To the self-employed: what do you do when you get fired?

What is your plan-of-action when it comes to going different ways? Do you immediately scramble for a new client? And, more importantly, which strategies have worked best for you when it comes to networking again?

I have a feeling with the decline in business in my area that I'm going to be on the chopping block soon with at least one of my clients— one of my bigger, more steady clients.

And to err on the side of not airing dirty laundry, It has been getting tougher over the last few months. Available work has been forcing the entire company to work more in South Florida— a 60- to 100-mile drive no one really likes making on a near daily basis. And, while I'd love to fulfill the role of the traveling salesman they so desperately need, I have other commitments to other clients. Since I'm aware of the company's entire financial picture, it also makes little economic sense to hire anyone not producing tangible income full-time.

My personal struggle now is whether I find new clients, find someone else in the area to team up with or find another firm or person to take over my workload and pursue a real full-time job. I'm probably going to take option three. There's a local contract bookkeeper office type, who I've heard is an absolutely lovely person, but I've never personally met her. So, I'm not entirely sure on how to broach the subject to my clients that I am closing up shop.

And, most importantly, how do firms view the work experience of self-employed people?


Apr 12, 12 5:00 pm

"Firms" wouldn't know their a$$ from a hole in a 2x4.

Don't bother trying to figure out what they want. Take your skill set and transfer it to some other profession. Architecture is DOA.

What do they want? Everything in a candidate for NOTHING in return. DC

Apr 12, 12 5:54 pm

I actually work outside of architecture and planning and I was educated in planning, graduated at the time of bust in the boom-and-bust period. Fell into picking up odd jobs for various businesses and have been doing it ever since.

I recently started doing design and marketing work, as I had previously been employed as a graphic designer through college, but I've always had an issue with graphic design as it is not necessarily a steady income— lots of one-off projects that come in sparsely. And I don't have the sort of budget or market to go into doing design work 100% of the time as I would really need to hire someone that can competently do scripting and back-end work for websites.

My big issue with having to say, "So Long, Farewell, Alveterzane, Goodbye," to my existing clients is that they usually have me do a lot of little things for them during regular business hours. I can build websites and make mailers on my own time. I cannot, however, do my other general work while I'm working for someone else.


While I'd like to go into architecture and planning, perhaps on the business side, I really have no practical experience with it. However, architecture and planning overlap with a lot of other creative professions I do have skillsets in. But, architecture or not, I still work in the professional services industry and many of the issues are still the same.

Apr 12, 12 6:17 pm

"Firms" I don't limit that word to the field of AE

Apr 12, 12 6:44 pm
Tinbeary There there

Self-employment is a roller coaster. I'd try and get new clients and stick with it if you enjoy it.

Alveterzane? Would that be Auf Weidersehen? Funny!

Apr 12, 12 7:19 pm
wurdan freo

I would highly recommend building your own business if you can weather the ups and downs and muster the drive needed to get through the downs. Find better clients or fire your bad clients. 80/20 rule.  

If you work for someone else, the best you may get is two weeks notice that you are out of a job. If you work for yourself, you know every single day when the checks will stop coming. If you work for someone else you are counting on receiving one check to create your income. If you work for yourself you are counting on many/multiple checks to create your income. In both scenarios, if you don't get one of your checks, are you ok?

Maybe you can find a position where the employer who hires you will give you flex time. That could be a win-win situation. Then you wouldn't have to follow the 9-5 hours that will limit your opportunities to manage your business.

Lastly, if there are multiple business opportunities and you can manage them all, why not go after them all. If you have one business that pulls in $20k, that may not be enough to live on, but if you have three businesses that pull in $20k then you can survive. Plus, you're almost guaranteed a zero dollar tax liability.


Apr 12, 12 7:20 pm

I spent my days sitting at home jerking off to internet porn


Apr 12, 12 10:05 pm

Can you pass of the clients to a firm or a person that you can trust? can you get them back later?


Apr 12, 12 10:31 pm

today, I did a pro-bono sketch for fukushima and sent it to ARUP. Because that is how slow things are and I miss the pacific ocean sushi since it will be radioactive now.

Apr 13, 12 11:58 am
Jason Muller

Look into understanding the Building Permit and Planning entitlement process.  Their is a ton of work our their due to Architects and Developer lack of understanding in this area. This is what we do at Southern California Land Use and I have never worked for a more busy firm.


Jason Muller

Apr 13, 12 12:05 pm
wurdan freo

That's hilarious. A complete business model designed around the ineffective and obstructive regulation of government. I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

Apr 13, 12 4:57 pm

wurdan, yes because we should abolish the firecode. Let Chicago burn again I say. Also can we get the gubbermint to stay out from my medicare. Ron Paul 2016!!!!1!

Apr 13, 12 5:01 pm
wurdan freo

The proper term is actually spelled, "gov'mint".

Apr 13, 12 5:08 pm

I thought it is supposed to spelled " Goldmanmint and Government Sachs" woot!

Apr 13, 12 5:18 pm

Just an unrelated question. Did anyone watch Yale open house Q&A with Gehry.

This old man is really starting to grow on me. He is indeed very shrewd business man. If 40% of architects have the half of his business acumen, this underpaid and under-appreciated career will be top of the world.

Apr 13, 12 5:34 pm

"So, I'm not entirely sure on how to broach the subject to my clients that I am closing up shop."

Use the old standby, tell'em "money talks and bullshit walks" then just walk away.  They'll get the picture, yo!


Apr 13, 12 6:12 pm

That's hilarious. A complete business model designed around the ineffective and obstructive regulation of government. I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

wurdan, yes because we should abolish the firecode. Let Chicago burn again I say. Also can we get the gubbermint to stay out from my medicare. Ron Paul 2016!!!!1!

rusty, yes because a critique of the permit process means that the critique~ee wants a code-less world with burning babies.  Y PAUL 2016?!1?2!!1! PAULTARDS STILL HOPE 4 2012 U CAN DOIT ROFLMcYAYA11!!!!!

Apr 13, 12 6:42 pm

I wonder sometimes how many projects I get because of the unique, extra-regulated environment in San Francisco ... I'd say 50% of the jobs right now I get are purely because people HAVE to hire an architect or designer in SF to get  a permit for their remodel or expansion ... and then I think about the amount awful floorplan ideas, bad sketches, and poorly organized projects that would have been developed  if not for this.

Apr 18, 12 10:36 pm

lets do an outsourcing business, give those firms a run of their money.

but seriously, do Pro Bono, design competitions, join architectural organizations= all on your extra time. 


Apr 20, 12 10:25 am

Ryan Knock

I need to get licensed so I can get on to those projects - I work on similar projects - but through RAs/Offices

Apr 20, 12 11:49 am
Token AE

Hehe, Alveterzane.

Apr 20, 12 12:53 pm

Well I think that first are you in an area that has a hope in hell to be prosperous and be able to afford an architect?  First step in my mind that your services need to be in demand, basic question but funny how it doesn't get asked often by those providing services.  The question needs to be asked at a macro level and micro level ie your region of the country and what skills do you have that people will pay for?  

If you have in fact some demand for your services then simply start out with a broad base approach ( ie diversify ) go after a range of client type and project type.  The economy is a constant moving cycle and at time certain projects will be hot and at other times not,  having a range of scale, project type and client type will provide a mix income rather than being focused on one client.  Even start out with a part time contract job with another office ( be it architecture or not ) 

Many times over the years I needed to have a base rate of income to support my family and early on had a part time job as a house painter, landscaper, or worked i a planning office for 20 hrs a week while I built up my own practice.  often working weekends in the secondary job until I could be a full time architect.  Still look for work in the same fashion 20 years after I started.  Often been slow but never "out of work".



Apr 20, 12 3:24 pm

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