Becoming a freelancer is an attractive career choice for many architects. You get to work for yourself, allowing you to set your own boundaries, goals, and ambitions. Working as a freelancer also frees you from the politics that exists in most large firms, and allows you to work on a wider range of projects.
Unfortunately, it also comes with its own share of downsides, including uncertainty over income. You might have to work longer hours, particularly in the early years. You will also have to get used to handling a wider variety of tasks—from chasing payments for your fees, to making your own coffee, to fixing your computer when it decides not to work on a Tuesday morning.
But once you overcome these challenges, there are a lot of potential rewards for a freelance architect. Here are some tips that can help you start your own freelance career.
Create a Portfolio
Every architect has to be able to prove to a client that they can do the job. This applies to firms that employ hundreds as much as it does to you as an individual freelancer. This is why your portfolio is so important.You can showcase your portfolio in a number of different ways, but one of the cheapest and simplest is to set up a website.
Include as diverse a range of projects in your portfolio as possible, but place emphasis on the type of jobs that you are targeting. This could be residential projects, commercial projects, large jobs, smaller jobs, etc. Use the portfolio to highlight your technical skills and abilities, and your creativity.
Build Mutually Beneficial Relationships
The next step is to find clients, and you can use lots of different methods to achieve this. For example, you can advertise on Google, or on classified websites like Gumtree. You can also use freelance websites.
These strategies should have a place in your marketing plan, but for most freelance architects personal relationships are the best way to get initial jobs. This could mean collaborating with other architects and architectural firms. It could also mean collaborating with other construction industry professionals, or with builders. With this approach you might not be the lead on every project that you undertake, but you will be able to cast a wider net in your search for jobs.
Make Sure You Have Contracts in Place, and Protect Your Work
Make sure you have contracts in place and that you protect your work until you get paid. Most construction projects run for several months, so it is important that you get paid for your time, whatever happens. You can do this by ensuring you and your clients have contracts in place, and by not giving usable digital copies of your work to anyone until you are paid. Instead, offer read-only versions of files that include a digital signature to make sure you're protected.
Finally, make sure you have the financial means to support yourself in the early days of a project. In the construction industry, it can take several months to get paid, so you need money to see you through until the payments start coming in.