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  1. #1
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    How do you define professional?

    I was having a casual chat with a long term client this afternoon and he threw me a question for thought. He invited 5 companies to pitch for a product launch event and 4 out of 5 companies flooded the conversations with the term "professional". He was deeply impressed by the first company he met when they used phrases such as "We provide professional events management services .... bla bla bla", "XXX company engaged our professional services for their YYY product launch and ... bla bla bla", "Our professional services have received recognition and awards that ...bla bla bla". He is brainwashed to believe they are really the professionals of the professionals. However, after meeting 3 companies consecutively in 2 days, he gets very frustrated and immuned with hearing the words "professional" and the 4th company, unfortunately, gets the throwback. My client asked the guy, "Can you define what you mean by "professional services"? What is "professional" to you mean? How "professional" is "professional" to you?" and that poor guy gets slapped on the face.

    The word "professional" is widely used by many service providers but have you ever take a moment to reflect on the underlying message this word carries? How do you define professionalism? Have you ever encountered a client who asked you this?
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  2. #2
    Webwellwisher Robert Warren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coderdesigner
    I was having a casual chat with a long term client this afternoon and he threw me a question for thought. He invited 5 companies to pitch for a product launch event and 4 out of 5 companies flooded the conversations with the term "professional". He was deeply impressed by the first company he met when they used phrases such as "We provide professional events management services .... bla bla bla", "XXX company engaged our professional services for their YYY product launch and ... bla bla bla", "Our professional services have received recognition and awards that ...bla bla bla". He is brainwashed to believe they are really the professionals of the professionals. However, after meeting 3 companies consecutively in 2 days, he gets very frustrated and immuned with hearing the words "professional" and the 4th company, unfortunately, gets the throwback.
    I have to say, I'm constantly amazed by the number of salespeople out there who walk into the prospect's office and can't stop talking about themselves - worse yet, all in the same generic and overused terms. The prospect doesn't care; even if you could answer the question perfectly, it wouldn't make a difference.

    The problem here is that of these four companies, likely not one went in there and actually asked questions about the prospect's business. Instead, they blathered on and on about being "professional" and winning awards (that the prospect has never heard of) and touting the importance of web standards or Flash design or whatever their pet concept was at the moment.. all the points that they think the prospect should care about, but in fact doesn't. So the term "professional" blurs into meaninglessness, right alongside "innovative", "customer-focused", and "web standards". Just more empty kneejerk rhetoric.

    The prospect wants to know one thing: whether you dig their particular, unique, darling-little-snowflake situation. Their favorite subject is themselves. So you take the offensive and ask real questions (rather than playing the dancing monkey) and demonstrate that you truly do understand and appreciate their unique set of circumstances. The word "professional" then never comes up - you're too busy being one.

    And for the record, I define "professional" pretty much the way Webster does: forming the financial basis of a livelihood. If you're making a living doing what you do (i.e., not a part-timer or a hobbyist), you're working professionally.

  3. #3
    Web Design Ireland cianuro's Avatar
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    Robert, you are dead right. I sat down and read a few books on the customer and my business (The web design business kit was one of them). I took a month off work. Business was bad and I needed to regroup. Your concept of being more customer centric was mentioned in every single one of the books I read.

    I was in a very similar situation just this week. A client met with me and we discussed his project. I spent about an hour asking him questions about his business and his requirements. At the end he said that I was the most expensive (I only gave him general price quotes, but a full proposal would break down things better, may be more, maybe less yada yada) by far, but that I was the only one who actually spent more than 5 mins with him and the only one who didn't come in and try to promote my company.

    To me, that is being professional. If you providing a service, focusing on your customer, analyzing and creating a solution to THEIR problem. Being professional is all about your customer.

  4. #4
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    Heh, I've heard of your story repeated time and time again. People use the term "professional" simply because it is an assumed synonym for "we're experts who will get it right!"

    I have always believed that, rather than saying you are a "professional" you should describe what it is that you do (or what it is that you are proposing to do) in a slightly detailed, yet appealing and concise manner, ensuring that you also justify yourself. You should always leave it up to the prospect to say in their head "yep, this person is what I'm looking for" - that in itself will make you a "professional" to them, regardless of the fact that you're part-time, full-time or whatever.

    Why? Because if you can explain what needs to be done, and why it needs to be done - and they believe you, they'll think you know what you're talking about and you're experienced. Look at society - police officers, doctors, lawyers... these are the people who are most often termed "professionals" and what's the common link? Knowledge and experience!

    I think that I've waffled on enough to rest my case

  5. #5
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    I'm just a teenager so you probably don't care for my opinion. as i do consider my self a professional web designer as i get paid and i help pay bills with it as my family isn't doing to well lately

    but i usually just consider being professional means your good at what you do and as a result you get paid for it

    i like the word creative in the business more then professional anyone can use the word professional and have it be true but by saying your creative which i believe i am that puts you in the category of originality which alot of clients like alot i use professional not that often but can throw it in there every once and a wile i always use the word creative

    although being professional can be alot about your client but if a client is rude to me and/or is not working with me in the right way ill just say you know what if you want a good website then stop acting like a stuck up idiot and work with me if you don't go find someone else

    and i know sounds harsh and iv only done it a few times but iv never had the result of a client saying okay fine! and not using my services anymore and i am only 16 soon to be 17 but i do get a fair amount of clients I'm not a coder but just a designer whether thats templates, logos, banners i even do flash animation, xml , action script (only coding is flash) and then i just work with some older very experienced coders to make the best product possible

    but to me professional just means your good at what you do and as a result you et paid for it

    but to be creative and professional at the same time is a whole other story

    =)

  6. #6
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    Veggie, we care about everyone's opinions here (well, except the spammers - they just get tossed into the bottomless pit, but that's the exception to the rule).

    While what you said is mostly on the mark (sorry to hear about your family's financial troubles; your willingness to contribute financially says a lot about your level of maturity - congratulations ), the attitude regarding bad clients could cost you your reputation in the end. Think of it this way, aside from the dictionary definition, I consider professionalism to be equal to the person's level of maturity. If the person is a jerk, I won't consider that person to be a professional, no matter how much he or she throws the word around like Robin Hood threw Prince John's moneybags around the poor people of Nottingham. If a person treats me with respect, I'll consider him or her to be a professional, especially if he/she takes the time to address MY needs, rather than promote him/herself or the company.

    Anyway, I wish you the best of luck, and I hope your family is able to pull itself out of its current situation and get back to living life to the fullest again.

  7. #7
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    well its not as bad as it seams just help pay for some bills we do have Internet lol but my moms a photographer and we live in kinda bigger city where rent is very high but thanks for the reply

    my attitude towards my clients when they start being rude to me isn't the same reaction i wont be rude but ill give them one option to respect me as i always will respect them or to find another designer i kind of put it to the extreme in my last post iv only called one client an idiot before because he was screaming at me for not having the site done and the site wasn't suppose to be done for another 2 days he had his days wrong... i mean what the heck? and he was screaming at me on msn and i ended up saying okay idiot i don't let people talk to me like this i copy n pasted message history when the due date was then hes like still blaming me and not making sense so i said ill unblock you in 3 hours if you still want to work with me thats your choice but i wont take the abuse

    but yeah i think your right i don't boss my clients around but do try to direct them in the right direction whether they agree with me or not they usually end up doing so


    thanks for the advice i plan to be very active in these forums iv entered a couple competitions i love this site

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    Quote Originally Posted by Veggie1232
    although being professional can be alot about your client but if a client is rude to me and/or is not working with me in the right way ill just say you know what if you want a good website then stop acting like a stuck up idiot and work with me if you don't go find someone else
    You'll find that the number of clients like this will greatly reduce as you age. Funny you mention this though, because I was treated like **** by one of my clients until I rather unprofessionally lost my calm and told him what I thought, then I asked him, as you said, to stop *****ing and to work with me... it was incredible the respect that he subsequently treated me with. Why did he treat me so poorly? He was twice my age

  9. #9
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    I think there is three aspects of the word professional.

    First it's the practitioner of a profession. That means that if you're doing something for a living, you're a professional. With that comes also an expectation that you can perform on a certain level.

    Second it is a way of doing business. There are no clear rules for this, each person has his own idea of it. However I think you can say that how "professional" describes a set of rules for business behavior, is the same way that "gentleman" describes a set of rules for men behavior. Many of the "rules" are also mostly the same, e.g.:

    Professional: "Always be polite"
    Gentleman: "Always be polite"

    Professional: "Always keep your word"
    Gentleman: "Always keep your word"

    In many ways it's like transforming the gentleman term into the business world.

    But that's not all. The third aspect is the term "to stay professional". It can mean to keep an emotional distance, and even act cold and calculating e.g.: "You need to get a grip, you need to stay professional and act professionally". This means that you need to put your emotions aside and adopt a business mindset and perspective.
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  10. #10
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Warren
    I have to say, I'm constantly amazed by the number of salespeople out there who walk into the prospect's office and can't stop talking about themselves - worse yet, all in the same generic and overused terms. The prospect doesn't care; even if you could answer the question perfectly, it wouldn't make a difference.
    I couldn't agree more! I have posted this several times and will keep on posting it until everyone hears it in their sleep! - People don't care what you know or what you can do except in relation as to how it will benefit them!

    Off Topic:

    Quote Originally Posted by veggie1232
    I'm just a teenager so you probably don't care for my opinion.
    We care! Otherwise this forum wouldn't be open to teens. Some of you youngsters have grown up at a keyboards and I've seen several instances where young people can run circles around dinosaurs like me.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  11. #11
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    The american heritage dictionary defines professional as
    1. Conforming to the standards of a profession.
    2. Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career.
    3. Performed by persons receiving pay.
    4. Having or showing great skill; expert.


    I think there are two main senses for the word in this context. The Amateur (not for pay) versus the professional (for pay) and the novice versus the expert. (Thoughts on expert and novice programmers.)

    Amateur as in not for pay doesn't have to mean unskilled. Sadly, professional as in for pay doesn't necessarily mean expert. However, this is the association that is generally made.

    When Sitepoint wanted to rename the advanced PHP forum, I liked the professional PHP name. They went with PHP Application Design, so I used that name as the name for my blog.


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