Start Small and Scale Gradually

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A different story from the usual architect

If you were in my shoes, you'd hear a story that's not like the usual architect stories.

Let me tell you about my journey.

A story of starting small and how those little steps can lead to something big.

Right after finishing architecture school, all excited and dreaming big, I was prepared to take on the world of designs and buildings.

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But you know what?

My success story didn't happen the normal way.

It wasn't a direct path to fame with massive buildings right from the start.

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Nope.

It was more like a puzzle coming together, piece by piece.

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The secret?

Starting small and taking things one step at a time.

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I started in a small rural town of barely 1,000 inhabitants.

When I started Bamboo Architecture I was still an architecture student.

So I couldn't sign any projects, because I wasn't a qualified architect.

(I finished architecture school 5 years later…)

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I was a great salesman.

I had the ability to talk to people.

And bring clients into the studio.

As I went along, I discovered something great.

Those little projects, the ones that might not seem important?

They were little puzzle pieces that came together to make something amazing.

Each little project or task wasn't just a small step.

It was a building block for my whole adventure in architecture.

In this article we'll look at how starting small can make a big difference.

Let me show you the advantages of this strategy. Let's get rolling.

We need to start here, before we can get there.

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Learning Opportunities

Starting small and scaling up gradually is a smart approach to starting an architectural business.

It involves initially taking on smaller projects or clients.

And then gradually scaling up the business as you gain experience.

And how simple projects can teach you important things for your own architectural journey.

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In architecture, starting small is not a simple beginning.

It's a smart move that opens up many learning possibilities.

Think of it as laying the foundation for your future tall buildings.

When you take on smaller projects, you're actually giving yourself a place to experiment, hone your skills, and refine your methods.

It's like making a model before you build the actual building.

You find out what works, what doesn't and how to improve each project.

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With a smaller project:

  • you can test different design ideas
  • try out new materials
  • cover up your ignorance

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Yep, that’s right.

You can cover up your ignorance when you are starting out.

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Here is one of my first projects.

It was an old building and I had to replace an old roof.

I had no idea about marketing, sales, managing a team or running a company.

I barely knew a little bit about architecture and design.

The little things I learned in architecture school .

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I made a lot of mistakes on this project:

I had budgetary, technical, administrative and teamwork problems. All together.

Although it was a nightmare, I learned and documented so many things that would help me in the following clients and projects.

That's how I started.

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Mastering the tricks.

Getting the hang of things.

And building my expertise step by step.

Learning opportunities that come from starting small can lead to big breakthroughs that shape your future success.

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So, don't run away from those little projects.

They are where you learn, experiment, and pave your way to becoming a skilled architect.

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Building a Portfolio

Alright, let's talk about something crucial: your portfolio.

Think of it like a showcase of all the cool stuff you've built.

Starting small is like collecting puzzle pieces.

Each one adds to your collection and helps you create a bigger picture.

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As you tackle smaller projects, you collect examples of your work.

Whether it's a cozy home or a charming storefront, each project adds a unique piece to your architectural puzzle.

These pieces tell a story about what you're capable of.

And they become your passport to bigger and more exciting opportunities.

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This is the kind of projects we are doing now.

Luxurious private homes.

This project was designed 3 years ago.

But it was the result of previous projects.

Our portfolio showed the quantity and quality of the work we had delivered.

And thanks to that effort, we had the opportunity to design this great private home.

An incredible experience.

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There are thousands of stories between the two projects.

From the first old building to the luxurious private house.

Thousands of mistakes and learnings, too.

But we had to start with small and humble projects.

We are very proud of the old building, as we learned a lot from them.

Someday you too will design big and luxurious private homes.

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So, remember, each small project you take on is like adding a puzzle piece to your portfolio.

The more pieces you have, the more impressive your portfolio becomes.

It's not just about what you build – it's about how you show it off.

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Now, we have another great project to show off in our portfolio.

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Establishing Credibility

Alright, let's talk about something important: making people trust you.

When you start small, you're building your reputation.

Every small victory is like a badge of honor that shows you can get the job done.

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When you shine in smaller projects and deliver outstanding results, you're demonstrating to everyone that you're the real deal.

And people start to say:

"Hey, this architect really understands their stuff!"

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And that’s how customers started writing great reviews on Google about Bamboo Arquitectura.

Our customers referred new customers

Our main referral channel was offline: local customers referred their contacts.

But we could also capture some of those compliments online.

We didn't have the most reviews-there were more architectural firms with more online reviews.

But we had the highest rating.

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Each time you complete a small project, you're adding a brick to the wall of your credibility.

Building trust, one brick at a time.

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And guess what.

As your wall of credibility gets higher, more and more people will want to work with you.

Your reputation becomes your secret weapon.

You will be attracting new opportunities and growing your audience.

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So, remember, starting small is how you build your credibility.

With each small project you conquer, you're showing your customers that you're not just any architect.

You're the one they can count on.

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Smart Money Moves

You are starting on the road to designing your career as an architect.

The one that will take you at least a decade, my friend.

Don't speculate on growing your business in a few weeks or months.

It will take years.

And as with any venture, you need to plan for the financial side of things.

This is where starting small can guide you and save you from complicated financial problems.

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If you had to lift a rock from the ground, which one would you lift first?

The big one, or the small one?

I guess it’s obvious. The small one.

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Unlike big projects that require a lot of money, small projects don't require a large initial outlay.

When you design a charming tiny house for someone, you carefully choose cost-effective materials, make the most of the space, and create something that is both functional and attractive.

Since it's not a huge project, you're not overwhelmed by financial worries.

Right?

By choosing to start small, you're avoiding to spend money unnecessarily.

  • Don’t hire to soon
  • Don’t buy fancy computers and chairs
  • Don’t rent a bigger office.

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This happens when architects bite off more than they can chew and end up in a financial mess.

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I also fell into that trap.

I wrote about it on the 21 Mistakes I Made – And Every New Architect Will Make

(Mistake #9: Wasting money, if you're curious)

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So, starting small it allows you to use your money wisely.

As you begin your architecture career, remember this:

by going small, you're not just taking care of your money.

You're also building a strong financial future for your business.

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Embrace the Small Beginnings

At the end of the day, we have embarked on an exciting journey, starting small and building up.

What's the big takeaway from all this?

Starting small is like learning to ride a bike.

You start with training wheels, learn the basics and develop your skills.

As you gain confidence, you get rid of the training wheels and move forward with ease.

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Growing your architectural business works the same way.

You start with small projects, gain experience and grow your skills.

As your business grows, you gain more skill, more credibility and more confidence.

And before you know it, you'll be at the top of the market.

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What did I learn?

Starting small isn't a sign of being small-time.

It's a smart move to set yourself up for success.

Each small project is a stepping stone, a building block, and a piece of the puzzle that leads you to architectural greatness.

Here’s what I learned.

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Learning Opportunities

Starting small allows you to learn and refine your skills and processes without the pressure of handling large-scale projects. It provides room for trial and error, enabling you to gain valuable insights from each project.

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Building a Portfolio

As you complete small projects, you can start building a portfolio showcasing your work. A well-curated portfolio will be essential in attracting larger and more lucrative clients in the future.

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Establishing Credibility

Successfully delivering smaller projects allows you to build a reputation for reliability and quality work. Word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients can be powerful in attracting new business opportunities.

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Reduced Financial Risks

Smaller projects generally require less initial investment and carry lower financial risks. This approach can help you manage your resources wisely and avoid overwhelming debt in the early stages of your business.

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My tip

🎓 Start building your architecture business with the Business Challenges. It will help you understand the basic business principles to start small and grow fast.

Conclusion

Remember, starting small doesn't mean thinking small.

It's a strategic approach that lays the groundwork for a successful and thriving architecture business.

As you gain experience and confidence, you can confidently take on larger and more complex projects, knowing that you've built a solid foundation for your business to grow and flourish.

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Start small, scale gradually.

And watch your career soar to new heights.

Now, go out there, tackle those small projects, and let your architectural adventure begin.

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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.

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See you around,

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