Just lost a-hole clients.


I just lost a client to a drafter here in texas that is doing design work for .08 cents a square foot for a custom home design. They said they met him through craigslist of all places, and that they were recommended by a friend of theirs. Contract was signed, retainer fee was paid. Cost was just 4% of total for a sizable residential home. We met a couple hours ago, they said, we have 3 days to get out of this contract and just like that.... 

I explained that what I have to offer is worth their time and money. They said I was ripping them off, that I didn't give them the retainer fee back they would sue me, I explained the retainer was none refundable that It was all in the contract. Told me to fuck off that i was some leech just going around screwing people over and that Architects aren't worth for shit just $$$. As they were walking away the guy says to go rip someone else off, gave me the big ol' middle finger and then they left. 

All this after they saw my work, visited my office, talked to referrals and highly praised me to their family and friends. 

Uhhh. My mind was boggled. I was smiling in this state of disbelief, I couldn't comprehend what had just happened!

While, i've had projects all over the state of TX, i have never gotten one client has acted like that, ever!

Anyone else ever had this happen to them?

Jan 12, 15 12:26 am

good work - got paid, did no work, and have no liability.  

I'm sure they'll never come back, but there's a good chance they regret going with the $0.08 guy, after all, its only one of the most important projects they ever undrertake, why not go with the cheapest possible guy

Jan 12, 15 8:44 am


Bonus: you get to enjoy watching them blow a bundle on a gigantic turd. Be sure to take pictures and post them here.

Jan 12, 15 9:27 am
Non Sequitur

Free money and one headache less. Win-win

Jan 12, 15 9:38 am

Contract was signed, retainer fee was paid. Cost was just 4% of total for a sizable residential home

Was the 4% YOUR fee?  If so, that is reasonable.  There is absolutely no way someone can do a set of buildable drawings for eight cents per square foot.  Somebody in that relationship is going to be seriously disappointed.

I was talking to a retired colleague a while back who told me he was only fired once in his entire career.  On New Years Day of all things.  He said he had bad vibes about the client from the start and that he was overjoyed when the client booted him off the job.  Sure enough, the replacement architect ended up in a massive lawsuit on the job.

Thank your lucky stars.  You have avoided the Client from Hell.

Jan 12, 15 9:41 am

how big was this house going to be? just wondering...

(sounds low, but 4% could be low or high depending on exactly how hudge the house was intended to be)

Jan 12, 15 12:08 pm
Saint in the City

It's early, but let's do some math -- 8 cents X 3000 SF = $240.......?  

That amount is more like my coffee allowance per project.

Per your fee -- 4% on a house is very low.

Jan 12, 15 12:08 pm
Non Sequitur

Saint, you need to drink coffee.

Jan 12, 15 12:24 pm

4% wouldn't cover my coffee expenses.

$.08 / sq. ft.? As-builts are $1.50 and up. Pretty soon people are going to start paying clients for the opportunity to work.

Maybe they could get credit for an internship?

Jan 12, 15 12:33 pm

perhaps the $0.08 is part of a larger plan?

once the cheap ass clients have committed over $200 they will be afraid to start over with a new designer and feel forcde to accept a gigantic change order for a more reasonable amount

Jan 12, 15 1:02 pm
jon ammer

You should have gone into Al Pacino shouting mode on them. watch Glengarry glen ross for how to react to being spoken to like that. 

Jan 12, 15 1:08 pm

count yourself lucky.  Imagine having to deal with this cheap ass, a-hole for long term?

Jan 12, 15 1:09 pm

Great front-page graphic, as always, Archinect!

Greateascape, it sounds like you dodged a bullet.  Glad you had a chance to vent here among friends who understand!

Jan 12, 15 1:14 pm

Think how horrible it would be if they hadn't decided to go elsewhere?

Zzzzzzzing!  That's the sound of an armor-piercing round missing you by inches...

Jan 12, 15 1:33 pm

Be magnanimous and pay the drafter's fee for them.  .08 cents per square foot x 10,000 square feet = $8.00.  Two lattes.

Jan 12, 15 1:51 pm

I think the project is dead, they just wanted you to fuck off

Jan 12, 15 2:01 pm

Maybe the Guy has a new Girlfriend and the wife doesn't know about it and she is getting paid on the side..

Jan 12, 15 2:26 pm
wurdan freo

4 zeros means you move the decimal 4 places to the right... ;) That would be $800. Drafters in india arent even that cheap... I say bullshit.

Jan 12, 15 2:41 pm
Saint in the City

Yes, I may have undershot.  I'm gonna need more coffee allowance.

Jan 12, 15 3:11 pm

Cheap ass clients think they are going to get a deal by undercutting professional fees.

You either pay more upfront for a job well done, or you pay 10 fold plus whatever fees they bitched about in change orders down the road.  


Jan 12, 15 4:02 pm

Please please please please please please please...

Post any results you hear of what happens with their decision at the other end. I'm geniunely curious to know (though I'm sure it doesn't take too much speculation as to what the result will be).

Jan 12, 15 4:04 pm

Hey guys thanks for the support. 


So the story continues, got into my office and my assistant tells me that I got a call from someone saying to be the guy that took my clients. 30 minutes later I get a phone call, I answer and to my suprise it's the draftsmen that charges .08 cents a square foot. 


He told me I was too expensive and the clients I had saw value in him. That 240 dollars for a plan is reasonable. I noticed his accent was very heavy accented in spanish btw (He even asks me if i speak spanish). He tells me he wants the sketches that I had made for his now "customers" that the 2,000 dollars paid was robbing them. 

He was literally demanding me to send him the sketches. I simply told him, nope. Hung up on me and here I am. 


I am literally shocked at the way this is happening. I mean wow. 

Jan 12, 15 4:28 pm
snooker-doodle-dandy think it is NAFTA?

Jan 12, 15 4:37 pm
Saint in the City

I think at this point I could not resist sending Captain 8 Cents some of my "best" sketches.  Included would be my toilet at dusk light study.  And something with a mustache.  

Jan 12, 15 4:39 pm

send him this and say this is how far you got with the design and let us know what he says.

Jan 12, 15 5:15 pm
Saint in the City

It would really be great if all this turned out to be an elaborate hoax perpetrated by your own best friends.  I love that kind of stuff.  

Jan 12, 15 5:19 pm

It is good to hear others with similar stories. This is becoming a trend.

I have been writing proposals for residential clients for under 4% of the construction price, and they come back and tell me that I am double or triple the cost of other proposals. Clients think they can get a million dollar house for just a few thousand in design fees.

What is happening is drafters are doing the work for $8-$10 an hour, then hiring a structural engineer for a small fee to stamp and sign the drawings. This eliminates the need for an architect.

I attribute this to several factors. On for example, you can hire an drafter from India for $7 an hour to design just about anything. Craigslist too, people are willing to work for pennies on the dollar.

The other factor is there are a whole bunch of free apps where people can design their own house. It is so easy and cheap that clients think the technology will just design the project for them.

Lastly, since the recession the profession of architecture has lost its prestige as a professional discipline. Everyone thinks we are unemployed and starving artists looking for work. Clients think they can get a bargain because architects are willing to work for pennies. 

Jan 12, 15 5:42 pm

You should have told El Drafto that you'd sell him the prelims for $2,000. If you kept his number you could post a Craigslist ad with it for plans @ $.04 / sq.ft.

If they ever come back you're too busy to help them. Even if you're waiting in a bread line.

Jan 12, 15 6:05 pm

haha miles, not a bad idea! 

Jan 12, 15 6:42 pm

@wurdan freo… I might have been the only one to notice that the OP stated the drafter's fee as .08 CENTS per square foot.  I know the OP meant $.08 per square foot; my comment was made in jest.  An order of magnitude here, an order of magnitude there, pretty soon you're talking real money!

Jan 12, 15 6:42 pm

@Donna Dink, yes I had to vent, glad i could do it here. Thanks!

Jan 12, 15 6:43 pm
Sarah Hamilton
Greatescape, where in Texas? I'd email you, but I ant click on your name in the iPhone app, and I'm not near my computer. Can you email me, please?
Jan 12, 15 7:03 pm

I had one of those projects earlier this year.  The Client hires a NYC Designer...not an Architect, who has a person in the office with a Masters Degree in Architecture.  They have done the Preliminary drawings and want  a local contractor to build it  but they need an architect from here to put together the working drawings.   I looked at the plans and gave them a number I could live with, knowing full well I was going to have to be dealing with someone who had little or no idea as to how a project like this is put together.  I heard back from the contractor they decided to go with a structural engineer and a  draftsman.  I scratched my head and  asked myself it it was the same draftsman  who I have followed thru a couple other projects.  One project  had the spring line for a vaulted ceiling on the upper level at 24" off the finish floor and the peak at around 5'-6".  The other project  had a 36"  spiral stair case as the primary means of  egress for a number of  summer camp staff  living spaces. 

This one has a Lap Pool in the Basement, an Elevator and a full wall of glass.  There was no place for any pool  equipment, no elevator machine room, and the owner didn't want to have  to many bedrooms cause the house septic field  couldn't handle  additional bedrooms but he wanted to convert the library into a bedroom after the fact.

Ya it is fricking  crazy out there.    The owner informed the contractor  about his move to a Structural Engineer and a Draftsman while Vacationing in Europe.

Jan 12, 15 7:25 pm

I would certainly secure any electronic or paper drawings you have, as well as your office in general and all the equipment inside. Do not take any more phone calls except to tell them to put any further communication in writing so it can be reviewed by your lawyer.

Jan 12, 15 7:29 pm

I'm an LA, so I tend to think I deal with devaluation by others (clients, other consultants) more often than the average architect--

I've learned to not fight it. In fact, tell them to go take a shot with the other guy. Give them a grin and wish them luck. Be sure to make it clear that you understand the reason for their decision and that you will be glad to work with them in the future if the other gy doesnt work out.

In my humble experience, they forget they even considered the other guy, or they use the other guy and learn their lesson ..and you might still have a future client.

Point is--The harder you fight, the more you devalue yourself.

Jan 12, 15 8:56 pm

Everyone thinks we are unemployed and starving artists looking for work. Clients think they can get a bargain because architects are willing to work for pennies

Sadly, they are right!

Jan 12, 15 10:50 pm

Larch, those people are incapable of being even manageable clients. Best to stay far, far away. Which doesn't mean you can't be nice to them, just too busy to take them on.

But you could recommend someone that would be perfect for them ... 

Jan 12, 15 11:33 pm
Saint in the City

Point is--The harder you fight, the more you devalue yourself.

Some truth there.    

Jan 13, 15 12:53 pm

Went ahead and filed a police report after getting harassing calls all day, officers went to speak to the el drafter and apparently got into a scuffle with them. Long story short, officers told me he assaulted a female officer, and resisted arrest. I stopped getting calls from the a-hole clients after officers paid a visit and informed them that i was planning to file a restraining order. I got one last call and a voicemail with a apology.


People are something else and in my last 8 years of doing this, I feel like i'm in stuck in some weird dream/nightmare. 

Jan 14, 15 1:10 pm

Seriously, greatescape?! That's craaaaazzzzy!!!! I hope nothing more comes of it but a good story for you to tell.

Also, we can tell all our clients this: "Yes, I may charge more but I won't make harassing phone calls or assault any officers of the law while I'm on your clock."

Jan 14, 15 1:53 pm

So do you think his bail was more, or less, than $240?

Jan 14, 15 2:21 pm

Architectural retainer: a couple grand.

Fee of draftsman who undercut you: $240.

Having this great story to tell: priceless!

I don't care if you are standing on the corner of Fifth and Vermouth, open for suggestions; you're too busy to take them on unless the fee is doubled and paid in full up front.

Jan 14, 15 2:58 pm

That got outta hand REAL quick, what an odd chain of events.  It does make for a good anecdote for folks who want to cheap out on one of the most important parts on one of the biggest investments they'll ever make...

Jan 14, 15 3:06 pm

Nice one Menona!

Jan 14, 15 3:21 pm

WAIT - in two days you went from losing a client to slapping a restraining order on them? 

WTF - they kept calling and demanding their retainer back? And el drafter too? did dodge a bullet

Jan 14, 15 3:26 pm
Jan 14, 15 6:59 pm


Being a startup business we've had our share of crazy people wanting to waste our time, but this is a whole other level that I hope we never experience. Thanks for sharing, crazy story.

Jan 14, 15 8:18 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

And who doesn't love architecture!

Jan 14, 15 8:24 pm
Although, I think I would've carried these chumps a few rounds longer, I mean, what's the point of having 2nd Amendment remedies, if you ain't using em.
Jan 14, 15 8:46 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

Bill them for the hours they sucked out of your life and then when they don't call take them to small claims court and tell the sheriff to repossess their car.

Jan 14, 15 8:48 pm

appalling! glad you yourself weren't hurt by these unbalanced people.

Jan 14, 15 9:26 pm

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