24 Jun Working with Amateurs
By Mike Gambino
Everyone is earning less these days, including many landscape lighting service professionals. But believe it or not, we’re doing better than a lot of people in other lines of work, and they want a piece of our pie.
Starting a side business installing landscape lights can seem like a simple way to make ends meet for someone not in our industry. For example, schoolteachers have been hit hard in recent years. For educators who aren’t subject to layoffs, pay cuts have been severe. With three long months to fill in the summer, we’ve seen some teachers pick up a few fixtures and try to earn extra money on a lighting installation. In addition, college kids whose families may be struggling are also undercutting long-running landscape lighting businesses. These students don’t have a warehouse to stock with lighting materials, and they don’t employ a highly trained year-round staff, lack proper and required licensing and insurance so their price is much lower.
Landscapers and Electricians are probably the largest group of sideliners who dabble in landscape lighting usually not enough of it per year to become proficient and really good at it.
This practice hurts our industry in multiple ways. First, of course, we stand to lose business when we can’t even be in the same ballpark cost wise. More damaging to our culture as a whole, however, is that untrained landscape lighting service providers are prone to simple mistakes and don’t always know what a homeowner expects when it comes to landscape lighting. I knew of one such moonlighter who didn’t make proper wire connections and one of their installations burned a wooden deck down which could have spread to the attached home had it not been contained in time. This gives the industry a bad reputation as a whole. We have to be known as specialists in what we do.
The way to do that and defend our earnings is education. This is a highly technical industry, and that technology is always advancing especially recently with the development and improvement of LED lighting.
In order to keep up, we attend trade shows constantly and fund the continuing education of our employees. We also study industry message boards for ideas and emerging trends, all manufacturer supplied study materials even from those that we don’t recommend or use.
So how do you detect an amateur? It’s not that difficult. Typically their advertising will be heavily laced with FREE offers. Free estimates, free nighttime demo’s. Free consultation etc. If they have all this free time to work for no pay without guarantee of being hired then they must not be too busy.
In the case of electricians, you want to steer clear of those who offer loss leaders like recessed lights installed for $49 each. How good do you think a $49 recessed light is going to be? Nobody can install a fixture for $49 and not lose money. These come ons are designed to get the electrician in your home where they can practice the hard up sell. Sometimes making dubious safety claims regarding the electrical system of your home. Most of these techs work on commission so their main goal is to increase the ticket to as high as possible because they are getting a percentage of it.
Landscapers who offer to throw in landscape lighting for free as part of their landscaping project should be a huge red flag. Quality landscape lighting is not cheap and a free or thrown in system included to seal a landscaping deal will not perform or last.
With the economy in its current state you as a landscape lighting buyer need to do your due diligence before hiring anyone for your project.
There are plenty of cheap installers and cheap products out there just waiting to make a victim out of you.
This previous blog post can assist you in making sure that doesn’t happen. http://gambinolighting.com/2011/02/16/the-scary-aspects-of-led/
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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