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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I don't know...I think 40 is low for design sevices no matter where you practice or how new you are.  Unless you're working a day job, you have an infinite number of clients or you're doing your own installs, it'll be hard to make a living.  Plus, if you charge a low rate, that's what people will come to expect...

Good point Jonothon. There is a certain psychology involved when establishing worth, even with side jobs.  

Do you want clients to think that your time is expensive and you are worth every penny, or that you are a great deal and cheap?  And what do you want them to say when they recomend you to others?

If you prefer to be thought of as expensive and worth it (which I suggest), you charge a higher hourly figure. If you feel like cutting them a deal you can always lower the number of hours.

I also suggest presenting the price in an hourly method (it will take 6 hours @ $100 = $ 600 total) instead of quoting a flat fee, because you want the client to be aware of your  time.  A flat fee suggests you are "theirs" until they are "completely satisified" (whatever that means), and some clients will take advantage of it. 



We have two things that are working in opposite directions. That is a flat price to make a sale and an hourly rate that you need to meet which can scare people off. It scares them that it will cost too much if the hours rack up. It also scares then if you tell them you are only going to put a small amount of time into their project. You have to give them and yourself the best of both worlds.


The trick that I use is to get the hourly rate to support my flat rate contract. I present a thorough description of what I will do (# of meetings, revisions, how many sheets, drawing scale, ....) and then bind it with an hourly rate of $100 for additional work beyond what is described. I make the sale, average $1,500 per design, and the client makes darn sure I get all the info that I need from them so that I can get it done within the contract in order to avoid extra charges. The best thing is that I don't get people looking to play HGTV's Ddesigner's Challenge with me and make me do three different concepts. It forces efficiency from the client and any of you who do this know that the biggest killer of profit is the client who won't let you finish the job and milks your time to death. I'm telling you, this works if you have a solid contract and give them confidence that you know what they want and you know what you are doing.


They see what I'll do for $1,500 and know that it will take me longer than 15 hours to do it, so it feels like a good deal (which it is). Then they want to sign the contract and off we go.

Thanks for sharing that, seems like a great approach.
Thanks Andrew--last entry nailed it.
i agree. thanks for your post, i'm acutally adjusting my business plan now. :-)
I have a difficult time with pricing also. A basic planting plan is a no brainer but if you want something special, it takes time. Same thing for hard scape and site amenities. Plop and drop from a catalog vs. custom is a huge difference in time and skill.

I do full site plans including driveways, swimming pools (grading and retaining walls with spot elevations), patios , fencing, ...and most anything else that you might find on a residential house lot for under $2k. I don't provide construction details and specifications with it, but they are all custom designed for the client and site. It will be a b&w line drawing with no elevation drawings, but certainly not cookie cutter design.  ... that is why I sell 90+% of the jobs I write proposals for.


Hardscapes, retaing, stairs, grading, ... is not that much mor complicated than arranging good plantings if you do that kind of thing everyday for a long time. ... we are suposed to compete with engineers after all.


Sell first. Adjust your product output (not your design) to minimize your time investment realistic to the selling price that you can actually sell second. Lift your prices to find the point of diminishing returns third. My method is not right for everyone, but the three steps just above are what anyone should do. How you do that will have to be what fits for you. You'll eat a lot of hours for a while, but you'll gain productivity through practice and adjusting your output materials to match the project type.


Once you get things going, you can adjust. Without selling you can't get it going to find out all of those little thresholds of what you can sell, how you can make more money, or how you can cut costs of production.


Inertia of the design professional. A designer in motion stays in motion. A designer at rest stays at rest. Motion is the key to everything. Get it going at any cost - then figure it out.


Engineers Plan: (very poorly sited in my opinion)


First Draft prior to construction of house:



Revised this week after house construction - dug the pool today:




Design fee $1,800 ...no extra charges (paid last July when first draft complete - revised this past week w/ no extra charge).  ... the pool is sunken 3' from the SE and SW and there is a 4'drop from there to the NE - proposed contours and spots throughout. Its not flashy, but I can sell them, make money, and get referrals more than I have time to do them.


I cut of the plant schedule, notes, and titleblock, but you get the idea.

I've been charging $150./hr. for 5 years now.  I'll go to $200./hr. soon. Some charge up to $250./hr. here in Nashville. I learned over 20 years ago that if you charge a low fee, clients will think you must not be very good. Perception is everything....99% of my work is by referral, which is the best way to get work...when I do get an occasional yellow pages call, I try to qualify them asap as to weather they are serious. This is usually acomplished quickly by discussing fees....if the quibble at all I refer them to someone else...believe me, you do not want to work for these folks...

I agree with you 100% Alan. I charged $85/hour back in the mid-nineties in the Cleveland area before I was registered. About 2/3rds of homeowners would say it was too much and about 1/3rd would sign on the dotted line. I’d rather concentrate my efforts on people who want quality design services versus people who are trying to get landscape on the cheap. Seriously if a person can spend $100,000 on their home landscape, they can afford to pay my measly $4,000 design fee.


You’re spot on with the perceived value thing. Typically people who spend real money on their landscape are people who wouldn’t hesitate to spend $10,000 for a pool party or $500 for a pair of jeans with holes in them. Don’t sell yourself short. Someone that would make a fuss about a $700 fee for a planting design does not understand or value what a landscape architect brings to a project. People like this should be qualified out during the initial phone call. I wouldn’t waste one minute trying to negotiate a $700 design fee.


I can say the best thing I learned during my early years in design/build is how to sell. If you feel your first option is to discount your services to get a job, you’ll always be on the losing end. If a potential client hesitates to sign up because of price, you need to go back to building value into what you’re proposing. Never discount your services without getting something else in return. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to walk away from an unreasonable prospect.

Well said Craig.

I hope some of the younger LAs' will take heed to your wisdom.

And to Christie: to those of us self employed, there is no such thing as a small side job......

Thanks Alan.


And you wonder why some LAs are crying about it being a low paying profession and why some engineers and architects don’t respect us.




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