Landscape Consulting

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Stonehenge, Mar 8, 2001.

  1. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    There are huge numbers of DIYers in my area. Some contact us looking for some help either in technical advice of to do portions of the project, while leaving other portions to tackle themselves.

    Have any of you served as a consultant? Different from charging for a design, I mean going to the site and providing technical assistance for an installation. (Hands-off technical assistance on hardscape stuff primarily)

    I proposed it to a customer recently, offering my services for $50/hr, 2hr minimum per visit.

  2. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,969

    Great way to increase your exposure and learning. Get to be involved in many more projects without getting tied down with the mundane steps. But I would think differently about fees. Do you really make a set amount every hour you are on one of your jobs? Most actual profit is made in design phase, where knowledge comes into play. Organization is another phase where experience pays off. And the mundane on the job installation is the lowest per hour real profit, because of the high cost of labor & materials.

    You would want the class of person that wants to do the job right, but enjoys or economically needs to do it himself. Off the top of my head, I would sell this as a basic fee, plus an hourly fee. The basic fee is for your knowledge and experience (probably a percentage of the project cost if you did it yourself), the hourly fee is for the time spent in conveying this advice and criticizing their progress. Some would just want initial advice, but some of these will take twice as long as others; some might want you to criticize after each step of project so they are sure they are procceding properly.

    Around here in maintenance work, most of us will consult for $35-40/hr, but if homeowner is really interested, price will quickly go down to $25-30. It makes it fun to find those who appreciate and really listen to your input. Your $50/hr, 2 hr min may scare off some as too costly - any question I have during the project will cost $100?
  3. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    Well, their are a couple forces at play for something like this.

    The learning part I'm not too worried about, other than the learning curve of working with the people in this niche.

    The DIYers around me seem to be more into doing it for the financial end, and not so much the reward of doing the project yourself. That being said, I would worry that if my fees were inexpensive, I'd be running all over town doing only this, and not making very much $, which is not my intent.

    And I think the 2 hour minimum charge would force the customer to be conscious of the time, so an appointment wouldn't drag on unnecessarily.

    The other thing at play here is opportunity cost. If I spend 5 hours doing this, how much could I have made if I'd spent that same time supervising a crew on an install, or selling a project to another client? Would I have made $250?

    The more I write the less I like my idea........
  4. cutntrim

    cutntrim LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 474

    There's a company around here (I think it's a franchise) called "Let's Landscape (together)!" On their trucks they've got "together" in smaller text and in brackets. One of our maintenance customers went with them for a landscape project. They re-did her backyard for her. She said you can get 'em to do the whole job, or you can provide all the labour, or you can provide some of the labour (ie. landscape together). It's an interesting, if unusual idea. Personally, I can't see many of my customers being interested in humping wheelbarrows around all day under the hot sun, but hey - they seem to be doing all right so far.

    BTW, she had them do the whole job. She scoffed at the idea of actually doing the physical work herself.
  5. DaveK

    DaveK LawnSite Member
    Messages: 84

    I have had this idea in the back of my head for awhile. So I did a little searching, and hey, it turns out that great minds think alike.

    My idea has a little different twist than Stonehenge's though. I would tell you about it, but it's a trade secret. :D

  6. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    Stonehenge... I like the idea. As you're likely to come away with sales as a result of consulting. However, I think $50/hr is low. The customer should pay a premium for knowledge. Let 'em know it's going to cost 'em $100 per hour, but you'll yield tons of benefits to them in that short period of time. They may only need you to come out for 15 min here or there. You could make your visit a 1/2 hr minimum to consult on grade or base course of stone, etc. If you work with 'em, you're making money. At $50.00 per hour for your time, you could be making more managing your crews. Just my $0.02
  7. Scraper

    Scraper LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,656

    I usually end up charging more when a customer wants to help out as it almost always ends up taking us longer. I call it the PITA surcharge. ;)
  8. DaveK

    DaveK LawnSite Member
    Messages: 84

    OK, here is what I was thinking...

    In addition to the "landscape coach" (as I will call Stonehenge's idea), what about a landscape advisor?

    Not a landscape consultant (who basically does the same thing as most full fledged landscapers, except the actual work.)

    But a landscape advisor would assist homeowners in choosing a landscaper for their project, based on quality, price etc. as well as making recommendations from received bids. And could also check the work at set intervals to ensure that everything is as planned and quality is up to par. Kind of like a building inspector for landscaping.

    A few things I realize:

    Not good - Could be seen as "playing favorites."
    Good - Good landscapers would have an "out-sider" steering clients away from unprofessional and/or unqualified (read low-ballers) landscapers. Which would only help the "good guys."

    Of course this would not be a profession for anyone currently employed by a landscaping company. That WOULD be a conflict of interest.

    What are your feelings about this idea? Good points? Bad points?
  9. dan deutekom

    dan deutekom LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 424


    Isn't that what a Landscape Architect does?
  10. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    I've consulted on after the fact irrigation jobs that were screwed up detailing every thing in the design or lack there of that contributed to the failure to get irrigated properly. Usually involved a lawsuit or threat of one. $65/hr, 3 hr minimum which includes site visit, travel and report prep time.

    The idea probably has more merit like a Dr making house calls than as a construction supervisor. Maybe $75 min for 1/2 hr on site, they take notes, you document yourself for your own records. Talk about turf and ornamental insects, diseases, cultural practices etc., whatever is on their mind. You just need to have some certifications, degree(s) experience etc and really be on top of your game. Priced high enough it could fill a few blank hours a month an make a few hundred with out busting butt.

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