Getting new work

Feb 13 '13 20 Last Comment
Feb 13, 13 4:39 pm

I've recently been noticing A LOT of additions and a few new builds going up in my neighborhood.  I'd love to be doing some of them!  How does one market themselves in order to get some of these?  Website?  Mailer?  Send pamphlets of some of your work to local real estate agents that who can direct their clients to you if work arises? Any strategies that have worked for you?


Feb 13, 13 4:40 pm


Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 13, 13 5:04 pm

Be related to someone with lots of dough.

Feb 13, 13 6:04 pm

Kill their cats (or grandma). Frame their current designer. Step in just at the right time and offer your services.

Feb 13, 13 8:34 pm

You have to have old work in order to get new work.

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 13, 13 11:25 pm

Sort of like the Screen Actors Guild. You can't act in a film unless you're a member of the guild, and you can't be in the guild unless you've acted in a film.

Feb 14, 13 12:40 am

There's an old saying about the marketing of architectural services that goes something like this: "clients give work to people they know, people they trust, and people they like."

I've always thought that statement sums up the importance of relationships pretty well. All three aspects are substantially - if not equally - important.

To get work you've got to find ways to position yourself so potential clients know who you are, have respect for what you have accomplished, and can learn to be comfortable with who you are as a person. There is no "easy button" for making this happen. It involves putting yourself out there repeatedly and consistently over a long period of time. It's hard work.

Feb 14, 13 1:19 am

You need to start somewhere, try registering on freelancing sites, you will probably get shit clients to start with but at least you are building connections with people out there. As some has mentioned above, client give work to people they trust, these are your family and friends, then the word will spread to their family and friends. Hopefully one of them know someone who got a big dough. Also you colleagues are a good source, keep in contact with all your college friends, one of them might be overloaded with work and need your help. Try entering competitions to get your name out there. Hope that helps

Feb 14, 13 7:22 am

I've done some side gigs with a friend and he gets tons of jobs just by going out to the same bars and restaurants in the local community and just knowing everyone. Like we walk down the street and we would always bump into 2,3 people he knows. Jobs just find their way to him. You've really just got to get out there. Skills in the office don't translate into marketing skills, although you need to know what your talking about to inspire confidence once a client engages you.

Exactly what Quizzical said, only this guy just loves to go out and chat with people, so is never really "work" for him.

Feb 14, 13 4:28 pm

- when you see a project under construction, make a point of stopping by, introducing yourself to the contractor, and finding out more about his business.  Show interest in what he is doing.  A lot of times, remodeling work is done without an architect, or from drawings that are not very good. and the contractor might want to have an architect to refer to homeowners who approach him first.

- meet realtors, and offer to meet for free with clients who are looking at houses but not sure, and may want to remodel or add on.  You can help the realtor make a sale, and gain a client.  I currently have three client that I met with before they bought the houses we are now either remodeling or adding on. 

- When you do land a job in a neighborhood, post a job sign with your information on site.  Write letters to home owners in the few blocks around the house.  The letter can explain that you are working on a nearby house, and they should call you if there is any problem with the contractor or workers on the site- it shows you go above and beyond.   Include a business card they can keep.

-If you know what you are doing, offer to hold a seminar at a local club or the local library on improving property values by remodeling and adding on to your home. Pass out brochures.

- advertise in local inexpensive newsletters, or things like garden club brochures.  These are usually in the $50 range. 

- If your own house looks decent, offer it up for a local house tour- lots of non profits do this as a fundraiser.

- go to the local kitchen cabinet company- the high end one in the neighborhood.  Make nice.   Tell them that you would love to get leads from people who want a fabulous kitchen but it goes beyond just replacing cabinets- they need to move walls, add on, etc.  Tell them you will bring your new clients to their show room as well, and that you will not step on their toes when they give one of their clients to you:;  ie, you will not suggest the client go buy cabinets somewhere else.

- join some activity, club etc where lots of local homeowners hang out- is there a local community group, garden club, book club etc that you can join that interests you?  these usually are no or very low cost. 

- Find out who the really good contractors are in your area, ask then to lunch, establish a relationship, and get their advice.  You would be surprised how much work comes from contractors to architects.

- establish an identity on Houzz, and have a very good web page that appeals to home owners.

- Do you have relationships with larger architectural firms that don't do residential?  Ask them to refer work to you.  They get clients asking them to do residential, and random calls all the time.

- who is the architect in town that does the really high end stuff?  establish a relationship- believe me, they get calls all the time for stuff like little additions and remodels, new garages, etc that they don't want to do.

- should i keep going?  I could do this all day.   There are lots and lots of ways to get work.

Feb 14, 13 6:20 pm

Yes plz keep going good stuff

Feb 14, 13 6:35 pm

Wow, thank you all.  Very insightful!  Very good stuff.

unknown placeholderunknown placeholder
Feb 16, 13 3:54 pm

Archie, thank you for your post. For those starting a practice in the US have a look at the US Small Business Association. While it is not a direct link to clients it has some information about starting a business.

I am told by the previous generation of architects that starting a business was not as complex of a process as it is today. Old architects make me laugh when they tell me - in their day they could get a building done with a roll of paper and a piece of burnt stick [pencil].


Feb 18, 13 5:06 pm

Hi Adam;

You can still start a business simply.  In fact it might be easier than in the old days- we had to buy lots of books and reference materials, (no  'on line'!),  buy printed stationary, fax machines, copiers, etc.  Now if you have a computer and software, you can be a virtual office just about anywhere.  I do suggest start ups get liability insurance.   You can start as a sole proprietor and keep things simple, doing business under your own name. 

The SBA can be helpful, but the most expensive/difficult  start up cost is still the time and effort that it takes to develop a strong repeating client base, or one that comes in from referrals. You can have all the fancy equipment, furniture, and software in the world, but if you do not have clients, you are pretty much out of luck, and will soon be out of money.

Feb 18, 13 5:08 pm

Why has someone not mentioned the AIA yet ?

Feb 18, 13 10:08 pm

Because the AIA isn't much use for getting new work.

Jul 22, 13 12:40 pm

Wanted to bump this up.  Any other ideas?

vado retro
Jul 22, 13 1:16 pm

here are a few things if you live in a smaller community or a nonarchitectural centric area...

  • get involved in any local art museums/historic preservation/downtown revitilization groups. these people are interested in the arts and most members are monied professionals who may be in need of an architect's services.
  • give a talk about architecture at your local library. seriously, people will come.
  • join the regional home builder's association. here you will meet vendors and contractors. usually there is an annual "convention". get yourself a booth and show your wares.
  • take out an ad in the free style magazines that are all over the place. Get your name out there.
Jul 22, 13 7:44 pm

shave your head....wear old persons clothes...wear musk oil.  Wear fake glasses if you have to...and always always  carry  a scale in your front pocket.  That should get you thru the door .  Ya Right.  There is no real way to do it. as it just happens after you have been out their long enough.  My most profitable job was one where  I showed up in a tee shirt and shorts during the middle of summer  to meet the client  about a project, just because I gave them some pro bono work the year before  designing  a lunch time eating area for students.  Oh ya the same year  I interviewed the former head of Sony Music to move  his art gallery from one side of his vineyard to the other side of his vineyard.  The project didn't happen.

Steven WardSteven Ward
Jul 22, 13 8:02 pm

Learn to enjoy small talk. Not just bear it, but participate in it and be really interested and engaged. It's amazing to watch, and it works in building relationships.*

[*I'm horrible at this.]

Jul 24, 13 1:55 pm

Has anyone had luck posting a regular ad on Craigslist?

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