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Connecting Architects 

Firsthand perspectives from groundbreaking architects

Are you a residential architect guilty of these marketing mistakes?

Author: Alina Yu.

August 8th, 2023.

A few weeks ago, I met a residential architect who just launched his own firm this Spring. When I asked how it was going, he said:

“Yeah, it’s going. I’m struggling to get clients. It’s all about having a network but my network isn’t very good… I tried calling a couple people but it felt too awkward. So I’ve stopped.” 

I was floored. I assumed that he had a strategy for building up his firm. 

But I was dead wrong. He was flying blind in terms of marketing strategy. Not only was he not sure of what he was doing and why, but he was approaching it all wrong. 

Today we’ll cover Part I: The problem 
- A big hairy problem happening right now
- What are the big mistakes architects keep making? 

Next week we’ll cover Part 2: the Solution. 

Let’s get started. 

A big hairy problem happening right now

Architects probably get 70 to 80 percent of their business from referrals and word of mouth. But here’s the problem: they do nothing in particular to get these referrals. 

Out of all the architects I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks, almost all of them hate the word marketing. They don’t want to do it. 

So many residential architects get scared of coming off as sleazy and instead do nothing. 

Yet, architects are still businesses. The way a residential architect gets to that six or seven figure is to market themselves. 

When I asked this architect about his marketing strategy, he flinched. 

He said he felt like it was just annoying someone into buying your services. He confessed it felt so awkward and needy. 

But marketing isn’t a dirty word. It’s finding out who you want as your ideal clients, and then giving them value. Marketing is how you get better clients, bigger projects, and higher fees. 

Why are architects so scared of marketing? 

Architects need to be marketing, but they are not doing it. Or they’re marketing themselves on the wrong premises. 

But marketing shouldn’t be scary. Marketing is just communicating your value to the people you want to attract.  

What is the big mistake architects keep making?

So many architects end up being treated as commodities. What does that mean? It means they aren’t differentiating themselves on the right premise. 

False Premise 1: Architects should stand out by showing off their designs

Architects are giving away all their magic for free. 

So many talented architects give away their work for free. Spec work for developers, design bids, advice. They operate under the misbelief that if they are super helpful in solving problems and providing ideas, that they’ll win the client in the end.

False Premise 2: Clients want generalists

I hear lots of architects say: “I’m a generalist. I can do an eco-luxe private residence one project, a tiny city lot the next, and then a commercial development.” 

Heard of that old saying: “jack of all trades, master of none?” Claiming to be a generalist as an architect devalues you in the eyes of the market. 

It also makes it hard to stand out based on what really matters. 

False Premise 3: Architects should stand out based on their bids

It means that they can only differentiate themselves based on price. 

It’s a race to the bottom. 80% of the hours that go into a construction document, rendering, or draft are cheaper outsourced. 

That’s a huge mistake. There is always going to be a cheaper price. It also means you won’t be able to charge higher fees. In fact, you’ll always be pressured to drop your fees lower and lower over time.

What do we do?!

All is not lost for architects who are trying to start or grow their practices. 

In fact, we have three pieces of advice for architects who are in this position. But you’ll have to check in next week for Part 2. 

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Chapel Hill, NC 27517

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