What would make you call me to design your landscape?

I’m working on starting my own business as a Landscape Designer, and I’m creating an ad to put up at local community billboards to get some clients. If you are in the market for having someone either consult with you or actually design your yard, what would make you want to call my number and discuss a project? Do you want to know the price up front (it varies wildly with the amount of work done - could be from $100 to $1000)? An hourly rate? Do you just want to see a plain and simple paper with my company name, type of business and phone number on it, and we discuss all the other details later?

Any input on this is appreciated.

If you are advertising landscaping design - not maintence - I would either quote your price for an initial consult or advertise that “first consult is free”. If you have a speciality - low maintence yards or low-water-use yards - that is a good thing to put on your advertising.

As a card-carrying philistine, I tend to think that landscape is landscape. To make me go from “Duhhhh” to “Ohhhhh”, I’d need some kind of before-after pictures. That is, you’d have to show me (or just tell me) how you turned a blah landscape into Eden.

This assumes that you have the space available on the billboard, of course. If not, the name/number/free consultation would do nicely.

I agree with the others. Free consulations are good. A website with before and after pictures would be nice too.

Before and after pictures would be great, but I’m so new to this that I don’t actually have any before and afters yet. :smiley: I could use some generic pictures, just to give people an idea of what a landscape designer can do for them, I suppose. I could do an hour consultation free, I think - get people hooked on the idea of having a gorgeous, low-maintenance yard, then get them to agree to the full design package.

Low-maintenance yards actually are my specialty, Snakescatlady. Would it be a good idea to explain in a very brief fashion what exactly constitutes a low-maintenance yard in the ad, do ya figure?

Yes! Kind of a “Tired of cutting grass and trimming hedges, but don’t want your neighbors mad at you? Call featherlou for a consultation on a low maintence yard!”

I just want a nice koi pond and waterfall with bushes cut ala Edward Scissorhands kind of a thing, with a bottomless serpent pit thrown in for good measure. Can you help?

Featherlou; one aspect to stress; you workwith the client to help them have a low-maintenance garden: “I listen to your needs” Another point to emphasise is that you know plants that will thrive in your area, especially those native to your particular climate. It’s surprising how many landscapers don’t have a varied palate of plants.

A free initial phone consult is a nice entry point. That’s the way we do it at the nursery I work at. To do a free on site consultation is more involved than is usually worth it, but, when starting out, you may find it worthwhile, to fill a niche.

I tore out my patch of front lawn and replaced it with trees, shrubs, and flowers. Not everything I planted grew, and some of it grew too successfully. The little mulch path has all but vanished because I don’t weed it.

I really would like a landscape designer to find some order and beauty in the mess, but the last thing I want is rigidity, trimmed hedges, squared-off symmetry, and lawn. If you can take a wild patch and turn it into an eye-appealing patch, how would you let me know you could do that?

Because I’m probably looking for you, if you can, only I have no idea how to find you.

Let me tell you a how-not-to story. When I first moved here I started on the wild patch by planting big spreading horizontal junipers beside the front steps, edging the city strip in front of the sidewalk with pavers, and putting in one beautiful large yellow-flowered shrub. I worked on ripping out the nearly dead lawn. I also cultivated the slowly recovering holly which the renovators had cut down to the ground.

A neighbor persuaded me to look at Dingleberry’s landscape design. (Name changed.) Dingleberry himself came out. Dingleberry was a man in his late thirties, stocky and round-faced, with cynical eyes, and pressured speech like a manic in a poorly controlled manic upswing. He spun around himself several times pointing and talking. He said he hated junipers. Rip them out! He looked at the pavers and shook his head: “Don’t do that.” He said he liked flowering shrubs, and named the same genus as mine, but when I pointed out I had one, was at first surprised, then said he didn’t like that species. He said he imagined a big square of pink annuals by the steps. (I hate pink, but I never got a word in edgewise - so didn’t tell him so.) He made a joke about sex to my husband - “If I argue with her, I’m not gonna stop you gettin’ any, am I? Because I know about wives and getting their way and gettin’ any.” When I managed to get out a faint protest about our ideas not being the same, he said, “Thass all right, I wrassle with housewives every day.”

Wrassle. Faintly sexual. Housewife. Demeaning. Suggests that I am out of my sphere of proper expertise (the house) and subordinate to him.

The last straw was when he looked at the 90-foot magnolia tree and said, “I’d cut that down.” I pointed out that, entirely aside from its beauty, and its scent, and the fact that we inherited it with the house and were going to pass it on to the next owners, it probably saves us $350 a month in summer, since it shades the eastern side of the house. He narrowed his eyes at it and said, “I’d pay it.”

He told me he’d get back to me with a price for a “rip and strip” on the lawn patch. I said i was trying to bring the holly back. He looked in derogatory astonishment at the struggling branch. “No, honey,” he said.

He left one phone message. I never replied.

Four years later, the magnolia is still here and will always be as long as I have something to say about it. Four years later, the junipers are wide and beautiful. The pavers still edge the city strip. The perennials decide every year if they will come back. I have some annuals, but none in pink.

And the holly is nine feet tall.

Oh, by the way, about the rip and strip – my neighbor said, “Why would he charge you to do that? The renovators did it a month before you moved in.”

Don’t be like him.

Many people don’t know what a garden costs, both in establishing it and maintenance. They might hesitate calling you because they don’t know if they want to embark on the expense in the first place.
So, if you would list a picture of a very basic garden of a very average size, and advertize: “Witn my knowledge on how to cut down on costs, realization of this design will cost you only 3000 dollars including paving, plants, childs swing and lawn.” Then people can figure out if they’re willing to pay that sort of money, and if they do, they’ll call you.

Also, you might want to advertise that you’d be willing to do parts of the design as well. If people have just a front garden they want to look neat, or they want to renew just a part of the garden, the threshold to call you (to try you out) would be lower.

Also remember; some people are so insecure that they like an expert telling then what kind of garden is "it"this year; and they might fall for the kind of arrogance **gabriela ** described in that awful landscaper.
While others have their own ideas and just want some idea’s (in which they preferably took part) feedback and information taylored to their situation.

Don’t do a generic before-and-after photos-- if it’s not your own work, it’s misleading. (Ethically, if not legally.) Drawings would be okay. Make sure you take lots of pics of all your projects, though! Clients will want to see them.

Do you have a friend who’d let you use their yard as a showpiece?

I like SCL’s suggestion of a slogan.

Maybe you could put some kind of ballpark figures in your ad: “20 ft walkway flanked with geraniums and hostas - $300.” or something like that. Something to draw people in for a taste of your work. Then you can elaborate on their particular case when you get there.

I watch all those shows on HGTV and you are going to make a shitload of money in this field. If I had the dough, I’d be calling you! Good luck.

If you put “example” figures, mention they’re examples.

“20ft walkway with geraniums and hostas” is a good example - but it wouldn’t be the first time I run into someone who can’t do, let’s say, “geraniums in 3 different colors” because they just never put it in their list. Well, some creative!

Once you start getting work, ask your clients for permission to take “before and after” pictures for your portfolio. Even if you’re not planning on using that particular piece for your ads at the time, a portfolio can be very handy, specially for people who don’t know how to express their ideas. I know a lot of plant names - in Spanish, not English!

Worker bees who have done things at our place have asked if they can put up a little sign in the yard while they’re working. Passers-by will be admiring the work and will see your name and number. Or it will be emblazened on the side of your pick-up truck, which works, too.

Before and after pictures are good, but add some prices even if they are ballpark.

If I saw a before and after picture and thought “that looks nice” my second thought would be “I wonder how much that costs”.
I know prices vary widely but if you showed a before and after with not only a price but a price breakdown I would then be able to quickly look at it and get the info “Oh, he charges that much for labor, it took him that long to do it, and that how much supplies cost.”
I think most people don’t consider landscaping an option because they don’t know the cost and are afraid of a hard sell if someone comes to give them an estimate.

Hmm, all good points. Nava, that’s the reason that we learn all plant names in Latin - when I say I’m going to plant an Acer negundo in your yard, it’s the same plant around the world.

I’m hesitant to give anyone figures on what a landscape will cost - for one thing, that goes beyond the scope of what I’m doing (just the design work - not lifting a shovel), and for another, the design the client chooses will make a huge difference in the cost. I guess my task is to make that clear in an appealing way.

Your experience with a designer was horrible, Gabriela - I’m not a big fan of water-sucking plants and trees in arid Calgary, but if that’s what you wanted, that’s what you should get. Part of my job as a designer is client education - there are usually area-appropriate alternatives to most plants which would thrive here instead of needing to be babysat. A great example of this is cedars - cedars don’t thrive here because of the desiccating chinooks. I can use a columnar juniper for nearly the same effect as a cedar, but they will be much hardier here.

Hi featherlou,

Simply: Word of mouth, and proven experience. That’s all. :wink:

It’s not going to be painless to get there, though, or to get paid for it. I’m in consulting, and I can tell you without fear of contradiction that most people will gladly pay $3000 for materials and labor, but will balk at $300 for a consultation/design fee. They will want concrete evidence of where their money was spent, and won’t recognize or remember the interactive process that brought them to a final landscaping plan.

And even if they do pay your fee for your design, they are going to want hand-holding to find a contractor, oversee the construction, pick the plant materials, etc. You won’t be able to hand them a plan on a piece of paper and walk away.

I have a friend who went into residential design many years ago, and he made a wise observation: He said that some people know exactly what they want, but they won’t tell you. Instead, they just keep vetoing your ideas until you give them what they wanted in the first place. If you can identify these people up front and find a way of drawing them out, you will avoid a world of headaches.

Also, your clients will expect you to be sure of yourself (although you shouldn’t confuse assured competence with being an imperious ass). You are the expert in design. Your approach should be to determine their program requirements, their wish list, their likes and dislikes, and then to deliver a plan to them that meets their needs.

You may want to form a partnership (of sorts) with a local landscape contracting firm or firms. I know that the advantage of an independent designer is that you avoid conflict of interest (selling plants in stock rather than the best plant for the site - see gabriela’s comment upthread) so that is one bump in the road that you will need to overcome. Nevertheless, once you provide a design, the client will want to see it implemented right away so you will need some contact with one or more landscape contractors. You’ll also need to know what nurseries have stock available; nothing will be more frustrating than to have some unavailable plant as the center of your design.

Possible fee structures: You could just charge for the design. See above for typical objections, but this may be the best approach for a long term phased landscaping program. You could get a fee from landscape contractors for providing them a fee, although many of them think of themselves as designers. The trouble there is that they won’t look at the big picture if it doesn’t mean immediate work for them. I don’t know what to suggest; this is the trickiest part of the whole business.

How to get started? Start with your own yard, and with friends and neighbors. Agree to do the design for free if they will dedicate the design fee toward plant materials and give you a reference. If you have a business card, you can usually get a discount at a nursery, so stress that benefit to your friends as well. Get friends involved and get dirty to save on labor. Take before and after photos for your portfolio.

And if you like Acer negundo, check out Acer griseum :wink:

Ooh, purty. I don’t really like Acer negundo all that much - it’s just a common tree around here. I like Acer ginnala much more. :smiley:

Good advice about people paying for design services. I can see that as an issue - “You want to charge me $1000 for that one drawing?!?” Well, yeah, that drawing took me a month to draw, it’s accurate to scale, it tells the landscaper exactly how to build what you want, it takes into account all of your requirements for your yard for the next 20 years, never mind the year in school I just spent learning how to make that drawing. It’s like something I read about people who make and sell crafts; everyone looks at it and says, “I could do that,” but they never do. I guess that comes back to educating the clients again.

…and of course I meant “for providing them a client…” :smack: