I talked with a person the other day who's a horticultural designer and does seminars -she charges 120.00 for the first visit based on getting burned too many times. Otherwise no design. I've been doing design as part of my business for over 18 years. I have a pricing link on my website if you are interested to see; Located first page, lower left area "Design Pricing" click on link. I also remain flexible about this -I don't think you need a contract for a design process to work. Just let them know what it costs -People who respect this are invariably going to be your best customers. I sometimes work with a California Licensed Landscape Architect, and he charges about minimum 3500.00 to 5000.00 for a residential plan. His fees include rough cost estimates, site inspections, irrigation plans plant selection and placement, and full blueprints. Also, his commercial plans are way more $$ than that. When I go out and consult a plan, I spend about 1-1/2 to 2 hours with a client and take photos and measurements. While there are relatively small jobs that are not complex where you could charge about 275.00 to 300.00, I figure out what to charge based on the size of the property, and the complexity of the design -i.e. how much creativity is required, specifications, drawings, blueprints, swimming pool, irrigation plan, and computer 3-d views. I ask a min. 10% of that number -it's usually 85.00 to 100.00 if I have to start from scratch. Some people present an unfinished plan and I don't have to spend as much time making it workable. Most importantly, all of my design time is figured on the basis of $25.00 per hour right from the start anyway, and I can charge $25.00 per hour for any design revisions past the presentation, or second meeting where revisions can be made, as this reduces the possible abuse of my time by the customer continually making changes (refer to pricing link on website). A good designer will eliminate this from happening by "nailing" the design concepts the first time out. Then if they waver, I know I have a "tire kicker" who's 'just looking'. If they choose somebody else in the meantime, I'm not out for my time. If we continue the process they will get more than their money's worth for a working plan. I do not charge for time when I make a mistake, or when I do not clarify something that they wanted that I should have -design is about 80% listening and probing the customer for needs. I do place some disclaimer notes regarding easements, field measurements, errors and omissions -etc. especially for hardscapes and slopes. I have discounted the cost of plans if they sign a contract for my landscape company to also build it. Get the job! Essentially -they are hiring a professional and have to pay for the service.