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The coach: ‘My clients never seem to share my architectural ambition’

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Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect who feels creatively stifled 

I am a partner in a small practice and I never seem to get the clients who align with my thinking. I argue my corner, but usually the project becomes compromised and less interesting. When I look at some practices I admire, they seem to have amazing clients, which makes doing great projects so much easier.

Matthew turner

Good clients are wonderful to work with; of that there is no doubt. As you identify, a good client relationship can be infectious, meaning others spread good words about you, and subsequently new commissions appear from these tacit recommendations.

Building a reputation is hard, and there is an element of chicken and egg. When attracting commissions in the first place, along with a large dose of luck, it is important to have a positive attitude. 

The reason I say this is I can’t help but think that your way of phrasing your problem hints at an attitude that considers a clients’ role is to serve your interests, so there may be an element of self-fulfilling thinking here.

The architects who are successful at attracting great clients aren’t bludgeoning them into submission

I suspect the architects who are successful at attracting great clients aren’t bludgeoning them into submission, but are either offering and articulating something the client finds of great value, or view their role as part of a two-way relationship – both approaches result in the ‘good’ clients getting the kind of architectural response they are looking for. Are you sure you are listening enough to what your clients need? 

I suggest you think about getting yourself out there more, ensuring you offer yourself in a positively helpful – rather than needy – way. Sure, other people are better connected than you, or better at socialising or getting their projects noticed. I am sure the people you are looking to with admiration still have to work at getting the good clients. 

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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