Episode 1609- Running a Profitable Permaculture Consulting Practice
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (15.6MB)
Phil Williams is a permaculture consultant, designer, and author. He spent a decade in the landscape industry. After selling his business in 2007, he trained as a home energy auditor and building analyst. He began organic gardening in 2008, before learning about permaculture in 2010.
He’s since taken two PDC’s, and built a demonstration site in central PA where he’s installed 4 ponds, a gray water system, 1500 trees and shrubs, 2000 linear foot of swales, 80 linear feet of hugelkultur, and an apiary. Currently, he consults on local and remote projects as well as the business side of permaculture contracting.
He Joins Us Today To Discuss…
- Getting a project started right
- The limits of observation on a client site
- The important details that need gathering that are often overlooked
- The actual production of design documentation
- The limits and value of “artistic ability” as a designer
- Taking the design though to installation
- Sourcing labor and remaining profitable
- Weighing out hiring out labor vs. self provided client labor
- Sourcing difficult to get or seasonal materials
- Timing installations and plantings properly
- The biggest challenges as a consultant and installer
- Developing maintenance business, niche industries and more
Resources for today’s show…
- Join the Members Brigade
- The Year 1609
- Join Our Forum
- Walking To Freedom
- TSP Gear
- The Duck Chronicles – Video Series
- Backwoods Home – (sponsor of the day)
- Harvest Eating – (sponsor of the day)
Remember to comment, chime in and tell us your thoughts, this podcast is one man’s opinion, not a lecture or sermon. Also please enter our listener appreciation contest and help spread the word about our show. Also remember you can call in your questions and comments to 866-65-THINK (866-658-4465) and you might hear yourself on the air.
Want Every Episode of TSP Ever Produced?
Remember in addition to discounts to over 40 vendors who supply stuff you are likely buying anyway, tons of free ebooks and video content, MSB Members also get every edition of The Survival Podcast ever produced in convenient zip files in blocks of 24. More info on the MSB can be found here.
I just completed Geoff Lawton’s online PDC this year (my 2nd overall), and am currently taking on some clients for free permaculture consultations to build a portfolio before transitioning to paying clients. So this episode probably couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for me. I really like the stuff that Phil is doing and he’s an excellent person to use as a role model for anyone looking to establish a permaculture design consulting business — I follow his work on the Peak Prosperity website regularly. Thanks for putting out this show and bringing him back as a repeat guest.
Looking for a consultant on a new permaculture site in Young county
Is Young County in PA? I looked it up, and only found Young Township.
@ Phil Williams — Young County comes up in Texas.
I think Nick Ferguson is in Texas.
I am in North Louisiana but a significant portion of my work is done in TX. That’s not too far from where Jack lives. I’m up to Jack’s place multiple times a year.
My consulting however not as free as Chris’ I’m sure 😛
Now this is a great guest! Glad you are back to work Jack;-)
Chris & Scott
Thank you guys for the kind words.
Good luck with the consulting. We need more people like you out there helping people to build healthy ecosystems.
Great episode! Thanks Jack & Phil!
Thanks Nick! I love the work you’re doing with Permaculture Classroom.
Great interview. It sparked many ideas I may need to incorporate in the future as my business goes forward. Phil your website is a wealth of knowledge that you should be proud of.
Thank you John!
This was a very informative interview, i have a couple of items id like some clarification on. In regard to the statement about the inaccuracy of contour information gleaned via google earth /google maps using the terrain feature: Through testing over several project sites I’ve determined the average inaccuracy to be 8″ using alta surveys for comparison. I felt that this was insignificant for design purpose acknowledging that field conditions always dictate modifications to the design during installation. Can you elaborate further on what problems you had when doing this. My other observation concerns the statement about the designer not “drafting” the design. The point should be made that while many of the cad platforms are complex there are some simpler options that can alleviate the need to hire someone for this. I would think that developing some kind of graphic presentation skills should be a goal of any designer. Can you expound upon those comments/ rationale?
Thanks for your questions and comments. Maybe I’m not as skilled as others with google earth, but the project I mentioned in the interview where I thought a pond would go, I thought that because of google earth, but then I got there and it wouldn’t work like I thought. I still like to see the site in person before committing men and materials. For me, the time I spend marking contours is part of the observation phase. There are always things in person that you won’t see on the computer. Maybe I’m overly cautious, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable committing equipment, material, and men to a pond site I’ve only seen on a computer. What’s the soil like? What’s the wall height going to be? Where are the spillways? What’s downslope right now, not what’s on the image from 2 years ago. Some guys are probably better than me with Google Earth and can do that stuff.
As far as drafting goes. I don’t remember exactly what Jack said, so I won’t speak for him, but I never said a designer shouldn’t do their own drafting. I just said they can hire out for CAD. I do my own drawing to scale but it is ugly so I hire out for CAD. I think permaculture designers should do their own designs. Hire out for presentation purposes if needed. Sorry if that was unclear.
One other thing. As an alternative I do think that a permaculture consultant could make a basic map with broad concepts (food forest here, zone 1 garden here, earthworks positioning etc..) but then hand the design off to a permaculture designer to design on the micro level, down to specific plants etc.. The consultant would have to check the design before the final product, but I think this could be done. This is what I did as a landscaper to save tons of my time.
Phil, thanks for the additional info. I completely agree to seeing the site before committing budget and it makes sense to multitask while surveying. I was concerned there was some deeper problem in using google I had missed. Interesting thought on the consultant / designer roles. I take it there’s balance to be struck between the client interaction / conceptualization and the detailed production. In your opinion is the demand high enough to warrant developing a business model as such?
I wish the demand was enough to warrant that business model. It was a profitable model as a landscaper. I don’t have enough demand as a permaculture consultant. Maybe others do. If we as permaculture consultants had even 10% of the landscape market, we’d all by doing great. It’s still shocking to me how on the fringe we still are.
Companies are also currently offering Linux people for their equipment,
that will simplify the method.
Love the title! Consulting always = profit ; )
Don’t forget there’s lots of digging to do before you have a “consulting” career!