Starting your own business can be daunting, and creating an architectural consulting company is no different.
For architects, the main concern is shifting your attention from your craft to establishing yourself as an entrepreneur with the business skills to make strategic decisions.
As 19-year veteran Mark Cavargnero put it in an interview with Architizer, “The big issue is, how do you get hired? How do you actually go off on your own and survive? It’s the part no one ever talks about.”
Well, we’re talking about it now. We’ll give you the tools to start a successful career in architectural consulting.
Table of Contents:
What is an architectural consultant?
Before you start an architectural consulting company, you should know what an architectural consultant is.
An architectural consultant is an experienced, licensed professional who is employed for specific projects by SMEs or large organizations, so they can offer their specialized knowledge.
Your role as a consultant will change according to your field, but you would typically be engaged to help your client create innovative design solutions. This can include the primary management and planning, or the design stage.
Architectural consultants tend to work in “niche” fields, such as green architecture, conservation, etc. Consulting services vary, but may include evaluation, assessment, and conceptualization.
Tip #1: Get the experience first
It sounds obvious, but it’s not a great idea to jump into consulting right after you’ve received your license. Build up your “hard skills”, such as cloud, construction documentation, API, business process, and architecture.
The landscape, of course, is ever changing, but currently the highest-paying industries by mean annual wage are insurance carriers, scientific, technical and professional services, electric power generation, general medical and surgical hospitals, and the management of enterprises and companies.
Within the US, the highest-paying states are New York, Georgia, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and Minnesota. If you’re going by country, they would be, in order, the UAE, Hong Kong, the US, Switzerland, Singapore, Ireland, the UK and Canada.
Remember, though, that employment for architects generally depends on the condition of the building and construction industry.
Tip #2: Don’t underestimate marketing your business
Whether you’re a one-person business or you’re managing a dozen employees of your own, marketing is a practice that many consulting companies tend to overlook in their architecture business plan.
It’s important to build up an attractive portfolio of publishable work and make it accessible for your clients as soon as possible. This is a vital aspect of attracting leads and establishing relationships beyond your current network. (If you want an example of a portfolio, here you go.)
In order to do so, it’s important to be strategic about how what types of projects you approach and with whom.
For example, it’s much easier – and therefore, cost-effective – to get a ground-up house published than a residential remodel. Looking for readily marketable projects will help you in the long run.
Actively integrating principles of architecture and business often feels like foreign territory for architects, but Cass Calder Smith from CCS Architecture put it perfectly in an interview with Architizer:
“I find a lot of us don’t use [problem-solving skills] for ourselves in marketing ways or creative ways,” he stated. “You should slow down every now and then and go, ‘I’m a trained creative person. This is what I do: I solve problems. So I’m going to apply that to my marketing situation.”
Tip #3: Build up your network, then leverage it
Some architects start their architectural consulting company by way of working for experienced homebuilders and then using that network to help build their business. A list of contacts to collaborate with is invaluable.
But regardless of how wide your current network is, it’s important to continuously liaise with new industry members who can help you get your firm where you want it to be.
This is especially important when it comes to non-designers. For example, manufacturers and real estate companies are a huge help when it comes to architecture business development. This is because they have up-to-date information on which local companies are looking to develop new buildings for commercial properties.
Other important contacts to consider are specialists in architectural technologies and construction documentation providers – we’ll talk more about this later on in the article.
But the essential takeaway here is that connecting with professionals who can grow with your company is the best way to position yourself advantageously for the future.
A great way to expand your network is to join associations in the industry. If you want an example, you can see the organizations BluEnt has collaborated with over the years.
Tip #4: Think about scalability early on
In addition to choosing marketable projects, look out for bigger architectural firms who you could partner with in the future.
You may be a solo consultant now, but the sooner you start getting your name out there to these companies, the better positioned you’ll be.
As you grow into a larger firm over time, you’ll have access to a wider client base who can gradually scale up projects with you.
This works to both firms’ advantages, especially if you have expertise in a certain field, such as sustainable architecture.
Melissa Werner of CCS Architecture revealed her take on this advice in the same Architizer interview. “We let larger firms know that we’re interested in working with them,” she explained. “We’ll talk to a much larger firm that may specialize in something totally different from us, but it would make sense to bring us in as a restaurant person. That way we can have a small piece of a larger project, which would hopefully lead to bigger projects later on.”
Not only does this does this further establish your presence in the industry, but it gives you valuable experience for taking on larger and larger projects down the line.
Tip #5: Continue educating yourself
Congratulations, you’re an architectural consultant. Don’t put down your books just yet.
You will need to meet certain continuing requirements to remain ahead of the curve in your industry. This might involve giving retests for certifications, joining classes and workshops, and going to professional conferences.
You now have a solid base to kickstart your architectural consulting company. Implement these tips to make the most of your career.
If you’re the ambitious type (which you probably are, if you’ve read till here), you can explore more about trends in residential architecture, the best practices for technical construction drawings, and the difference between architectural construction drawings, as built drawings and shop drawings.
And if your consulting company needs help with architectural construction documentation? BluEntCAD provide architectural drafting services for both residential and commercial projects.
Our professional drafters have many years of experience in the field, with knowledge of the latest industry needs, such as construction as built documentation.
Our team will give you a competitive edge by not only helping you to take on larger projects, but helping you land larger projects. This is done by allowing you greater scalability, since we do all the heavy lifting while you focus on running your business.
Alongside this, we use the most advanced construction documentation software to provide you with the best results. For architectural consultants, this means the ability to win out over the competition and approach bigger projects with confidence.
Ready to take your business to new heights with construction documentation services? Contact us now!