How to take a client brief for a landscaping project

June 05, 2016

Usually, by the time a homeowner is calling a landscaper, they have at least a vague idea of what they want. It might be a complete overhaul of the yard, or just some upkeep such as tree removal or adding a much needed retaining wall.

What they often don’t know is how to go about getting this done. Who they should talk to, what information they need to provide and how much of this job they should just do themselves. If this is their first time engaging with a landscaper, they also probably won’t have much idea about what kind of costs to expect – which means you won’t simply be providing a quote but also a bit of an explanation about what it is that a landscaper does and why costs might vary slightly from what is in their minds.

For some people, it’s quite a shock to discover landscaping is more than garden upkeep. They don’t take irrigation, hardscape, retaining walls or fences into consideration. Or even the excavation and removal of the old, overgrown yard if they are doing a full job. They might think they can simply hire a skip and get things done for themselves.

When working with a new client on a landscaping brief, give them the following tips:

Be realistic

From budget to what’s logistically possible through to expected timeframes; there may be some areas that your client isn’t being realistic about. It is never nice to hear that what you have in mind isn’t realistic, but it’s a conversation that has to happen and is better done early in the process.

Ask your client to try working on a wish list of what it is they want, and then get them to break that down into things that they absolutely can’t live without, and things that could be given up if needed. Talk them through their list of must-haves and give an indication of scope of work and prices on those items, just so they have a rough idea of what they are looking at. If the costs are sounding too high for them, remind them that landscaping accounts for about 15 percent of a homes value when it is time to sell. That’s certainly worth investing in!

The other area they need to be realistic with is timing. Landscaping doesn’t happen overnight – it’s not a matter of planting some shrubs and weeding the garden bed. There is a lot of other work involved such as drainage and possible excavation – the kind of work that you don’t see in the end result but takes a lot of effort up front.

Also make sure you ask the client how much maintenance they want to commit to once the landscaping is finished. If they want to keep maintenance as basic and low as possible, keep that in mind when they make their plant choices.

Use pictures

Ask your client to take a walk around the neighbourhood or local nursery and take pictures of things they like. It is so much easier to understand what people are after if you can see actual examples. Don’t forget that your clients may not know the right words for the plants they like, so having pictures and examples can keep everyone on the same page.

Make sure you take a meeting on site, so you can understand the scope of what needs to be done. This will also mean you get to know your client and their lifestyle and can see how the space will be used. Visiting the site will also give you a great idea of exactly what type of materials would suit the location, the space and the personality of the family.

Present a concept plan

A concept plan is like a rough draft of the final plan; an intermediate plan that can be viewed so everyone can make sure they are on track and all agree with the direction the plans are going in.

Let your client know what to expect in the concept plan stage, which is:

  • A proposed landscape design
  • Pictures of the kinds of plants and materials that will be used
  • An outline of spacing, themes and hard and soft landscaped areas

This is a good chance for the client to see what is in your head after their initial briefing. It is the best opportunity for them to let you know if you’ve missed the mark on any of the brief so far. Once you have both ironed out some details, you can move on to the final plans.

Final plan

The final plan is the one you are aiming to get signed off by the client. This plan will be like the concept plan but have more technical detail. The final plan will include details of any excavation or construction that needs to take place, elevations, lighting and of course the final plant selection. This plan should be comprehensive enough for all parties to be able to sign off and begin work from.