One of the drawbacks of being an entrepreneur in a service business is that you are trading hours for dollars, which can be exhausting when you are hustling from project to project.


Wouldn’t it be nice to have an income you could depend on from month to month? There are some architects and builders who are designing products and services that are not so ephemeral. Like this handy Garden Tote by Liz Pulver Design.

Pulver and I worked together as landscape architects in the Bay Area a decade ago. One of the first things I remember about her is that she was heading up a program to brighten the street where we worked with large painted concrete planters. Her initiative is astounding. At every turn in her career she is consistently looking for ways to improve her business, which led her to develop a product for urbanites who are using fire escapes as their outdoor space. Her vertical garden solution, The Garden Tote. Clever right?

She now lives and works in New York where she has worked on an incredible array of rooftop and pocket gardens in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The first apartment building I lived in was in downtown Oakland, and I had no idea how much I would miss being able to mess around in the dirt until I found myself composting into a five gallon bucket. The appreciation of planting a seed in the ground is hugely multiplied when the dirt is seven floors down. I would have loved to have these bright colors swinging spices above my kitchen sink.

What kind of problems can you solve for people?

Products like custom furniture are an obvious extension of architecture and interior design, though that can be pricey to startup. However, designing bespoke pieces for individual clients may cut out the cost of large scale production. This could be your niche.

Maintenance Subscription Services

Another idea is offering a subscription service, like maintenance on gardens and homes. While this may not be the glamour you were imagining in design school, clients appreciate designers and builders staying with a project. No one knows it like you do. It saves them the trouble of having to find someone new they trust. Make it easy on yourself by setting up auto invoicing and payments with an online accounting service like Freshbooks, I use it and it changed my business in beautiful beautiful ways.

Lifestyle Subscription Services

How about something more innovative. Check out services like Rent The Runway, a subscription service where you select your style, and then get runway type clothing shipped to you every month. When you’re done with it, send it back, or buy it if you like it. Innovative indeed. What kind of problems are your client’s having that you could solve every month? It’s always better if you enjoy the work, so pick something amazing, something that you love as much as you love designing and building homes.

Subscription services and product sales also have the benefit of a business that can be sold. Service based businesses alone often depend on the principal or head contractor, without that personality bringing in new business, it can be hard to sell an architectural practice or building firm. Not impossible, but certainly more difficult. When you can show a monthly income from subscription services the profit and loss becomes more interesting for prospective buyers.

Have an idea for a service you want to bat around? Post it in the comments, I’d love to hear what you are cooking up.

Congratulations. Action is the first step.


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