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What to Keep in Mind When Starting an Architecture Business

21 Dec 2020

Starting an architecture business

Starting a company is exciting, yet often daunting as well. There might be a million questions going through your head, and it can be difficult to find a place to start. Starting up an architecture consultancy can open the door to much more creative freedom, especially when coming from an employee background in a company set in its ways. However, you are bound to face some challenges and initial hurdles as well. This article will cover the three main aspects to keep in mind when opening an architecture consultancy. From managing risks to keeping up with the profession and securing work, here’s what you need to know.

Risks need to be managed

In a profession where stakes are as high as in architecture, it is vital to anticipate and manage risks. Errors in building designs can create significant and long-lasting problems, as can mistakes in any advice you give out. Construction projects carry huge costs and re-dos are not possible past a certain point. Risks also include incidents involving employees and management, should there be any injuries or errors made by others.

Clients form another risk category. You can be found liable for accidents involving ‘the public’, for example, if someone trips and falls on your business premises or gets injured as a result of your work. Expensive architecture equipment raises your risks too, should something happen to your company’s gear. Replacing your tools after a theft incident can set you back thousands, if not more.

Luckily, you can manage all these risks by taking out an insurance policy. The cost of architect insurance starts from around £900 a year, but prices can reach well over £1,000 a year. The price of your insurance premium depends on factors like the kinds of work you do, how much you are making and the amount of cover you will need.

Architecture is a rapidly developing field

A practising architect needs to stay on top of the latest developments in building materials and design trends, but also computer software, technical tools and best practises. For instance, hardware like touchscreen laptops, 3D printers and robotics tools are rolled out and updated seemingly without a stop. The abundance of gadgets does not mean, of course, that every new tool to hit the store shelves is going to be essential. But some of the latest advancements can greatly enhance the workflow and productivity of you and your company.

With the industry moving at a fast pace, 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 there will always be something new to learn. Added on top of the rest of the workload, the challenge of keeping up with the profession can have its impact on an architect’s mental wellbeing and work-life balance.

Finding clients can be hard

Attracting clients and getting work is vital for anyone providing a service, and architects are no different. Luckily, the amount of work for architects seems to be increasing in Scotland, as the number of houses being built, converted or refurbished has been going up. Scottish Government Statistics show that compared to the financial year of 2017/18, the supply of new housing shot up by 15% in 2018/19.

Even with a growing number of housing projects on the market, it can still be a challenge to find work as a new architecture firm. A network of connections tends to be more limited for lone architects or small firms than established companies, and a network is often what makes the difference between securing new clients, or not.

All work will not suit every architect, as well. If classical architecture is your calling, you might not want to take on the refurbishment of a postmodern home. Furthermore, your area of expertise sets certain limits. Following the same example, if you are experienced with certain materials or have only designed classical buildings before, you might not know much about the best practises of designing and building a modern dwelling.

Managing company finances for the first time

It can be a challenge to balance the books and manage the costs, so you will need a good accountant to help you. Whilst they will help you minimise your profit and therefore tax liability, you may not want to go too low and consider company director mortgages based on company profit + director salary to get your dream home.

Opening one’s own company can be a dream for many. However, growing a new venture into a successful architecture firm will not be easy, as it comes with many worries, responsibilities and challenges. When considering becoming self-employed or opening a consultancy of your own, it’s essential to weigh the pluses and minuses. Hopefully, this article succeeded in providing you with some food for thought on starting your own architecture business.

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