Stop complaining about your fees

Jan 29, 2023

You won’t get decent fees from your clients until you start making these changes within your firm.

One of the best aspects of Zweig Group’s annual ElevateAEC Conference & Awards Gala – when compared to some other industry events – is our attendees aren’t a bunch of complainers. They are all owners and managers of highly successful growing and profitable AEC businesses.

I really like that, because otherwise, I seem to hear constant griping from owners of other AEC firms about how they can’t get decent fees from their clients, and it’s getting old. If this sounds like you, YOU are to blame. You won’t get good fees unless you:

  • Ask for a good fee. It all starts here. No client will voluntarily pay you more unless you ask for it. You have to start out by asking for a good fee, and if you can’t get it, cut the scope so you get paid decently for what you do actually do.
  • Differentiate yourself. You won’t get better than average fees unless you don’t look, sound, talk like, and do work like everyone else you compete with. You have to be different and better in some way. Work on that!
  • Market yourself. If you don’t have enough work coming in to pay your overhead then you will inevitably resort to working for clients who won’t pay good fees. The only way you can avoid that is to have other clients who are willing to pay you decently. That takes more marketing than you are probably doing.
  • Specialize. Jacks of all trades in a local area will never be able to command the same fees as out of town experts. Be the latter. No company is good at everything. If you think you are so talented at design that you can do anything, it’s no wonder you aren’t getting good fees.
  • Raise fees every year. I have always said that every firm should send out a notice to all clients, past and present, that fees will go up on the first of the new year. Do this every year and you will get paid better. Not only that, some clients will push a job ahead to get you locked in, and that is good, also.

This stuff isn’t that hard. It takes some effort. But it also first takes some belief that it IS possible! Without that, you will still be complaining. 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

ElevateAEC conference & Awards Gala Registration is open for the annual in-person conference in Frisco, September 13-15. The 2023 winners of the Hot Firm list, Best Firms To Work For, Marketing Excellence, Excellence in Client Experience, Rising Stars, Top New Ventures, and the Jerry Allen Courage In Leadership Awards will be celebrated at the iconic black-tie awards gala. Register now for the AEC industry’s top learning and networking event of the year.

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.