PRIVATE PAGE – accessible only via direct link, for selected people to ask for an opinion about my experience!
I got contacted by an architect, living in Dominican Republic, but I believe he was a native english speaker, possibly American, in vacation.
He saying that he is impressed by my works, making me a collaboration offer, to offer a FREE advertising for my services on his future website, a directory of architects aimed for entire Caribbean Region, as exchange to some of my drawings.
This happened in June 2012, at that moment my experience was limited at designing houses and apartments for fun, for passion and art of 3D modelling, I was playing with layouts and showing concept plans. I clearly stated at top of page that I am DESIGNER, I did not stated anywhere that I am architect or that I offer architecture services, because I did not taken any school of architecture.
I was aware that to build a house you need “architectural construction drawings” higher-detailed than what I was able to do, and had no knowledge how these drawings should look like.
Since I discovered the live chat software in January 2012, I was contacted by several people since few months ago, and I helped them by designing some simple plans, for FREE because I loved to practice playing with layouts. Once I asked 20$ for a floorplan drew in 1 hour, but wasn’t paid, I was drawing floorplans for FREE willing to ask money for 3D design, but my customers were not needing 3D design. All of them said that have no money to pay me.
The american architect told me that is crazy cheap and showed me that www.houseplans.com sell for hundred dollars, and he is working for prices of $5000-10000 per house project, suggesting me to use a reference price of 40$ per hour, but the strange thing is that personally I was doing floor plans in less than 1 hour, so how I should calculate price? I told him my experience especially the failures, to show him that I do not believe that someone could pay such much money when my customers couldn’t pay 20$.
He asked me how old I am, I answered 22 years old (at this age is obvious that I cannot be a (licensed) architect), but he kept maintaining the offer of promoting my services, so I accepted the offer.
HE PUT ME ON WRONG TRACK, making me to think that my “concept plans” are enough detailed, that at my age and knowledge level I can promote “architecture services” and that I can charge large sums of money. I became worried that people could steal my drawings and use them for building a house, especially after I worked for several people and all of them said Thank you, great house plan!
He gave me several advices, but forgot to tell me an important part: the “construction drawings”.
He was replying in 5-10 min in 90% of cases, despite of saying that is BUSY, but he was giving random replies and random advices instead of answering my questions.
Example of his advices… which proved useless:
– Use Paypal for safety reasons – I always asked for Paypal and this made me to lose customers, most customers have no Paypal. I went to a bank and opened a bank account.
– Watermark the drawings to prevent usage – I was already engraving my name and website URL on each image, this isn’t called watermark? does watermark means something else?
– 50% before, 50% after… that I was trying to do: Do the job, show to the customer a screenshot to show that I did something, then asking for payment to offer the drawing in PDF format ready for printing, 50% before sending PDF and 50% after receiving it. But they were saying Thanks! right after I sent the preview screenshot, and run away before I could ask for money. These people were not even interested in PDF or higher-detailed drawings!
Hope he did not wanted to get 50% of money before the screenshot, because is unlikely for someone to pay me without having proof that I did any job.
I asked about 3 or 4 times “Is possible to get building permit by printing THIS image http://www.teoalida.com/design/House-for-extended-family-floorplan.png ?” and he never answered despite should not take more than several seconds to say YES or NO.
Later, 2 website visitors told me that can’t pay because are students, for next visitors I asked if they are builders of students and by this way, I realized that most people who were contacting me for architectural design, were actually students.
I was contacted by over 10 people, ALL STUDENTS except 2 people who were going to build and I made the mistake to treat them like the majority, and I worked for free without realizing that I could ask them money, one of them even asked me “how much do you charge” and I didn’t realized that charge = money!!
I emailed the chatlogs to american, showing that my “customers” were actually STUDENTS WITHOUT MONEY and asked what to do with them. Also asked what’s up with my offer and he said that next month, his website will be ready.
Next month, I emailed him again about our collaboration offer, and for an advice how to calculate price for apartment projects as I was just contacted for a 160-unit tower in Malaysia… he answered that put my collaboration offer under review, because do not want to promote my services as I lost many customers in the sense that I was contacted by many people who did not paid me (that after I showed him that these people didn’t paid me because are STUDENTS, not because are unhappy by my services), and because I asked too many questions and he NEVER OFFER FREE ADVICES
I emailed him a screenshot of chatlog where a customer was paying me 200$ after an initial payment of 100$, as PROOF that I have happy customers, not just students and failures. I asked him to give me a project to do, to show him that I can offer (or not) quality services… he no longer reply.
The Caribbean architect omitted a thing: Not every visitor of website is interested in my services.
Probably he is contacted by customers who are actually interested in his services, but at me, things are different: I have a chat widget, visitors are automatically greet and many people answer accidentally and often asking “Do you HAVE a floor plan X x Y meters with Z bedrooms” (please note difference between “Do you HAVE” and “Can you DESIGN”.
I had cases when even if I was offering them a FREE service of drawing first sketch in 30 minutes, they refused aka left website. One even said “Thanks anyway, I found a suitable plan on your website”.
Conclusion: these people are just browsing the internet for free plans, they are NOT interested in anyone’s services. This explain why many people who contact me do not pay, these people cannot be even considered customers.
Of course I had real customers too, about 5% of all people who contacted me, paid me and we proceeded to “construction drawings”
How idiot was the Caribbean architect to blame my service quality due to people who are not interested in my services?
What the rest of 95% people are actually doing?
The majority are students at architecture universities. Some are browsing for curiosity and dreaming to a house, without being ready to build it. But the real SAD part is that some people are going to BUILD a house, they have already a preferred architect / designer and they may use me for advices and first sketch then go with my sketch to another architect and pay (only) him for the full project. This is NOT fair, they should pay me too for advices.
Later, I made another friend, a Filipino architect living in Singapore, and I thank him for telling me FEW IMPORTANT DETAILS that the American-Caribbean idiot refused to answer and forgot to tell me.
Filipino architect confirmed what I believed before meeting the idiot.
– There is not possible to get building permit with the drawing that I was making. To build a house you need fully-dimensioned floor plans, but also structural, plumbing and electrical drawing (strange, none of my past customers asked for so many drawings), all these drawings require few days of work, and he charge a minimum of $1000 for them.
– That is OK to charge money for my 1-hour sketches too, but to price them according detailing level, don’t ask thousand, not even hundred dollars, as american idiot said.
I was wondering, if someone buy from www.houseplans.com what he actually get, other than the JPG preview posted on website?
But I found this website www.homeplans.com.my selling luxury house projects starting at ONLY 199 RM = 65 USD, offering a preview of PDF so I can see exactly what I get, it also helped me to know how much I need to learn to join the competition of architecture business!
I am a little confused, are they signed by architect or is just the design and you need to find yourself an architect to sign them? Or you do not need architect signature for building permit?