You can’t grow a business with broke customers

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True story

Back when I was just starting out in architecture, I remember one of my first clients.

I had carefully calculated the costs and told them the project would be 10.000€.

They hesitated and then asked if I could do it for 5.000€.

Eager to please and get the job, I agreed. What a mistake that was.

The project turned into a nightmare.

The client, having stretched their budget, was overly involved and anxious about every detail.

They questioned my decisions, constantly asked for changes, and the stress was palpable.

It was a learning experience I wouldn't forget.

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A few months later, a different scenario played out.

I quoted 50.000€ for a project, and the client paid on the spot, no questions asked.

The difference was night and day.

This client trusted my expertise, didn't micromanage.

And the entire process was smooth and enjoyable.

This was a turning point for me.

I realized the importance of not just the quality of our work, but also the quality of our customers.

It was a lesson in valuing my own skills and seeking out those who did the same.

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In this article, I will share with you the insights and strategies I learned from these experiences.

You'll learn how to identify and attract clients who value your work and are willing to pay for it.

My journey taught me that the right clients can make all the difference.

And I'm here to show you how to find them.

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Finding your ideal customer

Success in architecture isn't just about how well you design.

It's also about who you work for.

You can't build a strong business with customers who can't afford your services.

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As architects, we often dream of projects that give free play to our creativity.

But what if the clients you work with are more of a constraint than a help?

Here's what happens when you're stuck with the wrong clients:

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1) High emotions mean a stressed client

When clients are tight on money, they get stressed.

And stressed clients sweat the small stuff.

They might question your choices or worry about every little change.

This stress can make your job harder, turning exciting projects into a bundle of nerves.

Stressed clients mean trouble.

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2) A stressed client often starts micro-managing

These clients often try to micromanage.

They think they're helping by keeping a close eye on everything.

But this just leads to frustration.

You're the expert, yet you find yourself constantly explaining and justifying your decisions.

This can crush your creative spirit and make you doubt your abilities.

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3) Micro-managing leads to worse results

When you're constantly being watched and questioned, it's hard to do your best work.

You might feel pressured to make changes you don't agree with.

Or, you might miss out on great ideas because you're too busy dealing with client demands.

In the end, the project suffers, and so does your reputation.

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Now, if you're just starting in your career, it's normal to work with a variety of clients.

But remember that you're not too good for anyone. This is not about being picky.

You’re finding the right fit to grow your business.

You need to work with people who really see the worth in what you do and can pay for it.

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So, how do you avoid these pitfalls?

And how do you find and attract these right customers?

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Start by figuring out who your perfect customer is

Remember, not every client is the right fit for your business. And that's okay.

Focus on customers who align with your values and vision.

Set yourself up for more satisfying, successful projects.

Think about the projects you loved and those that paid well.

What's common among these clients?

Maybe they're:

  • homeowners wanting cool designs,
  • businesses needing practical spaces, or
  • builders who care about green building.

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These are the people who not only dream but also have the budget to make those dreams come true.

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In our case, our target audience are business-oriented architects between 30 and 40 years of age (young people), who own their business and, therefore, the are decision makers in small and medium-sized architectural firms.

We made a detailed analysis of the client's profile to understand in depth what their challenges and weaknesses were:

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We also thoroughly analyzed their financial situation, to make sure they could afford our services.

What's the point of offering our services if they can't afford them?

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The reason we did such an extensive and in-depth analysis was to understand our target audience and tailor our offerings to their circumstances.

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We analyzed more than 10 points including:

1) Demographic

2) Professional Background

3) Challenges and Pain Points

4) Goals and Aspirations

5) Behavioral Traits

6) Media Consumption

7) Values and Beliefs

8) Objections and Fears

9) Motivations for Change

10) Financial Situation

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I will explain them in detail in a following letter (stay tuned).

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My Tip: Create in-depth customer profiles that give you a clear picture of who you're working for.

🎓 Ever feel like you're shooting in the dark when it comes to understanding your clients? Illuminate your strategy with the Audience – Customer Profile Sprint. Understand their desires, challenges, and what drives their decisions. Tailor your services to resonate deeply with your clients.

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Make sure your content talks to these people

Being online is key today.

Show off your work where potential clients hang out.

This could be Instagram or Behance for those who love pictures or LinkedIn for business connections.

Your goal it's to be where your ideal customers are, not everywhere.

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They are usually on LinkedIn, networking with other business people, learning more about marketing, sales… it’s where they get their information.

We could be on Instagram as well, but even though a lot of architects hang out there, we discarded this platform because:

  • most of the architects are design oriented, not the right audience.
  • too many distractions not related to business reduce the attention span.
  • the platform has matured a lot, being harder to compete.

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So we decided to focus all of our energy on LinkedIn and Newsletter, where every communication is much more intimate.

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In your case, which are your main marketing channels?

Which content are you creating and distributing?

Do you have a plan or strategy for them?

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My Tip: Attract more customers into your business with the right strategy.

🎓 Need a roadmap for getting more clients? Jump into the Marketing – Marketing Plan Sprint. Create a plan that shows you step-by-step how to attract more people to your work. From choosing the right platforms to knowing what to say, you'll learn how to get noticed.

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Sharing great content online is really important

Post about your best projects, happy client stories, and how you work.

This shouldn't just show off your skills; it should connect with what your ideal clients want.

For example…

  • If you're aiming for clients who care about the environment, talk about your green design skills.
  • If you are looking for real estate developers, talk about building amenities that will make the project more attractive.

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Talk in their language.

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That’s why we share our stories about:

  • Untold Truths about being an architect
  • Painful Mistakes I did and you should avoid
  • Case Studies successful architects who worked with us

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As part of our Content Strategy, we share longer format articles on our website.

We talk about the failures, mistakes and learnings we did ourselves running our own architecture firm.

We’ve been documenting the whole process for a long time, and we are releasing short stories about them, so you can also learn from them.

I guess I won’t be able to save you from many of those mistakes.

But at least, you will be aware when you see them in your face.

That's what I mean when I say “Talk in your language”.

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My Tip: Create content that talks to your audience in their language.

🎓 Tired of your amazing architectural work going unnoticed? Step up your game with the Marketing – Content Sprint. Learn how to create and share content that showcases your expertise, engages your audience, and sets you apart in the industry.

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Also, make sure you charge right for your services

If you're looking for clients who can pay, your prices should show your work's worth.

Charge too little, and you might attract the wrong people.

Charge too much, and you might push away those who are ready to pay for good work.

It's a tricky balance.

Get the experience but then stop working with broke clients.

I mean, as you gain experience, start raising your prices and look for higher-paying clients.

This isn't about thinking you're too good for less wealthy clients. I’m not saying that.

I’m saying that you should align your client base with your growing expertise and ensuring your business grows.

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In our case, we help small and medium-size architecture firms to grow their business.

Even they seem to be the same target audience, they might have some similarities, but have big differences.

Especially if we’re talking about their financial situation.

Small architecture firms usually tend to struggle financially (most of them, I’m generalising)

Their margins are smaller, so their investment possibilities are lower.

In their case, they prefer investing less money, but spend their own time to learn things.

They prefer self-served courses, instead of consulting sessions.

They value money over time 💵 >⏳

That’s why we offer more affordable products and services for them.

  • Sprints: actionable, on demand lessons, 199€ each.
  • Pro Membership: Community 100€/mo
  • 1:1 Coaching Sessions 250€

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The Sprints are our most affordable products.

They are actionable and easy to implement resources that can be practiced individually.

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Instead, when we work with medium-size architecture firms, they usually have a different problem.

Their financial situation is slightly better (our goal is to improve that).

But their biggest problem is they are immersed on growing their business, so they’re short on their time.

They prefer a personalised service, an experienced mentor who can walk with them, and solve them big problems in less time.

They value time over money. 💵 <⏳

That’s why our Customised Consulting Services are for them.

The price of these Consulting Services may vary depending on the Architect's situation, Objectives and Duration.

  • Sprint Implementation Program for 1 month from 1.500€
  • Sprint Follow-Up Program for 3 months from 5.300€
  • Module Implementation Program for 6 month from 10.000€
  • Full FollowUp program with a dedicated team for 12 months from 100.000€.

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Can the small architecture firm access the Customised Consulting Services?

Of course.

But, unless their financial situation allows it, they’ll want something they usually can't afford.

And we would have again the same problem that I was telling you at the beginning.

The client who wanted a 10.000€ project at 5.000€.

And we will all end up in a fistfight.

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Moving away from low-budget clients and focusing on those who value and can afford your architectural or business skills is crucial for a financially stable architecture firm.

And definitely for a less stressful, more satisfying life.

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My Tip: make sure you charge right for your services

🎓 Anxious about setting your rates too high or too low? Find the sweet spot with the Sales – Pricing Challenge. Learn how to price your services in a way that's fair to you and attractive to clients. Stop leaving money on the table and start getting paid what you're worth.

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What did I learn?

When I started attracting the right clients, I realized the importance of building a business model that supported sustainable growth.

It wasn't just about finding good clients; it was about keeping them and growing my business wisely.

Here's what I learned:

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1) I developed value-based selling strategies

I took the time to understand what my clients really needed and showed them how my services met those needs.

It wasn't just selling a design. It was providing a solution to their problem.

For instance, when a client wanted a sustainable home from Bamboo Arquitectura, we focused on how our designs maximised energy efficiency and used eco-friendly materials.

Now with Global Architect, if an architecture firm owners wants to grow their business, we focus on understanding their audience and analysing their revenue streams.

We always think about how to generate more value to the architecture firms.

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2) I created a pricing strategy that reflected my value

As I gained experience and started working with higher-paying clients, I raised my prices.

I was signaling to the market that I offered high-quality services.

Surprisingly, higher prices attracted clients who were serious about quality and willing to invest in the best programs and grow their business.

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And because of that, we had more room to continue to invest in growing our business:

  • hiring better talent
  • investing in training
  • paying higher salaries
  • improving our programs
  • expanding into new markets

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That's why it's important to raise your prices.

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3) I managed my projects efficiently

I started using digital tools to be much more productive to streamline my work.

There are numerous tools out there that helped me manage projects, communicate with clients, and keep track of finances.

  • Notion for documenting
  • Trello for project management
  • Slack for communication

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Being organised not only saved me time but also impressed my clients and helped me deliver better results.

Take a look at the tools we use at Global Architect.

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4) I kept learning and adapting

Architecture is a field that's constantly evolving.

I stayed updated with the latest trends, technologies, and best practices.

This not only improved my skills but also made me more attractive to clients looking for innovative and current architects.

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Learning about business was just as important as getting better at doing architecture.

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Conclusion

Stop working with clients who can't afford your services!

Working with clients who struggle to pay can quickly lead to stress, unhappiness, and even burnout.

When these clients invest in your services, it's often a big deal for them financially.

This means they're likely to get really involved emotionally.

And when emotions run high, stress levels do too.

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As you gain experience, it's important to start raising your prices.

This isn't just about earning more. It's about valuing your skills and attracting clients who do the same.

When you charge more, you're more likely to work with clients who:

  • Value your expertise. They understand the worth of good architectural work and are willing to pay for it.
  • Are less stressed about the project. Since they can comfortably afford your services, they're less likely to be overly anxious about every penny spent.
  • Trust your professional judgment. They're hiring you for your expertise, so they're more likely to let you lead the project.

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In conclusion, as you grow your architecture business, aim to find clients who can afford your services and value your expertise.

This is the path to a fulfilling, stress-free, and prosperous career in architecture.

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I hope to see you earn more.

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Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways I can help you with:

1. If you're still looking for traction in your architecture business, subscribe to the Wisdom for the Modern Architect Newsletter. Every week you will get actionable ideas, mental models and resources to help you build a profitable business.

2. In case you want to level up your business, you can get Full Access to the Global Architect Roadmap, and unlock Challenge & Solutions with all the resources and tools, exclusively reserved for our paid members, by Upgrading your Membership.

See you around,

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