What Part of Your Architecture Business Would You Most Like to Improve? Reader Survey

Hey, Enoch here. I have a question for you. What part of your (current or future) architecture business would you most like to improve? You see, when I first went solo and tried to start my own firm, I fell flat on my face. A big, fat FAIL.

I didn't have a clue about how to get the clients I wanted to have. I didn't know the right places to network. I didn't know who to talk to nor how to talk to them. And the list goes on.

In the previous firms where I worked, most clients were repeat business built on relationships forged before I showed up. The new clients that called found us either through referrals (the best ones) or the phone book or a web search (hit or miss). What I really wanted to know was how those relationships were forged in the early years. How could I learn about marketing for architects? What are the most important elements on an architect's website? There were other things I needed to find out, like legal structures and the best digital tools for practice efficiency. But it seemed the proper steps to take to launch my own firm were shrouded in secrecy, and only discovered through trial and error.

So here is my question. Imagine for a minute that you could change one thing that you don't like or that needs improving at your architecture firm or career. What would this one thing be? Would you have higher paying clients? Would it be finding clients that give you more design flexibility? Would it be a job at a firm that you love working at or maybe recognition in the press for your work? Or something else?

You tell me in the comments below.



Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch 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.

14 Responses

  1. I’d like fees to increase throughout the industry. However, it requires architects to scrutinize the industry’s history of poor decisions regarding risk and responsibility. Higher fees will follow if we provide better services, and take more business risks. It’s the only way of showing clients our value.

    To begin, I’d evaluate owner/ architect contracts, and begin taking back responsibilities we have given to others.

    It’s a long road ahead, but your show is a great beginning! If all our fees increase, we all win!

  2. “What part of your architecture business would you most like to improve?” The question is open but the following paragraphs are highly directed.

    To answer the question I’d start with addressing the aspects of the business that pose the greatest risk. Yes, finding new work and clients, is a major issue (perhaps the major issues) but there are also other aspects of business that can lead to problems and failure.

    For instance, a poorly taken brief can lead to design changes (costing time and money), poor change control procedures also cost time and money. With this kinds of thing in mind I would be interested to hear something about how a wider variety of risk may be addressed in order to improve the business of architecture.

    It also results in a better quality of project and greater client satisfaction – so it’s a win win.

    Work smarter not harder.

  3. Like many of the previous comments, I need to know how to find the clients that both want what I can offer and are willing to pay for it. I realize that the economy is still in the dumps, but there is so much construction going on in the Bay Area and I can’t seem to find the clients who are prepared to build.

  4. I would appreciate in the business the liberty to design rather than to be confined to what other Architects have done…

    1. I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but it sounds like if design freedom is your main concern, you’re value proposition has to reflect the fact that your service is a premium service focused on innovation & creativity. Being up front about that will hopefully allow you to avoid the trap of being seen as a cheap or inexpensive design shop.

  5. I just wanted to add one thing. Talking about marketing how do you see web sites like craiglist? And how can designers get the most out of them? Till this moment i beleive they are cheap and they put design and Architecture practice where they shouldnt be, on the otherhand they may bring clients.

  6. My biggest challenge these days is to start up my new firm. Bringing in clients seeking residential and small commertial projects. Building a website and marketing my skills are the current issues.Beside trying to keep my smile on 🙂

  7. I’m looking to connect with the right clients for me–clients who may or may not have worked with an architect before, but want someone with expertise who can make them feel comfortable about the often overwhelming process of getting something built. The tough part for me is finding these people; where are they?

    Of course, it’s also best if they can afford the process. Lots of people pass me by because they have unrealistic cost expectations. How can we educate people about the value of what we do?

  8. I am currently unemployed in the UK and feel I don’t have enough experience to set up my own practice, although this it seems is the only option in the current economic climate; after not getting a single interview in the last 6 months. Every job I have applied for their have been around 120 other applicants. I have 4 years experience working in Architecture Practices.
    So I would say a blog that describes how you would start your own practice would help.

    There are a lot of Architectural Assistants and recently qualified Architects that are in limbo. They can’t get a job and don’t feel they have enough experience to start their own company. Recommendations of what these people should do I think would be great.

    I think I might start by just doing planning permissions but I will need PI insurance or can I get away without PI insurance to start with if I only do Planning Permissions. Maybe its just too risky.
    Advice and support for start-ups would be great.

    1. Paul,
      If you haven’t come across them yet, look at Build LLC and Modative. I mention these two specifically because they have done a pretty good job at documenting their start up, from inception to present. They both have blogs with some very useful information. I started my own practice a little under two years ago and am in the process of putting together material to launch just that; where and how do you start. If anyone else has other blogs that document a start-ups uphill battle(s) please post and share.
      Also, feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions.

  9. Along the lines of the previous comments, ways of communicating to the general public (potential clients) the value of working with an architect.

  10. I’m most interested in how to “find the pain” and connect with clients’ specific needs before the RFP comes out.

  11. I believe that what would help me the most would be clients who appreciate our value and understand what we do. When we have that, we don’t have to worry so much about fees because the clients are willing to pay what we charge (which isn’t THAT much, frankly).

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