networking, the cloud and international design

A few months ago I was getting a little frustrated with trying to find side work on my never ending journey towards self-employment and decided to take a dive into the world of freelancing websites. These are websites that essentially offer a portal for clients and contractors to go to and meet up. Think of it as online dating for freelancers. There are several out there and more or less tend to specialize in particular market sectors like web development, programming, creative writing and even a few that offer a place for people to place projects in architecture and interior design. Sites like:

Freelancer
vWorker
oDesk
Elance

I have been sticking with Freelancer and oDesk. These two seem to offer the most options and opportunities for the AEC profession and there are very few hoops to jump through in order to create an account and begin bidding on jobs.

I was immediately impressed with these sites, mostly because I got two jobs almost immediately. They were not large jobs, nor were they particularly complicated or glamorous. But they were paying jobs and that was just fine with me. The first was to draft existing floor plans of a 2 story residence and provide a basic 3D SketchUp model for the purpose of renovations coming down the road. Again, nothing to write home to mom about. BUT, the exciting part is that the homeowner is in AUSTRALIA! The frustration of working in the metric system aside, this first project was an amazing opportunity to network with a client on another CONTINENT.

And this trend has continued. Since starting with Freelancer I have done two projects in Australia, one in New Jersey and am currently working on one in Wyoming. And that is what it means to have a mobile architecture practice.

Through the power of social media, networking and “the cloud” I am able to practice design anywhere in the world. This is an amazing opportunity for any architect or designer looking to really take a step out of their comfort zone and start something exciting.

This post, and others, are leading up to one thing – a multi-national, multi-continental practice made up of other architects and designers all over the world that pool their collective resources in order to better serve their clients, better serve their business and better serve the profession of architecture. It’s time to step out of the “bunker” mentality of architectural practice and step into a practice that is more sustainable, more rewarding, more lucrative and less stressful in the 21st Century.

There is an entire generation of architects that has the power, the knowledge and the technology to change the face of architecture as an art, a science and a profession. Will you get on board?

Note: while searching for some cool images for this post I came across this article “40 Great Resources for a Complete Roadmap to Freelancing”.

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4 thoughts on “networking, the cloud and international design

  1. Do these sources pay fair rates for services as opposed to what an independent architect/designer would charge a client found in a traditional manner? Or does ‘bidding’ for work cause an auctioneer mentality? I like the concept, but the Freelancer video on their site threw up a few red flags. I would need to know more before using these services. When I was getting started I used a service from Service Magic to get jobs, but that was overall not successful.

    • It depends. For the vast majority you’re competing against these drafting houses in India and Pakistan and elsewhere that charge INSANELY low fees, and more often than not the potential client will just go with the lowest bidder because that’s what anyone who doesn’t know better would do. But there are the exceptions to the rule. For instance the house I’m doing in Wyoming I actually bid more than 3 times higher than the “max” bid stated and got the job. Similar situations on other jobs that I was awarded.
      Now, am I making what we would consider a “fair market fee” for services? No. It’s much lower. I’m averaging between $10-15 per hour on the services I’m providing. But then, I have no overhead and I’m moonlighting this right now just to get new clients and some projects under my professional belt. I would say if you’re looking for the occasional model or fluff design to do on your lunch breaks, for you, this would be ok. As a way to generate steady income as an architect or designer, I’m not so sure. We’ll see. If I got every job that I bid on I’d be doing ok, but that’s not going to happen.
      Services like Service Magic I haven’t found successful either. They are more for contractors and laborers, not architects because…well, quite frankly most homeowners don’t think they need or could benefit from our services. So for now, I keep plugging away trying to educate the clients I do get to see the value and benefit of our services. It’s an uphill battle but I win more than I lose, so that is ok for now.
      Thanks for your comments! Keep em coming!

    • The short answer is yes, the fees tend to be low. But there are plenty of people in other fields that make a good portion of their income on sites like these. They tend to be graphics and writing typically. For architects and designers you would need to win a large portion of the projects you bid on in order to make a decent income. Between 5 and 8 projects per week at between $250 and $400 per project. It can be a nice little supplement to an existing income, since most of the projects are all design. Occasionally you’ll find a new home design project (I bid on a new one yesterday) as well as structural projects, but typically it’s 3D models, renderings and other design work.
      I say give it a shot. It’s free, so you really have nothing to lose.

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