How to hire a freelance landscape designer
If you’re longing for that special outdoor setting to barbecue, play some footy and just plain relax, a freelance landscape designer can help you create the perfect setting at a fraction of the typical cost - whether you’re working with 20 square feet or 20 acres of land.
We’ll help you explore the different ways you can use a freelance landscape designer and why even a small plot of land could use some professional expertise.
What does a landscape designer do?
A landscape designer’s main task is to understand the vision, needs and requirements you have for your outside space, and then translate that vision via plans and sketches that detail what it will look like and what materials will be used.
The role of a landscape designer combines science and art. It's about bringing together the aesthetics and functionality of a building and connecting it to the outside world in the most natural way and in a manner that suits the project owner's vision or desired purpose.
Many landscape designers will also act as project manager, by hiring contractors to do the work, overseeing the construction and bringing the project to completion.
Services your freelance landscape designer might offer
Here are some of the services most landscape designers can perform:
Creating an initial concept or range of designs based on your requirements
Producing detailed sketches to scale, including all major and minor details of a landscape design project
Conducting site analyses, soil assessment, lighting, viewpoint/perspective, and taking into account the architecture of any surrounding properties to complement the designs
Managing communication among clients, contractors, or any other party on the landscaping team
Researching and understanding which plants work best in a specific climate or region, along with any codes or legal or regulatory guidelines that need to be followed
Producing and delivering presentations to discuss project options, choices, justifications, etc.
Performing adaptations or adjustments as required
Managing the project to ensure it runs on time and within budget
Where do freelance landscape designers work?
Freelance landscape designers work in commercial and residential properties and in both the public and private sectors. A freelance landscape designer will be a visionary, essentially designing the outdoor space from start to finish. Some examples include:
Community or communal spaces
What is the difference between a landscape designer and a landscape architect?
The biggest difference between a landscape designer and a landscape architect is that in order to legally be recognized as a landscape architect, you will need to have obtained a bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture.
This allows the credentialed architect to work on larger scale projects and projects involving complex economic, engineering, climate, political, cultural and zoning considerations.
Although requirements vary from one country, state or region to the next, most landscape architects must have gained their certification from a university and also hold a valid license before they can legally work on any projects using the title of architect.
A reputable landscape architect can work on both commercial and residential sites including outdoor spaces, resorts, campuses, gardens, transportation facilities, cemeteries, forested land, waterfront developments, and more.
Without the same credentials, landscape designers are somewhat more limited in what they can work on and therefore tend to work on individual residential projects.
Landscape architect accreditation requirements by country
Here is an example of accreditation a landscape architect needs in a sample of countries:
United States. A college for a landscape architect is typically accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects.
UK. Landscape architects need to obtain a relevant degree that is recognized by the Landscape Institute.
Australia. Landscape architects need to obtain a degree at a university that is accredited by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture, also known as the AILA.
Do I need a landscape architect?
A landscape designer without the “architect” accreditation is probably enough for most private residents.
It’s likely they will have taken courses or an apprenticeship to improve their skills in a specific area or skill set - making them the perfect fit for smaller, residential jobs.
In the unlikely scenario that your designer encounters an engineering challenge requiring assistance from someone credentialed, you or your designer can hire a landscape architect to assist where needed.
Hiring a Freelance Landscape Designer
The digital age has allowed some landscape designers to work 100% remotely. With the right blueprints, topographical maps, photos and video tours of your property, a landscape designer can design the layout, while hiring and managing local contractors to implement the plan.
Before hiring your designer, make sure their portfolio highlights their remote projects and ask them about their process of working remotely.
What can a well-designed landscape do for me?
A good freelance landscape designer will understand your vision of the ideal outdoor space. They will then bring that vision to life by landscaping the living element of your land like trees, shrubs and flowers (softscaping) and by incorporating non-living elements like rocks, cement and figurines (hardscaping).
Benefits of working with a landscape designer.
Aside from benefiting from their years of expertise and professional networks, hiring a freelance designer can give you a completely new perspective on your space and its potential. Here's a quick summary of the benefits of working with a professional landscape designer:
Affordable. A freelance landscape designer costs far less than using a professional landscape architect or company, especially if they operate online (saving on travel costs).
Thorough. They have access to many successful landscape design templates.
Efficient. Landscape designers know how to make the outside space in your home as functional as possible.
Valuable. Home improvements can often add value to your property, especially when done by a professional.
Resourceful. Landscape designers know the right features to use for the climate, maintenance requirements, budget, and aesthetics.
Connected. A freelance landscape designer will often have a professional network of other garden professionals and contractors they can call on to help get the work done to the highest standards.
Helpful. It can reduce stress to know there is a professional handling matters on your behalf.
How to find a freelance landscape designer
Once you have a rough idea of your end-goal, your budget, and your project must-haves, it’s time to begin your search.
In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to find a landscape designer on a site like Freelancer.
Upload your requirements and clearly define your needs when you post your project. You could receive dozens of bids from all around the world, so make sure you communicate your needs, ask for their professional opinion, review their costings and request to see any relevant credentials and samples of similar projects they’ve worked on in the past.
It’s important to choose a designer with whom you have good rapport. The importance of a healthy connection and clear lines of communication cannot be overstated.
Tips for working with a landscape designer or architect
Whether you choose to hire an online landscape designer or find a landscape designer locally, there are a few key tips we have outlined to help you know the best way to work with a landscape designer or architect.
Hire your landscape designer/architect early if you're building a new home
If you're building your home from scratch, consider hiring your landscape designer as early as possible in the process if your budget allows. If you’re building a house from the ground up, it’s best to have your building architect and landscape designer working together from the start, as both professionals will understand the interconnectivity between the building and it’s landscape.
If you don't already have an architect for your home, you can find freelance architects from around the world on Freelancer.
Get clear about your budget
Most people have a specific ceiling for the amount of money they want to spend on the total project, which of course includes your designer’s fee. Luckily, hiring a designer doesn’t have to take a huge bite out of your budget; freelance designers and designers who work 100% remotely are becoming more and more affordable.
Not to mention, the value of an attractive landscape can add as much as 15% to the overall property's worth according to research out of Virginia Tech. That’s nothing to scoff at!
Decide how much maintenance you want to put into your yard on an ongoing basis
Make sure your landscape designer knows how much money and time you’re willing to invest on an ongoing basis.
Are you somebody who is going to take great pleasure in tending to your outside space on a daily basis? Or are you away so much that you need your space to be self-sustaining? Avoid a pool or a pond if you won’t be able to maintain them yourself or you don’t have the budget to hire someone to do it for you.
Decide if you want any unique or specific features
It’s likely you’ll have a few “must haves”, or features that you want your outdoor space to include no matter what. If you barbeque often, you’ll probably want an outdoor cooking and dining area. If your kids are sporty, you might want a flat uninterrupted yard. Ponds, irrigation systems, lighting, exotic plants, sprawling walkways, sculptures, rock work, a putting green - the options are endless.
If you do want unique features, make sure your designer has experience installing or implementing them. You don’t want your landscape designer designing a putting green if they’ve never designed one before.
It’s always important to keep the lines of communication open with your designer - and today’s digital tools are making this easier than ever.
Most freelance landscape designers will use some form of planning software. Ask for unfettered access to their project timelines, and schedule regular progress meetings to ensure things are staying on track and on budget.
There are many great online tools to help you stay in touch, and it's good to agree early on how often you will catch up and how.
Your landscape designer will usually need to work with contractors and other professionals in order to get the physical work carried out at your property. That means either you or your designer will be hiring contractors from your local community -- depending on your arrangement.
It would be great if your designer has experience working in your locale, but it’s highly likely they do not. Before scoping out your work with the designer, make sure there are contractors in your area who can put those designs into action.
Give it a go
Hiring a landscape designer doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s better to talk with someone who can help you visualize your ideal outdoor space before paying someone to start moving dirt around while you’re still in the idea stage.
It doesn’t hurt to put some feelers out, talk to a few designers and see what options are available to you. The worst thing that happens is that you walk away with a little more clarity around what you want.
If you’re still unclear about what you want and don’t feel ready to talk to a designer, consider creating a mood board to help you organise your ideas and preferences.
Then jump right in and start to make your dreams a reality!