Setting up your practice? Congratulations!!
Here are some questions and a few pointers that could make you introspect some and help you get started and prepare for what to expect…Do you have your license for practising where you are? – COA registration for India.
Have you interned for another architect? To be able to view/experience the inner workings of the profession without the ultimate responsibility is a luxury you must not give a miss to…Have you decided on the legal entity that you would like your practice to be? Sole proprietorship, partnership, Pvt. Ltd Company, LLP, Alien terms? You’d better get a handle on it. Talking to a lawyer and a chartered accountant will help clarify…
What do you know about the term ‘business of architecture’? Architecture is not about the business of it per se, but it is always good to be aware of things on that front too. It is a profession, not a business working for a professional fee, not a profit. But it is an entrepreneurial exercise with a code of conduct, for sure.
Time, of course, will clarify these things, but being aware of the distinctions from the start always helps so that major errors can be averted. How much do you know about the process of construction, Services, or HVAC? Spend some time on construction sites at different stages of construction to get a touch and feel of things and processes. Interact with contractors, masons, laborers one-on-one. Get down and get dirty to try your hand at something too, it’s fun!
Do you have your first project? And after the first job, what’s next? Keep networking, keep searching.
A lot of your waking hours will be spent firefighting and solving real problems on-site or those faced by the consultants. Where is the time for good design? Figure out your time. Time management skills will help to allocate time for each activity. Make sure to allocate an undisturbed time for designing; late night if you’re a night owl or early morning if you are a morning person.
Networking will help get the job initially, but the bottom line is always about it being the good work and the good feedback that will get you more projects. The course of the project, from the first line on paper to the last doorknob on-site is long. There will come periods of disagreement with each one involved, including the client. Try to not end things badly with people. Word gets around about disagreements real quick. Not to say that you must compromise on your beliefs but be sensible. Expect disagreements and learn to deal with them. Studying and knowing People management and conflict management skills will help.
Money management, bootstrapping are tools to use unless you are flush with funds. It’s good to have a grip on these regardless even if you are loaded, it’s still worth it. We all make money mistakes sometimes, but not all the time. Learn to raise bills and to ask clients for payments. Learn to haggle; learn the fair price for items and services. All come in handy so that you’re not taken for a ride. Initially, you will probably be handling all jobs of the practice, from the designer to the peon. Are you ready?
Technology, social media, VR, BIM are friends… Learn to use them wisely, smartly. They have the potential to be your worst enemies too if you don’t use them well…Do you have a virtual presence? A website, blog, social media handles? Are you active on them?
What viewpoint do you present to the rest of the world, to would-be clients?
Use your hands to draw, scribble, doodle, sketch, make things, and make physical models. Visualize in physical space, not just in virtual space. Collaborate, partner with larger firms for the experience of it. It will give you a broader outlook on things and a taste of teamwork.
Hone your skills for environmental and sustainability-related matters. Get a grip on embodied carbon in building materials and processes. Besides just practicing architecture, always keep learning. Lifelong learning is a good philosophy to live by, especially in these times of exponential change. Are the conditions of the contract of work and terms of payment sorted out with the client? The terms of contract define what your role will entail, and terms of payment are usually linked to the progress of the work on site. Can you identify the stages and able to raise bills?
Find your niche for the kind of work you enjoy and would like to do. Build your brand around it. These are both not essential, but they do help. There will inevitably be lean times with no work that you will encounter. Use the free time productively to catch up with things you’ve been meaning to do and just haven’t gotten around to like documenting your work, learning something new, researching a new topic, etc.
Keep the streams of inspiration flowing! Look up works of architects and architecture you admire, study them in all aspects. Learn about the assumptions made, the design constraints, and the responses. Subscribe to magazines, buy books, and surf the internet. Stay in the know of the whys and hows of things related to a project. How difficult situations were encountered and resolved; the architectural problems encountered and the solutions evolved and devised.
Acknowledge change as a constant phenomenon and keep an open mind. Corona has changed the architectural arena. Research to find out what the other professionals are saying and doing about it; understand how they are responding. Stay abreast, mull over the possible response, and get on with your own. Do you have a partner(s) or a mentor? It’s always nice to bounce your ideas off someone reliable who understands your viewpoint and has similar interests.
Learn to accept your mistake if you realize that it is and apologize for it. Humility always works. Be honest, be kind, and be compassionate but don’t be a roll-over. Do a job to be proud of. You are your best and worst critic.
Lastly, love and enjoy what you do. It shows…
These are the bricks and mortar that can help the process and give you the right direction to set up your practice.