Why Giving Away Free Architecture Advice Can Kill Your Chance of Winning the Project

Free architecture advice doesn't build trust and can lose projects

Contrary to popular opinion, giving away free advice does not necessarily build trust. Actually giving away free architecture advice can kill the project.

The magician’s mystique only lasts if the audience is left wondering, ‘How did she do that?’

Any magic shop in the world will only reveal HOW to do the trick once you have paid. When you reveal the secret, the mystique evaporates instantly and so does the sale. Guaranteed.

One of my big mantras is ‘Don’t give away free advice.’ For you, that means don't give away free architectural advice. Once you give away your ideas or solutions, you cannot take it back. The genie is out of the bottle and your business will suffer because of it.

Free Architecture Advice Is Not The Key To Winning The Project

People won’t value your free architectural advice and they will NOT feel obliged to hire you for design.

There are many situations in which giving away free stuff leads to winning clients … but in a niche market and advice game, the reciprocation rule DOES NOT APPLY.

Despite preaching this message almost daily to architects, you’d think I would not make the same mistake myself.

Marketing ideas are like design ideas, once given away everyone thinks they can take your idea and do it themselves.

They can’t do it as effectively as you do, but even if they think they can, then you are no longer required.

I was attending a launch party for a friend’s new business. Dave had invited suppliers, friends and clients for an evening of drinks and nibbles to officially launch his new business and thank them for their support. Actually, he’d been running for two years, but who was counting?

Being Liked Isn't the Same as Being Valued (and Being the ‘Nice Guy' Doesn't Win the Project)

Dave went through and awarded his ‘client of the year’ amid handshakes, clapping and hugs. He then went on to thank, quite emotionally, his important suppliers; whom he ‘could not have achieved so much without.’

He thanked his website guy, his IT guy, his graphics guy, his P.A. and his accountant. Quite frankly, all of these skills could have been easily replaced with anyone else’s but, hey, it’s nice to say thank you.

However, the marketing advice on how to structure his programs I gave him was, I thought, irreplaceable. I doubt there was another marketing hired gun in New Zealand who could have guided him in the way I did.

Obviously, that is why I had been invited along … or so I thought.

Has someone been ‘picking your brain' for free architecture advice?

For the past two years, this friend would call me up and invite me for lunch, to ‘pick my brain', which is the worst consultant question ever.

First, I hate coffee and, second, what that question really means is ‘can you give me free advice?'

For a long time, this guy was a really good client; so good, in fact, that he sold his business and made a few million.

We became friends, went to a few events together and he has never paid me a dollar since.

That is all fine, because as soon as you become friends with a client, you have a very strong chance that either they expect stuff for free or you feel uncomfortable charging and therefore end up helping this friend for free.

Becoming friends with a client can be bad for profits

Back at the party, while my ‘friend’ runs through all the easily-replaceable service providers, I start to wonder what he might say about me, the mug who gave him free advice over the course of about five long lunch or coffee meetings.

Surely the guy who gives his friend free advice is more valuable than the people who got paid for standard off-the-shelf services.

I should have known better. The speeches come to an end and I don’t receive a mention, just a beer and a chicken skewer.

Whose fault is it anyway?

My fault, because I made the same mistake I tell architects to avoid. I gave away free advice like a fool and expected that advice to be valued.

As expert advisers, we have power, but our power only survives as long as we know something they do not.

The money is in the mystery. Don't give away free architecture advice if you want the client.

Okay, so what now? Now that you understand the dangers of giving away free architecture advice, click here to see how to get paid for your architecture advice or you can see how charging for advice changed Darryl's career.

If you’re ready to do something with these and other secrets to marketing your architecture firm, join our next free AIA-approved webinar on marketing for architects. Register here (and earn 1 LU).

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