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Starting an Architecture Firm, Marketing for Architects and Finding a Niche: Interview with Architect Oscia Wilson of Boiled Architecture

Have you ever wanted to start your own architecture firm? When I tried (and failed) to successfully launch my own architecture firm 5 years ago, I wish I would have known what Oscia Wilson, owner of Boiled Architecture, shares in this interview: the big myth about starting your own firm, what it takes to get clients from scratch, the creative strategy she used to hire the right architects, marketing for architects, and what it took to launch her firm.

This interview is on iTunes. Subscribe above, and be a hero! If you know another architect who would benefit from watching this video, share away using the social share buttons.

Show Notes Mentioned in the Interview

  1. In addition to her firm, Oscia Wilson is the founder of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Retreat which will take place May 24-26, 2013 on beautiful Monterey Bay. This will be an amazing opportunity to connect with other motivated and talented women. I can’t recommend this enough. The speakers Oscia has lined up are amazing, and you will have to opportunity to get mentoring and walk away with a network of committed friends. To find out more, click here.
  2. Oscia Wilson is the owner of the firm Boiled Architecture. Go here to visit her firm’s web page, find out more about what the firm does, or contact Oscia. Also, subscribe to her blog to follow her journey. You don’t want to miss this. Click here. P.S. If you do reach out to Oscia, let her know you found her through Business of Architecture!
  3. The book Oscia recommends in the show is Financial Management for Design Professionals by Steve Wintner and Michael Tardif. You can purchase this book from Amazon here:
  4. And last but not least, scroll to the bottom of this page to leave your comment about this episode. What do you think about what Oscia shares?

Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:

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Enoch Sears
 

I am a licensed California architect who loves researching and sharing about running a great architecture business. I founded Business of Architecture to help solo architects and small firms run a better business so they can have the peace of mind to focus on creating great architecture.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 43 comments
IRSHAD - July 27, 2015

Hi, I have just began with new architecture firm in India with a vision to excel in the field of innovative futuristic architecture and to have a world wide presence. I would request your valued advise, how to achieve this aim. Irshad

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Samantha Falcone - April 28, 2015

This interview with Oscia Wilson really spoke to me and galvanized so many things I have been considering as a business owner. I started my firm for many of the reasons she suggested, but I struck out on my own, even after having negotiated a flexible schedule with my current employer – so it IS possible to do so for those of you starting families in a traditional firm setting. I plan to check out her blog…thanks Enoch for continuing to find good interviewees and great topics!

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Bill D. - August 12, 2014

Really appreciate the time for both of you to do this interview. So much for people here to think about. What I really appreciated was the honesty in sharing Oscia’s expertise! Thanks again.

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    Enoch Sears - August 21, 2014

    Bill thanks for you comment, glad you liked the interview!

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Raminder Kanetkar - August 3, 2013

This is a very useful conversation that I can relate very well to, especially since I am going through the same sort of issues with a start up practice. Thanks!

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Green Architect - July 27, 2013

Thanks for the information. I like your blog.

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Matt - July 7, 2013

I might be late on this, but I’ve got to say something, maybe to save anyone else watching this. I’ve been running a practice for 5 years, and I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur AND an architect. So I am. The idea that ‘if you think you can do both, you’re just wrong’ is just wrong. If you want to be an architect and run your own firm, it is possible.

Looking to some of the greatest architects and architecture, I would actually argue it’s necessary. When I look at the work coming out of ‘Boiled Architecture’, it would seem there isn’t much concern for the actual product, which might be what happens when the primary concern is business. I would suggest that the greatest opportunity and perhaps the greatest obligation we have as architects is to create thoughtful space and form. If you are just looking for a business opportunity, go buy a McDonalds or something, and stop messing up the environment.

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    Oscia Wilson - July 8, 2013

    Thank you for being a spiritual guidepost to remind us all that just because someone says negative things doesn’t make them true. Bless you.

    Perhaps it was my own failure to articulate things well that led you to miss the point: I founded the firm because I felt so passionately that the quality of the architecture at previous firms was poor, and that the business structure was the culprit. I’m proud to say that Boiled Architecture provides an exceptional level of quality–we’ve never had a single change order arising from errors in our documents, for instance.

    And perhaps it is my own failing in designing the website that led you to miss the fact that we incorporate sustainability at every turn. Which ones did you take issue with? Was it:
    -The office space for the non-profit that is using Build It Green Oakland guidelines to create a collaborative space for them?
    -All the public transportation work to help people get out of their cars?
    -The LEED silver restaurant in a historic building that we’re preserving that is currently on the books?
    -All the Virtual Design & Construction we do to eliminate the waste from re-work?

    Have a beautiful day, and I hope you prosper.

    Reply
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      Enoch Sears - August 7, 2013

      Wow Oscia, what a great response! LOL

      And Matt, what’s the matter, woke up on the wrong side of the bed?

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        Matt - August 8, 2013

        Just because it’s criticism doesn’t make it negative. And just because it doesn’t have change orders, or it’s ‘green’ certified, doesn’t make it good design.

        I only thought it might be interesting to have a little less fawning and a little more discussion…

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          Enoch Sears - August 8, 2013

          Matt, I appreciate your input. Dialog & critique is always welcome on Business of Architecture!

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Isabel Barros - June 4, 2013

Really good insight into Oscia’s way of doing business. I found it very interesting.
Congratulations for your blog.

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Fadia Pahlawan - May 8, 2013

I loved the level of honesty Oscia displayed in her sharing all this valuable tips. She is an inspiration that I personally could relate to, starting my own architectural practice. Thank you Enoch for this interview, it wouldn’t be so valuable if it wasn’t for the smart questions you initiated.

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    Enoch Sears - May 8, 2013

    Thanks Fadia! You just made my head grow about 2″ larger. :)

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Jamie - April 25, 2013

Thanks you so much for sharing the interview. Worth is on so many levels. I’d be interested in hearing Oscia or other women architect entrepreneurs have to say about balancing children and business. I’m not sure if Oscia has children or not but it seemed as though she had thoughts on the topic. I am one of those architects that believed the profession would lend itself well to working at home while raising children. Now that I’m experiencing it I don’t feel the same way at all. I have a 2 year old and need to figure out the best way to balance my work and home schedule. Flexibility is most certainly the key, although hard to come by. Maybe I’m kidding myself and I just have to get through these beginning years with my daughter the best I can. There must be an easier way.

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Francisca Alonso - February 9, 2013

Thank you for sharing such insight and valuable experience. My business partner and I just watch both of your videos and they are great! Loaded with valuable and tangible information – I love the two books you recommended…I will get them shortly…:) We have our residential design/build firm for 10 years now and have over time realized how important it is to be more business-like to grow than architect-like. This is just so hard to do but vital to stay in business an grow! Love your wisdom and style…specially as a women entrepreneur I enjoyed it even more! Francisca Alonso, CEO and co-founder of AV Architects + Builders (http://www.avarchitectsbuild.com)

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    Oscia Wilson - June 20, 2013

    Thank you Francisca! What a nice comment. (I just saw the comments section today–silly me.)

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      Francisca Alonso - June 25, 2013

      No worries…it’s good you are busy…:) love connecting with inspiring women in architecture!

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Ed - January 22, 2013

Great interview with Oscia Wilson. Very insightful into what it takes to start your own firm. I look forward to her recommended reading. Some of her comments I can relate to having gone out on my own 2 1/2 years ago while others were helpful in how to proceed from here.

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Nalleli - January 17, 2013

Thank you Enoch and Oscia for this great interview. I am convince after it that transparency and honesty are the best fundations for any business. There is any best work were you can enjoy it and feel secure. A lot of real life information that you dont learn in the classroom. Thank you again.

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Lisa Mullikin - January 16, 2013

This is a great interview – Enoch and Oscia did such a good job. And Oscia is so honest about what it takes. I hardly ever hear the truth about starting and running a firm. Thank you both.

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    Enoch Sears - January 16, 2013

    Lisa, you are right, Oscia was an excellent victim for the first episode! Thanks for the feedback.

    Reply
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Rachel Burton - January 14, 2013

Great interview. I learned so much, and got inspired to learn more. Thanks to Oscia for being so honest and straightforward and thanks to you for introducing her to me.

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    Enoch Sears - January 14, 2013

    Rachel, glad to be of service, thanks for dropping by!

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kiernan - January 6, 2013

You are not an Architect!

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Ralph - January 5, 2013

“But the economy means that people are not retiring and I found that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to move up the corporate ladder at the pace that I was capable of. So that’s when I decided all right, I’m going out on my own.”

That’s the reality and biggest ongoing and future problem with the industry. Simply have to wait and wait for real job promotions, and so much of that will come down to lucky breaks. Making this profession a real risk that you’ll be happy 10-20 years out working for someone else. A had a solid 5+ year background in home building before taking my first masters in arch course, so that’s my success story with starting my own firm 11 years ago, and literally before I even graduated a work by day MArch program.

-Ralph from Boston

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    Enoch Sears - January 5, 2013

    Ralph, love your comment, and you touch on a very interesting subject. I have heard some express concern that the baby boomer generation has created a healthy supply of competent and experienced architects at the present moment, but when all of this generation do retire what happens? Will architects be harder to find?

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      Ralph K - January 6, 2013

      Enoch, Thank you for conducting this informative interview. There’s talk out there about demographics, also the recession limiting the experience of young architects is a current problem. I suspect licensed architects with strong resumes and 10+ years experience will be in the drivers seat over the next decade. But yes, supply vs demand, such architects will be hard to find.

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Jim Cascardi - January 3, 2013

I am a retired architect in the business for 47 years and enjoyed the interview very much. There were several issues I wish had been discussed. They relate to the operation of a firm and I think important to a start up firm, they are, professional liability insurance, employee health insurance and other benefits, rent, utility cost, supplies and equipment costs. I wish there was a segment that talked about these issues and related costs. I appreciated Oscia’s decision on hiring experienced individuals to start her firm and benefit from there experience.
I had thought of starting a firm on my own many times but the opportunity never presented itself and I went from working in architecture firms to working for corporations as a in house architect that was financially rewarding.

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Fatima - January 2, 2013

Thank you Enoch and Oscia! Very interesting and informative, especially for a female (intern) architect, like me, just learning the ropes at a small architecture firm. I have been working on some aspects of marketing here at the firm and I found this to be helpful and inspiring.

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Nick M. - December 27, 2012

Thank you for conducting this wonderfully informative interview. It’s rare that I watch a blog video and take notes but I took several here. I especially love how transparent Oscia is about her company. I started my business 11 years ago and did much of the same things: studied extensively on running a business, ran a business without a salary for a while, came to grips with billable hours vs. chasing clients, etc. It was very difficult. I didn’t put up as much money as Oscia did nor did it take as much time to generate income but I was a bit lucky in that regard. I’ve seen many new architecture business fail after a year by charging too little, never marketing (or over-marketing) and not paying attention to legal contracts. Future architecture entrepreneurs should heed Oscia’s advice!

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    Enoch Sears - December 27, 2012

    Nick, so glad you enjoyed the interview, thanks for the feedback! It is hard to go wrong with a subject as wonderful as Oscia.

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Paul Hindes - December 23, 2012

Great interview. I enjoyed Oscia’s business approach in being open and honest, which I believe is the new way of doing business. I also take to heart her discussion of the “numbers” in attempting to run a one-person practice. There are not enough hours nor financial rewards for this to work long-term. Thank you for sharing!

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    Enoch Sears - December 26, 2012

    Paul, great to hear from you again and thanks for your comment. Would you agree that operating a one-man band is not feasible?

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      Paul Hindes - December 26, 2012

      Enoch, a one-man band is both enjoyable and liberating. Enjoyable because of the liberation away from having to bring a certain amount of work each week to feed a larger office. Enjoyable because there is freedom in project and client choice. However, a one-man band does not bring financial riches, so on purely commercial terms, a one-man band is not feasible, is limited in growth, and limited in cash-flow. So it’s a choice between freedom and economic returns!

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Jacob Williams - December 22, 2012

Enoch,

You and I operate at the same frequency. http://jacobwilliamsmodeling.com/blog

You have yourself an avid follower. Let me know if you want to do a guest post on my blog and I yours.

Keep bringing the great content brother. -Jacob

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    Enoch Sears - December 26, 2012

    Jacob, how did you find Business of Architecture? Regardless, thanks for visting and thanks for the head’s up on your blog!

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      Jacob Williams - December 26, 2012

      LinkedIn promoted your article. Alas I was on my iPhone at the time. The videos wouldn’t play on the iPhone because they’re flash based. (Apple!)

      We should talk some more. I just spent two entire nights overhauling my website to make it look decent on all devices. I originally had a desktop and a mobile version. However, this was causing too many problems. All the pruning just wasn’t worth it. So I scrapped them and built one unifying version. It was a pain due to margins and font sizes, but I found a happy middle ground.

      I would bet my life that most your readers are aesthetically inclined. Which make me believe the majority of them are on iPhones. That’s the kind of feedback people should leave in the comments. (hint hint)

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Arq. Esteban - December 20, 2012

I really enjoy and learn from the interview. I have a 10 year old architectural firm, and keep learning in the way to do business. Thanks.

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    Enoch Sears - December 20, 2012

    Arq. Esteban, it is my pleasure to have you visit the blog. Thanks for the comment!

    Reply

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