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Old 12-14-2005, 12:17 AM
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What constitutes a design worth charging for?

There have been several threads and posts about charging for designs & estimates. My question is, what constitutes a design?

Lets say your prospective customer tells you he wants a patio approx 500 square feet with a sitting wall. He doesn't want the patio to be square/rectangle. So you(at least that's what we do now) go back to the office and on an 11x17 graph paper layout a "design" to scale... a couple of curves to the patio, 14' long sitting wall. Do the takeoff and prepare the estimate.

Do you guys consider that a design/estimate worth charging for or are you talking about CAD drawings/digital imaging etc?

At our company,If a client want's a more elaborate design, we refer them to a Registered Landscape Architect who charges accordingly.

This year, for the first couple of months, we did charge a $35.00 fee for the initial in-home visit. Then we stopped because everyone else in our area was/is doing it for free.

Now, trying to plan for Fy 2006 I am torn about what to do and would welcome your thoughts.

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Old 12-14-2005, 12:37 AM
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If i have to do anything more than figuring up a price for the job, then it gets billed as a design. Even if its a quick hand drawn sketch, it gets charged as a design because thats all that takes for a customer to take and use for themselves.
Matt Thompson
Thompson's Landscaping
Henderson, NC

NC Registered Landscape Contractor #1862
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Old 12-14-2005, 02:00 AM
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If I have to take measurements and scale everything on paper, it is classified as a billable design. However, once my design is done and my install price is quoted, the customer has the option of buying my design or hiring me and I'll deduct the cost of the design.
It all depends on how you view your design expertise , if you will call it that. Mine is not computer generated but it is to scale on an 18" x 24" paper ( not graph ) & we include everything an architect would include. Some are done in color, makes it look very professional & our customers expect something to blow their socks off.
Plus, revisions are also billed ( which the customer is aware of up front ) because 90% of our larger design / build jobs have a revision or 2 before we break ground.
It also depends on exactly what type of landscape design you are preparing. Is it just pavers and a simple wall or are you incorporating plants, firepit, drainage, sod, lighting?
If I can sit down and sketch a simple design in an hour then I might not bill the customer because the design actually helps me just as much as them. Simple jobs for repeat customers won't get billed.
And of course, do they seem like they are willing to spend the $$$, or is there a chance that they are just looking for free quotes? Good design takes time & time means $$. Spring of 2004, gave out over $275,000 in estimates in just 2 months as a result from the Southern Spring Show in Charlotte and realized ( after driving all over creation ) that most of these people were just getting prices in case they wanted to do these things at a later date.
People with SERIOUS motives in mind won't mind paying for a GOOD design.

Good luck
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Old 12-14-2005, 07:41 AM
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Q. What constitutes a design worth charging for?
A. One worth paying for.

Sometimes you have to do a little work in order to sell a job. Even a car salesman will show the car, take you for a ride (sometimes more ways than one), evaluate your trade in, and crunch the numbers for financing for several people before making the sale. I don't think any one of us would pay him for his time.

Other times, a greater amount of time and effort has to be put into creating the project for you to price out. The investment of your time (and others bidding against you) is too great to take on without compensation.

Drawing up a patio layout in order to price it out could go either way depending on the complexity of the project. You have to weigh whether it is worth the investment of your time to try to land the job, or if it is worth it to the potential client to pay you to draw it out. If they pay you to draw it out, they will expect to keep the plan and may shop it around. If they don't pay you for it, show it to them and don't let them have it until they sign the contract, then you should include it as part of that contract.

It is just like the $35 charge you had. The customer has to value it in order to pay for it. It is not enough for you to value it.

Cape Cod Landscape Architect
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