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Sell Results, not time. Don't charge by the hour.
A recent post on Seth Godin's blog resonated with my frustration with the common business of architecture and design:
We don’t pay surgeons by the hour.
And if the person who cuts the lawn shows up with a very fast riding mower, we don’t insist on paying less because they didn’t have to work as hard.
Often, what we care about is the work done, not how long it took to do it.
And yet, some jobs, from law to programming, charge by the hour.
When you sell your time, you’re giving away your ability to be a thoughtful, productivity-improving professional.
Designers create value based on years of experience, and the creative solutions to people's problems, not by how many hours we work. In fact, selling services by the hour punishes us for our experience or ability to complete work quickly and efficiently. And by selling our time we are capping revenue on the hours we can work in a year.
This is why I firmly believe all architects and designers should offer services for fixed fees or some other metric based on the value we provide and not how long it took to design. What is the value of a custom home that responds to a family's lifestyle? How much is an a healthy office space that reduces sick days worth? Educational spaces that encourage learning and result in higher test scores is worth what to those students and communities? The value isn't in the hours it took to create the drawings, but in the quality of spaces we create for the end users.