Starting your garden design career

Some of you will be studying with the Academy simply to use the skills and knowledge you will learn to improve your own gardens. However, many of you are dreaming of a blossoming career in garden design. Our courses will certainly help you to make the very best of your own space but if your dream is to get started in the industry, we will also show you how to achieve this.

This is the first blog in a series designed to help you in your new and exciting career. The blogs are based on my personal experience as a garden designer and will start by looking at your initial meeting with a potential client to forming your designs, dealing with contractors and overseeing project construction.


Your first steps to a successful garden design career

To be a successful garden designer requires passion, knowledge, creative skills and most importantly, good presentation skills. You must translate your ideas into a format that your client will understand and be excited by. Your ultimate goal is persuade them to commission the garden build.

Our courses here at the Academy will give you a solid base of knowledge and the skills needed to be a garden designer. Our aim is to go further and encourage and nurture your passion for creativity. After nearly 20 years’ experience in designing gardens and implementing garden designs of all shapes and sizes, there are a number of hints and tips I have gained along the way that will hopefully be very useful.


Preparing for your first meeting with a client

So, let’s start at the beginning. You have received a call or an email from an interested client and you have arranged to meet at their home to discuss their needs. You are filled with dread, excitement and anticipation. I still get nervous when I am meeting a new client but the secret is to never let that show.

Put yourself in the client’s position, what are they looking for? Firstly, they are looking for someone that they can have full confidence in. They want to be certain that you know what you are doing, as they will have to trust you with their hard-earned money and live with whatever you create for years to come. However, in my experience, the client wants something more – they want to see your passion. They should leave your first meeting feeling more excited about the possibilities you have shown them than they could have ever imagined.


So, how on earth do you do this?

1.     Dress to impress

Your appearance will set the tone for the meeting. Think about how you want to present yourself and wear clothes appropriate for that look. Remember that you are a garden designer, not a gardener, so dress in a professional way that makes you feel confident.

2.     Be punctual

If I have a meeting at 3.15pm, my client’s doorbell rings at 3.15pm and not a minute earlier or later. Do this and you will instantly give a good impression. In my early days as a garden designer, I would show up early and wait around the corner just so I could be exactly on time. That might sound crazy, but my punctuality always left an impression. I am, by the way, late for everything else in my life!

3.     Be prepared

Practice what you are going to say. What points do you need to get across about yourself? What you can do for them? Know your rates, after all, the most important thing is always money.

4.     Bring your portfolio

Your portfolio is a collection of your past work that will demonstrate to your client that you are experienced and good at what you do. It can be a collection of drawings and photos of past work.

Now this one can be tricky, especially as you probably won’t have that much to show your clients in the early days of your career. However, by the time you finish this course, you will have completed many garden designs, mood boards and construction drawings. Keep them all and make them presentable in a single folder. If you don’t have any images of past projects, you can always bring some good photos of your own garden. Get these increased to A4 size so they look more impressive.

5.     Smile

Above all else, a potential client needs to like you. You will be working together for a long time and if they are not comfortable with you, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are, they will never employ you. Don’t forget, a smile goes a long way!

Please check back for my next blog which will look at the first meeting in more detail, including how to deliver your pitch and how to close the deal.

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Written by: Andrew Christopher Dunne

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