Year End Summary for 2009

I thought I'd write a post, mostly for myself but also for those of you who are interested in the what-it's-like-to-run-a-small-rural-architecture-firm aspect of my blog. Well, to start with, I have just had my best year yet despite the economy. I think I have achieved a “teachers salary” this year which doesn't always happen. Around here, outside the medical profession, teachers make good money in comparison to the local average. Oh wait, there are also the aspects of being self-employed relating to health insurance, vacation time (none), higher taxes, 401k's and stuff like that. In most past years there have been several months during which I am under-employed – time to get the firewood in and work on the barn. But this year I was right out straight with projects. I completed three new houses, one of which is finishing up construction and one just starting, four substantial addition-renovation projects, and assorted small consulting projects. I suspect that I turn out as much “work” as a 5 person firm and really should charge accordingly. I did not manage to make any progress on my dream of creating an internet home plan business ( although with another year of research under my belt, I still see a niche waiting for me to fill it. I also had some very good press. I have tried to maintain my integrity as a small-house “green” architect although in a parallel argument to the S.U.V. issue, most people think it doesn't apply to them “How could I possibly live in a two thousand square foot house? I have two kids!” - architect rolls eyeballs. I am also trying to become a better businessman. I have done much networking with other architects, many of whom I went to school with and attended some seminars on the business of running an architecture firm. I have gained greater understanding of my strengths and weaknesses and what I can do about them. New issues have cropped up that need addressing now that so much of my initial contact with people comes via the internet. I have had some issues with clients owing me money and “disappearing” which is something I've heard about from other architects but something I had rarely experienced before this year. A risk one takes when working with non-local clients I suppose. I get myself into situations where I put a lot of time and effort into a problem to arrive at a solution that looks simple and obvious – then the client doesn't believe I did anything more than sit down for ½ hour and sketch it up. Also, many times this year I spent too many hours and given out too much free consulting and design advice on projects that never materialized. On one hand I know that people really appreciate this and I enjoy doing it but on the other hand when I look up at the clock and realize that I just spent 3 hours on an email then look over at the stack of bills next to the desk, well.... For this coming year, goals include getting Vermont Simple House up and running, hiring someone to deal with my website (which really needs some work), Photographing recent projects to pursue publishing and submission to competitions, getting melons and squash started indoors in early April, racing my bicycle up Mt. Washington in July being an amazing father to my daughter and dog, husband to my wife and taking a real vacation (with the above). Anyone have a place on a quiet lake in Maine?