What other jobs (as well as architects) are asked to do work for free?

I am constantly amazed about the requests for about whether I’ll do some work for free and it got me to thinking about what other jobs receive similar requests for do work for free. I guess graphic or web designers comes instantly to mind judging by the stories on the Clients From Hell website

Generally these requests fall into similar categories:

The ‘I’ll see if I like your designs and then pay you if I like them after’ potential client:

By all means we can meet and see if we can think we can get on but there are stacks of examples of my work on the website in the PROJECTS section, however your design will be different to all of these and all I can say is that I’ll listen carefully and do my very upmost to transfer your requirements, dreams and aspirations into a built form.

The ‘You’ll get loads more work from this job’ potential client:

To create something good, takes time (and money) and I value my time. And you almost certainly won’t get more work from it.

The ‘You’re doing nothing anyway due to the construction recession’ potential client:

I actually had this one yesterday, in fact I’m very busy and if I wasn’t busy I still wouldn’t be doing work for nothing, see above – I value my time.

The ‘I only want a few ideas, you can knock these out in no time’ potential client:

Good design takes time, is a cyclical process of analysing, designing, evaluating, redesigning, evaluating etc… Now I can knock out a few ideas but without the thorough briefing, analysis and designing they probably aren’t going to be what you’re looking for. This ‘sketch design’ stage of the work is one of the most important and critical areas that architects should value the most. As well as giving work away to other professions (when they could easily be doing it themselves), they also undervalue and (as it now seems) are giving away and in many cases undervaluing probably their most important-that is their skills as a designer. There are many people out there now that can draw but there are less that can design well.

So I suppose you’ve guessed by now that I don’t do work for free. But what surprises me most is that I wouldn’t dream of asking anyone, professional or trade to work for free!

Comments welcome…

9 thoughts on “What other jobs (as well as architects) are asked to do work for free?

  1. That’s an interesting point. However here is another perspective. Basically ow can a client know if a particular architect is the one for them. It’s a situation I find myself in at the moment. I’ve found four or five architects who have images on their websites that lead me to think maybe they can help translate my requirements into a suitable design. But if I have to pay each one hundreds or thousands of euros just to see if they can produce something suitable I’ll be broke before I even apply for planning!

    So how do you reconcile the two perspectives, yours in your blog and mine as a potential client with limited funds.

    PS As a software designer I have also in the past had to produce speculative designs that did not always turn into full contracts. We call it a feasibility study and sometimes due to a variety of circumstances the project dies at that stage.

  2. Dear Joe,
    You can always get your architect to start with the concept design and if you are not happy with the first ideas you can stop the process right there and either adjust/restart with the same architect or get a different one. Just be aware of any conditions that may be in your agreement that could make you to pay extra fees if you don’t proceed to the next stage, but you can agree this in advance with your architect.
    Isabel Barros

  3. The important feature of the client architect relationship is that it *is* a relationship. Its a process of engagement and getting to know each other but on an altogether higher plane than romantic entanglements.

    Clients who start with “how will I know if the architect is right for me” must not have read any of the myriad threads on Boards.ie or Askaboutmoney.com dealing with this subject. The Cliff’s Notes Versions follows:

    1 See architectural work that you like.

    2 Identify architect by contacting the occupier owner or local authority planning file

    3 Evaluate architect by looking at their website or other built developments or planning and fire cert ciles in local authorities

    4 Contact former clients owners or occupiers from files or website and get feedback on performance professionalism and or diligence

    5 Meet and evaluate in person.


  4. What would be considered a reasonable cost for the production of sketches to illustrate a conceptual design? I’ve been shocked at quotes of over €8k for a house of 180sqm for just this.

    My husband and I are civil/structural engineers and planners and have already commissioned a topo survey, had meetings with the local authority (planning and roads authorities), and have a clear idea regarding what we want. I’m just interested to hear what you all think.


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