You've chosen a career as a freelance architect because architecture is your passion, as well as a lucrative business requiring your specialized skills. The following list will help you avoid costly mistakes when starting your home architect business.
1. Lack of Technology
You no longer depend on an employer to provide the software and equipment you need to do your job. Determine what the current industry standards are for architectural software and computer systems requirements, and put your station together before the first big job comes your way.
2. Failure to Purchase Insurance
It may be painful to accept, but when you design structures or plan remodels, you need to be properly insured. Things may always go smoothly and according to plan, but it only takes one lawsuit or breech of contract to put strain on the future success of your architecture business.
3. Failure to Sign a Contract
Never begin a project until both parties sign the contract. Go over the terms of the contract with the client and be certain that there is a payment clause to compensate you for your time if the client backs out in the middle of the project. A similar clause should exist in the case that you do not fulfill your contractual terms.
4. Poor Time Management
This ranges from taking on too many projects to allowing one client to monopolize your time with endless revisions. If you are pricing yourself properly, you shouldn't need to take on more projects than you can handle. Remember the referrals that helped you land your first clients? Occasionally, return the favor to somebody else. As for the client who is taking up too much of your time, set up your fee structure to include a set number of meetings and edits, be clear about what your client wants (unless they don't know either) and bill them for anything beyond the agreed upon number of revisions.
5. Pricing Too Low
It may be tempting to bid low on your first jobs because you don't have the experience or the reputation to charge more. While this may work well on some freelance bidding sights to land your first few jobs, get your feet wet and build your portfolio (beyond a certain point it doesn't make good business sense). Keep in mind that you are trying to make a living and that you bear the weight of all business expenses, including paying your taxes and insurance premiums.
6. Chasing Debts
Avoid the headaches and wasted time that result from trying to collect past due payments from clients. If possible, break each project into phases and require payment for one phase before starting on the next one. For large projects, you may want to require a credit check before you sign the contract.
Give your freelance architect business an advantage by avoiding costly mistakes right from the start. Up front planning with regards to purchasing your equipment, how to handle clients and contracts, what to charge and purchasing insurance can pay off big once you gain momentum.