inkognitoMay 12, 2007

It gets my goat when people ask for a break down of materials and labour. Why do they want to know? If I buy a shirt it would not occur to me to ask how much is material and how much labour although I would like to think that a skilled individual had been paid well to turn a raw material into something I wear well. I can go to a place in the east end and buy a roll of the stuff shirts are made of at a discount, I could take it home and will it into a shirt until the day I die. Hey you could probably buy six million cotton seeds for the price I am asked to pay for one shirt. Imagine: "Man I really like that shirt, how did it breakdown, the labour and the material?" F*ck off.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I'm guessing that they are being nosy and want to figure out your materials markup and your hourly wage rate, and decide if they consider that reasonable. But you're right, the end product is what matters, not the journey.

After doing interior landscaping for several years, I am now MUCH faster and more skilled than when I started, and the plants look better than they used to. But I'm sure not offering to take a pay cut because I can be in and out in 20 minutes instead of 40! They are paying for healthy, nice looking plants, period.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 6:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ink ...

Your bringing back nightmares for me ..

.. and just when you start breaking it down you meet a chap that only wants to know the bottom line !!!

I had a Doctor once that inisted that I explain why my irrigation parts were not priced the same as a particular nursery. Is the name on my truck the same as the nursery ?? Why then do you expect the same price ? Take a day off from your medical practice and go buy some parts .. see what it cost you then ??

If you see kay .. tell her I want her.

So .. I'm tickled I left the private sector ...

Good Day ...

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 2:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
thistle5(z7 VA)

I'm way behind you here, I'm working as a cashier at a busy garden center & we've gotten so many cheap a** people this week, I'm about to rip my hair out. I had a woman try to return a hanging basket purchased 6 weeks ago, w/ pansies in it, because 'the colors aren't right', another woman who bought 3 6packs of petunias 2 days ago, brought another 6 pack up to the counter, 'when I was finishing my planting, the last 6 pack had only 5 plants-I want one of these, not the whole 6 pack', another absolutely crazy guy, who purchased 5 bales of straw & claimed 2 of them were absolutely rotten, at least 3 years old-'it's not the money, you make me so mad, you're trying to cheat me'-he was finally escorted off the property, w/ a warning never to come back. 99% of gardeners are great, but this week, I've only seen that 1%....

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 7:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

thistle, how about the people who plant a tree, never water it, then bring it back a year later because "it died"??!!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 7:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Yes, many garden center customers have no idea what plants and gardening are all about. At least they are coming in and buying stuff anyway.

I once worked on a project with a woman that was giving the customer a full page breakdown for each billing, looked like a tax form or something. I didn't think that was a good idea. Her rates were too low, too. Nevertheless, years later she was still in business - although she did feel compelled to sell out and move to a cheaper city!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2007 at 5:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Apparently you don't sell labor and materials.You sell landscapes.

I can't blame someone for wanting to understand what he are getting for his money, so I don't think it makes the guy a complete jerk for asking. I also don't think you are wrong in not divulging it.

This is usually and easily put to rest by explaining that you sell gardens which is a lot more than plant cost and labor cost. After all, they did not go shopping for plants and swing by the places where day laborers hang out. They sought out someone who puts the whole thing together.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 7:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, educate me. That is what I provide for people, and it does make life difficult, when they see MY labor rate, and tell me they don't want to pay my rate for manual labor when they can hire someone for $8 an hour. Do you simply give someone a total for the entire job? I don't know if I can sell a job that way.

I'm a good gardener, with an eye for design, NOT a landscape architect, so obviously since these people are hiring me, they are cheapskates to start with.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gonativegal(zone 5a)

Dear Shady,

I get that sometimes as well. But the way I work around it is with a good portfolio. Take pictures of your work, whether it be maintenance of a given space over several years or an installation you've done.

The portfolio provides a visual guide for new clients. They see the before pictures and then the pictures of the same space several years later. That usually shuts them up.

And if they still don't like the hourly rate then I politely decline to accept the work. Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly helpful I may recommend them to one of the larger landscape firms which include the mow and blow guys because I certainly don't want to deal with them.

It is what is. I'm pretty blunt, if you pay $8/hour it will look like it was done for $8/hr.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 11:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have to be valued to get paid well. Sometimes we are undervalued because the people we are trying to work for have little value for what we do regardless of who does it. Sometimes we are not valued because we have not done enough to demonstrate our value. Other times we have not developed enough to be of higher value.

The cure is:
1. to develop skills and knowledge.
2. to develop ways of making that skill and knowledge known.
3. to find ways to connect to people who value such skills and knowledge.

All three of these are controlled by us for the most part. There is diversity in what skills and knowledge that you might chose or have been developed through circumstance. There are many different ways to make known those abilities some of which better match different personalities and different circumstances. And of course, how and where to find (or better yet, get them to find you) people who need and value your services can be a challenge.

Being good at what you do is only the first step.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 6:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nwnatural(zone 8 PNW)

Not one person who hires you is hiring you out of necessity. We are, in fact a luxury item. If you are good and skilled, your client will appreciate your value and pay you what you deserve. Then they spread the word to their friends, and bingo, your busy.

When someone gives me that $8 an hour BS, I inform them that I will never lower my rates, politely charge them my consulting fee, and move on.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 1:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

nw is right. I work for an interior landscaping company, and in bidding wars we often get underbid by cheaper companies. And the client gets what they pay for. Often in a year or two, they are coming to us to take over the job because they are unhappy with the service they are getting from the "cheap guy".

Thus, over time we have developed an excellent reputation and get referrals from the higher-end customers who appreciate the quality we provide and will pay the extra money to get that quality.

Do you want to be McDonald's or The Prime Rib? You have to decide, and if you can provide the quality, price accordingly. In the short run, it's a slow go, but in the long run, you'll end up with the type of clients you want.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 6:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
txjenny(z8 TX)

This is too funny; I was just griping about this myself last week. I presented a design and estimate for a client, and she kept asking questions like "How much does this cost?" "What if I want to do this part myself?" "What's your budget for plants?" "You get a discount at your nurseries, don't you?"

I wanted to say, "Well, what you're paying for the plants and what I pay for the plants are two separate numbers. Why would I give you my wholesale discount?" She did wind up signing a contract for the whole job, but it just burns me when people want to nickel and dime you.

The day prior, I had a guy out to my house to give me an estimate on repairing some water damage. When I got his estimate the next day, I wonder what he would've thought if I'd asked him "So what's your budget for lumber?" "What do those screws cost?" "What if I want to paint that part of it myself?"

I'm with you, Ink. It's not a new problem, but I somehow feel flustered/frustrated every time this comes up. I don't want to say anything that will embarrass my client, but I don't want to get into a minute breakdown of every cost. We're selling a gardens/landscapes, not plants.

What particular wording do you all use to respond to such clients?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 11:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A CPA near me gives business lectures and he had two little gems recently:

1. Don't try to make a judgment call about what someone is able or willing to pay.
2. A client asking "Do you charge to give estimates" is often a bellwether that they aren't willing to pay a fair price for services.

Sure enough, a week later I got a call asking, "do you charge to give estimates? My son gave me your card and I just think it might be cheaper to have you install my annuals this year." I made an appointment, took measurements, looked up prices, did my calculations and put together a fair proposal--but didn't angst over it like with some bids because I knew it was against the odds she'd hire me. I knew that she'd probably be surprised by the numbers, but that her annual beds would look better than ever before. At the meeting she asked me how much I sold flats of annuals for. Sure enough, a week later she's gone and done the planting herself--rows of marigolds spaced really far apart. I've probably spent more time writing up this post than it would have taken to plant a flat of marigolds in a dumb little row. Longer to type up her invoice. I don't mind small jobs, but nickel and diming is a waste of everyones time.

on the other hand, before I was a contractor, if I couldn't afford the overall quote I might have asked for a labour/materials breakdown so I knew where I could trim things up--you know, regular tile instead of italian. It wasn't because I wanted to tell them to cut their labour rate, but so I could still afford to do the project.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 1:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think that one thing consumers often over look is that it takes time to meet with them and write up an initial proposal. Many of us, myself included, do that as a marketing investment (no charge). It may be a very practical request for a consumer to want it broken down further, as Rachel points out. However, there is a double negative from the perspective of he who writes the proposal. The first is that it is an additional investment of time toward a job that has not been sold. The second is that it indicates budgetary concerns which makes the liklihood of the sale much less. When you put the two together it spells "work more for less return".

I think that is the whole point of this thread. That is the frustration of making an effort, showing the value of what you do, having someone get exited as they recognise the value, and then having expect you to discard all of that value and price it like Walmart and a knuckle dragging mouth breather laborer as if it were the same thing - plants and labor.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 5:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I doubt many prospects are overlooking anything you're (the profession) are doing, they're just not interested ("looking") at what's good for you in the first place. Life trains us all to focus on what will pay off for ourselves. Perhaps those with the money to "burn" on a landscape designer or landscape architect may be even more likely than usual to be self-directed.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 5:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Come again Ron. I can't make any sense of that.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 6:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have learned to accept that what I offer, how I choose to work, how I choose to write a proposal, and how much effort I will put into getting a job are both beneficial and limiting.

I can get more work by keeping services high and prices low, but that translates to working more for less money. That is great if you are selling labor and you can hire more laborers, but when you are one person and only have so many hours a week it will kill you.

I can make more money on a particular job if I keep effective while limiting how much time I have to spend vs. how much money I am charging. That is not going to work out very well if it will make a lot of work prior to having a contract. That is pretty easy to avoid with a good design only contract (derived from a number of various templates that I have made).

I write up a proposal that is pretty thorough. This is for three primary reasons. The first is to make it very clear what is going to be delivered as clearly as possible (including number of meetings, revisions, and what documents & how many copies), so there is no uncertainty of when the job is complete. The second is that it allows me to put a flat rate price on it which leaves the client no uncertainty of the cost. The third is that because it has an appendix that explains very clearly what happens when we deviate from the contract, it puts a certain amount of responsibility onto the client to keep from deviating from the terms of the contract. When those three objectives are met, the client clearly knows what he will get, I know exactly what I have to do to deliver it, and I can put a price tag on it that matches how much I value taking on the job. The only variable is whether the potential client values what I am offering at a level equal to the price I have put upon it.

A fourth benefit to that thorough contract is that it does not leave questions that would make a prospect feel like he needs it itemized.

I fully accept that not everyone is going to match that value which I place on it. I don't think the prospect disrespects me or has no regard for value by not valuing the proposal at the same level I do. If I have defined and priced that job out honestly to myself, I can not be disappointed with my offer.

The prospect has a whole lot of things going on in his life which is going to weight his value of what I offer that are no concern of mine (the cost of his Manhattan penthouse, the house in West Chester, the condo in the Virgin Islands, ..., or maybe it is medical bills, child support and allimony - it does not really matter).

There is also no real concern to him of where I define my value from (my next meal or a Rolex collection?).

So, when you really think about it, neither party is wrong by how they value these things. He can ask for me to "sharpen my pencil", but it does not mean that I will. I could just as easily suggest the he analyze his budget and realign his finances, but it does not mean that he will (sound crazy? been to a car dealership before?).

When my proposals are rejected, I don't worry about it or second guess it. I know what I need to get and understand that not everone wants to pay it. I don't want to sound expensive because I am not. There are plenty of people charging more than me as there are plenty of people charging less. Sometimes, I'm sure that someone may have seemed equal or better than me for the job, but I got it because the price was less. Other times all things may have seemed equal, but someone else charged less.

I used to write proposals to do installation as well. I worked for several companies doing this, but the system I liked the best was this. We would break it out into things like plants, front walk, pool patio, driveway retaining wall, ... Then each of these was described in some kind of detail that was clearly more than just materials and a price was put at the end of it. An example would be " ... fieldstone wall on steel reinforced concrete footing with deep raked joints, weep holes ..." or " to supply, select, deliver and plant with appropriate soil ammendments the following plants ...$2,78.57". It kind of drives home the point that it is not a price for marked up materials so much as it is for a value added product. I was never asked to break it down any further except maybe breaking it up into planting areas.

My point is that it is possible to put in enough information in your standard proposal practices to satisfy the client's understanding without giving out your costs, markups, and profit margin. I am not saying it is necessary. I'm only saying that it is possible to find it beneficial.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2007 at 10:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This actually came up on another forum I belong to. Several people gave the same overall answer, price the entire package to the client, not broken down, i.e. select, acquire, deliver, and plant in appropriately modified soil... $xxxx. I'm working on that concept, which meant I had to throw away all my invoice/estimate templates, since they specifically broke down everything.

Another suggestion that I'm implimenting, is when I give them a price, and they want a breakdown, I'm asking instead if it is over their budget, and telling them that if it is, they need to give me their budget, and I will adjust the plan to accommodate it, without compromising the quality. It is better for me, as the designer, to choose less expensive substitute plants, than for them as amateurs, to nickle and dime me to death, and make the overall result something I don't want my name on.

Now I just have to practice these two theories enough that they are automatic.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 8:16PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Ideal careers for a male with a horticultural degree?
I still have a long time to think about this, but it's...
Landscaper has business in residential neighborhood with HOA
I live in a neighborhood which does not allow you to...
Planting Mature Trees
Thanks in advance to anyone who replies. We have been...
Best wave petunia for hanging baskets???
What do you growers think is the best wave petunia...
wilt pruf sprayed and froze on junipers
Hi all, I have a small garden in New York City. The...
Sponsored Products
Monet's Dream Wall Outdoor Fountain - HG-GF-MD-2
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™