Successful architectural firms can be extremely profitable, and there’s fantastic opportunity for creative expression when you’re up and running.

Successful architectural firms can be extremely profitable, and there’s fantastic opportunity for creative expression when you’re up and running.

Why set up an architectural agency?

Architecture is a fascinating and exciting industry where every project can be entirely different from the last. If you have architectural experience then starting your own company gives you more freedom for creative expression and the chance to let clients see your ability to think outside the box. Many architects have a wealth of experience and extensive industry contacts; starting up a business is the next logical step in their career path.

What skills will I need?

You’ll obviously need significant experience working for an architect and a portfolio of previous projects. Professional qualifications are also essential to establish credibility. Architectural agencies are very traditional firms and it’s difficult to get established due to the complexity of knowledge and skills required. You’ll also need superb communications skills, an enthusiastic attitude and the ability to conceptualise the diverse requirements of your clients.

Training

Because architecture is such a highly specialised field you’ll need both professional qualifications and practical experience before you can set yourself up in business. Many options exist, both at general institutions and specialised architectural schools. There are numerous routes to completion including NVQs and foundation degrees in the first instance, followed by masters’ degrees. You’ll need practical experience and to take examinations to become fully qualified. Becoming an architect generally takes a minimum of seven years.

Start-up costs

The most significant costs when starting up will be setting up your office, purchasing specialist hardware and software and marketing your business. Newly established architects, unless spearheaded by an industry leader, can find it difficult to gain regular business so it’s important to explore all marketing avenues in order to maximise lead generation. If you have industry contacts, now will be the time to use them.

Insurance and compliance

Insurance is essential when operating as an architect; check with a specialist insurance company to find out what is on offer but public liability insurance and public indemnity insurance will be essential. You may also be required to obtain operating licenses; talk to your local council for more information. They will also advise you if your office requires an inspection.

Your first step

If you’re a fully qualified architect with plenty of industry experience then you should start gathering your portfolio and making preparations for your new company. Making a list of potential clients will help you get off to the right start; you may wish to approach some in advance or see if some of your current clients will go with you. If you need to raise money, start making preparations. If you are starting from scratch then consider the type of architectural training you’ll take – look at university courses and plan some milestones for the next five years.