Hiring an architect is essentially an agreement for the professional's time. Each project's path will be unique through the process (for example, the residential process), from finding a site, developing a unique architectural expression, building new construction, renovating existing, adding additions, and re-purposing or rehabilitating new life into one expired.
A single lump sum fee is usually proposed for all the specific efforts needed, from conceptual schemes through engineering and final detailing. Breakouts for optional services can be provided. Invoicing and payments are based on progress and only accrue as the project moves along the process of design and construction.
Architectural and engineering service fees are roughly 5-15% of a project's budget for construction. Initial studies begin at $3,000 with complete permittable design drawings starting at $10,000, expanding by numerous variables:
Architects design and Contractors build. (Thus, 4D»2B.) And the law separates their respective licenses, business entities, qualifications, and legal status, too.
Becoming an architect requires a minimum bachelor's degree in architecture plus a professional or master's degree, a three year internship, and passing six exams (formerly just one two-day exam, then nine parts, and recently seven). Statistically, most architects don't get through all the requirements and get licensed before 30-35 years old, but the industry is trying to improve. You can verify architectural licenses online at the NC Board of Architecture license search. (Steve Hall Architecture holds firm license #52833 and Steve Hall individual #9868.)
Becoming a contractor requires proof of financial stability and a qualifying individual in the firm to pass an exam. In North Carolina, there are five classifications of license certifications: Building, Residential, Highway, Public Utilities, and Specialty (sub-contractor). Financial stability is arrayed in three levels depending on the firm's assets which limits the contract size of the construction project:
Architects are legally restricted from recommending unlicensed contractors. This is more common in residential work than commercial. You can verify license and limits online at the NC Licensing Board for General Contractors license search.
Incidentally, the 1972 Federal Brooks Act Legislation prohibits the selection of design professionals by price or bidding. It requires qualifications-based methods. This is implemented in North Carolina by G.S. §143-64.31, called the "MiniBrooks Act," for architectural, engineering, and surveying. See also the NC Board of Engineering FAQ and the NC Board of Architecture article.