Grow the architectural project pot

unmeasured blog
Architecture is not a zero sum game. So how might architects generate an abundance of projects?

One way to win architectural projects is to compete with other architects for a project. That feels like a zero sum game, architects competing for a finite number of projects. Another way to win projects is to have a unique architectural offering so that you’re the only option in the mind of your future clients. The second way is ideal, there’s no competition. It’s a way that requires skills, positioning and marketing work, as well as an understanding of your minimum viable market. It caters to pre-existing clientele, clients who are out there looking and wanting your unique services. It’s a marketing strategy that can be very effective at generating project leads. It still has the sense of a finite market, even if you’re really nailing down ownership of it.

Catering to a minimum viable market challenges many architects. It feels risky or limiting to pursue a single unique market. I disagree, and there are also other ways. There is plenty of work if architects were to rethink how they find work and what their work looks like. How to do this? To uncover new work and grow the architectural project pot? Here are some questions to start with and begin identifying how you might generate a greater abundance of projects.

What if your future clients didn’t know they needed an architect? Who might they be?

What if you created a niche for architects that hadn’t existed before? Where might that be?

What if you used your skills as an architect to deliver architecturally adjacent projects? What might that be?

Of course they’re all hard questions without simple and easily identified answers. Which is the point. If the answers were obvious, those clients, niche or architecturally adjacent work would already be projects for architects. It’s therefore where an abundance of opportunity and projects await the architects that are willing to find the answers and seek out that work. An exciting prospect is that the answers will be different for different architects and there may be more possibility than can be imagined.

They’re big challenging questions. It’s unlikely you’ll answer these question at first try. It’ll take time, experiments and persistence. An overarching question to then ask is, What experiments might I try to start to answer these questions? I recommend experiments focussing on just one idea at a time, or part thereof. Sir James Dyson made over 5000 prototypes, because he changed just one thing in every prototype. He did so to be sure of whether the change made the vacuum cleaner better or worse. You might not to go to that extent. It’s still worthwhile considering whether the data you get back from any experiment provide a useful and clear outcome that you can build upon.

My challenge here is not to launch into answering the big questions. My challenge is to start to consider the experiments that might lead you to discovering those unconsidered clients, niches or adjacent projects. They’re there. There’s an abundance of work that architects are missing out on, if they would just start thinking about it and experimenting.


Picture by Artem Mizyuk on Pexels [edited]

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach. I help architects rethink their practice and support them as they uncover better ways to work. I’ve worked in architecture for over 25 years, and I ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I believe improving practice takes asking hard questions and deep listening.

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