Archive for April, 2015

It happens; you’ve accepted a client that you do not see eye to eye with. Everyone has different preferences and styles which can make it difficult to find a harmonious balance when working together. However, as a decorator this can be an amazing challenge! Adapting to suit your clients’ needs when you have a difference of opinion is a testament to your customer service skills and helps you to grow as a designer. Below are some helpful tips to get you through the process smoothly and to give you a better understanding of how to approach interior decorating jobs when you disagree with the client!

Get Informed

You may disagree with a client because you do not fully understand their idea. Take your time to do your research! Look through popular blog posts, social media pages, and interior decorating websites to try and learn more about your client’s preferred styles. You can always reach out to other decorators who may have more experience with your client’s preferred design style to get tips and advice! Take detailed notes and do your best effort to fully understand everything your client is proposing. This shows your client that you value them, respect their wishes and have gone the extra mile to create a design they can get excited about!

Doing Design Research

Don’t take it personal

Just because you and your client do not agree on the design project, doesn’t mean your client doesn’t respect your opinion or thinks you’re a bad decorator. You may be disagreeing based on previous experience, lack of understanding or contrasting style aesthetics. Keeping emotions out of your discussions and having a positive attitude will allow both you and the client to work through the ups and downs and come to a final agreement.

Compromise

Interior Decorating Professional

Do your best to give the client a very clear outline of what you think is best, however, no matter how hard you try, the client may still disagree! In these cases, you will have to compromise. Ask the client what they liked about your proposal, what they didn’t like, and how they would change the idea! Keeping the client actively involved will improve your chances of coming to a smooth compromise and solution.

Stay professional

Even though it may be frustrating for you as the decorator to have your client continuously disagree with you, maintaining professionalism is essential to your relationship with the client and your reputation. Never speak to them in a condescending way or put down their ideas. Your client is entitled to a wish list since they’ll be the ones living with the end result, literally. You always want your clients to feel as though their opinions are of value and that you will do your best to give them the results they are looking for.

Put yourself in their shoes

It’s important to understand your client’s point of view. Why are they so insistent on a particular style? How can it work? Is there a history behind what they want? Try and see the situation from their perspective to get a better idea of how to approach the situation and propose new solutions that you can both be happy with!

Keep an open mind

This is a great opportunity for you to learn something new from your client as well as gain valuable experience on how to deal with a client who disagrees with you! Keep an open mind and take on all new ideas as though they are good ones! Being closed off to change can be damaging to yourself and to your future as a decorator.

Open Your Mind

Respect is always important

Respect between the decorator and the client is incredibly important. If you take on a client that is continuously disrespectful towards you then you may want to discontinue offering your services. In these situations, it is always best to inform the client as to exactly why you can no longer work with them and recommend them to other decorators who may be better suited to meeting their needs. Just keep in mind that respect is a two-way street. You have to give respect to expect respect in return.

Be confident in your skills!

You have both training and experience which gives you the unique opportunity to pass on your extensive knowledge to others. Perhaps you can teach the client something new! Have fun with the process and embrace the challenge that comes from a client who disagrees with you! These skills are important to have for all future interior decorating jobs!

Did we miss a helpful tip on how to deal with a client you disagree with? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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April 27, 2015 7:00 am

An 8-Rule Guide to Email Marketing

Email marketing can be one of the most effective ways to connect directly with your audience. Having people “opt-in” to your email list, you’re assured to reach people who WANT to hear from you. This is usually a very small yet extremely highly qualified pool of potential customers and influencers.

So how can you integrate email marketing into your business and marketing strategies? What are some of the rules and best practices you should follow? Hopefully this short guide will help!

Rule #1: Differentiate Between Business Emails and Marketing Emails

Business Emails

If you’re communicating one-on-one with customers, even if it’s in response to a quote request or some other automated function, these are not marketing emails. These are considered “business” emails. In 99% of cases, the email recipient will have initiated the email conversation by reaching out to you first. Business emails can be conducted without much fuss, and are directed at one single recipient – or a very small group of recipients – at a time.

Marketing Emails

Marketing emails, on the other hand, are usually blasted to a large audience who are on a list owned by the business. These recipients must have given consent to be placed on this list, and understand that they will be receiving regular communications from that business. Since marketing emails are sent to a broader audience in a less personal way, they are held to a much higher standard to protect the recipient. This guide will focus on marketing emails.

Marketing Emails

Rule #2: Use an Email Service Provider (ESP)

I’m sure you have an email address (possibly more than one) for your business. These are usually “info@yourdomain.com” or “yourname@yourdomain.com” and will be used for all your business emails.

Many small businesses make the mistake of using the same address to send their marketing emails. They will simply write out their marketing email in Outlook or Thunderbird, maybe even attach a well-designed PDF newsletter, add all the email addresses from their list into the “BCC” field, and send the email to their entire list.

This is probably the #1 greatest mistake you can make when starting out in email marketing!

Why? Because it only takes a few people to click on the “SPAM” button upon receiving that email before all your emails (business ones included) start going directly to EVERYONE’s “Junk” folders.

In order to ensure this doesn’t happen to you, there are countless services out there built exclusively to help you send out marketing emails. These are called Email Service Providers, or ESPs. They will help keep your email list clean, and will ensure that your emails conform to most email best practices.

They will also allow recipients to “unsubscribe” from your list, which is a far better solution than those users marking your emails as spam!

If your marketing emails do happen to be marked as spam and start ending up in people’s junk folders… your business emails (from your own business account) won’t be affected, as long as you use an ESP.

The benefits of an ESP

In addition to protecting your business emails, an ESP will help you design appealing marketing emails. Most ESPs provide multiple templates that can be customized for your business, without having to mess around with the code yourself.

You’ll also get some amazing metrics from an ESP that you won’t get with your regular email software. After sending out a marketing email, you’ll be able to track how many people opened the email, clicked on a link, which links were most successful, etc. This can help you gauge what type of content is most appealing to your recipients.

Rule #3: Don’t Be Sneaky About Opt-Ins

In order to build your email marketing list, you’ll ask users to “opt-in” to that list at some point. For most businesses, this is a simple “sign up for our newsletter” form on their website. Others will have an opt-in as part of other forms. (i.e. “Fill out this form to receive a quote, and check this box if you’d also like to receive our newsletter”).

However you choose to do it, make sure it’s crystal clear to people what they’re opting into and why they should care. Don’t use sneaky methods to grow your email list. They’ll come back to bite you. Many businesses are obsessed about the size of their email list and not about the quality of the email recipients.

Think of it this way: There’s no point in emailing someone who has no need for your services and no intention of ever becoming a customer. These are the recipients who are most likely to mark your emails as Spam, which is something you don’t want to happen. You want people on that list who WANT to hear from you.

So, while you want to make it easy for people to join your email list, you want them to be informed about it as well.

Subscribe Button

Rule #4: Keep your Lists Clean

After sending marketing emails, you’ll probably get a few automated replies of incorrect or invalid email addresses. These are called “hard bounces”. Make it a point to delete these names and addresses off your list. They’re worth nothing.

Going back to rule #3, you want your email list to contain email recipients who WANT to hear from you. It’s not a bad idea to conduct a more thorough cleaning of your lists, at least once a year. Here’s how:

If you’re using an ESP (please, please use an ESP!!!) then you’ll have information on who’s opened and/or clicked on every marketing email you’ve ever sent through that ESP. Periodically, you’ll want to take everyone who hasn’t so much as opened an email from you in the past 6-12 months, and send them a one-time email asking them if they really DO want to hear from you. These are called “re-confirmation” emails. A recipient needs to 1) Open the email and 2) Click on the link you provide in order to confirm that they want to continue receiving your emails. If they don’t, then they’re permanently removed from your list.

This type of regular list maintenance ensures you keep your list to a targeted, qualified group.

Rule #5: It’s All About the Content

We’ve discussed this many times before: People don’t like to be “sold to”… especially not by service businesses. When someone opts-in to your newsletter list, it’s because they believe they’ll receive something useful out of your emails.

When we talked about how to write a blog, we discussed the importance of useful content. When I say “useful content”, I mean useful for the READER, not for YOU! Many businesses send out marketing emails that talk about nothing but themselves, instead of talking to their audience.

What’s in it for ME?

That’s what readers will be asking themselves the second they see your email. They might even ask that question in order to decide whether your email is worth opening!

So be sure your emails feature content that your audience wants to read about. Next, convey that message through a punchy subject line that will encourage them to open the email.

Whats in it for ME

Don’t overdo it

It’s easy to stuff content into emails. Try not to. Your email should have one clear focus or “top story”, and can have two or three secondary messages that are less important… but try not to go much beyond that. A reader will likely only take a single action with each email. If you have two important messages competing for first place, both messages will suffer.

Rule #6: Be Consistent

Be consistent with your timing

Set an email schedule and stick to it. If you decide to email your list once a month, then make sure you have enough content every month to send out an email. Same goes if you email bi-weekly, weekly or even daily! With any luck, once you’ve built up a solid marketing list, those recipients will come to expect to receive your emails at a certain time. Don’t disappoint them!

Note: That having been said, there’s nothing wrong with sending out “one-off” emails once in a while if you have a special announcement or some piece of content you know your audience will want to see right away.

Be consistent with your design

Choose one design for your marketing emails and try to stick to it. Recipients will come to recognize your brand by your email’s design, and will become familiar with how to best navigate your emails. Take your time to select a design that’s unique, user-friendly and useful for the type of content you’ll be emailing!

Be consistent with your writing style

Marketing emails should be written in short sections that are easy to navigate. Don’t send out emails that feature long paragraphs of text unless you’re 100% certain that it’s what your audience wants (hint: there’s almost always a better way)!

Just like when you’re building your website, you’ll want to use headers, bullet points, and images to separate your email content and make it manageable for the 90% of users who will simply “scan read” it.

What’s more, choose one style of writing and stick to it. I’ve seen emails that start off in a formal 3rd person voice, to move on to a 1st person conversational tone, then go back to a third completely different voice, and so on. It’s very confusing to the reader, and gives the impression that the sender used multiple copywriters who didn’t bother communicating with each other.

Rule #7: Testing is not a Dirty Word

Some business owners are terrified of testing their marketing collateral. Generally those are the ones who don’t like to learn they’ve been doing something wrong (and would simply prefer continue making the same mistakes in perpetuity).

Please don’t be that person.

While you do want to be consistent, there’s nothing wrong with testing varying subject lines, email themes, times of day, etc. when sending your emails.

In fact, most good ESPs will have that function built into your interface. When you build your email, you’ll be able to tell the ESP what you want to test and enter a few parameters, then the program will select a random sample size out of your email list, send them the test variables, and send the winning email to the remaining members of the list.

Testing in this fashion can be incredibly useful to learn more about what your audience likes, what they’re indifferent to and, above all, what works for your business.

Testing Strategies

Rule #8: Follow the Rules

Emailing is a great way to raise your bottom line. Just be aware that in certain countries or jurisdictions, there maybe be legal requirements you must follow to send marketing emails without being fined.

Regulations can relate to how you obtain email addresses, to what information must be made available to recipients in every message, to the type of content you are or aren’t allowed to send in a marketing message. These regulations might apply to you even if your business is not located within the boundaries of the jurisdiction. For example, if one of your email recipients resides in that area or even if you simply have an email server located in that area, you may have to follow that jurisdiction’s laws.

Be informed about what you can and can’t do with your marketing emails. Luckily, most of these laws and regulations simply force businesses to conform to the best practices mentioned in this article!

I hope this guide has helped answer some questions you might have about email marketing, and you now feel more comfortable trying it for your business! With strong content and a good ESP at your side, you have a recipe to succeed.

It might take a while to build that list, so give it time and don’t give up!

Are you thinking of starting a design business? Check out the Full Business Training included with QC’s online courses!

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Congratulations! You’ve just enrolled in a new online design course and you’re ready to take your education and training to the next level. It’s an exciting time and you want to do the best you possibly can! However, working on your own can take a lot of self-discipline. Learning to balance and manage your time isn’t always the easiest task. But not to worry! Thankfully, there are many tips and tricks on how you can balance your busy schedule, get your assignments done, and make the most out of your online course!

#1: Find a quiet study place

Life is filled with distractions. Trying to complete your work while balancing a busy lifestyle and hectic schedule can be challenging! When it comes time to sit down and do your work, try finding a quiet work space dedicated to your studies.

I like to clear off a small desk or table area to give myself enough room to study and work effectively. But all students are different! If a quiet study area just isn’t possible at home, try taking a trip to a local library or a nearby café or coffee shop – most of these places now have Wi-Fi that people can access freely!

Quiet Study Space

#2: Stay Organized

There are a lot of different ways for you to stay on top of your organization throughout your online course! Here are some suggestions:

    • A Calendar: This will become your best friend. Use it to stay on track with deadlines and goals you’ve set out for yourself!
    • Binders: Binders can also be incredibly useful! They’re a great way to keep your important papers all in one place and to store them away without making a mess.
    • Apps: If you’re person that prefers to keep all your information with you at all times then you’ll love apps for keeping on top of your studies! You’ll want to check out Class Manager which is a free online app to help students manage their assignments and plan out their studies. 24me and Quip are also great apps available to help you manage your to-do list and much more all at once! Browse this list of apps to find even more tools to help you stay organized!
  • #3: Review, Review, Review!

    One of the wonderful things about an online design course is that you’re not confined to a classroom. You have the possibility of re-watching and re-reading whatever material you feel necessary. Use this to your advantage! Grab a highlighter and underline whatever you feel might be important. Take notes whenever possible and do extra research on terms you may not understand. Always remember, you can ask as many questions as you need! Fully understanding your course work is what is going to give you the step ahead when it comes to success.

    Studying Habits

    #4: Set Realistic Goals

    The flexibility of an online course is a dream for anyone who is trying to fit their studies into a very busy schedule. But it can also be an added challenge when trying to stay on top of everything all on your own.

    Try setting small realistic goals and reward yourself when you achieve them! Small goals could be setting time aside to read a chapter or getting through one of your assignments. This will give you the extra motivation you need to continue through the course and to complete everything on your desired timeline! Every student is different, so always remember to make goals and timeframes that work for you.

    #5: Always use your Feedback!

    Most schools will have a system of grading that includes feedback from a tutor or instructor. Your feedback is a very valuable tool. It’s your way to really understand exactly what your tutor needs from you for future assignments. Applying your tutor’s suggestions will help you to grow as a student and probably improve your grades as well!

    Studies show that students who are able to use their feedback positively are more inclined for success. Often times there are hidden gems of advice within your feedback that you don’t want to miss! The feedback is there to help you succeed and is very relevant to the field you are trying to break into. Try taking notes when reviewing your feedback so that you can apply it to the next assignment. If you need clarification or just want to ask questions, remember you should always ask!

    #6: Use your Student Resources

    Your student resources can be an incredible help throughout your design course! Whether it be accessing electronic materials, a career center with job searching or resume building tools, or a student forum you can use to connect with your peers, using these tools can help you achieve success in more ways than one!

    Use your Online Resources

    I personally find it really helpful to make as many rough copies as I need for my assignments so that I can ensure things turn out exactly how I want them too! If you are able to print off multiple copies of your assignments or templates, I would recommend using that to your advantage! Always make sure to check out all the extra resources your school has to offer after you’ve enrolled in the course! You never know what might be available for you to use to make things easier throughout the course.

    #7: Don’t forget to ask questions!

    There’s never any harm in asking questions when you don’t fully understand something! Reach out to your school for the clarification you need; the extra help will really make a difference.
    Remember there is no such thing as a dumb question and taking that extra step might be just what you need to bump your grade up and to get the most out of your course!

    I hope these tips and tricks give you a better idea on how to get the most out of your online design courses! Remember everyone is different and it’s best to develop a schedule and routine that fits your lifestyle. If your course is self-paced then there is no rush to completing it, so take your time and do the best you can, but most importantly enjoy yourself every step of the way! Taking the plunge and enrolling in a design course online to pursue your dream is an amazing accomplishment and hopefully everything mentioned above helps achieve exactly what you set out to do!

    Did we miss anything? If you have your own tips and tricks for making the most of your online design courses, share them in a comment below!

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    Starting a small business can be a very exciting and overwhelming enterprise! It’ll be a lot of work but don’t panic – we’re going to help you get started on the right foot. As a business owner you will need to wear multiple hats. This list may be daunting but most entrepreneurs are eager to take on the challenge:

    • Business Owner
    • Brand Manager
    • Customer Service Supervisor
    • Relationship Manager (vendors, clients)
    • Accounts Payables/Receivables
    • Marketing Coordinator
    • Human Resource Manager (if you plan to hire staff)
    • Executive Assistant
  • You’ll realize pretty quickly that the key to success is knowing your limitations. There are just some things you can’t (or shouldn’t!) do yourself. Here are a few professionals you’ll want to consult with as you begin to build your business.

    Business Woman Holding Folders

    Accountant

    Before starting a small business you will want to make sure your finances are in order, you’re following tax law to the letter and you have the funds to support the business for a set period of time. This is where an accountant comes in handy.

    An accountant can look at your business plan to determine whether your business will be profitable, how long it will take to generate profits and what the best plan would be for minimizing loss and maximizing profit over the long haul. Once you’ve launched your business you’re going to be busy. An accountant can lessen your load by helping you establish payroll, track incoming/outgoing expenses and file your taxes in April.

    Lawyer

    There are always legal hoops to jump through when starting a business and consulting a lawyer is the best way to navigate them. First, you will need to decide whether you want a lawyer from a big or small firm. There are pros and cons to both. You’ll find more one-on-one attention and affordable rates with a small firm. On the other hand, large firms will be more expensive and you’ll spend more time speaking with the firm’s staff then the lawyers themselves. Even so, large firms do hold more clout in the community and a larger legal team means you can meet all your legal needs under one roof.

    Once you find your lawyer, they can help you with a number of important tasks such as structuring your business to reduce personal liability, ensuring protection from unwanted litigation and minimizing your tax burden. Your lawyer can provide advice about licensing and regulations you may not be aware of and help you protect your intellectual property. And finally, you can look to them for help understanding the contracts you may be signing (ie. leasing agreements) as well as developing legally binding contracts for use with clients and vendors.

    Lawyer Making a Contract

    Funders

    If you don’t have all the necessary funds for starting a business then you will need to consult with outside funders. The first people to ask for seed money would be family and friends. Just keep in mind that mixing money with family/friends can be dangerous for maintaining relationships! If you’re not keen to ask for help so close to home, here are your other options:

    • Banker: If you’re planning on getting a business loan you will need to consult with a banker. You’ll want to choose one with an understanding of business accounting from a bank you have a good track record with. Your banker will guide you through the application process and help maximize your chances of being approved for a loan.
    • Investors: If you plan to ask for funding from outside investors you’ll want to consult with them fairly early on. Investors like to be involved in the planning stages as a way to minimize their risk of loss.

      Insurance Agent

      The type of insurance you will need as a business owner will depend on the scale of your business. Will you have staff? Is your business home-based or will you have a public office? Will you be using your car for business purposes? An insurance agent can help tailor an insurance package to your specific business needs.

      You’ll definitely want insurance for peace of mind. Insurance will allow you to protect your assets (ie. your vehicle, office space, equipment and yourself) and limit your risks. You’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that you’re prepared for the worst-case scenario!

      Insurance Agent Holding Contract

      Business Coaches or Entrepreneurs

      Who knows the trials and tribulations of starting a small business better than successful entrepreneurs from your field? Business owners know the journey well and can give you some real-world insight on the pros and cons of being your own boss. A business coach can pass on the knowledge they learned the hard way! You may even get referrals to trusted lawyers, accountants, bankers and insurance agents to help you get started.

      You will probably want to look outside of your location so you’re not consulting with a business owner who’d be in direct competition with you. However, don’t stray too far since markets vary wildly from place to place!

      Get Going!

      Now that you know who to consult as you build your small business you’re ready to assemble your very own A-Team! Don’t try to spread yourself too thin – who has time to become an accountant, lawyer and insurance agent when you’re starting a business?!

      If you have your own business and consulted other professionals we’d love to hear from you! Please let us know who you had on your A-Team in the comments below!

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    Are you considering a career in the design field but unsure whether you need professional training or a specific type of design certification? We can help! The first step is determining what level of education you’re looking for. Let’s start by examining the differences between a certificate, a diploma and a degree in North America.

    Certificates:

    Woman holding certificate

    A certificate is awarded upon completion of a highly specialized course that focuses on career training or a specific skill. Certificate programs are not credit-based which means it’s unlikely you’d be able to apply your certificate towards credits at other schools.

    Courses providing certificates are often short in duration (ie. 1 year or less) but the learning is intensive. Your course would not include broad topics since the training would be tailored towards a skill or profession. For example, your course would only include concepts directly related to your certificate program so if you’re taking a course with business training you can expect to learn business math and accounting concepts only (no calculus!).

    With regards to most Design Certification Programs, you would be awarded a certificate upon successful course completion. This certificate would signify to employers and clients that you’ve completed professional training in your chosen field (ie. Interior Decorating, Home Staging, etc).

    Diplomas:

    The terms diploma and certificate are often used interchangeably since they are quite similar. A diploma is usually awarded by a community/career college or technical school for becoming qualified in a profession or trade. Diploma programs are often 1-2 years in length, focus on one area of expertise but may include broader topics (English, science, philosophy, etc).

    Some diploma programs award credits you may be able to transfer your learning other schools or programs, as long as your school of choice recognizes credits from the issuing school. In other words, don’t assume your diploma is transferable. Do your research!

    Degree:

    Degrees are awarded by colleges and universities and can be earned at a few different levels such as:

    • Associate’s Degree (2-Year Program)
    • Bachelor’s Degree (3-4 Year Program)
    • Master’s Degree (Bachelor Program plus 1-2 Year Master’s Program)
    • Doctoral/PhD (Bachelor, Masters then 1-2 Year PhD Program)

    A degree program is very different from a certificate or diploma program. Degree programs are predominately based on theoretical, rather than practical, education. A degree-holder is typically viewed as well-rounded since it is mandatory that students expand their horizons by taking a broader scope of subjects (English, History, Science, etc). Students would then select a major and a minor as areas of specialization.

    Woman at graduation

    Design Certification

    As you can see, there are various levels of education. Which level you aim for will be up to you but just keep in mind that employers and clients will obviously prefer professional training over no training or no experience!

    For the most part, the design industry is unregulated world-wide. Professions that are unregulated include Interior Decorating, Home Staging, Redesign, Professional Organizing and Feng Shui. There is no over-arching certification board for these professions, however, some associations may suggest otherwise. Be assured that you are not required to pass an “examination” in addition to graduating from a certificate program. In fact, you can work in the field without any professional design training at all.

    Interior Design vs. Interior Decorating:

    The exception to the above would be Interior Design. Interior Decorating and Interior Design are commonly confused as the same profession since they both create beautiful, functional spaces. Let me explain how these two professions are completely separate.

    Interior Decorators work within the existing structure of the room and would need to hire contractors to make any structural changes. Decorators would focus on furniture arrangement, designing floorplans, textiles, window treatments, color schemes, design styles, accessorizing and more. You can work in this field without formal training.

    On the other hand, Interior Design is a highly regulated profession which requires a degree, 2 years of on-the-job training and a passing grade on a licensing exam. Interior Decorating is simply one aspect of a designer’s overall job. A designer would also work with the architectural integrity of a building and the functional design (ie. building structure, acoustics, internal temperature and so on).

    Benefits of Design Certification

    Preferred by Clients & Employers:

    While certification is not mandatory, it is preferred by clients and employers. Certificates denote more than just professional training. They symbolize your passion for the field as well as your ability to follow through on commitments, manage deadlines and achieve your goals.

    Women in  an interview

    Provides a Marketing Advantage:

    Having a certificate gives you an advantage when it comes to marketing your business and gaining the trust with new clients. A certification and professional designation may be the one thing that sets you apart from your competition, giving you the edge!

    Prepares You for the Field:

    If you have no previous experience or training in your field of choice then you should strongly consider taking a course. However, if you have a background in your field, a strong portfolio and a well-developed client-base then you may not need certification.

    Gives You a Solid Foundation:

    As a novice in your field, professional training does ensure you are well-rounded. If you do your research, you’ll be able to find a comprehensive program that covers a wide-range of topics you would likely not be exposed to if you were simply taking on projects piece-meal.

    Opportunity for Membership with Professional Associations

    Many associations will only accept members who have Design Certification from a reputable school. Membership with a professional association lends credibility to your business as well as access to many exclusive industry benefits such as business listings on the association’s website, networking opportunities, member discounts, continuing education, annual conferences and more! While membership is not mandatory and does come with an annual price-tag, many associations do offer discounted rates to students!

    I would encourage you to do your own research before settling on a final verdict but hopefully this will help simplify your decision-making process!

    Are you interested in becoming certified through an online program? We can help! Check out QC’s Free Ebook: How to Choose an Online Design School that’s Right for You

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    April 2, 2015 7:00 am

    Spring is Here! …Now What?

    Spring has finally arrived, and with it comes a wave of new trends! Just like the fashion industry, the world of interior décor shifts and changes with the seasons, giving home owners and design professionals great opportunities to update spaces according to what’s current. This spring, décor is heavily influenced by fashion. Colors, patterns, and textures that are hot on the runway right now are also making their way directly into people’s living rooms. If you’re considering a spring makeover for one of your rooms but you’re not actually sure what to do, take a look at how some of the following trends are being incorporated into not only clothing, but also decorative pieces this season.

    Get colorful!

    A change in color scheme can be a simple but effective way to switch things up. This spring, shades of blue are all the rage. You’ll see classic blues, of course, but even more prominent are soft blues like dusk blue, cobalt, and aquamarine. If blue isn’t for you, other colors on this spring’s soft, calming palette include ochre or mustard yellow and tangerine. Do you feel hesitant about these bold colors, even in their subtler shades? You can still incorporate them into your room without going all out and painting your walls tangerine. Try adding a splash of spring color using throw pillows, small lamps, canvas wall prints, or standing vases. If the rest of your room is fairly neutral, don’t be afraid to mix it up and introduce more than one new color. The beauty of ‘color palettes’ is that shades are often complimentary to one another, as long as you remember to add pieces in moderation.

    Blue Color Palette Design Trend

    Get graphic!

    Black and White Graphic

    Graphic prints are a huge feature in both fashion and décor this spring. Canvas wall hangings featuring bold graphic designs make great stand out pieces for rooms that lack luster. If clashing with your newly chosen spring color scheme is a concern for you, fear not. This year’s most popular graphic prints are black and white. You’ll be able to add a little texture to your walls without overwhelming the entire room or off-setting the colors of your new throw pillows in a visually unappealing way. Spring is a time to be bold, so graphic prints are a great option for making over your space, but you can choose more subtle designs as well. Try a white wall canvas featuring a simple pattern of solid black circles for a touch of texture without going overboard. Are you looking for more of a statement piece? Consider an arm chair made of material printed with black and white vines and flowers. This will draw the eye, but won’t clash horribly with the dusk blue pillows on your sofa across the room.

    Get Geometric!

    Loose Geometric

    The term ‘geometric pattern’ might bring to mind blocks of color and harsh lines. This spring, however, the concept of the ‘geometric’ is getting a makeover, just like your room. The most popular pattern right now is actually the loose geometric, made of sweeping strokes and flowing lines instead of solid, straight shapes. Like the graphic print, loose geometric patterns can be incorporated into your room subtly or as a bold statement piece. They’re also a unique way to include your color scheme in another element of the room. Look for patterned rugs and throw mats with curving strokes and lines, or printed wall hangings that feature loosely drawn square patterns. If you’re feeling very bold, try simply painting your own loose geometric shapes on a bare wall in your favorite of this season’s ‘in’ colors.

    Get Metallic!

    Just like the fashion industry, the décor world is embracing metallic finishes for 2015. Add some edgy brightness to your room by including metallic silver frames and lamps in order to balance your new dusk blue rug. Go for a modern look with metallic end tables or standing lamps. Even chairs and pillows are available in metallic fabric right now, so you have plenty of options for how you choose to feature gold, silver, and chrome. Use a very small amount to brighten your room just a touch, or invest in metallic statement pieces to establish a classy modern atmosphere.

    Metallic Design Trend

    Get into the season!

    Spring is a time for positive change and fresh new things. Switching up your home décor with a brand new trend or two is a great chance to embrace the season. Even small changes can leave your space feeling updated and refreshed. If you’d like to learn more about seasonal interior décor, check out the courses at QC Design School!

    Are there any other trends you’re loving right now? Let us know in comment what ones you’re keeping in mind when you’re designing for spring!

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    Have you ever gone to Google and typed in “Do a Barrel Roll”? Go ahead and try it. I’ll wait.

    How about changing your default language settings on Facebook? You’ll find a few options in there that are worth trying out. I recently changed my account to “English – Pirate” as a language… and I swear I’ve used Facebook a little more since then.

    These are classic examples of “Easter Egg” Marketing: fun little surprises on your website, made to delight customers.

    The great part about an Easter Eggs is, you let your users discover it on their own. You build it… and if it’s worth mentioning customers will market it (and therefore your brand) for you!

    Easter Egg Marketing

    Why Easter Egg Marketing Works

    People today have an aversion to “being sold”. Alternative forms of marketing are therefore growing like crazy because more and more customers are developing a blindness to classic-type ads. Even paid search ads on Google are being ignored by a majority of searchers!

    Instead, consumers want to choose brands based on trust, reliability, and yes – fun!

    This is why we encourage you to write a blog and have a good presence on social media.

    Easter egg marketing works because to the consumer, it’s a surprise they weren’t expecting. It helps them identify with your brand on a more personal level than if they were to stumble upon your ad on Facebook or Google for instance.

    Think about it. If you were on a site and found a gem you weren’t expecting… say, press the Tab and B keys on your keyboard and have a picture of a Tabby Cat appear on your screen (thank you, Asana!).

    If cats are your cup of tea, you’d instantly share this discovery with friends, wouldn’t you? And most likely, those friends will then go see that Easter Egg for themselves. At least, that was the case when I discovered the Pirate English on Facebook. 🙂

    What Makes an Easter Egg Successful

    There are a few elements you’ll want to consider before going ahead and committing time to developing your Easter Egg.

    Brand Message

    The most important factor in deciding to hide an Easter Egg, is you want to make sure it’s suitable for your brand. I hope you have a specific brand identity, right? If not, you’ll want to read this.

    For example, if your design company stands for timeless décor and elegant style, you’ll probably want to avoid suddenly changing your site to pirate speech on “talk like a pirate day” (which is September 19th, by the way). Whereas having classic wallpaper patterns unroll on a user’s screen when they, say, click a button on your site or press a key on their keyboard might be just the ticket.

    If your Easter Egg conforms to your brand’s identity, it should therefore appeal to your target audience! Once you have that down, you’re half-way there!

    Easy to Find

    If an Easter Egg is never found… then it’s not worth the effort!

    Yes an Easter Egg is hidden… but you WANT people to find them. Consider the two examples I mentioned at the start of this article. It’s very likely that some people will genuinely type in “do a barrel roll” into the Google search engine… or want to change their language settings on Facebook. Those Easter Eggs – though “hidden” as in no one’s announced their existence – are very easy to stumble upon!

    Consider that when you build your own Easter Egg. Develop them in such a way that gives any random user a decent chance at discovering them.

    Easter Eggs Easy to Find

    Shareable

    It’s not enough that your users find your Easter Egg. It needs to be fun, interesting and/or surprising enough to warrant users sharing it with their friends.

    Think about it: the whole point of an Easter Egg is that you don’t share it yourself. So if you want it to work from a marketing standpoint, then you need your users to do the work for you! Odds are a good Easter Egg will be shared by 5-10% of users who discover it. Make sure you have a method of measuring these results.

    What else should you know?

    Alright, so I’ve convinced you: Easter Eggs are a great way to increase brand awareness through user sharing. Now I’ve got a few more tips if you’re going to go down that road.

    Plan Ahead

    A good Easter Egg doesn’t happen overnight for most businesses. Especially in your small business… you’ll want to do careful planning and discuss with a web developer before you execute on your decision to build an Easter Egg. If it’s one that’s time-sensitive (perhaps something that’s only active for a special occasion or day) then you want to give yourself enough time to develop and test your Easter Egg properly. Which brings me to my next point:

    Test It

    User testing is always a good idea when building a website, and this is also true when adding new features to your site. Make sure your Easter Egg works properly in all browsers, and that there are no unexpected side effects to having it on your site.

    It might also be a good idea to have a few users go through your site and test it for you. You can use some friends or family if you want, or use services like UserTesting.com to have strangers go through your site. This might also be a great way to see if those users can actually FIND your Easter Egg. 🙂

    Test Your Easter Eggs

    Engage with Users

    You’re a small business, which means you have the advantage of being able to engage with people one-on-one.

    The point of Eater Egg Marketing is for users to spread the word for you, right? So help them along! You can set up alerts to monitor for mentions of your brand on social media like Facebook and Twitter, so that you are notified when someone is talking about you and your Easter Egg. If you find a user who mentions finding your Easter Egg, you can write a reply to that person and maybe even start a discussion about their discovery. This will in turn help other users discover that little delight for themselves!

    Have Fun!

    The whole purpose of Easter Egg Marketing is to make something fun for your customers. But it should also be fun for you! An Easter Egg should convey a message about who you are as a brand on a very real level. So if Pirate Talk isn’t something you find appealing, don’t bother trying to work it into your content! (And if you don’t like pirate talk… I’m sorry but I don’t think we can be friends anymore).

    What do you think about Easter Egg Marketing? Do you think you’ll try it in YOUR business? Let us know in a comment!

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