Archive for June, 2015
Many industries function according to client demand. During times of the year when many people want the service, businesses and freelance workers experience a busy season and generate lots of revenue. At other points when clients don’t need the service as often, business slows down. For example, event planners might experience seasonality because people don’t get married in the winter as commonly as they do in the spring and summer.
For professionals who are new to the industry, managing the ebbs and flows of business seasonality can be a challenge. How can you prepare for the difference in income and workload that specializing in a seasonal industry involves? What strategies can help you survive the off season or save you from becoming overwhelmed in the busy season? Consider the following tips for achieving balance as a seasonal professional.
If you specialize in an industry where many of your fellow professionals work freelance, then your industry is probably seasonal. Event planners, makeup artists, and interior decorators, for example, all depend on the level of client demand to determine how often they accept contracts. If you know that your flow of business slows down or picks up at a particular point in the year, you can make the season easier on yourself by preparing in advance. Makeup artists can get ready for the busy prom season by replenishing their supplies of essential products and replacing old brushes before the contracts start coming in. They can account for the possibility of reduced income in between busy periods by saving a portion of each payment they receive to support themselves during the off season.
Planning ahead can help you manage the stress of either workload, letting you concentrate on providing quality services regardless of how often or how little you’re working. Your ability to anticipate your needs as a seasonal professional will improve with experience.
Strategize with your staff
Many employers in seasonal industries hire staff and let them go according to the level of client demand. Experienced wedding planners might hire assistants in the spring to make sure they have enough people to provide quality service throughout the summer when more clients get married. The assistants’ contracts will end in the autumn when business slows down and less work is available. As long as employees are aware that their contract is seasonal, this strategy can be beneficial for both parties. Experienced planners get the extra help they need when they’re busy, but they save money on payroll when client demand decreases for the year. Assistants, on the other hand, gain relevant work experience during parts of the year that challenge them and pay well. They might use the rest of the year to seek more training or pursue their own business goals.
Use your time effectively
Your off season is the perfect time to invest in professional development and advancing your skills. Are there courses you’ve been hoping to take or industry conferences you’d like to attend? Have you been waiting for a time to renovate and improve your workspace or complete an independent project? Makeup artists might use their off season to take a special effects course, while hair stylists might take the opportunity to compete in a prestigious hair show. As long as you’ve saved enough money to support yourself throughout the season while you work towards your goal, investing time in things that will benefit your professional career can be a smart move in the off season. Professionals who make this choice, however, should also use their busy season effectively. Without overwhelming yourself, make sure to take complete advantage of the increased workflow while you can to balance out the time you took off for professional development.
Consider alternative sources of income
Some professionals like to keep busy. Seeking alternative revenue streams during your off season can protect you from financial hardship towards the end. Some people choose to offer different services related to their expertise, while others seek alternative employment all together. For example, a makeup artist might take their downtime from freelance work to sell cosmetics at a retail counter, increasing their knowledge of current products and teaching basic techniques to clients who come in for advice. An event planner living in a small town where their services aren’t needed for a solid portion of the year, however, might switch gears and work as a freelance writer for publications related to their personal interests. Whichever course you choose, make sure that you use your time well. Taking vacation time during your off season can be useful as well, but make sure you can afford it before you pass up alternative employment.
Stay in touch
Just because you won’t see your regular clients for a portion of the year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contact them at all. Of course, you don’t want to be overwhelming, or you might discourage them from doing business with you in the future. A simple greeting card wishing them Happy Holidays in December or a polite reminder email that your services are available throughout the summer can build customer loyalty.
Regardless of how you use your off season, be smart about budgeting. Saving a portion of your income prepares you to handle unforeseen expenses when work is slow. It also gives you extra funds to quickly solve emergencies that take place in the middle of the busy season when you don’t have time to reallocate your primary funds. Effective budgeting saves seasonal professionals from stress all year round.
The courses at QC Career School teach students how to effectively manage their time as seasonal professionals. If you’d like to learn more about how to use the ebbs and flows of client demand to your advantage, take a look at which course might be the best for you!
What are your preferred methods for dealing with seasonality in business? Leave a comment below to let us know!
Home staging is an exciting career with a lot of amazing opportunities. With the industry constantly growing, home stagers are in demand. The more difficult the housing market becomes, the more you see people turning to a home stager to help them get ahead and quickly sell their home. As a home stager, you will be relied on to bring out the most amazing features of the property and hopefully catch the eye of many potential buyers.
What is Home Staging?
Staging a home for sale is an incredibly important element of the real estate process. To stage a home properly, the homeowner needs to be willing to depersonalize, declutter, and create a space with universal appeal. Each room will be set-up in a way that allows potential buyers to visualize their own design ideas and how they would like to make the space their own. During the staging process, you will work with homeowners to remove many of their personal mementos, move unneeded items into storage, and fix up anything that could distract or deter a potential buyer. A well-staged home is a very essential part in not only selling the house, but receiving the full potential value of the property. A lot of home buyers make quick decisions about a home based off first impressions and curb appeal, which is why it’s so important to create a space that many people can envision themselves in!
Benefits of Home Staging:
Home stagers have an incredibly rewarding career. Research done by the National Association of Realtors shows that staged properties sell much faster and receive more than the asking price compared to properties that have not been staged. Clearly, a staged home gives clients the competitive edge they need to sell in a hard housing market. Staging a home is a relatively inexpensive cost – many individuals work with the items they already have – and makes a big difference in the long run when it comes to the sale.
What a Home Stager Does:
As a home stager, it will be your job to go into a client’s home and design it in a way that will make it more appealing for sale. You’ll be creating a living space that presents the home in the most appealing way for potential buyers by highlighting the best features of the property, both inside and out, and drawing attention to elements of the home that will increase interest from those who come to see it. In addition to being able to apply depersonalizing and decluttering techniques, home stagers need to understand how to accessorize and redesign rooms. Stagers need to be familiar with real estate basics, design principals, and how to market and promote their services. It is important that they are able to look at the house from a potential buyer’s view and understand exactly what needs to be done to sell the house quickly, and at the highest market value.
Home Stagers vs Interior Decorators
While home stagers possess many of the same skills as interior decorators, they are also different in a variety of ways. Interior decorators are hired by clients to design a home to fit the clients preferred style and taste. They are utilizing floorplans, presentation boards, working with a strict budget, and creating a space that fits exactly what the client envisioned for their home. On the other hand, home stagers need to go into a home and redesign it so that it appeals to a wide variety of people. They too, need to understand floorplans, color theory, room styles, and many of the same interior decorating requirements. However, they are using these techniques in an entirely different way. Having this background knowledge for home stagers is essential because it gives clients the confidence that the stager they hired is able to do the job exactly how it needs to be done.
Starting a Home Staging Business
There are definitely some key points you should think about before starting your own Home Staging business.
- Build a portfolio. The great thing is, most home staging courses teach you how to build your own portfolio. You want your portfolio to demonstrate your best work and highlight all your strengths. A portfolio is extremely important in showcasing your skills and attracting potential clients.
- Get in contact with realtors in your area. Building relationships with realtors and agencies is very important when starting out in the home staging business. They can refer clients to you and even take you on as their own preferred stager. Get in touch and show them your portfolio. You want to market yourself to them and encourage them to send new clients your way!
- Make a budget for everything. Set up a home office and do your research on what you’re going to need in order to start. Do you want a large inventory to work with or can you manage with a small one? What local vendors provide the cheapest furniture rentals? What is the most appropriate rate to start? You always want to make sure you’re getting the most for your dollar. Having a clear budget will help you navigate through all the information and give you the best advantage to start out on the right foot.
- Research! Research! Research! Find out who your competitors are, what opportunities are available in your area, what the housing market is like – the list goes on! Being knowledgeable about every aspect of the industry will definitely give you a step ahead.
- Market and Promote. Social media is a great way to get your name out there. For example, Facebook is often used by businesses to promote their services to a large demographic of people. You can also talk to friends and family about your new business and think of clever ways to promote your skills as a home stager. Proper marketing and promotion will go a long way in the industry.
Important things to note about having your own inventory
There are pros and cons to having your own inventory. Many stagers choose not to have their own inventory because of the cost associated with it. As the inventory grows, you will need a storage unit or a warehouse. Purchasing the pieces for inventory may take a while depending on your budget, and you will need to establish a system for maintaining and counting your inventory on a regular basis. However, having your own inventory will definitely help you create the exact idea you envision for each home.
Renting pieces can help you avoid the need for storage or a warehouse but you’ll want to keep in mind that rental companies can often be very pricey. If you are continuously using a rental company, you may find you are exceeding your budget. The great news is that you can use a mix of both having your inventory and working with rental companies to keep costs low and get the most out of your budget!
Interested in becoming a home stager? Check out QC’s Home Staging & Redesign course for everything you need to get started in this exciting field!
Starting a small business is super exciting, incredibly rewarding, and a challenge worth taking on. As your own boss, you’ll have a chance to set the pace for your business and make all the decisions. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
There are certain tasks you’ll have to perform on a regular basis (probably daily) to make sure the business runs smoothly. These tasks are the backbone of any business, regardless of size or profit margins. Today, we’re going to look at a typical day in the life of a small business owner.
If you have employees who work for you – even if they’re just volunteers – you need to complete some basic human resources tasks to ensure you stay on top of things.
Interviewing candidates, scheduling employees, providing feedback on employees’ work, doing payroll, etc. are all tasks that will need to be completed regularly.
Especially when you’re just starting a small business, odds are you’ll have to do a little bit of everything. That includes answering the phones and communicating with customers and inquirers by email and on social media.
Ideally, during business hours you’re available to answer that phone when it rings. If messages are left outside of business hours, then you’ll want to return those calls first thing the next morning.
Same goes with emails. Try to answer emails within about an hour or two of receiving them (the quicker, the better)… and try to respond to all emails first thing in the morning before moving on to other jobs.
Finances & Accounting
As the business owner, it’s your job to deal with all of your business’s finances. This includes cash flow, setting up a line of credit, ensuring clients are paid up, submitting documentation for taxes on time, and so on. Sound like a lot of work? Likely an accountant is one of the first people you’ll want to consult when starting a business.
Purchasing & Ordering fall under your domain as well. This might not necessarily be a daily task… but at the very least it’s a weekly one. Do you have enough supplies to get your company through upcoming projects? Is there anything you’re going to need in the next month or two?
Thinking further ahead, are there any upcoming events or expected spikes in business that you need to prepare for now? This is often the case with retail businesses (they’ll start ordering Christmas inventory in July!) and it could be true for your business as well.
We’ve talked a lot about a small business owner’s marketing responsibilities on this blog, but I’m quickly going to mention it again. Marketing is an ongoing mission and one that shouldn’t be ignored. At the very least, your daily marketing tasks should be posting to social media and writing for your blog. About once a week, you’ll want to either work on your newsletter(s), or your website, or your search engine optimization.
I’m going to lump networking into this category as well. For many small businesses, some of the best marketing is still word of mouth. Are you keeping in touch with your past clients? What about vendors you’ve worked with in the past (and enjoyed it)? All these little things need to be done!
Maintenance & Upkeep
If you have a home office, maintenance can be anything from cleaning your desk(s) to changing a burnt lightbulb to vacuuming your workspace or washing the windows.
If you’re renting a commercial space or office, you might be lucky enough to have a cleaning staff provided by the landlord. These are the people who will take care of vacuuming and making sure the bathrooms are clean. If you don’t have that luxury, then guess who that job falls onto? That’s right! But even if there is a cleaning crew at your office, you’ll still want to take on the job of spot-dusting furniture, cleaning the kitchen area (if you have one), etc.
Note: Especially if you’ll be meeting with clients at your office, don’t skimp on the maintenance of your space. I can’t tell you how much a messy or dirty office truly turns off potential clients. Let’s keep it clean!
Let’s not forget the reason why you own this business!
I know this seems like a lot. But with proper planning, these tasks shouldn’t take more than an hour or two a day, leaving the rest of the day wide open for your real, actual, work. The key is not to let any one of these build up by ignoring it. So when you’re just launching your business, set yourself a schedule of daily tasks and follow it! You’d be surprised how much this simple method helps. And hey, if things get a little out of control, check out this guide to stress management!
QC’s courses come complete with business training to get you off on the right foot! Check out our business training series for more information!
You’ve heard the term “interior designer” used over and over again. In the media, in popular culture – everywhere! But are people really using it correctly? Probably not.
Many people believe that “interior designer” and “interior decorator” are interchangeable terms, when in reality, they are very different professions. While using the incorrect term can be harmless for the average person, if you’re in this line of work or considering getting into it, you’ll need to know the difference. Using the wrong title professionally could be life or death! OK, not actually. But it could have some serious repercussions!
Today we’ll explore exactly what is interior decorating and how it differs from interior design, to help you identify which career path you really want to take. Let’s begin.
What is it?
Well, it’s exactly that; decorating the interior of a building or room. An interior decorator furnishes and accessorizes a space to capture the personality and personal style of their clients (the owner of the space). Interior decorators will work closely with their clients throughout the decorating process to ensure the plans coincide with the clients’ tastes and preferences. An interior decorator will consult on and execute the selection and placement of furniture, color, lighting, textiles, accessories, etc.
Who does interior decorating?
Anyone with a strong passion for it and an eye for detail! Interior decorating is an unregulated field so there are no licensing requirements. If you wanted to start an interior decorating business tomorrow, you could do it! Although entering this industry with no formal training is not recommended or encouraged by anyone, you can still do it if determined to do so. If interior decorating is what you want to do, then you should look into formal education and a professional interior decorating certification. This will look fantastic to potential clients or future employers!
Who might hire an interior decorator?
Anyone who wants their space to say something about their personality and style, and at the same time being functional, but who may not have the time, skills, or creativity to execute the decor to their liking. While many, if not most, decorators focus their attention on homes, there are many other spaces that could use their services. If you’re thinking about getting into interior decorating, you should also consider servicing clients with the following spaces:
Bar, lounge, or club
These are just to name a few. There are many other spaces that could use an interior decorator, so make sure you’re open to the unique opportunities you may be presented with!
What does an interior designer do?
An interior designer is someone who has studied the behavior of people and uses this understanding to create functional and beautiful spaces. Interior designers normally work on a building project from the very beginning and may work alongside an architect. They will deal mostly with the architectural features and take into consideration the “behind the scenes” elements of a building like electrical, plumbing, cooling and heating, (etc.) when making plans to enhance the function of a room.
Who does interior design?
Interior design is a highly regulated field. If it sounds like the right fit for you, then you’ll need to attend a college or university program (normally 3 to 4 years), accompanied by an apprenticeship. You’ll also need to pass a licensing exam to work legally in your area and to call yourself an “interior designer.” Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is! So make sure that interior design is actually want to you want to do before spending a lot of time (and money!) on the required education.
An interior designer should have an eye for detail, be computer-savvy (you’ll be working with complicated design programs), and have a passion for it! Interior designers can also act as an interior decorator, as they’ll also be well-versed in furniture design and function, spatial planning, color psychology, and more.
Who might hire an interior designer?
An architectural firm
Construction companies (commercial and residential)
Clients who want to make structural changes to their home (for example, removing a wall, adding windows, moving around plumbing)
So don’t be fooled by what people say in movies or on TV, because many people don’t know the difference. Even online sources, who are otherwise very reputable, can get it wrong. Now you should have a better understanding of what makes an interior decorator different from an interior designer, and which field you actually want to go into. You may have been saying interior design is your passion, when really the job description of an interior decorator is what appeals to you most!
If you’re ready to take the next step with your dreams of becoming an interior decorator, check out our interior decorating course here at QC Design School!
How busy freelance professionals are depends on how many clients want your services. Most industries like this experience ‘waves’ in business. For example, wedding planners are often much busier in May or June than they are in the dead of winter because most people prefer spring or summer weddings. Similarly, makeup artists often get more new clients during prom and graduation season than other times of year.
During slow periods, some professionals find scheduled jobs to make money between contracts. Many brand new freelance professionals also keep day jobs to support themselves while they build their client base. Working a day job while you get to know your local industry and promote your brand can be a very smart choice, but what if your freelance business really starts to pick up? Here are some questions you should ask yourself to judge whether it’s time to quite your day job!
1. Do you have a plan?
This might seem like a basic question. Why would you leave a stable job without knowing your next step? You’d be surprised how often excited entrepreneurs jump the gun! You should have a timeline and a list of goals planned out before you quit your day job. Do you know where you want your business to be in two months, six months, or a year? Do you know which steps you’ll need to take to get there? Don’t give your day job up for nothing. Put a plan in place and stick to it!
2. Can you make it happen quickly?
Even if you’re very careful with your savings account before you quit your day job, time is of the essence once you leave. The quicker you put your business plan into action, the smoother your transition from traditional work hours to just freelance work will be. Wasting time will also waste money and motivation. Remember that going back to your old day job might not be an option if you miss other opportunities.
3. What does your industry look like?
Research what kind of presence your trade has in your local area, or the area you plan to work in. Is the wedding planning business booming where you live because the area is trendy for young couples? Is work slow for makeup artists in your hometown because the population is mostly elderly couples working on their farms? Get to know what kind of demand exists for your service before you quit your day job.
4. Who is your competition and how are they doing?
Take a look at how other professionals in your industry are doing. Are they thriving? If so, analyze whether they’re successful because the market is good, or because they have a monopoly on the local area that could prevent you from succeeding. Are your competitors struggling for contracts? Think about whether their troubles are caused by poor strategies on their part or a lull in the market that could negatively affect you too. The success or failure of your competitors can be a good indicator of whether you’re safe to quit your day job.
5. What will your business launch look like?
If you’re letting your job go, you should already know how your new business will make a great first impression on your local market. It isn’t in your best interest to give up your steady stream of income in favor of sneaking into your new industry without letting anyone know you’re there!
6. Where will you operate your business from?
Before you quit your day job, you should know where the home base of your business will be. Have you set up an office that clients can visit? Will you work from home? The more organized you are about the ‘home base’ of your new business, the safer you are giving up your day job in favor of working independently.
7. Who are your clients?
Knowing who your clients are is absolutely necessary for starting a new business. You shouldn’t think about quitting your day job until you know what kind of people might be interested in your services, where to find them, and how to get their attention. Quitting your job before you know who your new clients are risks prolonging your time without income.
8. How will you market yourself?
Giving up your day job to work independently should be a long term investment. If you can, you should be marketing your services, image, and brand before you’ve even quit. The more effectively you market to your new client base, the less of a lag in income you’ll experience between quitting your day job and beginning your freelance work. Your marketing strategy should already be well planned by the time you hand in your two weeks’ notice.
9. Who are your mentors?
Do you have a support system in place, both personally and professionally, for when you quit your day job? Have you networked with mentors in your new industry or more experienced professionals who might help you? Throwing yourself into a new area of freelance work without networking can be nerve wracking. Find someone who is willing to give you advice in case your new business venture gets off to a bumpy start. Having that support might help you stress less about quitting your day job, so you can concentrate on the task at hand.
10. What’s your back up plan?
You should never plan for failure. Being defeatist about your new business won’t help you grow as a freelance professional. Even so, you should have an idea of how you’ll handle it if things don’t go your way. Do you have emergency money put away that you’ll depend on between jobs if your client base doesn’t pick up? Do you have a standing offer from your day job to resume your position if your business plan doesn’t work within a year? Remain positive, but stay in touch with reality as well. Prepare yourself for the fact that back up plans can be very useful for people who take the leap and quit their day job.
Quitting your day job to do what you’re passionate about takes courage and commitment. You shouldn’t be afraid of the idea, but you should prepare carefully. Ask yourself each of the questions above and really assess whether your freelance business is ready for the responsibility of being your only income. If you’d like to learn more about smart freelance business practices in your area of expertise, check out the courses here at QC Career School!