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AIA Small Project Design (SPD) Knowledge Community supports, celebrates, and promotes small projects by engaging designers and the public.

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A New Low

  • 1.  A New Low

    Posted 09-13-2019 20:07
    Just got feedback on a well thought out and reasonable proposal I sent for a 2-dwelling-unit house.  They are not going to work with me.  They think they can get the architectural services pro-bono.  C'mon.



    LAURA
     KRAFT ■ ARCHITECT
    2 0 6 - 5 2 6 - 8 1 1 5

    Website  LKArchitect
    Blog 
     2H Pencil
    Prints  LKPrints  
    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join your Knowledge Community leadership!


  • 2.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 09-16-2019 17:22
    Well, let them just try! They will find we don't give it away. My firm doesn't even do free initial meetings - too much info gets exchanged to not charge for our time. Our firm belief is that if they won't pay $150-$200 for 2 architects for 1.5 hours, they won't want to pay for services.

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    Judith Wasserman AIA
    Bressack & Wasserman
    Palo Alto CA
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  • 3.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 09-16-2019 18:17
    I've "lost" a few projects that way. Basically that the contractor or kitchen shop will provide "free" Architectural services, so why should they pay me for my time?

    Of course, I use quotation marks because for clients like those I've certainly not lost anything and they're certainly not getting any services for no cost...

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    Thomas Bank AIA
    Principal Architect
    Simply Stated Architecture, P.C.
    Lemoyne PA
    ------------------------------

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  • 4.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 09-17-2019 07:09
    If it is a non-profit, they may well entice someone to work pro-bono. If they are not, and getting the work free was their response to you, you are better off not working for them.

    Please note my new email address 
    John A. Feick, AIA, CSI, LEED AP 
    224 East Water Street 
    Sandusky, Ohio 44870 
    419-625-2554 (w) 
    419-656-3017 (c)



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  • 5.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 09-18-2019 17:28
    The prospective client is a private homeowner.  Yes, I will thank my stars to have dodged a completely unrealistic client.



    LAURA
     KRAFT ■ ARCHITECT
    2 0 6 - 5 2 6 - 8 1 1 5

    Website  LKArchitect
    Blog 
     2H Pencil
    Prints  LKPrints  



    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join your Knowledge Community leadership!


  • 6.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 09-17-2019 18:39
    Consider yourself lucky.  You escaped a dead end road to nowhere.  Unfortunately the local environs will suffer from an undoubtedly ugly contribution by others, but at least you didn't play a part.  High five!

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    Gregory Holah, NCARB
    Architect
    HOLAH Design + Architecture
    Portland, Oregon 97232
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  • 7.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 10-20-2019 12:28
    I'm getting pretty good at sniffing out clients who aren't willing to pay for our time. Regardless of who the potential client is, I'm not spending too much time talking to them unless I have a fair idea they are in our ballpark of the price for professional services. "free" would be a unique low though. I mean, the kitchen designer gets paid by selling the cabinets, the contractor by building the home. How would you get paid in this arrangement? I recently got a lot of red flags from a potential client, but quoted them a price. The client called back and offered me half. I told them to take their business elsewhere. There's no point in taking on work that you'll lose money on; better to spend the time building and marketing your business.

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    David Sisson AIA
    Architect
    David Sisson
    Providence RI
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  • 8.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 11-05-2019 10:52
    After yesterday, when I received several new inquiries, I've been wondering about my method. Care to give me some critique?

    1) Get an inquiry (via email, phone, text, whatever...)
    2) The project looks underwhelming, and I can tell that it's unlikely that the client will hire me, because my price will be too high for them.
    3) I send a quick message - usually via email - that outlines our services and a ball park price.
    4) I don't hear back from them, or if I do I hear that I cost too much.

    I think I'm probably:

    a) 10 times the cost they want to pay.
    b) also, about 1/4 of the price I "should" get. (IE: if I was getting 10% of the cost of construction...but we're lucky to get 3.5% sometimes)

    I'm sure I could convert more of these potential customers into paying customers if I put in the time to visit with them, but then I'd spend all my time on the road and not convert many more that I am now.

    What's your strategy for:

    a) finding customers who value design and are willing to pay for it...
    b) ...and then converting them to paying customers?

    We are mostly word of mouth.

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    David Sisson AIA
    Architect
    David Sisson
    Providence RI
    ------------------------------

    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join your Knowledge Community leadership!


  • 9.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 11-06-2019 17:40
    I follow a similar procedure when someone incorrectly refers this type of client to us, and I don't want to hurt their feelings.  A quick email with a fee range is quick and easy to issue.  Then you can tell the referral partner that it didn't work out versus having the other party telling them you never even responded.

    The key is to build your brand and make the right clients find you.  I've worked with Jeff Echols at Echoengage on this.  It takes time and effort, but it is better than the alternative.

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    Michael Maturo AIA
    President
    Dyami Architecture, PC
    Airmont NY
    ------------------------------

    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join your Knowledge Community leadership!


  • 10.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 11-06-2019 17:57
    David,

    "I'm sure I could convert more of these potential customers into paying customers..." I couldn't disagree with this statement more.

    I think the only way we ever really started to grow (besides finally discharging the debt we accrued during the recession) was to charge a rate competitive with the firms we wanted to compete with. I can't recall a single instance of convincing a client to hire us at a higher rate when they balked at the initial price.

    However. I will say that we typically break our fee down rather than give them the whole number. And we almost always provide PreDesign and CA on an hourly basis. Reasonable clients (the ONLY clients worth having) usually understand that the unknowns involved with PreDesign require flexibility, and that the construction process can be good or bad depending on the contractors and unforeseen conditions. (Some clients prefer one big all-inclusive sum, but the ones we want understand they buy certainty with more fee)

    What I think has changed recently is that with better and better clients we are also winning work by telling them that we will give them a stipulated sum for SD thru CD only after the end of PreDesign when we all have a better handle on the scope of the project. We may give them a range of percentages of construction cost for the A/E package as a qualifying question if it's a new client. But I think we've had to earn that level of trust with past performance and solid references. Additionally, I think this approach emphasizes that we (perhaps unlike some of the cheaper designers they've talked with) are part of their team - working together to define the question before we propose an answer - and that appeals to their instinctive understanding that quality architecture is a complicated process rather than an expensive product.

    I think ultimately - unless you're specializing in a commodity project-type where you can leverage technical expertise heavily and really economize with internal process - nothing sells like success. Compelling design, well-photographed and vigorously promoted has earned us finally the "I've heard of you guys" and that has made all the difference.

    Best wishes, and thank you for sharing this and the metal building detail solution. As a former Butler employee I'm still fond of those structures.

    _Mb


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    Michael Byrd AIA
    Principal
    CORE10 Architecture, Inc.
    Saint Louis MO
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  • 11.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 11-06-2019 19:58
    Site consults for prospective new clients on a fee basis only. I charge my hourly principal rate and provide a quick zoning analysis, records search (both easily done online here) and an on site review of conditions as they all pertain to their stated scope. My sell on it is that a paid consult renders the advice and services I provide professional, not a sales pitch. I credit the consult fee to design fees on the first invoice as a deposit.

    Weeds out all variety of tire kickers, limits my time spent to be on the most likely prospects and compensates me for that time spent. It allows me to better tailor my services pitch once I've met them, seen their home, gotten to feel them out on what's most important for them. Very hard to do over the phone.

    I convert about 30% of my consults to some form of paying client.

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    Michael Poloukhine AIA
    Owner
    ReSquare Architecture + Construction
    Los Angeles CA
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  • 12.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 01-29-2020 13:16
    January has been busy. Loads of prospective phone calls. Yesterday had the amazing occurrence of being on an initial call with a prospective client, getting a text from another prospective client and getting an email from yet a third prospective client all within a 2-minute time span. Wow. I'm getting good at knowing which one of them isn't going anywhere. It's the middle bunch I'm struggling with. Could I land more - or for higher $ - if I put more effort into the proposal? When I have 5-10 sales calls a day, it's difficult to pull together 5-10 well thought through proposals, still do the daily running of the office, and redline another set. Yet, I struggle to force the fee higher. Where do you set your fee? I suppose we are often in the 3.5% range, up to 10%, and down to 1% on some things. I'd prefer less work and higher fee, but those high fee jobs are elusive and I need to make payroll.

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    David Sisson AIA
    Architect
    David Sisson
    Providence RI
    ------------------------------

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  • 13.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 01-30-2020 17:27
    My two cents:

    For small projects, a percentage just doesn't make sense for the effort involved. I know you're not 'supposed' to do NTE fees because the risk is on the Architect, but I tend to work up an hours/scope estimate, add a % cushion, and then do NTE. There is a lot of work that goes unseen but still needs to be done. Assuming the hourly rates are set properly, this seems fair to me.

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    Anjali Grant AIA
    Anjali Grant Design LLC
    Seattle WA
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  • 14.  RE: A New Low

    Posted 01-30-2020 18:03
    It took me a while to understand that not everyone is my "IDEAL CLIENT." Some will value the services we provide, and are willing to pay for it.  Some will not.  Those that will not are not my ideal client, and there is no amount of 'educating' that I can do to change their mind.

    The key is to understand what the prospect is looking for - is it good design?  Is it advice that will save them much more money on construction costs with carefully thought out solutions?  Is it a simple 'permit' level of documentation?  Is it resolving a violation?  Determine what type of work you want to do, and attract only those clients.  And be sure to know your financials and workflow to price the job so that you can make a profit on the project.  Lowering rates to 'get the job' never works out, and never leads to 'full price work' so I wouldn't recommend that.

    There are a number of resources out there that can help you build your brand, market to the right clients, firm up your proposals, etc.. I happen to host a mastermind group through EntreArchitect, and there are numerous resources - articles, podcasts, workshops, on demand courses, and documents that are available to that level of membership.  Last year I focused on firm financials, this year on defining and building our brand plus reformatting our proposals, both of which we will execute this year.

    Much success, Michael

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    Michael Maturo AIA
    President
    Dyami Architecture, PC
    Airmont NY
    ------------------------------

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