Client alarm bells especially for @Interiorporn & @andrewdunning

There now follows a public service announcement for architecture students & architects in business…

As usual I jumped into a Twitter conversation, this time between @Interiorporn and @andrewdunning This time the conversation was on the sensitive subject of clients and I joked that I was going to compile a questionnaire for potential clients to see if they were of suitable material 😉

Anyway, I’d been thinking about this post for a while and thought now was the best time to push it out. My personal list of alarm bells that ring over clients:

1. There’s a mad rush panic to get this work done.

Invariably the mad rush to get the work done is in a direct and inverse relationship to the speed at which you will get paid at.

2. Changing the Agreement/terms/payments

Now the RIAI Terms of Appointment (and for that matter those from the RIBA) are not the most complex or controversial documents and they are as much benefit for the client as they are for the architect. If the client wants to start changing things at the beginning BEFORE we’ve started it’s not a great omen for things to come.

3. We don’t need a signed agreement, let’s just shake on it, a spit on the hand, my word is my bond etc…

Remember the ‘My word is my bond’ scene from Jerry Maguire; this happens in the real world too. It’s part of the professional code of conduct that an architect states in writing the terms of the appointment; If I don’t then I can be negligent in my duties. The easiest way to do this is via the recommended appointment agreement documents provided by the RIAI (and RIBA). Having everything written down helps to serve both parties throughout the entire course of a project. Remember that even the smallest typical residential project can last many years and it’s easy to forget what was agreed at the handshake.

3. Not wanting to pay the upfront retainer

As @bobborson says “Everyone needs some skin in the game” and the clients skin at the beginning of the project is a little cash. Even to get a project design started, the architect needs to undergo a good amount of work in surveying, meetings, analysis and when a sketch design is ready I like to let the client mull it over and really think about the implications. In order to do this I ask for an upfront retainer which establishes the start point of the project.

4. Too much money too soon.

This is the polar opposite of 3. and its where you see too much money being offered at the beginning of a project; invariably it dries up.

5. Being too huggy, too soon.

Now I’m not adverse to a hug and I’m not standoffish and cold but at the beginning of the project I like to keep things professional. A nice firm handshake to all concerned is acceptable – without the big hugs, the kisses (air or otherwise); anything more is too much too soon. As we get further into the project and the occasion is suitable a hug is fine but big hugs from the very beginning are over the top and the only way the relationship can go is downwards. It is possible to develop friendships with clients and to those, I share a drink and a hug.

Well there’s five to get you started, I’d love to hear other design professionals viewpoints; “What sets your alarm bells ringing?”

…This ends the public service announcement

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