Fee Structure Between Designer and Installer

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE Fee Structure Between Designer and Installer

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    Arran Schultz

    I am currently a student but doing some residential garden design on the side. Can anyone tell me the smart way to structure fees between a designer and the installer that I will be working with? Should I ask for a percentage of their fee? Any insights into typical arrangements would be very helpful. thank you!

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Arran, this is a highly variable thing with so many factors that can influence it. The bottom line is how much does the person paying value what you are doing?

    A huge issue is who is providing the prospective client – you or the installer? If the installer just needs you or someone else to draw up a more presentable plan to help with sales there is very limited value because they can easily get someone else. If you are finding clients and upselling projects that the installer would not be able to do without you it certainly adds a lot of value.

    You have to remember that there are tons of people out there capable of doing varying degrees of “garden design” that have years of experience. Residential clients have no idea what a landscape architect is rather than any other designer, so the fact that you are studying it does not necessarily make you more desirable than someone with other experience and a portfolio of built work. Homeowners are focused only on two things when it comes landscape design – removing doubt from the outcome of the project and cost (including cost of design). Many don’t want to pay at all for design because so many project types are easy for a contractor to design and they will do it for free in order to get the job (maybe what your installer is doing?).

    You can only make real money on “design only” after you have a portfolio of built work and a trail of people who recommend you to others. You have an opportunity to begin a portfolio of built work with this contractor as long as you don’t price yourself out of HIS/HER market. That is probably of higher value to you than cash.

    I recommend that you


    with a reasonable hourly rate or a reasonable flat rate for each job depending on how many hours you expect to put into it. That will keep you from getting burned when you design something that he/she does not get the job with. I don’t think that you will find anyone who will give an inexperienced designer a % of the construction cost. Once you have a good portfolio and people dropping your name to others it might be a different story.

    Landscape Architecture is not often a fast moving career. The best thing is to build up a portfolio and a body of built work. The faster you do that the better off you’ll be. Don’t value your work to the point that no one values it close enough to pay for it or you’ll never build a portfolio.

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