Every designer needs to meet with the client. It is preferable to meet on site so you can gain an appreciation of the site restrictions and opportunities, but there are occasions where it is not possible. Recognize that although you can gain an appreciation of the style the client requires from an off-site meeting, you will need to set up a site visit and get their input. It makes good sense to combine the two.
Tip: You may (or may not) charge a fee for this initial meeting. Make sure that the client knows about this in advance. One of the best ways to do that is to post that information on your web site. Here are some examples from landscape designers web sites that make this clear:
The first meeting is free of charge and you are under no obligation to continue to the design phase. Following the initial meeting, a fee proposal is presented outlining project deliverable and time frame. Every garden is unique and each project has a life of its own but they tend to follow similar journeys. Once you make contact with us, we will make a time to visit your site and meet with you to discuss the improvement and redesign of your garden. If you have something particular in mind for your garden, it is useful to have pictures which have inspired you (e.g. photos of gardens you like, pictures from magazines, Pinterest boards). It is also useful to have an approximate budget in mind as this will determine the type of design that will be suitable for your garden. The first half hour of the site visit is free and is then charged at $$$(+gst) per hour.
Tip: At this first meeting, it is important that you listen carefully so you gain an appreciation of what it is that the client thinks they need.
Have your portfolio ready to present. This can take many forms, but nothing beats a large format folder with before and after photos of gardens you have completed plus copies of the final design plans.
Tip: Make sure that your portfolio contains example of concept plans because in this first meeting, that’s what you are trying to get approval to move on.
Aim to quickly establish a good working relationship with the client. Don’t be afraid to ask how the client how they want you to communicate – email, text messaging, web site etc.
While listening to the client, walk around the site and jot down ideas for landscape opportunity and site restrictions, especially sun/shadow. Don’t attempt to measure the site at this early stage. The aim is to get approval to develop (and get paid for) a concept plan. Stress that what you offer first is a concept plan – no detail is included. Tell them that you expect to modify the plan with feedback from the client. Then and only then, will you move to the final detailed design.
Tip: Make sure you are in a position to give the names of some reputable constructors if the client wishes to implement your concept design themselves.
Even though you will be asked, do not give an estimate of cost – you cannot do that without the final detailed design. When asked, turn the question around and ask what the budget for the job is to be. The figure below shows a typical concept plan. Note the lack of a detailed plant program and plant schedule. That comes later.
Here is a possible scenario showing work that might be undertaken. We suggest that you publish something like this on your web site.
Site visit to discuss landscape/garden requirements and inspections of the site. Initial advice regarding statutory and legal obligations and probable landscape services required to implement a plan. No detailed cost estimate. Hourly or agreed fee.
Stage B – Initial consultation
Plan showing concept. If required, submission for statutory approval.
Stage C – Detailed design
Setting out plans, construction details, drainage and irrigation plans.
Stage D – Planting details and schedule
Planting numbers, species and spacing.
Stage E – Tendering
Preparation of tender documentation, invitation to tender, tender report
Stage F – Site operations and contract administration.
Contract administration, site inspections, certification of payments, final certifications.