Why Do We Charge For Landscape Design?
“Why do you charge for a landscape design?’
What a great question. This is something we hear often so we thought it was worth a thorough explanation. Landscape design is a specific skill that is not something someone can just “pick up” without a lot of background in the industry and first hand knowledge. Landscape design isn’t just a pretty picture, it takes creativity, in-depth plant knowledge, skill in hardscape construction and experience to know what is possible and what works to be able to take a blank sheet of paper and breath life into it in a meaningful way that not only captures the clients desires, but does it in a practical and fluid manner.
Why are are we as landscapers and landscape designers still needing to justify the cost of a design? When a client comes to me and wants an amazing landscape filled with outdoor living spaces, landscape lighting, plantings, and structures I get so excited for the same reason they do, I get to be able to truly create something unique and creative each time we are on a new property. When someone comes to Southern Exposure Landscape Management to start a project, our first question is, do you already have a design? Quickly followed up with, do you like the design you have (were all your ideas captured, are you able to visualize what’s on paper, was the design drawn with your budget in mind)?
You see, many clients, (homeowners & builders) believe that all designs are created equal and can’t understand why some landscapers offer free designs, while others charge for them. The old saying, “You get what you pay for”, holds true in this situation. The word FREE is compelling, but often not true as the costs are hidden elsewhere, or the design isn’t able to capture your thoughts or your property’s true potential. All landscape designs are NOT created equal. All designers and architects are not equal in skill, experience, or carry the same job site savviness to know what will work where. Obviously, Southern Exposure is a little biased towards this topic, but think about this for a minute. If you were looking to invest a large amount of money into something that you plan on enjoying for years and years to come and only have one chance to get it right, would you not fully plan for this project? Select the best contractor? Verify their work? Choose someone that could warranty their installation should an issue arise down the road? Hire a professional, not an amateur? Design towards a budget? If you answered Yes to any of these, you need to take the time and small amount of money and devote yourself to a proper landscape design.
- The initial consultation and brainstorming meeting with the client
- Review some of landscapers designs for credibility
- Decide which elements are most important
- Determine Project Scope & Time Frame
- Establish a Budget
- Determine if there is a need to phase the project
- Create a landscape design or phased project around a realistic budget to keep the design within reach for client
- It’s not about maximizing the budget but maximizing the design
- The Design: landscaping, hardscaping, landscape lighting, structures, water features, & more.
- Scaled Drawing
- Design Options
- Master Plan
- 2D- 2 Dimensional
- 3D- 3 Dimensional
- Walk Through Movie
- Material Selection
- Hardscape Materials (pavers, walls, stone, boulders, etc)
- Landscape Lighting (fixtures and transformers) Plan ahead and purchase a larger transformer for ease of upgrading your system later
- Plant and Tree Specimens
- Maturity of Plants (size at installation)
- Design Reimbursement
- Should you choose to select a company that specializes in design as well as installation, many times a partial reimbursement for the design is awarded.
- A lot of time & effort goes into a design, therefore there should be a value connected with it, not just handed over for 10 other contractors to bid who probably don’t carry your same vision.
We understand why some buyers & clients choose to jump at the chance for a “FREE” landscape design:
- They think it sounds like a great deal
- They’re able to take the design to multiple contractors to bid
- They’re not tied to one contractor
- They think all landscapers provide the same level of service & finished product
- They think all designs are created equal
- It’s FREE, why not?
What those same buyers & clients don’t know:
- A free design is “FREE” because that contractor doesn’t have enough confidence in his/her design capabilities to be able to charge for it. Is it worth paying for or not?
- What one contractor calls a “landscape design” may in fact be lines on a sheet of paper and give a layout of your property, but no thought to space planning, plant maturity, elevation restraints, grading & phase planning has been done to name a few that can easily add thousands of dollars to an installation cost (not to mention a landscape that isn’t cohesive or usable, having to be redone). Remember: If you think it’s expensive to Hire a Professional, Hire an Amateur.
So, why should landscape companies and landscape designers charge for their design?
- Expertise & knowledge with plant material
- True landscape designers and architects are creative & able to capture clients needs & wants in a fluid and natural way
- They know what works and what doesn’t
- Steer clients away from costly mistakes and provide options
- Having a scaled detailed drawing will reduce misunderstandings between contractor & client and reduce change orders
- It’s time consuming and when a free design is just given away, it cheapens the value of a professional service.
Think about this scenario and you’ll have a better understanding of what landscapers go through when dealing with clients that want or already have a free landscape design.
When a client has or asks for a free plan, they’re taking the first step into a time-consuming and frustrating process that usually does not end well.
“Let’s say you call five companies for an initial consultation. This means you’ll need to schedule five appointments when both of you are available. Next, let’s assume you like three of the companies and you ask each of them to provide a plan and proposal. A few weeks and multiple phone calls later, you finally line up a second round of meetings to review everything. Maybe you like the design from contractor A and the price from contractor B, but contractor C can start earlier than the other two. So what do you do? You ask each contractor to go back and make the appropriate revisions to the design, proposal or schedule, hoping to get the perfect outcome from at least one of them.
Several weeks and multiple phone calls later, you schedule your third round of meetings. Although each contractor has gotten closer to what you want, you’re still not satisfied. Obviously, you can send all of them back to the drawing board, again, hoping that at least one of them comes back with what you want. The other option is to pick one of the contractors now since the clock is ticking and you want to get on somebody’s schedule. For argument’s sake, let’s say that you choose to sign a contract now instead of having a fourth round of meetings.
A few months later your project is complete, but unfortunately you’re unhappy with the finished product. As you make your final payment you get that gut-wrenching feeling as you realize that you spent a significant amount of money on your landscaping project and you don’t even like it. Plus, it probably cost more then you wanted to spend.
So the reason that we charge for our designs is because we want to protect you from that scenario. We understand what it takes to design and build the perfect landscape for you and your family. At the end of the day we want to make sure that you don’t just like your landscape but love it.” -Jody Shilan
Give us a chance to win your business. We love working with clients that love the outdoors and the enjoyment it can bring. Let us help guide you in the right direction with a proven process that works and will provide you with a beautiful finished product that you can be proud of. If you already have a landscape design, don’t stress out. We would still love an opportunity to bid the project for you. Many times we can take your existing plan, review it, and suggest a few tweaks if necessary (free of charge), and turn out a quote immediately, BUT if we see something that stands out that will cause you pain or unneeded headaches, we will recommend having a professional landscape design for all the above reasons. By the way, we have a special right now on landscape design, check it out here! Thanks so much.