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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 03-30-2016, 10:35 PM
Stonehenge's Avatar
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Location: Wisconsin
USDA Zone 4
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Never Give Away Another Design For Free

Discuss the article Do This 1 Thing and Never Give Away Your Landscape Designs for Free Again here.

How do you prevent yourself from giving away your designs for free?

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Old 04-05-2016, 11:08 AM
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Location: Cape Cod
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agla is just really nice agla is just really nice agla is just really nice agla is just really nice
It is a good strategy when you invest your time in a design without fee. I completely understand that there are situations where it makes sense to invest that time to help land a contract.
However, it is always very beneficial to try to get a contract to do the design and include a quote to build it whenever possible. Recovering the design fee has some value, but there are much bigger benefits to you when you do this. First, the prospect will stop talking to other contractors as they wait for your design. Second, you build trust and familiarity by doing the design. Third, they know that you understand the design better than anyone else. It becomes your job to lose rather than being one contractor out of many auditioning for a job.
A cheap design fee may not cover costs, but it is easier to sell and it freezes the prospect from searching for other contractors. It is worth a shot and if they don't bite, go back to plan A and do the freebie.

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Stonehenge agrees:

Cape Cod Landscape Architect
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Old 04-05-2016, 12:24 PM
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That's an interesting thought, AGLA. Over time, I've moved from designing nearly everything on spec to where I am now, willing to design simple hardscapes on spec, scribble plant circles (w/o specific plant callouts) on spec. Complete landscape plans, soft and hardscapes are charged a fee, any plans (complex or simple) designed for clients outside a roughly 25 mile radius are charged for my time.

I've never considered say a $30 patio design, but I'm always looking for ways to bump a client relationship to the next level - exclusivity. That might be something to consider.
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Old 05-27-2016, 07:18 AM
Join Date: May 2016
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plant-the-seed is on a distinguished road
My thoughts are to prequalify potential clients. Be up front. Before an appointment is scheduled inform them that a design will be required. They are making an investment that should not be taken lightly. They should "see" their finished project before a shovel hits the ground. Explain your process of gathering information during the consultation as well as detailed site and photos will need to be taken for an accurate and thorough meeting. Include a revision in your design fee. Most of the time if a client is making a revision or two they are committed to you and the project. You may choose to refund the design fee if chosen for the project.

I am not a fan of sketches. Never have done one except for my notes. They diminish the purpose of a professionally designed landscape by a qualified experienced individual. I have been upfront with potential clients and a few still want ideas for free. The best I can do is ball park the cost of the project vaguely. "Mr and Mrs. Smith, to complete your entire project bases on material choice and final design roughly $30,000.00-$60,000.00. I can get you a formal proposal with solid costs upon completed design. We will credit 100% of the design fee if awarded the project".

I could go on and on... Be upfront. Choose your clients, DO NOT let them choose you...
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Old 10-19-2016, 10:49 AM
Join Date: Oct 2016
Location: Houston
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biggrin Loved It

I loved the fact that you "happened upon" such a good lesson for us all. I've seen this so many times, not just in the landscaping word but in my IT work, where you have the big idea, the design, put in the effort and then somehow lose the job to someone else that really just uses your blood, sweat and tears to promote themselves.

I've never thought to use the originals to keep the plans out of the customers hands for an extended amount of time. I appreciate your post and the information you provided. I'll have a different approach now when dealing with clients on design work.
"I'm here to learn and support where I can."
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Old 10-19-2016, 02:51 PM
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We made the switch a few years ago from designing on spec to design contracts. Has it made a huge difference? I'm not sure, but it keeps me from wasting valuable time designing for nothing, as tire kickers don't generally return the contract. My system:

1. Initial meeting is free. We discuss the project, talk about possible materials, timelines, and rough budgets. Takes about an hour, sets the tone, and I leave with the promise I will summarize the meeting in my design contract, which I've given them a verbal price for.

2. Send a follow up email with information I said I'd share (ie hydrangea pruning guidelines, pictures, name of great restaurant, etc.) and a design contract for a flat fee and summary of meeting in a list form on the contract.

3. If they would like me to proceed with a design, they sign the contract & send it back with the deposit.

4. I measure, design, propose and present. I'll make a few simple revisions if necessary after that first meeting, but usually not too many needed.

Of course, there's always outliers, but this system really seems to work. If it's a simple patio or planting that doesn't require a full design, just a sketch, we'll work that up in house and provide a proposal without a design.
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Old 03-14-2017, 06:55 AM
Join Date: May 2016
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plant-the-seed is on a distinguished road
The bad thing about this article is that a full design has been drawn and presented with no commitment.

I have come up with a new philosophy and strategy that has been working great.

1. PRE-QUALIFY. I cannot emphasis this enough.
2. GET A BUDGET. Either stick to it or discuss upfront if this budget can be exceeded based on the clients wants. If they have $50,000.00 ideas and a $10,000.00 budget they must be told this. If you think you can get them to spend 5 times there budget without a discussion you are wasting your and there time.
3. Take GREAT notes.
4. Design a preliminary design (50%).
5. Create a preliminary budget based on the completed design. Also include items you may not cover. Concrete, electrician, plumber, etc.
6. Leave all with client.
7. Follow up.

This process is working great for me. I can get more design/budgets out. It makes a very nice comfortable presentation and meeting. I am closing more and finding out my preliminary design/budget is better than what most landscape companies are presenting as a full design and proposal.

There is much more to this and I would be happy to answer any questions. Just message me.
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