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255: How to Earn 6 Figures as an Architect

Last week a friend told me about a local heart surgeon who made $12 million last year.

To do that, he'd need to earn about $33,000 USD per day – WOW.

To get there, he's gone through years of medical school and also delivered great results to his clients when it matters most.

Nothing like getting a high fee when you have them on the operating table, right?

Most architects spend years in school, go through an internship and earn far less.

And yet what we do as architects is just as needed.

The average salary of a sole proprietor in the US is $70,000 according to recent surveys.

If you live in a large city, that's barely enough to survive, let alone provide for a secure retirement.

The good news is, making a great income IS possible for an architect.

Here are my 7 top ways to earn 6 figures plus as an architect, starting with #7:

#7 Become the best at what you do, and find someone willing to pay for it.

I used to have the delusion that if I just learned how to be a great architect, I'd achieve my financial dreams. NOPE!

Gotta get rid of that myth.

The key here with #7 is the “find someone willing to pay for it” part.

People pay for a solution, not a skill.

So the first key is to identify something that people need badly, are willing to pay for, then become the best in the world at that.

So whatever you do, there is likely someone willing to pay top dollar for it if you do it well.

To earn 6 figures or more, find that person and deliver the result.

#6 Become a Firm Leader

Sixth on our list is to become a firm leader at a firm that does more than $1MM in yearly revenue.

Why $1MM in revenue? Surveys show that at around $1MM in revenue firm leaders earn six figures or more (on average).

In this scenario, the ol' maxim runs true: larger firms pay higher salaries.

However, firm leadership isn't something we can just step into unless we're Bjarke Ingels or a Rockefeller.

Moving into firm leadership requires dedicated effort over a decade or more – being devoted to the firms long-term future, and showing ourselves capable of the other aspects of running a business besides architecture – managing clients, managing staff, and bringing in new work.

#5 Specialize in a Lucrative, Non-competitive Niche

Fifth on our list is to specialize in a lucrative, non-competitive niche.

Just as a heart surgeon will earn multiples more than a general family doctor, an architect who specializes in industrial infrastructure projects will earn more than an architect who does single family homes.

When I speak with other architects, the architects who have a unique specialization earn the most – like one architect who does electrical sub-stations in urban centers.

#4 Do Repeat Work for High-Value Clients

Not having to constantly look for work or worry about where the next architecture project is coming from is a huge time-saver that will free you up to “just do architecture.”

That's why finding a repeat work client is #4 on our list.

Large institutions like governments, hospitals, corporations and universities can be great repeat clients (as long as ya treat them right).

#3 Go Into Business for Yourself

Haha. Now you may be thinking, “I am in business for myself, and that's no guarantee of any income!”

You're right.

Being in business is no guarantee of success, but it does raise the ceiling off of what is possible. Use this with tip #1.

#2 Become a Consultant

Becoming a consultant as an architect is a great way to earn six figures or more.

Owner's representatives, construction managers, and development consultants are positions where the skills and experience of an architect are very valuable, but you don't need to stamp any drawings.

I'm also going to throw other models in here like architect as developer.

Added bonus – no liability!

#1 Learn How to Make it Rain

The top way to earn six figures or more as an architect is to acquire the skill of making it rain!

This skill goes with any of the other items on our list.

Learning how to bring in new work is the most valuable skill you can learn as an architect because no matter what you do, you need to sell someone else on the value.

Fortunately, bringing in new work is a skill that can be learned.

You can learn more about this skill by attending my next free online presentation here.

Did I leave anything out?

Are there other ways you can think of to earn six figures or more as an architect?

Let me know over in the Business of Architecture Facebook group.

And as always, carpe diem!

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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