How Much to Charge for Landscape Design Services and Consulting Fees
Posted Mar 7, 2022 | Updated 2 years ago
In the process of developing and launching your landscaping design company, one of the important steps you will take is creating a pricing schedule for your services.
When bidding on a landscaping project or creating a proposal, you want to turn a profit and thrive as a business, but you also want to be competitive in your local or regional market. That requires figuring out your estimated costs and the collective value of your time, expertise and tools, and then valuing your landscaping design and installation services accordingly.
What is the Cost for Landscaping Design Services?
When you’re dealing with creative expertise—as is the case with landscaping design or consultation—pricing is trickier than with production-related services, such as landscape maintenance or lawn care, because it’s more subjective. This all too often leads to creative expertise being undervalued or given out almost freely to entice new clients to use your company. Don’t get trapped into this!
Your services have value. You are creating a functional and beautiful landscaping design plan for your customers, whether or not you complete the installation as well. For a full-color, scaled landscape design, market price is typically between $1,000 and $5,000. Your consultation fees may or may not be a separate expense. Depending on how you’ve positioned yourself in the market, you have more leeway to command higher prices.
That being said, the price for a landscape plan in a proposal or bid can vary based on a number of factors, including the size and condition of the property and the scale, style and complexity of the landscaping design. For example, hillside properties or those encumbered with environmental challenges will require more time and thought when designing a plan.
You should also weigh your credentials and certifications, the experience of your team, and the tools and professional landscaping software you have to render the design plan more efficiently and accurately for your customers. Don’t discount these valuable components that contribute to the overall quality of the service you provide! As you build your experience, skills and reputation, it’s an investment for your company and should be reflected in the price you charge for your services.
Start by reframing the conversation since your efficiencies and expertise have accumulated over years of studying your craft and practicing your profession. In this sense, for example, it didn’t take a week to develop the landscape designs, it took a decade. You can still charge accordingly and win the business while adhering to market forces.
The Value of Landscaping to Your Clients
Keep the conversation focused on the value your clients will directly experience from your services. The American Society of Landscape Architects has posited that landscaping increases home value by anywhere between 5% and 20%, likely higher now that home ownership trends favor properties with usable outdoor space. With this being the case, your landscaping design fees could often be equated to merely 10% or so of the added home value to be gained, an added value which can often be further increased when the landscaping design is done right, by professionals.
Because of this reality, your prospective clients stand to gain much more than the cost of your landscape design fee, so keep their eyes on the gains, rather than the initial costs.
How Do You Charge for Landscaping Services?
Structurally, there are different ways to approach landscaping design fees. If you’re a full-service design-build landscaping company, your design fee may be wrapped into the overall cost of the project. For landscape architect fees specifically, you could charge a flat rate for a design plan or charge by the hour.
You should always know your base costs and avoid pricing below that minimum threshold. This figure factors in total employee compensation, fixed business costs, sales and marketing costs and variable overhead expenses. From there, aim for a net profit of 12% minimum and account for project variances that are bound to occur.
Hourly Estimate vs. Fixed Cost
While charging hourly can help you arrive at a sum based on the precise amount of time invested in the project, customers sometimes perceive it as more risky, because they don’t know what their overall price will be. Another idea is to charge a lump sum, based on an estimate of time, for your initial design plan, and then charge hourly for revisions.
If this is the dissonance you’re experiencing, you can give the choice to each individual client. The options would be for the client to
- Pay X rate for an estimated X hours, for an estimated total that is subject to change
- Pay Y fixed rate, period.
The fixed rate should be at least a factor of 1.5 times higher since your firm is absorbing all of the risk of scope creep in this scenario. Clients often prefer this approach because it is less risky for them. As a bonus, your relationship can be stronger and more focused on the outcome rather than on if one side feels they are being cheated in one way or another.
Tiered Offerings Fixed Pricing
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your pricing and offer your services on a scale that empowers your customer to select an option that fits their budget and expectations. For example, one option could be a basic offering, such as a plan-view design, that represents the lower end of the scale, or the smallest scope of work.
From there, you can increase value with each distinct scope of work, with the most expensive option including 3D renderings, a detailed plant list, and construction details, along with the plan-view design. Faced with a variety of unique options, your prospective clients can choose the one with which they are most comfortable, whether they are value shoppers or price buyers. This allows you to cater to different individuals without undermining the value of your own creative work.
Delivery Timeframe Based Pricing
There are drawbacks to the pricing structure above, notably that your firm may often go outside of scope out of habit for lower price point clients, because delivering high quality of work is in your company’s DNA. This is something that should be celebrated and accounted for in your pricing structure to avoid burning your team out and leaving money on the table.
One option is to offer the same quality of deliverable, but at different paces. For some clients, there is an urgency to the project that you can charge a premium for. That value-add to the overall service should be accounted for, most commonly through a percentage increase on the base project price.
Should You Charge Landscape Consultation Fees?
A question that landscape design professionals often grapple with is whether to charge an initial consultation fee for their services. This typically ranges between $100 and $250.
On one hand, a free consultation can be viewed as a way to draw in new customers. You can use this consultation as a way to cultivate leads and explain and market your services in a personalized way to each individual who contacts you. As a result, you absorb the consultation fee and it merely becomes a cost of doing business or a cost of customer acquisition.
However, you may also find that too many people take advantage of a free consultation without any real intent to utilize your landscaping design and installation services. These are the tire-kickers. In the end, those hours of time—and their monetary value—are wasted. Some landscaping companies also view the consultation fee as a natural qualifier or disqualifier for prospective customers.
One option is to charge, or not charge, landscape consulting fees on a case-by-case basis. If a potential project is small and doesn’t require much time or expertise to generate a projected price and scope of work, you don’t need to charge consultation fees, whereas a fee is suitable for a complex project.
Even a small fee of $50 to $150 establishes a basic level of commitment from potential clients. It also sets up the expectation from the start that your expertise and skills are valuable and well worth the investment. The important thing is to be upfront and transparent—even putting the information on your landscaping company’s website—and communicating consistently about why you charge a fee and how the process works.
There are ways to make it easy for customers to schedule and pay for a consultation right on your website so that you’re empowering them to move things forward on their own accord.
Deciding How Much to Charge for Landscaping Design and Consultation Fees
As a landscaping design company, maximizing profit is in your hands. It starts by fairly and realistically valuing your creative expertise, skills and services and then setting prices that reflect that value and help you stay competitive. Another challenge is communicating the value of professional design services to prospective clients.
That’s where our team at Third Angle comes in. Through your website, local online presence and print and digital marketing campaigns, we can collaborate with you to make sure your message and the value of your services are expressed through clear communications tailored to your specific audience.