Architects Are Facing A Silent War

Editor’s note: Today’s post is a reprint of an article originally posted on the Architect Marketing Institute website by architect marketing consultant Richard Petrie. Over the past 12 months, we have led a group of 9 architects through the Architect Marketing Academy, an in-depth coaching program to set up a marketing system that creates a consistent flow of “better clients, better work, and better fees”. The insights we have gained from working with these architects, and from my personal conversations with architects around the world, has led us to a shocking conclusion. Take it away Richard…

Landing at Normandy WWII

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender – Winston Churchill

Make no mistake – architects are facing a silent war.

After 8 years of study and professional training, an architect should be respected like a doctor and paid like a highly qualified professional.

This is seldom the case.

As an advocate for architects I have studied the reasons why this is so.

  • Why are you treated like a commodity at times?
  • Why are you not paid what you are worth on projects?
  • Why do you feel you have to justify your fees?
  • Why do clients take elements of your design out to reduce the price and reduce the quality of your design work?
  • Why do builders, real estate agents and clients think you will drop everything to drive across town and give advice for free in the hope you might win a deal?
  • Why do you work so hard and get so little credit?
  • Why do owners often trust the contractors more than they trust you?

Something here has gone terribly awry.

There are two silent wars architects are facing.

War #1

The war against ignorance. This battlefield is in the minds of our clients.

According to the shocking results of a new survey undertaken by who surveyed 2,031 adults, people don’t know what architects do.

  • 72% are unaware that architects apply for planning permission
  • 79% don’t know architects ensure buildings comply with health and safety legislation
  • 86% have no idea architects select, negotiate with, and manage contractors
  • 20% are unaware architects prepare construction drawings
  • 9% DO understand architects control site budgets
  • 15% don’t know that architects design buildings
  • 33.3% of over 55s were aware that architects prepare planning permissions, whereas: 14% of 18-24s were aware that architects prepare planning permissions
  • 20% of young adults were aware that architects handle building control certificates and guarantees

We can look at this war in two ways.

  1. Blame the client
  2. Blame ourselves

Once architects accept responsibility for the education process you take power back. Your weapon is education.

You may not be able to educate the world but you can make sure that every person who meets with you is educated about the architect and his or her role in the project.

War #2

A post on the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) LinkedIn group asked…

Would you recommend my kids take up a career in architecture?

I was shocked at the responses.

There were two sides. Those who had given up on architecture as a means for earning a decent income and would not recommend architecture.

And secondly those who felt architecture was about doing something you loved and that was more important than money.

The only thing that they both agreed on was that the choice was either money OR architecture.

I was staggered. These Brits had given up. Both sides had lost the war. They were prepared to raise the white flag without a fight.

The Brits are the people who said…

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…

Tony Robbins taught me a valuable lesson. He said if you want a better result then ask yourself a better question.

Maybe a better questions is:


That forces your mind to search for new answers. That is the question that finds new ways to overcome the enemy.

This right attitude within architects is weapon #2.

We Are On A Mission

When I first started working with architects I thought you lot were a well-paid bunch of smart people. Well I was half right.

You are smart.

But you are not great marketers and therefore underpaid, which is ironic because you are pretty good communicators.

Maybe you get lost in the detail or some aesthetic mist of great design. Maybe you are too smart and don’t realize how ignorant your clients really are. Maybe you don’t want to appear too simple-minded by stating the obvious.

You assume your clients understand the value in what you are doing. We (the general public) do not. All the stats prove that. You need to teach us about the value in a way so simple that we can marvel at your creativity and pragmatism.

I think architects get a raw deal.

But this isn’t your fault. You’ve been sold a lie.

You’ve been told that people recognize the value of good design.

Your design schools have sent you into the workforce unprepared to face the reality of dealing with a world where money is king (unfortunate, but true).

Your professional organizations are more concerned with their own interests than your struggles – you, who fight on the front lines.

Contractors blame the architect and come in at the last minute to “save the day”. They make out as the hero (and take the victor’s spoils).

Construction managers set up shop and push architects out of the construction process (and make a killing doing it).

What happened to the “master builder”? What happened to the architect that led the design team – the architect who controlled the process and guided the contractor and owner to the successful solution?

Architects have been marginalized. The noose is set and the trap has been sprung.

The good news? It isn’t too late. Some architects are fighting back.

You must help yourself too.

  • You need to stop driving all over town doing free work.
  • You need to stop cutting your fees to win deals not worth winning.
  • You need to value yourself first so others can follow.

Lawyers and doctors do not do this and neither should architects.

We need to raise the bar for the architect community.

The Battle Plan

The great American orator Patrick Henry said it well: “united we stand, divided we fall”.

I’m taking a stand. But we can’t do it alone.

Here is our plan of attack:

Step number 1 is to believe in the value you bring to your clients. This battle is won in your own heart and your own mind. Are you willing to stand up for what you are worth?

Step number 2 is to communicate that value to your clients in a way that they can understand.

It’s that simple, really.

But it needs to start with you.

Architects deserve better – you are both the problem and the solution.

I’m taking a strong stance and I’m not backing down.

You can love me or hate me but I believe in architects. I believe if you are prepared to fight on the beaches you can do what you love AND be paid like the professional you are.

Eric Bobrow, Enoch Sears and I are doing our part by teaching architects how to communicate their value in a way that brings them “better clients, better work, and better fees”.

But we can’t win this battle alone. Will you join us?

You owe it to yourself by creating a career that is fun and profitable. You owe it to the world by bringing us great design. And you owe it to your children and future generations to live up to your full potential.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in, never give in”!

To help architects ‘win the war’ we’ve created a number of free resources and guides. The first of these is a report on the “#1 Simple Client-Getting Strategy For Architects”. But to get the future guides and training, you need to be on the email list. Click HERE and download this guide and get on the notification list:

#1 Client-Getting Strategy For Architects

Enoch Sears

Enoch Sears AIA is co-founder of the Design Firm Accelerator, a program that helps architects grow their income and impact through smart marketing. He’s famous for helping architects build a business that gives them more freedom and profit. He’s the founder of the Architect Business Institute and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He also hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.

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