May 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm #162853mark fosterParticipant
Your experience matches mine. The economy is looking up–still soft, but hopeful.
You will find most design builders to be a helpful lot, because most are geographically centered and don’t mind sharing with others a few cities or states away.
I am not trying to discourage you from the plant route. I have a relationship with a couple of great plant oriented firms. What you will find is that for an LA, design build opens so many doors that it can produce a “kid in a candy store” feeling. Do what you have to do to keep the family in shoes and food, but keep your eyes on the prize…
I will send you some pics of the “steampunk” stuff as soon as the details/illustrations are finished. Actual built photos will be a slow train….May 22, 2011 at 2:08 am #162852Thomas J. JohnsonParticipant
Thanks for the words of encouragement Heather. I think you’re right… I should be able to make twice as much in a day, working for myself, as I do in a week in my current position. Yeah… thanks for the motivation. It might be time to put in my two weeks… and start making some dough!May 22, 2011 at 3:40 am #162851ncaParticipant
Personally, I’d rather see unemployed LA’s out selling used cars than playing the lottery in the stock market.
I gotta wonder why brilliant people like MauiJim work as well with so much independent wealth! wow.May 22, 2011 at 5:37 am #162850Thomas J. JohnsonParticipant
The stock market is not exactly the lottery, if you do your homework. Read the Wall Street Journal every day and you’ll have a pretty good idea where things are headed… plus, a lot of investing is just being aware of companies that you think are good companies.
Even if I was filthy stinking rich (it’s good to dream), I’d still design. Design is problem solving and solving problems would just make me richer. But it takes money to make money… It would be nice to be able to afford a patent attorney… And I’d still manage a portion of my financial portfolio if I was rich because it would be fun and I have confidence in my ability to read the market.
Design. Trade conservatively (invest). Invent. Start businesses. Ride bikes. Snowboard. Travel. Hunt. Fish. Surf. Scuba and laugh at all the petty LA B.S…May 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm #162849Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
I’d add that untill you have enough work that you don’t have enough time to get things done in addition to your day job, you might as well keep that small money coming in as well. You also will be talking to people during the commute if you are using public transportation (wear or carry things that identify that you are connected to the green industry) and meeting people through your job.
I’ve been working full time in a CE office and doing LA work on the side for more than 5 years. I’m just cutting my “day job” hours back this year to make a bigger run of it.
I would not recommend going from zero work to attempting to fill a full time schedule unless you are fully equipped to do design/build that you can construct by yourself. That is also dangerous because you may start to take on ANY work to keep money coming in. What often happens is that business comes based upon referral from what you’ve done lately and you can quickly be getting a ton of very low end leads and nothing more. When you do it on the side, you are less dependent on taking what you can get and instead just take what you want – the referrals become of a higher grade.
Another observation that I have made is that it is pretty difficult to climb to higher markets. Most design/builds get stuck with a similar clientele as those that they started out with unless there is limited competition. I think it is important to move into a market “sideways” rather than to think you’ll climb up into higher markets quickly. When I say “sideways” I mean that if you can work for others who occupy a higher end market, it is easier to enter their market based on your connections, portfolio, and that you are recognized to be connected to a known product..May 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm #162848Douglas M. RooneyParticipant
Heather, I am very interested to hear more about how you developed your business. I know you have said your husband is licensed as a Landscape Architect, but does he have a contractors license as well? I have always been very interested in doing design/build, but here in California you need to be a licensed landscape contractor to do that. In addition they have tightened rules on the journeyman internship required, so I would need to go to work for a contractor in order to ever be licensed in my state? How did you work all of that out?May 22, 2011 at 7:43 pm #162847Heather SmithParticipant
We are in Idaho so yes, you can just purchase a contractors license and of course all the necessary insurances. That seems really crazy in CA…Jon is a RLA but he could still be and was a contractor here before that. For us the RLA offers us a few more opportunities but not much at this point.
Maybe it is time to move? Or see if you can land a job with a good design/build company? We would have worked for someone else gladly, but there just weren’t opportunities.
Can you get a business license as a landscape designer(not contractor?).
I guess there ARE some good things about living in Idaho…haha. We have a contractor license in WA and ID.May 22, 2011 at 7:51 pm #162846Heather SmithParticipant
Good advice. Yes, for us we were in a different situation…literally had NO work and couldn’t find work that would support our family. Amazingly, we survived…if I understand correctly you have no rent right now though? Big props to food stamps and medicaid for us that first year. 🙂
Also, Jon did take a part-time job that he does at the University…it makes some times of year hell as he works all day and then goes there, but it is STABLE income. Keep your day job…so to speak and start reaching out. Find out how much the various fees you will need to pay are…make sure you don’t have rules like a previous poster mentioned in CA. You kind of have a nice connection with the nursery…I would approach them and tell them what you are thinking(as long as you aren’t competition)…find out what the contractor discount is…they may like the idea of you bringing in more business for them.
In regards to higher markets…we all have to start somewhere. I think in the past it was and is still preferable to ride the elevator to higher end design…but I think many of us have to redefine success. Is it better to sit around waiting for a ride on the elevator? Or move up…however incrementally. Like I mentioned Jon trimmed rose bushes the first year…last year was our second year and Jon worked on $50,000 residential projects…not high end by some standards…but great for us!
Also, depending on your state’s requirements…that stamp…as Andrew so often points out won’t necessarily stop you from doing residential work. Do your homework and find out what you need. Embrace the landscape designer title! I have begun saying we have a landscaping business initially and adding in the RLA that Jon has…people understand what a landscaper does…and essentially it is what we are doing.
I wish you good luck Thomas and come back and share experiences and questions. Andrew and Mark both have GREAT insight.May 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm #162845mark fosterParticipant
Your return email address is “do not reply” and my response bounced back.
MarkMay 24, 2011 at 3:59 am #162844
Andrew, my normal retirement age is still 30 years away! I don’t think my current $$ in Roth IRA is enough to live on for next 30 years. It rounds out to roughly a little over $46k a year…assuming I stay healthy and stay clear of any other emergencies. Nevertheless, my recent purchases in 2009 of Ford Motors, Sirius radio, Vonage, Alcoa, Las Vegas Sands, Valero and Level 3 Communications will be my next big find…well, hopefully. They were all at bargain basement prices! These stocks are in my Traditional IRA group and doing quite well.
I found the PC magazine article by Jake Kirhner. I kept this one and other crazy rantings. We were at Univ Idaho when it was published. My favorite is still a BusinessWeek magazine quote about Netflix back in 2002. The short story: they highly recommended it a “Do not buy” stock. Sometimes you gotta go with your gut feeling. Good thing I did.
From my own personal experience, only the Principal/Owner Landscape Architect become wealthy in our profession. Of course, there’s always writing a book.May 24, 2011 at 4:04 am #162843
Thomas, your rainbow is just around the corner!May 24, 2011 at 11:55 am #162842
Nicketo, “You can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket.”
However, like Thomas said above, stock market is not even close to a lottery. Those who don’t fully understand the markets make such comments. Someday you will come to understand. Make your money work for you! Let your money be your personal slave. And best of all, you don’t care about a recession or being fired or laid off from work. You go to the office fearless and with a daily, positive attitude! My lottery “ticket” was having faith in Apple computer brands back in 1998 when they were floundering. I took a chance with my extra income and now reap the rewards. I only wish I bought more than 2,000 shares of AAPL…but 4,000 shares of Netflix made up for the heartbreak. You’re sounding like those critics of Apple and Netflix 10 years ago. Read my response to Andrew and educate yourself! Warning: For every Netflix, there’s a Kmart…you live and learn.
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