jmyers

What is the best way to enter the residential drafting industry using Chief Architect

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What is the best way to slowly transition into the residential drafting industry using chief architect?  My ultimate goal would be to be self employed and earn enough to support my family within a couple of years or so. 

 

Background about me:

 

* 15+ years in residential construction management
* Been on thousands of residential new construction and remodel projects
* Have designed new homes and remodels for spec and custom projects
* Performed material take offs from hundreds of house plans
* Have years of hands on construction experience in addition to the management 
* Bachelors in Business Administration

 

I currently have a very good job that pays very well with outstanding benefits. However, I have a very strong interest in using CA to draw plans for other builders and individuals. 

 

I'm in southern Indiana and plan requirements for permits are not very stringent at this time. Most jurisdictions require a foundation plan, floor plan, and exterior elevations. The plans do not have to be stamped by an engineer or architect. 

 

I downloaded a trial version of CA and can draw a typical 2016 ranch home without much issue.  However, I know that I am nowhere near where I would need to be with using the software to market myself at this time. 

 

I feel like I have a very strong background to succeed, but know that there is a ton about the "business" (CA software and residential drafting) that I do not know. 

 

So, what is the best way to ease into the residential drafting profession using chief architect?

 

Thanks to all for the advice!

 

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To be more clear, I've considered the following options:

 

1. Attempt to sub work initially from another fairly local CA user to learn the "business" (CA and drafting). 

 

2. Purchase the software. Get to where I feel comfortable in marketing my services. Pay a trainer/mentor to review my plans and assist when I have questions. 

 

3. Purchase the software. Get to where I feel comfortable in marketing my services. Pay another CA user to complete jobs that are to complex for me until I get more experience. 

 

4. Any other feasible option

 

Thanks to all who assist with my inquiry!

 

 

 

 

 

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My advice - Jump in with both feet. Buy a copy of Chief (or rent to own) and get a job - literally any job, knowing you will find a way to get it done. When you run into a problem, know you will be able to figure it out. I started out by copying other plans because I had absolutely no idea how to create a set of construction drawings. If I can do it, with all your experience, you can do it as well. Again just know you'll find a way - and you will.

 

But how will you cost your first job? Wrong of course, that's why it's your first job. How will you run your new design business? Badly at first, but you'll get it figured out. If it truly is a passion of yours, start today. You will not regret it.

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Buy the software, get a set plans from where you work and re-create them.  It is how I started with Chief Version 6 (If I Remember right on the version)

I began drawing track houses for one friend (builder) then some larger customs for another builder/Friend.  I never really had any issues with permits. 

Then I quit.....not sure why....I am beginning again.  Good luck ....everything starts with an idea!

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Larry's advice is very good

 

model your own house or a family or friends house

so that you have constant access to it

to learn how to measure and model "everything"

 

when you can duplicate a complete as-built you will know the software decently

 

never do a job for free to get the experience

tell the builder or remodeler or homeowner "no fee until the permit is accepted - then you owe $$$"

 

I did my first job for free :(

 

there is always someone on the forum who can help with issues either for free or fee

 

Lew

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OHow is he going to decide how much to charge? Oh, and don't wait until you feel comfortable marketing your services.  That's what I do and it never gets done. 

 

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find out what garage mechanics and other non-licensed trades charge

 

maybe even charge a little lower until he has a few project under the belt

and can tout via his website

 

then start raising rates as his confidence goes up

 

if you are getting more than 1/3 of your bids you are probably charging too little

 

if you are not getting 1/3 of your bids then you are doing something wrong

or have bad breath or ....

 

Lew

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17 minutes ago, ChiefGrego said:

How is he going to decide how much to charge?

Decide by trying something - anything to get the job. If it's your only job then you better get your pricing just right but if it's the first among hundreds of future jobs who cares? Get your first pricing wrong and you'll soon learn where the sweet spot is for your market.

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22 minutes ago, lbuttery said:

model your own house or a family or friends house

so that you have constant access to it

to learn how to measure and model "everything"

+1 but don't be afraid to work for free - once - to get the experience and gather contacts.

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Dude .......................................Jump.

If it's what you love Jump.....................

 

 

But hey i didn't say that...............lol

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Experience is the most important quality, don't bite off more than handle. Each project you will learn more, about the program and the design business. When you run into something that is more than you can handle ( we all have done that in this forum ) get good advice and educate yourself on what you're working on. In my younger days an old timer told me " do good work at a fair price and you'll always be working". GoodLuck

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I might be the naysayer here, but id personally recommend someone start by being a draftsman in an operational firm before starting out on their own.  There is so much to learn in the way of process its hard for me to imagine someone picking up that all on their own quickly to be a full service operation.

 

Doing a layout in Chief is such a small % of what the job entails - and unless you are dealing with an architect or engineer (review your work) a mistake could be pretty big.

 

 

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I was in a very similar situation to you before going out on my own. I would not recommend you do this as there are many sharks in the water who will try to use you for free design work. Never ever work for free. Get paid in advace with a deposit to cover all the work for your design concepts and design development. Outline the costs clearly as you progress thru the job. All the best if you take the plunge.

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I'm not arguing but I have done FREE designs that resulted in projects for my building company, BUT I'm a Design/Build Contractor. Last year I did a preliminary design on a 27,000 sq ft Yamaha Dealership and got the contract and was paid for all print work. This person was not a stranger to me so each situation is different. On the flip side I have been abused or taken advantage of on occasion but that is business, no risk, no gain.

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ShaneK, I started working for Contractor's like you but I was paid by them to do the design concept, design development, construction drawings and documentation. This worked well for me.

 

Edit: I trusted these employers as they dealt fairly with me and I with them but they are getting harder to find these days.

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This is great information. I sure appreciate all of the advice!  I will take all that anyone is willing to share.  This forum is incredible!

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for me---save some money for the rainy day, b/c it will happen, maybe 2 or 3 times in your lifetime

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I started out in commercial project management after almost a lifetime in the Marine Corps. I had a Masters of/in Mechanical Engineering. A friend of mine had  a large custom Residential Building Business in Florida  he talked me into leaving the commercial world and I was superintendent for him and then a project manager.  It was hell at first but I became really good at running jobs and you learn a lot about design, construction methods etc. I would hang with the framing crews and put the belt on and work on weekends.

I helped him get through three years of overload and then worked for another builder for another 3 years before going out on my own. I did a lot of Historical Renovations and new additions. My wife and I grew the company fast and 2008 happened and I was a better trades person then I was bushiness man. We had a bunch of people working for us and a lot of assets. not completely paid for. I almost lost everything when jobs stopped coming in. It got so bad in our area another builder friend of mine commit ed suicide. 

 

I gutted it out semper fi do or die.  I decided to go back to school and get a design degree. I saw a lot of shitty design when I was superintendent and often said "dang I could do better then this" I purchased Revit and finally Chief  which I consider the best software in the Market for residential design. My first designs were an embarrassment but you know what the clients did not know ; however builders called me on a lot of **** and that helped me get better.  I learned and am still learning a lot.In two years when I hit 60 I will have a PHD in design which may seem great but just a piece of paper to me. I learned a lot and got a lot of stares from the average 22 year old in most of my classes .

 

I grew my business by knocking on doors and a large leap of faith. I failed forward several times. I am busier than 90 percent of the Residential Architects in our area because I am willing to do anything drafting grunt work etc... Last year we did 12 new home designs and 20 additions. I cannot keep up with my marketing and do not even have a web site anymore it has all been word of mouth.  I am a part time pilot and one of the things that I love about flying is you are forever learning and that is what this business is. 

There are guys on here that are Chief Architect Gods and I mean that in a good way. I listen to them. I consider myself pretty good with Chief and then I read some of the forums and go holy **** I know nothing.  Joe Carrick ...Drawazill ... Dshall  Joey Martin to name a few. I have plans to kidnap these guys and do a mind meld.

 

So after these mountains of words here is my advice go for it.. be a  beast and do what you love..

 

Cheers

 

Edited by payettedesigns
Name Correction Joey Martin
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If you are determined, nothing can stand in your way. 

 

I would recommend getting a really tight set of construction docs together, as well as some 3D views. Hit the streets with printed samples. Target contractors first. Architects, engineers, and interior designers tend to be harder to approach without an introduction. 

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Check the SBA, and Canadian SBA, maybe another for info on writing a business plan. Then do it, any format, don't use a Word template. Be sure to do a SWOT. 

Won't be accurate, won't be fun, will be a worthwhile exercise, increase your odds and help avoid trouble. 

Don't compare where you are to where you thought you would be for a few years. Do refer to "how and what" you thought.  

 

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It sounds like many of you are self taught and self employed. From what I've gathered, your success has come from nothing less than hard work and dedication to learning along the way.  The advice and the sharing of your experiences is very inspiring. 

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I took a couple of all day classes when I acquired Chief, that was all it took. Even though it costs some money, it really saved me lots of heartache. Also Scott Hall took me under his wing ,with workarounds, he caught on faster than I. (you needed them back in Ver. 10). Thanks Scott, I still owe you

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17 minutes ago, DRAWZILLA said:

I took a couple of all day classes when I acquired Chief, that was all it took. Even though it costs some money, it really saved me lots of heartache. Also Scott Hall took me under his wing ,with workarounds, he caught on faster than I. (you needed them back in Ver. 10). Thanks Scott, I still owe you

 

Brotha P.  it was you and me working together,  I thank you for your help.

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Frankly, for me the best way was to keep my day job, train and work nights & weekends.  If you have employer provided healthcare, and a family it only makes sense.  The only caveat is you have to set rules - i.e. time spent with family nightly to at least 8 pm, weekends - dedicate 6-8 hrs.

 

Put yourself out there, as others have recommended, be honest about the timeliness of your production.  Save the money from your extracurricular work eventually, the opportunity for self-employment will manifest itself. 

 

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