How Can Architects Generate More Work and Make More Money? by @FrankCunhaIII

Ask the Architect

by Frank Cunha III

Architects should be the leaders in the building industry, not just a consultant or a small part of a team. The simple truth is that taking on more work and taking greater risks is not for everyone. Owning a firm and taking on responsibilities beyond design is not an area you might want to dive into – or – it might be. Architects have the power to create their communities and shape their destiny. However, an Architect must be “proactive” instead of “reactive” and face larger risk in order to see larger rewards. The Architect is one of the first team members to have the ear of the client on a project and should not immediately hand the work over to other team members and lose a larger piece of the pie. Take a deep breath, understand the power you have at that moment and be creative about how you can become a stakeholder in the project. You can invest your fee in the project or go as far as become a stakeholder by financing the project or becoming one of the financiers of the project. Of course this philosophy is not for everyone. Not everyone is a risk taker so it is important to know yourself and the level of risks/rewards you are willing to accept.

Architects have the power to create their communities and shape their destiny. 

Architects should be”Builders” instead of reducing the scope of their work and being specialized players in the development of a project. One approach is to be the “Construction Manager” on the project. The beauty of this philosophy as that you can calculate and manage your risks and determine how to proceed by educating yourself and the client. Of course you must have the proper insurance for your venture. There is insurance available for almost anything for a price so it’s important to make sure that you speak to your insurance agent to make sure that you are properly covered before embarking on your venture.  As the Architect’s responsibilities shrink so does his/her control and his/her rewards. By simply taking on the role of a traditional Architect your fees are immediately reduced.  The Architect can even take on the role of cost estimator by creating a data base from recent schedule of values and contractor’s application for payments. Again, we have this knowledge and experience but are we using it to it’s fullest extent?

Another way to gain control of a project is to include a simple bar chart in the specifications and/or in the General Contractor’s contract.  Avoid submitting “builder sets” because complete drawings will help lower your risk dramatically. The developer’s/contractor’s vision of a project may not be the same as yours so make sure that all the important details are properly illustrated in the construction drawings regardless if it is a public bid or a developer’s builder set.

Another crucial step in becoming a larger stakeholder in the project is to know your Banker. You can do this by joining an advisory board for your local bank or having lunch with your banker. Bankers can be valuable in educating Architects on how the finances of a project work. Your Banker will probably tell you that he/she will need an appraisal, an estimate, sketches of the proposed project, and a history of your persona! assets to determine whether the project is even feasible. So take you Banker out to lunch and it will help you learn about current market information. Remember that Banker’s like to lend the bank’s money to professionals because they know that professionals are educated, responsible, and cautious, which means that the bank’s money will be safer.

It is important to understand OPM – other people’s money – and what it can do for you. So take your accountant out to lunch! It is important to learn how to use other people’s money to help you realize your project.  Investors and bankers allow the Architect to take on more risk thereby increasing their fees and cash flow. Architects have to start putting projects together so that they can have greater control over a project’s outcome. By making money and
by providing extra services for which the Architect is properly compensated it will grant the Architect access to creating and shaping a community.

There are 5 components to every Performa:
1. Buy (Acquisition and Closing Costs)
2. NE and Build
3. Soft Costs (Legal, accounting, contingency, surveys, insurance, utilities, operation and maintenance, etc.)
4. Marketing (Real-estate, lease broker, etc.)
5. Profit

Every Architect interested in generating more work, making more money, and having more control over his/her projects should learn to put a Performa together in addition to pretty sketches which can enhance one’s communities.  Since every situation is different it is important to have a good staff of consultants – lawyers, accountants, bankers, tax consultants, insurance representatives, etc. working with you. Get to know your key advisors (“Mastermind Group”) and pay them well because their work can greatly impact the success of your ventures. Having a great team of experts whom you trust is important to assure that you are minimizing your risks.

Harness your power as an Architect to become a Builder.

Unfortunately, these lessons are not taught in school, however, I do encourage you the reader to educate yourself about the possibilities of becoming more involved in a project. Harness your power as an Architect to become a Builder. As Architects take on more responsibility and start to make more money in their practices Architecture as a whole will prosper because with money comes power. With power comes the potential to focus on rebuilding communities and time to sculpt meaningful Architecture.
Do not stop learning how the Architect can take on more responsibility and attain larger rewards, remember RISK = REWARD and having control over a project is the key to success.

We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post.  We sincerely appreciate all your comments.

If you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!

Frank Cunha III
I Love My Architect – Facebook

P.O. Box 335, Hamburg, NJ 07419
mobile: 201.681.3551
direct: 973.970.3551
fax: 973.718.4641
Licensed in NJ, NY, PA, DE, CT.

12 Comments on “How Can Architects Generate More Work and Make More Money? by @FrankCunhaIII”

  1. Mike says:

    What a fantastic article! Unlike many blog posts online, your article has some “meat” to it, rather than just skimming the surface of an idea. Thank you, I really enjoyed it and learned some new approaches towards architecture.

    Btw, you reference, “Christopher and Brad?” Are they sources or contributors?


    • fc3arch says:

      Hi Mike, Yes they are — I have to find their contact information to credit them properly.
      Thanks for the reminder and thanks for visiting/commenting!


  2. ticat928 says:

    I second the fact that Frank puts “meat” into his blog posts. Not that I know him or his work, but I dare postulate that the “meat” comes from an original thinker and not idea’s borrowed from other articles or persons.

    I am by no means informed on the challenges facing Architect’s today but have observed some trends in the little interaction I had over the past 28-years.

    It started with great designers (such as the essential design for the Sky Dome in Toronto being drawn on a napkin during lunch), decades ago many Architects had full control and I saw them as Master Builders.

    As litigation kicked in on many cheaply specified and poorly constructed projects during the construction booms, many Architectural firms appeared to cut back on risk and responsibility.

    This as Frank appears to have observed is not the optimal approach to take, I believe as well that there is higher risk by placing your fortunes in the hands of others.

    Even as far back as 2005 the word going around the professional organization my company belonged to was “in order to minimize risk of litigation (mold was a growing concern) one has to hire the most competent employees and take control of all that affects your part of the work” in my case it meant going from being a fabricator to being a subcontractor as well.

    The building forensic and remedial industry is the fasted growing segment in construction today; I dare say it would not be if many Architects followed Frank’s advice.


    • fc3arch says:

      Thanks! I love Architecture!!!
      Can you tell?


      • ticat928 says:

        Yes I can (tell), Architecture is an exiting field to be in for the next decade, a lot of the past construction parameters are changing that will no doubt drive a lot of innovation.

        While taking Engineering, then Physics, then Geology in University, I never felt these disciplines had much innovation head room left, especially when compared to Architecture, (there are so many untapped possibilities in detail design and new materials that can be applied that the achievements possible are endless). I wished I had career counseling when I was a student I might have gone into Architecture instead.

        You will do well!

        If anything is worthwhile doing, the only way to do it is with passion.


      • fc3arch says:

        It’s never to late!!! Even if a career in Architecture isn’t possible the profession needs qualified consultants, experts, and partners with extensive experience in the fields you mentioned. Good luck and best wishes! Sincerely, Frank

        Sent from my iPhone


  3. drndark says:

    Reblogged this on drndark.


  4. Frank, a well-reasoned and informative article. One point in particular caught my attention: the contractor might not have the same vision as the architect. He won’t. It is the architect’s vision that won him the design work. He, in my view, owes it both to himself and his client to make sure that vision is realized. Understanding the architect’s vision is the focus of my work, so I appreciate the importance of not diluting the original intent.


  5. bergs says:

    Superb article. Unfortunately the ‘business of architecture’ is just not taught in schools and can be quite difficult to find online. Coming from a commerce background and now studying architecture this makes a lot of sense, as it’s common knowledge that risk induces a greater return. Is there any other websites/books that you would recommend that deals with the nitty-gritty of the ideas you have elaborated on?


  6. […] How Can Architects Generate More Work and Make More Money? Answered by @FrankCunhaIII […]


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