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How NOT to find your designer.

For 20 years before transitioning to a home build mentor, I was a building designer, specialising in the design, documentation and project management of homes. On more occasions than I care to remember, I received email inquiries in some shape and form similar to this;


You may be thinking- What’s wrong with that? It’s direct and straight to the point. Sure, but it’s also generic and has no regard for the design and expertise required to design and document the inquirers’ project. In the 20-seconds it took to ‘Copy + Paste’ that email to a raft of designers, they single-handedly made 90% certain I would not take on their project. And I know from discussions with my design buddy peers that they feel the same way. Architects and building designers are in high demand. They can pick and choose their preferred clients. As the old saying goes, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’. And this first impression is not ideal.

Let’s review the email briefly and see where Josh & Emily went wrong.

Draw up plans. This statement is overused when requesting design and documentation for house design. Sure, you will get plans. But the plans are the byproduct of an extensive design and development process; they are the final set of technical documentation produced to reflect compliance with the Building Regulations, Construction Code and Australian Standards. But you aren’t not engaging the designer for plans, you are engaging them to design and then document your home.

We know what we want. But do you really? More often than not, the sketches focus only on achieving the extra space. But have you also considered;

  • If the design complies with council legislation.
  • If the extension is oriented for optimum passive solar outcomes and can comply with energy efficiency requirements.
  • How the floor plans will translate to a built form in elevation or 3D.
  • The potential cost of the sketched works relative to your perceived budget.
  • How easily the renovations and additions can be accommodated with the existing conditions.
  • And the list goes on. You get the gist. Your sketch is just one option for your addition. But is it the best and only option?

What is your fee? The design of your project is not an object; it’s a process. When shopping around, you won’t be comparing apples with apples. The outcome of your project will vary greatly depending on your chosen designer. The fee is just one of many measures you should use to determine the best designer for your project. You will be hard-pressed to find a designer that can or will prepare a fee proposal based on this email alone.

We are keen to get started straight away. The designer only learns of your intention to undertake your project when they open your email and will unlikely be available to commence immediately. Most designers are booked out for weeks, if not months, in advance. And sometimes, waiting for the right designer is the best move you can make for the success of your project.

  • My home build mentoring clients learn the success of their project is built on the strength of the relationships they engage. Most critically, the relationship you will have with your designer. So let’s see how we can tweak Josh & Emily’s inquiry email to show the designer that they value their expertise and that we would be great clients to work with.

Well, hello Josh & Emily; don’t you sound just delightful! What a great way to kick off our first exchange.

So my final tip for first reaching out to your preferred designers; talk to the person you are hoping to engage with, not the outcomes. Sure, you need plans. But the person, team, and processes behind those plans are what will make your project a success.