How much should I charge?
June 18, 2007 10:33 AM   Subscribe

How much should I charge for my brand-new business, which is landscaping and disaster preparedness related? As always, there is

I've come up with a great business idea that I have a lot of experience in, and believe there is a lot of higher-income-earner demand for. It is landscaping and disaster preparedness related. But I'm not sure what I should charge for this unique service!

Basically, I want to offer a couple of levels of help: an initial free meeting to assess their needs, then a basic plan for them, or an advanced plan that involves me supervising/implementing all the work myself (but they also pay for a separate electrician/plumber/landscaper who does the majority of the grunt work)

The market is definitely middle to high income range, and I want to make it seem affordable but not cheap- how much should I charge? This is basically expert consulting and developing a personalized plan- I expect each assessment would take me between 6-12 hours, depending on the area.

Hourly? Flat fee? (I prefer flat fee- it seems to be more suited to my target clientele) If you're a landscaper or a concept developer or maybe even an architect, how would you structure the fee schedule?

Thanks in advance!
posted by arnicae to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Honestly any decent advice on charging would have to be based on costs and services rendered.

I'm not sure you've given enough to get a good answer.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:01 AM on June 18, 2007

So I'm an independent consultant/contractor in the software development world, and I'd be very hesitant to do flat rate. Cost estimation is very, very difficult. Have you had much experience in estimating cost on these sorts of projects? How accurate have you been? Do you have a crew you can count on? One project that goes south with a non-understanding client that holds you to an unreasonable contract is all it takes to suck up a large portion of your time and money.

It's also much harder to incorporate changes to the design with a flat fee. What people think they want and what they really want are generally two disparate things. They won't realize what they really want until things are already under way. Time and materials+ gives both you and the client the flexibility to change things as you go along.

Some clients have to have a budget, though. It makes them feel better. If you come across one of them, do your research. Ask them about their past home improvement and landscaping projects. Do your due diligence to make as certain as you can that they'll be reasonable down the line if things need to change. And after all that, take your estimate and add between 50% to as much as doubling it and then present it to the client. Most of the time, you'll still be lowballing it.

I had a landscaper come out that charged $300 for the initial consultation, where they did a certain amount of stuff, no time limit specified. After that, they'd give an estimate, but it was still time and materials. I liked that.
posted by AaRdVarK at 11:05 AM on June 18, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry that I haven't been too clear- this is my first business, and I'm trying to secure the domain name that is perfect for it, but don't want its current owners to realize how interested I am in it.

I haven't done this before, never have estimated costs for a contract, haven't worked with contractors before, but have significant experience doing it with federal and state crews that need a great deal of management. This is something I'm great at, just don't have experience doing for a fee.

I like the initial consultation fee- it is an interesting idea. Thanks for the help despite my obfustications!
posted by arnicae at 11:14 AM on June 18, 2007

Search for "consulting fee" in AskMe. This has been discussed many times before. I posted a full guide to setting consulting fees in my profile (it's a self-link), since this topic seems to come up every few weeks.

If you're going to do an initial consultation for free, you'll want to think about how you'll do that without giving away your knowledge. You don't want to set them up to use your ideas/proposal to hire some kid to do it all for them. The trick is to keep the focus on asking questions and diagnosing their problems, rather than prescribing a solution.
posted by acoutu at 12:12 PM on June 18, 2007

i'd suggest seeking out the assistance of a consultant that is skilled and experienced in your field. You may be good at whatever it is you do but that doesn't mean you're good, or well prepared, at running a business profitably. I'm assuming you'll have a detailed business plan in place before embarking seriously on this, and of course you'll have to know what you'll charge/and expect to make in order to formulate this plan

look before you leap
posted by Salvatorparadise at 1:30 PM on June 18, 2007

If I were to hire you, I would want it to be "one stop shopping," rather than hiring you, and then having to find and hire a separate set of contractors to implement the work. I would want you to be, in effect, the general contractor for the job, and to write only one check -- to you, who would then hire, supervise, and pay the various sub-contractors. So if I were a potential customer of yours, I would want you to be both experienced and legal (bonded? certified? whatever is required) to take on that role. And as such, I would expect your prices to be broadly in line with what contractors and landscapers might charge, be it hourly or per-job or cost-plus or whatever.

Now, really I am not a potential customer for this business (needing neither landscaping nor disaster preparedness consulting), so discount what I'm saying appropriately. And if your client-base is going to be city managers or big companies or something else other than homeowners, then perhaps disregard totally. But if you are dealing with individual clients, then I think the more you can make your services turn-key or all-inclusive, the more attractive it will be.
posted by Forktine at 2:32 PM on June 18, 2007

Response by poster: The thing is, guys, from what I can tell, I'm the *only* person who has ever done this as a business. So I don't have a more experienced doyen of the trade from whom to glean the secrets of the universe- its just a great idea, and me.
posted by arnicae at 9:48 PM on June 18, 2007

I think that the majority of potential clients would be more comfortable with a set flat rate up front so they could weigh their own views of the benefit/cost of your offered service.

Supposing, hypothetically, that this proposed business involved vegetation management and preparation for disasterous fires. How would you insure your clients of the success of your service?
posted by X4ster at 10:26 PM on June 18, 2007

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