So You want to go out on Your Own?

So You want to go out on Your Own? add

Making the decision to take the great leap and start your own architectural design practice can be daunting and scary, but it can also be the source of great reward and a substantial amount of satisfaction.

In April, ADNZ's 'So You Want To Go Out On Your Own' workshop will be filled with New Zealand architectural designers and architects looking to get tips and first hand advice to help launch their own business success stories. Not surprising, the workshop is fully booked - a sign that the kiwi entrepreneur spirit is still going strong. For those who missed out this time, you can register your interest for the next workshop by visiting

This week Defign spoke to Christchurch Architectural Designer, Mitchell Coll, who went out on his own in 2009, launching Coll Architecture. Mitchell now has a team of three draftspeople working for him, is in the process of designing their new offices to be built in the city and is able to dedicate his free time to what he loves most - learning and travel.

"Going out on my own was always a key goal. From the get go when I selected my career path it was always in the back of my mind. I love the flexibility that comes with owning my own practice and I greatly enjoy travel and study. Owning my own practice has enabled me to regularly attend professional development courses and take on distance learning at Unitec and Victoria University. It has also allowed me to travel the world with my partner Amy. We have now been to more than 53 countries - a learning experience in itself," says Mitchell.

"When I first went out on my own it was a bit nerve-racking but I was lucky, I was doing a bit of work for myself while employed and therefore I already had a small client base. When I decided to launch Coll Architecture, I immediately started getting calls from potential clients. The calls and encouragement from clients reaffirmed that it was time for me to make the move.

"I received my qualifications from CPIT. On completion I made the decision that I wanted to work in a company where I could do project management and get out onsite, because I always believed that unless you know construction inside out you will always be limited in your design. This was a good move in terms of my education, but when it came to launching my own business I wish I had also taken the time to work for a larger architectural practice, one that was a bit more design lead and with more of a disciplined focus on systems and processes. That way I could have soaked up more lessons and practical tips for running my own architectural practice. If I had one piece of advice to anyone looking at going out on their own - it would be to make sure you have gained as much work experience in a diverse range of practices before you make the leap. The more prepared you are, the fewer lessons you will have to learn as you go!"

"In saying that, learning on the job is all part of the process. I've learnt a lot of lessons and some the hard way! At one stage I lost two months of work when I forgot to back up my systems. Learning the cost of that mistake was pretty hard, I now have a very strict back-up regime. A few years back I also learnt the value of good project management software. I was very busy and starting to lose track of my projects. I did some research and selected Wrike Project Management Software. It has been invaluable and allows me to keep track of my tasks and that of my teams," says Mitchell.

"Coll Architecture works on a range of residential and commercial work - in particular medium to high density apartments and hill sites. Going out on my own has enabled me to work on the projects I find challenging and that I enjoy. It has definitely been one of the best decisions I have made."