How should architects and other professionals respond when they are faced with request for free services? What are the reasons why architectural services can’t be free?Is it professional to just turn down a client simply because he can’t afford your fees.
What is the effect of free services on consulting firm?
I may not have all the answers to these questions but free and negotiated services are becoming common among practicing architects.
From my interactions with clients, which I wrote about in my article “ 5 steps to charging professional fees“. I observed that there is a rising expectation that architectural services shouldn’t cost much and sometimes should even be offered free of charge.
Truly, relationship is pivotal in business and its handling is sensitive because improper handling could cause you to loose business or friendship.
How should architects cope with this?
An architectural firm in its simplest form (read “3 ways to reinvent your architectural firm“) needs some basic items to operate.
A laptop with the relevant software; source of electricity, a desk and a chair; internet and an online presence; a few books whether hard or soft copies. Also a printer or a means to print finished works; sketch papers, pencils, erasers, pens and an accommodation to a operate from.
After acquiring all these basic items the firm is ready to kick off. The least an architect can do from this stage onward is to ensure that at every time he maintains the basic items required to run his office.Therefore he will need to routinely service his laptop to prevent it from breaking down. Update his architectural software, renew his electricity bill or fuel his generating set. As well as renew his internet bill, buys printer inks or set money aside for printing at printing centers. Restock his pile of sketch paper, pencils etc and renew his house /office rent depending on where he operates from.
“Therefore when the full value required to carry out architectural services are documented it becomes very clear that architectural services can never free. In reality, somebody is paying for it, its either the client or the architect.”
This quote above, Architects have to always keep in mind when dealing with request for free services.
What should the architect do?
So as a way to start, every architect contemplating offering free services should decide on what minimum amount is required to run his firm per project. So that when he chooses to offer free services he can easily calculate how much he has lost per project.
If he can then he can proceed with the free service. Nevertheless, if he can’t or the free service will adversely affect his office’s financial position then it is only wise to explain these to your client.
How do you convince your clients that you can’t offer free services?
Every young architect needs to explain to clients why he has to pay. He may not know. You could decide out of discretion to offer a discount. This is good for your relationship with him but it should never go less than your minimum cost per project.
When it does then you have to nicely turn down the project or at least if you accept to carry out the project, you understand your loss.
As a form of cooperate social responsibility or even personal contribution to friends, family and society, pro-bono works are encourage in architecture.
So that in his subsequent relationship with other architects he would appreciate architectural services.