The perils of low cost garden design

 In My Trade

How low cost garden design could damage the landscape industry

First of all, I know that the contents of this blog might be a bit controversial. And so I want to make it clear that these are purely my own opinions. The intention is not to criticise or belittle anybody else’s work, business ethos or marketing strategies. The landscape industry as whole is incredibly diverse (which is what makes it interesting).  And of course, different parts of the country and different target audiences all warrant different approaches. There is no one size fits all solution to any problem and I’m not here to tell anyone what to do.

I am, however, concerned that low cost garden design devalues the talent and expertise of garden designers. And that in turn reinforces the public perception of how much landscaping is worth.

At My Garden Design, the business thrives on supplying sensibly priced garden plans to landscapers whilst paying our designers properly. Here’s why……

What does it cost to create a garden design?

Having run a garden design company for several years, I know how long it takes to create layout plans, 3D renders, planting plans etc. It’s not just about sitting in front of a computer or drawing board “colouring in” plans. There is an awful lot of time spent studying the client brief, thinking (usually outside of working hours and often on long walks), and balancing material and labour costs with the clients build budget.

Added to labour, is the cost of the equipment, software, marketing and everything else involved in running a business.

this could never be a low cost garden design

A garden design like this take many hours of consideration before the layout plan is even begun.
Which is why I think that low cost garden design actually devalues the skill and talent of the designers.

Finally, and this for me is the most important part – garden designers are incredibly talented people. The best ones didn’t just print  business cards, buy SketchUp and start creating high end designs. They have spent years training, gaining experience and understanding the products they are specifying. You wouldn’t expect an engineer, or an accountant to work for low wages. Neither should anyone expect to a garden designer to spend a week working on a design to only receive a day’s wages.

Cutting costs by changing the business model

I believe that the business model for My Garden Design shuns low cost garden design without compromising affordability. It cuts the cost of garden design to the landscaper, by asking him or her to contribute to the information gathering process. Normally, a garden designer would meet with the clients and organise the site survey.  In our case, the landscaper does all of the client-facing work. Then makes profit by adding his or her own margin to the design costs. 

Raising industry expectations

One thing I know that many landscapers struggle with is public perception of what their work should cost. In part, I blame the press and media who mislead viewers/readers about what it costs to design and build a garden. But I also think that as an industry, we don’t always help ourselves.

I understand that in a competitive market place, it’s tempting to lower prices in order to win work. The same applies to garden designers AND landscapers. But does that really help the industry in the long run? 

My Dad started our landscaping business 30 years ago and right from the outset he determined never to “buy work”. In other words, he saw no sense in working hard just to cover his costs. He’s highly skilled at a wide range of crafts and didn’t want to be thought of as a labourer.  30 years on, the business has a great reputation and has grown big enough to support several salaries.

Had Dad started the business by charging silly prices just to undercut the competition, it would have been difficult to raise prices. The business USP (Unique selling point) would be “cheap”. Cheap landscaping attracts work that is either uninspiring or leads to complaints.(or both!)

Avoiding low cost garden design and landscaping

As I see it – and I’m sure that many of my APL colleagues would agree. Garden Designers and Landscapers are incredibly skilled people and should be properly remunerated for the way their work transform lives.

While there are cheaply priced designers and landscapers out there – the public will always be looking for a bargain, often be disappointed with their “investment” and forever perceive the landscape industry as being glorified labourers.

Just starting out? In my opinion it’s better to gain experience by working with a great company (garden designers, take note, My Garden Design is hiring!) And then, if you want to strike out on your own, get your marketing mix right from the outset.

Rant over.

To summarise

Whenever I’m in the market to buy anything – whether it be a tee-shirt or a truck, I’m always wary of very low prices. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain, but “cheap” sometimes means substandard.  On the other hand, expensive sometimes means overpriced.  Thats why the garden design service offered by My Garden Design is priced the way it is.

First and foremost, I want to pay my designers the proper rate for their work, they’re worth it!  Secondly, as a landscaper I value good garden design. Over the years, I’ve developed a feel for what my ideal clients are willing to pay for design. And I’ve learned how to sell the service. Finally, I want my colleagues in the landscape industry to make a decent margin on their outsourced designs. AND to be proud of the work they produce.

New to My Garden Design? Take a look at our Quick Quote facility and find how you could profit from outsourcing your designs whilst helping to improve public perception of the UK Landscape Industry.

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