Episode 33: 5 Key Concepts for Successful Client Relationships

Are you thinking about striking out on your own? Wondering what it’s like to work with clients?

Join Eric and I as we discuss how to foster successful relationships with clients.

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Show Notes:

Due to the complex nature of architecture projects, a number of factors can make or break an architect-client relationship.
1: A good client relationship is about Trust
Trust is the foundation of any relationship between architect and client, and cultivating trust has huge benefits: repeat clients, patience when challenges arise, and referrals to new clients. But a weak or eroded sense of trust can harm your reputation, cost you future business, and even drive clients toward litigation.
So how do you build trust?
  • a. Be transparent about everything. deadlines, good news and bad,
  • b. Show you are listening to them. Take notes, and highlight how their input shaped the design. Point out the things they asked for and use their needs and requests to talk through the design.
  • c. Offer New and Creative Solutions to their problems and for their needs.
  •  d. It’s about them, not you. Don’t make it about “your vision” but about fulfilling their needs.
  •  e. Underpromise, and overdeliver. Say you’ll give them 2 schemes and provide 4. Don’t Overpromise ever. Hard when they pressure you. Be Honest in Setting Expectations. Show conviction and maintain integrity Trust is built on consistency
  •  f. Trust goes both ways. If you’ve done everything to earn their trust and they still don’t trust you, they have the problem.
2. Even great clients don’t always agree.
  • Couples argue, boards disagree.
  • Sometimes your job will be as a marriage counselor.
3. Your process may not be their process.
  • Be flexible. You may have a certain way of selecting fixtures, or insist on sticking to a certain style of meeting agenda, but clients are all unique. Know when
 4. You need to protect them and be a professional too.
  • Tell them when they are wrong.
  • No, they can’t build a 5000 square foot house for $100k.
  • No, you can’t avoid getting a building permit.
  • No, you can’t use an unlicensed contractor (or some guys down at the U-haul parking lot).
 5. The relationship shouldn’t end when the project ends.


I automatically disqualify any potential clients who:
1.  Use the word “lawsuit” in our first meeting.
2.  Want to control the construction process with an impossibly rushed schedule.
3.  Is verbally abusive to their spouse/children during the first meeting.
4.  Already had an architect they fired.
5.  Treats the waiter poorly at our initial lunch meeting.
6.  Was divorced in the last year and is getting their “life back together”, or hopes this project will “save” their marriage.
7.  Refers to the architect as a merely someone to “draw up the thing they designed” in 3D Home Architect.

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By |2019-01-21T18:38:57+00:00May 25th, 2017|Categories: Career Strategy, Podcast, Profession|1 Comment

About the Author:

David Doucette
David Doucette, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP is founder of Architect Exam Prep and CSEprep.com and has been helping candidates successfully prepare for and pass the California Supplemental Exam (CSE) for the last four years. He also hosts a podcast dedicated to preparing for the California Supplemental Exam as well as CSE Video Tips at CSEprep.com.

One Comment

  1. Avatar
    Laura Tietjen September 2, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I enjoyed this podcast. I recently started working on single family residential additions in a small town. I was feeling really confident about the 5 key concepts to successful relationships, thinking “I’m on tract!” BUT then you listed off all of my current clients!!
    2. Want to control the construction process with an impossibly rushed schedule. (pregnant client)
    4. Already had an architect they fired.
    6. Hopes this project will “save” their marriage.
    7. Refers to the architect as a merely someone to “draw up the thing they designed” in 3D Home Architect.
    I currently have no “normal” clients that have no issues….

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