Archive for July, 2014
What do you think of when you hear the word “networking?” Do you think of a cluster of wires and cables (a computer network), mastering a social profile (social network) or your local television station (news network)? Do you think of expanding your business through professional relationships (professional networking)?
Professional networking involves mastering the science of building and maintaining professional relationships with colleagues, peers, suppliers, counterparts, and other industry professionals. Having a great relationship with your clients is an important part of your business, but maintaining professional relationships with others in the industry is also imperative to your business success.
Typically, a local area will host networking events for various industries. This might involve something like a job fair, a fashion show, or a design trade show. These are all great opportunities to promote your personal brand or business as well as expand your professional network. You never know what connection you might make that will benefit you weeks or even months later.
But what is the proper networking “etiquette”? This list of do’s and don’ts is a great place to start:
DO bring some business cards with you
Keep them within easy reach. Make sure that the information on your business card is up-to-date and accurate so that professionals will have no problem contacting you. Keep in mind that you don’t need to give your card to everyone, and be smart about you who choose.
DON’T be afraid to ask for advice
Most people will be flattered that you are asking for their professional advice, as it indicates you think they are very knowledgeable in their field.
DO dress to impress
If you’ve only got two minutes to make a killer first impression and you’re dressed in jeans and a baggy t-shirt, chances are people are already making assumptions about you without even having spoken with you. If you look poised and professional, the assumption will follow.
DON’T forget to thank everyone
Remember everyone within your networking who has helped you. This is preferably done via hand-written note instead of email as it adds the personal touch that email lacks.
DO wear a nametag on your right-hand side
Most people shake hands with their right hand, and their eye is naturally drawn to your right side during this process. You want people to remember your name!
DON’T spend too much time with anyone in particular
You’re there to network with as many people as you can. Don’t cut conversations short, but try to find an appropriate time to exit the conversation and move on.
DO avoid alcoholic beverages
Maintain a professional vibe and stick to water or juice.
DON’T eat too much
Many networking events provide food for attendees, but if your mouth is full every time someone comes to chat, you’re not going to make very much progress. Grab a bite before the event.
Want to learn more? Check out our other business posts for more tips on professional etiquette and your business.
In this article we get personal with Andrea DeLucia, one of QC Event School’s new tutors. She opens up about her career, her inspiration, and her recipe for success.
What made you decide to pursue a career in event planning?
Event planning allows me to be creative and work with people, which I have always loved, while maintaining a flexible schedule. In the early days of my career, flexibility was so important to me in terms of raising my children. I also found that I was very passionate about putting together events through from concept to design. It was something that came very naturally to me and I had a lot of confidence in my abilities.
Tell us about your early years. How did you get your name out there, find clients, and hone your craft?
To be honest, my early years were difficult. I was unsure about what I wanted to do and about how to transition between careers. I wasn’t sure how to get started but I knew that talent alone wasn’t enough. Teaming up with the right vendors helped to get my name out there. I discovered clients through word-of-mouth and by experimenting with different advertising methods. I found that once I completed an event, people would talk about its success. These recommendations helped to build my clientele, and still help even today. Obviously, I had to be relentless with my marketing endeavours and follow-up!
What was your “big break”?
Realistically, I don’t think my “big break” was a traditional one. I consider it to be more of an inspirational turning point. I attended an event in California a few years after starting my business and I met Preston Baily, a celebrity wedding designer, who has always been a huge inspiration to me. I met so many amazing entrepreneurs and learned so much. The event inspired me to push the limits and really try to make my business known. I made the decision to reach out to UGG Australia, who had made an appearance at the California event. I wanted to see if they would let me do a photo shoot promoting their new UGG boot in their I Do collection. After months of calls and e-mails, I produced an amazing shoot that was featured in ISS magazine (among other publications and blogs). This was the assurance I needed. It confirmed that my hard work and perseverance were paying off.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
This may sound a bit cliché, but my main source of inspiration is my husband and our four children. In my business, I strive to achieve success for them. A lot of other things inspire me, too: colors, great ideas, or client stories. I love to listen to other professionals and learn from their experiences. I am constantly being inspired!
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Any past career decisions you would change?
There are definitely some things I would change if I had to do it all again. My answer, though, is yes. I love what I do and am proud of how far I’ve come. No business is perfect, and the biggest lesson I can take from my experience thus far is that you can’t please everyone. No matter how hard you work, you simply can’t make everyone happy all the time. Being an event coordinator means offering stellar customer service; at the end of the day, you need to make the customer happy. There are some times when that just isn’t going to happen, no matter how hard you work.
One thing I would change if I could go back is the decision to work independently at first. With a partner, you can divide tasks and brainstorm together. Running a business by yourself isn’t always easy. Your success is yours, but so are your failures.
What are some “golden rules” you believe every event planner should follow?
I believe that every event planner makes her own rules. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. However, there are a few rules that I think we should all live by. Firstly, you must accept that not every client is right for you. If there isn’t a good fit, don’t try to force that connection. The experience should be positive for both sides.
Secondly, never reduce your price or your worth. If a client doesn’t want to pay for quality work, then they should find another planner within their price range. Our time is valuable! Time is money, so don’t devalue your time.
And, finally: be open and don’t get frustrated. As event planners, we are all a team to some degree. Be open to other planners and help them strive to better their business. You will find the same kindness in return!
Do you have any final words of wisdom for QC’s students?
You are about to embark on a spectacular journey. Finish the courses and use the resources that QC provides. Take your time and work at your own pace. Figure out what quality makes you special and gives your business a unique factor. QC is providing you with a very solid foundation in the industry, but it is very important to continue to educate yourself after your course has finished. Take part in learning seminars and special training opportunities. The event industry is always evolving and changing. You need to keep up so you can offer your clients the latest and greatest styles, decor, etc.
Andrea is a tutor in QC’s Event and Wedding Planning and Event Decor courses. For more information on these courses, head over to QC Event School.
Whether you’re a makeup artist or a writer, an event planner or a designer, you are a professional.
But what does that really mean? Basically, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Especially when looking for clients or applying for a job, the slightest lack of professionalism can send that opportunity out the window.
Many professionals who are just starting out have a difficult time with where to draw the line between their personal and professional lives. Whether you’re meeting with a client, networking with partners, dealing with vendors, or interviewing for a job, you should always follow the simple rules of maintaining professionalism. Below you’ll find some of our greatest pet peeves when it comes to dealing with professionals.
DO: Check your spelling
Good luck, my friend. That portfolio is going in the trash.
Same when looking for a job, if a resume or cover letter contains a spelling or grammar mistake (or both), 10:1 you won’t be called in for an interview.
While you might be in the habit of writing “slang” when speaking to friends, texting or emailing, it’s so important to drop that habit when communicating in a professional manner. Whether you’re emailing, texting, or messaging someone over social media, always:
- Use full sentences. This includes proper punctuation.
- Check your spelling, and then check it again. You can use the spell checking feature in your internet browser to help ensure you avoid the most common spelling mistakes.
- Write in a clear and concise manner. Business communications are short and sweet. Of course you always want to be friendly and courteous, but there’s no need to drone on about irrelevant topics.
Interested in learning more about writing good business emails?
Read this: “Writing Tips: Sharpen Email Messages“
DON’T: Mix business and recreation on social media
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram… and dozens more social media networks to choose from. You probably have your own profile on at least some of these networks, where you keep in touch with family and friends.
One of the greatest mistakes you can make is to use your own personal account as a front for your business as well.
It’s easy to create business pages on all these networks, where you can share content relevant to your business without sharing personal information.
Going a step further, if your personal profile contains discussions that could be considered controversial or offensive, or photographs that depict you in a less-than-professional manner, you might want to think about changing your privacy settings to a “private” profile. This is especially crucial for job hunters!
DO: Dress appropriately
When you own a small business and especially if you work from home, there’s a tendency to think more casually. Especially if you’re entertaining clients, avoid the pajamas, sweat pants, or that favorite sweatshirt with the holes in it. This includes having clients over to your home studio for a makeup trial!
- Cleanliness and proper grooming are number one. If you’re working with a client’s clothing or makeup, let your client see you use a good hand sanitizer.
- Avoid heavily scented soaps or perfumes. Some clients can be very sensitive or even allergic to scents.
- Avoid jeans, shorts, cargo pants, t-shirts, etc. They give off the wrong impression.
- Invest in a smart business suit or two.
Looking for a new job?
Check out job interview styles!
DON’T: Become best friends with your clients
This is especially tricky for event planners or designers. You really get to know your client, in and out. You help them design their house or plan the most important day of their lives. Frankly, when you spend that much time with anyone, it’s easy to become friends.
But you need to know where to draw the line. Your clients have hired you to do a job:
- While there’s nothing wrong with giving a client your cell phone number, you should also give them guidelines on when they should use it. Keep phone conversations professional.
- Event planners are sometimes encouraged to join their clients for a meal or a drink on the big day, as a thank-you. Don’t. Your clients are there to enjoy themselves… You’re there to work.
- Avoid becoming friends with your clients on social media. You should have a professional page for your business as we discussed above, and your clients are surely encouraged to join your network. But when it comes to your own personal profile, keep that for your friends and family.
DO: Your homework
This is especially important if you’re networking with other professionals or interviewing for a job. You want to make sure you have enough background information to lead a conversation and ask intelligent questions!
- Research the individual or the company ahead of time on their website and social media.
- Take notes and memorize a few interesting facts about them or their business that you can use if the conversation grows stale.
- Come up with a few questions you’d like to ask, before you even meet. This will show that you’re serious about the opportunity, whether it’s a new business relationship or a new job.
DON’T: Give Up!
Mistakes happen, and that’s how we learn! A lack of professionalism can lead to a lost opportunity, but as long as you learn not to make the same mistake twice, you’ll be ahead of the game!
Do you have a professionalism pet peeve? Share it in a comment!
Benjamin Moore is always a favorite, “go to” site for interesting ideas, new products and all round color and painting advice and help.
The site’s Personal Color Viewer is a flexible, powerful tool that is easy to use but offers really insightful tools and options. Found in the section of the site reserved for professionals, it offers excellent options that allow you to demonstrate to your clients exactly what you are proposing for a project.
You can easily wash any number of model rooms with an infinite variety of different paint options, or simply download a room from a current project of your own and use the tool to try out and demonstrate various possibilities for your clients.
Beware, however! This tool is probably a better time waster than Free Cell or Facebook. You can easily pass a pleasant hour experimenting with different color ways when you really should have been concentrating on writing!
Do you have a favorite online tool? Tell us about it!
Considering leaving your job to start a new career? Here’s what you need to know!
Are you tired with the ins and outs of your current job? Are you sitting behind a desk all day counting the minutes until you get to go home?
If you’re unhappy with your current job, you’ve probably thought of changing careers. Many of QC’s students come to us from full time corporate jobs that just aren’t right for them.
But, I know what you’re probably thinking. If you have a full time job that pays the bills, you’re probably terrified of giving it up for the uncertainty of chasing your dreams. I don’t blame you. It’s incredibly scary!
But don’t worry. You CAN chase your dreams without risking too much. You just need to be smart about your approach.
First thing’s first: make sure you choose a career path that’s right for you. The last thing you want is to end up in another job that you don’t care for.
Choose something you believe in and that’s based on something you LOVE to do! Do you rearrange your living room or bedroom every two months? Interior Decorating might be right up your ally. Are you the ultimate organized person who just loves to put on a great party? Event and Wedding Planning could be for you.
But don’t just throw a dart to figure it out. If you’re not sure, try getting in touch with a few professionals in your area, and talk to them about why they love their job. Find out the good and the bad, and decide if it’s right for you.
Take your time! I know you want to get a move on, but don’t rush into it. Consider all your options.
It’s tough to break into any industry, especially without any form of training. You can become a certified professional in many different fields through distance education programs. These programs are easily completed even if you have a full time job.
How? Our student support team is asked this all the time.
Truth is, distance learning programs are designed to fit your busy lifestyle. You don’t need to travel to a campus every day and there are no hard deadlines to meet. Just work at your own pace and complete assignments when you have the time to do so.
In most of QC’s courses, if you commit a few hours a week to your studies, you can complete one of our professional programs within 4-6 months. But, that’s just an average. Some of our students complete their course in as little as two months, and some take a full three years to complete. The choice, ultimately, is yours!
Thinking about an online event planning school? Check out this handy FREE e-book, “Choosing an online event planning school that’s right for you!” and make an informed decision!
Don’t quit your day job… yet
Once you’ve been certified in your chosen field it can be tempting to quit your job and dive head-first into starting your own business. And hey, if you have the means to give it a go, then by all means, dive in!!
But, for most of us, there are bills to pay and maybe even a family to support. You can get started with your new business on a small scale, part-time, while keeping your full time job (for now), just to reduce that stress level.
Slowly get your name out there by taking on a few clients whom you can work with on evenings and weekends. Build up a reputation for yourself, and save whatever earnings you make from your work, so that when you ARE ready to go at it full-time, you’ll have a strong foundation to rely on.
Be careful! If you have a day job, it can be tempting to use company time & resources to work on your own projects. Don’t fall into this trap. If you decide to stay at your full-time job, it deserves 100% of your focus while you’re there.
If you don’t want to start a business…
If owning your own business isn’t your cup of tea, you can always try to get a job within a corporation who offers your services (a party planning service or a home staging firm, for example.)
If a firm or agency hires you on as a salaried employee, then there’s little risk in accepting it. Just be aware of what you’re signing up for. Be sure to be crystal clear on the type of work you’re expected to do, and of whatever “non-compete” clause they may require you to sign.
Once you’re fully informed and a job offer is promising, then you’re all set!
When to spread your wings
When you get to a point where your reputation is spreading, you’re getting new clients regularly, and you could fill your entire days with your own projects, it’s time to say goodbye to your day job and hello to your new, full time, dream career.
Hopefully, by now you’ve saved up a bit of a nest egg to support your new business as it grows and expands.
Don’t rush! Don’t take on more than you can handle, and give it your all. This is where you wanted to end up, and you’ve made it. Now take your time and do it right!
Give it a go!
If you’re smart about it, there’s very low risk in starting a new career. Take your time and don’t rush into it. There’s nothing wrong with going at it part-time for a few years before you take the plunge. You can build up your skills and gain some extra cash at the same time!
What are some of your concerns with changing careers? Let us know in a comment or contact us to talk to a Student Support Agent today!