For all that you studied in college, there’s one thing that you might never have learned in order to earn you architecture degree. The business side of architecture is as important as your skills, but it’s something that most professionals have to cultivate on their own.
To get you started on the right foot, here are 6 tips for helping your business grow and thrive:
#1: Always Keep Reserve Savings
Any time you work for yourself, money can ebb and flow. Some clients might pay like clockwork, and others might wait until the very last minute. Still others might require a little reminder or two.
There’s no accounting for when payments arrive. So as soon as you’re able, build up a savings safety net so that you can stay afloat and moving forward, even if you can’t count on regular paydays.
#2: Hire a Marketing Expert
As an architect in a world filled with others, you don’t want to be the only one whose name is a mystery to potential clients. Martin Pederson for Architectural Record recommends having a marketing expert on your team who can handle numerous aspects of your business, some that you might not even have thought about.
From sourcing potential work and making contacts with the right people to promoting your name and creating marketing materials, this is one employee that you’ll want on board as soon as possible.
#3: Network, Network, Network
Professional connections don’t just happen. They take time, and they also require a bit of nurturing.
Always follow up on referrals, keep in touch with others in the industry, join the AIA and attend conferences, and generally keep in touch with your fellow architects. You never know when one connection could lead to an important opportunity.
#4: Follow up With Previous Clients
Your clients might not need an architect very often, but that’s no reason to forget about them once a project is complete. They are your best source for authentic testimonials, and you know what they say about word-of-mouth advertising.
You never know, former clients might need your skills more often than you think. Pederson explains that if you stay in touch, your name will stay fresh instead of fading away.
#5: Don’t Sell You Talent Short
There are plenty of ways for an architect to lose money without creating brand new opportunities. Open competitions could waste your valuable talent, and so can some pro bono work. However, Pederson reminds that some other pro bono projects are worth it, so don’t discount them altogether.
Also, quoting fees by project is probably a better choice than an hourly rate. You’ll have fewer accounting headaches that way, and you’ll know what you’re going to earn.
#6: Use a 5-Year Plan
The idea of a 5-year plan isn’t necessarily new, but the reason it’s still talked about it that it works. Everyone needs goals, especially you with a growing business. But your focus today might change dramatically in a few years.
A plan might include areas where you want to expand, projects that you’d like to work on, building the company with more employees, or any number of goals. With a 5-year plan, you have focus. But it also allows you to modify it in a reasonable timeframe.
Running a business and being an architect are two very different things. And they require completely different skill sets. For all that you learned in college, chances are you didn’t learn how to build a clientele, network, and make your business grow. Those things take practice and a plan to make them happen.
Your professional development hours are another necessary part of being an architect. You need them for licensure, and also for membership in organizations such as the AIA. When your continuing education credits come due, check out our courses at PDH Academy. You’ll find that this is one part of the business that isn’t difficult to navigate at all.