9 Simple Strategies Architects Can Do to Boost That Revenue
As a quick aside, this is how ArchiSnapper was born! A few construction-related businesses asked us, around the same time, for a solution to automate their field reports. There was no such software in the market back in 2012. Fortunately, we were around!
Needless to say, I know what it’s like to run a service business…
Most of the time, you have to give a fixed quote up front. And the scope? Well, it’s usually fuzzy. And sure enough, the client changes their mind a few times during the project. The scope grows, exceptions pop up. You have to redo things. And near the end of the project, you’ll probably have to ask for an increase in the budget because of all the new demands, and the client is totally surprised.
Other times, you work on a time and materials basis (a fee per hour). That’s less risky, but the client inevitably tries to negotiate your rate down as much as possible: “Yes, but my 17-year-old nephew can also work with AutoCAD, and he asks $15 per hour!” And often, the client questions the number of hours spent when receiving your monthly invoice: “Does it really take five hours to do a site visit?”
But now it’s time to earn more — without having to work more.
It’s time to attract better clients, get paid for what you’re worth, enjoy greater work satisfaction, and strike a better work-life balance.
How? These nine simple, yet powerful strategies can help:
1. Niche Down
If you try to do everything for everyone, you’ll be perceived as a generic business. Average. A gray mouse.
Don’t be a jack-of-all-trades!
People will ALWAYS pay more for specialists. Businesses that focus on a single domain or niche will always be so much more attractive to buy from, especially when you need exactly that service or product.
So, refuse projects that are outside of your specific domain or niche. Become an expert in one thing. Clients will queue up once your name gets known.
Focus on energy-efficient homes, kindergarten buildings, wood construction, or a special kind of architecture (e.g. modern).
Clients looking to build a modern architectural bungalow are MUCH more likely to hire you if they see a website full of references with modern buildings, versus a website with a mix of random things.
For example, check out this website: https://www.bailliearchitect.com.au/
“A portfolio of David Baillie Architect projects that incorporate Ecologically Sustainable Design (ESD) to enhance lifestyle, while reducing energy costs. Projects that combine innovative building design with outstanding energy efficiency, whether building a new project, renovating or extending an existing home, in the residential, commercial and health environments.”
What an excellent way to differentiate yourself, go niche, and be ridiculously attractive for people who need an energy-efficient architect.
Also, check out this website’s focus on modern architecture: https://www.buro2018.be
Need I say more?
2. Focus on Value
Your client cares for only one thing: What’s in it for them? In other words, what value can they get? You need to zoom in on that.
Don’t present yourself as a cost. Avoid talking too much about your hourly fee or wage. Always politely direct the conversation to how your solutions can benefit your clients.
When they start talking with you, try to put yourself in their shoes. Be crystal clear about what they need from you. Capture exactly the outcome they’d want to see if they hired you. What, precisely, is “value” to them? What would make this project a stellar success (or a huge fiasco)?
Note it down, and for the rest of that project, FOCUS ON THAT VALUE.
Think about this: A client hired you to build a depot for his materials. In the beginning, he said that the look and feel of that building were of no importance to him at all. He said that he cared only about the isolation materials and energy efficiency.
Well, you can try all you want, but you’ll never impress your client with sexy building designs and sketches. They would be of zero value. Your client would look at your piece of art as an unnecessary cost.
On the other hand, your client would be thrilled to pay your invoice if you showed that they’d save $500/month in heating costs!
Always focus on value for your client.
Value could be:
- Beautiful architecture. For a modern art museum building, for example, much of the value is in the architecture itself.
- Rental income. For a real estate developer, the future rental income is important. Work toward that. Say things like: “Let’s do it like this, then it’ll finish two months sooner, and you can start collecting rent as early as May 1.” — I’m sure they’ll be on your side :-)
- Energy savings. “I’d advise you to study this and that subject, and optimize your building accordingly. It’ll cost you an additional one-time fee of $8,000, but you’ll easily save $600/month on energy.” — Who wouldn’t take a deal like that? Invest $8K and get $7.4K back EVERY YEAR.
- Happiness. “The next BBQ with the whole family on this new terrace will be just awesome.” — People will be more likely to want to work with you (and pay your bills!) if you remind them of the final outcome.
- Or anything else. Go find out!
Look at this excellent copy (highlighted in blue). Isn’t that clear value?
Read more about this topic in our article, Architects and Contractors: Focus on VALUE when doing Sales!
3. Just Ask for More Money
Here’s the simplest trick to get paid more at the end of the month — without having to work more hours:
Give yourself a raise. And from now on, ask 5% or 10% more for every new client.
Have you raised your hourly rate in the past few years? Probably not, right? Well, you should!
There’s something called indexation. I don’t have to explain it to you.
But it’s not only that.
You’re more experienced, so you make fewer mistakes. You’re in a better position to give clients true value, and you know more. Truth be told, a 5% or 10% increase probably isn’t even enough!
And that’s not all. There’s another reason to ask for more:
Low costs attract the wrong types of clients.
Being the cheapest service provider on the market attracts stingy clients. They see everything as a cost, are never pleased, want more for less, add “ASAP” to every email subject line, pay late, and call you on Sundays.
It’s better to be among the service providers who are a little more expensive in the market. You’ll attract clients with money, clients who do serious business, and who see value in what you offer.
Being more expensive is also a straightforward way to say, “I’m good at what I do, and I’m confident” — a superbly efficient marketing strategy. It makes you a valuable, scarce resource on the market.
Read our popular blog post on that subject here: Architects, Contractors, Engineers: double your hourly rate. NOW.
4. Stay Small
I’m often asked: “How many people do you work with at ArchiSnapper?”
But no, that’s not the right question to ask! Employing lots of people isn’t my goal.
Better questions would be:
“Do you enjoy your job?” or “How profitable are you?”
Again, my ambition is not to hire as many people as possible people. My ambition is to have fun at work and be super profitable. At ArchiSnapper, we choose profit over rapid growth.
I know of small businesses — made up of solo-founders to up to 20 people — that are EXTREMELY profitable.
So yes, if you have only a small team, you can still earn big bucks. The first few years might be hard, but over time, you’ll learn the ropes.
You’ll figure out exactly how much you can ask for, where to find the most affordable materials, where to hire the good guys, how to cost-cut on phone bills, how to get your clients to pay you on time, how to ask for more than what your competitors ask for, and so on.
If you constantly improve your little machine (versus “hiring for the sake of hiring”), you’ll become more profitable on a daily basis. Your business will gradually run on autopilot, and you’ll enjoy life so much more.
If you don’t care to go big, there’s really no compelling reason to do so.
Being small is beautiful. It boasts many advantages over being big:
- Where can clients directly talk with the founder? Only in a small business.
- Where do you get an answer to an RFP within six hours? Only in a small business.
- Where can overhead costs be very low, and margins very high? In a small business.
And work is fun — and quite profitable, too.
5. Or Go Big
…Of course, if you want to go big, go ahead!
Many big companies make millions in profits every year. So, if to “get rich above all else” is your daily mantra, then scaling up might the way to go.
6. Productize Your Service Business
As an architect, contractor, or engineer, you’re in the perfect position to productize your business, or at least part of it. Most of you offer services. Most of you are paid either per project (fixed-price, upfront estimation), or per hour (hourly rate).
Whatever the case, the bottom line is that you trade your time for money. Time is your biggest asset.
If you’re paid per hour, this is straightforward. Work five hours, get paid for five hours.
And if you’re paid per project, time is still a factor.
- End up spending more time than initially budgeted? Take a cut into your profits.
- Do the job much faster than anticipated? Make more money.
But if you productize part of your business, you can sell things that aren’t directly related to how much time you spent creating your product. Just invest some time making it, put it on the market, and then sit back and let it make money for you!
Here are some classic examples:
- Sell books or courses. You write them once, then sell them over and over again. An excellent example is Lora Teagarden of L² Design. She wrote “ARE Sketches: A Visual Study Guide to the Architect Registration Exams” and now makes a nice side income with her sales on Amazon.
- Invent a product or material to be used in construction. Check out “15 Furniture Pieces Designed by Famous Architects Stir the World of Furniture Design” — every time a chair is sold somewhere in the world, the creators pocket some nice cash. And tons of construction companies can relate. They made materials for their own use, but then ended up becoming pure producers of those materials because demand from other construction companies grew so big.
- Build a software product. This is exactly what we did with ArchiSnapper. :-)
It doesn’t have to be black or white. You can still run your service business, but also offer valuable products on the side.
More on this here: Three Alternative Ways for Architects to Earn (Big?) Money
7. Blog, Speak, and Share
If you blog, speak (at conferences), and share, you’ll win.
By sharing your knowledge, different things happen.
First, people start seeing you as an expert. Even if you feel ridiculous blogging about a subject that’s old news for contractors, architects, or engineers, most of the time, your blog will provide tremendously valuable information for your clients.
Share things that your clients want to know. With your expert status, people will trust you more, especially since you’ll have already given them valuable content.
Be open, honest, and transparent when sharing information. People appreciate this. Authenticity is a KEY ASSET these days. Say it like it is. This way, you’ll gain trust.
Trust is essential for getting new clients and leads. The client won’t question the number of hours in the invoice if they trust you.
Good subjects to blog or talk about could be:
- Pricing and cost-related topics for construction projects. Clients will always research online about costs and pricing. So, for example, you could write about “How to build your flat for $X per square meter without losing quality” or “How to save $Y/month on heating costs.“
- Your project portfolio. What have you done, when, how, and for whom? Include “before” and “after” pictures. You can also give context. What went well? What flopped? Don’t hide the mistakes, and avoid making it a sales show. People prefer transparency, and you gain trust only by being straightforward and honest.
- Your work-related passion. If you blog or talk about what you’re passionate about, your eyes twinkle. You shine. People love to work with happy people. When you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll put more energy and effort into the blog or talk, and the result will be better. People love to read stories, and being passionate about something is attractive. Just think how good life would be if working on your passion was a way to earn more!
8. Give and Help
By giving unconditionally, you’ll always get back. Sooner or later, you’ll get much more back than you’ll have ever given — that is, if you don’t start measuring it, and if you give unconditionally.
Most people in this world — probably 99% of the population — are kind. If you show them your generosity, they’ll be happy to return the favor. This is built into our genes.
Giving can be anything. Keep the door open for the guy behind you, give some free (construction) advice to a friend, be the first one to buy the group some beer, send a handwritten “thank you” card to each customer… You can never run out of ways to be nice.
People will like you more. And if people like you, they’ll recommend you. Simple as that.
Most people think the opposite: “I’ll give back when I get something from them.”
But you? You know better. Be the one who gives first.
You don’t always have to give something big or something that costs a lot of money. But focus on being helpful. Make that a habit.
I’m not saying you have to work for free for all your neighbors, family, and friends. There will always be people who try to exploit you. Don’t worry, just stay kind and politely refuse their requests. They might pester you, but stay kind anyway, and politely refuse again. After a while, they’ll stop asking.
9. Don’t Offer Slices; Offer the Whole Damn Loaf Instead
Be careful with sending “sliced” offers to your clients — meaning, don’t split your offer into separate parts.
In a split-offer, you might underprice certain parts and overprice other parts. Beware, clients are KINGS at cherry-picking whatever is underpriced and refusing whatever is overpriced.
Here’s an oversimplified example to make my point: Say you split up the cost of the foundations, walls, and roof in your offer. You overpriced the foundations and underpriced the walls and roof. But the bottom line is a fair price for a good service.
You can be sure that clients will agree to the walls and the roof. But as for that other part of your offer? “Well, unfortunately, I already hired someone else for that.”
So, you end up with a not-so-profitable project. You get underpaid, and you’ll potentially have to continue on the very poorly set foundations constructed by a cheap price cutter known in the market for bad quality. Worst case, you’ll have to explain to the client that more budget is needed for the walls because of the bad foundations.
Have Other Ideas?
Is there another tactic you’re already applying to boost your revenue? Please see #8 above and share your strategy with the world! Let us know in the comments or send me an email. I’m eager to hear from you!
- Architects, Contractors, Engineers: double your hourly rate. NOW.
- Three Alternative Ways for Architects to Earn (Big?) Money
- Architects and Contractors: Focus on VALUE when doing Sales!
- Work ON your business, not IN your business