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So You Want to Start Your Own Architecture Firm…


If you’re an architect, and you love what you do, it stands to reason that you’re a pretty creative person. And like most creatives, you probably have ideas and dream projects and tons of designs running through your head. The only problem is that you’re stuck working for “the man” and that stifles your creative juices.

So how do you get to the point where YOUR designs are no longer in your head but coming to fruition on a job site somewhere? The answer is you simply start your own firm. Of course, starting your own company is anything but simple. Here are a few things you’ll need to know before hanging out your company shingle.

How to Run a Business.

This seems like a no-brainer, but for most creative-types, this is a foreign concept. Things like business plans and accounting and HR make their heads spin. If that’s you, you have a couple of options for overcoming this issue. You can take some business courses so you can learn the difference between a simple spreadsheet and a balance sheet. This is a great idea because you can do this while you are working for someone else.

Another option is to partner with someone who already has some business acumen. This will free you up for the creative side of the business more. This can be a formal business partnership or just a mentor-mentee relationship until you get on your feet.

How to Manage a Construction Project.

While you might think this goes hand-in-hand with running a business, it really is different. Learning the construction process from beginning to end, even if you aren’t in control of every step, can be invaluable when you run your own architecture firm. Luckily for you, there are excellent construction management schools available where you can take courses online and learn these skills. Some things you’ll learn both in the classroom and in the field include:

  • Urban planning
  • Using recycled materials
  • Project management
  • Business principles

While as an architectural firm, you might not be as involved in the process as an actual construction manager, knowing these things can help your business immensely.

How to Find Clients.

Part of your business knowledge needs to focus on finding clients, here again, it will take your time away from the design process, so as your business grows, you might want to find someone to handle marketing and sales for you. However, until that time, you’ll need to work on these things yourself. Here’s what you’ll want to have when you get started.

Portfolio of Ideas – These should be good quality renderings of plans you’ve actually worked on (if legally possible). You can also include unused designs as well, to give potential clients an idea of your talent.

Online Marketing – In addition to your website, which should look very professional, you’ll need to get the word out to potential clients. This means good content marketing with quality SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on your chosen keywords. Social media marketing can help as well but should be secondary to content marketing.

Offline Marketing – Trade shows and publications are target-rich environments you need to be represented in. Make sure your offline marketing materials are well designed and professional.

A Place to Find Jobs – Architecture design jobs are often awarded to the lowest bidder. These jobs are regularly posted in newspapers and online locations by companies and municipalities. If you don’t know where to find them, you won’t be able to bid on them.

While starting your own architecture firm can be scary, with the right education and experience, it can also be highly rewarding. To have artistic control over a project sure beats being a cog in the wheel of someone else’s company.