Q : I’ve never used the services of a garden designer - I’m not sure how to go about it?
The best thing is to pick out three or four websites that most appeal to you and simply make a call/send an e-mail. It is then up to each designer to explain how they work (we all have slightly different ways of working and charging) and whether their services meet your needs. You will soon start to get a feel for whether they are right for you. All good designers will be happy to provide references and/or arrange a site visit to one of their recent projects.
Q : I’ve no idea how much designers charge?
Both the amount and structure of fees varies widely, so you need to be careful when comparing costs. Check for hidden extras, and make sure to ask if they charge VAT (I don’t!). As with anything, you tend to get what you pay for, and very cheap design fees should be viewed with a degree of caution.
Q : What if I don't like their work?
Assuming you have seen their portfolio you will know if you like the general style of the designer, so providing they take the time to get a thorough brief before commencing, and providing you are clear about your likes and dislikes with them at an early stage, then it really shouldn’t be a problem. Good communication on both sides is really key to the success of a project.
Q : I've no idea how much to budget for the whole project?
In my experience people are often loathe to disclose their budget and often vastly under-estimate how much it will cost. When this happens it inevitably leads to disappointment. My advice is to be upfront with your designer about your budget. They are unlikely to be in a position to give accurate costs at the initial meeting but they will at least be able to say if your budget is in the right ballpark.