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Landscape quotes, what do you give out for free?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Ramairfreak98ss, Apr 6, 2006.

  1. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    as far as designs, specs, prices, ideas? I have a horticulturist and landscape design consultant with a PhD in horticulture and biology help with any landscape designs for customers. I pay her a commission off the plan if i get the job, so i cant loose really.

    Yet i feel customers are taking advantage of what i offer, they ask for ideas, what i recommend, plant ideas/tree ideas etc. By the time i and her invest much time into these large 5-25k quotes, it seems most customers dont have the work done afterall.

    Not that they go from my quote of 25k to 20k but they just DONT do any work, or i know of one "to be" customer who im pretty sure went out and bought everything i had quoted him/her, not sure if THEY installed the trees/plants or had another labor company come in to do it.

    I dont show WHERE plants etc. are being planted per say but they can get a good idea after a 1hr meeting with the homeowner. I had a commercial landscape quote for a company wanting it DONE by march 22nd, then theyre suddenly unsure of what they want to do for 22k worth of work and now havnt done anything. Yet i ran around like crazy for that week getting correct prices for things and estimating all of the labor.?:cry:
  2. wski4fun

    wski4fun LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 323

    Figure on a price that's worth your time for design consult whatever it may may be. They give you a check for lets say 150. If they want a design after that the 150 gets worked into the cost. Have pay for whatever the designing is. They keep it and do what they want with it wether they hire you or not. Work it like two businesses. Atleast that's how it was done in the design/build constr. firm I worked in. Also change orders where always charged extra for the extra design work for every change order. If they agree the price for that gets worked into the entire price now. Hope that helps. Sometimes what is done in one industry isn't true for another.
  3. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 863

    Yeah this is one of those damned if you do damned if you don't things. The bigger companies that already have lots of work lined up just charge for the service up front, say $600. This weeds out the just looking types. For those of us that are "trying" to get work, we play the lottery. Find the balance between landing a job by presenting a really good design, but hope they don't screw you as you mentioned. I put a copyright on my design and mention it casually, and I do charge if they want a full blown scale drawing with plant list. I find that it really helps to qualify the customer while meeting with them to see just what they might be up to. One great way of doing that is asking what they imagine the budget to be. Do this while showing them previous work, I usually can get the budget to go up this way, because most people won't give you the real numbers at first.
  4. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    I think you are out of alignment with the product you have -Vs- the market you are pitching too. You are trying to sell a Lexus in a Chevy neighborhood. I can't speak to your market there but here a design with that kind of prep work should fetch 2-3-K and the jobs would be 60-K or higher. If you price is not in line with the product you sell it makes people suspicious. I would suggest look for a higher end market or dumb down you designs for the clients you now have the opportunity to bid. Even then don't work for free, try this, initial consultation for free. Design for 300-500 they use you and you take the design cost out of the final price. Get a deposit up front and while they are thinking it over don't release a hard copy without the balance. I had a harder time selling my designs at 150-300 than I did at 3-K. Sounds stupid but at 150 for the market I was in it was a too good to be true, must not be very good, etc. Because the people I was competing against were charging 5-k or more for the same work.
  5. Landscape25

    Landscape25 LawnSite Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 199

    Ramair, even chosing plants for free for a job that doesn't require a design is disturbing to me, whether they take the job or not. I am not in a position to be charging a consultation fee really, but a full plan yes, they are getting charged and no refund. These have all been small jobs too. When I get busier I am going to start charging a consult fee, even if it is only 40.00 and probably put it toward the design or job if they go with me. I do believe we get short changed in this business, because it does require some thought and ideas (time) to come up with a price.
  6. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,226

    i charge a consoltation fee when i go and look at any landscape where they might want work done. then a fee for the design, nothing is free.
  7. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    It comes down to value. How much you value getting the job is half of what determines how much effort you invest in trying to get the job. That will change from job to job, but maybe your actions won't. The second thing is how much value there is in what you are giving to the prospect. Some general ideas, material and plant suggestions, and the like - are you really giving much value away? Even if you are a very good designer, it is so generic that it really is not worth that much and takes very little effort to hang out there.

    I go with the idea that if it is so simple that someone could hear me talk about it for a few minutes and then not need me to get it done, it was not that great an idea in the first place. Never feel like you lose part of yourself when you talk about an idea. It gets very easy to sell jobs and walk away from those that did not buy.
  8. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    Estimates are free, everything thing else comes at a price. Your knowledge and abilities have value as well as that of your designer. You should be charging accordingly. As you are aware, many times your are brought out to a site just the homeowners can steal your ideas and attempt to incorporate them for themselves or their "friend" that's a landscaper. Until the sign a contract or hand over a deposit nothing I say has any value when it comes to creating a landscape. When an agreement is reached, they get what they pa for and sometimes more.

    You wouldn't cut their lawn, prune their shrubs or landscape the property for free. Why does anyone believe designs or horticultural information has no value. If those clients are taking advantage of you, either change your approach, or change your client base. If you value your effort and your designers, so will the right clients.

  9. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    thanks for all of your suggestions. I put on my brochures/flyers, free estimates. As i primarily handle lawn care quotations, this is fine. I think most people see this and then just figure, hell its free, lets get them out here and quote us for the whole landscape. I end up giving out quotes for sod work, seeding of their entire property, some hardscaping work, tree and plant installs and then they dont call back. I know my prices are not HIGH, but it seems the clients have no idea what things cost, one large tree installled is well over $600 with the trees cost, just throwing out a # there. And they may say they want trees on the side and front property, theres $600x 20 and your over 12k right there before the other work.

    I am going to start offering them a free consultation up front to discuss what they are looking to have done to their property. I think i will then charge a flat fee of $250 "more of a desposit" for a quotation involving quotes for products to be installed such as trees. If theyre looking for an entire design, sketch or breakdown of where things would be laid out in a cad drawing setup of their yard plus sketch i would charge $750 for that additional. That way theyre into it about $1,000 that can be worked into their landscape quote in the end. At least if they do not do anythign fully, i dont end up with $0 and loss of time, money, consulting fees etc. If i had to pay my designer full time or per plan id be loosing hundreds of dollars.

    Quotes for small stuff i still wont charge, but ive had once just in march already for 20k, 24, 28k, 15k, 19k. So quotes of that size, ending up being a total of 3-6 pages each for multiple labors performed and numerous trees, phases of install dates, approximate finish times etc take time for myself to plan out. Ive even had people ask me for a breakdown of each labor charge AND item. I will not do that, that only leads to the customer removing certain things and taking MORE time to make sure each individual item is charged for appropriately.

    Say i mow a lawn $50
    cut hedges $160

    $210 total , customer says, great, fine, when can you do it.

    when i break it down for them, they have me only do the hedges because they can cut their own grass OR they have me only cut the grass because the Hedges cost too much to them, of course when they start modifying the plan or quote, now i have to make a trip for fewer jobs on that lot, now id have to go and requote for a higher price, which they think theyll get the price of ONLY one job for the listed price, which is wrong, god is the world not a bright place.

    I feel as though we have to purposely deceive the customer so that we can run the business correctly and turn a profit, i dont like to "feel" that way but so be it.
  10. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 863

    I went and did a hardscape patio estimate the other day, the homeowner did mention I would be one of several estimates. I meet the homeowner the day after the initial phone call, looked at the job site, simple flat with easy access. They were looking to get an 18' x 20' patio. I mentioned that hardscapes are beautiful, long lasting, very little maintenance --however, they have a large upfront cost, what kind of budget are we working with? $3k...hmmm, well that won't get you an 18' x 20' but let me see what I can come up with.

    I returned the next day with a scaled design including an integrated landscape plan (in design but separate price) My solution was to build a smaller one, (15' x 18') away from the house. It really looked fantastic, customer liked it also and my 24hr response time, but they are still waiting for the other quotes (to even show up). I left the estimate and pictures of the materials to be used but the homeowner did not want to pay me the $75 for the design, so I have it.

    I'll let you know what they end up doing.

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