As an architect, you may dream of having the freedom to unleash your creativity, take on the projects you’re passionate about, and bring your unique designs to life. Sometimes, working for someone else may not be the best place to turn this dream into a reality. That’s why many architects choose to embark on the entrepreneurial path and start their own architecture firm. 

However, starting and running a business requires a different skill set altogether, with various legal considerations to navigate. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the key legal aspects you’ll need to keep in mind when starting your own architectural firm.

What Is An Architectural Firm?

An architectural firm is a business or company that designs buildings, houses, hotels and various other structures. There’s many different legs of the architecture industry, so firms will generally choose to specialise in one specific area. For example, an architectural firm that specialises in building homes likely won’t take on a project that asks them to design a shopping mall. Even though architecture is associated with the design process alone, some architectural firms might offer services that go beyond the design process, such as the construction of the building. 

How To Start Your Own Architectural Firm 

The first step to starting your own architectural firm is having all the right qualifications. The specific requirements are likely to depend on the state or territory your firm is going to operate in, so it’s wise to do your research before proceeding. In most cases, you will need to have the relevant tertiary qualifications and registrations as an architect in Australia. 

Before starting your own firm, you’ll need to have a business plan. Your business plan is a document detailing everything related to your business planning. This includes matters related to finances, long term and short term goals, marketing strategies and an analysis of the market. 

Once you’ve got a solid plan in place that you’re happy with, it’s time to start getting your business off the ground.   

Business Registration 

To get your architectural firm started, you’ll need to think about your business structure. Commonly, business owners register as either a business or company. The process and requirements for these two are very different so when you’re deciding, you’ll need to consider where you sit regarding things such as liabilities, fees, management and future planning before you make a decision. 

Alternatively, you could be thinking of starting a partnership with someone for your architectural firm. The process and documentation will be somewhat different for this as well, so ensure you’re clear on your objectives as changing your business structure later down the road can cost you time and resources. 

When you’ve sorted how your business will be structured,  you’ll need to register your business. This can be done by getting an Australian Business Number (ABN) or an Australian Company Number (ACN). Naturally, if you’re starting a company, then you’ll need the ACN. Otherwise, you can simply apply for an ABN online. When you’re completing this process, you will also be able to register for any relevant taxes, so it’s good to know which ones will apply to your architectural firm. 

Key Legal Documents

Once your business is registered, you’ll need to think about some of the key legal documents you will require in order to protect your business. An architectural firm- or any kind of business for that matter comes with its own set of risks. Many of these risks can be managed by having strong legal agreements in place that help protect your business. Some key legal documents to think about getting include: 

It’s best to have the help of a legal professional when getting these legal documents drafted. An expert will know how to structure it in a way that best protects your business, so it’s a worthwhile investment. 

How Much Does It Cost To Start An Architecture Firm?

You will naturally need some kind of funding when getting your own architectural firm off the ground. Exactly how much money this will cost will depend on your specific circumstances and future goals. A few contributing expenses to keep in mind include: 

  • Office equipment
  • Travel expenses
  • Legal services
  • Permits and fees 
  • Rent 
  • Software and technology 
  • Salaries for staff
  • Marketing
  • Insurance 

As the owner of a new architectural firm, you might decide to keep it simple and start your business from home to save on rent. On the other hand, you might believe it’s worth having a separate office space for clients to visit. You may decide to be a one person operation or hire staff right off the bat to help get things rolling. All of these decisions will impact your finances greatly- so ensure you’ve got all the information you need to make the best possible choices.

Can A Non Architect Own An Architectural Firm? 

If you want to start an architectural firm in Australia, you will typically need to be an architect with the required qualifications, skills, and expertise. Even though the specific regulations for starting a firm are likely to vary depending on the state or territory you’re in, clients will generally want to work with someone who has the right expertise. Therefore, it’s important to be properly qualified and have a good understanding of the industry. 

How Do You Run An Architectural Firm? 

Starting up your own architectural firm can be a pretty consuming process. It’s normal for business owners to get so caught up in the ‘set up’ aspect of their business that they forget they’ll actually need to run a business! 

A lot of architects that walk away from working for firms to start their own business report how different it is on the other side. You won’t just be focused on designing anymore, you’ll have the additional task of keeping up a business. That means any compliance matters, bookkeeping, legal issues- everything will be looked after by you. 

Make sure you’re prepared with all the information and knowledge you need to get started. Sometimes, this means talking to people who are expertly qualified in areas other than your own. If you are looking for legal business advice, our lawyers are happy to answer any questions you might have!  

How To Grow and Market An Architectural Firm

Once you get your architectural firm all set up, you’ll need to get clients. In order for this to happen, people need to hear about your business. It’s not unheard of for architects to reach out to their former clients to let them know they’ve started their own firm. This is great, as people who have previously worked with you might be more inclined to utilise your services and then tell others about it- just double check you’re not breaking any Non-Compete Clauses before you start going through your list of contacts. 

Aside from word of mouth and networking, there are plenty of other ways to market your new architectural firm. First, you’ll need to establish who your target audience is and the best way to get through to them. Then, you’ll need to decide on your advertising mediums. You might even hire the services of a marketing firm. This can be really beneficial- just make sure you have a Marketing Services Agreement in place with them first. 

Some businesses also like  to join forces with other businesses for their Marketing purposes. Usually, this is set out in an Affiliate Marketing Agreement so both parties know what they can expect of one another. 

However you choose to market your architectural firm, it’s important to have all the right legal agreements in place so your business can be protected while it’s being advertised. 

Next Steps 

Starting your own architectural firm requires some careful consideration and planning. Having the right legal documents in place can help give your business a strong start while keeping it protected. To summarise what we’ve discussed: 

  • To start an architectural firm, you’ll need to have the necessary qualifications 
  • It’s important to plan your business, decide on a structure and properly register your architectural firm 
  • Getting all the key legal documents in place is essential 
  • The cost of starting an architectural firm can vary, carefully think about your finances and business goals 
  • Consider how you will run and market your firm once it’s established 

If you would like a consultation on starting your own architectural firm, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat.

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