New Enquiries

New Enquiries

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The reason for writing this post, and asking people who’ve gotten in touch with me to read it, is that there has been a big build-up of new enquiries. I don’t really feel that it’s acceptable to ignore these. I don’t want to just come back with a one-line email saying I’m too busy to talk to them and good luck finding someone else. And I do believe that a call like what I describe below is what is required to get any project off on a good footing. These calls are like a sample of what it’s like to work with me – they give a solid impression of where I’m coming from, so I see them as important. I wouldn’t commit my money to someone selling something so intangible as design (and advice) without getting some confidence that they understand where I’m coming from and that they have the know-how to help me. The problem is that these calls can take around half an hour each, and when you start multiplying that it makes it very difficult to find the time to get back properly to everyone who gets in touch, not to mention keeping on top of work that is already underway.

So the intention for this blog post is to try and short circuit the process, so that people know what to expect. And to allow people to rule me out early if the timeline or the costs look unworkable for them, so that they are not hanging around waiting for information. And finally to ask for a little forbearance – I’d love to drop everything and have a really interesting half-hour phone conversation every time a query comes in, but it’s just not possible. So for now I’ll be steering people towards this blog post first, and then we can have a more focused call… for those who want it.

The call:

When someone gets in touch, the first thing I have always tried to do is call them and try to get a good sense of where they’re coming from:

(1) What their home is like now – what’s good about it, what’s not working?

(2) What are their main priorities for making changes – what are they hoping to achieve? What are they hoping to avoid?

(3) Do they have ideas about how to make changes – have they come to any conclusions? What areas are they left unsure about?

(4) Are they talking about a project, or is it more tentative – are they just wondering what their options might look like?

(5) Where do they see me coming in? What do they want me to provide?

(6) What way are they thinking about the budget – is there a set figure available? Do they have an idea of what they expect to spend? How do they assess value for the money they might spend on the project overall, both design and building? How do they intend to establish and control their costs?

(7) What is the timeline? Is there a rush on things? Has it suddenly come to a head? Has this been kicking about for years? If planning to build, is there a particular time in mind for it?

At the same time as asking all those questions, I am also imparting as much insight, ideas and advice as possible. If the enquiry included the address I look it up on google maps. If the person has sent in photos or plans then I will have looked at them prior to calling. The conversation is not about me simply looking for information. It’s also not about me simply explaining what I do. I do that, but also I just get to work and aim to demonstrate that I have ideas and insight so that the conversation is as productive for the person as possible – so that they are given confidence that I really can help.

I explain how I operate, and this splits into two things really:

(1) One-off design and advice consultations with a client in their home.

(2) A streamlined professional service that can go through several stages – outline design, detailed design, making planning applications, tendering, on site project management etc. The aim is to control what the service costs while focusing on the most important areas of value I can provide. Certain stages can become more hands on and involved depending on what the client is looking for. (I can and do give a rough steer on what this service might cost when someone makes an enquiry – but each job is individually assessed, tailored to requirements, and priced accordingly).

Then I try to impart the following information:

(1) I have been getting a little inundated with enquiries. So, as much as I’d like to get stuck in, I have commitments to existing clients. I am not doing anyone any favours by ignoring this and telling them what they want to hear.

(2) There are two waiting times: a shorter one for one-off design consultations, and a longer one for the involved service.  I give my best (reasonably conservative) estimate of this.

(3) For the one-off consultations I can be very clear about costs – it is based on time spent with the client.  A consultation will take either 1, 2 or 3 hours, and typically it is 2 hours. The costs for these would be €175 for 1 hour, €250 for 2 hours, and €350 for 3 hours.

(4) For the more involved service it’s not possible to be as clear on costs until there is a better sense of the scope of the job and the level of involvement required. But I can give a general estimate of what would be typical for a particular type of project.

It is common for someone to want a design consultation as a first step anyway – even where they are interested in a more involved service. It means they can get ideas, sketches, and advice and have them to mull over while we clear the backlog of work so I can get a more comprehensive project underway for them.

After all that, for a person who is interested in working with me, the options are:

(1) Get a design consultation on a one-off basis.

(2) Get a design consultation and sign up for a more involved project as soon as it can be started properly.

(3) Get a design consultation (to get the best ideas from someone who is actually listening to you) and take the results elsewhere if more work is needed. Sometimes this might be another architect, sometimes a draftsman, sometimes a builder.

(4) Sign up for a more involved job with me, work out a fee agreement and agree on a start date.

If you’ve gotten in touch and I have steered you in the direction of this post, then thanks for reading it, I hope it’s made some sense and that you can forgive me being a bit delayed sometimes before getting time to make a call to you like the one I describe above. It’s not from a lack of interest, just a shortage of available time, and I hope this post helps to show that.





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About Small Spaces

small spaces is a one-man architectural practice dedicated to helping people find the best way to add space to their home, or to make the most of what they’ve got. You can find out more here.