Should you be charging for your landscape design work?

Have you ever gotten the feeling as you were spending quite a bit of time and energy designing a landscape project, that the potential customer was only going to take your design and price shop it around to other landscapers in the area? What should you be doing to prevent this from happening? How can you be sure that you are being compensated for your design time? That is a situation one lawn care business owner found himself in and asked for help how to handle it on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

He wrote “how do I go about charging for my landscape design work and what is the best way to start implementing it? If I charge, should I draw out the design, or take photos, maybe even use software. I am tired of trying to make a sales presentation for a landscape project, create a design, leave it with the customer, and then they go out and find someone else to do it that might be cheaper. Thanks for the help.”

A second lawn care business owner said “early on, when I first got started, I didn’t charge anything to draw some basic designs out for a landscape client. Now, that I have been around for a while, I have a different way to handle this.

I have two engineering students I keep on staff that work for me. They design walkways, retaining walls, and flower gardens. I let them charge the client themselves as they do all the work coming up with the landscape plan and for us it has worked well. I believe they charge around $25 or $30 an hour. They will take photo’s, make notes based on their conversation with the client, do the design, meet with the client, and make whatever changes that are required. Once they are finished, I will come in and price the job and get it done.

There are a couple of reasons I do it this way. My main goal is to give design students some experience dealing directly with landscape customers and using the skills they learn at college. Although they did say quite a bit of online research was required to do the jobs initially, once they got going they did an excellent job. Aside from that, it sure looks good on their resume when they seek full time employment after graduation. It also helps take the load off of me to have to put pencil to paper and design the projects.”

A third lawn care business owner said “I’ve never charged for landscape designs up front, though it is probably not a bad idea. So far I have found it much easier to include my design fee within the entire landscape project price. It is part of what you need to do to get the job, so you should charge for it one way or another.

If  I get the feeling a new lawn care customer wants me to spend some time working on a design with them, only to shop it around to get the best price, I would charge them for my time, if they wanted to keep the design work. After being in these situations a few times, you will quickly get to the point where you can tell if the customer wants you to do the job or someone else once the design is agreed upon.

So do what you feel is right for you, but initially, it is much better to get out there and go through the process of creating these landscape designs during your sales presentation and learn from it all. You can always change your design policy later once you get established and have a better understanding of what you are doing.”

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