How to Hire the Best Receptionist for Your Architecture or Design Firm

Sean Lund-Brown

If you’re in the business of architecture and design, admin tasks probably aren’t your strong suit—or your primary focus. Unfortunately, though, those are the tasks that make the day-to-day operations of your firm possible, let alone successful. If you don’t already have a receptionist on staff, it’s high time that you invest in one. They can handle anything and everything your firm needs on the front end, from fielding calls and messages to managing your live website chat, scheduling and assisting clients, and more. 

Of course, as with anything, you have to make sure that you’re choosing the best person for the job (or, perhaps the best people, in some cases). There are a lot of different options, from hiring someone in-house to contracting the role to even bringing on a team of virtual receptionists… it’s all about figuring out what’s best for your firm. 

Maybe you’re only in need of a temporary receptionist, or a virtual receptionist to handle online queries and communications while your front desk staff handles the phone calls and in-person interactions. In any case, you’ll appreciate the advances in technology that have brought a whole new market of talent right to your fingertips. 

Even the smallest budding firm can afford to invest in receptionist services when they take the time to do it right. There isn’t just one “right” way, of course, so make sure that you’re paying attention as we go through the different topics in this article so that you can figure out what’s best for your design or architecture business. 

The less time you have to spend on the details, the more time you can dedicate to your true passion: the designs. 


The true cost of hiring receptionists 

In the U.S., the going rate for a receptionist ranges from $11-$14 per hour, on average. For professional architecture-specific receptionsts, expect to spend around $15-$18 per hour to hire someone in-house and keep them on your staff on a full-time or part-time basis. For some firms, that’s an investment well-made. For others, it just might not be feasible. 

Of course, you then also have to factor in the other costs of an employee: sourcing and hiring, onboarding and training, benefits, etc. It all adds up and can cost you thousands of dollars before they even work a single day out of training. ($4,000 for the average onboarding cost, to be exact). 

If this isn’t feasible, this is a chance for you to see just where outsourcing or hiring contract receptionists could become a helpful decision. You can get a lot of the same services, and usually more services, for a fraction of the cost of hiring someone as a part of your payroll. Now is the time to think about the expenses, and your budget, so that you can make the right decision about your business needs. 

Currently, the market is less competitive than it has been. However, there are also a lot more people looking for work these days, as well as more companies looking to fill roles like this in an ever-changing economy. Think about what’s going to be ideal for your business so that you can get the customer support that your architecture firm needs in the form of a dedicated receptionist. 

Now, let’s talk about the perks of hiring a receptionist, and then we’ll go over how to find the right person for the job. 


What benefits does a receptionist bring to the firm?

Yes, we’re still convincing the last of you that this is a worthwhile investment. And to do that, we’re going to discuss the perks of hiring a receptionist and what all they can offer so that you have no doubt about why your architecture or design firm needs this person. A receptionist can essentially do whatever you need in the way of admin tasks and communications, and although they’ll each have different skillsets and offerings, you’ll find a lot to appreciate. 

Receptionists can:

  • Answer and route phone calls
  • Take messages and relay information
  • Respond to general questions or inquiries about services and projects
  • Send and receive project specs, blueprints, and other materials
  • Create letters, memos, correspondence, and other content as needed
  • Confirm and schedule appointments
  • Manage the physical office space (if relevant) including the supplies and equipment
  • Manage your virtual office space (files, data, etc.)
  • Coordinate with vendors, designers, clients, and others to ensure solid working relationships
  • Handle all other admin or office tasks or communication needs

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re looking to outsource to a third-party virtual receptionist service (and you should, but we’ll get there), you’ll find plenty of other features and benefits to adding this solution to your architecture or design firm. 

Speaking of outsourcing, how do you know which path to take?


Should I hire someone or outsource?

Here’s the next big question for anyone hiring a receptionist in today’s digital age: should I hire someone to work in my office or should I outsource to a contractor or third-party service? Ultimately, there’s no one “right” answer here—again, it comes down to what will be best for your business. 

Once you’ve decided that you need a receptionist, this is where your energy will go. It can help to consider the pros and cons that come with each option, as well as how they will impact your business and whether they provide the solutions that you need. Consider things like:

  • Do you need someone in-house full-time (or even part-time)? Some businesses aren’t quite ready for a commitment like this, which is when contracting or outsourcing would make far more sense—you get flexible services for a fraction of the salary to hire someone, and you can make changes or scale up at any time. 
  • Can you afford to hire someone as part of your payroll? Unless you’ve got $4,000 just laying around to train and onboard someone, and then another ~$30K a year for a salary, plus benefits, you might not be able to commit to having a receptionist in-house. In that case, outsourcing and contracting allow you to get the same services and support for a much lower cost. 
  • What services do you want? Would you like to get more options and better talent without having to spend a small fortune? When you outsource, you’ll have a lot more variety to work with than if you hire one person to work in your business. 

These answers are going to be different for everyone, of course. However, they’re a good starting point to help you find the best solution for the receptionist needs of your business. Now, let’s look at the second aspect: the qualities you want in a receptionist or team of receptionists.


Qualities to look for in your receptionist candidates

Again, this list varies based on the needs of your business. However, there are some soft skills and hard skills that every good receptionist should have. We’re going to focus on those to help you get a better idea of what to look for. What does your architecture or design firm need?

Stop limiting yourself—look at soft skills first. Find people who are good at multitasking, time management, communication, and delegating and managing tasks. Any good employee or contractor should have abilities like this. It’s even more important for receptionists, though. In the world of communications, soft skills are a lot more valuable than hard skills. 

It helps if you find a receptionist or team that’s savvy with data entry, software competency, and other aspects of running the “front desk” of the business, but it’s not essential. Those are things that you can teach, for the most part. Attitude and personality can’t be taught. 

This is often why many people choose to stick to hiring a virtual receptionist service or outsourcing—these people are guaranteed to have the best aspects of receptionists under their belt, including top-rate communication and organization skills, as well as the ability to manage as little (or as much) of your business as you need. If you want to add to the benefits, consider hiring someone with previous experience in architecture, design, or a related field. 

Receptionists should be timely, friendly, and detail-oriented. They should be able to solve problems and ready to take charge and get things under control when they get crazy. And speaking of crazy, make sure you hire someone who can handle a slew of different tasks, along with the need to switch gears on the drop of a dime, because that’s what it takes in modern business these days. Someone who is a quick learner and who is capable of working in a fast-paced environment is going to go a lot further than you might expect. 


Hiring and sourcing FAQs

In case there’s anything that we missed above, we’ve created this section to cover the major points and provide some quick answers to common questions in this area. Even if you didn’t read the entire article to this point, at least pay attention here. 

When should I hire a receptionist?

This is what everyone wants to know, and yet it’s not a question that anyone can answer but you. Do you find your business in need of someone to be on the front lines and dedicated to customer inquiries? Are you struggling to keep up with calls and messages while also managing all of your projects? The right time to hire a receptionist is whenever you need them. And the sooner, the better. 

What should I look for with a receptionist?

Every business has different needs in hiring a receptionist, but generally, you’ll want to find someone who is a self-starter, who can multitask, and who has great communication skills, both on paper and over the phone or in person. You want someone with some experience, but they don’t have to be an expert-level receptionist if you just want a basic, budget-friendly solution. 

Do I need someone with design experience or education?

Unless you want your receptionist to also be able to sell jobs or discuss project details with clients, their expertise in the specific areas of design and architecture is not required. Most receptionists have more experience in those actual skills: interacting with people and acting as the face of a business to provide appropriate service. 

What’s the difference between virtual receptionists and in-house receptionists?

Virtual receptionists are those who serve your business from a remote position, offering virtual assistance for intercepting calls, messages, and other communications, as well as handling things like reporting, data entry, scheduling and payment collection, and more. In-house receptionists can do the same things, but they will be hired as a part of your payroll and are physically present in the office every business day. 

Is there a difference between a receptionist and an assistant?

This is a tricky one because the answer is both yes and no. Yes, there is a difference in some cases, because an assistant may be more of a general role that is expected to gather resources or information, take calls and messages, and otherwise provide assistance to a professional or a firm. A receptionist, on the other hand, is specifically focused on communications and being that first line of communication with the client or potential client and may perform an array of related duties. So, in some cases, they have different roles. In others, it might just be a matter of the name. 


Get all the receptionists and assistance that you need when you partner with Smith.ai

If you want the best assistance from the best receptionists, you can’t go wrong when you choose the team at Smith.ai. Our dedicated agents have the expertise that you need to provide dynamic solutions for everything from after-hours answering and even SMS messaging to intake, scheduling, Facebook messaging, and more. 

Got a live chat feature on your website? We can manage that too, and we’ll help you create the perfect strategy so that we can manage everything for you, no matter how big or small your needs may be. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation and discuss what the 24/7 virtual receptionists at Smith.ai can do for your architecture and design firm, from calls and chats to scheduling and more. You’ll also find us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484. 


Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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