architecture blog

How to Start an Architecture Firm - Introduction

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Thu, Dec 3, 2009 @ 08:12 AM

As many architects continue to struggle to find employment, some are deciding that the only way to get back into the game is to start their own firms. For this reason, I thought it'd be an appropriate time to share the story of how Michael, Christian and I founded Modative back in 2006.

modern architect foundersModative's founders, February 2006, at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles celebrating at the end of our last day working for other people.


In the last few years, we've lectured a few times at USC's School of Architecture and the Urban Land Institute (ULI)on how to start an architecture firm. The lecture has improved a bit with each iteration, to the point where I feel it's now worth posting. Enjoy.


What is Entrepreneurship, Really?

Starting your own firm is really more about being a good entrepreneur than being a good architect. And since most architects have little education or experience with entrepreneurship, they often make the following false assumptions about what it will be like to have their own firm.

Entrepreneurship Misconceptions

Our goal is to tell our start-up story - the unglamorous version. And while it won't apply to everyone looking to start their own firm, there are some key lessons for inexperienced entrepreneurs (like we were) looking to make their move.



Even though we didn't know it at the time, our approach to starting our firm was very much in line with what is known in the business community as bootstrapping.

You may be familiar with the saying, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps". As it refers to business, bootstrapping is starting a business venture without external help and/or money.

Our seven tips for starting an architecture firm will cover how we bootstrapped our way from being three inexperienced entrepreneurs to three owners of a (nearly) four-year-old architecture firm.

bootstrapping architect start upimage source

7 Tips to Starting an Architecture Firm

Following this introduction post, our story will be organized into seven key tips for starting an architecture (or any other creative) firm. See the graphic below for hints as to what each of those seven tips will be.

Stay tuned over the next several weeks as we fill in the blanks on our 7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm.

los angeles modern architecture firm

7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm

00 architect firm

00 Bootstrapping

Not a tip, but a critical theme in our start-up adventure.

01 architect firm

01 Be Cheap

posted 12.08.09

02 architect firm

02 DIY - Do It Yourself

posted 12.18.09   
03 architect firm

03 Get Advice

posted 12.22.09
04 architect firm


04 Learn from the Bad

posted 01.22.10  

05 architect firm

05 Start and Stay Small

posted 03.03.10 

06 architect firm

06 Stay Flexible

posted 04.05.10
07 architect firm

07 Plan It Out

posted 03.13.12

Side Note: As an experiment, the images for each tip above were selected by typing the tip phrase (e.g., bootstrapping) into google images and selecting the most appropriate image from the first page. I think the experiment garnered some interesting results.

google images experiment


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Tags: los angeles architects, architect advice, Architectual Practice, Business, architecture resorces, Starting an architecture firm