When to hire? How to Hire? And when to think about renting office space.

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE When to hire? How to Hire? And when to think about renting office space.

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    I’m getting to the point where I am busy enough week to week that I am beginning to need help (or work late, late into the night every evening to meet deadlines). I could use some skilled help, but I am reluctant to hire and I do not have a dedicated office space. My main fear is that work will just stop as in it did in 2009 and I’ll be stuck with a bunch of overhead. 

    At what point in your business did you decide that renting office space was appropriate for you? Did you find any creative solutions to minimizing your overhead? 

    Do you have any employees? Part time, full time? Hourly or salary? Does the fear of work drying up ever really subside?

    Kellan Vincent

    We are in the same position as a design/build company. There are two of us currently that do both project management and design. The last couple of years have been very slow/intermittent but this year we have been borderline overwhelmed to the point that my construction management time is taking 90% of the time I have for design work. After trying to get through our design projects, it leaves me very little time to work ON the business rather than IN the business.

    I think the best strategy for anyone in the startup realm is to remain as lean as possible for as long as possible. “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries is a good book for all entrepreneurs albeit it focuses on tech. Having too much work is never a bad thing you just have to figure out how to handle it and become efficient. Once you can get solid, repeating business from a couple of clients, it will help stabilize the base level of work for your company. We debated hiring interns etc but given the learning curve of teaching a new person your system, it may take time away from productivity rather than helping. Next year might be more reasonable.

    Is there anything you are spending a lot of time doing that is killing your time? Bookkeeping? Back office work? Drafting? Possibly focus on something that takes a lot out of your day and contract that portion out. That way you can free up some hours without a huge training investment.

    Good luck!

    Tosh K

    Hire on contract – it’s not a bad thing to show your growth off initially and reward those that stick with you in the beginning.

    Some copy/print shops have conference rooms for you to use for meetings; I’ve also seen a few folks use local workshare spaces.

    Laurent Paméla

    Now days the solution seems to sub-contract/collaborate with freelance LA or LD. A great way to reduce overhead.


    great responses.


    I am that freelance designer, but I am getting pulled in several directions on a regular basis. I think the type of projects and how theyre structured will need to evolve before I can realistically think about hiring or contracting help as well as office space. 

    I dont know if its true or just what I am imagining, but I feel that I would have a hard time hiring as a lot of the work I am hired for now requires my ‘hand’. Theres really no way you can train someone for this type of work. As I get more larger contracts perhaps it will make sense. 

    For the time being, I will need to learn to adapt. Its just amazing how much work is out there now,, especially compared to a year or two ago.

    Roland Beinert

    D’oh! Based on all these responses, all of us newbies (2 years or less) will never be hired, will we? Good to hear there’s enough business that you’ve (briefly) thought about hiring, though.

    Derrick Lepard

    I have the same problem as well! I am in a position where I need additional people but afraid to hire because I am afraid the work will dry up. The Spring here in Ga has been a busy one.


    these are good problems to have..

    Glenn Arthur

    Hi everyone , 

    No one has mentioned Marketing and Sales and how you are using all of these tools to promote your business ??   Especially internet marketing and how you have designed and structured your web sites to drive enquiry to your companies/entities.  Or have you ? 

    I am really really old and still have lots to learn , but I am up to date with the latest info most of the time. Basically YOU have to make your incoming customer enquiries happen , they don’t happen on their own.

    and NO , I dont sell marketing services  🙂 

    Maybe Land8 should set up a group to help advise its members about how marketing on the internet can work for them ?  Or offer web design advice ?  Andrew Spiering certainly hits my mailbox constantly with his marketing emails, so he is well placed to advise members ….

    I am also not sure if many of you realise that there is a huge growing market in writing ebooks online and also Apple iBooks that then get sold for small amounts, but they get sold in the thousands and tens of thousands. In other words, you all have a huge knowledge base in your heads , and other people want to buy that advice/ knowledge .   So whilst you are limited in your total billable hours each week for your Design labour , you may be able to write your own online books/ apps and have say a 30 page ebook sell for $4.99 to 5000 online  buyers in a month .   It’s all about the numbers and leverage .   Also in case you think you cant write an ebook , I am not talking about writing a novel , I am talking about writing 30 page PDF’s that convert to ebooks/ iBooks etc , or just get uploaded / downloaded as the original PDF files .   And guess what ?, you are writing about something that you already know about and are passionate about . The public wants to hear from experts . 

    Furthermore, when your online books start selling , it creates more backward links to your LA business’s web site and increases your enquiry rate and your Google ranking , which creates even more people landing on your web site. 

    Just a thought good people, its called thinking outside the square , and I am still learning at my ripe old age . Writing my first iBook at the moment about landscape design ………called “How to kill the value of your new home ”     ……..it should sell well in a gun loving country …   🙂 …just kidding………maybe ! 

    Good luck everyone .    


    Laurent Paméla

    “adapt”… you said it! that’s the immediate solution. Know the feeling well as i am also a freelance/design consultant!         

    all the best 


    Its 10pm here and I am just wrapping up my work day, so excuse the shorhand–

    I’ve wanted to write a graphics book for a couple years now and have even gotten as far as writing a 20 page book proposal, but it kind of died there. I think you make a great point, maybe work WILL die off and I can dust off that book proposal.

    In some ways I fell like maybe Ive done too good a job to this point at marketing myself (I know that might sound narcisistic). I have a website http://www.terrainstudioaspen.com and facebook page facebook.com/terrainstudio and I do email blasts like Andrew does for Land8. I also participate in town focus groups and some non profits in my free time–all revolving around planning and design to some degree. But yes, you make good points Glenn. 

    My ‘problem’ now is taking my business to the next level. Im an independent consultant for several firms and have picked up my own clients that span the range from architects to engineers, planners, rela estate people, govt organizations, non profits, builders, and some private clients.My bread and butter so to speak is illustration, but often these projects turn into design. I get the odd design-construction or planning project and this is what I want to move toward, but without losing my base( the illustration and visualization work). 

    I think Im on the right track, but just need to be patient and learn to adapt and grunt through the long hours now. My father told me–whatever you do keep the quality of your work up and youll be fine. Ive tried to live by that and my word that I will meet deadlines, but its getting to the point that if I begin to pick up more of the type of work I want I will need some kind of help.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    One thing that we can’t overlook, and NCA777 touched on it, is that it is one thing to out grow your ability to produce the work all by yourself and another thing to become a manager of people producing your work.


    The questions are “When to hire? How to hire?” Most of us think that the “when” is simply at the time that there is more work than you can produce individually. The problem, as NCA777 said, is that the work requires his hand. The ability to manage help and still remain personally engaged and productive has to be considered as well. That is not a skill set that is inherently gained leading up to the need for help. Some people have it within teir genes and some don’t. Some of it can be learned, but you still need a certain baseline of that ability in your individual maleup to be truly successful at it.


    I’d say that it is time to hire when you have the work load, the income stream (not necessarilly = to work load), and the cofidence that you can manage help to the point that the firm’s productivity excells the rate of return from the production time you’ll be giving up to manage the help and the financial overhead in adding that employee. That is a huge gray area.


    The tough thing that goes with that is whether it is easier to invest and cultivate your people managing abilities earlier than when you are maxing out personal production. If you are personally maxed out, how are you going to maintain your work flow, train the new person, and manage the work of the new person? Could it be better to ride out the seasonal rush, if it is seasonally related, as an individual and save up the money to pick up that employee at a slower time? That way you can be under less pressure to produce as you cultivate your employee and your employee management skills.


    This is something that I think about.


    Nick, do you remember “Papercutter” from the other messageboard? he made a hire in the last year and seems to have gotten it down pretty well. You might want to contact him. He is good about sharing thoughts and experiences.


    Thanks Andrew. I do remember him. I’ll reach out at some point, but I think your logic makes a lot of sense. I’m going to think about what you wrote.

    Tanya Olson

    Nick – we’re at exactly the same point as you (and sounds like several of us who were forced to start our own shops because of the economy are). We are both working full time and often into nights and weekends, just starting to get ahead, thinking we could sure use some help – and WANT to help new landscape architects enter the profession, but its kind of scary -we don’t have the office space, increased overhead and hardware costs, software costs and time commitments (including bookkeeping and management time that we barely have right now) and long term stability. Looks stable right now, but what about next year? Before you posted this, I’ve been thinking we should call YOU to take on some of our graphics work! haha!

    But seriously – and I think this is one of the great benefits of Land8 – I’ll be looking here first when we do think we can manage a new hire. I feel like its worked really well as a professional network. You can really get a pretty good sense of a person by what they write about and what they write….How about you others? Is this a place you’re going to look when you might want to hire either an in-person person or a contract worker?



    First off congrats on all the work. I am sure it feels good and I know you work hard for it.

    Beyond that maybe you should higher someone that can do everything but what is reserved for your hands only.

    Meaning what about an assistant that handles all the day to day of the business and frees up your time to just work?

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