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Design Retainer Fee?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by mcw615, Mar 4, 2010.

  1. mcw615

    mcw615 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 473

    We have been charging $250-$300 for average general residential designs that are not extremely extensive. I am considering changing it up a little.

    We do a free initial consultation which usually consists of 15-30 minutes getting to know the client and understanding what it is that they want done, then we explain the next process is the design process we need $150 up front. It includes a full consultation where we will bring samples, pictures, discuss different possibilities and options and set a road to go down. Draw up the design process. Follow up. Make neccessary changes, then hand it over.

    Every now and then you will have customers who are forever making changes, or just burning up time.

    My uncle is an attorney, I asked if he would write me up a simple retainer fee agreement for this so there is no set price for whatever type of design the project falls under.

    The undersigned wishes to retain Leebrick Landscape & Design, (hereinafter called "Contractor"), for landscape design for the property located at ____________________________________.

    The Contractor's retainer fee for design service is $_____.___ plus material, printing, and other costs. Terms of payment shall be as follows:

    $____.___ due upon entering this agreement / receipt acknowledged

    I understand that the retainer fee is good for up to __ hours of work at an hourly rate of $50.00. The fee is placed in the Contractor's trust account and is billed against as work is performed. If after __ hours, work is not complete, the Contractor may require another retainer fee which will be placed in trust and billed against as work is performed, or may bill you monthly. The Contractor shall furnish clients with a bi-monthly statement of account.

    I furthermore agree to pay all costs involved in this proceeding, including, but not limited to, printing fees, material costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the service provided by Contractor.

    By my signature hereto, I agree to pay the Contractor under the conditions contained in this agreement.

    SIGNED AND AGREED TO THIS ____ DAY OF __________, 2010

    _________________________ SIGNATURE



    By: ______________________
    Leebrick Landscape & Design

    What are your thoughts from those who do this much more often than I??
  2. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    I think you're setting yourself up for an argument about "did it really take you X hours to do that?" I present it as the client receives a conceptual plan including the elements that I list under scope of work, and that up to X hours of revisions are included, additional hours billed at $X per hour.
  3. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    You are also setting yourself up to scare prospects from signing up. You'd do better, in my opinion, if you describe what you will do in detail including how many meetings and how many revisions. This has three very important benefits. It makes it easy to put a flat price on it (which makes it easier to sell), gives your client incentive to give you the information you need to get 'er done, and completion of the contract (pay day) is legally achieved by you doing what it says that you will do without tying it to customer satisfaction - you either met with them or you did not, you either revised it x times or you did not.

    You have to do what you can to make things quantifiable so that your client is not unsure and that your obligation is not unclear. It really is not as hard as it sounds.
  4. mcw615

    mcw615 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 473

    PaperCutter / AGLA:

    Hmm. Good points, I have not done much in design, mainly from inheriting a project because we do their maintenance or etc. I plan this year to begin to diversify much more and when I have done design I was pretty blunt, this is the price and the design will not be complete until we meet your satisfaction.

    So in other words I should explain based on the project parameters, the price to design their project and create a plan is $XXX.XX; it will include a complete consultation that consists of showing the client different options and samples of products and materials in which would best apply to their project, finding their needs, concerns, and whatever other information is needed to gather such as plant types preferred disliked. We will then assemble all the gathered information and draft a preliminary design. Once that is complete, we will arrange a second meeting to go over the plan and make any final arrangements or revisions.

    My question I guess should be how do you handle a time limit of how long your first meeting should take? 4 meetings took a rough hour and the other 4 took 2-3 hours, they couldnt make up their mind. I felt in control on half of the meetings, and the other half I felt I was being walked over by their crazy ideas. This one lady I was getting ticked off at, I was about to tell her if she has a pen and paper why don't she draw it up herself, I don't need to be her landscape planning advisor for her crazy spontaneous ideas that she insisted were amazing. I have done about 8 designs, a couple of them said here I saw something on the computer I really liked, I have no idea what it is, let me see if I can find it.. then I insisted after 20 minutes that they can take their time and email me the something they saw once they find it and let's get through other things we need to go over. They never told me before I gave a design price they had all these crazy ideas I need to account time for, but the others were pretty laid back and whatever floats there boat because "I am the professional"...
  5. WalkerMike98

    WalkerMike98 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 167

    We charge a 100 dollar consultation fee and then deduct it from the total cost. We have found the clients not willing to pay this are not serious anyway.
  6. mcw615

    mcw615 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 473

    I understand where you say put a price on the whole thing, therefore you have no obligation if you have it done quicker than expected and I think that is a good idea.

    Should I just say when explaining the breakdown of the design process is it is generally 3 steps. 1) About an hour to go through a series of questions to find your tastes needs blah blah, 2) Create the drafted design 3) client approval 3)b one time revision up to an hour per say? That way they know ahead of time to plan to say everything they need to say in an hour and not take up my entire day?
  7. mcw615

    mcw615 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 473

    What I have done was make the initiative to take 15-30 minutes to go meet them, walk over their property and let them briefly explain what their project is and let them get to know me and become "their friend." I think by charging them for an initial consultation, yes maybe people will pay it, I just think I would have people who are serious turn to competitors who dont charge for 15 minutes to allow the client to build trust in us, see us face to face. But hey, if it works for you then go for it, you know every bit of your time is getting paid for. In my eyes it takes them 5 minutes to explain their property and briefly what they want done, and 5-10 minutes to become a salesman and sell the design and say I would love to work with you on your project I already have a lot of great artistic ideas coming to mind etc etc etc. and then say $XXX.XX for the design which will include another meeting where I will gather different possible products and materials and show them to you, bring pictures of plant material etc. then I will create a preliminary drafted design of the property and project, we will arrange a second meeting to go over the design and make any neccessary changes to ensure they are 100% happy.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2010
  8. glaciator

    glaciator LawnSite Member
    Messages: 66

    I meet with clients for about 45 min to1 hr. free to get to know their project. Some projects don't require a formal design, and I let them know if theirs should have one. If not, I can send them a bid on the work discussed. If so, I have a contract that is based on the size and scope of the design. %50 down gets me going with remainder due on completion and minor revisions included. Major revisions are charged at $125/hr. but is usually no more than 1 or 2 hours. Seems to work.
  9. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    I'm very similar to Glaciator except that I only do design work.
  10. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    Personally, I never write how many meetings. Its often assumed that the customers will volunteer as many meetings as needed to get the work done. In many ways, it would be more important to include in a plan, the customer's need to be on-call for as many meetings as needed. Or something to that effect.

    The revision part is something I hear questions about. If not "revisions", then how many "changes" or modifications.

    Knowing that design very much involves artwork, I offer one hour of changes in the flat fee given for an estimate. And then any changes beyond that hour are agreed to be done for a certain amount of money per hour.

    For design, I've never taken more than half down, and commonly, just $100, or maybe 1/3. Since we have never had one collection or no-pay since 1988, I could just as easily go with zero down.

    The main reason the down payment is handy, is its mostly earned the first day or two, so why not get it. Seems practical.

    Design sure is a different breed of work. Its not like giving a price based on area, dimensions or specifications. Its the reverse, where a technology and art - a complete unknown - are to be delivered for a set fee or wage.


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