Starting an Independent Architectural Firm: 8 Tips to Do it Right
Becoming an architect is not easy and the path is a long and difficult one for sure, but it’s a lot tougher still if you want to launch your own business in the field. Even after going through years of education and internships, as well as getting the required licences and acquiring experience in the business, opening an architectural firm of your own and making it work is not going to be easy. Having said all that, it isn’t exactly impossible either, and with the help of the following eight tips, things will definitely start to make a lot more sense.
Make Use of Your Intern Hours
If you are thinking about opening your own architectural firm, chances are that you have already gone through your internships under mentors, but just in case you are reading this while you are still studying or learning under someone, understand that this is the most important first step to that dream you have. Earn your experience hours and more importantly, try to make most of the time by learning all that you possibly can, because it will all come in mighty handy when you try and open a firm of your own. Also, it may not be a bad idea to be in regular touch with your mentor, even after you have established yourself as an architect, as there’s just no alternative to experience.
Build Your Own Architectural Portfolio Website First
Before you are able to launch a successful architectural firm, you will need to build your own architecture portfolio website first. It will develop and mature alongside your career, so design one as early as possible. Also, remember that since you are an architect, the portfolio website should look exactly as you want it to look, which means that you should view it as an important project. Design it with care, professionalism, and dedication to represent your work and your business. Keep updating the site with your latest work, posts about relevant topics and such. Also, make sure that the site is mobile friendly, as it’s pretty much a must in 2018.
Grow and Use Your Networks
As you are planning to launch a business of your own, you probably already have enough experience working in the field and it is likely that you are still employed under somebody. Make use of your connections and build even more of them during your employment years. Once you leave to start out on your own, you will inevitably need those connections for making headway into the business. In fact, networking should not be limited to clients and co-workers. Friends, family members, and relatives could also become a connection to your next client. The bottom-line is that let everyone know that you have an architectural firm, but concentrate on people connected to the trade or associated businesses (construction, supply chains, etc.).
Decide on Your Niche
The term architect includes a very broad number of professionals, so you need to decide what’s your niche first. You could become a residential architect, a commercial architect or even an industrial architect. Interior designing and landscape architecture are also viable options too. Your experience must have, by now, given you a fair idea of what you are good at, so work with that. Remember that while starting out, it is best to just stick to one type of work and establish it as your niche. This will also make the herculean task of managing limited resources easier. Once you have decided on a niche, it should become a lot easier to identify your target audience too.
Do Not Ignore Social Media
No business, irrespective of its size or age can ignore social media anymore, and it should be fairly obvious that neither can a newly launched architectural firm! Facebook has some amazing tools for both small and large businesses to identify their target audience, which is a big bonus. However, what is most amazing about Facebook marketing is the fact that your page, posts, and ads can get seen by literally thousands of relevant people on a daily basis, with a budget of just a few dollars every day. Of course, Facebook isn’t the only social media site, so YouTube is another place where you should think about creating a presence. Open your own channel there if you think you have what it takes to produce high-quality architectural video content, but alternatively, you can use YouTube ads to reach thousands of users. Getting your ad featured on a famous YouTuber’s channel is also a great idea, but just be sure that the concerned channel is somewhat relevant to your business.
Don’t Shy Away from the Small Stuff
Every big business had to start somewhere, so do not reject the small opportunities that come your way. A small house renovation project or some simple kitchen remodelling work may seem minor, but it’s a start. Do your best work on each of the projects and update your architecture portfolio website with it. This will help your business build credibility and reputation, alongside creating new contacts. Prepare to go big, but you need the little jobs until you get there.
Do Not Ignore the Importance of Your Business Contract
While starting out, a lot of architectural firms make some elementary mistakes while preparing and signing a contract with the client, so keep the following in mind before a contract is finalised.
- Your contract should be devised according to the nature of the client (public, private, relationship,
- Do not promise unrealistic results, especially on a legal contract!
- See if there’s any room for negotiating indemnification in the contract
- Ensure mediation is an option that comes before litigation in the agreement
- Leave some room for error with a design contingency
- Fair and clear language for payment terms should be used in the contract
- Suspension of service should be an option in the contract under special circumstances, such as failure of payment by the client