I am writing this page to inform all students, customers, and people who encouraged me to pursue my career in architecture, how it was a HORRIBLE experience for me. Nowadays I pass my customers to other architects, to negotiate price and do project in my place, in most cases I reject projects.
Read whole story how I began drawing houses for hobby and how I was pushed involuntarily into architecture business: https://www.teoalida.com/design/housing/
Designing for customers NEVER been a pleasure (even if paying), complying with their country building codes and rules, compared with the pleasure of making floor plans and 3D models according my own rules (even if nobody pay me). Especially when a couple of arrogant customers unhappy with my design requested changes repeatedly and kept me busy for more than 1 month for a single family home, effectively disrupting my other activities.
9 of 10 people who has contacted me, asked me for free consultation, free sketches, in some cases even complete set of drawings for free. Some people promised payments, but sooner or later stop replying, some were willing to pay an architect, but wasted my time asking for free plans to give to a local architect. Getting paid for architectural design services was more a surprise than a rule.
Meantime sales of databases been growing, thus asking me to design buildings, you are wasting my time regardless how much you are paying, because house plans can hardly be sold to multiple people, like how I sell databases.
My partner architects told me that they face similar problems, answering and quoting hundreds of emails and phone calls to get FEW paying customers. Even after 20+ years of architecture career, they struggle to earn $2000/month, an income which I personally reached in 4 years of data providing. If this is nature of architecture, I am OUT of this business!
India was the country with most people contacting me, they were also most non-serious, only 1 of 100 willing to pay. My partner architects also told me that are often disturbed by calls from indians asking for free house plans. In late 2014 I wrote a page BAD Indian customers and some anti-India rows in House Design page, hoping to discourage these stupid indians from contacting me, even if I will be accused for racism.
Philippines was the country with most people paying me. Majority of paying customers were in Asia and Africa, third-world countries, paying in average 10-20 USD per hour. Sounds good enough? It wasn’t, adding time wasted with non-paying idiots, architecture earnings were under 5 USD per hour.
Best paying customer was a Mexican architect, paying 100 USD for an apartment complex concept plan that I done in just 1 hour.
Worst paying customer was an Indian annoying me daily on chat for 2 weeks to pay just 40 USD.
Selection of good and bad customers that I spent too much time on
2012, Michael Lee, an artist from Singapore hired me to make drawings in AutoCAD, he was my first major customer. Over few months I made about 100 drawings and paid me over $1000. We remained friends and did ocasional drawings in the following years.
That times I was happy because I did not had other major forms of income.
2013-2014 I did many architectural drawings. Getting paid was a often surprise than a rule.
2014, a customer from South Africa wanted 8 terraced houses. He said that will pay for complete set of drawings, paid $100 for the initial sketch, gave him the drawing, but did not replied anymore. At least I got payment for the part of work done.
March 2015, a customer from Uganda paid $50 after first sketch and I completed his project, he did not paid the rest until agreed $250, disclosing me that himself is an architect and motivating that was not paid by his customer.
April 2015, a student paid me $100 for floor plans and elevations of an apartment block. A small sum of money for me but pretty generous for a student. Thank you!
Late 2015, a customer from Nigeria wanted a 4-unit apartment block. The project was so simple that I made the full set of drawings including 3D design in 3 days, he paid me $300. Nice deal!
2015, had the first paying customer from India, but also the most annoying customer in history of my business.
He wanted a house with 2 bedrooms on ground floor and two 1-bedroom units for rental on upper floor, on a very small 25x50ft lot, which is from start a very difficult project, and if that was not hard enough, he wanted to be Vastu-compliant. I made a free sketch and he asked about to revise it, he was talking about payment all time, insisted to revise it and will pay me, I told him to make a test payment of $10 to show that he does have Paypal account (Paypal is not popular in India), he paid me $1 in 3rd day.
Following days he visited my website and opened the chat daily, chatting for 2-4 hours every day asking for revisions. He asked to add a 3rd bedroom, complained X but changing it, he would complain about Y and Z, and so on. I told him that I made the best possible layout, no house follow 100% Vastu rules, he should accept a compromise. I revised and sent him 3 times then ignored his requests and worked at my other projects, answering his questions only occasionally.
Some days he attempted to pretend to be a new customer hoping to get a new free sketch. One day he said that no longer like west-facing and have exchanged with someone else east-facing lot which is 1 feet wider ft and INSISTED to make a new FREE sketch because “I never gave him a 26×50 ft sketch” despite that my terms say 1 FREE sketch per person, not per lot, revisions are for PAYING customers only, and his $1 payment don’t count.
I copy-pasted my procedure of service 3 times and also link to this customer telling me to revise the sketch only after getting half of payment, but he was too idiot to understand.
He saying that have paid part of payment ($1) and kept promising that will pay full $50 price if I revise according his needs (despite that should have charged him $200 for all time he wasted me).
One day I done one more revision, next day surprise, he paid me $40 (at 2 weeks since initial contact), but he didn’t stopped to contact me every day and waste time which I could use for other, higher-paying customers. He asked now 3D design too (and elevations and sections) promising to pay $50 more, despite that the price would have been $300, I made a little 3D design but he didn’t liked it… I imagine how long he would annoy me until next payment. I gave him the DWG files so he can edit himself and told him to go to another designer who accept this type of annoying customers!
He complained about my unprofessional attitude. Yes is unprofessional, but HAD TO get rid of him. Other projects came meantime and got busier than at the moment he contacted me first time.
Conclusion: Indians DOES PAY if are satisfied, but if I knew how much takes to satisfy him I would have NOT made any free sketch to entertain him, I would simply let him to go to other designer!
He told me that have asked other designers as well, and don’t like them because they “work offline” referring at the fact that don’t have chat service to talk with designer while he is working. I do the same, many customers I are greet via chat then we talk for few minutes, they tell house requirements then I send the house via email and continue without chatting. Why does THIS INDIAN need to chat all time? Very ANNOYING!
March 2016, a customer from Nigeria wanted a 300 sqm house. I made a sketch for free, and in June 2016 she returned for complete project, paid me $300 but asked so many revisions causing project to take more than 1 month to be finished, while my income from databases was rising… this made me to say that this is the LAST architecture project I do. Fuck architecture!
During 2016 I had 3 more paying customers for architecture services, but only simple floor plans. ONLY 3, everyone else were idiots not willing to pay! In whole year I earned about $600 from architecture and about $20.000 from databases/programming.
December 2016, a customer from Togo came for an apartment project that was not so feasible due to land size, I made a sketch and we chatted and exchanged several emails that just turned into a waste of time, he never paid.
January 2017, A serious customer from Philippines emailed me, I replied, he replied me after 2 days in middle of a chat with an indian engineer who asked for a house plan and did not wanted to pay for it but said that is an engineer and can help me in my projects in exchange, he kept me talking for 3 hours non-stop, I asked him to show me house drawings completed by him, but he sent me only an unfinished drawing, he failed to convince me to hire him, furthermore due to this non-stop chat I forgot to reply to Philippines customer and he emailed me again 4 days later “Sorry for the trouble. We decided to have the design given to another provider. Thanks.” and next email accused me for slow replying. In conclusion, I lost a paying customer in Philippines due to a fucking Indian who wasted me 3 hours chatting!
March 2017, a customer from Malaysia wanted drawings for 6 units of terraced houses (worker quarters), and later a bungalow and an office building, I wouldn’t have done his project if he didn’t attempted to pay whole sum ($400) in advance, I told him to pay $100 after first sketch then rest $300 at final. I made drawings, he paid me, I sent the drawings. One of the nicest people I met!
He told me to start drawing the bungalow too but didn’t gave me any details to be able to start drawing.
May 2017, a customer from Zimbabwe with an odd-shaped land (five-sided) wanted to build a housing complex, even if I didn’t liked architecture anymore, I decided to take this project due to its size.
He initially said that wants 3-storey houses with 1/2/3-bedroom, which is confusing, because a 3-storey house would have minimum 4-bedroom. Talked with him for several days and he told me stick on 2-storey houses with 3-bedroom and make also an apartment block with 1/2-bedroom units. Next day he changed mind to add 2-bedroom houses. I made a site plan sketch, central parking with houses on 3 sides, told him to pay $100 and after payment I will add more details, he didn’t liked it and said that will send me a drawing of what he wants. He sent me a DWG file with a 4-meter wide road around the lot with 90-degree corners which a car can’t take, and did not contained any parking, I don’t understand his idea… then he didn’t replied anymore. I just wasted time with an idiot.
3 weeks later, he came back, saying that changed mind again and want only apartment units, giving me a link to one of my ready-made designs made for hobby. I talked again with him and I gave him link to another design of mine, he changed mind and told me to use that one instead. I told him that he don’t needs to choose only my ready-made designs, because I can anytime make a new design for him. I sent him 3 more block plans found online (not designed by me) and he never replied after this, NEVER PAID… what an idiot!
June 2017, a flooring company from Singapore asked me to calculate floor area of every flat type in BTO projects completed over next year, no detailed drawings needed, just to measure size of living room, kitchen and bedrooms, which we agreed to do in AutoCAD for $5 per flat and write floor areas in an Excel table. With 32 BTO launched in 2014 and 21 launched in 2015, and average of 4 flat types per BTO, this job may go to $1000.
The problem is that he contacted me Wednesday and told me to do this by next Monday. 5 days not enough while having other projects on TO-DO list. We agreed to do in first phase only BTO completed in 3Q-4Q 2017 and leave the rest for later.
I designed 2 BTOs, 14 floor plans for test, he said that is impressed of my skills, and asked him to pay $70 before drawing more. He asked how to pay and I gave him payment link. He did not paid, after a week I emailed again and he said sorry for delay because is moving home, he asked again if can pay by credit card and I gave him link again, 3 times in total.
Later I emailed again asking why didn’t paid and he said that will pay tomorrow and need floor plans by end of next week. I told him that first phase of drawings will be ready in 1 WEEK starting from the date of payment and gave him link to payment again… time passed, I sent messages also on Facebook company page where he replied after 2 weeks asking again for payment link, but the idiot NEVER paid.
July 2017, a customer from Ethiopia paid $50 for a simple floor plan but after this annoyed me too much with revisions so I did not wanted to waste time with his project anymore, I asked Roy, my partner architect from Philippines, if he wants to take this project and customer agreed to pay him higher than my standard fee, the meticulous customer annoyed Roy so much with revisions so the project was finished only in December and Roy said that don’t want more such customers from me.
However I am impressed by Roy experience and dedication for architecture, even for complex projects, so decided to pass him all my future customers if they want large housing complexes (who want small single-family houses can find himself another architect).
July 2017, a customer from Cote d’Ivoire wanted a 3-bedroom house, I decided to take this project due to simplicity. He paid $50 after first sketch, then asked several changes during designing, in a way that confused me, and once finished he refused to pay remaining $150 saying that my drawings are nothing of what he wants without explaining exactly what he don’t like. I didn’t sent him final drawings. We just wasted time!
(7:04:50 PM) Visitor 93611218: first I can not interpret what you just sent to me. second, we had already discussed the model with the red roof, which does not have any simularity as far as the model of the house
(7:05:15 PM) Teoalida: if you just want another color I can change it
(7:06:32 PM) Visitor 93611218: I do send to you the color of the house i want and you keep as you the same over, and over
(7:07:18 PM) Teoalida: you sent me a photo with a building red and cream
(7:07:26 PM) Teoalida: and initially didn’t noticed that the email had an attachment
(7:07:43 PM) Teoalida: then you said that can add pink too, which I did
(7:07:51 PM) Teoalida: but the roof was never changed from my default color
(7:11:07 PM) Visitor 93611218: There is no red in that building. The color is called magenta. I thing there is too much waiting time, and never get nothing done so far.
(7:14:04 PM) Teoalida: what I can do now? what else to change
(7:14:07 PM) Teoalida: make roof blue or what?
(7:14:47 PM) Teoalida: you put tiles on roof or metal sheet?
(7:27:31 PM) Visitor 93611218: the house you sent to me had nothing to do with the model to be designed
(7:28:53 PM) *** Visitor 93611218 has left ***
August 2017, American mom of 4 kids said that bought an unfinished house (outer walls and roof only) and want renovation drawings from me, initially I was undecided to do or not do this project, because I don’t really like renovation projects and also I am very busy with a lot of database projects, I made a simple floor plan to see if she like it, by this way realized that her project is easy, external walls being already built, the risk for not liking my drawing and asking for revisions is lower. And told to my Philippines architect if he wants to do this project in my place for $500. After not hearing from her for few days, on 2 September I emailed again and she answered that the unfinished house is no longer available for sale and my services are no longer needed. Are you serious? you said that BOUGHT the house! This is how I wasted time with an IDIOT… another BAD experience in this fucking architecture!
September 2017, someone from United Kingdom exchanged few emails with me, last one being “Thank you for replying but I feel your not familiar with uk planning laws, the bungalow is 1930’s and poor condition. I will find a local consultant.”
If he needed someone familiar with local laws, he should have not contacted foreigners like me. I realized that I was better to pass customer to my partner architects instead of attempting to do project myself. At least Indian partner did projects in UK, and had more time than me to read laws.
October 2017, an Indian who read the page about bad indian customers, offered me to pay for a 5-bedroom house plan on 6x15m land, spawning on 4 floors including private lift. I told him that I want to make a quick sketch, but he said MONEY FIRST.
OK, I gave him link to pay $100, then I made quick sketch with walls and furniture and sent him as PNG screenshot which I also sent it to my partner architect which next day he replied me that the lot is too small and Mumbai building code limit gross floor area to 2x land area. I sent his comments to customer, but he did not replied anymore.
Looks that even paying indians run away, probably the 20-minute sketch was sufficient, indians do not need a professional PDF, no wonder why 99% are not willing to pay? I was planning to add windows, dimensions and room names next day and send him professional PDF.
I set up again a greeting message in chat between 24 December 2017 and 5 January 2018 “Hi there… would you be interested in some free ideas, a custom floor plan for $20/room, or maybe a complete set of architectural drawings?” even if I wasn’t going to do any new project, but only curious how many people contact me during holidays and if the pay, hire Roy to do their projects.
About 10 people contacted me, including 2 of them from Egypt, first one I put in contact with Roy to do his apartment block, they emailed each other, Roy wanted payment first, customer wanted sketch first, so they wasted time and never made any deal. Second Egypt customer wasted me 3 days chatting for hours aggressively asking to do his project despite that I said from first day that I am NOT interested in his little project, in 3rd day I made a sketch and he said thanks for it and will continue project himself because is a civil engineer. What an IDIOT wasted me 3 days.
January 2018, been contacted by a company from Canada, probably wanted to employ me for long-term outsourcing. He said initially a shameful low price per project but before leaving said that pays $30,000/month to “his contractors”. How long each project took and how many projects he had for me? (to compare potential earnings per month with my “other business”). He quit chat due to a misunderstanding. This left me intrigued if I lost a good offer. It may have been a good job for my partners who do not have a stable job and love architecture. NOT FOR ME.
February 2018, been contacted by brother of the prime minister of Papua New Guinea. This would have been a special case in which I would wanted to involve, but in the same time project was very complex and I was too depressed due to previous bad experiences. I connected him with Philippines partner architect, which exchanges few emails, but for unknown reasons the deal had no result. The only good side is that I did not wasted my personal time again.
February 2019, been contacted by someone building a 3-floor 6-unit studio apartment block in Jamaica, saying that wants to build 3 more identical blocks on same plot. His email address belong to a webdesign company based in New York. I told him that I no longer offer architectural design services myself because of past bad experiences and because my income from IT rose from $1000/month in 2015 to $10,000/month at present. He claimed that earns per WEEK what I earn per MONTH (rich guy indeed?).
I advised him to build at least 4 units per floor if are studios, so the staircase won’t occupy 1/3 of building, but he said that need to take a loan and can take maximum $90k and the apartments will generate about $1000 income via AIRBNB. Doesn’t sound dubious for someone earning $40,000/month to take loans and put so much effort in construction of a building that will give him additional $1000/month?
I connected him with my Philippines architect who quoted $1600 for this project, the customer said that his budget is $700 and wife can add another $100, architect rejected to work so cheap, they finally agreed on $1000, requested initial deposit of $200 to me, we all 3 exchanged few more emails but no payment was ever done. Architect cancelled deal. Looks that this “RICH guy” do not have any cash money or he play POOR when he deal with architects and just wasted our time.
May 2019, someone from Cameroon which previously contacted me in June 2018, came back and I put him in contact with my partner architect from Philippines, paying him $500 for floor plan + 3D design. Happy deal!
8 July 2019, Monday been contacted by 2 people, married, asking what is my price to design furniture for them. Tuesday 1 more person contacted me for same thing. All 3 saying that heard good words about me from [R]. Incidentally last Sunday I meet on streets 4 boys of which 2 my childhood friends, I showed all them on phone how my life progressed last few years and how I went through architecture between 2008 and 2016. One of them was named [R] but these 3 customers said that is not him but another [R]… I’m doubt.
They blamed me for not having prices clearly written on website. There IS a page https://www.teoalida.com/design/interiordesign/ but probably they did not saw it, and even if they saw, it do not indicate prices because the furniture designs posted here are made for my own apartment or for hobby of 3D modeling, I do NOT intend to offer furniture design as service to other people, I do not know what customers would expect (these 3 did not even said if need 2D or 3D drawings, to estimate how many hours take work and give final price, 3rd one said “I need you to design a bathroom” what I am supposed to understand? a 2D plan with position of toilet, sink and bathtub can be done in 10 minutes by any kid, but since they approached me I suppose that they wanted something more complex, that I do not have experience in) so I said $50/hour. I asked them for contact info to pass to a friend specialized in interior design, but none of them left contact info.
Sadly I do not have contact info of [R] to tell him to NOT recommend me to people needing interior design, but only to ones needing architectural design.
Might be also possible that they weren’t actually customers needing interior design services but just wanted to test me whenever I can make drawings like the ones posted on website (because among my real life friends there are some people enough idiot to not able to draw a line in AutoCAD and thinks same about me, they think that all portfolio shown on website is stolen from Google Image Search or whatever).
August 2019, a developer of 10-unit apartment block from New Zealand emailed me, he said from 1st email that want to pay in advance to show his seriousness. I replied via email asking if he require consultation regarding my past designs, or new designs need to be made. I told him to come on website chat so we can talk faster. He did not stated clearly what he require but asked if I accept PayPal and what is my PayPal address and if $200 is a good fee to get started… do you think that is a good idea to take advance payments if I am busy with databases and do not have time to do additional projects in architecture?
I suggested to talk first with my partner architect to make sure he can do project, negotiate price, THEN make 1st payment. We exchanged 10+ emails and once Philippines partner architect emailed him, he stopped replying for both of us. After a week I sent another email and he replied “please don’t email me again“.
Seems that he wanted specifically to have project done by me, and was unhappy because I passed him to my partner architects. I wonder what would have happened if I gave him my PayPal address then connect with my partner architects, probably once I was taking money he would have still ignored my partner architect and keep bothering me with more and more emails wasting my time from doing databases.
October 2019, a customer from Zimbabwe had a short chat with me, then sent me site plan via email. I replied, and he replied like this: “For the record, i got your website address from a trusted friend in Singapore. There was no mention that I could see on the website of a third party doing the work, so (in my view) I responded reasonably by questioning this when you mentioned that third party. Put yourself in my shoes and consider how unusual that would seem to someone like me who is trying to know the people he wants to work with.”
His reaction is really stupid because I CLEARLY mentioned in https://www.teoalida.com/design/architecture/ and several other pages that I retired from architecture in 2016 and new projects are done by third party architects and NOT by me personally. I don’t know who is his friend in Singapore, because in his next email did not answered my question then stopped replying, but seems that friend did not explained him how my business is working, or his friend was my customer 5 years ago when website was much smaller and I had time to serve every customer MYSELF. Now, my website exceeded 2000 visitors/day and if I will be to serve everyone myself, I would need to sit 48 hours/day at computer, so I am passing projects to other people from my team.
29 November 2019, someone from Romania emailed me with subject “consultation” and email body can be translated as “I bought an old house and I want to renovate it making a dental clinic on ground floor and add a mansard that will contain an apartment, I tried to make a floor plan myself and I ask you if you have different ideas” I replied “myself I am busy with projects with large numbers of users and my partner architect is busy doing complete sets of architectural drawings, so neither of us have time to offer free ideas”. Customer replied that didn’t mentioned word “free”.
I replied that if he is willing to pay, I am CC-ing my romanian partner architect to discuss further with him. I haven’t heard any reply from either party. Although MailTrack notified me that email been opened by architect, he did not took him in serious either. He informed me a week later that been BUSY and over year 2019 he involved in about 50 projects completed or under construction. No wonder why he don’t bother replying people asking for consultation/ideas only, chargeable with 100 euro max).
I emailed customer again on 9 December asking what turnout had his project, he said that made deal with another architect for 2400 EURO because haven’t heard a proper reply from us. WHAT A LOSS! My partner said that if he knew that customer is paying, he would involve in his project (we also don’t believe that an architect completed 2400 EURO drawings in less than 10 days, it may have been an offer received rather than a price he paid, or just a LIE to make us feeling bad).
The strangest part is that on 10 December I gave him a link and he clicked it, allowing me to get his IP and check previously pages opened by that IP to realize that 1st page he opened was https://www.teoalida.ro/jurnal/arhitectura/ (now deleted), it was a page written in 2015 titled “Architecture, a SHITTY business” and explaining how unhappy I was about this job and non-paying customers. It’s a BIG MYSTERY why a customer would enquire architecture services from someone calling architecture SHIT?
A coincidence of badlucks, could had a different turnout IF customer would have asked for a price and/or mentioned what he wants (floor plan only, elevations, or full set of drawings), instead of “can you help me with ideas” or IF I was giving our prices even if customer has NOT asked for a price offer and gave us impression of a time-waster looking for free ideas, instead of “we don’t have time for free consultation” I should have said something like “we don’t offer FREE consultation, we design floor plans for $200 and complete set of drawings for $1000-2000“.