A Design Is More Than Just A Pretty Picture
As a Designer, my main objective is always to create a plan for my client that will be used to install a beautiful and functional landscape. By keeping in mind that the design itself is not the end result, over 80% of my designs are seen through to construction.
There are three main reasons for the successful transition from design to construction. One is simply by being professional and clearly communicating in writing to the client what the design process will entail, how much it will cost and when it will be completed. The other side of that is to follow through on what is promised.
Most clients are unable to look at a plan and envision what their landscape will look like or understand the difference between a good design and a bad one. However, they will understand customer service. After many weeks of working with a client, showing up on time for appointments, meeting deadlines and following through on all the details, they can be confident that the design was created with the same level of professionalism, and will provide them with a landscape that they will enjoy for many years.
Second is to be sure that the plan fits their budget. The only reason they’re paying me for a design is so they can have a landscape installed. I think it’s unfair to the client and unprofessional of me to charge thousands of dollars for a design without including construction cost information. During the initial client meeting when we discuss their wish list, I bring up the issue of budget and will inform them about what a realistic cost estimate might be for the project. This is, of course, very difficult to do because there are so many unknown variables at this early stage.
Many homeowners will hire a landscape contractor once or twice in their lives and won’t have any idea what a custom landscape project could cost. It’s not like buying a car or a piece of furniture where specific items can be researched and price checked. However, by starting the conversation and providing them with a number, they can then tell me how much they want to invest. Usually the client’s budget is less than what I suggest it should be. But that’s o.k. It’s better to figure that out now rather than after the design is finished.
After setting a budget that we are both comfortable with and prioritizing the wish list items, I can proceed with the design development. Working within the confines of a budget certainly makes designing more difficult. However it also forces me to explore creative solutions. By creating a design that fits their budget, I am providing them with a plan that they can use to install their landscape.
The third reason for a successful transition from design to construction is because I am not just turning the design over to the client and advising them to get several bids. I will stay actively involved in the construction process, and I do not feel comfortable having just any contractor install my work. It’s important that the client, contractor and I are all working together as a team. For this reason, I will recommend a particular contractor for each job. Not all contractors are the same, and it is almost impossible to compare several bids “apples to apples”. Trust is a valuable asset in the sometimes unscrupulous world of contracting!
Upon completion of the design, I have proven to the client that they can trust my abilities and decisions. Deciding which contractor is right for the job is just the next step in the design process. In fact, the design process is really the first step of a construction project.