Contracts for Design Work

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Horticulture Goddess, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. Horticulture Goddess

    Horticulture Goddess LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Hi Again,

    This site has turned out to be an invaluable resource for my company. I have found tons of info. from seasoned professionals. As a startup it has been a great help.

    Does anyone have a sample contract for Design work?

  2. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    I don't generally do contracts for design work. Most of my designs are for customers who are going to use my services after the design.

    In order to ensure they don't take my design and run to another company, I charge up front for the design and that charge is reimbursed to them after the install has been completed.
  3. lawnboy2068

    lawnboy2068 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 104

    You are in Hackensack. What co?

    For someone starting up, if you are, or if not, the easiest way that I can suggest is to go to Staples or Office Max. They have pre-written legal contracts that you can use in this case. Just fill in the info needed and have the client sign it. Very easy and efficient.

  4. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    I put too much time and effort into putting mine together to hand it out, but here are the basics.

    It starts like a letter which says "thank you for requesting a proposal from .... at # street, town, state".... then it describes the part of the property (all or part of it), that the plan will show trees, shrubs, fences, retaining walls, swimming pool, ... (as applicable).

    You want to cover those basics that are easily assumed, but should not be. You may have only talked about the front foundation planting, but if you don't clearly state that only that area is in the contract, you might run into trouble.

    Then I list out the scope of services:

    1. meet with client to discuss use of property, aesthetic tastes, .....

    2. client to provide survey plan of site or cad file from surveyor or engineer.

    3. measure site details not located on survey plan.

    4. prepare base plan .....

    5. prepare draft schematic landscape plan ....

    6. meet w/ client to review draft plan.

    7. provide one revision to draft plan

    8. present final schematic landscape plan (2 copies) under this contract.

    9. construction details are not included under this contract, but will be provided by hourlly rate (see Appendix A).

    Any services or materials not described as part of this contract should be considered an extra and will be billed as such.

    The plan will be black and white line work on 24"x36" sheet(s) at 1"=10'.

    I included an Appendix sheet that decribes hourly rates, reimbursibles, termination, .... It is loosely based on the standard contract of the American Institute of Architects.

    The important thing is to remove as much uncertainty of expectations from the client and create the situation that makes it very clear when you are DONE and they owe you the final payment. The biggest risk in our business is the never ending revisions, if you let that happen.

    Whatever you do, you should define what you will provide and the criteria that you can meet within your own control. In other words, do not leave it so that the client has any way of eing able to say that you are not finished according to your contract.
  5. baddboygeorge

    baddboygeorge LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,249

    Please when I tell you this take it to heart, In this economy please cover all the bases , first: go see a lawyer an get a good solid contract drawn up, second: make sure your doing business as an LLC, third an the most important:Have all clients sign a contract, no matter the dollar amount make sure you have a signed contract before starting any work ,,,,, Have fun ,,George
  6. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    Cover your tail is a very general statement. An attorney can certainly help with wording and with making sure that you do not violate any laws in your contract.

    However, the thing that an attorney may not know unless he has done other design contract writing, is what holes there are in order to know how to cover them.

    Many designers forget to clearly make these points (this is for a flat fee rather than hourly - hourly is much harder to sell than flat fee):
    1. the address of the property
    2. the exact area of the property that the design will cover
    3. how many times you will meet with the client
    4. how many times you will revise a plan
    5. what will be in the plan
    6. what materials you will provide (plans, details, photoimaging, color rendering,...)
    7. how much you will be paid for things outside of the contract
    8. a very clear criteria whereby you can finish the contract that is in your control rather than the clients's (if you say one revision and you do that revision, you have met the terms of the contract whether the client wants more revisions or not)

    The most helpful things that I have found are having a high hourly rate for work outside of the contract, limiting revisions by using a number of revisions (I use 1), doing all of the design at once rather than one area at a time (that will kill you) both in the draft and final presentation, and having a large portion of the price paid up front.

    The high hourly rate catches the attention of the client and they become much more focused on making sure you have what you need from them in order that you won't need extra revisions.

    Design can become an animal that will not die if you are not clear about what you will and will not do. People have all kinds of ideas of what a "standard" design includes. Some think you will do three color concept designs for them to choose from (thanks HGTV) and that you will revise it 400 times until they are completely satisfied. Others think that you will have them design it with you and decide on every last little thing as you get started. You have to dispell any of that clearly or you can be victimized by it.

    In the end, you have to be able to show the judge the contract and how you met it or the client has to be able to show him that you did not. Your contract should be designed to easily prove the first.
  7. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    I also include a section on time to completion. I'm up front with my clients that to be perfectly fair to everyone, I complete designs in the order in which the contracts come in. I'll usually set a date far enough out that I know I can hit it- nothing more annoying than getting a call a week after the meeting, "is it done yet?"

    An exclusions section can also be pretty important. If I'm designing retaining walls, I make it really clear that engineering and permitting are outside the scope of the design proposal.

Share This Page