Do you charge for estimates?

Discussion in 'Lawn Care Business Management' started by jgrand, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. jgrand

    jgrand LawnSite Member
    Messages: 29

    I spend a lot of time designing flower beds, outdoor structures and patios. I would like to streamline this and make sure that the customer can afford it before I invest all the time in the deisgn. I did read a thread below about asking for a budget. That seems like it will help give me a better idea. Can anyone give me any ideas on how they spend less time designing and more time earning a profit? I know I can't charge for my designs because I only have the landscape contators license and not a landscape architect. Can I charge for a design if it not to scale?
  2. grandview (2006)

    grandview (2006) LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,465

    There is a couple of nurseries around here that will charge people to sit down and make up a design. Last I heard about 100 bucks, but if you go with them it turns into a credit if they do it.
  3. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    Just ask for a budget. It gets the juices flowing. I asked recently and the customer said 5k but when i designed what they described, it was a 10k patio. They werent happy when i showed what 5k will get them. Guess whos picking up a deposit for that 10k patio tonight?
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  4. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,983

    There was a great response from a member here. I do not remember his name. Or exactly how he said this. Though I am doing my best to match his meaning.

    What he said is that he never charges for the meet and property walk with the customer. It gives him the chance to learn what the customer wants verses what the customer wants to spend. It also gives him the time to sell himself to the customer as the person best to do the job for them.

    While doing the walk around he points out suggestions and approximate costs. When the walk is over he knows how much the customer wants to spend and want the customer wants. Then he tells the customer that the next phase is to commit to drawing up plans an the cost for the design work.

    At that point it separates the tire kickers from the buyers. The time spent was worth the time to find out what the customer wants so he does not design something that will not like.
  5. Think Green

    Think Green LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,746


    All the panel responses is dead on.
    I asked for a projected budget off the bat and over the phone to see where things stand.
    I tend to believe the term--"Free Estimates" is a gimmick and a lure to anyone's services............Right?
    There is nothing for free in this world. The cost is figured in there somewhere.
    If not--allow for one hour consults with the customer at their place or yours. Tell them all your estimates is free as long as you do not run over the allotted time. The clock starts when you all sit down and talk.
    I charge a customer for any drawing renderings I do.....this is normal and if the customer refuses to pay, then so be it. I give nothing to the customer on paper...........this is mine to keep. If plants and trees is part of your designs, then I ask the customer to make a trip to whatever nursery they choose and inspect plants they desire. I tell them to write down names and certain color interests. I will do this because customer's is so fickle they will drag a job on for days and weeks with undecided plants.

    I know there is time spent and time lost in drawings. I am a artist also.........and that is why it is called--"starving arts." You can spend a whole day kicking curbs unless a estimated budget is gathered. Then figure in your time spent on the project. IF the customer accepts the proposal in writing, then do not give them the drawing yet, as with most people they have at least 3 days to retract their decision. Then what? You are left without your drawings and someone else will get to do it. Been there--done that. Allow a fee for your time on the project, cell phone costs, gasoline, and whatever else. Figure this back in to the project.

    Don't lose your shorts while out looking for a pair of socks.
  6. Chilehead

    Chilehead LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Stockbridge, GA
    Messages: 1,969

    I generally will do an estimate for free, but when it comes to drafting a landscape plan--they need to have signed a contract. In Georgia, it is a crime to sell a landscape plan unless you are a licensed landscape architect that is registered with the Secretary of State's office. As a landscape contractor, I can legally offer a plan for free provided that I am the one who installs it. I generally will explain this scenario to any prospective client that's getting a quote and many times it results in closing the sale.
  7. citywidefw

    citywidefw LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    I agree that a free estimate is the way to go and evaluate what the customer wants. I like to get a feel for what the customer wants and give some ideas. I will do a very simple hand drawing for free but anything elaborate I would a fee associated with that. The more information you give the better.

    I have gotten landscape jobs and used other peoples designs that they paid for. I believe its how you sell yourself and the experience you bring to the table.
  8. dieselfuel

    dieselfuel LawnSite Member
    Messages: 114

    I don't have a LA license. I charge for my designs. If it takes me time to do a design, I charge for it. Then I just give a partial credit when I install it. Now, if I meet with someone who just wants something simple and I can draw it right there on site, then I just put the cost of that time into the installation price. You can charge for whatever you want, even if it's not to scale. It's your business. As long as you follow the laws in your state you'll be okay.

    As far as charging for estimates - yes. But not upfront. I bury an hour or two into the cost of the construction to make up for the time it took me to go out and meet with them, and sit down and do the estimate.
  9. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    Some estimates are free.

    If it's related to changing the landscape and they can't tell me exactly what to provide an estimate for, that's not free estimating, that's free consulting.

    I don't give away consulation service. So if it's 10 minutes and I can give a quick estimate, probably free. If it's an hour, especially like drainage, it's a matter of scheduling a 1 hour consultation.

    Apparently a lot of better designers handle it that way too, before drawing a plan.

    Most pruning estimates are without charge.

  10. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,101

    design and estimate are different things.

    Maybe you should word it as a "free 30 minute consultation"
    because for you, to give a price, you need the design finalized.

    this creates this odd circle where you put all this time into a design, to get a price, and then the customer says no, and you've wasted a lot of time.

    Estimate says price.

    Companies that give free estimates are like lawn companies, fert companies, etc…. it takes little to no time to dish out a price.
    You need to recover your time for your creative input.

    So I would suggest offering the free "30 minute consultation" and then, after meeting the client, you can talk about budget brackets.

    "gee m'am you have a lot of great ideas…to get them all done, you might be looking at 100, or we could go with just the 'must haves and be at 50, but we can compromise in the middle with 75…. which would you feel more comfortable with"

    "Great, now that we have established a budget, Ill need you to approve a design and the components that would go into your work. so the next step is a deposit of X..which will cover the design time, if you approve the design, then we can move forward and the cost of the design is included in the install, so effectively it is refunded back to you, if you don't hire us, you can keep the design you paid for"

    This way…in 30 minutes you have given her a free "estimate"…it is either 100, 75 or 50…for more specific…I need a design and a solid price….that's going to cost.

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