I am seeking guidance on creating a work plan for a landscape design project, which estimates time spent on each phase (concept/schematics, design development, CD's, cost estimating, bidding, construction administration, etc.) My understanding is that work plans are typically projected based on evaluation of past projects. Are there any resources available to assist emerging professionals or entrepreneurs working outside the realm of private firms?
There's so much to learn about the processes of taking a concept through and realizing it in a built work - and much of this can only be learned through years of experience - experience that a new designer is far from likely to have.
A new designer without the guidance of a supervisor or call it what you will, a guru whatever - will make many 'mistakes' and will not be efficient. Any guide that may exist (and I don't know of any to suggest) is not one that I would recommend.
I recommend working for a firm first - before branching out on your own.
Thanks, Jennifer. I appreciate your perspective and taking time to comment. :)
That information is generally proprietary and confidential and is held VERY close to the chest, even if you work in a firm. Only the most top level people are privy to that information to avoid somebody leaving and competing against them on their bids, and to prevent any of their local rivals from getting it. They also vary a great deal from place to place depending on the equipment and proficiency of the staff, and the level and throroughness of the design work performed. There is no "general" work plan.
It takes a lot of years and a few costly mistakes to develop that information, so almost nobody will give it up, especially not for free.
The other responses are very correct and accurate. One other thing to consider is in your area you need to allow time for approvals if necessary.
Unfortunately without more detailed information you are pretty much on your own.
We simply use an excel spreadsheet and have every task you can possibly think of on it. We tailor the tasks to the project and think long and hard about how long it normally takes us to do each task. Many people estimate the amount of time and double it - not because they are trying to pull one over on someone, but because they are usually off by half. Think of phone calls, research, office tasks, specs, etc related to the project. Some self examination is worth it - do you normally complete tasks in a given amount of time or do you get stuck on details that double or triple the time you thought something would take? Are you willing to take a bite on the fee if you work more hours than expected? Alternately, do you feel comfortable asking for more money if you work more hours without client direction?
The other thing that is important to take into account is the client, their expectations (particularly their budget expectations), if you are building a relationship to try to get your foot in the door for more work, etc. EVERYONE takes these things into account. Especially when you are just starting out. The only unspoken 'rule' is that your hourly rates should match those in the area. This can be relative to your experience, but generally people don't try to undercut each other on hourly rates. I don't know if this rule really still stands in this economy, though.
My resources in this area have been mentors in the field. One former firm had everyone in the office figuring out their expected hours for some projects. That was great training!
Tanya, thank you for your thoughtful and helpful insights. I'lll take them into consideration on the project I'm assigned at my job.
I will not repeat any of the other comments you have already received here, because they are all very accurate and sound advice, based on direct experience, which you apparently seem to lack at this point in time. You can attempt this one of two ways. Do the project work plan on your own, and when your done with the project, see where you were right on and way off. The experiences of other people who have commented here seem to head in the direction that you will be, way off more than right on. Translation, you will lose money and at best, break even.
Jason R's comment is among the best here. Learn to do this at some other's firm expense, and learn from their methodology and proven practice.
As everyone states, trial and error. You can't really know unless you know your work methodology, the client, and the "players" in the project (local approval process, bidders, consultants, etc). This is one of the valuable knowledge that experienced veterans have, emerging professionals can throw in new work approaches (often digital software capabilities) that can swing things.
In my experience, even in well established firms, projects can miss their mark. Best bet to keep on track is to keep a well documented scope and contract that stipulates additional fees if the scope is expanded... scope creep is often a designer/design firms worst enemy.
Thanks for your input, Tosh. I suspected that there are a lot of variables inherent in this process. Fingers crossed!
After many years of project management I will back up the advice from Tanya Olson below. The only change I would advise would be to triple rather than double your first few estimates until you get the hang of it. Also, keep your spreadsheet alive, update it as you go along and compare your original estimates to your ongoing realities.
I agree with everything everyone else has said...the entrepreneur and risk taker inside of me wants to tell you to go out and just start bringing in work. There is nothing better than experience. Take what everyone else has stated and always evaluate your work from project to project.
Another idea would be to find some retired LA's that ran firms with great experience and find a way to have them become your mentors. This has been very advantageous to me as I am figuring all this out myself right now.
My last advice is this...I have found this to be very helpful when working with Developers and Architects...I ask them up front what their expectations are for fees. They sometimes will tell me and then I can have, at least, a guide of what they are thinking. This is mostly with new clients, which make up almost 90% of my business right now. This, in part, because we are building up this side of our firm.