Jun 12, 2006

Hiring a Designer: Part 2

A friend recently wrote me to ask:

"My wife and I are thinking about changing around our backyard a bit... She has some grand ideas and wanted to see how this process works. If we wanted to work with you, what are the fees, how do we find a contractor to do the work, are you modern, do you get it... you know the usual stuff..."

I recently shared my answer for determining the type of professional you need. Here, I'll discuss how much to budget for a landscape design:

Fees are all over the place. Some people charge for time (hourly rate) + materials (usually purchased at a discount & marked up); others charge a flat fee; others use a combination of these. Personally I don't enjoy record-keeping, so I work for a flat fee that I determine based on the size and complexity of the project. I'm finding that $1 - $1.50 per designed square foot is a useful starting point, then scale up or down if your project is more or less involved.

If someone wants to hire me for services that normally aren't covered by the flat fee (for instance, buying pots or plants or making a presentation to your neighbor), then I charge hourly + materials.

Often "design-build" firms -- i.e. contractors that also provide design services -- will use the design fee as their loss-leader to make money off the installation. In other words, they'll discount their design work to reel you in… then take a handsome profit on their construction costs. Obviously, this depresses the market value of my work, and it also deprives you of reliable checks and balances on the quality of the installation. That's why I generally don't like d-b firms.

Next up: The Process…

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