My company does about 95% of our work in maintenance contracts. I am looking to diversify more over the next few years as gain some more knowledge in the other aspect of the industry and gain some experience in it before I offer it as a complete service with a warranty. I am about to begin studying all the books and manuals to become a certified horticulturist. Last spring I attended an ICPI and NCMA installer class. I learned a lot, a lot of information was crammed. Ofcourse everyone has to start off at the bottom of the totem pole and work their way up. I have completed 2 small walls just to start to get comfortable with the hands on and get in the routine of how things need to be done. I am looking for your help on how you interview your prospect clients for a landscape job. Most of the larger companies will offer a free initial 15-30 min consultation, then the next step is to design which you charge for before you can give a bid. How do you handle when to give an estimate versus a bid? I have seen a lot of people want an "estimate" to know if they can afford it before they pay you for a design. Consultations. I think you need to show up for an initial consultation for free so the prospect can see your smiling face and get to know you, and you ask what do they want done, their function and needs etc. but where do you draw the fine line so your not giving them all your expert advice for free? I guess I'm just asking what are the steps you take in the process from the time they contact your office, how you interview them, what information you go over, and when do you ask for a first check? I have found with maintenance contracts you will spend half an hour roughly to drive to and from a site, a half hour interviewing the client, figuring out their needs and telling them how your company can better service them, then about another rough hour to estimate all services, prepare a bid, submit it to them and and a follow up, averaging 2 to maybe 3 hours, which sucks when the prospect decides not to sign a maintenance agreement with you, but I figure that into my overhead because it is hard to charge someone around here for a bid on maintenance.