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

How to start your own architectural firm

As an architect, most of us have had a moment where we thought of starting our own architectural practice? Questions like how to start? What skills do I need to run and manage a firm? What is the right time to start my own studio? have constantly run across our minds during such thoughts of transition. 

Our curious team decided to run several polls on Instagram to get an insight into what provokes an individual to make this journey. Below are a few of the most interesting and commonly mentioned responses on why many architects chose to start their own architecture firm or studio.

  1. “I want to work on my terms.”
  2. “I was underpaid as an employee.”
  3. “Passion for helping people create their dream homes and contributing to the built environment.”
  4. “I was bored by performing the same tasks again and again as an employee and wanted to work on exciting and challenging projects.”
  5. “I am young, and I have nothing to lose.”
  6. “The desire to explore spaces in a unique way that engages people holistically with a positive impact.”
  7. “Just for a new beginning and a new experience.”
  8. “I always loved the idea of being an Entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship brings new opportunities and adventure. Life is way more interesting this way.”
  9. “I worked at a studio where the work culture and environment were quite negative. Also, I thought I could do a better job by starting a studio where employees can feel happy and together, where we can make incredible architecture.”

The idea of venturing out on your own can be scary, but to progress eventually, we all have to go through some change and leave our comfort zone to find better growth opportunities. The thought of starting your own studio can come into play at any point in your career. You can be a final year student, a fresh graduate or an experienced professional.

There can be two scenarios in this case:

  1. You already have the work experience and are looking to leverage your expertise to start your studio.
  2. You have just completed your architecture graduation and love the idea of having your own firm.

 If you read up about the journey of some successful architects and designers, you will find examples of both scenarios. Every architect has had a different story about why they started their firm. And we feel now’s the time to create yours.

start your own architecture firm

With this post, we are sharing some helpful insights that will help you begin your journey toward starting your own firm.

So let’s continue to read and find out how to start your own architectural firm. 

FUNDAMENTAL STEPS TO START YOUR OWN ARCHITECTURAL FIRM

There can be a lot of things or minute details to consider before starting one’s own architectural practice. However, there are a few given steps that are necessary to help build a good foundation for your firm and help you navigate the process smoothly. 

TYPOLOGY OF THE FIRM

The first and arguably a very essential step is to identify the typology of your architectural firm. As an entrepreneur, you must specify the services that your firm would be providing to its clients. For example, it could be an architectural studio that offers multiple services or it could be a firm focusing on a specific building industry like hospitals, real estate, industrial or hospitality. It can also be a targeted design firm specializing in a specific domain like interior design, landscape design, conservation design or urban design etc. Making this decision upfront will help you stay on track and provide a clear direction for the firm’s long term future.

The second step is to identify the size you foresee for your firm. It is always good to have an idea to take the relevant steps in the beginning. Even though you might start small, this may be affected due to the number of people involved from the beginning or the capital you have to start your firm.  

GET REGISTERED AS AN ARCHITECT

Before starting your own firm, a very crucial step is to get yourself registered as an architect with the Council of Architecture. The registration allows you to be legally recognized as an architect and enables you to practice architecture professionally. 

After completion of your bachelor’s degree, i.e. B. Arch, from a registered and recognized college, you can apply for an architectural license. The approval of your license will be based on the Architects Act of your specific region.

NETWORKING

When starting on your journey to start your own firm, It is essential to be visible on the grid. As an entrepreneur, you must remember that networking is an integral part of starting a business which can unlock various opportunities for you and your firm. To get to know more people from the industry and be known to them, you must take part in conferences, workshops, seminars, competitions etc. Not only will it help you get more clients, but it may also help you find a set of keen applicants who are willing to work as your employees.

 

REGISTRATION OF THE FIRM

Just like your own practising license, the firm must also be registered with the Council of Architecture in your country. The typology of registration completely depends on you. For example, if you are the only owner of the firm, you can register for a sole proprietorship but if two or more partners are involved, you can also apply for a limited liability partnership. After the successful completion of these activities, you can direct your attention towards other formalities like– planning a business strategy, completing legal formalities, registering for taxes, getting a business/current bank account, registering for business insurance and finally working on your own brand.

The following section includes the things you need to keep in mind while starting your independent practice as an architect. Listen to this informative podcast on “How to Turn Architecture Into a Lucrative Business Model BUSINESS PLAN FOR YOUR ARCHITECTURE FIRM  In simple terms, a business plan can be defined as a set of future goals, aims, and objectives 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 as that is something everyone asks for when you promote your firm or reach out to clients. A few other benefits of developing a business plan early on
  • A business plan can help you to raise capital for your business.
  • A channelized business plan will assist you in making healthy and sound decisions.
  • Most firms use a business plan as a tool to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • A business plan is known to convey the goals and ideas clearly to all the people involved in the firm.
 Here are some tips on how to write a business plan for your architectural practice:
  • STEP 1 – Start the business plan by writing your vision statement, i.e., ‘How will your architectural firm look after a few years?’
  • STEP 2 – Describe the mission, in other words, why are you planning to start the business and the objective your business has and any challenges it plans to address or solutions it aims to provide.
  • STEP 3 – List down your strategies for the mission, i.e. what is your plan of action to achieve your business’s objectives.
  • STEP 4 – Set some small and quick goals that will direct you towards your vision and mission.
  • STEP 5 – Finally, produce the ultimate action plan by including certain standards, rules and regulations that will support your business plan.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO START AN ARCHITECTURAL FIRM? The cost of starting an architecture firm can vary depending on a number of factors, making it difficult to come to an exact cost. But there are some guaranteed expenses that you need to keep in mind while starting your own practice.
  • First, the architect’s registration fee and the firm’s registration fee to the Council of architecture.
  • Second, renting or buying an office space for the firm. The cost may vary on the size, location, amenities etc.
  • Third, the money spent on other legal procedures like insurance, taxation, networking etc.
  • Fourth, infrastructure and office supplies like computers, software and plotting machines along with other equipment to support your operations.
  • Fifth and the most recurring expense, the salary that needs to be paid to your employees.
HOW TO FIND ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS
 Finding clients and getting architectural projects is the most difficult task you will face as the owner of a newly established architecture firm. It is definitely a point of major concern for anyone who wants to establish themselves in the design industry and start their own architectural firm. So here are some tips and tricks on how to find projects and clients.
  • Develop a networking group – As discussed, networking and getting references is an integral part of starting an architectural firm. It helps in building strong and long term connections that can often result in collaborative work opportunities.
  • Speaking in seminars and workshops – Architects are often known to collaborate with various clients and vendors in seminars. Events like these allow you to meet potential clients and other people from the industry who can help you get design projects. A strong and bold speaker always attracts people..
  • Exhibit your work at trade shows – Trade fairs are a very effective way of impressing people by showcasing your work.
  • Start a Newsletter – The current industry is well known for using newsletters or digital communication as a way of developing new connections and contacts.
  • Get your work published – Working with architectural journals and magazines and getting them to feature your projects will also bring a lot of exposure to your work and increase engagement. 
This is a never-ending list. In simple words, there are numerous ways to find new projects for expanding the business. However, it is always beneficial to have an innovative, fresh and creative approach. If you found the above tips helpful and would like to dive deeper into the topic, you can sign up for our course ‘How to start your own architecture or interior design firm’ by clicking the link below. https://architecturechat.com/architecture-online-course/running-a-successfull-architecture-design-practice/

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