The top 5 mistakes new architecture firms make

Marc Sawyer
5 min readJan 9, 2022

As a new architecture firm, you will undoubtedly make some mistakes. These are the top 5 mistakes you should try to avoid.

Architecture is a profession that has been around for thousands of years. But as an Architect, you might just be getting started. Architecture firms can make mistakes in four basic areas: marketing, pricing, design process, and client relations. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

Time and Project Management

Starting the project on time and within budget is absolutely crucial to the success of any Architecture firm. Anytime you get it wrong, you lose credibility with your client. Architecture firms often make mistakes when estimating how long a design process will take. Be realistic about your timeline and keep your client in the loop along the way. The worst feeling your client can have is that you are unavailable or keeping them in the dark.

When clients go long periods of time without hearing from you they will assume you’re not working on their project. They will start to get anxious and even annoyed or disappointed. Architecture is about the process, not the fixed end date. Architecture firms often get lost working in the dark. Architecture firms should try to provide their clients with an estimate of when they will hear back from them and when they can expect to see changes in designs. Never try to rush through a design process just because of a deadline imposed by the client, but keep them informed and educated on your process and your timeline.

Don’t be flakey! Designers can tend to have introverted personality types so it can be hard for them to communicate effectively with people on a daily basis. Even the smallest form of communication can go a long way towards keeping a strong client relationship.

Pricing too low or too high

Architecture firms need to be very careful not to charge too little for their services or risk devaluing the design, which could lead to more problems down the road. Also, if Architecture firms charge too much then clients may not want to work with them. Pricing can be difficult, but starting out by finding similar projects that have been done in the past and basing your price from there can lead you on the path to success. It will take you time to understand your process and how much time it takes you to complete a task. How much that is then valued by the client.

It’s not a simple time for money process. Design is there to bring value to your clients. That value you bring should be appropriately compensated for. Architecture firms often charge too little because they are afraid of losing the client, but this has an adverse effect. Architecture firms should always be charging enough to be profitable.

Hiring people who lack experience or motivation

Architecture firms often make mistakes when it comes to hiring new employees. Architecture is a complicated and challenging field, and if you don’t have the right experience or motivation, it can be difficult to succeed in this industry.

You need motivated people who are committed to their work and want to grow with the company. That said, there are many benefits that come from hiring those without any past architecture experience as well. They bring fresh perspectives and new ideas into an office environment.

One thing that will always make for a successful hire is if someone is willing to learn. Employees eager to better themselves will improve the company. You have to foster an environment that nurtures exploration and innovation.

Spending too much money on office space

Times are changing. The large open-architecture offices seem to be changing to more hybrid options. Working from different locations seems to be the new normal. That leads to the question, “Do you need an office at all?”

Architecture firms often spend too much money on office space because they think that it’s necessary. Architecture ideas of old are about being at your desk cranking out drawings. At my first firm just starting my career, there was a manager that would circle the office looking at desks to ensure people were working. Not at your desk, you must not be working. It creates a terrible environment.

Architecture firms shouldn’t waste money on expensive office spaces, especially starting out. Keep operating expenses low.

Although Architecture firms must stay close to the clients and other business partners (like engineers), there are options for Architecture firms who don’t need an open plan office like sharing desks in co-working spaces or subletting square footage from another company. We all know Architecture doesn’t come cheap, so getting creative when finding office space does make sense for an Architecture firm’s success.

Failing to create a strong online presence

Marketing is not just about getting your name out there!

Most Architecture firms think that marketing means doing everything it takes to get more new clients in the door. But Architecture firms need repeat clients. Architecture is all about relationships with your clients! Word of mouth referrals and social buzz about their work are important. Architecture firms often neglect or ignore their current client base when it comes time for marketing, but you will be surprised by the continued work clients can bring.

Architecture firm marketing should focus on nurturing past relationships with existing clients as well as finding new ones through networking and meeting new people. Architecture firms can do this by creating a strong online presence and building up their social media accounts to show potential clients that they’re the right Architecture firm for them.

Architecture is an industry where mistakes can be very costly, both financially and in terms of reputation. Architecture firms need to hire the right people, keep operating expenses low and work out how much they should charge their clients. Architecture firms also need to build a strong online presence so that the community knows they exist, but also see how talented you are!

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels



Marc Sawyer

I’m an Architect. My favorite thing to do is create stories through architectural design. Founder of Whitewash Studio architecture firm in Atlanta, GA.