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Architect fees: how much to charge clients

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Updated on:
April 27, 2023
April 27, 2023
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Many architects face the challenge of determining the right pricing for their services. Do you feel like you often charge too little or too much? We can relate. Setting your fees as an architect can be a daunting task. But rest assured, we're here to support you.

In the upcoming article, we will explore the essential factors that should influence your decision on setting your rates as an architect. In this way, you can be certain that you are billing appropriately. You will also learn about the different billing methods and other considerations.

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How Much to Charge as a Solo Architect

Pricing your services as a solo architect can be a challenging endeavor. On one hand, you aim to be competitive in the market and entice clients. But on the other hand, you don't want to undervalue your expertise.

Establishing appropriate rates is imperative for the prosperity of your architecture practice. It ensures that you receive suitable compensation for your work. If you don't charge enough, you might struggle to make a profit. Then, it will become difficult to sustain your career over time.

Conversely, if you charge too high, you might find it challenging to draw in customers. You also risk losing them to your competitors.

As a solo architect, you will encounter specific challenges when it comes to determining the cost of your services. You will need to manage every aspect of your business. This includes administration, marketing, and many others. This is unlike larger firms that can allocate expenses across a more extensive team.

Therefore, solo architects must be conscious of their rates. The reason is simple. They can ensure that they are covering all their costs and generating a reasonable income.

This piece seeks to assist self-employed architects in navigating the challenges of pricing their services.

Understanding the main factors influencing pricing

Determining your rates as an independent architect involves careful consideration of some variables. These include

  • Market factors
  • Skill level
  • Project complexity, and many others.

Considering these factors carefully will enable you to build a viable pricing structure. With this in mind, you will flourish as a solopreneur.

Market factors

Here are some significant market factors that you should consider:

  • Researching the local market

One of the most significant market factors that impact pricing is the local market. The architectural marketplace can experience significant fluctuations based on rivalry, geographical area, and financial circumstances. It is crucial to research the local market to comprehend pricing patterns, demand, and supply. In this way, you can gain a deeper insight into the market and pinpoint ways to distinguish your offerings.

  • Identifying the right target clientele

It's vital to know your target clients to set appropriate rates for your services. Identifying your intended audience will not only help you to streamline your pricing tactic. It will also refine your marketing initiatives.

Your intended audience may vary depending on the type of architectural service you offer. Therefore, you should grasp the expectations of your intended clientele. Make sure that you tailor your pricing to meet their needs.

  • Benchmarking against your competitors

Comparing your rates with your competitors is another significant aspect to consider. It can help you to assess your strengths and weaknesses relative to your rivals. In any case, you can formulate a pricing approach that aligns with your value proposition.

A helpful hint is to request quotes for the services of your competitors. Make sure that you analyze their pricing structure. This will aid in improving your understanding of the market. You will also be able to identify opportunities where you can set your services apart from others.

Experience and architect skill set

As an architect, your expertise and skills are essential factors in establishing the cost of your services. Most clients seek experts who not only possess the technical proficiency to execute their projects. They also desire architects who offer exclusive perspectives.

  • Assessing your level of expertise

The duration of your professional experience is an essential indicator of your level of competence. Architects who have a long track record in the industry are generally in higher demand. This is relative to those who are new to the field.

So you should be transparent about your level of experience when interacting with prospective clients. In this way, you can establish reasonable expectations.

  • Evaluating your portfolio

Reviewing your portfolio is another vital factor. Your portfolio reflects your skills and competence through your past projects.

It's important to ensure that your portfolio accurately represents the type of projects you want to attract.

For instance, if your area of specialization is designing contemporary homes, your portfolio should highlight your work in that domain.

  • Identifying your unique selling proposition

Establishing your distinctive selling proposition is another key factor. What makes you stand out from other architects in the industry?

Are you reputed for your precision and innovative methods of resolving issues? You should showcase your unique selling proposition in your portfolio. By doing so, potential clients can find out whether you're the right fit for their projects.

Do you work on old houses exclusively?

Specializing in old houses can be advantageous for clients who prioritize the preservation of historical integrity in their homes. Emphasizing your proficiency in this field can attract clients who value this aspect of architectural design.

Do you have an impressive portfolio of sustainable remodeling projects?

A remarkable record of sustainable remodeling projects can also be a vital aspect in determining your pricing. Today, a growing number of clients are seeking architects who can create environmentally conscious designs. If you possess knowledge in this realm, it can help you distinguish yourself from your competitors in the field.

With Bonsai, you can present your remodeling portfolio to potential clients over the Internet. Utilizing this strategy can help in sidestepping communication errors. This can ensure that your clients are aligned.

Type and complexity of architectural projects

Architects apply their expertise to design and manage the construction of buildings that satisfy their clients' needs. In any case, not all architectural ventures are the same. The type and complexity of the undertaking significantly impact the fee for an architect's service.

  • Different types of projects

Architectural enterprises come in different forms. Each has its specific difficulties and requirements. These include institutional, commercial, residential, and industrial projects. They all require different levels of skill and know-how. The pricing of an architect's services is determined by the nature of the project.

  • Evaluating project complexity

Project complexity is a significant determinant that affects the cost of an architect's services. Complexity may refer to project size, site location, materials, and many others.

For instance, it will require more resources and time to create a large-scale commercial building. This is relative to designing a simple residential property.

  • Understanding the scope of work

It's important to have a clear grasp of the project's scope when determining the cost of architectural services. The scope encompasses the architect's specific duties and obligations throughout the project. It stretches from initial discussions, and design creation to overseeing the construction process.

Time and effort involved

The time and effort involved in the project is another critical factor. It significantly affects the cost of an architect's services.

  • Estimating the time required

Estimating the duration of a project is essential. It enables you to plan your schedule and allocate your resources efficiently. Time estimation involves dividing the project into smaller segments. You can assess the time needed for each segment. It'd be best to account for any possible obstacles.

A meticulous time estimate guarantees that you can complete the project within the prescribed timeframe and budget.

  • Evaluating the effort involved

It is important to estimate the effort required. Effort evaluation involves estimating the intricacy of the project and the level of research involved. It also requires you to assess the degree of collaboration necessary with other stakeholders. A more complicated project will demand greater effort. This will ultimately impact your fees.

  • Determining your hourly rate

As an architect, setting your hourly rate is the final phase in pricing your services. Your hourly rate should mirror your proficiency, value, and experience. It should also consider the demand for your services in the market.

A reasonable hourly rate not only rewards you for your time and labor. It also maintains your competitiveness in the market.

Methods of Charging

Hourly rate

Hourly billing is one of the most significant means by which architects can charge for their services. This is a simple way to make sure you are paid for the time you spend working on a project. However, there are upsides and downsides to this approach.

  • How to calculate an hourly rate

You need to consider several factors when calculating your hourly rate as an architect. The most important factors include your experience and expertise. Experienced and highly-skilled architects can command a higher hourly rate. You will also need to consider the business expenses, insurance, and local market conditions.

  • Pros and cons of charging hourly
Pros of charging hourly as an architect
  1. Fairness: Hourly billing ensures that clients only pay for the actual time spent on their projects.
  2. Flexibility: It allows architects to adapt to changes in timeline, and budget more easily.
  3. Incentive: Hourly billing encourages architects to work efficiently to complete projects within the agreed timeframe.
Cons of charging hourly as an architect
  1. Cost: Hourly rates can be more expensive for clients. It's because they pay for both the architect's time and any necessary materials.
  2. Lack of control: It can make it difficult for clients to control costs. They may not have a clear idea of how much time each task will take.
  3. Perception: Hourly billing can create the perception that architects are more focused on billable hours than on the quality of their work.
  • When an hourly rate is the best choice

It's often an excellent option for smaller projects. Hourly billing also makes sense if the project is likely to involve several changes or revisions. A fixed fee or percentage fee may be a better option for larger projects.

Fixed fee

This method involves setting a flat rate for your services. It can be highly beneficial for both you and your clients. However, before deciding to utilize a fixed fee, there are several factors you need to consider.

  • How to determine a fixed fee

You will need to consider many factors to set a fixed fee. These include project complexity, cost of materials, timeline, and scope of work. You should also take into account any external contractors you may need to hire.

You will need to devise a comprehensive outline that mirrors the work you will need to do. After this, you can calculate your costs and set a reasonable fee.

  • Pros and cons of charging a fixed fee
Pros of charging a fixed fee as an architect
  1. Predictability: Your clients know how much they will need to pay for your services. On the other hand, you know how much you will be earning from the project.
  2. Transparency: Your clients will know what they are paying for. There will be no surprises when it comes to the final bill.
  3. Efficiency: Fixed fees can be more efficient than other pricing models. Since you know your earnings, you can focus on delivering quality work.
Cons of charging a fixed fee as an architect
  1. Underestimating Costs: One of the most significant risks of charging a fixed fee is underestimating your costs. If you overlook the amount of work required for a project, you may end up losing money.
  1. Scope Creep: Another risk of fixed fees is scope creep. You may need to do more work than you anticipated if the scope of the work changes. This can impact your profitability.
  1. Limited Flexibility: Fixed fees can be inflexible. You may not be able to charge your client for the additional time when the need arises.
  • When a fixed fee is the best choice

Fixed fees can be a remarkable choice for certain types of projects. A fixed fee is recommended for projects with a well-defined timeline and scope. It's also a good choice for projects with minimal risk of scope creep.

  • Architectural retainers

In this method, the architect charges a specific amount upfront to secure their services for the project. The retainer is usually a percentage of the total project cost. It's usually paid before the work begins. This fee structure ensures that the architect is committed to the project and has the materials needed to complete it. It also gives clients peace of mind that the architect is fully invested in the project's success.

  • Pass through costs for structural engineers

The pass-through costs refer to expenses incurred by the architect for structural engineering services. It's usually passed on to the client. You must communicate these costs to the client in clear terms. This way, they are aware of the additional expenses involved. Sometimes, an architect may need to work with the structural engineer to develop a fee structure.

Percentage of construction cost

One of the primary methods of charging for an architect's services is by calculating a percentage of the construction costs. It may seem like a simple solution. However, it's important to understand the pros and cons of this method. You should also know when it is the best choice.

  • How to calculate the percentage

Calculating the percentage of construction costs is straightforward. You will need to determine the total cost of the construction project. The total cost comprises the materials and labor. Then calculate a percentage of these costs to determine your fees.

The percentage can vary depending on project complexity, your experience, and your reputation.

  • Pros and cons of charging a percentage
Pros of charging a percentage as an architect
  1. Incentive: This method ensures that the architect's fee is tied to the success of the project. If the project goes over budget, the architect may receive more money.
  2. Clear Billing: Charging a percentage can simplify the billing process. It can provide a clear understanding of what the architect's services will cost upfront.
Cons of charging a percentage as an architect
  1. Lack of Motivation: The most significant drawback of charging a percentage is that it can result in higher fees for the architect. This happens when the construction costs are high. This can discourage clients from taking on more ambitious projects.
  2. Conflict of Interest: It can create a conflict of interest. The architect may be incentivized to design more elements to increase their fees.
  • When the percentage of construction cost is the best choice

It's a fantastic option for larger and more complex projects. The reason is simple. It can provide a clear understanding of what the architect's services will cost upfront. This can be beneficial for clients who are working with a fixed budget.

You may want to consider charging a percentage during the design phase of the project.

Hybrid method

This method has some pros and cons. It's an ideal choice for some projects, but not for others.

  • Combining methods

The hybrid method involves combining multiple billing models to create a comprehensive billing approach for each project.

For example, as an architect, you might use hourly billing for the initial design phase. You may want to consider a fixed fee for the construction drawings and vice versa.

  • When to use a hybrid method

It depends on the complexity of the project and the client's budget. A hybrid method may be the best option for complex projects that require additional services.

  • Pros and cons of hybrid methods
Pros of charging a hybrid method as an architect
  1. Customization: A hybrid billing approach allows architects to customize their pricing strategy. In this way, they can meet the specific needs of each project.
  1. Transparency: The client can see what services they are paying for. They can also figure out how much they are being charged.
  1. Risk Management: It can help to mitigate risk for both the architect and the client. For instance, using a percentage-based fee for the construction phase can help the architect to control costs.
Cons of charging a hybrid method as an architect
  1. Time-consuming: Unlike a single billing model, this approach consumes a lot of time. It requires careful coordination between different phases of the project.
  1. Confusion: There is a risk of misunderstandings between the architect and the client. It's usually regarding the various billing models used in the hybrid approach.
  1. Cost: Hybrid methods may be more expensive than single billing models. It's because they require more coordination.

Other Considerations

Factors such as client relationships, and legal considerations are also important when setting an architect's rates.

Client relationships

It's not just about designing beautiful buildings. As an architect, you need to build long-lasting relationships with your clients. However, building and maintaining these relationships requires conscious effort. Let's look at a few ways in which you can achieve this.

  • Building trust with clients

Building trust with clients is crucial to any successful project. Your clients are entrusting you with their money, their vision, and their time. You need to prove to them that you are worth that investment. This starts with being honest about your expertise, your experience, and your fees.

If you make a mistake, own up to it and correct it. Show your clients that you are committed to their success.

  • Communicating effectively

Effective communication is key to building a sturdy relationship with your clients. Make sure that you're on the same page with your client. This will help to build confidence in your ability to deliver the project successfully.

  • Dealing with difficult clients

Architects may encounter demanding, unresponsive, or even aggressive clients. In these situations, it's important to remain calm and empathetic. Difficult clients may need reassurance or clarification. You should take the time to listen carefully to the client's concerns. Make sure that you respond in a measured way.

If a client becomes unreasonable, you may need to set clear boundaries.

Legal and ethical considerations

The charging of an architect's services must take into account several legal and ethical considerations. These include contracts, insurance, and many others.

  • Contracts and agreements

A well-drafted contract ensures that both parties understand their rights and obligations. This comprises the fees and timelines. It is essential to be clear about your services, the duration of the project, and the fees involved. A contract will also protect the architect from legal disputes arising from the client's dissatisfaction.

  • Professional liability insurance

Professional liability insurance is another vital consideration. This type of insurance provides coverage for damages resulting from professional negligence, breach of contract, or other errors made in the course of providing professional services.

  • Ethical considerations

Ethical considerations are also paramount when charging for an architect's services. Architects have a professional duty to provide top-notch work. This means that architects must ensure that their designs comply with local and national building regulations. They must also ensure that they're not contributing to environmental harm or social injustice.

Scaling your business

As an architect, you may have built a successful practice. However, it's time to take it to the next level. Scaling your business is a natural progression, but it requires strategic planning. Let's look at some important factors that you should take into account.

  • Growing your business

One of the primary considerations when growing your architectural business is how to charge for your services. The right pricing strategy can make or break your business growth. You will need to balance the need to charge a fair price with the desire to remain competitive and attract new clients.

  • Hiring staff

You will need to hire staff to handle the increased workload. This brings up the question of how to charge for your services. Should you charge by the hour, project, or percentage of construction cost? Each pricing model has its upsides and downsides. You will need to decide which one is best for you.

  • Outsourcing work

You may also need to outsource some of your work. This can be a cost-effective way to handle overflow projects that are outside your area of expertise.

It's essential to find the right partners. You need to work with firms or individuals who have the necessary skills and experience. Make sure that they can deliver top-rated work on time and within budget.


Determining how much to charge as an architect is a complex task that requires a holistic approach. It involves taking into account various factors. These include the project scope, expertise, project complexity, the efforts involved, and many others. By adopting a holistic approach, architects can set prices that do not only reflect the value of their services. They will also be able to remain competitive in the market.

It is essential to remember that pricing is not just about earning money. It is also about forging relationships with clients and contributing to the sustainability of the industry. Therefore, architects should strive to strike a balance between pricing their services fairly and satisfying their clients' needs.

Signing up with Bonsai affords you the opportunity to set up flexible payment structures and monitor the progress of each payment plan.


  • How do I determine my hourly rate as a solo architect?

You will need to factor in your level of experience, expertise, and the nature of the project. This also includes your location and local market conditions.

  • What should I include in a contract with a client?

Your contract with a client should include a scope of work, timeline, payment terms, warranties, and many others. This will help to ensure that both you and the client are on an identical wavelength.

  • How can I deal with clients who want to negotiate fees?

You should be open to discussion. Be prepared to explain why you charge what you do and how it aligns with the industry standard.

  • What legal considerations should I be aware of when charging fees?

You should be aware of legal considerations such as licensing requirements, tax obligations, and liability insurance. It's also important that your contract includes methods for resolving disputes.

  • How do I know when it's time to hire staff or outsource work?

If you're overwhelmed with work, it's time to hire staff or outsource work. Make sure to evaluate your budget, and business goals when making this decision.

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