Solving design dilemmas

Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company.

The entrepreneurial nature of the landscape industry creates an environment ripe with opportunities and financial success. Growth is at your fingertips if jobs, employees and company vision are in alignment.

Along with opportunity comes challenges. Surely, you’ve run into roadblocks that threatened to derail your growth plans. Have you ever experienced one of the following situations?

  1. Your design/build company is growing. You’re receiving more and more new client leads asking for design services and your production team is working like a fine-tuned engine. You’re wondering if this is the time to bring on another landscape designer to add to your team.
  2. It’s the middle of spring. Your landscape maintenance clients are asking for enhancements to improve their properties. Your account managers barely have time to breathe, much less do small designs for enhancements. You are debating whether you need to hire a full-time designer to support your account managers.
  3. You’re having a great year. Your lead times are good, your volume and profits are going up in unison and you continue to generate sales leads and great referrals from past clients. You could see adding another design salesperson as well as an installation crew to take the next step in the growth of your business. You also see storm clouds on the horizon with the potential of a recession in the next 18 months or so. Do you really want to add overhead now if you believe a recession is on the way?

The answer to each of these dilemmas could be the same. You may be able to solve each situation by having a freelance designer help you out of your jams. There are several ways to make it happen.

  • Keep a designer on retainer and use them when needed. 
  • Hire a contract designer who may work for you on a short-term basis. 
  • Pay a designer on an hourly basis where you only pay for time spent designing. This cost can be passed on to the client either in design fees or as part of the lump sum cost of the project.

The beauty of using a freelance designer is that you haven’t added more long-term overhead to your financials either in salaries or in benefits. An added benefit could be that you find that the freelance designer is a great fit for your company and you may end up hiring them full time. Essentially, you have “test driven” the designer before making a long-term investment.

I compare it to what is happening in our “gig economy.” I’m sure you have all used the ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber. Why buy a car when you may only need to drive it occasionally? You would hate to buy an expensive vehicle and then watch it sit in your parking lot unused. In the same vein, you wouldn’t want to add an expensive employee only to see them sit idle much of the offseason.

If using a freelance designer sounds like a solution for your added design needs, where do you go to find that help? There are a few avenues you can explore to find the right person to help you.

  1. Search online for independent designers in your area.  
  2. Contact your state or national landscape association to see if they have a list of freelance designers. 
  3. Consulting firms may have design professionals that work with them.

I encourage you to look “outside the box” when it comes time to solving your landscape design dilemmas.

Contact Jud Griggs at

October 2019
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