Finder's Fees: How To Accelerate Pipeline Growth

March 10, 2024

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Architects everywhere are on the hunt for strategies to widen their client base and boost business growth. It’s the whole reason I founded Growthitect - to share bite-sized hacks for architects to keep growing.

It’s no secret that business development is difficult. That means everyone is looking for ways to make it easier. So let’s talk about the easiest clients to win, statistically.

Can you guess what types of prospective clients have the highest win rates? The answer is referrals and repeat clients.

And there are two options for increasing referrals:

  1. Hoping that people happen to refer clients to you.

  2. Pouring gasoline on the fire.

Call me a client arsonist, but I tend to prefer option 2 😉

Clients are your fire - they give your business life. Fire is the goal!

Whether your fire is growing, dwindling, or just getting started, pouring a little bit of gasoline produces exponential growth. (Btw, please don’t actually put gasoline on a fire!)

So what’s one form of client-attracting gasoline that you can use? Finder's fees—a reward system for those who bring new clients your way.

Let's dive into the details and talk about how you can get started with finder’s fees.

Understanding Finder’s Fees

At its core, a finder's fee is a thank-you payment for introductions to new clients or projects that lead to signed contracts. It's a win-win: your referrer gets a token of appreciation (usually a set percentage of the project's value or a fixed fee), and you get a new client. Simple, right?

But what makes finder’s fees so powerful and effective for architects?

  • Broader network: Encouraging referrals from your circle—think clients, contractors, or even fellow architects—naturally extends your reach.

  • Cost efficiency: Compared to other traditional forms of marketing, which can be time consuming and expensive, finder's fees directly convert to new business, often at a much lower acquisition cost.

  • Stronger bonds: A finder's fee program shows you value and trust your network, deepening relationships and giving people a great reason ($$$) to keep you top-of-mind.

4 steps to implement finder’s fees

The great thing about finder’s fees is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. Setting up a finder’s fee program is relatively simple. And expanding it is even easier.

Here’s what you need to do:

01 // Define the terms

Setting up your finder's fee structure doesn't necessarily mean drafting a formal contract, but clarity is your best friend here. Focus on:

  • Fee structure: Decide if you're going with a percentage of the project's fee or a fixed sum. Keep the math simple and clear. Depending on the average fee of your firm, a good starting percentage is likely between 1-10%.

  • Parameters: Define what kinds of referrals qualify for a finder's fee. Think project types, sizes, budgets, and location.

  • Timing is everything: Spell out when and how the fee gets paid. Is it when you sign the contract, start the project, or when the money hits your account?

  • Offer limits: If there's a shelf life on your offer or specific conditions that need to be met, make sure that's known. A 6-12 month agreement typically works best (and it can always be renewed).

02 // Scout for allies

Broadening your network with finder's fees means pinpointing potential allies, both familiar and new. Keep these folks in mind:

  • Real estate agents: They're on the front lines with clients ready to build or renovate. (Fun fact: my first finder’s fee arrangement was with the real estate agent that helped my wife and I buy our first home!)

  • Peer architects or firms: Teaming up with other architects can fill gaps in expertise and project needs. For example, if you do residential work, then reach out to a few commercial architecture firms. They’re likely getting some incoming residential requests and would be happy to pass along leads to you.

  • AEC professionals: Interior designers, landscape architects, engineers, and contractors often encounter clients in need of broader architectural services.

  • Community connections: Forge ties with local businesses and community organizations that align with your target market. For example, local lumber yards, steel mills, or even hardware stores are likely to encounter individuals or businesses considering architecture needs.

03 // Educate your advocates

After they agree to your terms (whether that’s a handshake or formal contract), they'll need the right tools and info. Don’t just trust that they’ll know how to describe your value and services. Instead:

  • Craft your collateral: Create clear, compelling marketing materials that distill what makes your practice unique—be it a flyer, brochure, webpage, video, or email that you pass along. Make sure it includes your transformation statement.

  • Highlight your differentiators: Emphasize what sets you apart, showcasing your standout projects and irresistible testimonials.

  • Educate and inform: Whenever possible, offer quick training sessions or info briefs to get your partners up to speed on your offerings and ideal projects. (Casual lunches are a great way to learn more and provide information.)

04 // Clarify the handoff process

Ensuring a referral smoothly transitions to a client is crucial. Here's how to make it as seamless as possible:

  • Simplify: Don’t offer multiple ways to hand off a referral. Instead, just choose one. Maybe that’s a quick phone call to you sharing the client’s information. Perhaps it’s a calendar link that allows referrals to book with you instantly. Or maybe it’s a link to a form fill on your website. Whatever it is, make it easy to accept and track.

  • Quick recognition: Set up a protocol for promptly acknowledging referrals and referrer, making both feel valued from the get-go.

  • Strike while the iron is hot: Don’t delay getting into a conversation or discovery meeting with the referral. Be sure to schedule something ASAP while their project or idea is top-of-mind.


If clients are the fire that give your business life, then finder's fees are like gasoline ready to explode your pipeline. To set up an effective finder’s fee program:

  1. Define the terms.

  2. Scout for allies.

  3. Educate your advocates.

  4. Clarify the handoff process.

And enjoy the warmth of a raging fire 🔥

(PS - This is not legal advice - I recommend speaking with a lawyer before implementing finder's fees in your practice to ensure that you remain legally compliant in your jurisdiction. Some states consider this practice to be a violation of the Code of Ethics.)

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