The Power of Relationships for Architects
As young architects and designers, we’re often faced with the question, “how do we get our first client”? This is a question that I’ve asked many of my friends, many who are principals and owners of their own practices, and a majority of them had the same answer.
Through friendships and connections.
Although this answer made sense, I realized that a majority of my current friends and connections are around the same age as I am, 26, and are just starting their careers. So objectively speaking, it would be difficult to find someone in my age group who is looking for architectural design services. However, I also have very close friends who are older than I am and are starting their own businesses.
We regularly met to talk about our lives and career goals
After graduating from architecture school, I stayed in touch with all of my closest friends and constantly met at our local bar or restaurant to catch up on life and talk about our career goals. One of my best friends, who I’m now developing conceptual designs for, was slowly taking over his father’s framing business and he had so many amazing ideas to grow the family company.
We met every few weeks and I talked to him about his ideas and his next steps. Then, he asked about my progress to becoming a licensed architect and about the projects that I was working on. Soon, our energetic discussions led to one of our first projects, which I mentioned in last week’s post.
How this led to more opportunities
After starting project 5x30 – Restaurant and Apartments with my friend as a client, we found some time to meet at our local bar and discuss the project’s programs and layout. As with many of our meetings, we spent most of our time catching up and discussing our business ideas. We invited another friend of ours to join us and we ended up discussing everyone’s business venture.
This ultimately led to a mastermind brainstorming session to help each person refine their business ideas, which led to several potential partnerships between each of us. Along with project 5x30 with my close friend, there are now several other conceptual proposals that I’ve been invited to develop with our other friend.
Understanding our friend’s and client’s project goals
At most of these initial meetings, my friends and I are generally discussing all of our business ideas and the many ways that we see it coming together. As each person is talking, I listen and learn about the relationships that they see between different spaces, departments, people, ideal flow, and potential layouts. As I start to mentally put together a programmatic relationship, I start sharing some design suggestions, ideas, articles, and videos that I’ve encountered.
Generally, this leads to an energetic response from my friend and we begin to imagine the project coming to life. It’s at this point where my friends would ask me to join their team as either a partner or their architect to develop a conceptual design with renderings and drawings to present to their investors.
When we’re able to finish each other’s sentences and build on the same ideas, we know that there’s a mutual understanding of the project’s goals and our trust in one another grows.
Don’t enter these meetings with the idea of business over friendship
Although it may sound as if getting these small conceptual projects was easy, my intent was never to see my friends as my client. These casual dinner or bar meetings were our way of taking an hour to share our personal endeavors with one another and to share some of our success and failures. The projects emerged from these friendly conversations and they were offered to me.
Relationships are a fundamental part of every architect’s business and they’re developed in so many ways. Some architects focus on developing relationships through large networking events and conferences and others develop deeper connections through their current friendships. Ultimately, every architect combines these methods of developing their network and eventually finds a group of friends or clients with whom they’re most comfortable working.
Out of curiosity, I’d like to know, would you prefer to work on a friend’s project? Or would you rather work on a client’s project from a networking event or conference?
Let me know in the comments section below.