June 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm #169074Christi JacksonParticipant
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.June 16, 2010 at 12:32 am #169109Rick SpalenkaParticipant
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.June 16, 2010 at 1:05 am #169108Eric GalvinParticipant
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!~June 16, 2010 at 1:09 am #169107Jonathan J. BobParticipant
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.June 16, 2010 at 2:15 am #169106
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.June 16, 2010 at 2:21 am #169105ncaParticipant
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?June 16, 2010 at 11:38 am #169104
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.June 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm #169103Christi JacksonParticipant
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!June 18, 2010 at 2:08 am #169102katherine yoklavichParticipant
I’m in Houston, Texas and I charge $85 per hourJune 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm #169101Rick SpalenkaParticipant
I tripped over this link this morning:
You might find it interesting.July 1, 2010 at 8:01 pm #169100William B. CurtisParticipant
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′.July 2, 2010 at 11:38 am #169099
What we can’t lose track of is what is a sustainable income. Five hundred bucks here and another $200 there all sounds great if you are just out of school or out of work. It is good as extra income, but when you are looking to determine what to charge and if it equates making a living or not, you have to think in terms of annual income, covering what an employer covers as benefits and some other overhead expenses.
Even if you leave the benefits and overhead out, think what it entails to make $50k as a freelance designer, what you are charging, and HOW MANY JOBS you are likely to not only have an inquiry on, but actually land. You need 100 jobs at $500 a pop just to gross $50k., that is landing two every single week throughout the year …. are there that many opportunities in your community right now (maybe yes, maybe no). If you are averaging $1,500 for a plan, you need 33 , at $5,000 you’ll need ten,…..
If you are going to do schematic landscape plans without building or contract administration it is not easy to get the kind of volume that you need for a livable income. It is a great supplemental income, though. As a supplemental income, you don’t have to cover your benefits, you don’t have to take on jobs at lower prices to keep money coming in, and you can pick and choose out of whatever opportunities come along keeping your referrals in line with what you want to do and your portfolio looking like you want it to. I have added about $10k to my annual income each of the past three years doing this “in my spare time”, but I sure would not quit my day job to pursue it full time.July 11, 2010 at 7:58 pm #169098Daniel MillerParticipant
Like everyone has noted, it’s a difficult question to give a consistent answer too. You’ve got to charge an amount that’s commensurate with your experience and skill while not scaring client’s away. I agree that you have to value your services, but for sidework $100/hour is a bit high. A lot of the fees that go into professional fees are associated with the overhead costs associated with working in a professional office (rent, electricity, insurances, etc…) that you probably don’t need to factor into a side job. As a registered LA I’d say do what you’re comfortable with. In this economy, like all things, you may have to request a bit less than in years past.July 16, 2010 at 10:29 pm #169097BeccaBParticipant
Does anyone have any small job contract samples they’d like to share?
I have a BLA (’08), very little experience, and no current job but I’ve managed to scare up a couple of small “side” jobs that will help with cash flow and work experience until the economy gets better (fingers crossed!). I plan on charging $300-400 for something that will probably come out to be about $10 an hour for me, seeing as that I’ve never worked on a residential project from beginning to end and I’ll be learning as I go. Unfortunately I’ve never even seen a residential landscape contract and all this talk about endless revisions and specific schedules has me worried. Any advice or documents will be a tremendous help. Thanks y’all.July 17, 2010 at 3:02 am #169096ncaParticipant
“Time and Materials (not to exceed)” is your best option.
Keep it simple, $300 is a pretty small job, and charge an hourly rate plus material costs as line items. If your client is concerned about the cost you can set a ‘not to exceed’ price so no one gets burned. If they cant agree to those terms on a $300 job you dont want it.
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