design or estimate for customer

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by bigviclbi, Feb 10, 2005.

  1. bigviclbi

    bigviclbi LawnSite Senior Member
    from nj
    Messages: 900

    This is my third year and I would really like to get some larger jobs under my belt. I have talked to a landscape designer that would be able to come up with plans for my client based on my ideas. Here's my question:do you guys give designs with a bid, or bid first then get a design. It seems to me a waste of money to pay a designer then not get the job. But my designs on my software(i have visio 5.0, ep henry 3d, and some generic home landscaping program) only go so far and are not up to snuff for some large jobs. Any suggestions? I am thinking of getting Landscape Pro.
  2. newleaflandscape

    newleaflandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 348

    How could you give a bid if you dont have a design. Good luck trying to do that. As far as wasting money on the designer if you dont get the job, thats the most foolish thing Ive heard. See what your designer charges, then you add fifteen percent to that for your cut, and your customer can pay for the design. If they buy the work from you, then discount the design fee to the job. If they dont buy the labor from you your are not out money to your designer and you have that fifteen percent in your pocket. Dont tell me your afraid that if you charge for design you might not get the job either. If you dont charge for design, there will be swarms of do it your selfers that call you just so you can draw something up for the to have to do it. When you charge the customers for the design you show them that the design is really worth somthing and that your time should not be wasted.
  3. bigviclbi

    bigviclbi LawnSite Senior Member
    from nj
    Messages: 900

    Newleaf, I HAVE GOTTEN JOBS without a design up to $20,000! To me that's a decent size job. I have gone over the bed outlines with a shoe in the gravel and showed pictures of plant material and where major trees/specimen plants will go. I am not professionally trained(degree in History). I thank you for the info about selling a design, it makes sense and I will try it. I haven't really talked in depth to a designer, just have shot some cursory e-mails back and forth. I have spent hours on a design on my limited software and not gotten a job, so I understand what you are saying. It just seems people around here want me to draw something up for them and give them a bid. What do I say to them if they don't want to pay for a design since they are not sure what they want? Any advice is gladly appreciated.
  4. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,570

    well that is a design...

    generally the way it works is you work out a budget, then come up with a design. if they like it, then the price.

    i always try and get a budget first. The reason is that if they are only thinking of spending $10K and you design them a $30K design, you will scare them off. people get embarassed, and will generally go with someone else.

    But on the other hand if people are wanting to spend $30K and you give them a $10K design, then they could feel that you are cheap, or cannot give them the results they want.
  5. bigviclbi

    bigviclbi LawnSite Senior Member
    from nj
    Messages: 900

    When I first started I asked a few people about budget and they gave me the runaround and said I should come up with a number and then we'll go from there. I did this twice then just started giving estimates myself without inquiring first on price. The more I think about this the more I think I did too much work for free. I think from now on if its a small job (maybe $5,000) I'll do a design myself and if its a big job tell them up front I am hiring a designer and make them pay for it. Do any of you do a design as part of your attempt to get a job?
  6. newleaflandscape

    newleaflandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 348


    I am really big on the design fee thing so I get really upset when a customer says to me well I am not paying for a design so just give me an estimate. Thats when my usual response is ok um 10 grand hows that. When they ask what that includes tell them I dunno if you approve of the bid I will draw a design. I have stormed out of a few peoples places real upset over the deal. To me when they say something like they show no respect for our field. I am getting better with my temper though. Now if a customer says that to me I simply say, Well I think you should call around and find a designer you can trust, and then when you have a design you can call me back I will give you a bid based on the design. Explain to them how commercial bids go. First A landscape architect is paid a thousand bucks to draw up a design and then several companies come in to put bids down. If it is a very small job under 4000 I usually give the customers 2 effective landscape booklets one on perrenials and one on woody ornamentals. You can buy them for like two bucks a piece at mnla. Then I tell them to look the books over and let me know how they want there landscape done and I will give them a bid on their ideas. I absolutely refuse to do free design work though. Dont sell yourself short. If you show the customer that your design work is good enough that you must charge they will have more respect for you. Seperates you from the scrubs that scratch estimates on burger king napkins.
  7. Popper357

    Popper357 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 217

    I'm just starting and learning "Lanscape Design" from PCDI. There's a lot of education and skill to making good designs that are easy to maintain, fit a budget, work in the sites condition and weather, etc etc. Design absolutely requires effort and should be compensated. There are circumstances when you don't charge for design up front, like when a clients says "How much to build a so and so wall to flatten out the yard?" All you need is the type of materials they want, what thier reasoning and goals are and you should be able to estimate it right there, though it won't be the final bid until you've done everything on paper. You can get it close
    Start learning design and drafting and you'll be better able to handle customers and jobs. My .02
  8. bigviclbi

    bigviclbi LawnSite Senior Member
    from nj
    Messages: 900

    Part of the problem is that my design skill is limited. I can obviously come up with pretty good ideas and gardens since most of my clients see my other jobs. Thats how I sell alot of my jobs. There really isn't a school within an hour of me which kills me, because I know if I could put my ideas on paper better I would get more/bigger jobs. So what do you guys think I should do:1)buy Pro Landscape for $1300.00 and learn from tutorials or 2)take this online class at It really does look like the real deal and I am dying to make my designs look more professional. Thanks for all the advice, I really enjoy all the feedback I get from this website. :D :D :D
  9. Smithers

    Smithers LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,265

    i think your guys are missing the "small picture".....

    i am not a big shot or anything, but this is what we do.....

    My wife loves to draw. when we get a call for a landscape bid (remodeling), she says, "I charge $XX or so for the design. I will have it to you by Friday and you will see how it looks. The price includes one revision. For any other revisions, you pay $XX. Of course, this will be applied toward the landscape bill if you choose to do it and go with us.""""

    Period..this excludes the shopper from the serious customers. if they dont want to do it, it's fine...i got at least $$XX. for a few hrs work.

    Now, having said the last thing.....she really wants me to get her Pro Landscape. she draws amazingly, but she does not know how to scale the plants and scale the property acurately. Besides, it takes a lot of time. A LOT OF TIME. and any "revision" means that she has to go back to the drawing board, litteraly.

    So, here is the kicker...Pro Landscape has a "student" price of $450. you have to be enrolled in a "landscape" type of program or a class. Do you know anyone that is currently doing that? I am lucky and I do. I also am curently taking a $75 class in Landscape Design at the local comm college.

    Here is another thouught.....Let say you dont want to do any of the above i said....Fine, pay the designer (even if you dont get the bid) 4-5 times, but KEEP HIS DESIGNS....

    This will give you "pictures" for the next 100 estimates. You can show them and say, "Here is what we did". even though you did not actually do it.

    You CAN"T loose...

    Now, here is my question to YOU: How much does your designer charge? Are they landscape architecht?
  10. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,284

    I agree with Yardpro on discussing the budget upfront. I understand some people are uncomfortable with it, but unless you're dealing with a customer to whom price is not an issue (and you know this), where else do you start? I don't need a hard budget number, but if somebody is asking me for a $10,000 patio then I make sure, before I waste my time and their's, that they have an idea what it will cost. I bid a lot of hardscape projects. I find that most people have no idea what it costs. Many want a lot more than they can pay for. Why waste the time? If they are serious about doing the work then they should have a budget. Don't let them play that game "you tell me first." That's bs and I don't have the time for it.

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