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Old 03-22-2006, 01:07 AM
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Location: Hamlet, IN
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Landscape Consultation?

It looks like I will be doing more and more this year in landscaping and less in maintenance. Good or Bad, we'll see.

So customers call you up, they are interested in having you come out and look at their property to see what you think they should do, or have you do.

What questions do you ask them after the initial budget has been discussed? Like specific things they do, or want to incorporate?

The discussion has somewhat already been talked about, but when is the right time or dollar figure to go from a simple plan sketched out, to a full landscape design?
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Old 03-22-2006, 07:25 AM
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The time to go from a simple plan to a full landscape design comes from two directions. One is when you need it to land a job. The other is when you need it as an accurate description of what you are responsible to do (what customer will receive) for the money as part of a contract.

A simple sketch can be all you need for both of those needs, but only up to a point. The more complicated the job, the more documentation you tend to need both to sell and to protect your contract.
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Old 03-22-2006, 05:25 PM
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Budget is always the last thing I bring up, unless they do it first. I prefer to let them get all their hopes and dreams onto the table first. Generally my clients have quite specific need and wants, and are always eager to tell me about them. I then talk with them about some ways to achieve those things, and what it might look like when it's all done, and only then do we figure out whether they can actually afford it. By that time, if price is a problem, they are gung-ho enough about the whole project to be willing to do it over several years, rather than just give up on it because you told them their budget wasn't realistic at the get-go.

Most of my consultation jobs are from DIYers who just need some direction to head in, or someone knowledgable to bounce ideas off. I do provide some rough sketches during consults to get my ideas across, but if they are expecting me to do the work, then I tell them whether a formal design is required or not. For small jobs I can by with just a plant list and a set of specs, and I fold in the head scratching time into the install price. But if it is big, and/or complex, then I charge seperately for the design. There really is no set size or dollar figure; it's really based on what I can comfortably keep track of.

Questions I ask include:
What style of garden appeals to them, what is their favorite color, do they have a dog, kids, do they entertain outside, what's their favorite flower, what outside stuff do they like to do, etc
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Old 03-22-2006, 07:13 PM
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Location: Lake Geneva, WI
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If you go to my website, scroll down to the bottom of the first page, and open the "Property Owner Questionnaire" you can see what questions we have people answer before we meet with them.

I have a different set of questions that I use on the phone when we first talk to determine whether or not I should offer an appointment (free), a consultation (for a fee) or a referrall (to someone else for work I don't do or don't want.) Send me a pm w/email address and I will give you a copy of "screen the client. "
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Old 03-22-2006, 07:48 PM
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Other questions that can be important...

How long have they been there and how long do they plan to stay? (Do they want a home to grow old in or an investment?)

Family?

Interviewing other designers?

Doing any other work on house property?

Often people will not shut up if given an open opportunity to talk about what they like so open ended questions (What made you call me? Tell me about your property?) can yield lot's of info.

I agree with Fungus that budget should come up last but how someone answers the "Do you have a budget in mind" question can reveal tons about the client and how much of your time time will be worth.

Encouraging them to show pictures from magazines, etc. of things they like is good too.
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Old 03-26-2006, 11:33 AM
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I really try to think of every meeting as a learning experience, whether I get the go-ahead to create a plan or to do a job. Having said that, I know that I could save myself and potential clients time and energy if I could do a better job of screening them before the initial consultation.

I just spent a fruitless hour with people yesterday (and spent time driving 45 minutes each way plus paid our babysitter $10 an hour.) I was talking to the homeowners about a project that I valued more than they did, clearly. I knew within 15 minutes after arriving - I just wish I could do better on the phone first!

I just joined this forum. I am so happy it exists! It is just a relief to know that I am not the only one with these challenges!
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