Archive for March, 2015

Spring is just around the corner! The birds are out in full swing, chirping and playing in the bushes and there is grass peaking out beneath the piles of slowly melting snow. It’s finally time to plan some fun outdoor design projects in honor of the changing season. Here are some project ideas that are low-budget, use up-cycled materials and will brighten your outdoor space to compliment the blooming foliage!

Craft Supplies

Bird Feeders:

Bird feeders are a formal invitation to our feathered friends to flock to our outdoor spaces, bringing with them a flurry of delightful songs and playful antics. These two feeders are great outdoor design projects because they are easy to assemble, use items you may already have around the home or could easily find second-hand and will add a unique flair to your backyard décor!

Tea Party Anyone?

Ingredients:

    • Teacup and saucer
    • Super glue
    • Various items for hanging or affixing the feeders
    • Bird seed!
  • There are many tutorials out there for this type of project so I’ve listed a few below with detailed instructions and different options for hanging or affixing the feeders in your yard. You can make a matching bird bath with a slightly larger teacup and saucer!

    • Hanging Teacup Feeder Using Cup Handle courtesy of Mommy Moment
  • Elegant Globe Feeders

    Ingredients:

    • Glass globe (from an old lamp or light)
    • Rope
    • Birdseed!
  • Design Sponge provided a step-by-step tutorial for these super simple and elegant bird feeders.

    Bird Bath (Kid Friendly):

    Bird Bath

    If you’re going to invite birds into your outdoor space, why not make a corresponding bird bath so they can splash around and cool off on those hot summer days! This bird bath is super simple to make and can be customized to match your current outdoor décor or furniture. It’s also a great project for anyone with kids since they can help pick the colors and paint the pots!

    Terra Cotta Bird Bath

    Ingredients:

    • Three Terra Cotta Pots (one 14”, one 12” and one 10”)
    • One Terra Cotta Saucer (16”)
    • Acrylic-based silicone caulking
    • Paint
  • The Culinary Cougar has a great tutorial for this project with easy to follow instructions.

    Fun Outdoor Design Projects Using Old Tires

    Have some old, worn out tires that you’re not sure what to do with? Why not turn them into charming planters or plant beds! With a little ingenuity and carefully selected spray-paint you can brighten your yard and help the environment at the same time. Tire planters are relatively easy to make, eco-friendly and add rustic charm to your outdoor spaces!

    Affixed Planters with Cascading Flowers

    Ingredients:

    • Old tires
    • Drill (for drilling the bottom of the tires for drainage)
    • Large screws/washers
    • Potting soil and plants
  • This tutorial from Recaptured Charm will walk you through this easy project with pictures of the various stages. You can choose to leave the tires as is or kick the project up a notch by painting the tires with spray paint to match your outdoor color scheme!

    Recycled Tire Planter Bed

    Don’t have an outdoor fixture to screw a planter into? No problem! You can make colorful planter beds instead!

    Ingredients:

    • Old tires
    • Weed block (landscape fabric)
    • Stapler Gun
    • Spray Paint & Painters Tape (for designs!)
    • Potting soil and plants
  • Follow the instructions provided by Recycle Reuse Renew Mother Earth Projects and check out her other projects!

    Spring Wreaths

    Spring Flowers

    Colorful wreaths hung on front doors add curb appeal to your home and help spread spring fever across the neighborhood! Bring smiles to your neighbors’ faces with these whimsical up-cycled wreaths (and perhaps looks of envy as well!)

    Unique Umbrella Wreath

    What comes to mind when you think of spring? Blooming flowers and of course, spring showers! Celebrate both aspects of the season with this simple but eye-catching wreath.

    Ingredients:

    • Vintage-style umbrella
    • Grocery bags
    • Floral stems (real or fake)
  • Check out the adorable wreath from Green Owl Crafts.

    Quaint Monogram Wreath

    Want a spring wreath that stands out and is personalized for your family name? This one might be for you!

    Ingredients:

    • Oval picture frame
    • Burlap ribbon
    • Thin ribbon
    • Sheet moss
    • Chipboard letter
    • Hot glue gun
  • Daisy Mae Belle kindly provides step-by-step instructions for this outdoor design project.

    I hope these projects have inspired you to take any odds and sods you have hanging around the house and turn them into something fabulous! These types of eco-friendly projects can minimize your impact on the environment, support local animals and foliage and make your outdoor space stand out. #Winning!

    We’d LOVE to hear your ideas for up-cycled DIY outdoor design projects so please comment below with your design plans for the spring!

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    March 23, 2015 7:00 am

    QC’s Guide to Project Management

    Project Management Ew 2

    It’s a term that can intimidate and put off many professionals. The thought of “project management” leads many people to envision old businessmen in suits around a conference room table with charts and graphs, arguing about things like “deliverables” and “scope creep”. Ew.

    Truth is, every business owner, every manager, participates in project management whether that’s what they call it or not.

    It’s the key to any successful business: planning ahead to ensure things are completed on time and within budget. Having a basic understanding of basic project management methods will help you become a well-rounded business owner and professional.

    Regardless of the method you use, there are some key elements that one must follow when planning a project.

    Let’s pause. The word “project” deserves a definition. It can mean anything from a case study, to a single blog article, to a full-blown home renovation.

    Goals & Requirements

    First thing’s first: write down what you expect to see as a finished product. What, in your mind or in your understanding, would classify the project as “successful”. If it’s a particularly large project, you’ll likely have many goals… in which case you’ll want to list them in order of priority.

    Keep these goals handy and when you’re working on your project, continue to refer back to them. It’s amazing how easily human beings get side-tracked and focus on details that really don’t matter in the end. Before you start a task, ask yourself if that task will help you reach the end goal(s). If the answer is “no”, then your time is likely best spent elsewhere.

    On top of your overarching goals and objectives for the project, are there any requirements you must meet? This will probably include elements like your budget, target audience, language, and – if you’re working with a client – any requirements from your clients (colors, themes, etc.)

    You’ll also want to establish who your stakeholder(s) is or are. The stakeholder is whoever has the “final say” on the project. This person will be the one to help you establish all your requirements for the project, and the one who will decide – at the end of the day – if the end product meets those requirements.

    Note: This is arguably the most important part of project management. Take your time and work with the stakeholder(s) to make sure they agree with your interpretation of the requirements for the project. If you’re the stakeholder, then you’re in great company! If your stakeholder is a client, this is where a good client interview (probably several) will be key.

    Project Management Stakeholders

    Breaking Down Individual Tasks

    Here’s where the nitty-gritty comes in. An effective project manager (yes, that’s you!) will work very hard to list every, single, task required of a project in order for it to see completion.

    The devil’s in the details!

    You’ll want to get quite granular in your task descriptions. The best way to achieve this, is to work backwards.

    Start with your end goal. Let’s say the project is the launch of a brand new online store. Next, list the 5 or 6 main tasks needed to achieve this launch. Let’s say the launch has 6 major tasks that need to be completed before it’ll be ready for publishing:

    1. Wireframe
    2. Text
    3. Images
    4. Shopping Cart
    5. Design & Layout
    6. Testing & Launch

    Next, break down each of THOSE tasks into the 5-10 sub-tasks required.

    For example, the task “text” would be further broken down into six subtasks, for each webpage:

    1. Research
    2. First Draft
    3. Review
    4. Peer Review
    5. Proofread
    6. Final copy

    Depending on the project, there could be 3 or 4 levels of sub tasks. Your task list will probably end up looking like a big tree!

    Busy Schedule

    Planning for Time

    Almost every single project will have a firm deadline. This could be the date of an event, a publication date, a meeting or conference date. Make sure you know what date this is!

    Now, are there any secondary due dates that are set-in-stone? Do you have client meetings scheduled? Maybe it’s a first draft for an editor? Again, make sure you have ALL these dates written down.

    Next, go back to your task list as discussed above, and try to estimate the amount of time you think it’ll take to complete each of these tasks. You can either go at a high level and just estimate in days, or go much more specific and estimate in hours or even minutes!

    Personally, I find planning tasks in terms of “days” works pretty well, drilling down to half-days or quarter-days for very small tasks.

    Choosing your Method

    The project management method you use will depend on a few factors.

    The first is how many people you have working on the same project. If you’re a one-man (or woman) show, then likely the method you choose doesn’t really matter since only one task will be completed at a time. If you have multiple people working on the same project, you’ll want to use a method that allows each person to work effectively to help you reach your end goals!

    You’ll also want to consider the skillset of those working on the project. Do they all have identical skills, or do you have a few specialists who will work on only select tasks?

    Next, look at your task list. Are all the tasks dependent on one another? Does task A need to be completed before Task B can start, and so on? In most cases, you’ll likely find that some tasks need to be done sequentially while some can be done independently.

    If we return to our online store launch example, for instance, it’s definitely a good idea to get the text finalized before you choose the images for your site. However, while these tasks are being completed, you can also have a developer work on the shopping cart.

    With those two elements in mind, consider which of the following methods work best for you:

    Classic Waterfall Method

    This linear approach is also considered “classic project management” by some industry veterans.

    True to its name, the waterfall method works wonderfully for projects where one task depends on the previous one in order to complete the project. Once everything is complete and absolutely perfect, the project is complete.

    It’s very simple: Complete task A, then move on to task B, and so on. Assign due dates to individual tasks, working backward from the final project due date and based on your time estimates for each task.

    Classic Waterfall Method

    Using the online store example again, let’s say it’s due next Friday March 27th. I’ve established that the final two tasks are layout (estimated 2 days to complete), followed by testing (estimated 1 day to complete).

    Giving myself a bit of a buffer, the due date for the “testing” task (with all its sub-tasks) will be Thursday the 26th. Working backward from there, and knowing the testing task will take me a day, the “layout” task therefore cannot be due any later than Wednesday the 25th.

    The great news about the waterfall project management method is that it’s very MS-Excel friendly. You can easily download about a hundred different templates for Gantt charts that will help you plot all your tasks and figure out their due dates!

    Agile Method

    Agile project management has increased in popularity over the past 10 years. The word “agile” is taken quite literally… meaning, flexible!

    In an agile method, you’ll pair tasks that must be completed sequentially with tasks that can be completed at any time. The goal of agile is to complete (meaning, launch, publish, release) portions of the project while continuing to work on other tasks.

    For instance, with the online store launch, an agile approach to the project would see us publishing each web page as it’s completed, while we’re still working on other pieces of the site.

    This type of process is most useful when your project is a specific “product” and not a “service”. For instance, an agile approach to organizing a fashion show wouldn’t be very practical!

    By contrast, a home renovation project might be exactly the perfect situation for an agile approach. In this case, you might complete the living room first, then move on to the kitchen, then the bathroom… this might be more practical for the homeowners than gutting the entire house and working on all the plumbing, then all the electricity, then all the painting, and so on.

    Agile Method

    While both agile and waterfall methods will have the same completion date (or close to it), the agile method will allow you to “deliver” parts of your project in increments.

    Where the waterfall method will rely on a Gantt Chart, the agile method is best organized on a board where you can write tasks on cards or post-its, and move them from a “to do” column to a “doing” column and finally to a “done” column.

    Pro Tip: If you like the idea of this board approach, check out Trello – an online software that quickly allows you to organize a project by individual task.

    Once it’s all done

    Something not many people bother with – though it’s highly beneficial – is to take some time once your project is complete to look back and analyze how the entire project was done, from top to bottom. Are there any elements that could have gone better? Did you encounter any unexpected delays? And on the flip side, did anything go particularly well? Answering these questions will allow you to plan your next project more effectively.

    Now get to it!

    If you’re the type of person who has the “it’ll happen when it happens” philosophy, I challenge you to try this more practical approach to your next project. I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    We’re curious! What methods of project management work the best for you? Do you have any other tips on project management for beginners? Let us know in a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

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    The tutors here at QC Design School are all design professionals currently working within the industry. They have years of experience and specialized knowledge and they use this to guide our students through their courses. Who better, then, to ask for tips on student success and improvement? We spoke to QC tutor and professional interior designer and decorator Tracy Campbell about which habits she sees her top students practicing and what she recommends for students who wish to improve their work.

    Think outside the box

    What are some habits of successful students?

    My most successful students:

    • Think outside-the-box. When presented with a problem, they come up with more than one solution.
    • Follow course instructions to a tee.
    • Submit detailed, typed notes.
    • Submit professional assignments.
  • What are some things that students can do to improve their feedback and become top students?

    Every student can be a top student if they apply themselves. I would encourage all students to:

    • Not only read, but also study and then apply what they’ve learned.
    • Don’t rush to complete the course. Instead, relax and enjoy the journey.
    • I repeat…follow course instructions to a tee. It’s the key to their success.
    • If students need clarification on any part of their unit, contact the school before they submit an assignment. We want students to succeed!
    • Submit one unit at a time. Each unit builds on the previous unit.
    • Submit typed notes.
    • Submit professional work.
  • What kind of attitudes do you find your most successful students have?

    The kind of attitude that makes for a successful student is one who:

    • Doesn’t make excuses as to why part of the unit may be missing.
    • Provides more content than what is required.
    • Submits detailed work.
    • Submits professional work.
  • Be professional

    Are there any specific bad habits that students who want to be successful should avoid?

    In order to succeed, students should follow these simple instructions:

    • Ensure submission folders are free of coffee and/or food stains.
    • Follow instructions to a tee. If asked to include the wall thickness of a room, then add the wall thickness. If asked to include a floor plan of a living room without furniture, don’t include a bedroom with furniture.
    • Double check to ensure their work is complete before submitting an assignment.
    • Submit typed notes with no spelling or grammatical errors. Never rely on spell check alone.
    • Use a ruler to draw all lines.
    • Use scissors to cut out magazine samples.
    • Use pinking shears to cut out fabric samples.
    • Place scotch tape under furniture templates and magazines samples.
    • Use a pencil and/or a black artist marker to draw floor plans.
    • Never use a ballpoint pen.
    • Center floor plans on the page.
    • Ensure templates are neatly affixed to floor plans.
    • When asked to paint, stay within the lines.
    • Don’t make excuses like “I can’t draw”. Instead, say, “I can draw”.
  • I CAN draw

    Getting Practical: Quick tips for drawing windows!

    Here’s an example of “how-to-draw” a square-shaped window with four glass panes:

    • Draw a square (with a ruler).
    • Draw another square around the first square that is a quarter-inch larger.
    • To create a mitered corner, draw a line from the outer left corner to the top of the inner left corner.
    • Draw three additional mitered corners.
    • Divide the inner square into four equal parts and draw a vertical line down the center.
    • Draw a horizontal line in the center of the window pane.
    • Violà—students can now draw a window!
  • A note from Tracy!

    Go the Extra Mile

    Go the extra mile. If you are asked to suggest storage solutions, take it one step further and search online for a visual, and then include the link. Most clients cannot visualize an idea unless they see an example. Here’s a wonderful closet organizing solution.

    So students, before you ‘erect the walls’ (submit each unit), read, study, and then submit only your best work. This will ensure you’re creating a solid foundation that will carry you into the exciting field of Interior Design and Decorating.

    Happy Studying,

    Tracy Campbell, IDDP, ISRP, AIOP, PCCTM

    Apply these habits!

    Following tips and tricks like the ones recommended by Tracy will help set you firmly on the path to success! Remember, there is always room for improvement and there is no shame in seeking help when you need it. Students who remain open to feedback and really apply the advice of their tutors are students who will really experience the rewards of their hard work!

    If you’d like to learn more about good study and work habits for new and learning design professionals, check out the courses here are QC Design School!


    March 11, 2015 7:00 am

    Top Tips for Stress Management

    STOP STRESSING BEFORE I SLAP YOU!

    I’m sure every professional has heard those words once or twice. Just in a moment when you’re about to have a panic attack, someone comes along and very helpfully suggests that you should just calm down. “Thanks, friend. Never thought of that!” It’s the equivalent of the dentist telling you to relax before she pulls a tooth. Doesn’t help.

    That said, I’m on board and totally agree that people need to calm down in general. There seems to be a strange cultural phenomenon that says if you’re not stressed by your job, you’re not working hard enough. I really don’t understand where this one came from, but all you have to do is observe people in a business environment to know it’s true.

    If you take a step back and investigate further, you’ll notice that the most successful and happiest entrepreneurs and professionals are some of the most easy-going people in the world. These are the people who understand how to keep their stress levels at bay.

    Here’s how you can do it, too!

    Stress Free Zone

    #1 – Keep your work at work

    Smart phones are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, who doesn’t love having an internet machine in their back pocket at all times? On the flip side, it means that your emails are always with you, and that flashing notification light makes you feel lazy if you ignore it for too long.

    But the number one most useful piece of advice I can give you when it comes to stress management is to actually disconnect when you head home at the end of the day. Focus on your family, your pets, your hobbies. Your work will be waiting for you the next day, don’t worry.

    Turn off the email notifications on your phone. You really don’t need a “beep” and flashing light every time you get a newsletter delivered to your business inbox. If it makes you feel better, check your email once (yes, only once) in the evening in case of emergencies (which is very unlikely to actually happen, by the way). Before long, you’ll stop even doing that and you’ll actually find yourself looking for something to do on your evenings and weekends. You know, something OTHER than “catching up on work”.

    So disconnect when you get home and only use your smartphone for what it was intended: ordering pizza and playing Candy Crush.

    #2 – Plan to work, work your plan

    Have you ever sat at your computer desk for the better part of a day only to leave thinking you’ve accomplished absolutely nothing? That’s probably because emails, meetings, colleagues, phone calls, more emails, and social media got in the way. It happens to everyone, and is an especially prominent issue with small business owners.

    Do yourself a favor: start making it a point to block out a 1-2 hour period of time each day for “work”. Put it in your personal calendar and make sure your colleagues/employees know you’re busy during this time. Again, turn off your email notifications (including the desktop ones!) and don’t answer calls unless you know they’re crazy-important. Now take out your long-overdue “to do” list and start knocking off the important stuff. You know, the stuff you know NEEDS to get done but that you never have the time for. Here’s your chance. You’re welcome.

    Trust me. This is a very difficult habit to adopt but once you have, it’s amazing just how much you’ll get done.

    Set Aside Time

    #3 – Eat, Drink and be Merry

    In other words, look out for #1 (that’s you, by the way).

    A healthy body breeds a healthy mind. Give yourself permission to take a good half hour for an honest-to-God breakfast in the morning and a good wholesome lunch during the workday. Drink lots of water, and try to get a good uninterrupted night’s sleep. A good workout once or twice a week can also do wonders for your overall stress levels.

    And on the flip side, make some time for yourself to truly and completely unwind at least once a week. For me, that’s a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine and a book, or a nice long walk at the dog park. For others, it might be a wilderness hike or dinner with friends. Whatever works for you!

    Let’s pause. I know what you’re thinking.

    “That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m TOO BUSY to do any of that! That’s why I’m stressed! Don’t you get it?”

    Trust me. I do get it.

    But the fact of the matter is, most of us are actually caught in the belief that our work life defines us. And it really shouldn’t!

    Relaxing Bath 2

    Think about it: if you were to take a half hour every week for a bubble bath, would your business go bankrupt? Would you lose clients? Would your colleagues end up hating or resenting you? For 99.99% of you, the answer is “no”.

    I’m hoping most people realize this truism BEFORE they burn out and have to take a few months’ stress leave. Once you admit to yourself that you can afford to take care of yourself, believe me you’ll become a calmer, happier person.

    And isn’t that everyone’s ultimate goal?

    So try it. Just for a week or two at first. Think of it as a mini-challenge: turn off your notifications, don’t answer emails after working hours, set aside some time to work every day and adopt a healthier lifestyle. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me! Just because. Try it.

    What are some of your favorite ways to unwind after a long day? Or are you someone who never takes the time to do so? Let us know in a comment!

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    March 10, 2015 10:23 am

    Spring and Summer Design Trends of 2015

    You’ve probably heard the age-old term ‘spring cleaning’ a thousand times. Perhaps you’ve even participated in clearing winter clutter out of your home or office for a fresh spring start. Cleaning a space up for the new season is great, but what if it’s not quite enough to get you feeling refreshed? Try updating a room with some of these 2015 spring and summer design trends to give the place a fresh new feel!

    Bring the cottage home

    Bring cottage home

    For many people, there’s nothing better than relaxing at the cottage on hot summer’s day. Why not enjoy that feeling a little longer? By incorporating small, cottage-themed visuals into your home’s key rooms, you can borrow some of that calming summer atmosphere before you’ve even unlocked the cottage doors for the season. Think of your favorite outdoor activities. Does fishing make you feel at ease? Does your family enjoy spending time together canoeing on the lake? Kick start the positive feelings that cottage activities give you by adding some white and navy nautical themed throw blankets, tracking down a pair of rustic looking wooden end tables, or making canvas prints of your favorite family sailing picture. Spending time at the cottage is a classic summer staple, but incorporating your love for the lake house into your actual home décor is particularly popular this year.

    Contrasting floral patterns

    Nothing updates a room for the spring like a floral accent. Floral patterns can be busy or subtle, bright or soft-hued. They can be used to highlight your favorite color in a room or balance and contrast more prominent shades. This spring, consider incorporating floral patterns into your décor to add some cheer. Of course, too much of a good thing can be overwhelming so be sure to strategize your use of florals, particularly if you’re adding them to a room that already has a color scheme or theme. Evaluate your space and decide whether you have room for a statement piece, like a blush pink vintage floral chaise, or whether you’re better sticking to a few classically busy floral throw pillows. The goal is to give the space some cheer without letting a seasonal trend take over the entire room.

    Stay calm and enjoy pastels

    Pastel Decor

    Updating the color scheme of your décor might not seem like a drastic change, but it can completely overhaul the look and feel of your entire room! While bright colors are always fun for the summer, this year is all about toning it down a shade or two. Think serene and blissful, rather than loud and exciting. This summer is bringing in light blues and sea foam greens with soft, mustard yellow accents. If that combination isn’t for you, consider soft earthy palettes featuring blush pinks and shades of creamy brown. Spring and summer are definitely the right time to break out your brightest dresses but warm weather and sunshine can be incorporated into your home décor more subtly. Look around as you walk through the fresh spring air and pick out the pastel hues that are noticeable between the brighter tones. Use these colors to bring a soft transformation into your home this spring.

    Take it back in time

    For some people, springtime décor updates call for more than just a few accent pieces in their master bedroom. What if you want to completely transform the look and theme of your living room? Maybe it’s time to overhaul your entire theme! Vintage pieces are always in style when it comes to investing in furniture, and this year is no exception. For spring and summer 2015, ‘mid-century modern’ is the way to go. This design trend is exactly what it sounds like. Look for modern furniture that has been designed with the 50’s in mind. If you like to invest in genuine period pieces, look for antique and vintage sales featuring post-war era furniture sets. The beauty of vintage pieces trending their way to the top is that affordable replicas become available. These are a good alternative for those who admire a classic style but aren’t ready to commit to an entire theme, or perhaps to vintage prices. If you dream of a living room that is reminiscent of your grandparents first home together but you don’t have the budget to invest in original post-war sets, browse modern furniture stores for designers who have incorporated the style into their line for the 2015 season. Be mindful, however, that replicas aren’t always the same high quality as original vintage pieces.

    Bring the indoors outside

    Bring indoor outside

    Great décor can go farther than the four walls of your home! This season, you should take advantage of your outdoor spaces in comfort and style. Porch and patio furniture featuring a combination of durably rustic wrought iron and plush cushioning are very popular. Atmospheric lighting, plenty of lounge-worthy seating, and even carpeted patio areas are just the thing get you out of your winter hibernation and draw you into the fresh air. The more comfortable an area is, the more time people spend there. Why not invest in transforming your outdoor areas this spring so you can take full advantage of them throughout the warmer season? Of course, your local climate should be considered before you deck out your porch and patio with fluffy carpets and absorbent seat pads, but many outdoor sets feature cushioning that can easily be snatched inside when the rain comes. While you don’t necessarily want to drag your sofa out onto the front lawn, building an outdoor eating area that looks like it might also suit your dining room is a popular choice this year.

    All things in moderation!

    Everyone loves a good trend, but remember how they shift and change. While you might not rely on these trends to determine your entire home décor, refreshing your space for the summer according to these elements could be just the kick off your 2015 season needs.

    Would you like to learn more about seasonal trends and home décor? Check out the courses here at QC Design School!

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    When you think of owning your own business, you think of doing what you love, setting your own hours, being your own boss… sounds just wonderful, doesn’t it?

    And it can be. It really can be a wonderful fantastic experience. Many business owners I know swear that they would NEVER go back to working for someone else. They absolutely love being in charge.

    That having been said, odds are these people knew what they were getting into when they started on their journey. Owning a small business isn’t always fun and games. The reality is there is a lot of work that goes into it… and work that you don’t get paid for. Luckily, there are many different tools that can help you with managing your business.

    Here are some you’ll want to research NOW!

    A good Content Management System (CMS) for your website

    Build your Website

    I really, really hope your business has a website. If it doesn’t, you need to build one, yesterday. With any luck, your site will be built on a platform that makes it easy to edit the content, add pages, move content around, build your blog and more.

    If you’re in the market for a CMS, you’ll want to road test a few and see which ones you like best. Some of my favorite ones include WordPress, SquareSpace, and Weebly.

    With a good CMS, you’ll be able to spend less time coding your web pages and spend more time focusing on top-quality content!

    Read more about building your own website here!

    Social Media Management Software

    Assuming you’re in charge of your business marketing efforts, you’ll probably be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. at least once a day, if not more.

    Social media is essential for any business to keep in touch with its customers, but keeping on top of all those different channels can be exhausting and overwhelming. Luckily there are a few awesome tools to help you schedule posts in advance, monitor comments, and even read and reply to direct messages on multiple platforms and accounts – all with one login!

    Much like a CMS, Social Medial Management tools are available in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll want to find one that suits your goals and tech-savviness. Two tools that you’ll at least want to consider are Hootsuite and Buffer.

    Need more info on social media? Check out this post: Social Media for Beginners

    Social Media Smartphone

    Project Management Tools

    The lists… the lists!

    It can take a while to find a good project management software that will actually save you time and not add to it! But once you find that software, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

    A good project management tool will work with you, not against you. The best advice I have is, look for one that doesn’t feel like work. If you’re a very organized, list-driven person who already writes everything down, then something like BaseCamp or Microsoft Project might be right up your alley.

    If you’re like me and tend to play things by ear and shift gears every fifteen minutes, then you’ll want something much more simple. A tool like Trello or Asana might be your cup of tea.

    Again you’re not short on options here. Most of these tools are free, or if they’re paid you can at least get a trial version to test them out. Give yourself enough time to truly evaluate these types of programs. Commit to one for at least a week or two before you make up your mind!

    Email Service Provider

    Email Provider

    You probably use Outlook or Thunderbird for your business emails, and that’s just fine. What many small businesses don’t use, is an email provider for their regular client communications like newsletters.

    While most aren’t free, most email service providers can be very inexpensive depending on your list size and can save you SO much time. What’s more, an email provider will protect your business emails! Especially when you send out content such as newsletters, there’s always a chance your email will be flagged as “spam”.

    Now if you follow best practices this is extremely unlikely, but it can happen to anyone. If you use your regular business email to send out newsletters and (God forbid) your newsletter is flagged as spam, there’s a very good chance that your regular one-on-one client emails will start going into people’s “junk” folders without you even realizing it.

    For a small business, this can have devastating financial consequences.

    For that reason alone, I strongly urge all business owners to create an account with an email provider who can help you send out quality newsletter content to your email list, safely. Some of our favorite providers include MailChimp, Emma, and StreamSend.

    Accounting Software

    I love Microsoft Excel… it’s awesome. But Excel alone can’t help you with your business accounting. Unless you’re a genius, do yourself a favor and invest in a good small business accounting software. (You might want to do yourself an even bigger favor and at least pay an accountant to help you set it up!).

    Software like Quicken or Sage 50 are fairly easy to use and will help you keep track of your business cash flow, taxes, salaries, etc.

    Trust me, it’s never too early to start with this one!

    Are you planning on starting a small business? What types of tools do you think you’ll need to get off on the right foot? Let us know in a comment!

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