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Architect Unveiled, Tales of Starting an Architecture Firm: Lee Calisti AIA

In this episode, Lee Calisti, AIA shares what it took for him to leave full-time employment and start his own architecture firm as a sole practitioner in 2003. Lee Calisti is the principal architect and owner of Lee Calisti, Architecture + Design, located 1 hour south-east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Lee is also an adjunct faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University where he teaches architecture. In addition to his architectural practice, Lee writes about his life as an architect on his popular blog, In this episode, Lee explores the reasons why he left full-time employment to sail the uncharted and often stormy waters of sole proprietorship. And the reason isn’t what you may think. He tells us how long it took to replace the salary he left while working for another firm, his most successful marketing channels, and more. Tell us what you think about our conversation in the comments below.

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:

  1. To see Lee’s work, visit Lee Calisti Architecture + Design.
  2. Read Lee’s blog at Think Architect.

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 8 comments
JW Smith - February 11, 2015

Hello! I just watched this interview and it resonates with me a lot. I will be in the next few years moving toward possibly breaking out on my own. I am currently licensed and just need more basis of business before I’m really comfortable to really do it. I’m am comfortable where I am but the future always holds mystery. Great video. Thanks

Isabel Barros - June 4, 2013

Great interview. I really enjoyed.
Thanks for sharing.

Jacob Williams - April 5, 2013

This interview was simply fantastic. Thanks for the insight on the start-up phase.

Lee is absolutely correct on the need for outreach. I started my 3D modeling firm eight months ago. I work with both architects and contractors.

My biggest secret:

Call potential clients and ask if you can interview them and write an article about them or their company.

It’s a way of getting an interview with them. 😉 (Got 2 big clients this way.)
They may put a link to your article/site. 😉
When their company is googled, your article will come up in the results. :)

Lastly, participate and follow sites like this one. (there’s a subscribe button highlighted in blue at the bottom) Leave comments and give advice. Don’t be afraid that you’re giving away secrets. That’s small world thinking. You can only help yourself by making yourself more known. Bottom line is, if you don’t do it, someone else will. So why not have that traffic go to your site?
Proficient in both Archicad and Sketchup.

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    Enoch Sears - April 8, 2013

    Thanks JW for dropping by. Hope all is well with your business.

      Jacob Williams - April 8, 2013

      I love the content you’re creating. I don’t think people appreciate how much time it takes to put all this together. Someone should interview you sometime. I want to know about your journey. You could do an about me video. But I like the conversational aspect of having two people conversing and reacting to each other.

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        Enoch Sears - April 10, 2013

        Time yes you can say that again. Thanks Jacob for you support and comment! Maybe I will do an about me video sometime. Thanks for the suggestion.

José da Silva - February 25, 2013

It was a great interview. Informative, to the point and hard objective facts. The stuff that varsity should be made of. Keep interviwing.
Thank you.

Matthew Gullo - February 22, 2013

Great podcast! Informative, real, passionate, and humble. Appreciate the insight Lee and thank you for sharing your start and thoughts to help others. Enoch as always…enjoyed ur interview and questions.
Thanks to you both.


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