Lisa’s tips to understand and maximise your value

These tips for maximising your value focus on picking a sector that you understand well so you can work out your value, minimising travel time, and minimising unpaid work and dealing with client availability in such a way as to maximise the client’s perceived value of your time.

Pick a sector and understand it well, so you can work out your time, value, and ensure you can resource projects effectively. When setting up a business you need to think about the frequency of your projects and therefore whether you can effectively resource them. You need to avoid both growing too quickly and being unable to meet a large demand of projects, or not getting any projects lined up. We, at Pride Road, solve this by focusing on one sector: domestic architecture, which we know really well, as we know we are going to get a series of opportunities over a certain amount of time, so we can cash-flow around it. We know the market is seasonal to a point: our clients tend to be away in August and tied-up over Christmas and Easter, and there will be a flurry of activity in the New Year and in September, so we can structure how we are going to resource and work around it, and work out our time and our value.

Minimise speculative or unpaid work. When I was in practice we often used to do a lot of speculative work, which, although enjoyable, didn’t pay the bills, and once I had got into practice I realised I couldn’t sustain a business on speculative work- the most that I do is a free hour-long initial consultation, but after that I do a paid concept design workshop, charging £300 for a half day, £500 for a full day. The workshop establishes your value in the eyes of the client, as because they are with you, they can see what you can accomplish in that time and they can see your skill as you draw and produce different ideas. I also make sure I invoice them on the day, and send them a receipt afterwards, as, if I invoiced them afterwards, they would send be some questions or decide not to pay for a service that they thought was “brilliant.” Furthermore, for clients that are further away, so serving them is risky, I may ask for a 50% deposit upfront. Once you have established that relationship in which they have paid you for your workshop, you know they will pay you for further work.

Minimise travel time, as your value is as an architect, not a driver. Our franchise manages this through working within a 20-minute radius from where we live. But recently, because I have been trying to grow the franchise nationally, I have taken some jobs that are outside of my region, which has been risky because it has cost £100 to travel, (using a ticket I booked in advance), so a £250 deposit may be justified.

Maximise the perceived value of your time through the way you deal with limited client availability. Unlike workshops, with prospects I prioritise the convenience of the client by doing some on Monday and Tuesday evenings, so I fit into their schedule easier. However, with workshops, the clients need to book time off work rather than squeezing me in between events, so they value my time, their time and therefore the workshop more. Our booking system is 10to8, which is very effective as clients can see your availability and book themselves in, which saves hours of going backwards and forwards.

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