Become A Permaculture Designer: The Best Job In The World


Imagine a job that allowed you to make a decent income while restoring ecosystems and communities?  A job that didn’t require you to compromise your ideals for a paycheck.

No such job exists you say?  There is always some moral code you have to break in order to earn an income, right?

I have always refused to accept that.  In fact, I found a job that can earn you an income while keeping your integrity.  This career will lead to work that creates a positive future for generations not yet born.  It is the most important work of our time and we can make a living doing it.

I am talking about the work of a Permaculture Designer.

What Is A Permaculture Designer?

A Permaculture Designer is someone who has taken a Permaculture Design Course and uses those skills learned to design home based landscapes, ecosystem restoration projects, resilient community design projects and so much more.

Permaculture Designers utilize a set of design principles to develop a whole systems approach to solution oriented design. They use the Permaculture approach when developing projects, leading to designs that regenerate ecosystems and re-localized economics.

A Permaculture Designer can bring together professions from all walks of life, landscape designers, architects, policy managers, corporate executives, and together create designs that reduce waste, perform multiple functions for increased efficiency and regenerate rather than extract.

Most Permaculture Designers use their skills to design backyard landscapes all the way up to large scale land holdings drawing off of native knowledge and bridging it with modern science.

Others use their Permaculture design skills as government land planners, architects, educators, entrepreneurs, and even as product designers for Fortune 500 companies.

Permaculture Designers have the ability to assimilate into almost any profession and change it for the better.  However, some professions will be found to be completely at odds with the ethics of Permaculture.  

We need people to use Permaculture Design to create alternatives to those systems so that we can encourage those who currently work in those professions to see that another way is possible.

OK. OK. Permaculture Design can be used in almost any profession.  But for the sake of this article, we are going to focus on the work of the Permaculture Designer in the more traditional sense, as designers of the land.

3 Reasons Why You Should Become A Permaculture Designer

You are thinking of starting a new career, but why should you choose being a Permaculture Designer?  After all, there are so many other careers that offer up good pay with challenging work. Why choose this one?

Here are a couple of reasons why becoming a Permaculture Designer should be at the top of your list.

Right Livelihood

For most of us attracted to becoming a Permaculture Designer, having a career that focuses on building up regenerative systems rather than destroying them is a big draw.

Permaculture Designers have restored desert ecosystems into abundant food forests.  They have reconstructed cities into communities again.  They have increased resiliency with backyard gardens.

As a Permaculture Designer, I have installed hundreds of thousands of gallons of rainwater catchment tanks, planted over 10k fruit trees, produced thousands of pounds of produce and educated people how to do it themselves.

While doing all of these amazing things I was getting paid!  Can you believe that!  Getting paid to plant trees and build swales.  Pretty good pay too. 

I really believe there is room for more people to ditch their jobs as weapon machinists or lawyers and instead put their energy into restoring ecosystems with edible mushrooms or creating more building products out of regenerative materials such as bamboo or hemp.

There is no reason why anyone has to compromise their ideals anymore!

Increasing Demand

I first learned about Permaculture 20 years ago doing a Google search.  Back then, most Permaculturalists were making their money by offering Permaculture Design Courses.  Essentially, the main way Permaculturalists made money was through education.

A lot has changed since then.

Now Permaculture Designers are employed as landscape designers and installers, water harvesting technicians, government consultants, podcasters, YouTubers and so much more. 

Industries have begun to take notice.  Permaculture Designers trained in a Whole Systems approach are very valuable assets to have in their organizations.

I myself have had no problem finding clients who want their properties designed with Permaculture Principles.  People want to do the right thing, there just aren’t enough of us that know how to lead them there.

As the years go on, that demand has only grown stronger.  Now with COVID, many people have been fleeing the cities in favor of the country, but they have no clue what they are doing.  

These new transplants to the countryside are hungry for professionals that can help them develop their new properties in a regenerative fashion.  

They have money to install a project and know that they don’t want to destroy their new land holding doing it, but they don’t know where to start.  

That’s where the Permaculture Designer comes in. 

I have seen this in other industries as well.  Permaculturalists have found themselves to be valued assets for companies that are developing alternative forms of energy, banking, product design and more.

It seems the ability to think outside the box is in demand right now.

Good Pay & Flexible Hours

Most people who go down the path of a Permaculture Designer are not in it as much for the money, but for the ability to work in a field that makes them feel good at night.  But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get paid.

I have recently done a survey* (Facebook Survey) with other Permaculture Professionals to see where their income level is at these days and the results were astounding.

Income Level% of Permaculturalists Earning This Amount
$0-$30k35%
$30k-$60k20%
$60k-$100k30%
$100k+15%

Granted, there are a good amount of folks making less than $30k per year.  When further pressed, the majority of them said that their income from Permaculture related activities was based upon part-time work.

For those who have focused on building their Permaculture Design careers, they have been able to build a very respectable income for themselves.  Over half of those surveyed make as much money as any other profession, only difference being that a Permaculture Designer works in regeneration rather than extraction.

To top it off, everyone surveyed also mentioned that they work for themselves.  Meaning they have more freedom to make their own hours!

Who wouldn’t want to make a good income and do it on their own terms?  Are you ready to become a Permaculture Designer?  

Let’s dive in to the steps you need to take to make it a reality.

5 Steps To Becoming A Permaculture Design Professional

Like most professions, there is some training involved in order to call yourself a Permaculture Designer.  Let’s go over a few of the steps to get you there.

Get Your PDC

This would definitely be the first step in becoming a Permaculture Designer being that you cannot call yourself one without having completed a Permaculture Design Course.

A Permaculture Design Course is a 72 hr course that follows the curriculum set forth by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, founders of Permaculture.  Within the course there is a focus on developing a set of ethics and principles, recognizing patterns for good design, soils, plants and then time spent developing a design of your own.

After the 2 week program, you are equipped with your Permaculture Design Certificate, enabling you to begin calling yourself a Permaculture Designer and in turn the ability to make a livelihood from it.

The problem with this scenario is that many folks upon completion of their PDC still feel lost on how to move forward.  That’s because a 2 week PDC does not make you an expert, it just introduces you to the concept.  

Now It is time to build the experience.

Start Practicing

After a PDC, inspiration abounds.  The first thing you should do is begin a project.  It can be in your backyard, on your balcony, in a community garden or a friend’s yard.  Wherever you have access, begin to apply your new skills into a real life project.

Some people may have already come to a PDC with gardening experience, or experienced in water harvesting, etc.  But now is the time to tie it all in together.

Observe your site.  Create a design and implement it slowly.  Continue to observe and accept feedback. Tinker with what you are doing until it fits within the laws of nature, then move on.

Doing this will give you the experience and confidence you’ll need to begin asking others to pay you for your knowledge.

Start Your Own Permaculture Community Group or Youtube Channel

This little nugget is gold.  It will kickstart your experience and demand as a permaculture professional.  I have both started my own Permaculture Community Group in LA as well as run a Youtube channel.

Fresh out of my PDC and filled with inspiration, I wanted to connect with my community and shared what I learned.  Even though I had little experience, I created a Permaculture group where we held educational meetings and community events. 

We hosted speakers and movie nights.  I did this because I wanted to learn and thought I’d invite others along the way.

What started off with a dozen or so people at the first meeting swelled to sometimes over 200 people!  We even created an amazing community event for a couple years we called Gardens of Gratitude that created over 100 gardens in a single weekend with the help of over 800 volunteers!  It is amazing what a community can do.

During that time, I was constantly approached by people to help out on their homesteads.  The opportunity for work was plentiful.  I gained experience as well as cemented my place as a leader in the field and I would recommend anyone to do the same.

Since then, I have moved back to my homestead in Hawai’i where I can get back in touch with the simpler things in life.  But I still enjoy teaching, which I get to do through this blog and my Youtube channel.

Ever since I started up with a Youtube channel after a professional hiatus to raise my kids, I have once again been approached with unsolicited requests by people asking for consultations or help with site design.  Once again I have been able to position myself as a go to expert in the field here in Hawai’i as well as get paid pretty well from Youtube.

If you are looking to set yourself up as a Permaculture Professional, I highly recommend these 2 approaches.

Establish Your Permaculture Design Business

By now you should know whether or not being a Permaculture Designer is right for you.  If it is, great!  Time to set yourself up for success.

First, you got to play the game and get any licenses and permits that you might need to operate your business.  If you choose to be strictly a designer or consultant, all you may need is a business license, but if you plan on doing installations as well you may have to become a licensed landscape contractor.

Hopefully you have been compiling a portfolio of your work up to this point that you can show clients.  This will be key in establishing yourself in front of prospective clients.

Create a logo and a website to establish your brand.  This helps give your new company the sense of authority that will lead your prospective clients to choose your services over someone else.  As with any other career, you have to be professional.

It is also a good idea to get systems in place.  How will you deal with clients?  How can you save time from being wasted?

I like to have services and prices laid out so that it is not only clear for my clients but for me as well.  Average Permaculture Consultations range from $150 to $300, hand drawn designs start off at $500 up to a couple $1000 for more detailed computer aided designs.

When folks would reach out to hire me for my services, I would begin with a phone call.  Most of the work can be done through a phone call, saving a lot of time and money for both parties.  Countless times I have been able to weed out ill suited clients just by picking up the phone first.

Whether or not you install your designs yourself, it is also a good idea to create a system for implementation that can be used by you or a landscape contractor.  This will be highly valuable for your clients, allowing you to stand out from the rest.

Get Clients & Change The World

Another system you should have in place is a system to get more clients.  If you have created a community group or Youtube channel, this may be easy, but for others you need to have a plan.

I would always get the emails of my clients to stay in touch and to let them know of services they may be interested in or how they can share my work with their friends. 

I would connect with other local organizations aligned with what I was doing, offering workshops or just volunteering my time.  

I started a website and a blog that educated folks in permaculture techniques that they could use in their landscapes.

Whatever you can do to get yourself out there as a Permaculture Designer will only increase your demand from your clients.

With these clients, you can harvest hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, plant tens of thousands of fruit trees, restore hundreds of acres, earn an income for yourself and change the world in the process.

Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

Recent Content