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Dealing with picky clients?

So I am currently trying to secure a small garden renovation job. The person shows me what they want, I sketch them up a quick top down layout taking elements from some of the pictures I was shown. They like the design, I price it up and come back with a 3.5k price and a 3.2k price, the higher one including a discounted Indian sandstone I have surplus and wanted rid of. To do the job properly would mean taking out and getting rid of the old patio which covered the entire area, subbase, brick edgings, decorative gravel, laying down turf, putting down membrane and bark by the bushes at the back. Not a hard job by any means and a fair price in my opinion. So I get a message back saying that it was too much and was only looking to spend 2.5k. Now I  explain that it funnily enough costs money to rip out and get rid of a garden full of patio and that it unfortunately adds to the price. So I go back to the drawing board and the only way I can get anywhere near their desired budget is to lay on top of existing patio area which isnt really what I want to do but it is below dpc and she would have to sign a waiver if I did. So I come in at 2.75k which to have any garden redone is a bloody bargain. She agrees, I say I'll bring around the contract and we can sort out deposit which is 50%. OK she says but then texts me to say she can only give me £500 by next Thursday. OK I  said,  not a massive problem I'll just wait for the rest before I start. Get another text this morning 'please can I have a breakdown of the costs.' Not something I really like to do and tbh it always rankles me. So I said £750 materials the rest is labour.

'OK ill let you know.'

'let me know what? Have you changed your mind?' 

'my partner is looking at quotes' 


Now this really p***** me off. I'm absolutely certain that they will go find some cowboy now who will do it for a grand and use my design. Now if they do.. 

Any ideas how to proceed with this? It seems that there is certainly a verbal agreement backed via texts to contract me and that I have done the legwork on it. 

Should I just leave it as its not a massive paying job or should I say don't use my design or go full hog with something more to recoup any losses? 

There is no written contract signed. 

Am I right or wrong here (bit bitter about it tbh) 


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  • I don't think you will get anywhere with this and you could waste loads of time, do you copyright or have rights on your plans?, they may still go for it or get someone cheaper at least your not left owing on materials or physical labour.

    Could you in future give clients plans once they have agreed and paid the deposit?

    • Well I have the intellectual rights to it I assume. I still have the original plans, all the client has is a photo of the original. It's not that it's anything spectacular or took me more than a few minutes to knock up.  It's that quite simply I can be done out of two grand and did all the prep work of measuring up, ringing suppliers etc

      • Sit on it for a day or two they may come back to you.  They may have had others in who have submitted their own plans.  If they get cowboys in they will get what they pay for!

      • PRO

        If you offer free quotes then doing the measuring and ringing round is how you come up with a price. I dont think you can get annoyed at them for that if they decide not to go ahead and want to get other quotes. 

        • I understand that, my annoyance is more that she accepted the offer made a date for deposit payment, changed her mind then is most likely going to be using my leg work to get some hobble in because she knows what the labour cost is. After all I'm running a business have labourers and skilled workers to pay, I am after a profit rather than living hand to mouth. If I want to do that I'll stack shelves for a living. 

  •  Walk away and put it down to experience. It won't get any better if it has started like this, believe me.

    Try to get future customers to pay for any design work up front.

    • Normally I do but on something so small I thought I could probably get away with it as most people will balk at it unless it's on a larger job. As I charge generally for designs and every time that a revision is required. I will normally waive the cost if I'm contracted. 

  • Maybe be have an agreement inn future that you charge for the design work, but if they give you the work maybe taking it off the final bill?

    As I reckon some customers won't like the idea of paying for it but at least they know if they get you to do the work they feel that they got a good deal in the end.


    • PRO

      You have acted like the complete professional throughout and delivered what was required also gone the extra mile with the deposit and left the potential client with a blue print of a solution you are not at fault here . 

      Perhaps a polite email or phone call to remind the potential client that you really need confirmation as you have other projects to book into your diary if you feel the job is worth the hassle .

      • It'd be a very easy job to be honest 3-4days at a push with weather atm may be split up over a couple more, so 2 grand over that isn't bad I suppose. 

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