for what it's worth, if you write up a proposal for landscape design service and get a signature on it, then you will not have any trouble convincing the court that they owe you.

    When I do landscape designs, I meet with the customer at least twice, and sometimes five times. If there is a design fee involved I qoute that fee during the first visit, then when I get to a point where I have shown the customer I can deliver what they need, I tell them to write me a check.

    The only trouble that I have had is a couple of cases where the customer lost interest before I could get some ideas on paper and close the deal, so I put in some time to prepare a preliminary drawing and got nothing for my time.

    I like to take my time with landscape design and get it right. my best ideas seem to come after I have come up with a few ok ideas. I now tell people how long it will take. In the future, I will be asking for the design fee up front. I think I can sell the up front payment based on my portfolio of photos and designs I have produced. It seems people are more eager to write the check earlier in the process, than they are later.

    VO are you doing design only? Have you had trouble getting paid for design services? Are you doing the design work first and then billing?
     
  3. VO Landscape Design

    VO Landscape Design LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 358

    "VO are you doing design only? Have you had trouble getting paid for design services? Are you doing the design work first and then billing?"

    At the moment I have done 2 designs for prospective customers. Rough drafts of a design so still in the final stages(new to this). I have decided to build the fee into the whole design/install for these 2, xx amount of dollars for the design and xx amount for install. So far they have been very enthusiastic about the preliminary. Since these are my first ones no problems so far collecting. As jobs progress I think 50% at the start of the job 25% in the middle and 25% upon completion (design/install) with the advent they can just buy the design if thats all they want.
    If just design I think I will sketch out a basic drawing and then set a fee for completing the design if they like it.
    VO
     
  4. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    Good questions!
    There are two methods common in landscape design in this area, the first, we refer to as the old school method; create the design for no additional fee, but build the cost into the estimate to do the work. The second or new school method is charge a fee for the design, collect on delivery. If the customer has not paid for the design or put down a deposit on the work, they do not get the design.{Quote MarkintheGarden}

    Bingo Mark has your answer right there.
     
  5. ProImage

    ProImage LawnSite Member
    Posts: 31

    I believe its called "Intellectual Property" as used in architectual drawings. When I was having plans drawn up for my house I used one architect for the "as builts" plans and "elevation" plans. I ended up changing architects and the second one said that he couldn't use the first one because it was his "Intelectual Property," but made a few changes that he felt we could get away with. I would think this applies here. As far as preventing someone from using or getting something if they do, I don't know.
     
  6. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,406

    I go with the new school method, as my business is design and consulting. I do wish to be paid for all my effort, whether it be plans, imaging or consulting. Due to an unscrupulous client this season, I now have a contract which must be signed and a 1/3 payment received before a start any design work.

    Typically my designs are created for installers that are including my design fees in their installation fees, but I get that fee as soon as I hand over a finished design. After the design is created, I then get a daily fee for anytime I am asked to show up on the jobsite, usually for layouts of structures, hardscape and planting material. Quite often I will include a 3D imaging of the home and add lighting, which has always sold a lighting installation as well. I will work with the installer to include the lighting in the job as well.

    As landscapers, you bill for every service you perform, design is an additional service that must be paid for as well. Professionally created designs are well worth the investment, for both the client and the installer.

    Kirk
     
  7. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,157

    I never charged for the designs. Like estimates, they were free and a cost of doing business. But when I walked out of the room, the plans came with me...
     

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