Working Solo

10 perks and challenges to striking out on your own

By Lee Calisti, AIA Posted on July 27, 2014


I am a solo practitioner – I chose this after swearing I’d never do it. There are good and bad things to every choice you make; I’ve discovered there is no greener grass, just different grass. In fact Jojo thought the grass was greener in California…oh wait, you’re saying that wasn’t what that song was about?

Working on your own comes with pros and cons. I think it’s important for anyone considering hanging out their own shingle to think hard before you make this choice. It is right for me but it’s not right for everyone. The income can fluctuate greatly and there might be times when there is little or no income. Of course there are also opportunities to do very well.

Here is a look, in list form (and much sarcasm), at the 10 good things and 10 challenges of working solo that I’ve discovered since striking out on my own eleven years ago. After posting this, several of my architect friends from social media were inspired to write their own. Feel free to join in on the community.


10. I can come and go as I please without telling anyone or checking in.
9. No one mistakenly eats my lunch from the refrigerator.
8. Complete creative control.
7. I got to create the office standards.
6. I get credit for my contributions to the project.
5. I never have to wait for the bathroom.
4. No one minds if I am barefoot.
3. There is no burden about other mouths to feed.
2. The phone is always for me.

And the last reason I enjoy working solo…

1. I can play my favorite music (especially guilty-pleasure songs) loudly.



10. There is no one to get instant feedback, no office crits, no studio pin-up.
9. There is no one who brings in food to share.
8. Accounting, billing, and other business aspects of this profession (contact my friends Mark Le Page  or Enoch Sears for help).
7. I have to talk to myself (hmm…would do that anyway).
6. Complete creative control comes at a risk of being stale, myopic, or worse, obtuse.
5. No sharing of liability, I get all of the blame.
4. Which leads to…no one else to blame “that smell” on.
3. The skill set and knowledge base is limited to mine alone and the speed at which I can increase it.
2. Doing all of the tedious tasks…alone.

And the number one challenge of working solo….

1. The phone is always for me.

There are solutions to all of these challenges (except for #4). What are your challenges? What did you discover – good or bad – when you went out on your own?

Originally published by Lee Calisti, AIA on his blog, Think|Architect. Photos are from – click on photo to see author (used under the Standard Restrictions). (Sailboat image found here.)

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