Freelance architect

Based on what I have observed in the job listings for architects, it seems that the economy is starting to pick up. That’s great news! However, I noticed that many of these positions are seeking freelance architects. Despite the economy beginning to bounce back from the brink of collapse, many architecture practices do not seem confident in the economy. I don’t blame them for being cautious.

And it seems there are many freelance architects who are filling the need for temporary help while we recover from the economic and financial havoc that we have experienced for the last couple of years. The idea of being a freelance architect does not excite me however, if this is going to be the employment trend, I can not be inflexible about these employment opportunities. Understanding that this may be my future, I inquired with a few architects via Twitter about their experiences and advice. Below were some concerns and questions I had about being a freelance architect followed with responses from those who are freelance architects and self-employed architects. These architects who were kind enough to share their experiences are from the US, UK, and Canada.

One of my concerns was the type of work freelance architects would be offered. I suspect that if you are not part of the office (a full-time employee), then you would be given the less desirable parts of a project but that’s not necessarily true.

@architectmark: @lafemmearchitct #Askarch i tend not to work freelance 4 other architects (i’d b quite happy 2);I think sometimes Arch R possessive over proj

@Ask_Architect: @lafemmearchitct#freelance for other #architects sometimes – work can be anything from small parts to assistant/project arch#askarch

I was curious about why some architects became freelancers and I was surprised that many want to as opposed to a result of current economic circumstances.

@jdg_architect: @lafemmearchitct But because I want to ! I am my own boss, I have a few good, returning clients.
@jdg_architect: @lafemmearchitct Freelance fits best what I want now. I had a full-time position before. I quitted.

@simplybrinn: @lafemmearchitct both – Layoff last June, offered contract work w/the pools, supplement w/additional freelance for consistency.

In inquiring about being a freelance architect, a couple of the architects explained that the freelance opportunities were offered through previous employers and/or friends (who are also architects), and seems to work out for these architects.
@Ask_Architect: @lafemmearchitct so far just freelancing 4 past employers & best friend so all very open & collaborative #AskArch@architectmark
@jdg_architect@lafemmearchitct I also have a good friend which manage his own architecture practice (with employees) that happen to have work overflow from time to time.

The most important concern I had about being a freelance architect is the duration of work, rate, and payments. And this is where architects offered great advice.

@ShropsArchitect: @lafemmearchitct most of my freelance work is hourly. One may go to fixed fee as its a large role 4 big project #AskArch
@ShropsArchitect: @lafemmearchitct treat #freelance#architect work much as u might working 4 a client. brief appointment contract etc#AskArch

@ronestudioarch: @lafemmearchitct #freelance – be sure your contract outlines ONLY those services you will provide – no wiggle room – always get retainer

@architectmark: @lafemmearchitct make sure your agreement/contract for the services you’re providing is clear,especially payment!#AskArch

@simplybrinn: @lafemmearchitct that works – just agree on a payment timeline (1x/week, etc) & deliverables. Get a contract signed @ronestudioarch
@simplybrinn: @lafemmearchitct @ronestudioarch One way: estimate your time, charge a % of the total price; collect the (adjusted) balance upon completion

@jdg_architect: @lafemmearchitct I do set my hours, work from my office but meet at theirs and respect their schedule.
@jdg_architect: @lafemmearchitct keep in mind that it’s more expensive for architects to hire freelancers over full time employes.

Of the advice that were being offered, requesting a retainer from your architect client was something I did not consider and I think it should be. And why not? It is standard practice for an architect to request a retainer from their client. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

@architectmark: @lafemmearchitct i normally work on a retainer basis as so many things can change (site purchase falling thru,divorce/split,floods #AskArch

@architectderek: YES RT @lafemmearchitct: Is it standard practice for #architects to ask/get a retainer from a client on a project?#AskArch
@architectderek: @lafemmearchitct A retainer is still a good idea if it’s the 1st time you’ve worked with someone.

@simplybrinn: @lafemmearchitct @ronestudioarchretainers minimize your risk (and headache) should you get a flaky client; doesn’t have to be huge

I want to thank all the architects for their time and advice on the subject of being a freelance architect. They have opened up my eyes to the benefits and possibilities of being a freelance architect. I like the idea of setting my work hours, perhaps getting paid more than what I would have normally gotten paid, be able to dedicated some time on personal projects, and eventually become an entrepreneur. Yes, I still have concerns about being a freelance architect but I think if I put myself in a position where I have some control over my time, pay, and work with architects who I am comfortable with, I can make it a positive and amicable experience.

I also want to give a big thanks to @AskArch, a wonderful resource for both architects and non-architects should you have questions about architecture, architects, and profession. Follow them on Twitter; or tune in every Friday 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm Western European time zone.

Are you a freelance architect? Or considering freelance work as an architect? Please leave any advice you would like to share or questions you may have. Thank you.


4 thoughts on “Freelance architect

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Freelance architect « La Femme Architecte --

  2. We regularly “outsource” to larger architects and surveyors based in and around Liverpool UK. Its been really successful and we’ve helped one win an RICS award.

    Sometime the companies do not have the resources available at the time and we can assist for a few days/weeks/months and they manage to keep their Clients happy.

    Good blog BTW

    Dave Cornett
    SNOW architects

  3. Here in Miami, Arch offices are also very skeptical as to how sustained this rebound seems to be.
    IMHO, the crash of 08, at least here in Miami, changed the mindset and vibe of the entire city. People are now more comfortable with the “pay-as-you-go” model of consumption than the more permanent alternatives. This applies to every aspect of life & work including hiring.
    -People are co-sharing and sub-leasing out office space to lower costs. But the positive effect is that this co-habitation with related (and sometimes unrelated) fields is breeding innovation and new ideas.
    – People are not buying property, just renting.
    – Leasing vs buying cars etc.

    I think the above also applies to the freelance architects as well. As projects are landed, a firm can have the flexibility to react quickly while responding to the tenders and bids before the new.

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