I've been working in the landscape industry since 1979 and what I've done and seen over those years, in terms of landscape construction, has been varied to say the least.

Much of what we see from landscapers and designers in today's social media centric world - Blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, to name a few examples - is centred on the delivery. The end product.

There are some great projects being built and it's fair to say that because builders and designers are sharing photos of projects, others are becoming inspired and are really pushing the boundaries in terms of what's possible. I also think there's so much more to come. 

Pricing for skills is lagging

However, what I notice often is the reluctance of the creative landscaper and designer to kick into touch the old pricing practises. Too many appear to  entrenched in ground-worker mentality and are still selling their labour by the metre, or heaven's forbid, by the hour.

A metred rate may well be OK if a project is for a repetitive scheme on a new build housing estate or a council type scheme but today it's an outdated practice. If you're still thinking this way then it's time to reassess your business plan. Creativity costs money and landscapers and designers should exploit their talents accordingly.

It's relatively easy to lay cobbles or standard flags in a rectangle or a straight line but when curves or intricate patterns are introduced then there's nothing standard about the skill-set that a builder needs in their creative armoury. Add colour, texture, plants, trees and atmosphere into any plan and it's a different ballgame.

Sadly I don't think there are many landscapers and designers who are intellectually equipped to charge themselves out at what they're worth, rather than what the - outdated - market says they should charge. Maybe I'm maligning many and my views are too generalistic but I feel there needs to be a mind shift and a re-think.

Are you being paid the right amount for your creative thinking and skills?

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  • PRO
    I quote each project on an individual basis dependant on materials used and how they are used. A complicated design is always going to take longer and will be priced accordingly.

    I will always try and promote the idea of being creative with their design and i would say 75% of the time it works even if it is only adding a nice edging.
  • Good point, I agree Phil.  Its really important that Landscapers are aware of their value, especially on the more intricate work

  • Great post Phil. back in about 1980, after four or five years of 'crazy paving, chessboard paving, turfing etc', we won a job constructing a garden designed by Notcutts Design.  Wow! It sure opened my eyes and from then on, I always included a plan with my estimates.  Pretty basic stuff, but 9" brick on edges to paving with planting areas made all the difference and moved us on to customers who weren't guided by the bottom line. 

  • PRO

    Pricing is certainly a conversation we have regularly regarding grounds maintenance and turf/lawn care.

    LJN has generally changed the mind-set of many in the industry.

    I think it's now time to concentrate on hard landscaping and create a shift in the way people approach pricing. I'm certain that businesses can achieve a 25-50% gross profit margin if the linear/square metre pricing structure was dropped in favour of pricing for skills and creativity.

  • PRO

    Totally agree Phil. We do a lot of designs with curves and you just can't legislate for the added time required to produce that artistic flair by pricing by the square meter. The problem is with a lot of clients who look at websites like 'Which' that tell them how much they should be paying per square meter for paving. I had one customer I built a curved patio for with winding path who complained that 1. I was overcharging for the work we were doing and 2. We were taking too long to get the job done. It didn't occur to her the design was complicated and it required a little more care and attention than just throwing a few slabs down. I guess it's a case of educating the public and helping them see the value in the work we produce.

  • Can't find the link but was reading an article on builders in London that are charging a percentage of what the rise in the property price will be when the work is completed. Not for the materials and labour etc.
    Could work for garden designers as well
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