The nudge

Day 47: Wednesday 15 March

Ooof! Got schooled today.

In a good way. A gentle nudge.

One of the difficult parts of any business is pricing. Pricing high enough so you don’t undervalue your work, earn enough to make a profit and build commitment in those you’re doing the work for. If you don’t value your work, why should others?

Architects are constantly complaining they’re not paid enough for the work they do. Yet they’re the ones that write their fee proposals.

There’s a poor culture of undercutting fees, which puts pressure on the proposal to be pitched low enough that they win the project but high enough that they’re not undervaluing their work. It’s a hard equation. The bigger the office the bigger the temptation to go low to “feed the machine”. It devalues the entire profession. There’s a long conversation about this and I don’t want to go any further here in regard to the profession.

Your fees are a story. Telling your clients the value you place on your work and the value you bring.

So what story does free tell?

I don’t recommend working for free except under particular circumstances – usually as an act of generosity. Occasionally as part of a funnel that leads to paid work, but even then it can be a tenuous choice.

So what the fuck was I doing discounting my rebuilt, rethought and repositioned workshop to Free?

It’s been radically rethought and I’m not sure it will work. So I thought, let’s just put it out in the world for free. BUT even as I did so, my own thoughts on not doing work for free haunted my mind. Even if the workshop doesn’t work there will be some value to come from the workshop. Stupidity!

Rightly I got called on it.

We should never give away our work.

So I changed my mind. Explaining in an email that I will be charging – albeit still heavily discounted. As I wrote:

This is to ensure a commitment to showing up for the workshop as well being principled and charging for my work – which we all should do and architects are notoriously bad at managing.

Architecture Depends

“As Garry Stevens notes in his acute analysis of the profession, architecture ‘like other cultural fields… strives to increase its autonomy.’ but at the same time no other discipline is less autonomous in terms of its relationship to other cultural fields.'”

Jeremy Till

We therefore need to find an alternative paradigm to problem-solving as the basis of the architectural practice. In an eloquent paper, the planning theorist John Forester suggests that we should replace the normative metaphor of design as the search for a solution with the idea of design as “sense-making.” “Sense-making is not simply a matter of instrumental problem-solving, it is a matter of altering, respecting, acknowledging, and shaping people’s lived worlds.”

Jeremy Till

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