Freelance Landscape Design

lavender59November 4, 2006

Still struggling with my career options.........visited Cornell yesterday and came away with an overwhelmed feeling - very nice Landscape Arch program but maybe too intensive for this 40something year old! My background is this....I have a Business degree, a Hort degree and love doing Landscape Design. I have done some freelance work for family and friends and enjoyed that but didn't get paid much (if anything!). Contemplating my options of school vs. starting my own business doing residential landscape design. I understand the pitfalls of doing design work and not doing the installs. My question is this - are any of you doing this? I thought I could appeal to the do it yourselfer who needs a plan but would do the work themselves, or the person who wants a plan designed for them not one designed by the company who wants to make big bucks off their install and who designs the job accordingly. I don't want to work 80 hours a week doing this - I want a low key business where I can serve my clientele well and give them a high quality product for a reasonable price. Thoughts???

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deeproots(8b South Ga)

i seem to see this pretty often.

hate to say it but:
If you want your own business you are going to have to work the hours needed. That is just how it goes. Maybe in 5-6years it would be different, but you'd have to grow the business to accomodate that (delegating responsibility/ meeting with contractors, etc).

Why not approach an established landscape firm, and tell them your story. Part time, no responsibilites beyond your job duties, willing to be educated etc.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 8:17AM
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Lavender, my design business is approximately 80% for DIY'ers and the remaining 20% professionally installed, so yes, there is a need for this type of design work. Discussion on both this and the Landscape Design forum has lead me to believe that this is a bit of niche market and may not be as widespread a phenomenon everywhere else. I live in an area that has a lot of very active gardeners and this type of approach appeals to many of them - they are more than happy and able to do the work, but need guidance in developing a plan and selecting plants.

There are some drawbacks to this type of design work. I seem to generate as many planting plans as actual "designs", as the distinction seems to get lost - to a good many, the plants are the design. And there is never any guarantee your design will get implemented in a timely manner, if at all, and that it will adhere to the plan. This is definitely not the type of design practice for anyone with a strong ego and a need for ownership or control of the design. And the compensation for plan-only designs is not huge in the overall scheme of would be difficult, if not impossible, to rely on this is a sole means of income. You would need to turn over a great many designs (and work those 80 hours a week) to make a living wage. I do it on a part time basis to supplement income from a related occupation and still find myself putting in 20-30 hours a week just to keep up.

But it is possible and it does offer its own rewards. One of the biggest advantages is that this type of design work seems to foster a much more collaborative effort between the designer and the client, compared to those entirely professionally directed projects where the client sits back and waits for a fait acompli. Because the client(s) are very actively involved in the design process, plant selection and implementation, there is a high degree of ownership on their part, much more so than I see with my designs that are professionally installed. And once they have completed the design installation, their sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is extremely gratifying and a joy to behold.

Establishing a freelance design business is not the easiest thing to do. You still need all the skills and knowledge as does a designer associated with a design/build firm and experience in the installation of all the technical aspects of landscape design doesn't hurt, either. And developing a client base takes time, unless you have a regular source of referrals. You do need to form associations with reputable contractors who can do the installations of those designs not for DIY'ers as well as a good number of specialists to lend a hand in those areas the clients feel are beyond their skills and abilities - masons, carpenters, irrigation specialists, etc. And developing a portfolio is very tricky.......since you never know exactly how a design will turn out once the clients get done with it. Several of what I consider to be my best design projects have never made it to my portfolio, as the clients took some rather unfortunate liberties with plant selection that totally blew off the integrity and character of the design. It happens.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 10:21AM
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Do it yourselfers are not a good market in my opinion. The reason why is simple. They are do it yourselfers for one or both of these reasons - they want to save money / they want to do it for themselves. The money savers don't want to spend on a piece of paper that you drew, so they willl not pay enough for you to make a living. The "for themselves" folks are more likely to look for help building it than designing it. If they did feel the need for a design plan, they would want something that they felt was beyond their ability to do which would need to be from a very established source for the type of personality who believes they can do everything. Does that make sense. If it doesn't. test the market and it may after a while.

Working for homeowners who want a designer who is working for them is a much better place to go. But, you have to know that it means that the homeowner wants someone who they feel that they can trust is better qualified than the contractor. That means you have to have well established clout in the design field before you will make a client very comfortable that your knowledge over rules that of the contractor. It also means that the client will need help making sure that the contractor is doing the work the way it is intended to be done. Overseeing a contractor is a completely different skill set than designing and can also be very intimidating. Make sure that you are comfortable in telling a rough personality that he is not doing something right and he needs to change it at his expense because if you can't, the benefit of using a more trusted designer is completely lost to the homeowner.

If you want to make a living in the landscape design business, the one notion that you have to accept is that you can not make enough money while staying in the bubble of dealing only with clients and a plan. It simply is of little value unless the job has completion built into it.

Everyone wants to be a landscape designer. That makes us a dime a dozen. People who don't want to spend a lot are worried about an extra $50 added to the whole job if they use a slightly higher grade of mulch. Those folks don't want to spend a lot of money on a piece of paper. You can't produce the plan without investing a lot of hours in it.

Let's say $50,000 a year is making a living. That is just about $1,000 a week. Can you get design jobs that you can do in a week that will sell for $1,000? Can you get 50 design jobs in a year? Maybe you only need $25k a year. Can you get 10 design jobs that will pay $2,500 each? Twenty five at $1,000, or 50 @ $500? Who gets 50 inquiries a year for design work (design/builds do). Any way you look at it, it is not easy to sell enough plans to make a living.

The people who do have the money are the market that has to be tapped if you are to make a living without building the landscape. The problem for up and coming designers is that these people like to pay for sure things. They have BMWs, Benzs, and Lexus because they know what they will get for the money before they buy it. It is no different with landscape design. If they hear about you, see yor work at a friends house, and know that you have been successful at producing what they want, they'll pay for it. They might try to get you to reduce the price, but if they want you, they will eventually decide to pay. But, they not only have to like what you do and what you charge, but they have to like it more than every other person out there who is looking to do the work. All it takes is one person who has a better portfolio, or some other edge and you are out. That is a lot of people if you are working your way up. If you show up and I or anyone else shows up show up, only one of us is walking away with the job.

There is no practical reason why someone with the financial means will want to buy something unheard of on the lot when there is a Benz, a BMW, and a Lexus parked right next to it. It is just the way that it is.

You have to work to build a portfolio and reputation in the segment of the market that you want to continue to work in. You can work independently in the lower end of the market, but will not build a portfolio that will have the stuff that will get you into the high market. You can go to work for a design/build that is already in the market that you want to work in, but it will not pay a lot and you will have to work within their box. I highly recommend the latter. It will give you lots of experience, you can build a portfolio of built work in the right market, and you will learn a great deal along the way. You were prepared to pay for school. Why not get paid for school by using this method? It does take adopting a subordinate attitude, which is not easy for us designer types, or they won't want you around. This is the way for you to go because of your prior education and your age (got my degree at 35, so I know).

It is so much easier to leave a high profile high end design job with a portfolio, connections, and experience and stay in that market than it is to build up from designing for DIYers. And much quicker than a degree and interning in the back room of a big design firm for 2 years.

The other alternative is to get a pickup and design only what you are capable of building like most landscape designers. But, once you start, you don't move up the market very quickly that way.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 10:52AM
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Andrew and I have had this discussion a number of times :-) It is the difference between two distinct types of client bases, perhaps engendered by the different lifestyles of the two coasts. The market may be slim, depending on location, but it does exist. And my experience has found that there does exist a significant client base who are willing to pay, and reasonably so, for just a piece of paper.

High-end landscape design is not necessarily the goal of every landscape designer and there is a huge market out there for which high-end designs and the costs associated with them is simply not appropriate. But that does not mean that producing plan-only designs is limited to those of modest means. I've turned over enough $$ plans for multimillion dollar properties to dispell that myth. But these are not my bread and butter jobs and I'd hate for you to get the impression that you will land these plums without spending a lot of time and effort in the process.

The rest of Andrew's comments regarding income are right on. This is not the profession or the business tack to take if monetary considerations are paramount.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 12:05PM
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nwnatural(zone 8 PNW)

One thing that gardengal and I have in common is, we both work at nurseries. That is a great place to find clients and the nursery refers me as well.

Why not supplement your starting income and work part time at your local nursery? Thy start hiring in February.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 12:56PM
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Interesting and necessary ideas above for you to ponder. Have you thought about beginning by advertising your area of expertise, namely knowlege of plants? Sell yourself as a Garden Consultant, charging on an hourly basis portal to portal. There is a strong demand for this speciality. The majority of homeowners have no idea which plants to use for foundation plantings, or how to combine colors, how to hide the utility boxes, etc. This type of quiet consultation will lead to design requests as you work with each customer. It is sort of a backdoor way to achieve your goal as you build confidence as a designer. And the suggestion to work at a nursery for awhile is a good one.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 3:47PM
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If you are to make a sustainable living doing design only, the high end market is essential - not because of ego, but practicality.

It is a different story when you do this part time, especially if it is in conjunction with a job that is in a related field. The other job covers all of your living expenses, insurance, and benefits. Five hundred extra dollars a month is worth the extra effort, but it takes Five thousand a month to cover a good income and benefits that you have to pay for yourself - that is consistently for twelve months of the year. The reality is that there are busy times and down times. That means doing more for some of those months to offset the down months.

How many designs can you expect to sell in a year?

How many can you actually do in a year?
What is your idea of the scope of a "normal" design?
Is it a planting bed? A planting bed and walkway? Is it all of the planting beds around the house? Is it all of that and where to clear the woods to begin the landscape? Does it include all of that and laying out the driveway? Does it include grading and retaining walls? Siting the actual house and influencing the design of the architecture? What about a pool or going through regulatory boards? These are all worth vastly different amounts of money.

The high end market is essential

There is more competition in the lower end which = lower closing rate on sales call, less money for each sale, more referrals needed to close on the same amount of jobs, more time setting up appointments, driving to appointments, meeting with clients, measuring sites, writing proposals, and doing base plans before you actually design anything. There is also a tendency toward saving individual plants or transplanting some. That adds a lot of time to a design in collecting that inventory and designing around them (usually with mixed results). You have a lot of landscapers, young and established, who can afford to invest design time in the small job design market in order to land jobs selling plants and labor further driving down the cost and increasing competition.

Five hundred dollar garden designs would take 100 to gross $50k. Does that sound practical? Can you sell plans for $500? If you can, who are you selling them to? How long does it take you to complete one including meetings, measuring, and run around time? Can you do 100 plans in a year?

Can you sell 50 at $1,000? To whom?... you are climbing up the market.

20 @ $2,500? .... I did better than that when I was working design/build and I used 80% of my time doing other work for the company. It was not because of me so much as the company was established, their clients were very wealthy, I closed design sales at a very high percentage because of the company's reputation, and they did not work outside of that niche. The high end market is essential I could not sell more because there were not more referrals. It had nothing to do with not having time to make sales calls or do design work. There is just not a long line of people looking to spend tens to hundreds of thousands on landscapes and thousands on plans to go with it.

It is almost an all or nothing proposition if you want to make a living doing design only. The balance between what you can charge for a plan (and still sell it), how many plans you need to sell to make a living, how many prospects there are who value the plan equally to what you need to charge for it, and how many hours you need to spend to complete the job will lead you to the same conclusion if you try to make a full time living doing it. The high end market is essential

If you make your money by building what you design, it is a different story.

Who among us does make a sustainable living in design only - not me (I do design only, but most of it is civil site planning, so I don't think that fully counts), not gardengal (also works in a nursery), and not anyone who is doing design/build (like I used to) or holding another job.

I do have a landscape architecture office that I run outside of my full time job.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 6:22PM
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So much invaluable information - I appreciate it greatly - it gives me much to contemplate that is for sure! I am fortunate enough that I do not need to make a living to support my family - my husband has a great job with excellent pay and benefits - I am just trying to find my niche where I can fit in to this industry and work in or have some type of reasonable landscape design business. I am not out to do 1000 designs a year but am interested in starting slow, small and developing the talent and contacts I have. This is certainly a great and helpful forum for the newbies like me! I do appreciate any and all advice.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 10:30AM
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txjenny(z8 TX)

Like a lot of others on this site, I don't make my living only on design, although it's what I prefer to do. I own my design/build company with projects ranging from small front yards to multi-million dollar homes, container plantings and design for the DIYer. I've also recently begun to freelance design for a larger design/build company--it's a great relationship between us--they will pass on to me the small jobs that they won't take and I'll have them install large projects that are too big in scope for me! and in the meantime, they pay me $50 an hour to design for them so they can pull in more business.

This all took about 5 years to build up, so it's not overnight and i'm not rich, but the consistency of income has greatly improved and I've fined-tuned what I do well so I can spend more time on it and still pay the bills.

You can do what you want to do, just start out slow and don't grow too quickly. Know what you do best and focus on that. be open to taking on some projects that maybe aren't your cup of tea in order to pay the bills so that you can do all the design work you really love.

BTW, I found some of my best consistent jobs on craigslist--not for everyone, but it worked for me!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 9:49PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

lavender59, do you have any interest or experience with indoor tropical plants? Interior landscaping can be a rewarding field - there is design and maintenance work to be done. It's an easy field to get into with minimal credentials, steady year-round work, a little less physical usually than outdoor work. Many companies do outdoor containers and holiday decor for their clients too. I started in my early 40's doing indoor plant maintenance and really like it (the "office plant lady" kind of thing). Email me if you want more details. You'll never get rich but if you're good with plants, you can make a decent living and enjoy going to work every day.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 3:16PM
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Lavendar59. Don't be discouraged! I think there are a few ways to approach what you are considering. I changed careers at 40 from business to Landscape Design and was working quite successfully in the Northern California market...until we recently moved to NY - but that is another story!
1) There are excellent Landscape Design and Landscape Architecture certificate courses through University extension departments in different parts of the country. UC Berkeley, UCLA, Columbia, New York Botanical Garden are a few. They are often taught by landscape architects and will give you the necessary graphic skills which are a huge differentiator between professionals and amateurs who want to be professionals. Knowing AutoCAD is a plus both for speed and professionalism.

2) Ally yourself with both a nursery and some local contractors. This worked very well for me.

My track was this:
-Finished LA program at UC Berkeley Ext.
-Worked at large independent nursery concurrently. (My advice: pick a high end, independent, horticulturally literate nursery - not HOME DEPOT - to learn from. Pick one that is ok with nursery people developing design relationships outside of work. Some are and some definitely are not.)
-Worked for a year as a designer at a Design/Build firm in a high end, new home market. Average install was over $150K up to $300K. Worked along side a Landscape Architect who I learned a ton from, mostly about designing for landscapes to be BUILT, also a distinct difference between amateurs and professionals! Using correct radii, measurements, materials, etc. Then I went out on my own and eventually hooked up with 2 busy and successful contractors who tried me out for a couple of small designs, liked my work and gave me more. When I left CA I could have hired someone to assist me as I was quite busy. I charged around $2500 per plan.

Please feel free to email me if you want to talk more about making your dream happen. I am all in favor of people pursuing their dreams because it CAN be done, it will be wonderful when you do it and you'll probably have to make a few compromises along the way, but it's worth it!!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2007 at 11:31AM
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philomena(z 5A NY)

I'm somewhat in that same boat - early 40's, and wanting to make a career switch from IT to garden design, but just not sure if I can work up the nerve and also the financial security to do it. I support myself, so have no other source but me for income and insurance coverage, so trying to figure out a business plan and general course of action has been daunting. After learning by trial and error once I bought my own home, I've been taking garden design classes since last year, and doing (free)work for family and friends, to help build up some referenceable (is that even a word ?! :-) )gardens.

Per some of the posts above, I would need a net annual income of about 45K to pay the bills - I haven't even gotten as far as figuring out how to determine what type of gross that actually means if I am self-employed. How do I go about learning this side of the business ? Do I need to talk to lawyers and/or accountants ? And does it sound even feasible to be able to earn that type of income the first year or so ? Or is that something to ramp up to ? I would certainly be planning on doing design, installation and maintenance of gardens, not just the design - I'm not averse to getting my hands dirty :-)

    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 5:37PM
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nwnatural(zone 8 PNW)

I'm in my third year of business. Doing design, installation, consultations, and very minimal maintenance. I work alone and I'm averaging 2-3K (take home)a month and working 2 days a week at a nursery. I am working my butt off, especially April to July.

I could have made better money the first year if I had bid a little better and if I stopped working for friends and family who only wanted deals (and I felt obligated to make deals for them). I'm grateful for the experience and the portfolio that I made that first year, plus who better to practice on. It was a good learning curve and hopefully, you have some money saved. They say you won't make much money your first year and they were not kidding!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 7:06PM
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One thing I would recommend is to join your local APLD (Association of Professional Landscape Designers) and try to attend a conference. This is a great source of feedback, opportunities, motivation and info.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 11:26AM
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How did it work out?

I started my freelance gardening business a few years ago. I work part time, my own schedule. It is a labor job, but I enjoy it. I do not make enough $ to support myself/family. It is a lot of work for not a big income. I read a book about starting a gardening business that had useful information. The author is Paul Power and you can get it through Amazon. I think it's important to establish a mission statement so that during the difficult times you can review it and remember why you do what you do.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 10:57PM
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    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 4:21AM
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Hi designers!
I am a landscape designer turned web developer and just launched my first project for freelance landscape designers. It allows clients to post their project's description/plans and designers upload their designs and compete for the prize paid by the client.

I have put up the first prize of $240 so designers can get used to the platform, build a portfolio and have a chance to win some extra money.

Please check it out and contact me with any questions.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 1:54PM
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Brian - respectfully speaking, go fly a kite. You can read the link below for why spec work and contests are a bad idea in general; now add in the fact that you're soliciting designs from people who have never visited the project, don't understand local soils, conditions and microclimates, and to be honest probably aren't successful professionals. If this is how much you respect the profession I really doubt you were actually a landscape designer.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 12:42PM
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Fantastic link there, Marcinde. ArchDaily had a similar discussion regarding the merit of architectural competitions. One of the major arguments in favour of competitions was that innovations would arise that could further the profession as a whole. I'm not sure if we would see anything as progressive resulting from a factory-oriented design process.

- Audric

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 1:05PM
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Audric - I guess the big difference is that from what I've seen, most architectural competitions are large-scale commercial or municipal projects where the entrant is providing a conceptual design that is refined if they're selected for the (usually significant) commission. What this site appears to be offering is the promise that a gaggle of gullible designers will provide an accurate, buildable plan that will work.

And they talk about the site analysis phase like it's something so easy even a caveman could do it. The actual measuring isn't rocket surgery, but part of the value of involving professionals is that we see things the homeowner wouldn't think to look for. If a homeowner sends me dimensions on a survey plat and 6 photos, that is all the information I have about that property. I'm pretty good, but what I could create based off that data would pale in comparison to what someone with boots on the ground could accomplish.

Not to mention that the whole "draw me a pretty picture, monkey, and if it's good I'll throw you a peanut" aspect is offensive.

Oh, and looking at the designs - there's one in particular that regardless of where it's built and what material is used, it will be a failure point. Sure does look sexy in plan, though.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 2:54PM
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I find this entire concept disturbing on a number of levels.

One is the effectiveness of preparing a successful design by remote. Without at least one onsite visit, as marcinde pointed out, it is impossible to be able to perceive and sufficiently understand the vagaries of the site and address them correctly. Plus, there is no opportunity for interaction between the client and the designer, so how a design can be generated that will successfully meet the needs and personalities of the client is seriously handicapped.

It also provides the clients - typically new to the design process anyway - a very mistaken perception of how the process works.

And why I, as a designer, would want to spend time and effort on a design that may never come to financial fruition is another major drawback. FWIW, I wouldn't even waste my time to enter the first contest with a "prize" of $240. I couldn't begin to create an original design for the time that sort of payment represents and using an existing design brings up all sorts of other ethical questions. If not a new/original design, then that existing design is really the property of the client that commissioned it.

This may have some appeal to designers that are unable to generate business via more traditional channels but then one has to wonder at the experience level and quality of work these types of designers may be able to produce anyway. It just doesn't play well.

And finally, I have trouble understanding how anyone who was a successful landscape designer would think this type of activity has any merit. It sounds suspiciously like Brian couldn't swing it as a designer and has decided a dubious online marketing scheme is a more reliable way of making a few bucks.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 12:24PM
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Hi everyone.

First, thanks for the feedback and I can't say that I didn't expect it.

First off, a little about myself. I have been in the industry since 2000 working at all levels of skill and responsibility. From laborer, foreman, project manager, design, sales, and design/build business owner. To say that I have a decent understanding of the industry would be fair.

After finishing school I moved from MA to NC for work opportunities and a change of pace (no snow!). In doing that I realized that I had a unique skill in that I knowledge of plant and building materials reaching from Maine to Georgia. How many others were there like me out there? How could I connect with clients all over the east coast? There was no answer so I began to design

For a while I was on the fence as to create a freelance site, or a crowdsourcing site. I looked around and some freelance listings on,, ect and they didn't seem to be getting much traction. That's when I decided to take the crowdsourcing avenue because it is changing how things get done all over the world. Whether or not you like it, or agree, that is a fact.

True this method isn't going to be for everyone and established designers most likely won't find it beneficial. Although, students and new designers that are looking to build their portfolio and at the same time make some extra money, I think it will be a great outlet. When I was a design student (Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMASS ('04)) my classmates and I would have jumped at the chance to do what we love and make some extra money.

The site will never replace the traditional landscape designers/architects, nor is it meant to. It is meant to give designers another outlet to reach clients and give homeowners more options when searching for landscape design services.

I do not however think that doing a basic site analysts is beyond the capabilities of most homeowners. I have worked at larger design firms where the sales person would meet the client on site, do the analysts, and bring all of the information back to the designer, whom would never physically step foot on site. You got me on the soil test, but I suppose that the homeowner can send it to there local ag extension or just do a search of their local soil type online and post it in there contest description which would be close enough in most cases.

My point is that as a designer, I would spend so much time driving, measuring, taking photos and asking the same basic design questions that it would take up much of my day. Why not let the client do the labor, allow the designers to design and let technology help us all out.

Of course bringing crowdsourcing to landscape design is going to be disruptive, just look at the uproar in the graphic design community. All I have gathered is that homeowners are excited about the idea, there are designers out there that are willing to give it a try, and suppliers are interested in the idea.

It is certainly not an "online marketing scheme" nor is it dubious. Sure , the last few years have been difficult for myself as I'm sure it has been for everyone in the industry, but to attack me for trying to innovate and looking at new way of doing things is a little harsh. I'm just a guy with an idea and more likely than not , it won't effect you in the least.

If nothing else look at the discussion we have created.The last post was in Aug of last year. I may flop on my face and the HUNDREDS of hours I have spent building this idea may have been for nothing. Time will tell.



    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 3:38PM
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"Homeowners are excited about the idea."

I bet. And some homeowners are excited to get an install bid 40% lower than the next one. How does that usually work out?

Look. You and I aren't competing. Honestly, you're competing with the mope in a beater truck who reckons he can do a free design and estimate and come up with something kinda neat. My problem isn't that my business is threatened by a bunch of bored 14 year olds with SketchUp and Dad's Paypal account for payment. It's that you're calling this landscape design. Honestly, what you're providing is, at best, advanced drafting for homeowners.

Our job is to solve problems. Which we can't do until they're identified. I can't tell you the number of jobs where I've gone out to meet with a client about one thing, something catches my eye, and we're now resolving issues that they didn't realize could be so easily fixed. The client comes first. PERIOD. I prequalify very heavily over the phone to make sure that my clients want my level of service, and then my consultation is a mutual gift. They are sharing their wants and needs and time with me, and I am there not just as an order taker, but to probe and learn not just what they want but why they want it. We're in the people pleasing business; we just use great design to please them.

At my last job, my boss usually went on the sales calls and relayed the info to me. Often, on a smaller job, he would do the site analysis as well. But this worked because I had someone with 20 years of industry experience doing the analysis, so he saw what I would have. Bottom line, the client got what they needed.

If you resent taking the time to meet new people, explore their spaces with them, and come up with something that knocks their socks off and causes them to run out and hug you as soon as you pull up - you're in the wrong line of work, Bud. Get a middle management job, or something where homeowners aren't putting their most valuable possession in your hands.

The link below (some coarse language from Harlan Ellison) explains the other problem I have with this model.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 6:11PM
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Very well put, Marcinde :-) And a great link -- very appropriate!

"amateurs make it tough for the professionals" Exactly! And that's who this type of 'service' is going to attract.....amateurs. Any professional worth their salt recognizes and understands the drawbacks of this type activity and few would want their name and/or reputation associated with it. It is just further watering down a profession that already has validation issues, unless one holds an LA title and license.

btw, who helps the client "define" the prize? Or do they just determine how much they are willing to spend for a design and call it good? Oyyy! The mind boggles at the possibilities this presents!

Have I done design work I haven't been paid for? Yep, for family only. Otherwise nothing leaves my drafting table without a contract signed and a deposit in hand. Or full payment for a completed design plan. No exceptions. I have offered consultation services gratis to benefit charitable causes - it's still my time and therefor tax deductible - but that's a long way from offering free design work with the hopes that maybe someone will want to pay for it. That's just nuts.

And please explain to me why this is NOT an online marketing scheme. Are you just offering this connection service website out of the goodness of your heart? If so, how do you justify the HUNDREDS of hours you say you've spent developing the site? To what end? What's in it for you?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 7:59PM
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marcinde, your analogies are fair and humorous to boot! You're absolutely right. I'm not a hand holder, nor do I want to be hugged by clients. But, to say that I don't solve the problems is false. They're just different problems solved a different ways. I solve the problem for the average homeowners that want to do some design in their yard but doesn't have the knowledge themselves or, time to past your qualifying process. Or the college kid looking for beer money, or the high school kid who maybe wants to follow a career path in design, or the one of the many graduates each year that have to move back home because they can't find a job in their field. Who are you to say that they aren't able to design or that's it's not worth their time? It clearly isn't worth your time, and that's fine. Did you go to university? I would have certainly taken the 1-in-5 chance to make a few hundred bucks.

gardenagal, Exactly. If you want to validate yourself and rise above us water -downed commoners by all means get an LA and get licensed. What's holding you back? If not, you will unfortunately be lumped into the category with anyone that feels like calling themselves a landscape designer. Sorry, just the way the industry is. BTW , we have an LA signed up that is licensed in three states.

The clients will have guidelines on what the prize will be based on the specs of the design. Set by what the "crowd" deems as enough, and how many entries the contest holder's budget wants to engage. Too little money = not many designs. Lot's of money = lots of designs. It's a matter of risk and reward, everyone has their price. If there were a $10,000 design contest (exaggerated) , you are telling me that you are so busy that you wouldn't spend an hour or two doing what you love for a chance at that money?

How is a business a scheme? I provide the technology to connect people that want a service with people who want to provide it. I charge the clients a fee to list their project and 10% of the prize amount. Why are you making me out to me some sort snake oil salesman? It is pretty straight forward.

You wrote "nothing leaves your drafting table....". Right there that tells me that you wouldn't be interested in my service. We just have different ways of completing the same task and have different ways of thought, but I am enjoying the debate. I think mine is better, you think yours is and neither of us will budge.

I think if you two haven't made me want to shut the site down and break out my t-square and vellum , that I can withstand anything.

How do you know if you are great at what you do if you have never put your skills in competition? Hugs? I have made a good deal of money competing is logo contests on crowdsourcing sites and I know I'm good. Why? Because I beat my peers in a fair match. You can check out my work at Now did I go to college for graphic design? No. Am I the best in the world? Nope. But did I have passion? I'm spades. Did I learn quickly because if I didn't I would lose? You bet. Why should we exclude people who could be great landscape designers just because they don't have a resume or the right connections? I'm sure you can at least agree with me on that.

99designs(a crowdsourcing site) payed out over $1,000,0000 to designers last month. Is that some sort of marketing scheme? No. It's a business and it's bigger than any other graphic design firm in the world.*

*this may not be true :)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 10:43PM
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One of the primary reasons why people are so irked by your posts is that No advertising is allowed in any of the forums. Please cease and desist.

- Audric

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 9:31AM
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"I think if you two haven't made me want to shut the site down and break out my t-square and vellum , that I can withstand anything."

Except that you've already established that you're not in it for providing the best solution. You'd rather (by your own admission) hook a homeowner up with a high school kid with aspirations of someday being a designer and take 10%, while letting the client think they're getting a vetted designer.

Dumbing something down is not the same as democratizing it, no matter how well you sell it to yourself.

As for knowing if I'm good? Last I checked, we have the free market at play. I'm in a cutthroat competition every day. I know I'm winning every time someone gets referred by a prior client or sees one of my jobs and contacts me and says "I want YOU to do my project." When I'm told, before we even break ground, that "we've already signed up to be on next year's garden tour"- #WINNING.

Basically what I see is homeowners losing and "designers" losing, and one person - you - winning. That's what I have a problem with. I mean, you're in it and you're not going to pull the plug. I get that, and god knows lots of companies make money on the backs of exploited folks. But I'm not going to stroke your hair and tell you you're pretty and a nice guy when I think your business model sucks.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 11:51AM
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Again, marcinde has summed up the glaring holes in your concept very nicely.

You are doing the homeowners/clients a huge disservice. They don't know the intricacies of the process and they are entering into this 'relationship' expecting a legitimate landscape design.....maybe even something like they see depicted in the gardening and lifestyle mags. The reality of what they will be getting is likely going to fall far short.

If all your 'contests' are going attract is novice designers, college kids or - God forbid!! - high schoolers....and by your own admission this is the demographic you are targeting; the pros don't want/don't need this type of business source......then all that is going to be produced are half-a**ed, ill-conceived and most likely highly inappropriate solutions. Garbage in....garbage out.

I don't need the validation; marcinde doesn't need the validation: the industry needs the validation. There are already too many unschooled, inexperienced so-called designers out there promulgating all sorts of inappropriate and non-sustainable landscape/garden designs. Lord knows, I am called in often enough to correct them, at great additional expense to the unknowing homeowners, who thought they were initially hiring someone with some abilities and credentials. And all you are doing is proliferating this lack of professionalism at the expense of the unsuspecting homeowner, who has no idea how the whole process works and thinks this might be a viable way of finding what they need. NOT!

If there were a $10,000 design contest (exaggerated) , you are telling me that you are so busy that you wouldn't spend an hour or two doing what you love for a chance at that money?

C'mon!! Do you really have any first hand experience in this business? Do you actually think a project that carries a $10,000 design fee is only going to involve an "hour or two" of my time to prepare a submission? And please don't tell me we are doing the same thing or completing the same task -- we are not. I provide customer're going to be providing customer rip-offs.

The reference to the graphic design/logo website you tout as being so successful also doesn't carry much weight in this argument. There is no way one can make an reasonable analogy for producing a graphic design or company logo with preparing a well-conceived, successful or sustainable landscape design. One is static, the other alive, constantly changing and with far too many unique and site-specific variables to make any kind of valid comparison between the two.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 1:41PM
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Brian has had to sign in with three different names. I guess someone does monitor the site.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 8:58PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Due to the differences in tone and (maybe) style I got the impression "Brian" was actually working for the last poster, who stepped in because "Brian" wasn't prevailing. But maybe you are right, and it is all coming out of the same, now openly hostile mouth.

The communication skills shown aren't good enough to be sure.

Perhaps ironically.

The griping about not being understood where they are coming from and what they are talking about is like that of all the novices and non-gardeners who post questions here and then get rankled when others trying to help them ask for details or point out misconceptions involved.

If you want a useful reaction you have to make a usable post.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 11:03AM
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I'm in need of some landscaping design planning. email me or give me a call at 404-468-8317 or MARK_300581@YAHOO.COM

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 10:26PM
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