architecture blog

7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm - Tip 01: Be Cheap

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 @ 09:12 AM

This post is part of the How to Start an Architecture Firm series.

In February 2006, three guys in their late 20's quit their day jobs and went to work on forming their own architecture firm. The following is tip number one of seven in their start-up strategy.

Tip 01: Be Cheap

architects be cheap

photo credit

How much money do you think it requires to start an architecture firm?

Most people would probably guess in the tens of thousands of dollars or more. This certainly was not the case with Modative. We began with $500 per partner: $500 that was more of a formality to purchase our company stock.

architecture firm start-up costs

So how is this possible?

For starters, our first office wasn't really an office, but Michael's basement in suburban Pasadena, CA. Needless to say, it was rent-free. And although it was a 16-step commute for Michael, Christian and I had long traffic-filled drives from Los Angeles's west side.

basement architects office

As you can see, we had some decent equipment. But we didn't buy anything except for a few ikea desks, chairs and some minimal office supplies. We used the computers, printers and software we already used personally or could scrounge up from relatives (Thanks Dad).

Our goal was to never spend money we didn't have. Although we had a few (low-limit) company credit cards, we kept expenses light. This was especially critical because we started the firm without any projects or other sources of revenue.

After a few months, Modative's first project came about as an independent consultanting job for a friend's father's architecture firm.

architects first project

The project (above) was a ground-up office and warehouse for a tile manufacturer. It wasn't the most glamorous project, but it was essential to helping us build some momentum as a real business.


One of the other ways we were able to be cheap will be revealed in the forthcoming Tip 02.

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.

posted 12.03.09

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


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Tags: Los Angeles, los angeles architects, architect advice, Architectual Practice, Starting an architecture firm