You’re leading up a growing architecture firm, and everything’s going well. The team is in great shape, the clients love your work, and you’re even in line for a couple of architecture awards this year.
There’s only one problem … and it’s a big problem. You’re not making enough money.
Sure, you’re profitable, but in order to grow, you need to be making more than you are now. The obvious answer is to bring on more clients. But that isn’t necessarily a scalable solution. If you’re at capacity right now, bringing on more clients is only going to require you to take on more architects, and you’ll still be earning the same amount as before.
A catch-22? Maybe not. If you’re not taking on more clients, what other ways can your architecture firm earn more money? Here are our ideas:
Upsell the Client on Different Services
If you don’t want to tackle more clients, then you need to get more profit out of each client that you have. There are two ways to do this - either by marketing to higher value clients (see below), or by getting each client to buy in to more services.
So what kinds of additional services could your architecture firm offer?
Project management of the building process. This is the most obvious additional service. It may be something you do already for some clients, but separating it out into a separate service helps you to charge your time + expertise at the correct rate.
Purchasing & Delivery. A service where you source the fixtures and fittings through your contacts and have these delivered to the client.
Sell Products. An alternative to Purchase and Delivery, you could stock your own lines of fixtures and fittings to onsell to clients or wholesale to other stores.
When you present your initial quote to the client, include a section of “additional services” you provide. Chances are the client will require one or more of these services.
Take a look at the pricing structures at other architecture firms - many companies are simply giving away services they should be charging for. Figure out exactly how much those “included” services are costing you - it might be time to separate them out.
Market to High Value Clients
If you can’t squeeze any more value from your current clients, then it’s time to get new clients
I’m not talking about taking on a higher volume of clients here, but about focusing your marketing on attracting the kind of clients that bring in $100,000 jobs, instead of $10,000 jobs.
This isn’t as simple as it might seem. If you’re aiming to establish your architecture firm in a higher market bracket, you’re going to need to rethink the way you approach your marketing. It’s likely you’ll need to rebrand to appeal to clients with a higher spend. When you’re trying to reposition your firm in a new market, it pays to talk with a branding agency about what you need to do to introduce yourself in that market.
Raise Your Rates
Of course, if you want more money from your current clients, you could always raise your rates. Rates rises are normal for most businesses and, as long as you stagger the release (ie. not springing a rates rise on current clients but introducing it to new jobs) you should be able to raise rates on a regular basis without any trouble at all.
Are you really taking into account all your expenses, your time and effort, your costs, your expertise and an appropriate level of profit in your fees? Or are you just afraid of raising your rates? Take the plunge … I bet you won’t regret it.
This isn’t so much about earning more money as it is about saving money on process and ensuring you’re accounting for all your costs and expenses.
Too many architecture firms lose huge chunks of profit from jobs by not accurately tracking time and expenses. Manual timesheets are neglected, staff try to remember how many hours they worked, costs aren’t logged against jobs to be passed on to clients, admin activities drag on for hours, and the firm doesn’t bill for the true amount of hours spent on a project.
How do you solve this issue? Well, time and project management software like WorkflowMax can help with:
providing seamless time billing - the team can track time online against a job, and you can create invoices automatically from timesheets, so nothing is forgotten.
purchase orders, costs and time can be entered from anywhere, anytime - so you can manage the project from wherever you are.
costs stored against jobs - and these can be automatically added to the invoice, so they are never forgotten.
admin costs slashed from hours to minutes - take data from quote right through the job to the invoicing stage in a few simple clicks. What used to take hours is now done in minutes, saving your firm money.
custom reporting - never undercharge a client again by understanding which jobs you’ve made money one, which have cost you, and which clients are your highest earners.
See how WorkflowMax has helped these architects streamline processes and recover tens of thousands of dollars of costs each year.
There are a few options for increasing profit at your architecture firm without necessarily resorting to taking on more work. As the firm’s owner, you could even consider a combination of all these ideas to create a truly profitable firm with multiple income streams. It’s time to stop thinking like a designer, and start thinking like a business!
How do you improve your profit margin at your architecture firm?
Photos courtesy of Weburbanist.