Going Solo

I’ve been in my firm for about five or so years now, and been out of uni for about 10. It’s a medium sized firm, not big or very well known but it does ok. The people are good and the architecture ranges between ‘bread and butter’ to innovative large projects. But always around this time of year, when you’re catching up with old friends and networking with new ones, there comes The Proposition Between Friends – should we quit our jobs and start our own company? Ohh it does sound good – the opportunity to do my own designs, and create the kind of company that I want to be working at. Sometimes I feel I am so restricted by the designs of the director that I don’t get a chance to use my skills. But it is of course also a quite confronting idea – what if I don’t get enough clients? How do I even fund a new business in the first place? And do I really want that responsibility?

So, in an effort to get more info about a pipe-dream, I thought I’d put it out to you, readers. If you’ve started your own firm, any tips, hints, recommendations to help me weigh up the options? Can you ‘ease’ yourself in to a new firm or do you really have to ‘cut and run’? Would it be practical to stay back and Admin a project, while starting a new one? And if you don’t have family nearby is there really any chance of getting clients? Is it best to start with residential? And then finally, what happened to your best mate friendship once you’ve decided to start a business together?

Would love to hear any of your thoughts, it’s a tough decision!

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7 thoughts on “Going Solo

  1. Having started an architectural practice almost by accident, I can say that the most important thing would be preparation (which I didn’t do).

    You need to know where your clients are coming from;
    How you are going to keep them, or generate new ones;
    You need to establish a cash flow very early and know exactly how much money a month is required to survive (and pay yourself);
    You need to fanatical about meeting deadlines.

    In terms of your questions – I believe it is far too hard to have a foot in both camps – you need to ‘cut and run’, the other option is simply not fair on your previous employer or your new business – like our profession,you need to be dedicated to the task at hand.

    The chance of clients is the difficult one – I have been in this for 10 years and that is still a constant struggle, have some lined up before you start.

    Best mate friendships? – for me, not a problem in fact my business partner is my wife and we are closer than ever (if you have a bad day , no need to re-hash, just pour a gin and tonic – you’re in it together, wife or friend, and that builds amazing bonds). All the staff I have had over the years remain good friends, in fact several I would count as my best friends, including those who no longer work with us.

    Its a hell of a road to hoe, you will be rewarded but you will cry with frustration at the industry and wonder how the hell you are going to pay the next bill at times. If you want to do it ( and be warned it is NOT for the feint hearted) you have to go all out.

    Thats my experience for what its worth

    you know who I am(I think), drop me a line if you want and I’ll talk you through it.

  2. Oh yes

    and be careful of typecasting -if people think you are a residential firm – that is often all you will be given the chance to be.

    Something more to think about (though resi work is always there, it is time consuming and rarely profitable – it does keep certain skills well honed though and I doubt I could ever turn my back on it completely)

  3. Whatever you do, don’t go creating a huge amount of fixed expenses – instead, get a website online and promote your business using SEO and Adwords.

    I’d stay in your job till you at least have 6 months worth of work ahead in your pipeline.

  4. Invest time and energy into understanding what is your business essence, ‘spark’. Get that right and succinct so you can communicate it to others, clients, staff, suppliers, etc. Good luck.

  5. Just back yourself. Not sure about all that business plan twaddle. I thought I’d last 6 months max and now its been…well a tad longer than that……….
    Best mates – well you know how you work best so if you’re a control freak don’t have partners. If you like to be flattered set up a studio of adoring “co-workers” and if you’re a hard-nosed business person team up people who will help return a profit while you go surfing or are busy in a box at the Australian Open or the Spring Carnaval.

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