$20K to start your own practice


Semi-hypothetical question: Let’s assume you have $20K to start your own architectural design practice, no license, no clients, no important connections in a big city. How would you spend your money to find and produce work? 

Mar 1, 24 10:49 pm
Non Sequitur

get a license. 

Mar 1, 24 11:55 pm  · 
3  · 

Lack of an architectural license is really going to limit what the OP's project opportunities and earning potential can ever be. They should consider sticking it out in an employment situation long enough to complete the licensure process. The same time period could also be used to build a network and contacts.

Mar 4, 24 12:11 pm  · 

Well, depends.. if i have projects to show i’d invest in good photography and website , SEO … if not forget about it.

Mar 2, 24 1:33 am  · 

With no license and no clients, you can pay me the 20k, and I will hire you as my draftsman for 20k a year.

Mar 2, 24 6:48 am  · 
1  · 

Perpetual money hack unlocked.

Mar 2, 24 5:50 pm  · 
1  · 

Spend $16k on an unethical private detective to find dirt on local developers, then blackmail them to hire you or you'll expose them. The remaining $4k is for business dinners and cocaine. 

Mar 2, 24 7:08 am  · 
6  · 

I can almost guarantee someone has used this method.

Mar 4, 24 1:23 pm  · 

I would use that money to live off of while I looked for an actual job. $20k can easily be used up in legal fees and licenses alone. 

Unless you have other money to live off, $20k isn't going to get you very far. 

Mar 2, 24 10:06 am  · 
2  · 

Bribe faculty to obtain an undergrad teaching position, blackball minority and international students into working for free, and have them pump out IG posts targeting M/WBE audiences.

Mar 2, 24 12:59 pm  · 
1  · 

Something about AI. Fake it until you make it.

Mar 2, 24 2:20 pm  · 
2  · 

There's a thin red line between 'fake it until you make it' and a 'fraud in service of concealing a felony'.

Mar 3, 24 8:01 pm  · 
2  · 

Easy. You don’t really need a license anyway. But like here in WA state you’ll be relegated to a “home designer” and limited to residential under 4 units. Basically you want to start your business while still having employment or while getting some construction experience doing rough framing or project management. Since you’ll be in the single family market, this experience will be invaluable for the rest of your career. Then, on the side, start two things. 1. Etsy store + own website where you sell premade house plans. This will allow you not only sell your plans in the internet (who doesn’t live side hustle passive income?), give you practice in designing your own style, and give you substance to put on your own website. 2. Offer your design services to your friends and family for free (in exchange for a review, make this explicit). I’m not talking whole house here. I’m thinking bathroom refresh, kitchen refresh, walk-in-closet makeover. Time to get familiar with stores that sell: carpet, flooring, tile, cabinets, countertops, closet layout, showers, tubs, lighting, etc. Your only goal here is to gain knowledge (confidence in your abilities) and make sure you achieve good reviews (testimonials for your website), good word of mouth, and physical projects that are your 24/7 marketing pieces. Get 10 projects under your belt and start use this as your leverage. (First 10 clients get absolutely free design services for small renovation projects!) Use the fact people can’t sell their homes because many are locked into their low mortgage rates. You’d be surprised how many people bought homes in the last two years that they can’t stand. So ask your friends and family, “if you could improve a room in this home, which room would that be and why?”  All you’re trying to do here is help people out who are essentially handcuffed to a home. BONUS: start a small YouTube channel or instagram account linked to your Facebook where you go through the before and after. Explaining why you’re doing the things you’re doing. Getting a client to gush about how it’s transformed their life in the clip is also an added bonus. Remember it’s not about the views. But 20 view is 20 potential clients that are interested in you. This content will live in perpetuity on the internet (24/7 marketing for you.)

Mar 2, 24 9:18 pm  · 
4  · 

Wow, legitimately good advice on archinect. Who woulda thought it possible.

Mar 3, 24 3:49 pm  · 
2  · 
t a z

Any mention of "home designer" should come with a trigger warning.

Balkinization incoming in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Mar 4, 24 10:20 am  · 
5  · 

appreciate all the responses, some miss the premise of the question though. I'm not trying to find ways to live off of $20k, what I'm more interested in is to hear ideas on how you'd spend your initial $20k on your design business... what methods would you try to find clients, gain a following etc... 

Mar 2, 24 10:47 pm  · 

Well, a piece of that 20k is going to have to feed and house you while you get projects, do the work, and then wait to get paid for the work. From what you have described as your situation, you have a lot of disadvantages and 20k is a pretty small sum to pull off what you are attempting.

Mar 4, 24 12:17 pm  · 

Check out Eric Reinholdt books and videos. His youtube videos are extremely well done, and books are good too, though they might be just slightly outdated, I think he wrote them about 8 years ago. Still, definitely worth reading. I am looking for something similar but for interior design.

Mar 3, 24 8:06 pm  · 

As someone who went out on their own in the last year, I would have the following recommendation outside of the very good advice from mission-critical:

You're going to need more than 20k runway.

Mar 4, 24 9:01 am  · 
6  · 

yeh I think I went through about $36k on just living before I got my first invoice paid. Which was only $2k. Took an additional $50k of living until I started back in the black. But things did get much better from there.

Mar 4, 24 11:06 am  · 
1  · 

I think each of are very brave and determined. Way to go! Running a firm scares me!

Mar 4, 24 11:44 am  · 
1  · 

Take it from me: 20k isn't enough even if you live in a van and shit in a plastic bucket. Ain't even stainless steel.

Mar 4, 24 2:29 pm  · 
1  · 
Wood Guy

I started my residential design business ten years ago for a few hundred dollars: enough for a basic Squarespace website and filing an LLC. I already owned a computer and essential programs but if I didn't I would set aside enough for those. I've never had a proper office and don't see the need for solo residential work. 

As for finding work, before going out on my own I made a name for myself through writing about building science and related topics for local and national magazines; sharing semi-technical knowledge in an accessible manner is a good way to build an audience. I did some building science and sustainability consulting for established firms before I had enough full-service design work lined up to keep me busy. My current backlog is about 15 months. 

I've talked with various marketing pros who recommend using targeted advertising on social media. I've thought about doing that and it would probably result in more "good" jobs vs. the range of renovations and new construction that I get now, but I manage ok without advertising. 

One thing I recommend for building a local network: find or start a local BS*+Beer (*building science) group: https://www.thebsandbeershow.c....  I just got back from the IBS conference in Las Vegas where the organizers of about 20 local groups were honored in a ceremony. I started it as a way to build my local network and now there are almost 40 groups, two Zoom shows and a series of BS symposiums. Starting a local group is easy: https://www.thebsandbeershow.c...

Mar 4, 24 2:34 pm  · 
4  · 

Until you get a license, and a client you're just unemployed! 

Mar 6, 24 3:00 pm  · 
1  · 

Use it all for a one time aerial banner over Laguna beach.  Sit with a beer and wait for a phone call.  

Mar 6, 24 4:32 pm  · 
4  · 

Is that how you get project?! Dang. I'll start my own firm now and rake in the money! ;)

Dose it have to be beer though?  What if I want a cocktail instead?  :)

Mar 6, 24 5:37 pm  · 
Immigrant Developer









Mar 6, 24 7:34 pm  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?


This is your first comment on Archinect. Your comment will be visible once approved.

  • ×Search in: