Meet Kelly Holmes from KLH Design and Build, an architectural designer from Staffordshire. In what is one of the weirder stories we’ve heard about getting into the trade, she explained that an Adam Sandler film convinced her to choose her profession.
Click, the story of a time-travelling architect, convinced Kelly and three friends to go to university to study architecture. But the reality of studying for a difficult course must have had them wanting time travelling abilities too, “It was a really difficult course, all of my friends dropped out in the first year, it was only me that carried on!”
After four years of hard work, Kelly gained a Bachelor of Science in Interior Architecture and Property Development. This enabled her to start her career with a firm based in Bridgnorth. After gaining some vital experience, she took the decision to branch out on her own 16 months ago.
Understanding the difference
The Architecture Act 1997 protects the term “architect”, so Kelly makes it clear that she is an architectural designer on her business card. Despite the nuance, both architects and architectural designers are able to draw up plans for new builds and extensions.
However, Kelly does warn against people that have no qualifications. “I know of people who pretend to be architects, and lots of people call me an architect because they don’t understand the difference. It’s important to understand the differences when you are engaging someone and to make sure they have the correct qualifications”.
The Professional World
“When you are at university you can be creative, putting a lot of glass into your designs for example. But in the real world clients often can’t afford what you like to do”, Kelly explains. Despite this, she still tries to inject some creativity into her designs, “I draw my own vision alongside what the customer wants. If they like what I’ve done we try to mix the two”.
Kelly knows the importance of building trust with the builders who will be taking on the project. During her career she has forged friendships with builders which have been beneficial to both parties. “If I’m asked to draw plans, I will usually recommend a builder as I trust them”. It works the other way too, with a lot of builders sending work Kelly's way.
When she started out on her own, Kelly relied on MyBuilder to help build her client base, “when you’re starting up your business MyBuilder is great. I get around 90% of my work through there whether it’s directly from the site or recommendations”.
Kelly tried a few different methods of advertising to get her business off the ground. “I tried a directory service, but I paid a lot of money upfront and didn’t get any work from it. I’m still trying to get my money back!”.
Due to her excellent work, she now finds that she needs to use advertising less and less. “I get a lot of recommendations as a result of jobs won on MyBuilder, people see my feedback and want to hire me”.
“I’m really happy with work at the minute”, Kelly told us. “Last year I got too busy with work, I had to take on four other people just to get things done. Once drawings get through planning I then have to take care of the building regs, which can get on top of me”. Success is definitely a mixed blessing, but Kelly has learnt from her experience, “I’m trying to plan my work out better this year, by only taking on two jobs a week”.
The positive thing about having a trade is the freedom to move around as there will always be a need for it, and Kelly intends to take full advantage of that. “My next goal is to buy some derelict buildings in France and convert them into holiday lets!"
Congratulations to Kelly, and though MyBuilder would be sad to lose such a brilliant tradeswoman, we wish you luck in realising your dreams of moving abroad!
Advice for other tradespeople
- If you’re busy with work and receive an invite, use the message feature to let them know when you’re available. Then it’s up to the client to decide whether your timeframe fits around them
- Listen to what the customer needs, but remember that you are the professional so they will appreciate your input “I try to listen to the customer and understand what they want, then I give my suggestions before we reach an agreement”
- Build up your client database by offering quality work, “I get a lot of recommendations through MyBuilder. Often smaller jobs can lead to a lot more work”