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Charging For Designs

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by HolleysLandscaping, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. dstifel

    dstifel LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 928

    Gotcha thanks
    Posted via Mobile Device
  2. aplott2

    aplott2 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    How well does it work with Google SketchUP?
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I guess people do it differently in different areas of the country. And there are definitely some companies in my area who do cheap designs or even free designs at times.

    But for the most part, if you aren't charging at least $600-$700 for a good landscape design, your kind of a hack - in my area. Most professional landscape companies or landscape designers charge at least $750-$1000 and the average is closer to $1250-$1500 for a full front yard or full back yard design. I know a few designers around here who are closer to $2000+ for every design they do.

    The designer we use is a little less expensive than most because she has almost no overhead. She doesn't have to advertise because we send her over 100 designs a year. She doesn't do home expos, no internet advertising, no display garden, etc. These are all things that most landscape designers in our area usually do to get work. So because she has none of these expenses and works out of a small studio in her house, she's more in the $650-$950 range. And that's cheap for our area.

    Now maybe what we mean by landscape design and what you all mean by landscape design are different. Typically, one of our landscape designs take about 15 hours to do, with time on property discussing the clients wishes, taking measurements, drive time, and design time. So even if you just charge a low rate of $50 per hour, that equates to $750.00. If you're getting a lot less than that, either you're doing much more simple designs or you just don't value your time as much as we do.

    A typical landscape design we would do for this price would look something like this one;


    In my opinion, if someone isn't willing to invest that kind of money into a design, how are you going to get a $20K or $30K job out of them? One of the good things about charging a fair amount for your designs is that it's a good indicator that the client is serious, has money, and is willing to invest in the process. So your chances of landing that job is WAY higher for that person than for someone who is only willing to pay $150.
  4. HolleysLandscaping

    HolleysLandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 37

    That is a very very nice design, I would charge for a design like that as well. It must just be different areas. Here, some architecture firms probably get that sure. But most homeowners do not expect to pay for a design cause most around here do not charge. It is slowly changing it seems so hopefully in the next 5+ years we can get to that point.
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Thanks. That was a nice job. You can see how the job turned out here if you want.

    That was a $30K job. And part of that was because our designer really took her time and created a nice design with all sorts of different features. The client originally had a budget of closer to $20K. But our designer got them excited about the possibility of expanding the patio even larger that what they were thinking, adding a fire pit and seating wall, adding outdoor lighting, etc. So the project grew and somehow when people get excited, their budget grows a little too. I don't know how, but somehow they came up with the extra $$.

    But I don't see how you'd get jobs like this by just doing simple, free or cheap designs. It would be like me going to a general contractor and saying, "Hey, I want do to this big $75,000 addition on to my house" and then balking at him when he tells me I'll need to pay $1500 for some architectural plans first. It only makes sense that I would need to invest a little bit if I wanted to do a job of that scale, doesn't it? I feel the same way about landscape designs. If you got a decent size job and really want it to look top notch, then you should be willing to invest at least a small portion of that into having a professional create a really nice well-thought-out design.
  6. andersman02

    andersman02 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 576

    On small, very small stuff. Id most likely not charge a design fee (im talking sub 2k project) Anything that will take me more then 1/2 hr on dynascape im charging for. Around $300 for first side of house, $200 each side after. That fee gets taken off of the total cost (usually add some $$ into the total cost to cover the design.) This way I get my time paid for and if they want to keep the design after the presentation I have no problem with that.

    Great way to weed out the price shoppers
  7. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    There are lots of different levels of design. There are a lot of differnt design media. There are lots of differences in scale of projects. There are lots of different geographic markets. There are lots of different demographic markets within them. There are no standards, but most of us look at what we do as the standard.

    Some landscape companies use design as an investment to get work just the same as paying for an ad. You take on the expense (whether it is free design or discounted design) knowing that you'll get some work sometimes. Like all advertising, you constantly have to evaluate how much you are investing and what the return is. Then you adjust. Some situations require adjusting how much time and effort you put in. Others need you to get get covered more for the expense of it. Sometimes the market does not support what you are trying to do.

    $2,000 landscape projects will never support design fees. Because of all the photo manipulation programs and design software out there, many small landscapers try to land simple jobs by out doing the competition on the design product only to find that the prospect just finds the next low baller to implement the design he likes best ...you get next to nothing out of your investment. If, or I should say when, I did this type of work ($2k scapes) I sold it by TELLING the prospect what I was going to do while explaining how it was going to affect his landscape. Most of the time a price was agreed upon with no plant list, just an understanding that I'd do what I said. Other times there would be a plant list and a brief description - I got most of the jobs because the job was not to re-create a picture. It was to give them the landscape and the experience that I described and that they liked. They felt like they needed me to do it. You don't make that connection when you are one of five 'scapers showing pretty pictures that anyone can follow. ... also, the investment is lower if you don't get the job. Dare to be different.

    Almost no one with a 2k budget is going to take away a nickel of it for design.

    And you'll never sell a $200k job with a photoimage. You have to match what the market you work in supports.
  8. andersman02

    andersman02 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 576

    You and lewis make great points

    On any project you have to sell yourself and company probably more then the actual plan. Being able to explain WHY or WHAT plant will thrive in certain situations and showing why they should choose you vs the next lowballer. Personally Id try and stay away from lower $$ projects UNLESS they are a current customer of ours. People are getting sneaky while price shopping, Our Landscape and turf maintenance division is more $$ then others but high quality and our customer know this. Same goes for our landscaping.

    Heck, i got $250 for a design fee for a $1.5k project. About 1 hr of work upfront. I got away with it right? Wrong, the client and I have been going back and forth putting the provisional peices in place so it looks just right for her. We have came to an agreement on what will go in and about 5hrs later of work. I see this fee as insurance so to speak. If the client and I go back and forth quite a bit to find the right design, heck ya that cost will be added to the bill (then subtracted as per my other post), If its a quick simple 2hrs of work, i may cut some of that design fee off the cost.

    The question you should be asking yourself, Do you want to work for somebody who does not value your professional expertise and not willing to pay for it?
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    What do you mean by photoimage?
  10. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    Jim a photoimage is a picture of the house with plants super imposed on it. Digital imaging, photoshop.

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