Start Networking (Plus Nine Other Tips for Getting Your First Architecture Client)
Getting your first architecture client is the first major task for any new firm owner. Follow these tips to find the client who will become the cornerstone of your firm’s success.
Many architects and engineers enter their fields because of the creativity involved in their work. They have the opportunity to develop brand new buildings and structures. However, working for somebody else’s firm may stifle this creativity. Instead of working on your own ideas, you pour everything you have into somebody else’s.
That’s why many architects and engineers dream of starting their own firms. This allows them to take control of their work, so they only work on projects they have a passion for.
Some new firm owners can bring over previous clients. However, those who can’t face an uphill battle. They have to find ways to attract their first clients, without a pre-existing reputation to help them. This leaves many asking how to sell architectural services.
Unfortunately, selling architectural services may not be your strong suit. You have the creativity and talent, but you need some help to build your firm’s reputation and attract that first client. These 10 architectural marketing ideas will show you how.
Tip #1 – Be Sure of Yourself
Getting your first architecture client starts before you’ve even opened your own firm. Prior to any marketing efforts, you need to know that going it alone is what you really want.
Are you ready to leave the comfort zone of working for somebody else?
Are you willing to put the hours in to build every aspect of the business?
Can you handle the challenges that being a combined businessperson and architect or engineer present?
If you can’t answer “yes” to those questions, starting your own firm may not be for you. It’s one of the most difficult undertakings of your life. If you aren’t willing to commit yourself fully, odds are, it will fail.
So, what does this have to do with attracting your first client? It’s simple. Potential clients can tell when somebody’s heart isn’t in their work. Opening your own firm unprepared means you turn up for meetings with the weight of the world on your shoulders. You put clients off before you start speaking.
Make sure that you want to take on the pressures of running your own firm. This ensures you have the passion to drive towards success.
Tip #2 – Attend Networking Events
New firm owners don’t have pre-existing reputations to draw from. Nobody knows who you are, or what you’ve worked on in the past. As a result, you need to get yourself out there. The best way to do this is to attend networking events in your local area.
Granted, such events can be tedious. You may even spend the entire time wishing you were back in the office. But they’re your pathway to making connections and meeting people who may become your first client.
The key here is that you don’t try selling architectural services directly. Instead, introduce yourself and what you do, then find out as much as possible about the people you speak to. Show an interest in their work and they’ll do the same. In the end, you’ll come away with a set of business contacts that may present new opportunities to you.
You’ll find tons of networking events if you live in a bustling city area. For those who live further afield, the internet is your friend. Check websites like Eventbrite and Meetup, while keeping your eye on social media. Both will inform you of upcoming networking events in your area.
Tip #3 – Build Marketing into Your Business Plan
People focus so intently on the facts and figures in their business plans that they often forget about the other stuff. Think of your business plan like a roadmap. It shows you the way to achieving what you want in business.
Of course, you need the facts and figures, especially if you want to attract investment. But your business plan is also the first place where you tell your story. Use it to define your passions and figure out what you want to do. In doing so, you’ll define your target audience and ideal projects.
How does this help you in selling architectural services?
Knowing what you want and where you’re going helps you to build marketing strategies. It ensures you use the right language, use the correct tools, and can sell yourself to potential clients.
Use your business plan as your guide. Let it inform the actions you take and you’ll be in a better position to attract your first client.
Tip #4 – Engage on Social Media
There are over 1 billion people on Facebook. Over 460 million professionals uses LinkedIn.
That’s a huge audience every new business owner must appeal to. As the owner of an engineering or architectural firm, building a reputation on social media is one of your first tasks.
Setting up business pages is only the first step. Creating those and then leaving them to stagnate will not help you in getting your first architectural client.
Be active on social media. Join interest and industry groups so you can join conversations with like-minded people. Write articles and post them on social media to demonstrate that you’re an authority in the industry. Use your social media pages to keep conversations going with people you’ve never met in person. Become somebody who can answer other people’s questions.
Keep working at it and you’ll develop a reputation for creating interesting content. People will come back to your page, and interact with what you post. This leads to more connections and followers. Naturally, this presents new business opportunities, and may lead you in the direction of your first client.
Tip #5 – Stay in Touch With Your Old Firm
You may have grand visions of quitting your job and riding off in a blaze of glory. You’re off to start your own firm, so you don’t need them anymore, right?
Your current employer may be the first to offer you work when you start your own firm. After all, they know what you’re capable of, so they don’t need you selling architectural services to them.
Keep things professional and civil with your previous employers. Explain your reasons for leaving, and thank them for everything they’ve taught you. Most importantly, maintain contact. Speak to people at the firm, and let them know that you’re available for work.
You’ll often find that your previous firm refuses a lot of work, perhaps because they can’t take on the load. Make yourself available as a freelancer and strike up a business partnership with your previous employer.
Granted, you may have to share the profits. But freelancing for those who already know about your talents allows you to build a portfolio. Those first few jobs will pave the way to future work.
Tip #6 – Try Cold Emails
You may not want to go the cold email route. Anybody who’s received a bad cold email can tell you how annoying it is to have them clogging up your inbox. However, using cold emails is one of the best architectural marketing ideas, as long as you do it right.
Building a connection is key. If the receiver feels like they’ve received a boilerplate email, they’ll consign it to the spam folder.
Keep these questions in mind when writing your email:
- Have you demonstrated that you know the client? You may not know them personally, but you can show that you’ve done your research. Comment on their website, or talk about what they do for a living. Show that you’ve done more than click the send button when creating the email.
- Have you made them care? Remember that every potential client has a limited amount of time. They have to care about you early on, otherwise they’ll delete the email. Tell them something about you, or mention a subject you think you have in common. You’re looking to build a quick connection to encourage them to continue reading.
- Can they feel comfortable talking to you? Don’t go straight into the hard sell. Make it clear that you’re just looking to open a dialogue. Talk about starting a conversation, while mentioning that you’re available for work. This takes the pressure off the interaction, as the receiver won’t feel as though contacting you leads to a sales situation.
Tip #7 – Volunteer Your Services
It may be a hard pill to swallow, but offering your talents for free may help you in selling architectural services later. The same goes for engineers.
Speak to your local council and let them know that you’re willing to offer pro bono services. Head to other public entities, such as libraries and schools, and do the same. Ask to serve on an advisory or review board for any projects they want to undertake.
You gain immediate exposure, plus your firm develops a reputation for being community-conscious. This is often a huge selling point for later clients. Furthermore, serving on advisory boards shows that you have expertise. Potential clients will see this and feel more confident in hiring your firm.
Tip #8 – Create a Great Website
Most people don’t contact businesses directly after first hearing about them. Instead, they head to the company’s website to see what they’re about. If your website doesn’t meet the required standards, potential clients will leave before you have the chance to start a conversation with them.
Invest heavily in creating a great website. Use it to talk about what you do, and where you come from. Furthermore, mould your website so it reflects your firm’s image. It’s all about making an impression.
Your site also needs a portfolio, but you can’t fill it if you haven’t worked on any projects, right?
That’s not the case. Fill your portfolio with sketches and designs. Selling architectural services as a new business isn’t about what you’ve worked on. It’s about what you can offer. Use the portfolio to showcase your skills. Ensure the rest of the website matches the professionalism shown in your drawings and conceptual art.
Tip #9 – Start a Blog
Remember that getting your first architectural client is about reputation. Any clients you attract take a chance on you. After all, you’re unproven as a solo entity.
Anything you can do to develop your reputation in the early days helps. Set up a blog on your website and start writing. Talk about what you do. Analyse industry news, and offer your insights and opinions.
Focus on your story, and highlight your professional expertise. Offering something unique to readers builds their confidence in you. Your blog may be one of the best architectural marketing ideas for building your reputation early on.
Tip #10 – Consider Every Project…at First
You may know where you want to be, but you’re going to have to work to get there. You can’t expect to jump straight into passion projects immediately after opening your firm.
Odds are your first client won’t fit your ideal client profile. That doesn’t mean you should refuse the work. Consider every job that comes your way. Getting your first architecture client is about building brand value and industry recognition. You can’t do that if you refuse every job that comes your way while holding out for the “perfect” job.
Do work that may not appeal to you. Show your quality, then use it in selling architectural services. You can start focusing on the work you want once you’ve built the reputation needed to attract it.
Getting your first architecture client, or engineering client, is the first big challenge your firm faces. Combine these architectural marketing ideas to start selling architectural services today. It’s all about doing what you can to develop a reputation in the industry. Build your network, consider every opportunity, and focus on that all-important first impression.
ArchiStar Academy can help if you need more tools to get started. We offer courses in a range of industry-related software, including Revit, AutoCAD, and Rhino3D. You can also purchase these software packages from us at industry-best prices.
Contact ArchiStar Academy today to learn how to use the tools you need to put these architectural marketing ideas into practice.
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Posted on 13 Jan 2020