How to start your own architecture firm and grow as an architect

How to start your own architectural firm

Wondering how to start your own architectural practice? Not sure where to start? No need to worry, this article will answer all your questions. Today I will tell you everything you need to know about starting your own architectural firm.
The idea of being independent can be scary, but I can assure you it is the right thing to do. You might be A final year student, a fresh graduate, an experienced professional or just some random architect; but this decision of starting your own practice is the first step towards greatness. No architect ever became famous by working under someone else.
So let’s continue to read and find out how to start your own architectural firm.

start your own architecture firmBASIC STEPS TO START YOUR OWN ARCHITECTURAL FIRM

Starting an architectural firm can be a tricky business. So let me start by telling you the major actions that need to be taken for starting your own firm.

1. TYPOLOGY OF FIRM

The first and most basic step is to identify the typology of your architectural firm. As an entrepreneur, you must specify the services that the firm would be providing to its clients. For example, it could be an interior designing firm, landscape design firm, conservation firm, urban design firm etc. This decision will help you to stay on track.
The second step is to identify the size of the firm. A small, large or humongous firm is always dependent upon the capital you have. Although it is better to start small; after all slow and steady wins the race. 

2. GET REGISTERED AS AN ARCHITECT

Before starting your own firm, get yourself registered as an architect by the council of architecture. The registration gives you the license to practice architecture.
After completion of your bachelor’s degree i.e. B. Arch, from a registered and recognized college; you can apply for the license. The approval of your license will be based on the Architects Act of 1983. Once you are done with the procedure, a certificate of registration will be provided. Keep in mind that it needs to be renewed periodically.

3. NETWORKING

It is important to be identified on the grid. As an entrepreneur, you must remember that networking is an integral part of starting a business. To do that you must take part in conferences, workshops, seminars, competition etc. Not only will it help you to get more clients, but it may also help you to find a set of keen applicants (who are willing to work as your employees).

4. REGISTRATION OF THE FIRM

Just like you, the firm must also be registered by the Council of Architecture. The typology of registration is completely based on you. For example, are you looking for a sole proprietorship where you will be the only owner of the firm or you are looking for limited liability partnership where two or more partners will join forces to start their practice?

After the successful completion of these activities, you can easily take care of the little formalities like – Planning a business strategy, developing a legal background, registering for taxes, starting a business account in the bank, registering for business insurance and finally defining the own brand.

The above section has already discussed the basic steps of starting your own architectural firm. In this section we will majorly talk about – the things you need to keep in mind while starting your independent practice as an architect

ARCHITECTS OFFICE SETUP

The architecture office setup can be understood in two ways. The first meaning is the literal meaning that means the setup of office infrastructure. For example, the layout plan, gadgets, functional spaces etc. The second meaning of office setup is the manpower and its hierarchy.

Architecture firms would die if they started to work from home. Infrastructure is a very important part of starting your own firm. The team needs a place to work together. So, before starting make sure you have an office space.

The office must offer a friendly workspace. An office must have proper workstations for every single employee. The employees must be equipped with necessary equipment like computers, printers, etc. The setup must have a conference room for client meetings and important discussion. Plus other important facilities like waiting area, toilets, canteen etc. should be provided for the users.

The second Part of an architect’s office setup is to specify the employee hierarchy. So, after the interviews and hiring procedure, you must assign the employees their designation. This will help in establishing a healthy and systematic work environment.

Listen to this informative podcast on “How to Turn Architecture Into a Lucrative Business Model”

 

BUSINESS PLAN FOR ARCHITECTURE FIRM

First of all, you need to understand the meaning of a business plan. So, a business plan can be defined as a set of future goals, aims, and objectively defined by a company (that needs to be achieved in a specific duration of time).
One must realize that it is very important to define a business plan for the successful operation of the architecture firm.

  • A business plan can help you to raise capital for the business.
  • A channelized business plan will assist you to make healthy and sound decisions.
  • Most firms use the business plan as a tool to identify their flaws and weaknesses.
  • Finally, a business plan is known to convey the goals and ideas clearly to the stakeholders.
    Now let me give you some tips on how to write business for starting your own architectural practice:
  • STEP 1 – Start the business plan by writing your vision statement. That is ‘How will your architectural firm look after a few years?’
  • STEP 2 – Describe the mission. I mean to say that why are you planning to start the business.
  • STEP 3 – List down your strategies for the mission, i.e. what is your plan of action.
  • STEP 4 – Set some small and quick goals that will walk you towards your vision.
  • STEP 5 – Finally produce the ultimate action plan for the business.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO START AN ARCHITECTURAL FIRM?

The cost of starting an architecture firm will vary according to your vision. So, it’s quite difficult to give the exact cost, but I will quote the expenses that you need to bear in order to start your own practice.

  • You need to pay the architect’s registration fee and architecture firm’s registration fee to the Council of architecture.
  • The 2nd expenditure would be – renting an office space for the firm. The cost may vary upon the size, location, amenities etc.
  • The 3rd expense will the money spend on other legal procedures like insurance, taxation, networking etc.
  • The 4th set of expenditure would be for the computers, software and plotting machines.
  • The 5th and the most important expense is the salary that needs to be paid to your employees.
    All these expenses are recurring and you will continue to pay them at regular intervals.
HOW MUCH DOES ARCHITECTURE FIRM OWNERS MAKE?

The answer to this question is ‘A lot’. The owner of an architecture company earns 20% – 25% more than a principal architect working under someone else (These figures are true only for the early stages). After years of experience and owning an architecture firm, the owner manages to earn double (or even more, based on the project) compared to any other architect (with the same level of experience).

  • Wondering how is it possible? It’s not so tricky. Unlike an employee, the owner has various other sources of income –
  • The owner (obviously) earns the maximum share of the construction project.
  • The vendors are known to pay legal commissions to the owners of the architectural firm.
  • With great power comes great money.
  • The owners are often known to run multiple side businesses which add to their earnings.
  • Business owners are also known to earn a great sum of unethical money. ( but please do not follow this path)
HOW TO FIND ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS?

I have kept the best for the last. Finding client and fetching architectural projects is the most difficult task you will face as the owner of an architecture firm. So here are some tips and tricks on how to fetch projects and clients.

  • Develop a networking group – As discussed in the above sections, networking is a very important part of starting an architectural firm.
  • Speaking in seminars and workshops – Architects are often known to collaborate with various clients and vendors in seminars. A strong and bold speaker always attracts new clients.
  • The portrait you work in tradeshows – Trade fair is a very effective way of impressing people by showcasing your work.
  • Sponsoring Local events – We know that advertising is unethical in architecture practice. So sponsoring events is a loop hole you can use to promote your firm.
  • Start a Newsletter – The current industry is well known for using newsletters as a way of developing new bonds and contacts.

This is a never-ending list. In simple words, just be creative about it. There are numerous ways to find new projects for expanding the business; all you need is a perspective.

It is never too early to start your own practice and it is never too late. Just come up with a good plan and work for it. If I can do it, anyone can. All the best.

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