No matter your career path, getting started can be a daunting challenge. Whether you’re trying to break into plumbing or design or contracting, it can seem almost impossible to get your foot in the door and start finding work, much less build your own business! Where should a newbie start when it comes to breaking into the home improvement industry?

We asked our experts this exact question, hoping to learn from their years of experience in the industry. As usual, they did not disappoint, offering tons of great advice for those just starting out. Here are a few traits you should cultivate in yourself to ensure that you do well in the business. If you have these things, you have everything you need to reach your goals in the industry.

Real World Experience

Getting your education and the proper licensing in the field you want is an obvious first step, but too often students overlook a similarly important aspect: real world experience. As expert designer Kerry Ann Dame says,

“The right experience will let an employer know you understand the materials and processes of the industry and can hit the ground running with good customer service skills and poise. Graduates with no real-world experience are quite useless to a busy designer.”

This leads to the popular catch-22, wherein you have to have experience in order to get experience. The solution? Working for free while you’re still a student. Internships exist for a reason, and you should be taking full advantage of them while they are still available to you.

Once you’re already in the working world but looking to start your own business, gaining the proper experience is still key. As expert Katie Miller advises,

“I recommend you begin initially with freelance work while you still have a job with an employer, provided they allow “moonlighting”. That will enable you to build up enough of a client base to then make the jump to being a full time solo practitioner.”

Making the jump to running your own company before you have experience working for yourself, on a deadline, one-on-one with a client, can be a recipe for disaster. Freelance work helps you build up your client base and figure out if self-employment is right for you.

Work Ethic

“My Dad taught me a lot about life and work and always said “no matter what you do in life, even if it is to push a broom, be the best damn broom pusher there is”.

– Mark Puglisi, Greenleaf

Lots of people like to say that if you go into a career you like, you’ll never work a day in your life. However, that doesn’t mean dedicated professionals don’t work hard at everything they do. If you want to be successful, you’re going to have to work hard at it. Expert Mark Puglisi passes on some advice that helped him early in his career: “My Dad taught me a lot about life and work and always said “no matter what you do in life, even if it is to push a broom, be the best damn broom pusher there is”. No matter what you are doing, even if it’s not what you ultimately want to do, make sure you are the best there is at it.

Know Your Limits

Lots of people in the home improvement industry run their own businesses, but that doesn’t mean its the right choice for everybody. There is a lot of extra, administrative work that comes along with owning and running your own company that you may not enjoy, that will take you away from the work you originally wanted to do. Expert and business-owner Nancy Dalton elaborates:

“Most people realize early on if they have the personality, initiative and desire the complexities of responsibilities that come with upper management and ownership. There isn’t anything wrong with choosing a profession and also deciding ownership or management isn’t for you.”

Working for somebody else is also a great career choice. You just have to know which situation is better suited to your personal temperament.


Something many working professionals overlook is the big picture. It’s easy to get caught up in the details, scramble your priorities, and lose track of what you really want to be doing. Luckily, expert Pablo Solomon has a few easy tips for knowing what to pay attention to. We loved his advice so much, we’re just going to let his list speak for itself:

1.Buy the best tools that you can afford.
2.Treat you clients with respect and honesty.
3.Be on time, be on schedule and stay on budget.
4.Keep up with current trends, products, rules, methods, etc.
5.Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
6.Live below your means and above your fears.
7.Your wife will like you more if you keep your home in top shape.
8.Find the best help that you can and treat them well.
9.Stay on top of things–work and paperwork.
10. Maintain a balanced life.