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Janine Pattison: How to survive and thrive as a garden designer

When it comes to money, getting what you deserve isn’t always as easy as it should be in the garden industry. Janine Pattison offers some tips on persuading clients to pay up.

Surviving as a garden designer can be difficult. Some clients will be unwilling to pay a fee for what they consider to be something that you enjoy and should be doing for nothing. Agreeing decent fees and then actually getting the money in once the work complete can be a struggle.

Some clients will always be difficult to get money from and will invent all sorts of reasons not to pay you. My advice is to make sure that you have agreed beforehand what you are providing and what the fees are. I recommend a signed contract to be in place before you start work. And always take a deposit up front.

Try and make sure your contract covers you for as much as possible. JPS Landscape Design completed a design for a project and the client suddenly sold the property and didn’t want to pay for the design.

Developing your paperwork will take years and it is worth getting it checked over by a legal professional. This ensures that you close as many loopholes as possible. Some clients positively enjoy looking for inventive ways to avoid paying your invoices. If you haven’t followed your procedures to the letter and you end up in court, you are likely to come unstuck.

The legendary Mark Gregory of Landform Consultants once told me: “Approach every project as if it will end up in court. Then you ensure that your paperwork is up to scratch and you are thoroughly prepared if you have a problem getting paid.”

Joining one or several of the professional bodies in our industry is a very good idea. The below are leading bodies to consider for professional membership, training, support groups and networking.

  • The Society of Garden Designers (SGD)
  • The British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI)
  • The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL)

The various association publications are always a cover to cover read at JPS Landscape Design.

Once you have joined a professional body you will have access to numerous resources. This include contract templates, downloadable Ts&Cs, and BALI members have access to a free legal advice helpline.

Resolving a dispute can be time consuming and distracting. I recommend that you attempt mediation before launching into legal action.

The Government service Money Claim Online is a quick, simple and cost effective way to help you get payment. So long as you have all your paperwork in hand then you can start the process off online and a chain of events is set in motion. We have used it several times after other efforts have failed and been successful every time. Often starting the process will focus the mind of your recalcitrant client. Nobody wants County Court Judgements (CCJs) against them as they seriously damage one’s credit rating.

About

Janine Pattison MSGD is a multi award-winninggarden designer and horticulturalist. She trained with English Heritage at Eltham Palace in London and at Kingston Maurward College in Dorchester. A registered member of the Society of Garden Designers, the British Association of Landscape Industries and the Garden Media Guild, Janine is also a highly qualified RHS horticulturalist.

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