1. Houzz Pro Learn
  2. Pro Success Stories
  3. Contractors

Landscape Designer Travis Wyatt Plans for Success

Having a detailed plan well in advance of work helps this pro provide superior quality and build strong relationships

Houzz Pro

Travis Wyatt is all about making projects work in the real world, not just on paper. The founder and sole proprietor of Unique Outdoor Designs, which currently serves mostly Arizona and California, Travis uses his construction background to create custom landscape designs that his high-end clients love. Here he shares the key factors behind his success, along with the tools he uses on all of his projects.

Building a Design Career

Before Travis opened his landscape design firm, he was in construction. But “I always had a passion for designing,” he says. “Ever since I started with the construction company, I always did my own designs, and back in the day — 2005, 2006 — it was all pencil and paper. We drew all of our site plans, and I always enjoyed it.”

This construction expertise gives him an edge over competitors, he says. “Some things look great on paper, but when you try to implement it in the field, a lot of times it doesn’t match up. What we’re designing, though, I’ve actually built myself or seen built or been involved in the construction. So we know it can be built exactly how we designed it, with minimal revisions or on-site meetings needed because some things aren’t lining up or matching up.”

In fact, he now counts builders and developers among his clientele, along with homeowners.

Cultivating Connections

Travis gets to know his clients well right from the start. “I love listening to the client and not just designing something that I think they’re going to like, but actually designing what they’re envisioning in their head,” he says. This is especially important because of the nature of his landscaping work. “We don’t do basic jobs,” Travis says. Most of our stuff is very custom — unique to the client’s goals and visions.” Moreover, “a lot of the times our clients will hire us after we’ve done the design work,” he adds, “to stick around through construction and meet with their contractors and their developers on a monthly basis, to make sure that what’s being constructed is matching what our plans call for.”

This focus on creating connections extends to subcontractors as well. “We have a very large network of builders and contractors,” Travis says. “Everyone from start to finish. Everything you could think of that would go outdoors, we’ve got connections with licensed contractors for. We can introduce clients to them and help them piece together a good schedule and make sure that those guys are doing what they’re supposed to. It definitely keeps me involved with the client, which helps us to make sure that they’re happy.”

Planning Is Key

Along with building connections with clients and subcontractors, Travis stresses the importance of detailed planning. “Everything starts with a good plan,” he says. “If our plan is detailed, then everything usually goes smoothly. Anything that needs to be changed is usually because the client wants to add something, because they’re having such a good experience. We’re not making changes because things aren’t working right; it’s usually because they’re happy and they want to add things.”

As the sole proprietor of Unique Outdoor Designs, how does Travis plan efficiently? “I use Houzz Pro,” he says. “We have all of our projects listed in there, and I try to go through that every morning and go through each project. If there are any tasks that need to be completed for that project, I make sure that they’re handled.”

He especially loves Houzz Pro’s invoicing feature. “It’s fantastic,” he says. “We used to use a merchant account, and it was like a third party outside of our bank. It was a nightmare.… Everything is done through Houzz Pro [now], and it’s easy to keep track of everything — the job costs, the workflow payments, where the job is at with budgets. It’s really cool.”  

He also appreciates how simple Houzz Pro software is to use. “I’ve used other software in the past, and the Houzz software is built for what I do — and it doesn’t have pages and pages of other things that just confuse you that you don’t need,” he says.

Facing Challenges Head-On

Travis says that although pandemic-related manufacturing and shipping delays seem to be receding, unavoidably higher prices are front and center. “The cost to do an average backyard pre-COVID was, say, $150,000. That exact same backyard is now $250,000-plus, and clients aren’t getting anything more,” he says. “It’s the exact same thing their neighbor built three years ago. They’re getting it, but they’re spending 40%, 50% more — and that’s because supply costs, material costs, and labor costs have gone up.”

Although most of his clients are wealthy, meaning price hikes for landscaping work are less of a concern for them, Travis says it can be a challenge explaining the value of his services to potential clients when they’re shopping around for designers — “getting a client to understand the value of what I can provide if they’re trying to compare apples to apples and wondering why my cost so much higher than someone else’s cost,” he says. “They just see the dollar that they’re going to spend [with each designer] and think they’re getting the same product when really they’re not. That’s probably one of the toughest things.”

How does he handle it? “We try to explain to our clients that they’re getting a higher-level product, and they’re going to pay more for it,” he says. “And most of our clients don’t bat an eye. They sign up, and we do the job.”

Free Advice

For anyone looking to get into the landscape design business, Travis has one word of advice: “Experience,” he says. “Go out and watch the jobs being built. Be as involved as you can with the construction side of it, because you can read books and watch videos all day long, but until you actually immerse yourself in each process of it, you’ll never understand it. Being as involved in the construction as possible will definitely help to grow your knowledge of the industry.”

He also believes transparency and good communication skills are essential qualities any designer needs to be successful. “We don’t hide anything from our clients as far as pricing or timelines,” he says. “We don’t set expectations that can’t be met. We don’t mark up things; we have our fees, and we make our money based on those. There’s no reason to try to hide numbers here and there. Transparency with your client creates a great trusting relationship, which can lead to a lot more work.”

And of course, he emphasizes the power of dedicated software for all of that crucial project planning. “Give it a try,” he says. “I’ve told lots of people about Houzz Pro. Most of these project management softwares have so much involved that I don’t use half of it or 70% of it, and it’s just confusing. I like how simple Houzz Pro is.”

Going forward, Travis hopes to expand Unique Outdoor Designs beyond Arizona and California. “My ultimate goal is to just design high-end projects all over,” he says. “We’re really pushing that and making those contacts. Just trying to get in with the right people so that we can be part of a great team building these huge projects and creating these environments for these people.”

With his real-world construction background, landscape design experience and expert planning skills supported by the right software, it seems like Travis is perfectly set up to achieve that goal.

Houzz Pro

Enjoy 24/7 client dashboards, easy online payments and a whole lot more for a whole month.

Houzz Pro is the all-in-one tool for marketing, project and client management built specifically for remodeling, build, and design professionals.

Comments (0)

Join the conversation by commenting or asking a question below. The Houzz team reads every single comment, and we’ll get back to you by email if you need us!

Want advice delivered to your inbox?

Unlock industry insights and updates for contractors and design pros

By signing up, I agree to the Houzz Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and that Houzz may use my information to contact me about relevant content, products, and services.