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How to Become a Freelance Architect

Let’s start by talking about why an architect has to work as an independent freelancer, and not build a career within architectural firms. The answer simply is, he/she doesn’t. It is merely a question of personal preference. Working as an independent architect doesn’t provide the same level of stability and security compared to traditional employment, however, it might open doors, opportunities, and independence that is otherwise inaccessible through full-time jobs. Here are the basics to become a freelance architect.

Develop Your Skills

If you believe that you can make it as a freelance architect as a fresh graduate, you’re probably wrong. Architecture is not all creativity and conceptualization. It is about creating a design that is actually buildable. It is about the details, material selections, plans and sections, schedules, and a lot more, not to mention the coordination between different trades, such as structural and MEP engineering to have a fully functional and efficient design. This can only be mastered through experience. Take your leap into freelancing only after you are confident enough that you can provide the required quality of work.

With that said, here is a list of skills that are essential for you to kick off your career as a freelance architect:

Freelance architectural skills include but are not limited to:

  • Keeping up with industry trends – What’s hot and what’s not? Always be on the lookout for new materials and software programs that are being used. For example, trending topics right now are sustainable and energy efficient designs, BIM, etc… So learning how to work in those fields can keep you up to date.
  • Learn how to price properly – The freelance architectural business is hugely competitive. Compromises should be done in the first few years in order to build a proper portfolio and a strong online presence.
  • Build a team – You will come across a lot of projects that you cannot handle all by yourself. You might need to work with structural engineers, MEP engineers, or maybe other architects to split the load. It is always best if you build a team that you’re comfortable working with. This will make the execution much more enjoyable and efficient.
  • Developing a personal niche and working to be the very best in that field – Are you the Green Guru, the Skylight Expert, the Façade Professional, or the BIM master?
  • Training on the latest software – Mastering software tools is crucial for your freelance career. Training and practice will enable you to be much faster and efficient while executing your designs, which in turn will allow you to price more competitively since the project will need less time to complete.
  • Understanding client needs is a must – Do not hang on to your own opinion without taking into consideration what the client wants. The happier the client is, the more opportunities he/she will open for you.
  • Creating a visually attractive portfolio – Your portfolio is your most powerful, and in some cases the only tool you have to gain clients. Dedicate considerable time into perfecting it. It’s worth it.

Find Freelance Architecture Work

Your next challenge is to find clients. There are many ways to build a network of professional contacts, and here are a few:

  • There are a a lot of freelancing platforms out there. However, the only one that is dedicated solely to freelancing within the construction sector is Handiss. Handiss will give you the opportunity to work with clients from all over the world and provides all the necessary tools in to get paid and work with your clients online.
  • Building and expanding your professional network is key, this can be done by attending seminars, events and conferences, and networking like your career depended on it.
  • Personal relationships are also very important to win your first couple of jobs as an independent architect. Execute them perfectly and use them as a leverage to land more clients.
  • Advertise your work on social media platforms. Virtually everyone is on social media platforms. Use them!
  • Use LinkedIn where clients can endorse you and make recommendations for you.
  • Blogs, like this one, are a very powerful tool for digital visibility. Start your own and fill it with content regularly. Also write dedicated Linkedin articles and try to get on other blogs as a guest author.

Freelancing is not easy. It is full of hurdles and challenges, requires dedication, motivation, and most of all, confidence that you have what it takes to succeed in it. The beginning is the toughest part, so fight through it, and if you succeed, hopefully things will snowball for you and you can expand your work and create an architectural firm of your own.


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