Practice Note 3: Where Do Clients Come From?

— 3 minute read

One of my first new clients came in through the fire escape and asked “I’m looking for an architect – is that you?” We went on to have a very fruitful relationship working on a number of great projects. A few years later an existing client dropped in to see us to tslk to us about a new job – he came in through a hole in the wall that we had made to gain access to a roof terrace. (Our office was based on part of a building site at the time.) This client had found his way up to the roof terrace from the fire escape so maybe our best marketing strategy at the time was to make sure we had a fire escape in each office space that we rented.

I don’t think this happens very often. (It hasn’t happened since.) These days work comes through the more standard channels – for me at least. The RIBA client referral web site works very well. I have had some straight up Google hits on my web site that have turned in to projects which is something I hadn’t really expected. I am getting out and about and meeting more and more people outside of the world of construction and this seems to lead towards new project opportunities. I run a local football team and there have been a two good referrals that have come out of that as well. I have stopped short of putting my practice name on the team shirts, but it has crossed my mind.

The next development for me will be to find a way to help to ensure that I regularly find myself sitting down in front of people who I want to work with – and (crucially) who want to work with me. Is this asking too much I wonder? It would of course mean that I had found the magic formula that both architects and their clients have been looking for since the whole business started, but it is possible. Of course, the first thing I need to do is to define the sort of work I want to do. This is not as easy as it sounds and what I have found over the years is that this process of definition is a never ending business.

Anyway, having found a way to sit down with someone to talk about their project, the key point is being enthusiastic and positive about your clients and what they do. I read in the Architects Journal that this can be called enthusiastic briefing, which is a title I really like. This mindset is extremely contagious and it immediately makes work a lot more interesting – both the process and the output – which is good for everyone.

© Douglas Architects Limited 2016