Within ‘employment,’ moonlighting means working a second job. In particular one after normal business hours in the evening or night. Since the work is typically performed at night, when the moon is out, it’s known as moonlighting. I didn’t do any research, but I’d guess you could tie a strand of the terms history back to moonshiners… working on something prohibited under the light of the moon. The thought of an architect moonlighting to garner clients and recognition in hopes of striking out on their own will forever be within an architects’ psyche. Moonlighting in architecture connotes a romanticized notion- the ‘gifted’ architect being able to do as they please for a client without the constraints of their employer. The reality is far from that.

I’m not an advocate for an ‘architect’ moonlighting as an ‘architect’. If you do it a few times throughout your career, no big deal. However, if it’s something you regularly do, then it’s not okay. Architecture is a tough profession, it shouldn’t be taken lightly or attempted in a few nighttime hours after your day job. It demands focus. You change when you moonlight- your attention span is reduced, your energy levels go down, the quality of your work suffers, your relationships with others aren’t all they could be, your stress levels rise, etc. You’ll also create convoluted liability issues. You can try to convince yourself otherwise, but the truth is the truth. The reality is moonlighting is not fair to you, your employer, or the people you’re moonlighting for.

Regardless of my personal thoughts, the lure of moonlighting for an architect is typically too much to resist. Architects will continually be tempted and many will moonlight. If you choose to moonlight as an architect and you’re currently working for/as an architect, I offer these suggestions:

1. Confirm your employers policy on moonlighting, most are very strict on such practices- meaning they don’t allow it.

2. Be sure you’re moonlighting client is aware that you alone are responsible for the project and they indemnify your current employer for any and all- have it part of your contract.

3. While you’re on your employers ‘clock,’ do not work on your moonlighting project at any time, not even during a lunch break- no sketches, doodles, phone calls (even on your personal phone), no site visits, no nothing.

4. Do not use anything of your employers for your work- no pens, paper, plotter, computer, no nothing.

If you’re regularly busy with your own moonlighting clients, take the plunge and strike out on your own- you’ll have much more freedom than the moonlight hours grant- and all your previous changes will revert back to your normal self.


Design On,
(hopefully during daylight hours)

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Moonlighting.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The Ironic Blasphemy of Moonlighting and what Architects are Missing Out On

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
moonlighting more than an 80s sitcom

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Moon(lighting) changes with the seasons

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
hustle and grind: #architalks

Michael Riscica AIA – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Moonlighting for Young Architects

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@BuildingsRCool)
Architects do it All Night Long

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Starlight, moonlight – tick tock

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is Moonlighting Worth It? Probably Not, But We All Try.

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Dancing in the Moonlight

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Moonlighting: or Why I Kept My Dayjob.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
An Alternative to Moonlighting as a Young Architect

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architalks 28 Moonlighting

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Moonlighting

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
There is no moolighting. It’s a jungle!

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Crafted Moonlighting


“I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.” – Charles Barkley

Those that know me personally would probably revise Barkleys’ quote to:

I’m not paid to be an architectural mentor. I’m paid to solve the clients’ design problems, provide clear and concise construction documents, and be profitable while not compromising the client/project goals.” – Keith

Truth is, as an architect I provide mentorship whether or not I consciously choose to or not. If someone seeks me for mentorship, I will assist wholeheartedly. I’m blatant that my ‘style’ of active mentorship is along the lines of ‘tough love;’ I don’t baby sit nor hand hold. That’s a waste of my time and does nothing to truly educate the mentoree. For those that don’t actively want to be mentored, it happens anyway via redlining their work and participation in meetings, site visits, etc. So what is mentorship, mentorship is:

1. Figuring out the best way to achieve a given a task/end goal. It’s not being given a task/end goal and every step/process along the way to achieve such.

2. Looking for, and experimenting with, steps/processes to follow to achieve a particular goal; asking a lot of questions. It’s not being told the steps/processes to follow nor is it looking to ask one specific question in hopes that answer catapults you to the end goal.

3. Presenting various solutions/information for review and discussion. It’s not presenting a single solution and asking “Is this what you wanted?”

4. Reviewing/red-lining your own work prior to having someone else review- if you can find your own mistakes, chances are you won’t make them again. It’s not simply handing your work over for others to find your mistakes/omissions.

5. Learning and learning how to learn. It’s not about being definitively told what to do and most importantly, not being told specifically how to do it.

Keep in mind; this occurs while I (or your mentor) keep a loose ‘tab’ on you. It sounds a bit harsh and even vague, perhaps it is. You’ll be allowed to err, but not in an abysmal manner to the project/client. The end goal of a successful ‘mentorship’ is an individual who can think for themselves and not rely on others to decidedly inform them of all they need to do.

Learning and growth are stagnated when one is sheltered in their comfort zone and need to be instructed on every task and how to achieve. If that’s your belief of being mentored, congratulations you’re on your path to being a draftsperson. If that’s what you want, fine, they will always be needed in the AEC profession. However, if you want to be an architect, you’ll need to be able to think for yourself and not rely on others to explicitly inform you of your tasks/means/methods; the quickest way to achieve such is through mentorship.


Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Mentorship’– to read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
This is NOT Mentorship

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Mentors, Millennials and the Boomer Cliff

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
teach them the way they should go: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Bad Mentor, Good Mentor

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
The Top 3 Benefits for Architects to Mentor and to be Mentored

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I’ve got a lot to learn

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Gurus, Swamis, and Other Architectural Guides

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Lonely Mentor

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Advice From My Mentor

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Mentoring with Anecdotes vs. Creating a Culture of Trust

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why every Aspiring Architect needs SCARs

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Mentorship : mend or end ?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
My Mentor

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Mentors that are in my life

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Mentorship

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)

I never had any great desire to become a sole-practitioner architect; it came out of survival instincts. The economy was bad and my daughter likes to eat and have clothes. So a few fees here and a couple of forms there and I had my legal entity to officially practice architecture. I was off and running to secure my own work. ** cue wavy dreamy sequence*** Ah, that was 2009… seems like yesterday… but I digest. I know, I know sounds awesome… well for the most part, it is! So what are my top +10 for being a sole practitioner, here you go:

+1. I get to resolve all the ‘bad’ issues that arise- it’s the best learning experience.

+2. No random principal comes to me at the 11th hour saying “I’m not sure I agree; let’s give this scheme a try.”

+3. I can refuse projects that aren’t a good fit.

+4. I rise and fall… I get credit for both!

+5. I get full authority on creativity… as well as veto power!

+6. I can go mountain biking or mow the lawn whenever I have to clear my head.

+7. When I take pens and trace from the office, no one knows but me… shh.

+8. All my days-off for vacation requests are approved.

+9. I’m in control of where my practice goes… such as my design value menu concept.

And the final, and best reason I enjoy being ‘da man’…

+10. It allows me to be more actively present in my daughter’s life, attend martial arts classes, field trips, volunteer at school, etc.

With all the positives, much like everything in life, there are also negatives to being a sole practitioner. However, the majority of negatives can be resolved relatively easily. Here are my 10 for being a sole practitioner:

1. When I have a lunch and learn I have to buy lunch and be the teacher.

2. No big firm resources- books, software, supplies, etc.

3. No one to bounce ideas off of or offer constructive criticism (Facebook and Instagram comments don’t count).

4. I’m the architect, receptionist,  business development guy, PR department, admin department, good cop, contract writer, AR/P department, educator, bad cop, night cleaning crew, IT guy, intern, model maker, lackey, CAD/BIM manager, CA guy, marketing department, general whipping boy, spec writer, etc.

5. I have to buy trace, scales, and sharpies.

6. No intern to pass grunt work off to mentor.

7. No Friday morning **insert favorite breakfast here** paid for by others.

8. Nobody to foot the bill for the annual holiday party.

9. Firm retreats are extremely lonely.

And the final, and reason I don’t like being a sole practitioner…

10. No room for advancement within the firm unless I take a pay cut and demote myself first.

Much like a battery, in order for things to run well you need both a positive and a negative. As long as the +/- tend to weigh slightly more to the +, it’s most likely worth doing. It’s tough working on your own and it’s not for everyone. There are days I question it. However, if you do go this route it will be extremely rewarding!


Design On,

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As an Architect you proceed with the design of a building you draw, design, detail, model, etc. You go about it with almost no thought whatsoever, its second nature. Contract writing can flow just as easily with these basics in mind:

Purpose of a Contract:

  1. Define the Project Scope
  2. Establish and clarify relationships
  3. Allocate responsibilities and risk
  4. Confirm mutual understanding in writing
  5. Establish compensation for services

Contract Checklist:

  1. Understand the scope of the project
  2. Do not use superlative language – “highest standard, best, complete, most, economical, finest” etc.  The wrong use of language can negate basic legal protections and exceed your insurance coverage, create unreasonable duties, and establish expectation of perfection
  3. Express no warranties or guarantees – expands duty and is generally excluded from professional liability coverage
  4. Do not use language creating unobtainable expectations
  5. Include in contract preparation any and all pertinent members who will be responsible for executing the work
  6. Use historical data as a basis to help establish fees and schedules
  7. Know you can fulfill your obligations as defined by the contract or modify them
  8. Define procedure for project termination or suspension
  9. Review, review, review, and then have someone else review the contract



Each contract you write will afford you more confidence and another skill set to your experiences. There’s no reason not to be writing your own contracts… actually getting them executed, well that’s another post. 


Design On,

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* Originally posted July 27 2010, edited/revised per date above- I’ve been careless on properly referencing the image to its source… meaning I haven’t and just used an image search engine. Inform me if I’ve used a copy written image and I’ll write a contract on the terms of removal of said image.