Quick Tips from BriXX Mentorship: Starting Your Own Firm, Part 1


By Julia Gamolina The monthly mentorship group themed "Starting Your Own Firm" had the highest attendance so far; there were women participating who either have their own firms, are at the point in their lives where they could afford to start their own, or are new to the profession and wondering what they can do to prepare themselves to eventually own an architecture business in the future. After a discussion that could have lasted well into the night, it seemed that many questions were still left unanswered – until the highly anticipated "Starting a Firm Part II" the following month.

Questions were raised on how best to make the leap – in particular how to have the confidence to make the leap, how to hire good people, and how younger generations can begin to acquire the needed skills and obtain online exposure. The women with their own firms or those who have freelanced, whether with a male partner or not, were able to give feedback but wanted to ensure we all knew that there is no perfect strategy or formula for starting a firm - that so much of it is based on one’s specific circumstances, such as timing, personality, extent of their network, etc.

Five Take-away Insights:

  1. Starting a firm requires one to take risks; whether it be leaving the comfort of a full-time job to freelancing, or suggesting to partner up with a coworker, to taking a commission that requires more skills than one has.
  2. Starting a firm takes much more than an ability to design and to find work – though finding work and clients can often be the hardest part. One also has to consider accounting, marketing, IT and all other professional skills required. Architects who are considering venturing off on their own were strongly advised to make friends with great salesmen and techies!
  3. In addition to skills, one also has to consider the costs of running a firm (hiring employees without knowing if work is coming in, buying software, paying for lincenses, etc).
  4. Younger generations with a unique online presence should absolutely dabble in competitions or other personal project to develop their own design perspective; if such work is recognized and commissioned, hiring the right people with specialized expertise would make up a lack of some of the skills.
  5. Authenticity in presenting your firm identity and your firm’s values and objectives is key. Clients recognize and respect sincerity.

Note: Join the BriXX Mentorship groups for their next meeting! See the schedule here. 

Julia Gamolina is a New York City based designer, writer, and illustrator. Her academic and professional work focus on branding and identity on all scales - interior, architectural, and urban - with a particular interest in fashion brands. She is currently working for Studio V Architecture, where she also selects, interviews, and mentors interns. Julia is interested in career development and new models of professional practice within the industry.