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Landscape Designer

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by lawnMaster5000, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. lawnMaster5000

    lawnMaster5000 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 589

    I am interested in hiring an outside design service to begin doing all my designs beyond the very basic. In the past I have always done my own designs and have a decent closing rate on designs I get done quickly, but most take me forever to complete. I am looking to move to an outside design service to get a design to the client faster and I feel a full time designer will be able to better meet the client's expectations.

    For those of you using outside design services I am curious the procedure you follow from when the client first contacts you, to start of install. The following is what the designer I have been speaking with said she does with other companies.

    Do you, in order...
    - meet with perspective clients to introduce your company, ensure client has reasonable work and expectations then explain there will be an outside designer
    - have designer contact client, get deposit for designs
    - Designer does designs and gives presentation to client, leaving designs with client, giving you copy. Charges client balance for designs.
    - You contact client with price proposal, make sale, set install date, get work deposit.

    I would like to come up with some way for my company to own the designs and not the client. This will ensure I remain a part of the process rather than the client getting the designs and requesting quotes from other companies based on the designs. I am considering having the client pay me the design deposit, and balance, then have the designer present to the client, but not turn over the designs. I will pay the designer and have the designer turn designs over to me.

    Outside designs are something I have never really worked with before so therefore any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
    Thanks for your assistance.
  2. mrusk

    mrusk LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,260

    You can not have your cake and eat it too.

    Any client smartest enough to see the value in paying for a plan will not pay for a plan that they do not own!!!!

    If they pay for it, its there. If they don't pay you don't leave it with them.
  3. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,406

    Scott, I could only give you the independent designer's point of view.

    I prefer to have the installer meet and greet the client and determine if my services are necessary. If they are needed, the installer sets up a group meeting with the installer, designer and all parties involved in paying for the design present, whether that be the homeowners, couple or partners and if commercial, the actual decision makers if more than one. I am introduced as a designer working with this landscaper and my services will require a fee of x amount of dollars. If the installer wishes to be the owner of the design, than they pay me directly for my design, images and time on site. If they choose to sell the design to the client and credit a part of the design fee to the client if they are used as the installer, great. Occasionally if it is a job where the client may only need an installer for a part of the job, they prefer if I sell the design directly to the client. Either way, I am getting paid for my design work and on location time by somebody.

    I will do the client meeting, interview, notes, photos and measurements on the initial meeting. I will than create a concept design, plant list, materials suggestion and imaging to email to the client and setup a meeting to present the concept plan, if necessary. The installer has the option to be involved for this meeting or opt out depending on their schedule or project involvement. When final decisions are made, a final plan, plant installation list, construction notes and all material choices are presented to the client with the installer present. At this time the installer should have a bid or estimate prepared to give to the client as well. When I create a plant list, I also locate on the plant materials at the growers and am able to transmit an order for pickup by the installer when the installation contract is signed. It makes it easier for the installer and I know the plants from the design are the one's being ordered.

    Payment starts at 1/3-1/2 of the design fee before pencil touches paper, the second installment when the concept is presented and the final payment when the final design is approved. That goes for most clients, whether they be professional landscapers or property owners. What you will pay for design fees will be dictated by the region you are in, the skills of the designer and the complexity of the design.

    I have also done long distance work where I never met the client or saw the project. All the information is furnished by the installer, including site plans, photos, lot's of pictures and notes from a client interview. When a design is created this way it is billed as hourly and is true to the studio time spent on the project. This has been successful for my self and the installers I worked with, but takes a tremendous amount of input from the installer. The installer has sole responsibility of doing the presentations, but the photo imaging, extensive plant selection and other design in itself are an easy sell. Often the installer will furnish the client's email address and we create a dialog throughout the project. The client gets to see any images I create and we are also able to email plans in scale or to be viewed and printed on a standard computer. The design and images can also help to upsell hardscaping and lighting very easily. The use of the plant encyclopedia software, Horticopia, allows the client to pick from groups of plants that have been selected for each area and inject their influence directly upon the design.

  4. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,742

    I agree with Mrusk and Kirk.

    I will add a bit to this having worked as the owner of a desgn/build, having worked as an employee for a few design/builds, and having worked as subcontracted landscape designer.

    The best way to stay involved in the project as a contractor is to stay involved in the project through the design process. That does not mean you have to babysit the designer, but you have to be part of the interaction with the client all the way through so that they see you are an important part of it. That means staying in touch with the designer and communicating with the client. Have the designer go over the plan with you before showing it to the client. You should be there when it is shown to the client so that you can interject how things will be put together or some of the technical issues that might be present in order to assert your importance to the client.

    You have to assert your leadership on the project even if it is a subtle way. Your designer should be aware of that and he should make sure you understand the design as good as he does. He should know the importance of making sure not to upstage you because you are the source of the work ..... and more work. If the designer does not recognize that and remain loyal to you through the process, you can't use him. I would recommend going out of your way to make that point to the designer before you bring him onto a project.

    It is also important, in my opinion, to have the designer interact with the client prior to starting the design, and at revision meetings. I can tell you that it is really difficult to be given a list of revisions that either don't make sense or could have been influenced for a better result had I been present. When someone acts as an interpreter, they often lose something in the translation. At a revision meeting it is double trouble because they often do not convey the true design and then they do not bring back the proper interpretation of the revision that the client wants.

    The person who removes the most doubt of the outcome of the project is the one who will get the job. Stay close to it and the client through the design process and the job is yours to lose no matter how free they are to have others bid on it. If you seem incidental to the project, you will be.

    I think it is best for you to have a contract with the client and deal with the designer as a sub. That is simply because it gives the perception that you are in control both to the client and to the designer.

    Learn to write a good design contract that spells out how many meetings there will be and how many revisions there will be and an hourly rate that will take over after those are met. This will keep the client focused on getting the designer enough information and gets them to make the final decision on the revisions. It also makes the process come to a close much faster, so you can get building instead of designing. The client will make every effort to keep it from going to an hourly rate. Make sure the designer knows those terms as well, so he keeps on track and does not make too many promises that contradict those terms.
  5. lawnMaster5000

    lawnMaster5000 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 589

    Thank you for your input.
  6. mrusk

    mrusk LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,260

    What I often have to do is come up with some type of rough design to reel in the people to give me the deposit for the plan.

    If you are good at design you might want to do this. Spend a hour with the customers survey and rough sketch your basic ideas so they can start to see the rough ideas. Then get the deposit and hand off the survey to the LA.
  7. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,742

    Definitely a good way to start out. It shows the client that the origin of the job is from you. That makes the designer seem much more of a producer of YOUR plan than someone whose plan you are waiting to follow.
  8. lawnMaster5000

    lawnMaster5000 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 589

    sounds like a good approach, thanks again for the help

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