by Constantine Pergantis, Nite Lites, North Potomac, MD

There are many landscape professionals who know the benefits of outdoor lighting and actively promote it on a daily basis. It is an easy and safe way to increase your profit margins and separate you from the other contractors that are bidding against you. Your landscape design will increase the customer's enjoyment of the landscape and keep your name fresh in their minds. Incorporate a lighting plan with the landscape design. During your slow times contact customers and remind them of the benefits of such a system: safety, security, increased enjoyment, electrical savings and increased value to their homes.

Question 1: Contracting jobs

Question 2: Selling the job

Question 3: Charging for outdoor lighting

Question 1: Besides normal business contacts, how else can I contract jobs?

Pergantis: There are several ways you can increase your lighting business:

  • Showcase your business at local home and garden shows.
  • Contact or work in cooperation with swimming pool builders.
  • Lighting showroom sales people can be used as a contact resource.
  • Security alarm installation companies can refer business to you.
  • Deck and Patio contractors.
  • Local television shows.

    Question 2: How do I sell the job once I get the referral?

    Pergantis: Remember to always show confidence in your skills. Also remember to tell customers that anything can be adjusted to their liking as their tastes change: more fixtures added, wattages adjusted and placements changed. Have samples of quality fixtures with you at all times and be prepared to do night demonstrations (sales kits are available from most manufacturers). And lastly, be sure to photograph and catalog each job you do and keep a ready list of customer references.

    Question 3: How much should I charge for outdoor lighting?

    Pergantis: There are a couple of theories on how to charge for a professional installation. But remember, you are installing a system, not a bunch of flood lights. The overall effect is what sells, so do not get caught up in a debate over the home center kits.

    Some contractors give an installed price per fixture including the transformer and cable. Others break down each item and labor separately. Working by the hour, however, is usually not profitable. When you become proficient, the installation goes quickly, but you still have to keep other time spent in mind: demonstration, design, ordering, assembly, and possible call-backs.

    Maintenance contracts (if you are comfortable with them) can help you sell the system and add a little extra money as well. You have the advantage over an electrician installing a high-voltage system because you can say you are a designer, and, as the prime contractor, you will take better care during the installation.

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