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The coach: ‘Do I have a one-off opportunity to go it alone?’

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Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect who wonders whether they should set up on their own, taking a repeat client with them

I have a repeat client who really values my approach and brings repeat work to our practice. For a while now, I have handled all the client interaction in the practice, and I think the main reason they come back to us is due to my efforts and the fact we work well together. 

Although nothing has been said outright, I get the feeling that the client wants to work with me directly. But I wasn’t really thinking of setting up on my own, at least not at the moment. I quite like the security of a salary and, having seen a couple of university friends set up on their own, then really struggle, I am under no illusions about running a practice. But I am not sure whether this is a one-off opportunity. 

Behind the noise of architectural names and authorship, yours is the kind of position many a good architect is in: the kind of grafter who makes projects happen and deals with the complexity of day-to-day stresses in producing buildings – the real work that keeps offices, finances and reputations afloat. 

Typically, the bosses might be more skilled in winning the work or promoting it, and I guess your issue is this would be nothing without people like you there to deliver the project.

So one question I would put to you is: do you see yourself as a long-term employee? Remember, it is not a given that you have to set up your own practice. A fulfilling architectural career doesn’t require being a front man and you shouldn’t feel that is the only option. 

Career progression can pivot on recognising good opportunities and acting on them

So whether this opportunity is one to catch is perhaps not the first consideration. What is key is to know how you see your future.

Having said that, career progression can pivot on recognising good opportunities and acting on them. Many who start a practice would say there is never a right time, never a perfect circumstance, and hesitation is not a helpful trait in business. 

So this is one of those situations when you need set out the pros and cons, but mainly trust your instincts.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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