The Business of Architecture: Starting Your Own Successful Firm
Did you know that there are roughly 71,585 architectural firms in the USA?
You may want to start an architectural company, but you might not know how you’re going to beat the competition. How do you get clients to notice you? What kind of pricing structure should you use?
Below you’ll find advice to help you start a successful architectural firm. If you adopt the tips, you’ll be an expert when it comes to the business of architecture.
Before you think about starting an architectural firm, you should think about how you can gain as much experience as possible. You can then use this experience to ensure that your firm will succeed when you finally open up shop.
So, how can you gain relevant experience?
Well, the most obvious approach is to work for another architectural firm.
If you can, try to work with a firm that caters to the kind of clients you want to work with in the future. So, if you’re going to start an architectural firm that builds offices, work for a company that deals with office construction.
You can also gain relevant experience by asking someone to mentor you.
If you work for a specialist firm, you might find someone within that firm that’s willing to provide some form of mentorship. However, if you’re unable to do this, you may need to seek out a mentor that works within another firm.
You can do this by going onto LinkedIn and searching for someone that’s doing the kind of work you want to do in the future.
So, if we take the ‘office niche’ from earlier, you might search for an architect that owns a firm associated with office construction. Once you find someone that looks promising, send them an InMail.
Within these messages, you might want to describe your ambitions and that you’re looking for someone to mentor you. If you send out enough these messages, you should eventually find someone that’ll be interested in mentoring you.
Architectural design competitions run throughout the year, and you should think about entering as many as you can.
One of the reasons you should do this is because such competitions provide you with a lot of exposure.
This is important, as people looking for architects tend to pay attention to these competitions. Following this, entering a lot of architectural competitions can be a good marketing tool.
Another good thing about entering competitions is that if you win, you can use the accolade to promote your company. This will then help you stand out when you’re trying to bid on an architectural contract that has a lot of competition.
A lot of the time, finding competitions is often as simple as performing a Google search. When you find relevant competitions, note down the entry dates in your calendar.
You can then go about submitting entries throughout the year, and if you do this consistently, you may just end up winning one. At the very least, you’ll be able to improve your architectural skills as you’re creating a lot of projects for these competitions.
Understand the Numbers
Before you take on a project, you should put a lot of thought into how you’re going to bill clients. If you don’t do this, you might end up pitching clients on projects that will not be financially viable for your company.
Most companies tend to charge an hourly billing rate, on top of a fixed fee that is associated with the scope of the project.
For instance, they might offer a basic design for a fixed fee and then an hourly fee for additional consultations.
Now, if you offer a fixed fee, make sure you’re aware of the work that is involved.
After all, if you don’t appreciate the scope of the project, you might end up putting in more hours than you wanted to into a fixed fee project. This could then result in you earning a really low hourly wage, and you might not have a way out until the project is over.
In any case, you might need to do a wide range of projects before you finally settle on a pricing model that works for you.
You should also think about creating a website so that it’s easier for clients to learn about you.
On this website, you might want to post some of the entries you’ve submitted to competitions. You may also want to include testimonials you’ve gotten from clients, of which can be in text or video form.
You should also think about adding a blog to your website so that you can post content.
This is an excellent thing to do, as blog content gives you the chance to showcase expertise. This expertise can then improve the credibility of your firm, thereby allowing you to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Additionally, blog content also allows you to deal with any questions that might pop up repeatedly.
For instance, your designs may often incorporate the use of a special kind of water jet, and you may find that clients keep on asking you questions about this water jet.
If that’s the case, you might want to create a blog post that describes the purpose of the water jet system and how it works. In doing so, you can then direct people towards this blog post, should they want to learn more.
Understand the Business of Architecture
It’s important to understand the business of architecture and what it takes if you wish to be successful firm in this industry.
While you might be eager to secure big clients, you may first want to focus on winning small contracts. Starting small will give you a better opportunity for insight and understanding of how to manage, and this knowledge will then help you when working with bigger clients.
Once you win your first client, they’ll recommend your services to other companies and it won’t be long before you have more clients than you can handle.