Great, so now you’ve decided whether it’s a garden designer, landscape contractor or design and build company that’s right for you. So how do you go about finding ‘The One’ and when you do, what should you ask them? These are good questions and ones most people ask me. Here are some ways to find people, things you should ask them when you meet and some things you should be aware of.
So how do you actually go about finding these people?
– The best way ideally is a personal recommendation from someone. It could be a friend, relative, neighbour or even someone you chat to at the school gate. Ask them about their experience of the person they used and crucially, if they were starting their project from the beginning again, would they use the same person.
– Often neighbours or someone in your street is having work done and this is an ideal opportunity to take a look. You may not want the kind of design that they are having done but you will be able to see the quality of the designer or contractor’s work first hand.
– Often you can find a designer or contractor by spotting their car or van with their logo and details parked outside someone’s house. Feel free to ring the doorbell where the work is being done and ask the owners about the service they’re receiving and experience they’ve had.
– The internet now is one of the key ways to find these people. Often previous clients have posted reviews on google or other websites. Reading these gives you a quick and easy way to find out what some of their previous clients thought about them. Most designers and contractors have websites now, showing the work they have done. Have a good look at this prior to meeting them.
So,once you picked some of these people to meet,what should you ask them?
– How long have they been in this line of business?
– Are they affiliated to any professional bodies or have they undertaken any formal training in the case of garden designers or design and build companies? Where and for how long?
– Are they happy to give you references that you can contact?
– How far ahead are they booked up? Ideally, autumn is the best time to get in touch as all the design work can be done at this time of year followed by a winter build and planting in the spring. See if their commitments fit with what you would like.
So, what else?
At that meeting a tight brief of what you are looking for should be taken by the professional. They should also bring up the question of your budget at this stage. This is not a question designed to trick you into parting with more cash than you want to. It’s essential for the professional to have the opportunity to see if you have a realistic budget to match your brief. They should be able if your budget is not realistic to explain why not and how much roughly you would need to get what you want. Speak to two or three professionals and you will hopefully be told a consistent story. A good professional will be able to help you align your budget with what you want from your garden. This may be advising that you need a landscape contractor rather than a garden designer or managing your choice of materials and hard-landscaping versus soft landscaping to reduce your costs.
– Always have a contract with whoever you engage. I cannot stress enough the importance of this. I always have a contract with my clients, not because I think they won’t pay but rather for absolute clarity in terms of what they have asked for and my fees and terms and conditions. It is easy for miscommunication to happen and this is a straightforward solution to prevent that.
Regardless of how impressive someone’s portfolio is, there are some other things you should consider before engaging anyone:
– Do you get a good feeling about the person you may be engaging when you first meet them?
– You may, like many of my clients be out all day at work. This may mean you give a set of your house keys to a contractor while they are working on the garden build. It is paramount that you feel the contractors are trustworthy and that you know that you can do this without worry.
– When you ask for references, are they willing to give you names & contact details of previous clients or do they appear reluctant?
– Could you stand having them around your property for the time it takes to do the work? Some projects run on for months.
– Do they have professional insurance if anything were to go wrong?
There may be other questions that come to mind and in your initial conversation with anyone you should feel free to ask them. Often who you end up choosing is not solely based on price but whether or not you ’get on’ and feel that not only are you on same wavelength as that person but that they will deliver the end result that you are looking for. You know then that you have found ‘The One’.