I'm a registered LA in Florida. Just got offered a side job doing a small residential landscape plan for a friend of a friend. What is an adequate amount to charge per hour? I would appreciate any feedback. Thanks.

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Wow, the $64K question that has no simple answer. LAs are worth at least $100 an hour. Use that figure and scare the home landscape design market away, at least here. The ironic thing is that this same market may pay high hourly rates for services performed by those with far less skill/knowledge. I don't use hourly rates. I start by proclaiming a minimum project fee of $300 to $500 depending on how I feel about a job. This usually separates the wheat from the chaff. I use percent of estimated/anticipated/budgeted construction cost of about 8 to 10%, again based on how I feel about a particular job. All this amounts to "doping a shot" like Davy Crockett. Wind, distance, target and SWAG (scientific wild ass guess.) I think Land Form Design Group has the best approach with packaging: http://www.landformdesigngroup.com/design-packages.html

I'll be monitoring this request to hear what others say. Hope you get the job.
I agree with Rick. No straight answer really. I also believe 100 to be the minimum per hour (based on your years in practice), but i would never charge that for a off the street project. If the project was small, i.e. taking some measurements and drawing up a planting plan and one to two basic details, 300 would be my very bottom (ive done that price before and it just barely felt worth it, worked hard for a few nights, and made enough to buy myself something nice.. not quite worth it actually). 700 would feel great, but i would present them with a thorough "proposal" that showed them how much work i would be doing, how many hours/ site visits, and they would have to be someone who i thought was willing to pay that much (in which case i would prob charge a little more...). So i guess a magic number would be 500 for a small job, with a 50% chance of actually getting it. Good Luck!~
I agree that $100/hour seems right however since this is a side job can you make due with less. You need to charge enough so you don't feel you sold yourself short. Figure out how many hours you think it will take, figure out what a fair price would be. Add on 10-15%. What does the hourly rate come out to be? Will you be happy with that? Also jobs like these can lead to others through referral. Will you be happy if you are expected to do other jobs at the same rate? Since it is a small residential job, you can't get hurt too badly even if you underestimate the time. Good luck.
It is much easier to sell residential as a flat rate backed up by a high hourly rate for things outside of the contract. You can base that flat rate on your anticipated amout of hours times that high rate, if you think it can fly. It is very difficult to get someone to commit to pouring out $100 per hour without an end in sight.

High rates are also only legitimized by efficiency. If you are not used to freelancing residential design, you will probably use more hours to produce the same type of work that someone who is in the flow of it. When you look at it that way, it would be paying more for inexperience for the client.

The trick to covering thy backside is to write a very detailed contract with an appendix that covers all of the "what ifs". The contract should detail everything in quantifiable terms because if you don't the assumption is that "satisfaction" has a role in determining when you met your obligation (read - endless revisions). I go as far as saying the sheet size, the scale, and that it will be a black & white line drawing.

It is very important to write that there will be one revision meeting where the revisions are determined during that meeting. This keeps the timeline and control of finishing the project in your hands. If you have the meeting, you can revise and finish the obligations of the contract and collect the money. Of course you can use your discretion and throw in extra revisions as a good business practice, but you are totally in control of that. The biggest benefit of only having one revision is that people make darn sure you are getting all of the info that you need right away so that you don't go hourly (this is huge).

If you want to keep this type of work coming in, you would be wise to start light on the fees until you are getting enough work to thin it out with higher fees. Like it or not, there are lots of very qualified people who design residential landscapes without a stamp. You have to be worth it to the client who is more interested in the design and the cost of that design rather than credentials.

It is not about making due with less. It is a matter of getting the job, or not getting the job. The client ultimately decides what they are willing to pay, not us.
I agree, Andrew. It's a much different animal if the contract work is one's main source of income. I've just been creating spreadsheets projecting billable hours needed over the course of a year, 2yrs, 3yrs... and it gets pretty tricky... something like 20 billable hrs @ $85/hr (or $1700/wk before taxes and expenses - and saving for annual expenses - in a home office) is neccesary from week to week in order to make a sustainable family wage.

Of course there are many variables... location, family size, standard of living, etc, etc...
For what it's worth-

Before I went to school I did residential design for a couple years.

For a designer with no formal education, only field experience I would have considered myself a pretty good landscape designer. I charged $50/hour with what I would consider the typical mid-sized residential back yard running between $150-500. Most f the designers like myself at the time charged a flat rate of $300 for 2500-5000sf yards. I would say a registered LA could garner twice that.

One thing I've taken note of over the past few years whether working on an estimate for a small side yard or what we're working on today, a fee for writing new form-based code for a town is that I can usually make an educated guess within, say 10-15% of what a project fee should be. It seems like it just sounds right or doesn't. I don't know if its just me or not?
Being unregistered, I typically charge $50/hour... I typically break down the project on paper, specifying what I want to include - meeting(s), survey(s), details, etc. I tally it up and present it as a lump sum, noting what is and is not included. As a rule of thumb, I keep side jobs pretty simple... it's a side job - basically friends and friends of friends looking for advice and simple drawings. I don't want to charge too much and risk losing some extra money or valuable word of mouth, but I also don't want to make the arrangement so involved that I lose my free time for an extended period of time. As the name states, it's a 'side' job.

Andrew G's mention of a detailed contract is a must... picky clients can be tough, and 'endless revisions' will get old real fast. I'd include one or 2 meetings, and charge hourly for any more.

I rarely take side jobs (I like my free time), but they can be a good tool to keep you sharp and allow you to explore some other ideas. Given my experience (though unregistered), $50/hour is probably a bit low, but I'm comfortable with it, and it never hurts to get your name out there.
Another important point is scope of work. What goes into a landscape design can be so variable that establishing a modus operandi is essential in order to get your feel for what flat rate you should charge for a particular job. You'll see that one may charge $50 per hour with a final design fee of $500-$600 while another might mention the same rate and a final design fee of $1,500. Obviously, the methodology is different making for different lengths of time. If you go through the same excercises for every job regardless of size, you'll be able to estimate your time very well on each job.

I do about eight to ten landscape design jobs outside of my full time job. I have a standard method that I follow which will not fit every prospect, but it is "what I do". My flat rate is more often $1,500, but will range from $700 -$3,000 going from a planting plan to a pre-construction site plan laying out everything from driveway to retaining walls and swimming pools. Rather than adjusting the method that I follow to fit trying to land the job, I either sell my brand of deliverables or I don't do the job.

The problem is that if you reduce level of service for some, it becomes your brand (and you keep getting more of that type of work)or if you over do it, there are not very many takers. I think consistency in type of service is important to be able to price your jobs right and to have referrals consistent with your business plan. I've learned, from working with others and experience following, where I can make the most money for my efforts while still consistently selling jobs in the market that I'm in. I have no interest. in simplifying to sell more jobs cheaper or to complicate jobs for the same return. Doing more has extra value to a certain point, but there is a point for each individual where increasing efforts reduces your profit rate. You have to find that and try to stay near it for "side work"

My target is the people who want an independent designer and something more than the contractor's are providing, but far less than the deliverables that most of the LA offices are selling because this is the segment of the market that is un-saturated and has value where I am.
Thanks everyone for all the great advice! I think I will just charge a flat rate instead of hourly based on the size of the job. Thanks!
I'm in Houston, Texas and I charge $85 per hour
I tripped over this link this morning:

You might find it interesting.
I just finished a landscape project for my eye doctor and charged his $500 bucks. But, then I use LandFX and the software is so fast that it only took me a couple hours to design the landscape and irrigation. I charged him another $500 bucks to show him how to install the drip irrigation system for his shrub beds. Hope this helps. Of course everything depends on how big the lot size is, his was maybe 150'x130'.


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