1. JTS Landscaping lawn

    JTS Landscaping lawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 378

    what so i charge to do design work ive never really had to do any design stuff the customer pretty much knew what they wanted. but i have a guy that just wants me to design a patio for him what not. wonder what i should charge to do this. thanks
  2. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    The first step is to figure out what you're bringing to the table. How much design experience do you have?
  3. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    You say "design a patio and whatnot"... and ask others what you should charge? If the customer already knows what he wants, why does he need someone to design it for him? How big is it? Will you be doing the install?

    Sorry, but your question is like someone asking how much to pay for a car, and not saying whether it's a used 10 year old car or off the showroom floor.
  4. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    A customer asks for a design to make sure what they want is going to look good or not. I don't blame them. It took me a while to imagine perspectives, shapes and colors.

    When I do designs, I charge them 2/3rds of what a true designer charges, who also has a college degree. An interior designer I know has about 20 years experience, and charges about $75 dollars an hour.

    I have a degree in art, not landscape architecture. I charge a little more than my labor rate. Then I charge my customer for the design. If they use me for the install, I give them the design credit back to them in the final bill.

    How confident do you feel about your designs??
  5. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    I don't "design" patios..... beds, yards, gardens, patio container plantings... yes, not hardscaping. I'm gald you have a degree, and apparently don't think small details like if it's a 20X15 or a 50 X 75 patio makes a difference in what the price should be. I wish I stayed in college long enough to get that smart.
  6. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    I wasn't trying to offend. I was just stating that I'm not as highly educated at designing as landscape architects. Degree or no degree, to me, real-world experience is worth more than any college education.
  7. JNyz

    JNyz LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,087

    Why do you charge two thirds of what a landscape designer would charge with a college degree? From my twenty years experience I see most landscape contractors who don't have degrees have just as much design ability as those with degrees. In this business experience is what counts. I think you are selling yourself short.

    Example: Two weeks ago I get a call from a large [5 million dollar a year company] contractor to see if I will do a residential install job for him for my daily rate.[four men 1600.00/day] I look at the plan and he tells me to put two days on it. I say "sure." We are finished in 1.5 days except for a tree stump that has to be removed. Now picture this, fifteen inch stump up against the foundation on one side, the deck on the other and the deck steps on the third side with only 12-18 inches of access. The designer has the stump coming out and a lilac going in. There is no room to dig or get a machine in without moving the steps. A landscape contractor who does designs would never design that and only a landscape designer with a degree without work experience would. Can anyone guess what I did? Or have a suggestion. It took me 45 minutes to remedy the problem and 35 bucks out of my pocket and everyone was happy.
  8. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    I'm going to answer the question of why White charges only 2/3 the price of a design only designer for him. It is because he is smart.

    He knows that he is just as valuable as the design only guy. But what he also knows is that doing the design job usually results in getting the installation. Getting paid for the the design job is nothing compared to selling product and labor. If he goes up against another designer or two and all else is relatively equal, his lower price will tip the scales in his favor.

    Think of it as an investment in marketing. Many of youwill dump $1,500 to send mass mailings to thousands of people who are not even shopping for a landscaper. He leaves a few bucks on the table to hold someones hand who is ready and raring to spend thousands of dollars on a landscape. My guess is that he would happily do it for free except that if he doesn't charge it enables people who are not serious to waste his time.

    That is a huge return on a small investment.

    JTS, an inexperienced landscape designer has almost no value in the marketplace. That is not an insult to you, but simple reality. There are too many people out there that are just as qualified to do simple plans including other landscapers, back yard gardeners, garden center staff, and list goes on. Some landscapers will do it for nothing to try to get the job. Some gardeners will do it for nothing to feel important. Some garden centers will do it for nothing to move retail product to homeowners.

    Payday comes when you can take a plan to a higher level to the people who value that higher level plan. Honestly, that is a very small percentage of property owners. It is limited to mid to high end landscapes for two reasons. The first reason is that not many people with a $10k or $20k budget are going to cut 10% of it out in order to pay for design. The second reason is that there are so many people capable of designing and building a lower budget job that it is very competitive so doing cheap or free design gives a competitive edge to those that do it. Not doing it can leave you out in the cold.

    That might not be what we like as an industry and we might like it if everyone kept the price up. But that is reality. It is not a new thing. It has always been this way and it always will be this way. Somehow, we all are able to make a living at it.

    I won't lose a single design job to you if you are doing them for free and you won't lose a single job to me.

    People coming into this industry have a great deal of difficulty understanding that there is no standard price for anything, there is no standard landscaper, and there is no standard customer.

    Design price comes down to this no matter the budget or complexity:
    What do you bring to the table?
    What is on the table?
    Who else is coming to the table?
    Who sits on the other side of the table?
  9. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Thank you for the validation. Personally I'd love to get about 5-10 years design experience in me and just do top priced designs all day long. I've had people tell me that my designs are exactly what they were looking for, and people have had trouble with "professional" designers with no real world experience.

    The reasons stated about my charges is ultimatly correct. I want to make some money off the designs, but I also want the install.

    One time I didn't charge for the initial design hopeing to get the install. The customer turned around and hired a low-baller, and I'm out a couple hundred dollars in a design. Since then I charge initially for the design. Even with the design credit at the end of the install bill, I'm adjusting my prices accordingly. It all comes out in the wash.

    When it comes to my design prices, I realize I'm not the best. I've been told I'm extremely good at it, but I know my limitations. I have a concious, and I'm not out to be a salesman selling a product that I want my customers to think is the best.

    Like I said, I want at least 4 more years of design experience before I start uping my price.
  10. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    I get paid by contractors to do their designs. No one hires me to "design" a basic rectangular paver patio, because what value would I bring to that? If that's all your client's looking for I wouldn't expect a design fee to fly, because it is what it is. You figure out how big a space they want, make sure you can work with the grades, and give your price. There's not much design involved, and I'm guessing that's what Whitey means when he says he doesn't design patios.

    On the other hand, if your client wants something a little more involved, the game changes. As soon as you start talking about grade changes, drainage issues, working around existing conditions, playing off the architecture of the house- now you're into design. IF you have a solid portfolio showing your design skill (and showing the built work to prove that your stuff works in the real world), your customer values a designed feature and the work that goes into designing it, and you can inspire the client to be confident enough in your design and construction knowledge to hire you, you can get a design fee. If you don't have these in your favor, you may want to consider- will asking for a design fee cause your client to look elsewhere? How likely are you to get the job if you do the design at no charge? When I was making my money off sales commissions and not design fees, the designs were done gratis but never left with the client unless I was sure that they were going with me, or they paid a deposit.

    If you're not propping up your sales pitch with a good portfolio of your built work, you're going to have a tough time selling a design fee.

    So the question is- what is it that the customer wants?

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