Architects who start their own business know that they’re good. They are imbued with confidence in their skills as designers & technicians. Others have told them how good they are. Their confidence drives them to transform their talents into their own practice. Their lack of knowledge and expertise in business never occurs to them. They feel that their talents will overcome any weaknesses they have with regards to their lack of business expertise. They feel, because of their design expertise, and their status as top in their field, that clients will come flocking to them with architectural commissions.
Not long into their business venture, do they realize that business skills are necessary and greatly impact whether or not a client chooses them as an architect. Clients, who place a lot of money and resources into a project, are reluctant to hire an architect who doesn’t display business expertise. Clients select an architect with a solid reputation in business, one that is most likely to understand the financial implications of a project, and one who is more concerned in the welfare of the project than in their own reputation as a designer.
Primary criteria a client engages an architect for his new project include:
- aesthetic design capabilities
- functional design
- designing to a budget
- leadership ofa planning & building team
- construction knowledge
- experience with contractors
- knowledge of building by-laws & codes
- relationship with officials at city hall – planning & plan checking.
By this list you can see that design is only a part of the services the client requires of an architect.
Many clients are not familiar with the detail aspects of planning and building a project. They need to rely on their architect, as an agent, to professionally deal with all aspects of the project. Each client has his own unique needs, and it is up to the architect to quickly identify and navigate these needs to get the project off on the right foot and to solidify the client/architect relationship. Once this relationship is established, it must be actively maintained throughout the project until the last coat of paint is applied to the building.
The following is a guideline of a successful client/architect relationship:
1. To begin with, create outline for your client; a step-by-step process for the duration of the project
2. At each milestone of the process remind the client of the completed phases and the upcoming actions and challenges
3. Should a surprising or unexpected challenge arise on the project, expeditiously contact the client, review and thoroughly explain the situation along with how the problem will be resolved
4. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with the client throughout the project. If the client gets information from another source it will compromise the architect’s good work or intentions
5. Keep reminding the client that you, the architect, alone are acting on your client’s his behalf and in their best interests.
Stay close to your client. Give him all the news of his project. If you don't, someone else will and that may not be in your best interests. All your good work can easily be marginalized by someone with a negative agenda.