Category Archives: Professional Practice

What’s with percentage fees?

I’ve been thinking a lot about fees lately.
A couple of reasons (apart from needing money to pay for childcare):

  1. I have a great relationship with a number of clients who are paying me hourly. I find this method of payment lends itself to an open and collaborative process where on one side the client’s wants and needs are being prioritised and on the other side I am being paid for each hour I work…win/win
  2. I have a deteriorating relationship with a consultant – where I am on the other side – and feel taken advantage of by an exorbitant hourly rate…lose/lose

So is an hourly rate a better way to charge for architectural services than a percentage fee?

To clarify in case any non-architect reads this post, a percentage fee refers to a fee for architectural services that is tied to the construction cost (or estimated construction cost or client’s budget or some even vaguer idea).

Some of the recurring questions that arise with percentage fees on projects:

  1. How do you ensure adequate fees for small (ie low budget) projects?
  2. How do you ensure clients their budgets are not being ‘blown out’ for the sake of more fees (or appear this way)?
  3. How, if the budget does increase, do you tell your client ‘it’s not my fault and btw you need to pay me more’ without it looking like 2.
  4. How do you encourage more people to explore architectural ideas and potential (with an architect) without the need to commit to a full architectural service?

It is this last point where I believe there is so much work for architects.¬† We can actually provide a meaningful service that may not be about an end product (or a photo of an end product). The idea you have to commit to an architect (and an architectural project) after one meeting is like getting married after a one night stand…

Ummm I might stop with that analogy at this point, it doesn’t really translate to the whole hourly rate argument as well as I had hoped.

Hourly rates are good.






Moral Rights PART II

The purpose of the previous post was not to say ‘Oh well, missed out this time around, I’ve learned my lesson, next time I’ll make sure I talk to my client about moral rights, it won’t happen again’.

While I was composing the post I was also in contact with my client and Alice Blackwood, the writer of the article.

To Alice it began with a tweet reply to a photo she had posted of the space:

@aliceblackwood bit slow on the pick up but unhappy not to be credited for my design work here ūüė¶

A bit lame in retrospect, but I was treading cautiously and nervously – unsure how best to approach her, unsure about whether I was over-reacting or not.

However once it was put out there my concerns were almost immediately addressed by Alice.

We ended the day of back and forth messages and emails with a phone call discussing issues of attribution and how this is particular rife in the more fickle retail design sector, how we could explore the topic in more detail in a further article, online vs print publication and when we could meet for a coffee to talk about all of this and my work as well.

Oh and with regard to the article, it was an oversight that can easily be amended.

It’s funny, I have spoken with many architect friends about this. They often have their own story to tell, how they were pissed off but didn’t do anything about it.¬† Or they retell the story of someone they know and how they can’t believe it happened.¬† Or they just complain about us being ‘too polite’ not ‘fierce’ enough as individuals and as a profession.

It could also be that not being credited makes us feel like we have failed, and no one wants to talk about that, right?

Moral of the story of Moral Rights:
Question the omission Рit is more than likely an oversight or error.  The beauty of on-line content is that it can be easily fixed.
And remember to have that conversation with your client!

Share your story and/or follow up on that incident that’s been eating away at you and let me know how you go.

Will Work For Shoes PART V – Moral rights

I didn’t know about this article from last year until a friend came across it and sent me the link.

Sure I can publish this project on my blog and website (if I had one), tweet about it, instagram photos until the cows come home but how great it is to actually be published by someone else!?¬† I just wish I was mentioned in it…

So over the past fortnight I have agonised over how to write about this in a productive and fair way.  It is not about blaming anyone or seeking pity for poor ole me not getting my name in lights.  It is a question of Moral Rights, our relationships with our clients and our ability to empower our clients to not only contribute and collaborate during the design process but take ownership of their design without losing our own connection to it.  This last part is critical to my practice, but clearly I am yet to work out how to achieve this balance.

For any readers unfamiliar with Moral Rights, as part of the Copyright Act  Moral Rights protect the rights of artists (including architects), our reputation and the integrity of our work.  Key to this is our right to be attributed as the designer of a project when it is constructed, publicised or represented in print. (Definition courtesy of Acumen)

The Australian Institute of Architects Client and Architect Agreement has a clause for Moral Rights:

The architect must be attributed in any Public Information about the project promulgated by, or on behalf of, the client or architect, whether the project is complete or not.

If you do not use the standard Client Architect Agreement or DIA Design Agreement make sure your own version includes a clause on this.  More importantly (as we all know most clients will never read the contract) ensure to have a conversation with your client with regard to Moral Rights,  attribution and how mutually beneficial this is Рactually maybe have a couple of conversations with them about it.

For an excellent article on Moral rights and architects


Clients and where to find them

For a while now, I have been meaning to do a post on projects in progress

and I will,

when I come up for air.

But none of these PiPs (projects in progress) would be possible if there weren’t clients.

So where do they come from?

Last week I was at Officeworks printing some drawings for a current project and started chatting with the woman at the counter next to me.

‘Ohhhh, that’s a big block’, she said, glancing over, ‘where is that?’

Within 30 seconds we had established that she was looking to buy a block of land in the Dandenongs, that I was an architect, and that maybe fate had brought us together.¬† Maybe it had…

But while I’m waiting, let’s look at the origins of my clients this year:

  1. W+E Shoe Gallery (see earlier post) – partner delivered the mail to her old shop
  2. Living Cubed – referral from old business partner
  3. Inside Henry – friend of a friend
  4. Hornby of Plenty – friend of a friend (Same friend as 3. She has lots of friends)
  5. Cranked Macedon – contact via Architours Andy
  6. Thornbury Three – contact via Architours Esther
  7. Blazey of Glory (BoG) – follow on from 6.

So the moral of this short tale:

Smile and talk to the person next to you

>>>do this anyway<<<

Opportunities are all around you

If you are not out there you may not see them.

Transform – Altering the Future of Architecture

It’s been a long time¬†between posts as I wait for a couple of projects to be completed, teaching winds up for another semester and life generally gets in the way of finishing a post, despite the drafts piling up…

BUT, Transform – the fantastic day long conference about ‘altering the future of architecture’ is certainly something someone interested in ‘redefining architectural practice’ would be remiss NOT to comment on. Especially as I actually even managed to be there.


So I have compiled my (and other’s) main thoughts (read *tweets*) from the day:

Privilege is invisible for those who have it. Dr Lori Brown

Consultation can be an exchange. Dr Lori Brown quoting MUF

We need to see opportunities to make change at all levels of practice. Shelley Penn

Do we acknowledge all the ways people practice architecture? Shelley Penn

Do you object to the term work/life balance? Everybody

Is change more likely to happen in good or bad economic times?

You have to have a life to be a good architect. Shelley Penn + Lee Hillam

Understanding where you are not so strong is the best path to leadership. William Dowzer

The channel has just been turned off on alternative modes of practising architecture, they have always been there. Dr Karen Burns

There has been a shift in the way we connect and collaborate. Sibling

What happens if we make our city domestic? Sibling

Someone has to be responsible for the soul of the city. Rory Hyde quoting someone I failed to note

Why don’t we have an award for best pro bono architecture or firm with the best gender equality? Dr Karen Burns

Should the development of the brief be part of core architectural services? question from the audience following presentation by Paula McCarthy

Perhaps class differences are a bigger issue than gender. Dr Karen Burns

One day I may even expand on these…If I group them that’s at least another 7 posts.
(and forgive me if I incorrectly attributed anyone).

Thank you so much Parlour for organising such a refreshingly open, honest and unpretentious investigation / discussion of what architecture is. And to everyone who partook for making it even more obvious that I am not alone.

Find our more about Parlour here

In a quiet moment we were playing ‘Guess Who – Pritzker¬†Prize’ on instagram:
‘Are you a woman?’
Put down 1.5 / 35 tiles

Pritzker Prize

Will work for shoes

Practice Management question of the day:
‘Would you work for free or what is your price’?

As I flashed my new shoes around (part payment for a shoe shop I designed) we discussed what we would work for.


(nice huh?)

I really wanted to encourage an open dialogue among the students about what they would charge for student commissions, or even whether they would do them.  Having had no idea about this when first approached by an acquaintance of a friend (or relative, or just a relative, all right is was a car port for my mum and dad that never got built) I thought how much I would have appreciated some guidance and peer support at the time.

Most students were actually hesitant about doing their own commissions wanting to gain experience in a practice first.

However, when it came to payment were they to accept a commission, nearly all of them thought they should be paid for their efforts.  Their price ranged from $25-$40/hour.  In the end we thought perhaps a lump sum was a better way to frame fees when starting out.  This way you can invest as much time as you need / want to do the best you can.  Whether it takes you 50 or 200 hours is your choice.

Either way, a good starting point in is to¬†be¬†paid what you feel comfortable asking for. It might sound dumb, but if you can’t be¬†confident asking to be¬†paid then chances are you won’t be.

When in doubt think about what you earn as a waitress and charge at least that.

(What surprised me is they are earning the same in hospitality now as I did 15 years ago! Pity everything else has tripled in price.)

The Headshot or is a beautiful photo of me drinking champagne on the way to MONA an appropriate one?

Dr Katherine Hepworth gave an excellent lecture¬†last week¬†on “Online Identity”.¬† She was one of the guest lecturers in¬†Kirsten Day and my¬†Practice Management course for Interior Design at Swinburne University Melbourne.

There were many things she spoke about but one thing I had to blog was…


This is my ‘headshot’:


You may have seen it on the ‘about’ page of this blog, or my LinkedIn¬†profile or various other places where¬†I have been asked¬†to provide a photo of myself.

According to the criteria of the lecture this is totally inappropriate and unprofessional.

And obviously it’s not a head shot.

SO for those who are interested, the rules of a professional headshot are as per following table (thank you Katherine): comments on my headshot in italics

What is a professional headshot?
Professional Unprofessional My Headshot
Passport or¬†smiling Duck face I am definitely smiling – hell, I’m on a boat on a beautiful day on the way to Mona with my family and 4 of my best friends drinking champange‚Ķ
Head and shoulders Body / hero shot No to former, yes to the latter (without the Hero part)
Sober Party shots Well it looks like a party for one, so I think I’m pretty safe saying ‘No’ to both
Daylight / office / studio lighting High or low contrast / arty lighting Yes / Yes (I had my phone with me) / No / No /No
Smart casual / office clothes ‘Off duty’ clothes There’s only one look with me
You, alone Cropped group shot YES!! I got one
No camera effects Instagram effects This is an uneditted photo
How to take a professional headshot
Find a friend with a fancy camera My dearest friend has always taken the best photos of anyone I’ve ever known with or without a fancy camera
Find a plain background No
Find some good lighting Doesn’t get better than a beautiful later spring day in Hobart I suspect?
Put on some plain, smart clothes in neutral colours Lucky I’m an¬†architect
Set up the shot ‘Fraid not – totally candid
Ask your friend to take many photos Didn’t ask, but he did, and most involved more people and pink beanbags
Choose the best photo, and crop it. This is straight up, no editing, no cropping 
Distributing   your professional headshot
Upload it as your profile photo for all the social media you   will use professionally Now I think I might do this…so look out for me drinking champagne on twitter and instagram, too
Upload it to profile aggregators Might need to google this to refresh my memory

I spoke with Katherine after the lecture.¬† In a way I wanted validation of my ‘headshot’.

‘You’re not a 20-year-old¬†student trying to get a job and be taken seriously and wanting potential employers to know you’re not out partying every night but can turn up to work.¬† The rules are different if you are in private or small practice, if you are established… It’s almost the opposite – you want people to see your personality, to connect with you as an individual’

(that is a very loose quote)

Phew…I’m not ready to change it yet.

What do you think?