Starting a new architectural firm: Strategies for success

Starting your architecture firm is one of the most challenging endeavors you begin. However, successfully building a new firm returns some of the best rewards. Once you have evaluated your desire to operate your business, create an organizational plan and develop a strategy to make a successful firm.

Create a Business Plan


A business plan is one of the most critical pieces you will need throughout the life of your enterprise. In this document, you define your mission statement and identify short- and long-term goals. You should also document your financial objectives and needs. Be sure to include plans to purchase a Building Information Management System and any other software. You will need a design application, BIM construction software, and an accounting program to be most efficient. Be sure your financial needs make a plan for purchasing office furniture, business vehicles, and mortgage payments.

Build a Brand

Part of your building a business plan involves creating your brand identity. Take the time to define your architectural design focus to develop the most effective marketing strategy. While your customers will feel comfortable with your design style, don’t get too caught up in restricting yourself to a single building style. Take the time to learn and understand the project so you can design the facility based on the client’s needs.

Understand Time Management

Most entrepreneurs struggle with time management. Only about 50% of your time should be focused on architectural tasks. Obtaining new customers and implementing a marketing strategy consumes about 25% of your time. Your remaining schedule should include management tasks, financial responsibilities, and human resources activities.

Build a Team

You will likely be the only employee when you open your architectural firm. As your business grows, you will hire additional employees. Until then, consider contracting for non-architectural services. Some people you should add to your team include:

  • Bookkeeper
  • Accountant
  • Real estate broker
  • Information technology staff

Learn Basic Accounting

While you may hire a bookkeeper to process your invoices, understanding how your finances function is necessary for your company’s profitability. Take the time to learn how retainers and monthly invoicing help you maintain a positive cash flow. An accountant can help you understand the reports you need to review. They can also give you tips to help you limit your tax liability.

Obtain a Professional License

Most states or cities require that you apply for an architectural license after completing your degree. This experience and education give your customers the confidence that you are registered with a professional organization. Until you are registered with your state as a licensed architect, you will work with a licensed architect.

Register Your Business

A business attorney helps you identify the best way to structure your business. You can register as a corporation, S corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship. Each type has its own unique tax and legal requirements. Your attorney helps you choose the structure that best meets your needs. They can also help you apply for state and local business licenses.

Prepare Your Office

Establishing an office and purchasing the necessary equipment is costly. Even if you plan to operate out of your home, you need a computer, printer, and internet access. In addition, you must have a reliable telephone system. You can find professional meeting rooms available on-demand with a quick internet search. This allows you to invite customers to a professional-looking facility rather than your home.

Take Time for Yourself

You need to maintain your work-life balance. Spending too much time focused on your new business leads to burnout. Include time into your schedule for fun activities and family time. Burnout leads to mistakes or loss of focus on your business. In addition, overwhelming stress can cause physical symptoms, including migraines, high blood pressure, and chronic pain. See a doctor if you experience these or other physical symptoms. Don’t forget to schedule an annual physical. Seek out mental health support if you begin to notice any symptoms, such as:

  • Emotional numbness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Defeated attitude

Your architectural firm can have a positive influence on your community. With this information, you will have a good foundation for your company. That foundation will lead you to develop a successful, profitable business.