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Failed quotes..

OK, so the situation is I started a design process with a potential client some months ago that started at the 22k mark, lots of excavation, retaining walls, top spec decking, glass railings etc Absolutely loved the design.  Turns out far above budget, gets revised down considerably to 13k bare bones. Client has 'situation changes' budget again, significantly less.. Fair enough.. benefit of the doubt.. It happens.. Total redesign around 8k..still not low enough.. Again yet another redesign,  by this point its just plonking large area of decking down, turf and rendered retaining wall Inc excavation and removal just sub 5k...again another request comes in.. Drop decking put in patio instead and increase turfed area.. OK drop down to sub 4k.. By this point I pretty much don't care other than a quick in/out job I'm finding it funny to the point of ridiculousness and its not worth my time. 

Lots of phonecalls through out all this saying 'we really want you to do something for us'

Get email 'no thanks we'll leave it' reason is that its only 1k less than last quote.. Now.. Decking was pushing 1k itself,  so with the alternative of a patio instead (without going into the ins and outs of what prep was needed in comparison) I reckon that was a pretty fair deal considering. 

So I email back, perhaps I shouldn't have in hindsight  and just gracefully took it on the chin.. Alas no.. I can get pretty defensive when it comes to my business tbh doesn't everyone?  I laid it out with a pretext that my intent was purely good natured (it was, no passive aggressive nonsense) in consideration of their - 1k comment with an entire breakdown of costs, explaining that perhaps they might just not have a reasonable expectation of what materials and labour costs are and that each quote should be taken in and of itself and not just compared to a previous design. (not to mention numerous redisigns to essentially 1/5 of the original price) 

Well I received an email back with the usual, 'I have had lower quotes' 'your initial quote was far too high imo!' with a few other choice comments, especially regarding it being 12k for excavation,  it was 3.5k! Dunno where they pulled that figure from lol! I(quite frankly I find this bs otherwise I doubt they would have kept on so long) 

I suppose like most of us we do try to do the best for clients without comprising on quality but I think a lot of the time it isn't appreciated at all. 

  • However I suppose I have the last laugh in that the contracted design and revision costs make up for time spent lol! 


  • Does anybody think it was unprofessional to reply to the no thanks email in such a way? I was at least polite. Should I have just left it? At this moment I am still of the opinion that it was justified to explain the ins and outs of the  situation. 

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  • Did you know what their budget was before this saga began?

    • They were tight lipped about the budget to begin with even though I had made it clear that it would make my job a whole lot easier. Also on initial consultation they were told clearly in no uncertain terms that it would be a minimum of around 10k materials and same again for labour to much head nodding and ok'ing. I wasnt far off that estimate either once it was properly calculated. After they were told 22k they said their budget was 10k, which I thought they could have at least mentioned first of all! Which then caused me to revise it down to 13k sans bells and whistles.. Like I said excavation alone was 3.5k with basic labour rates and not with me making a profit on the process. 

      • Some people seem to reluctant at giving away what their real budget is, almost as if they fear tradespeople are going to take that whole amount regardless of what the work actually costs. Seems a bit unfair on you if you pre-warned them that both materials and labour could be 10k each, that would have been the time for them to have been honest with you and not keep nodding in agreement when they knew fully well that was way above their budget.

        If you know that you’ve been 100% clear and honest from the start of the process then I think you’re right to feel frustrated and I too would have let them know ‘politely’ that they haven’t been playing ball!

        • PRO

          Personally i would not have let the situation drag on for so long Neal . 

          I don't see why we have to justify our prices although a breakdown of costs at the request of the customer is not unreasonable . 

          I got tired of reminding people that what i charge does not all go in my pocket and that i have absolutely no control over the costs of materials , taxation and the costs of running a business . 

          I feel these people were picking your brains and getting you to generate idea's which is very common . 

          I would never get into personal dialogue by email with a potential customer , I did once and i got a very hostile and frosty response I try and leave the emotional stuff out or alternatively i vent my feelings in writing and then disgard it , I find this very cathartic and it gets it off my chest and i move on reminding myself its business and these things are to be expected . 


  • Difficult to say ,I wouldn't make a habit of it mind.... although I did once tell a client that I don't get out of bed for anything less than €1000 A day.. .

  • It a difficult one but in my view the important thing here is to learn from this and move on. Don't waste time altering quotes from £22k down to £4K as it would appear that they have no intention of having the job done. The danger here is that they might just want your plans and knowledge...  I hope they paid for your consultation? 

    The other thing to bear in mind that the garden is often the last thing clients want to spend money on. They would rather spend it on the house with a bespoke kitchen or bathroom. I did a job recently for a garden designer to plant out £8k worth of trees and shrubs and was told that the clients were surprised by how much the plants cost..... 


  • PRO

    Its depressing, but a fact of life in this business, as someone has already said the garden is often the last and over/underlooked of the whole shebang....I seem to spend far too much time explaining that landscaping materials ect are just as costly as kitchens and bathrooms. You win some you lose some, by all means i think its perfectly acceptable to defend your qoutations, especially if they are free to the client, you have after all invested a lot of time and effort so far in creating the costings, drawings ect ect....

  • I agree with a comment above - 'learn and move on'.  Over a period of time, the decent guys far outweigh the time wasters.  

    In this case, I think I would certainly have asked for a guide figure once they had rejected your second effort. If the client won't give a little, how will they be when the work is underway?  I hope they haven't harvested your ideas for someone else to carry out the work.


  • PRO

    I have done a couple of one and two day design courses with London College of Garden Design tutor and Chelsea designer Andrew Wilson and he stresses the importance of not giving too much away in terms of detail on your design, never to mention specific plants, materials etc initially even if you talk about - I don't know, york stone slabs costing £x p sq metre or whatever, it stays ball park not specific until you get a contract in place presumably. I'm sure you know a lot of this if design is your main business; it's the side of designing that sounds most concerning to me to be honest. Another handy hint, which you may already do ,is that you design on A1 and photocopy it down to A3 so they can't take scale accuracy from any scale drawings that you might do. Even if I just do a suggested (ie not accurate down to plant quantities and area) planting plan I make sure clients pay for my time now, in case they take them and just use them. Either that, or you leave nothing with them until they've signed a contract.

    Have you ever seen Garden Rescue? It's a daytime show which I record and features The Rich Brothers. All their design boards are amazingly impressive, but as equally amazingly non-specific. It's quite interesting. Compared to Charlie Dimmock's designs, which are mainly hand-painted, even down to specific flowers (though only one or two key plants) they all often look the same, apart from the garden shape, and where the hard landscaping might be. A lot of their design detail is verbal, and that's not what they leave with those clients - except in the memory....!

    As to the time spent on this wasted journey, it's all a learning curve, and you'll do it differently next time, in a way you might not have done had you not had this experience. They were having a laugh though, accepting a £22k design and then complaining when it was £4k even. Really????? They didn't really want a design at all did they? I love a lot of garden ideas I see at the shows and in the books, but I just don't have anything like that money. Sounds like you gave ball park figures for x, y and z in the beginning so you did all the right things.

    They were, unfortunately, time wasters right from the beginning and it isn't always easy to see, so no I don't blame you for having a go at them. They deserved it.

  • PRO

    We, would not start, a design process, until the client had signed a contract and paid a hefty deposit.

    In the contract it would specify how many re-designs would be done, before charging extra.

    Only when the design is completed, would it be put out to tender.

    For us (and many other designers) the design and its process is separate from the hard landscape / construction / design implementation.

    That is, we/ they can tell you/ quote for the design when it is erm..designed.

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