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Setting up an architecture office: How to become a self-employed architect


Establishing an architectural office: requirements

After completing your architecture degree, you have the opportunity to become a member of the pension fund. This represents the equivalent to the pension insurance for the independent profession of the architect. This membership also includes the membership in the associated chamber; this is mandatory at the latest when starting a self-employed activity.

Know-how: what do I have to bring with me?

Before setting up an architecture office, you should have successfully completed an architecture degree and have several years of professional experience in the architectural profession. Ideally, you have already completed the compulsory training of the professional code. There are no lateral entrants in this profession, almost 87% of all architects also come from a degree in architecture, the rest from landscape architecture and civil engineering.

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Andreas Munck

For over 7 years I have been advising start-ups on their way to starting their own company. I would be happy to call you and help you with all questions relating to your start-up in a personal conversation.

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Open an architectural office as a sole proprietorship, partnership or limited company: choose the legal form

If you want to set up an architecture office, you should determine at an early stage which legal form your company should have. An architecture office is usually founded as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a GmbH. It is also possible to take over an existing office. As a sole proprietorship, you are free to work as a freelancer or commercially. Before founding your architecture office, think carefully about which legal form is best suited to your goals.

Become self-employed as a freelance architect

As a freelance sole proprietorship you have the advantages that no entry in the commercial register is necessary and that you do not need a minimum capital. However, you are solely responsible for the entire company and have unlimited liability with your private assets. As a freelance architect, you are also not obliged to register with the IHK.

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Founding an architectural office as a partnership (PartG)

As a freelancer, you also have the option of founding a partner company (PartG): You set up this through an oral or written partnership agreement and by registering with the registry court responsible for you. All shareholders of this partner company must be freelancers. You do not need a minimum capital for a partnership and benefit from “agent liability”, which limits personal liability for professional errors caused by other partners.

Establish an architectural office as a GmbH, UG (limited liability) or AG

The legal forms GmbH and UG are also often used for the establishment of an architectural office: there is a limitation of liability for these legal forms; an entry in the commercial register is mandatory here. With the GmbH, colloquially also known as “Architects GmbH”, you also have to raise a minimum capital of 25,000 euros, with the UG you only need a capital contribution of one euro or more. In addition, it is also possible to set up an AG, although a minimum capital of 50,000 euros is required.

Which is the most suitable legal form for your architecture office depends, among other things, on what goals you are pursuing, how much capital you bring with you and whether you want to set up a business on your own or not.

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Where to register your architectural office

Entry in the commercial register

As a public directory, the commercial register documents entries on the registered traders in the area of ​​a competent registry court. The company forms GmbH and UG require an entry in the commercial register.

Registration at the trade office

Regardless of the legal form you have chosen, you must register with the trade office responsible for your company headquarters. If you open an architecture office as a sole proprietorship, a simple business registration is sufficient. If you want to become self-employed as a freelancer in a catalog job, only register your activity with the tax office; You do not need a business registration.

After registering with the trade office, the tax office will automatically contact you for tax registration. As soon as your documents have been viewed and checked by the tax office, you will receive your tax number and can issue invoices.

Membership in the Chamber of Architects

Membership in the Chamber of Architects is mandatory and only through this you will receive your building submission authorization, with which you can, for example, sign building applications and submit them to the responsible authority. Requirements for membership in the Chamber of Architects are a degree and two years of professional experience as an architect. Alternatively, you can also become a member without a university degree, but you must then provide evidence of seven years of professional experience. After you are a member of the Chamber, you have to draw up a business plan: This includes a written summary of your entrepreneurial project, details of the business idea and your goals.

Report to the tax office

Furthermore, as an architect you are obliged to report to the responsible tax office in order to receive a tax number when starting a self-employed activity. You need this to create invoices. As a freelancer, you are not obliged to take out insurance, but you should still not do without it.

In addition, all freelancers are subject to the respective professional code. This secures the profession, stands for the preservation of the independent architect, and ensures that the legal provisions and laws applicable to this profession are complied with. In addition, the professional regulations also contain the compulsory training courses that every architect must complete.

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Costs when setting up an architecture office

There will be some costs involved in starting an architectural practice. First of all, the start-up costs are incurred, followed by the fees for membership of the Chamber of Architects: Depending on the type of company, you need a certain amount of capital. Furthermore, there will also be costs for the location. The amount of the costs depends on whether you move into new office space, rent office space or share rooms with other architects or engineers in the sense of an office community.

Put together a specific financial plan before you start spending. Among other things, consider the following cost points:

  • Capital requirements for the start-up phase (e.g. for renovation work, targeted advertising) and to secure your livelihood
  • Possible consulting and bureaucracy costs in the start-up phase
  • Capital for the purchase and procurement of goods, appraisals and certificates
  • Ongoing operating costs such as shop rent, storage costs, electricity and heating costs, IT
  • Taxes and Insurance
  • Financial reserves for unforeseen events


What offers do I provide? Niche, theme and competition

When opening an architecture firm, there are a few things to consider beforehand. The offer is definitely one of them. You should think about what offers you are providing and what niche you might use to differentiate yourself from the competition. Since the architecture department is generally quite unspecific, you will find it difficult to acquire customers without specialization. Therefore, you should acquire a special competence in a certain area that appeals to your respective target group.

“A core competence can be found from the fields of activity of the office - if possible one that no one else offers. This is then communicated to the target group in the sense of a focus on a specific field of activity. "(Andreas Preißing, graduate in business administration (FH), MBA, board member of Dr.-Ing.Peißing AG, Leonberg)

An example (from the Hessen Chamber of Architects and Urban Planners (AKH)):

You should also know your strengths and weaknesses compared to the competition, so it is important to analyze your competitors carefully in order to get a good insight into the current market situation.


The right location for your architecture office

As an architect, the location is not as important as it is for restaurateurs, for example, as an architect cannot necessarily expect walk-in customers. A good connection should be a must, however, as you may need to get to an appointment quickly.


Do I need staff for my architecture office?

In general, staff in an architecture office is not an obligation. However, if you do not have all the qualifications in every architecture-relevant area, you should consider hiring staff, for example as architectural draftsmen: they will draft plans and floor plans and support you in your activities.


Marketing and sales for your architectural office: What does my target group look like?

If possible, define your target groups before founding your architecture office and make a note of the requirements such a customer has on you and your company. This method allows you to tailor your offers to the special wishes, ideas and interests of the target groups. Acquiring customers is an important step. Architect portals such as the digital building broker architekten.de are a good way to get started as a new architecture office on the market.

According to the professional code of conduct, the architect may use any advertising medium, but the advertising must provide factual information about its offers and must not be promotional or intrusive. As an architect, you can also voluntarily have yourself entered in the office directory of the Chamber of Architects and Town Planners in your state; For a small fee, you can also advertise your architecture office on the Chamber's website. A corporate identity will also help you with customer acquisition. With a clear company profile and a defined USP (Unique Selling Point) you can stand out from the crowd. In general, you should keep in mind that marketing for architects means putting customers and their needs at the center of your own work and taking them seriously.


The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the greatest care. However, we cannot guarantee that it is correct, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult a technical expert in a specific case - we will be happy to put you in touch.

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