1. Houzz Pro Learn
  2. Business Management

How to Practice Professionalism in Your Industry

Learn from these seasoned designers, remodelers and building pros about what it means to present yourself as a professional

Allison Monea

While the jobs of remodeler, builder and interior designer require different skill sets, all true professionals possess a number of important attributes that can be applied to virtually any industry. And although it’s no secret that these attributes help to carry any business, they’re rarely taught. With this in mind, we asked successful industry professionals to share some of the most valuable professional practices they use on a day-to-day basis.

When You’re Meeting With Clients

Keep your cool.

Everyone in the design and building industries eventually has to deal with that one client who seems to constantly change his or her mind or asks you for more than what was decided on. However, real professionalism comes from knowing how to handle this type of client with courtesy, patience and an understanding of the end goal.

“As designers, oftentimes we have to put our own feelings into our back pocket and just maintain calmness, and remind the client of what they agreed to,” says Melissa Fields of Shades of Gray Design Studio. “I'm not saying let the client run all over you, but there's a way to articulate how you're feeling. Or if something's not going right, we have to take the high road.”

For Jason Bliss of Benchmark Home Construction, the ability to keep your cool starts with how you approach your relationship to your client. “We really try to cater to them and what's going to meet their language. We want to show them, ‘Look, we care about you and we want to live in your world.’ We really try to morph into it. It can be a challenge sometimes because I've got really skilled artists and craftsmen working for me and that's not their world.”

Practice direct communication. 

Whether you’re connecting with your clients via email or video or in person, it’s important to keep all communication concise, clear and context-driven. This way you can avoid any confusion while working on projects. This can mean anything from keeping your conversations with clients agenda-based to communicating things like project status and cost in definite terms. For interior designer Laila Johnson of Designed Smart, this type of to-the-point communication style is the backbone of her professionalism. 

“When it comes to professionalism, I’m very straightforward with the customers and I’m very honest with them,” she says. “I try to be as detailed as possible and really just put myself in the customer’s shoes, because the homeowners, most of them, they’re hiring designers for a reason. They need guidance. Some of them need a lot of handholding, and you just need to account for that.” 

For more on how to communicate better with clients, check out these articles:

Body Language: How Nonverbal Communication Affects Your Success

5 Communication Strategies to Successfully Resolve Client Disputes

When You’re on the Job Site

Set a standard of good manners.

Clients pay a lot of money for your time and skills, so when you’re on the job site, it’s important to find little ways to go the extra mile. Simple things such as showing up five minutes early and ready to go can communicate preparation and expertise to your client. Another way to exceed expectations is taking the time to clean up after yourself after the day is done. No homeowner likes finding empty water bottles or tools scattered about. 

Proper job site etiquette not only will improve client relationships; it will boost your company’s professionalism. For Mike Biestek of Remodeling Right, these standards extend to everyone on his team. “For everybody, down to the [person] that pushes the broom, it’s, “Keep your shirt tucked in. Keep your pants pulled up. Keep your boots tied. Keep a smile on your face.’ If somebody says hi, you say hi back,” he says. “It’s about being polite, respectful, and just upholding the best standard you can.”

Promote mutual respect.

How you interact with your vendors, clients, employees and contractors on-site says a lot about your level of professionalism. “You don’t want to be bossy and you don’t want to act like you’re barking out commands,” Fields says. “I have to make sure that I have a balance where I’m very clear about what I want and what I expect without being overbearing about it and being disrespectful.” 

Treating others the way you want to be treated can go a long way toward leaving a lasting and professional impression on your clients, suppliers and industry peers.

Use technology to your advantage.

Keeping multiple projects moving while maintaining a high level of quality is a big part of practicing professionalism. However, it’s not always easy, especially when you’re constantly on the go. Sometimes it might feel like you have to sacrifice quality for speed. Or the other way around. Thankfully, tech solutions such as Houzz Pro can help builders accomplish tasks such as completing takeoffs and building estimates in less time and with professional-looking results. Plus, with the Houzz Pro mobile app, everything you need is right at your fingertips no matter where you are. “Houzz Pro has been a great tool for us,” says Jason Bliss. “The ability to go back and forth with some of the potential clients through the lead management has helped out quite a bit.”

For more on how technology can benefit your business, check out these articles:

5 Ways Technology Can Save You Time on Your Residential Construction Projects

Interior Designer John Hare on How Technology Kick-Started His New Business

When You’re in the Office 

Maintain high levels of organization.

Every project, whether simple or complex, requires some level of organization. The difference between an amatuer and a professional is the ability to maintain that level no matter how many projects there are. For interior designer Julianne Bull of The Den Interiors, staying organized comes down to a solid project management system.

“To me, I think when it comes to being professional, it's around having those systems and processes, and then following them so that when you get to the end, there are no surprises,” Bull says. “Having those systems in place helps to manage changes, manage delays and even helps with communicating those to the clients. I think to me, this is more important than anything.”

Whether they’re planning for unforeseen circumstances such as delivery issues and weather conditions, or keeping track of client requests and scheduling site visits, many design pros turn to online solutions such as Houzz Pro for help.  “I can do a proposal much more quickly now on Houzz Pro than the old Excel way,” Bull says. “It’s right there for you. It’s got the branding on there, so it looks really professional. Also, there are things like the time scales and the programming that you can copy the clients on. If they need a program of events, you can put that right in there, and it’s all color-coded and it looks professional.” 

Lead by example.

Actions do speak louder than words. And as you’re the leader of your business, your team is looking to you to set the tone for what’s appropriate and what’s not in the office. Whether that means encouraging productivity by staying on top of your own tasks or emphasizing teamwork by listening to your employees, when you lead by example, you provide everyone with a clear path they can follow toward a common goal. 

“Sometimes I feel like I’m a life coach to some of my employees, which is actually beneficial to me, because it makes me feel good about what I’m doing,” Mike Biestek of Remodeling Right says. “To hold somebody’s hand and teach them something that they just weren’t taught. It’s a different generation coming into the trades nowadays.” 

When You’ve Finished a Project 

Keep up appearances. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good image in a highly visual industry. An updated and polished online presence with quality photos is a key part of building your brand and maintaining professionalism. So, once you finish a project, make sure to capture some beautiful photos and upload them to an online portfolio to showcase your work for future clients. When you do it for your Houzz profile, you are also instantly considered for the Best of Houzz awards. It's a win-win.

“I think we live in a very image-driven society right now with social media. What you put out there as an image says a lot,” says Nicole Fish of Fish House Designs. “Definitely spending the money on professional photography that is edited, I think that says a lot about your company — that you’re willing to put in the fine details … [and] go the extra distance.” 

Stay in touch. 

Professionalism extends beyond the length of the project. Once your work on the job site is done, make sure to follow up with your clients to see how they are enjoying their new space. This is also the perfect time to ask them to provide you with a review. Another way to keep in touch with clients is by adding them to your email newsletter distribution list. This will help you maintain a good rapport and will keep your company in their mind for future jobs or referrals.

2.5 million business owners said yes

We believe in never-stop-hustling business owners like you. That’s why we built Houzz Pro — a one-stop-business-shop that (ironically) helps you hustle less so you can achieve more.

Allison Monea is an Associate Content Writer at Houzz. A lover of art, design and her local Seattle scene.

Comments (1)

Join the conversation by commenting or asking a question below. The Houzz team reads every single comment, and we’ll get back to you by email if you need us!

  • PRO
    Prestige Construction and Contracting Inc.
    12 months ago

    Thank you for the article.

  • Want advice delivered to your inbox?

    Unlock industry insights and updates for contractors and design pros

    By signing up, I agree to the Houzz Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and that Houzz may use my information to contact me about relevant content, products, and services.