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Challenges of Starting an Architecture Firm Guide

10 Dec 2020

Challenges of Starting an Architecture Firm
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The Challenges of Starting an Architecture Firm

Opening one’s own firm can be a dream for many. The creative freedom it offers can be a refreshing change, especially when coming from an employee background in a company set in its ways. However, you are bound to face some serious challenges as well when going it alone. This article will cover three of the potential challenges an architect is likely to face when opening their own consultancy. From managing risks to finding work and keeping up with the industry trends, here’s what you need to know.

Managing risks

In a profession where stakes are as high as in architecture, it is vital to be pro-active in anticipating and managing risks. Mistakes in building designs can raise significant problems, since construction projects are costly and re-dos are not possible past a certain point. The work of an architecture firm also includes dangers relating to employees (or yourself), should there be any injuries, or errors made by others.

Clients form another category of risk, as you can be found liable for accidents involving ‘the public’ on your business premises, or as part of your work. We can’t forget about the price tags on architecture equipment either, should something happen to your company’s gear. Luckily, there are types of insurance for architects to cover all of the perils mentioned above.

The cost of architect insurance starts from around £900 a year, but prices can easily rise to well over £1,000 a year depending on many factors. For example, the kinds of work you do, your turnover and the amount of cover you’ll need all play a role in determining the cost of your insurance premium.

Finding clients

Bringing in work is the key question for any service provider, and architects are no different. The supply of new housing in Scotland has been increasing in the past years, indicating growing amounts of work in the sector. Scottish Government Statistics show that compared to the financial year of 2017/18, the supply of new housing surged by 15% in 2018/19. The ‘supply of new housing’ figures include public and private new house building, conversions of existing buildings to housing use, and the refurbishment of dwellings.

Even if the number of housing projects is on the rise, it can still be challenging for new architecture firms to find work. Securing clients requires a good network of connections, which is bound to be more limited for a lone architect than an established firm.

Finding work that suits you is another question as well. If you are passionate about bold modernist design, you might not want to take on the refurbishment of a Gothic villa. Your area of expertise sets certain limits as well. Using the same example, if you have experience only in modern architecture, you might not be able to take on projects from completely different styles.

Keeping up with the changes

Architecture is an evolving and fast-developing field. A practising architect needs to be up-to-date with the latest developments on everything from building materials to computer software. For example, technical tools like touchscreen monitors, 3D scanners and robotics machines are rolled out with a faster pace than ever. Of course, not every shiny new gadget is going to be essential, but some new technologies can greatly enhance the workflow and productivity of you and your company.

When the industry is changing, professional development and continuous education become vital. Allocating time to learning and research can be a struggle if you are busy running your own company. Time and resources are limited as is, and the amount of new information is never ending. Combined with the rest of the workload, the challenge of keeping up with the industry can take a toll on an architect’s work-life balance.

Overall, starting a business can be an exciting new venture. It opens plenty of possibilities for creativity and affords the kind of freedom that can be lacking from an employee’s life. However, building a profitable, successful company is not for the faint-hearted, as it comes with a plethora of challenges and headache. When considering becoming self-employed or opening a consultancy of your own, it’s essential to weigh both the positives and the negatives. A lack of planning can result in grave consequences for your career and finances, not to mention your peace of mind.

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