Since I was 6 years old I have been landscaping I have a landscape architecture degree from Cornell. I am 38 and am very well respected in my field and have had my own business for 15 years with 9 employees currently. The majority of my protects we build are 50-200 thousand dollars. I really can’t afford to change careers financially
Why am I burned out; rich people who complain, throw tantrums, find reasons not to pay their bill, miss treat my employees and so on. It really mind boggling the way wealthy people in general treat others. It is common for people to call at 9:30 pm and get angry they didn’t get a response until 8am
Adam they make it your problem, but it’s their problem. I know that doesn’t make it sting less. Not paying bills is both unfair and unjust, causing unnecessary distress and worry.
Attacking your staff is also very personal.
I can only pray that you can find some detachment from their rantings and unreasonable demands, because you and your employees are doing your best.
That’s easier said than done, but do you think that you and your employees can get together and brainstorm healthy ways to cope with this unwarranted stress?
Congratulations on a successful established creative business.
Here’s an idea that might help you feel more fulfilled in your career.
There are a lot of “poor” people who don’t have the money for landscaping or even the most simple of gardening.
These people aren’t necessarily the “poor” in the sense that they have nothing, but they are “poor” because their mortgage went upside-down during the housing crisis, or perhaps one of the spouses lost their job and never found another job that pays as well as their first, or perhaps someone in the family got sick (serious) and the family doesn’t have the money/time to spend working on their yard.
Find some of these families, and then provide a simple and easy-to-maintain landscaping at no charge or greatly reduced charge. Perhaps you can use these projects to train some of your new hires or interns. Or ask the university if they have students who need some practical experience (it will help them to get jobs after they graduate).
You will feel so good after you do this work. You’ll help not only the “poor” family, but the entire town/city, as a lovely landscaping enhances the beauty of neighborhoods.
And you’ll get a tax break, too!
If you’d like, you could also help the truly poor, but many of these people live in rental units or public housing, and there is often only concrete or a very small swathe of yard. But perhaps you can see potential in this and find a way to help them make it look pretty. Again, this helps them and the entire city/town.
One final possibility is offering to help the youth of your community. Is there some way that you could volunteer to help them learn the basics of your business? I think a lot of young people would enjoy learning how to plan a basic landscaping design. Also, since you own your own business, you could help them learn the basics of running a business. There used to be an organization called Junior Achievement; I think it’s gone, but you could find whatever organization replaced it.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you and others.
Coming from my perspective, I am in the “poor” category. We’re a young family, we have a very small home that we love and we do our best to make it look nice and reflect us, but we don’t have any money. Our account is going negative every month. But wow, if a landscaper were to give me a hand and show me how to do some inexpensive but attractive tricks, I would be SO happy about it!! I’ll bet there are a lot of people who aren’t just looking for freebies but would love to learn how to fish (do it themselves), if you know what I mean.
And for what it’s worth, Junior Achievement (JA) is still around!
Can you downsize your lifestyle so that you can be pickier about clients? (I bet you can see the really bad ones from a mile away right now.) It sounds like you make a lot of money–figure out how to hold onto more of it, and you’ll be able to live comfortably on a little less so you can afford not to take bad projects.
Also, maybe have an interview going in where you explain–business hours are between 8 and 6 Monday thru Friday (or similar). Barring a genuine landscaping emergency, that’s when I am available to talk.
Another possibility that comes to mind is that these “rich” people don’t actually have cash in hand. It’s possible to be broke at all income levels (see Nicholas Cage, Michael Jackson, or any number of recently retired pro athletes). You might wish to make sure that a client actually has appropriate funds on hand before beginning work.
If you still get a bad one, remember that it’s OK to say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way. We’ll talk about this tomorrow when you’re feeling better. Or we can talk about this in 30 minutes if you feel up to it.”
Consider teaching a continuing education night class at a community college for the public–the college would probably be thrilled to have you, and you’d meet a better class of people (in terms of respect for the demands of your profession and your qualifications) and have a little variety in your life and a chance to recharge.
Maybe consider doing more commercial or non-profit projects? There’s more complexity and responsibility, but at the same time, people have a lot more detachment when it’s not their money they’re spending.
Put some thought into figuring out how to get paid in appropriate increments so you’re not left holding the bag too badly. There’s a whole science to this–maybe do some more research on it and talk to other tradesmen (not necessarily landscape architects)? Amy Johnston has written a book on this intended for the customer (the title is something like"What the “Experts” May Not Tell You About Building and Renovating a House") and a lot of the book is devoted to very, very carefully doling out funds. Presumably the same is true from your point of view, too–you need to dole out the work you do so you don’t do too much without getting paid. There are probably books and articles on the subject for the tradesman, as getting paid for their work is a matter of lively interest.
Also, build up your savings so that you have more power to say “no” to bad projects and the ability to weather bumps in the cash flow.
Dave Ramsey can probably give you a lot of inspiration on this stuff.
Have you considered raising your rates a bit (particularly for the high-maintenance types)? If you turn away 1/2 of your clients, you can probably afford to do that.
Are you sure you are actually living simply? As I recall, you mentioned in a previous post that you make low six figures. Or, to put it differently–you may be living simply, but is the rest of your household?
We must have the same clients. I do the civil engineering design. At least you get the satisfaction of actually getting out there and making something tangible. My work usually ends when the plans are finished and I’m lucky to get an hour or two site visit in during and after construction. I just don’t take the calls after hours anymore and if the guy looks type A at the start I sometimes even tell them that up front. They can scream if they like, but if you learn to let it just flow off you what sometimes happens is that they just needed to vent and then they’re over it.
It stinks, but I suspect it’s getting to be true in more and more fields. There are just more jerks out there than there used to be. Worse, they tend to think you’re their servant and can abuse you as they see fit. The best thing for a bully is still to stand up to him. Even if we’re not in school anymore.
Maybe try to work into your quote process an interview in which you discuss your business philosophy. “I try to cultivate business relationships in which both sides benefit from the transactions. I love making beautiful landscapes, it’s a passion, not a cash cow. I’m not trying to exploit people and I have little patience for those who try to exploit me. I won’t kid you and say I don’t make money at it. I’m very good at what I do and I charge fair professional rates for my experience and talents. I won’t compete on price with the guy who installs the same boilerplate 12 plants on every site and doesn’t spend any time thinking about it. If you want his price, use his company. Don’t worry, I’m not always this grumpy, I just find it’s necessary to set ground rules and mutual expectations up front!”
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