Do architecture students as a whole realize their entrepreneurial potential? I don’t believe so. Architecture students are a rare breed: creative perfectionists that are ambitious enough to accept all-nighters as the norm. But far too often they dismiss the financial value of their skillset and complain about the lack of job prospects and associated compensation.
Please read my list of 5 ways architecture students can get their start as entrepreneurs.
By Cory Wingelaar
A professor in my final semester of University made a point that resonated with me: Why does a field of study that teaches students to envision and create so subjectively, generate graduates that view their career path so objectively?
I think there needs to be a fundamental shift in the mindset of architecture student’s. We need to ask, how can I monetize this skillset, as opposed to where can I wait tables until a firm hires me?
Why wait hat in hand for job interviews? Here are 5 ways that you can capitalize on your arsenal of valuable skills and make a couple bucks now!
#1 – Create a 3D Rendering Service
When I was working as a draftsperson for a residential construction company that specialized in addition/renovations, I noticed that we were spending far too much of the drafting budget trying to sell 2D elevations and plans to homeowners.
The reason being is that most customers aren’t architecturally trained and can’t visualize in 2D. Customers want you to show them solutions that they see on sites like Pinterest, Houzz and shows like Property Brothers.
Therefore, I created a freelance service that catered to developers and residential construction companies. This is how it worked: First meeting, I would meet with the customer to discuss their design ideas and obtain relevant job documents.
Second meeting, I would show them 12 different views of basic mass models and have them agree upon any number they were willing to pay for. We would set the fee, sign the contract and move forward. Following the second meeting, I’d send progress shots with inquiries and alter designs based on their feedback until we reached a final agreement.
How can you start?
Use your portfolio as your advertising tool. I would suggest setting up a small WordPress portfolio site and advertising your service via social media platforms. Check out this post on how to set up a WordPress site for architects.
Note: Make sure to agree upon exact perspective views early on. Customers have a tendency to change views throughout the process, not realizing how time consuming it can be for you if you have already dressed your perspectives up in Photoshop. Set the views collectively, and agree upon a fee if the customer would like to make a change or add one later on.
#2 – Set up a Residential Drafting Service
Different states or provinces are likely to have different requirements for submitting permit drawings, but there is always a need for qualified people to produce drawings for DIY projects. Most building departments require more than a “napkin” sketch in 2015, which is why your CAD skills can be of great assistance. As for payment, you can either set an hourly fee, or charge by the job. Personally, I always charged by the job.
How can you start?
Advertise your services on sites like Kijiji or Craigslist and you might be surprised how quick you get contacted.
Note: Make sure to find out what local permit drawing qualifications are required for submissions prior to putting yourself out there. You don’t want to damage credibility by making promises that you are not qualified to fulfill.
#3 – Start a “How to Blog” that offers Tips
Have you just passed your LEED AP BD+C exam? Are you an expert in AutoCad, Sketchup or Photoshop? What can you do really well that you can put in writing to help others?
Blogging is a longer path to produce regular income, but there are people making money simply sharing their skills online. For information on monetizing your blog please visit this link.
How can you get started?
A case study that should inspire you, is Pat Flynn. Pat was a job captain in an architecture firm until 2008 when he became jobless as result of the recession. He started with a simple blog sharing his study tips for the LEED AP exam and made over 5 times his previous salary in his first year. The key point is that it started as a tip sharing blog to make things easier for others and grew beyond something he could have ever imagined. For more information please visit this blog post.
WordPress is a great, user friendly blog building website. I suggest visiting this how to guide to help you get started.
Note: Your blog can also be your advertisement platform for the rest of the services on this list!
#4 – Create your own Youtube Channel
If you’re anything like me, every time you have an AutoCAD or Revit issue, you YouTube the solution. More often than not, the solution is there. Why? Because someone else has had that issue, and someone else has solved that issue.
Yes, you aren’t the first person to do this. But who cares? If you’re good at a particular program and you communicate the solution well, your services may be in high demand. Check out Eric Reinholdt’s video blog to see a great example of how to offer tips to users on a video platform.
For information on how to monetize your video blog, visit this site.
How can you start?
First, find your niche. You’re more likely to be successful with a target audience.
Note: Niche is the keyword. Be specific with your topic!
#5 – Use Freelance Job Platforms
Why not take advantage of platforms that were created for people like you? There are too many great platforms available online for freelance work to list, but I will outline 2 that I am familiar with:
A Detroit based start-up that hires people with architecture and engineering backgrounds to create solar design documents via correspondence. Your hourly wage is dictated by your experience. For more information please visit GreenLancer.
Unlike GreenLancer, Upwork is not industry specific. It is a platform designed to connect various types of employers to freelancers and vice verca. Compensation is unique job to job. For more information please visit Upwork.
How to get started?
You can simply get started by creating a profile on one of these websites and bidding on your first project. Your first freelance job can be a start on your own freelance business.
I must reinforce my point: architecture draws creative, driven people that are trained to innovate and adapt. Therefore, why can’t these skills be implemented for entrepreneurial ventures? They can and they should!
Don’t accept the status quo for graduates and more importantly, don’t fall victim to the negative banter you hear about how there are no jobs for graduates. Pick a service, advertise your work, network and good opportunities will present themselves.
Am I missing any great entrepreneurial services for architecture students? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated!
This post is a guest post by Cory Wingelaar.
Cory is a graduate of Architecture at Lawrence Technical University and a LEED AP BD+C. Cory’s professional experience ranges from drafting/design in architecture firms to Project estimating/ technical sales for a building façade Curtainwall firm. Cory is passionate about architecture, entrepreneurship, travel and sports.
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