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Pricing for Architectural Design Fees

How best is it to set your pricing structure for a job when it is based on information not yet seen?   When I use the template to sending a fee proposal to a potential client through Thumbtack, it is an estimate based on what information is provided.  Many jobs listed do not include accurate square footage, existing site or plans or a full working knowledge of what the final product is invisioned.  Also, how do I know what type of client is proposing their project?  There are many unknowns that can affect your bottom line.

My best practice for this 'guesstimation' for many unknowns is provide a cafeteria plan of fees.  Potential clients have found it benificial to not be confined to one type of fee that may end up costing them more in the end.  The various forms of fee deriving includes:

  • Lump Sum
  • Fees based on area (per square foot is typical)
  • Fee based on a Percentage of Construction

Each fee type has its pros and cons depending on the type of project.  Many times, if you work on several projects that are similar in nearby communities you can determine an average cost that would provide a stable and fair price for the work.  Area per square foot is typical for small renovations and residential projects.  If a larger or commercial job is requested, then percentage of construction might make more sense.  Be wary of lump sum unless you are very familiar with the project parameters and know your client.

What have you seen work well?  How would you prefer designers show when they provide design fees for your project?

Kent Brittain, AIA, LEED GA
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