March 10, 2010 at 1:24 am #170532
I’m curious as to what approaches people are taking in their pursuits of freelance work. I’m sure we all accept any opportunity which fits us that we find, but wonder if anyone is identifying any markets that might have some opportunity which are not yet well exploited by other LAs.March 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm #170545
While I am currently employed managing a department that now has no staff (put my last guy on day-to-day yesterday morning as billable work is available; we’re in a bit of a lull before some new contracts kick in) and focused primarily on marketing to fill the pipeline, your question prompted this notion I might try if I were in freelance mode. Can’t say if most have seen that program on one of the do-it-yourself cable channels wherein a landscape designer/contractor plants himself in front of a supermarket or a big-box home improvement store and ambushes unsuspecting people, challenging them to let him come over and redo their backyard for free…I think the title is Yard Crashers, but I might be confusing it with another, similar show wherein they do the same thing for a room(s) in someone’s house.
I do realize he has backing of sponsors and that to do it for free is a real challenge, but therein lies the problem one needs to creatively solve. Work your relationships with others in the industry to see if you can scrounge surplus plant materials. Use construction materials from recycle houses, etc. There are probably ways to pull it off. It would be hard work and lots of time. But if one does not have other employment and needs to get noticed, this is one way to try. Perhaps a group of folks can collaborate on it. I can even envision a successful collaboration morphing into a design practice, launched by some energetic and very resourceful souls.
Anyway, thought I might try that if I was really wanting to make something happen. if it worked, you could garner some local news interest for free publicity. Can’t speak to any copyright infringements, but, here is a way to make your own weather, so to speak.
In some other threads I have stressed this kind of bold thinking is necessary to change things if they are going badly. The only thing stopping anybody from doing anything out of the box is fear…fear of failure. However, if things have gotten so bad, what does one have to lose? It might even turn out to be fun.
If anyone out there is either doing something akin to this already, or decides to try it, please let us know what happens. I look forward to other interesting and oddball ideas. This might get fun. Good idea, Andrew.
Do well doing good.
Do well doing good.March 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm #170544
1.Architects that I know and like – specifically for projects that don’t have the budget for a full LA firm, but need site design and planting help – so trying to find a niche there that takes advantage of my low overhead (single-person office).
2. biologists and ecologists with the national park service, national forest service and Nature Conservancy (for restoration design) – this is mainly networking. I am the ONLY designer in my area taking part in annual biology and ecology workshops – the only person in landscape architecture that most of these people know in my region of 1,252,000 acres of national forest and 3 national parks. Yes, the NPS does have the Denver design center, but there are multitudes of smaller potential projects, and the forest service and nature conservancy are more autonomous….doesn’t hurt!
3. one specific neighborhood in a large city where I happen to have several mature projects – my marketing consists of a sign (kind of like a real estate sign) with flyers that people can take. I have gotten one job out of this and a lot of interest.March 10, 2010 at 11:18 pm #170543
Chad, if you see me mugging people for work in front of a box store, just put a bullet between my eyes. Things are not that bad. It has actually been status quo for the three and a half years that I have been with this current firm. I should be thankful for that under this economy, but I’m looking to do better despite the economy.
Thanks Tanya. Those are the kinds of things that I’m interested in.
I am beginning to get the engineering firm, where I work by day, into the idea of letting me start to market landscape architecture. The nicer residential work that I have brought in, despite their lack of interest within the office, has resulted in additional survey and engineering work. Now that things are slower overall, I see it as an opportunity to start to go after more landscape architecture within this firm. I’m looking for a particular niche that is under served and can be exploited for mutual benefit. My hope is that some of you might have had some luck in identifying somethings that fit my circumstances. I believe that I have identified an area that fits this, but I’m looking to see if anyone else is having results and where.March 11, 2010 at 4:30 am #170542
Your posting asked freelancers what they are doing and my idea was in response to the very desperate mood out there. You are really trying to market your company and that is a completely different animal with entirely different protocols. There is an endless body of ‘how-to’ marketing literature on the web you may want to look into. What are the engineers in your own company doing?
I market the design studio with or without the rest of the engineering company, and often to other engineering companies. I currently have several contracts where my studio is either the design lead or the LA on a team that does not include our other disciplines. In these cases, I am essentially operating as an independent arm of our much larger organization.March 12, 2010 at 2:54 pm #170541
This might sound crazy, but in response to your accidental post on the ‘are you thinking what I’m thinking discussion’….
I would LOVE to see some parking lots designed by landscape architects. There is a lot of retrofitting old buildings around here – particularly strip malls – SOME of the retrofitting is adhereing to architectural concepts that increase traffice – facades with visual interest, variable parapets, etc. but the parking lots just absolutely SUCK. No planting, no observable way for pedestrians to get around, etc.
This might be something your engineers would see as valuable and from a design point of view could have a cascading effect on the design of parking lots all around your area.
I was just thinking its an area that is in need of improvement and that you could market specifically to redevelopers from an economic standpoint – apparently the return on the investment is worth it for them….March 12, 2010 at 6:01 pm #170540
I have designed many parking lots, but lately there are not many to design. Your coming from the wrong approach, though, Tanya. It is not what other landscapes would like to see that I’m after. It is what the few people that are having sites designed are lookinng for – the good, the bad, and the ugly. What are people actually buying in the way of design right now?
That is what I should have entitled the thread:
“What are people actually buying in the way of design right now?”March 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm #170539
I did not expect a busy thread, but things can not be so bad that no one is finding any work from any source. I have to conclude that those who are getting actual real work do not want to share where the activity is in this very competitive market.
Sorry about the typos above, Tanya. I catch my mouse pad on the laptop with my unorthodox typing. It is supposed to say that I’m not interested in what other landscape architects would like us to be doing for the purpose of this thread. There is nothing wrong with those discussions, but we always seem to go back to philosophy, educating the public in what we CAN do, and what we think the profession should be. I’m looking to push all of that to the side in this thread in order to find out what is actually being purchased from landscape architects at this time.
Basically, where is the current demand rather than where should it be or where it could be. I want some data on the actual current commerce in landscape architecture. I don’t want to try to spend my time perfecting skills that no one is buying just because it would be really good if they did buy it. I want to know what they are buying and adjust my skill set in order to be a good choice for those who are spending money in site design right now.
No one knows?March 13, 2010 at 10:47 pm #170538
I get it. I just got the impression that you were looking for projects that would be a good fit for landscape architecture / engineering firm…..
Anyway….my original reply is representative of where my work is coming from with the addition gettting work via networking – residential client A recommends me to residential client B who works for big development company C which needs a ‘design vision’ for project D…..that sort of thing.
Its interesting – what they are buying is not what I would expect – they really specifically request a ‘design vision’. Yes, the solutions need to solve particular issues, but have a very specific emphasis on the design being ‘right’. That was a good reminder to me as I sometimes lean a little heavier on the problem solving, thinking that is more pragmatic, of more obvious value or that clients will think it is a more worthy service. What I hear is “I would never be able to think of that, you really pegged what we were looking for.”March 14, 2010 at 1:13 am #170537
You’ve probably hit on the central issue at the heart of the buying experience for the client, no matter the stripe. In the private sector, they have a business concept in mind, and unless it is a very small project, they are risking a lot against very stiff competition. Therefore, they must attract customer traffic, so they sell the experience. Design must reinforce that vision, be it an amusement park, subdivision or shopping mall. It’s all about the experience. Even for public urban design projects…they are usually aimed at driving redevelopment and/or business revitalization. These districts compete with others, etc. Every town is looking for it’s angle, it’s edge in the marketplace. The designed experience is intended to prompt emotional responses that drive customer purchases, or , in the case of a business district urban streetscape type of project, to attract customers to the private sector businesses. In any case, the objective is to get cash registers ringing.
The key is to be able to distinguish your client from everybody else, to give them their edge. For communities, I believe it is best to get to the essence of the uniqueness of the place for design inspiration. As I said before, the private sector client most likely has a concept that needs to be visualized and sorted out technically, so you’ll need to comprehend and buy into their vision to succeed. In every case, reliance on the design process is at the heart of what we do.
In summary, you have to be able to sell the vision, and/or your ability to help the client realize theirs, and how you will do it (the process).Know how to tell that story. It is part of selling to any client, no mater the project type.
Now you can go and market everybody!
Do well doing good.March 14, 2010 at 5:16 am #170536
What exactly has been coming across your desk recently? Has it been private or municiple and what has been the scope of work?
You seem to be saying what you expect that it should be and what strategy you think should be taken rather than specifically what your getting. All good things to discuss, but I’m trying to get a thread that does not focus on philosophies and concepts as we do this all of the time.
I’m hoping for a finding of facts such as “I’ve had seven urban plaza design jobs over the last six months”, or ” I’ve had nothing but parking lot plans with bare minimal plantings to meet zoning requirements”, or any other specifics on exactly what type of work is currently keeping the few who are busy going.
I guess my mistake might be assuming that anyone is actually getting projects at this time and wants to tell of it.March 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm #170535
I posted that in the other thread…mostly public work. Our company has always been focused in the public sector so we were well positioned to adjust to the crash in housing and retail. The public sector has tightened considerably due to budget issues across the board. There are fewer opportunities and we are belt tightening. Fair to say I am nervous.
Currently, our design studio has a park under construction, a town square project about to start and we just started an urban design project. We also have a school under construction and a college building project at 50% CD’s. We have work, but not enough to keep myself and my staff busy for 40 hours a week on billable time. There are still lapses and lulls in projects that create big holes.
We signed the contracts for the urban design and town square projects in the past 30 days. The park,college and school projects have been up to 2 years in the making, to date. The scope: full and comprehensive landscape architectural and planning services. We are either the prime, doing all of the work from conceptualization through implementation or, as is the case in the urban design project, the creative lead (designer) on a team of 5 firms (the others will be doing the technical work, including landscape architectural CD’s, we’ll participate through implementation with the role of monitoring quality and adherence to design) and the rest, our firm is a consultant on the team doing civil, LA, geotech, survey, etc.
As to how to get projects, of course your competition is not going to reveal proprietary info, such as their strategy, tactics, etc. I can tell you, in resposne to your comment about “what I think it should be” is that what I was saying in my previous post was exactly what I did to land these contracts. The effort was considerable in terms of time invested getting to know the project, putting forth some ideas, etc. That is what the RFP process is all about…learning about the problem and telling the story about it the way I described.
I think you will find most firms have been able to stay alive doing what they do best. There is still work out there, just a lot less than before. Also understand there is great sensitivity when your peers aren’t doing so well. One does not want to appear to be gloating or boasting. On the other hand, I also believe it’s OK to take some pride in successes in this tough market. A win is a win and they do feel good.
I think that addresses the specifics of what you asked. In closing I suggest focus on what your company has always been known for. It is easier to market new services to existing clients than it is to to do so to new clients.March 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm #170534ncaParticipant
Over the past few weeks we’ve had some ‘wins’ lately at my current office.
I’m finding it difficult to post in this or some of the other threads for some of the reasons you mentioned Chad. There are still so many out of work that I feel bad posting about successes we’ve had. Also, I’m a little (or maybe a lot) superstitious. I’ve written replies to this thread three or four times and deleted because I get the feeling that any semblance of gloating may ‘jinx’ the good luck. The market is just such a sensitive environment right now it seems.
Almost all of our current work in in the private sector and has come from long standing ties with past clients and consultants. It seems that consultants are eager to share or collaborate on projects in this part of the state, perhaps in hopes of getting work in return in the future.
We’re starting to think about putting together a team for a project right now. The consultants that are most likely to get the work are ‘mono-disciplinary,’ if that’s a real term. In other words, it seems like some consultants are reluctant to share work with firms that employ competing services, like an architecture office that has a few LA’s doing planning, or an LA office that has civils. I think if you have talent and do good work, now might be a great time to hang a shingle.
I think the scale has changed, but the scenario is still the same- 6 months ago firms were looking to hire top ‘talent’ at bargain basement salaries, now individual firms are doing the same thing on a consultant level.March 14, 2010 at 10:21 pm #170533
Thanks, Chad, Nick, & Tanya.
We are an odd market as a second home summer resort type of community with this weird underlying old New England thing thrown into it – hard to explain. We don’t have much at all in the way of streetscape, urban plazas, or campuses largely to do with the regional regulatory agency and just the character of the community that most want to maintain. When there is such work, the international companies out of Cambridge and Boston are all over it (and often hire us as subs to do the survey, construction layout, and often the engineering). The regional regulatory agency also has made it very difficult if a project gets referred to them. Consequently, they do everything they can to stay out of their jurisdiction. One threshold is a 10,000 square foot building. Needless to say, this does not create a great atmosphere for urban type landscape architecture projects.
Our population goes from about 250k in winter to 500k in the summer. The majority of landscape architecture here is in residential landscapes, much of which is on oceanfront property. There is a great deal of competition for design work with the hundreds (literally) of design/build landscape contractors that work this sand bar.
The strategy that I want to pursue is to go after custom builders to offer them landscape layout plans as this has been the work I’ve been getting from people who have found me hiding out in the engineering office. But the big raze and replace waterfront homes are still going up, although not as fast. These are not subdivision builders, but those that work one or two custom designed projects at a time. I think there is a niche in between the design/build landscapers and the contract administrating LAs that no one is going after. It seems that the limited amount of work has these contractors eager to get a plan done independent of a contractor or LA who wants to manage the project. That way they can manage the landscape and make their markup there as well. I do have a body of work that makes me legitimately marketable both from my own office and several years of association with previous design/build companies that I worked for. I do get work when I get my foot in the door.
I’ve already done quite a few landscape plans for two or three custom builders without any effort to contact them and without advertising. These include swimming pools, retaining walls, driveways,… you get the picture. Recently I had a table at the local landscape contractors’ education seminar which was an important milestone because it forced the company to let me take the time to write up some marketing material for each category of work that we do. This is currently transforming the web page that has said “coming soon” for three years into a good basic website. You see where I’m coming from – I’m in a company that has been content rolling with the ups and downs as it always has been for close to 40 years.
I definitely feel like I have to tread lightly, but I’m pretty sure that it is a win-win situation as it will generate more survey and engineering work as well by building closer relationships with some builders whom we haven’t work with in the past as well as bringing in revenue in its own rite. I also think that we can keep it simple with just layout plans to start out with and grow out the project scope offered as the economy heats up again at some point. I feel like it is a good opportunity if they’ll let me roll with it.
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