10 Tips on Launching Your Own Garden Design Studio
Written by: Caroline Kamp
I graduated on the KLC Garden Design Diploma in December 2017 and established my business straight away. As the process is so fresh in my mind I thought I would share some of the insights I have gleaned over the past few months.
1) Start before you’re ready.
I’ve stolen this quote from Steven Pressfield, author of a book called ‘The War of Art’ which explores, with humour, the internal obstacles to success. The full quote is: ‘Start before you’re ready. Good things happen when we start before we’re ready’. I have this stuck up above my desk. You will never feel ready, you just have to start doing it and you will find that you learn very quickly along the way. #
2) Ask questions.
If you don’t know something – ask! People in the garden industry are generally a pretty friendly bunch, they want to help you, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send an email. Having this kind of can do attitude will get you a long way.
3) Nuts and bolts.
Get professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance, set up a business bank account, register your business as a limited company and get to grips with contracts. Do the boring but important administrative stuff early on so it’s out of the way when your jobs start coming in and you don’t have time for it.
Learn Vectorworks, stop moaning about it and just learn it. Nobody enjoys it until one day you suddenly realise you like it more than you hate it and you are filled with an unexpected feeling of affection towards a programme you have spent so much time cursing. Ditto SketchUp and Photoshop. Start using them too, or at least find someone who can.
First impressions count so you need to think about how you present yourself and that means how you talk to people, how you write your emails, how you present your ideas to your clients. Keep it all consistent and you will look and sound professional. That’s one battle won right there.
The devil is in the detail. Always remember this. Measure it, measure it again. Listen to your clients and take notes, you may think you’ll remember what they said but you won’t. Take a lot of photographs on site as you will refer to them endlessly later, and file them on your computer where you can find them again.
It is important to think about this early on, even while you are still studying, and stick with it. Get a logo, get a social media account and start posting on it. Find the one that’s right for you whether it’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. But don’t feel you have to use all of them; one done well is better than three done poorly.
The bulk of garden designers recommendations come through word of mouth, so get out there and start talking to people. Tell everyone you know what you are doing, join the SGD (Society of Garden Designers), join your local garden design group, meet landscapers, get their email addresses, and email them.
9) Get paid.
Do not underestimate your worth. People seem to expect gardens to be designed for nothing so be clear on fees from the start. Don’t give your ideas away for free. Make sure you get paid for your designs.
10) Get outside.
It can be easy to forget this one which is actually the most important thing of all. You are a garden designer so you need to get outside and away from your computer. You can’t learn about plants from the internet.
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