Author Archive

With the nice weather upon us, more and more people are heading to their backyards to soak up the sun and enjoy the fresh air of the outdoors. This means it’s the perfect time to spice up your outdoor scenery with some inexpensive backyard design ideas. No matter how big or how small your space is, you would be amazed at all the ways you can improve your yard without hurting your budget!

Patio Furniture:

One of the first things people will look for when designing their backyard space is patio furniture. You want to be able to sit comfortably and enjoy your space on reliable furniture that fits your taste. Thankfully we have good news! There are ways to find exactly what you are looking for without spending a pretty penny.

Patio furniture for backyard design ideas

#1- Check out thrift stores or garage sales

Hidden treasures are always waiting to be found in thrift stores and garage sales. Turn it into an all-day event or just stop at garage sales when you come across them – you never know what you might find. People often donate or sell their barely used patio furniture which you can grab at a great price! Sometimes these older pieces can really add to the design element of your backyard and give you a desired look you’ve been dreaming of.

#2- Purchase patio furniture mid-summer or in the off season

Around mid-summer (end of July roughly) stores begin to bring out their fall and back-to-school inventory. This means all the summer inventory will begin to go on sale. As time goes on the sales discounts will increase so if you don’t mind waiting you can get great prices on your patio furniture. The off season (fall and winter) is where you will find the best deals. If you’re really budget-conscious you may have to sacrifice the current summer season so you can wait for the best sales in the winter. Remember, patience is a virtue!

#3- Check out online

Buying used online is a great way to find deals, especially if you’d rather sit at home in your pajamas sipping coffee than pounding the pavement checking out garage sales. Many people have to move suddenly or are downsizing and need to get rid of their furniture fast. Websites such as Ebay, Kijiji, or Craigslist are great for making easy online purchases at a much better price. Stores will often have better sales online than in-store and if you’re lucky, the price may include free shipping.

Shell windchime

DIY Accessories:

Besides patio furniture, you can make a drastic difference to the aesthetic of your outdoor space by accessorizing. Below are some easy and inexpensive ways to accessorize your space!

DIY Wind Chimes

This is a fun and easy way to add colour and sound into your backyard space. With a quick trip to your local Dollarstore or craft store, you should be able to find everything you need to bring your wind chime to life. Think of all the varied wind chimes you’ve seen – bottle caps, cutlery, sea shells, keys, colorful pieces of glass, the list goes on and on. If you’re considering creating your own then check out this awesome list from Woohome with 30 DIY projects for wind chimes!

DIY Outdoor Fire Pit

Surprisingly, you can make a beautiful fire pit for under $30.00. This one accessory can make a huge difference by adding style, light and warmth to your backyard space. Just think of the gatherings you could have with the campfire smell from the smoke and the sizzling of marshmallows roasting! You can purchase the materials listed below at your local department or hardware store and spend an afternoon building your own fire pit!

Materials:

    • Marine Silicone
    • Cheap Glass Frames (found at Walmart or any Dollarstore)
    • Small rocks
    • Metal mesh
    • Gel fuel
    • Any metal planter with a lip
  • You can find the full tutorial complete with pictures over at The Art of Doing Stuff! A fire pit is an excellent design element to bring life to your backyard and can be a fantastic center piece when entertaining guests.

    Glow-in-the-Dark Paint for Pots

    This is a fun way to bring light to your back yard space. You can purchase clay pots in a variety of sizes and paint them with glow-in-the-dark paint. The paint is inexpensive-you can find it at Walmart or any craft store for under $10.00- and will light up your flowers in your yard to make a very calm and cooling atmosphere. Plus, if you have kids they will love the glow-in-the-dark effect!

    Koi Pond

    A koi pond is an amazing way to add more nature and wildlife into your back yard space and it doesn’t have to hurt your wallet either. You can be creative with your pond adding whatever features you may like. For example, many people add a rotating pump to get the soothing, babbling sound of running water. Or you could add a waterfall or different varieties of plants to really add to the dynamic of the pond. Whatever you may choose, a koi pond makes for an excellent addition when looking to redesign your backyard space. Check out Home Guides for more instructions on how to make your inexpensive koi pond.

    Koi pond for backyard design ideas

    I hope this list inspires you and if you’re looking for even more ideas, there are many books and magazines you can find that are filled with backyard design ideas. Creating your space can be a fun and exciting process! Whether you’re handy and love to create DIY projects or you’re just hoping for a great sale and an easy setup, there are options out there for everyone!

    Want to pass on these budget-friendly backyard design ideas to your friends? Share this post using the icons below!

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    May 7, 2015 7:00 am

    Up and Coming Design Techniques

    Everything stylish comes and goes, and old interior decorating techniques are often replaced with exciting new ones. This year, the up and coming design techniques for updating your space are largely centered on giving the room a fresh new feel without breaking the bank. Check out these ten simple decorating techniques that professionals and clients alike will love.

    1. Do it Yourself

    Simple DIY projects are a fun way to update a space with a personal touch. Try up-cycling a stylish old wood or wrought iron chair by giving it a new coat of paint in a color that matches the scheme of the entry way. Turn the baby crib into a chalkboard-topped desk to transform a nursery into a play room for big kids. Letting the craftsmanship that goes into DIY pieces show gives the room a comfortable touch.

    Furniture Restoration

    2. Get Rid of Clutter

    We don’t just mean the laundry piled on the chair in the master bedroom or the files sitting on the kitchen cabinet! The number of furniture pieces in a room can clutter the space as well. Having more large pieces than necessary takes up space that could be used to enjoy the view or move more easily from room to room. Taking advantage of the space you have is great, but that doesn’t always have to be done by filling it up. Feeling cramped is never pleasant, so rid your space of chairs or ottomans that don’t get used and enjoy some breathing room.

    3. The Walls are your Canvas

    Of course, we don’t recommend that you let the kids color the walls with markers! Decoratively, however, your walls are a great place for expression, and you can do more with them than just hang art pieces. Try patterned wall paper half way up, accompanied by a matching color and thick accent border. This technique makes the walls a statement piece, but lets you control how subtle or bright that statement is. Making the walls decorative balances spaces with otherwise simple decor.

    4. Show Off what you Like

    Are you an avid fan of old Hollywood movies? Have you been collecting pictures of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe over the years? Technically, you only need three pieces to make a collection! Why not update a room with things that you already have, especially when you like them so much? Try devoting the master bathroom to your glamorous icons by placing your collection around the room. Let your collection become the theme and match the rest of the color and décor to those pieces.

    5. Let the Curtains Talk

    Curtains

    Sure, curtains are functional, but they can be decorative as well! They can even be a DIY project for people with sewing experience. Tie them into the color scheme by choosing a shade that works nicely with the rest of the room, or let them stand out by picking a bold pattern that balances a more simple space. Don’t shy away from words like ‘bright’ and ‘intricate’. These can add personality to a room that needs an update.

    6. Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall (or Anywhere Else)

    Mirrors can do more than just tell you how you look! Try opening up a small landing with a collage of mirrors on one wall. Maybe the beautiful vintage mirror you saw at the garage sale would make a more interesting piece above the sofa than a popular art print? Mirrors are versatile pieces that come in endless colors, finishes, shapes, and sizes. Chances are good that you’ll find a mirror that works with the décor you have, but still brings something bright and new to the space.

    7. Let the Outside in

    Nothing brightens up a dull space like a little life; plant life, that is! Adding different plants to the room can transform the atmosphere and give it a lively, fresh feel. Try contrasting plants of different heights or with differently shaped leaves to give the space a balanced look, or tie the plants into the theme and color scheme with decorative pots and vases. Through spring, summer, and fall, the plants will bring in some of the fresh outdoor feel, and through the winter they’ll remind you what’s beyond the cold!

    8. Mix it Up.

    Who says a room can only have pieces of one style? As long as the space still looks balanced and visually pleasing, there’s nothing stopping you from mixing things up a little for a quick and cost effective makeover. Perhaps your rustic cottage sitting room would benefit from a few chrome accents, like lamps or end tables? Bringing a slight modern element into a more classic room can be the perfect updating technique.

    9. Break Away from the Classic

    In most homes, you’ll find specific pieces in certain rooms. For example, comfortable seating and a coffee table of some kind can nearly always be seen in the sitting room. These classic furniture pieces don’t have to be sacrificed to update the room. Consider switching an old four legged coffee table for a sleek, modern piece supported by curving glass. If your style is more rustic, try a smooth wooden table that sits right down on the floor, with drawers down the sides. Look for seating that, while still comfortable, gives the room a unique look with its color, texture, or alternative shape. Your room will still have all the classic elements it needs, but with a fun twist.

    Unique couch

    10. Get Natural

    Wooden elements are perfect for rustic rooms, but they can look great elsewhere too! Natural wood can be especially versatile. This means that the wood hasn’t been stained, glazed, or treated. Natural wood complements many colors and styles and can look classy or relaxed, depending on the rest of the room. While wood can be damaged more easily without a glaze or treatment, it also looks more fresh and clean. Whether you’re incorporating big furniture pieces or small accents, natural wood will cleanly emphasize your chosen themes and colors.

    Interested in Learning More?

    Keeping track of up and coming décor techniques is all part of being a great interior decorator. For more information about how you can work in décor, check out the courses at QC Design School!

    Are there any other design techniques you’re looking forward to? Let us know in a comment below!

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    May 4, 2015 7:00 am

    How to Set Up Your Home Office

    Starting a home-based business? Congratulations – you’re living the dream! Who doesn’t want to work from the comfort of their own home? There’s no commute and if you don’t have any appointments, you can work in your pajamas!

    On the flip-side, the responsibility of the home office design and set-up falls entirely on you. There’s a little more involved than just plopping a computer on a desk, putting up some motivational posters and calling it a day! To help you design a space that works for you and your clients check out the tips below.

    Choose the Best Space

    Your first task will be deciding where to set-up your home office. When choosing a space you need to imagine greeting clients at the front door and walking them down the path that’ll lead them to your office. What will they see along the way and how does that reflect on your business? If you have to walk them past your troll doll collection or a series of photographs featuring your poodle in costumes, you may want to make some changes!

    It’s best to pick a space that is self-contained. Being able to shut the door at the end of your scheduled work day can help you maintain work-life balance. It also allows for privacy when you need to focus or have a meeting with clients.

    Beautiful home office design

    I definitely recommend trying the space before committing to it. Set up temporarily and give yourself at least a week in the space before painting or hanging artwork. There’s nothing worse than using your newly set-up office for the first time and realizing it’s not going to work. You may find that the room always runs cold or there’s a really distracting echo. You’ll want to survey the noise situation as well to ensure your space is quiet. There is a lot of potential for noise when working from home (ie. kids, pets, neighbors, traffic) which can be both distracting and unprofessional.

    Invest in Comfortable Furniture

    Back pain can lower your productivity and take a toll on your mind and body. A survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians revealed that 90% of adults experience back pain over their lifetime and 50% of working adults have back pain every year. Back pain can come from bad working posture and repetitive strain injuries.

    Don’t risk your health to save a few bucks. Invest in an ergonomic chair with proper back support. If you don’t have enough funds for a quality office chair at least get yourself a lumbar support cushion! You may also want to consider wrist support (ie. for mousepads or keyboards) to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

    Plan for Adequate Lighting

    Good lighting is essential to your home office design. Lighting can brighten your space and make it more inviting. You’ll want a combination of natural lighting and task lighting. Make sure that any workspace you’ll be using frequently is well-lit with a desk or table lamp, preferably one that can be adjusted.

    Proper lighting is beneficial for both your health and mood. It will help you avoid eye-strain and the productivity-hindering headaches that come with it. Additionally, research has been very clear that a lack of sunlight can cause lethargy, reduced cognitive function and depression, so keep those blinds open!

    Natural lighting in home office

    Create Visual Appeal

    Unless you’re into the minimalist look you’ll want to decorate your office. This is where you get to have some fun and infuse the room with your own personal style! Before you buy anything you’ll want to decide on a color scheme. Think about how you want the room to feel and pick your colors accordingly. If you want the mood in your office to be calm you can go with earth tones or blues. Although yellow is a cheerful color, it’s been known to stimulate anxiety which may not be the mood you want to encourage in yourself or your clients!

    Once you have a color scheme in place you can pick artwork, accessories and window treatments for your office. When you are choosing these pieces remember that this is a professional space. As beautiful as they can be, this would not be the appropriate setting for nude paintings!

    Another way to boost visual interest is by bringing a touch of the outdoors into your space. Houseplants are a good choice because they are easy to care for. Plants are known to reduce stress-levels and improve air quality because they naturally filter the air. Having a vase of fresh flowers when you plan to meet with clients is a nice touch as well. Just keep in mind that fresh flowers don’t last as long and replenishing them will be more expensive over time.

    Get Office Equipment

    You will want to include office equipment in your home office design budget. I’d encourage you to invest in updated technology. In a home office, technology will either be your best friend or worst enemy. You’ll want to avoid the frustrations, interruptions and lost productivity that comes from frequent technical difficulties.

    Once you have updated technology you’ll need to maintain it. Use computer antivirus software and get regular maintenance checks. You should also set up a schedule for backing up your information. If you don’t have your work backed-up it means you’re starting from scratch or paying for a system restore if your computer crashes on you.

    You will want a separate phone line for your business but there are cost-effective ways of doing this. Do some research and save money by using a reliable soft-phone (ie. internet phone) or voice over IP Broadband phone system. For administrative tasks you can buy an all-in-one printer with copy/scan/fax capabilities. See if you can find a printer with refillable cartridges, to take advantage of cheap ink refilling services. You may even want to outsource large print jobs if a copy and print shop can give you a good price. Or, if you’re not ready to commit to anything, you can look into leasing office equipment like copiers and fax machines.

    Set Up Storage Space

    Organized home office design

    It doesn’t take long for a well-used office to get messy. Think about what impression having a dirty or cluttered office would make on potential clients. I recommend you pick one day a week to devote to a full office cleaning (vacuuming, dusting, wiping surfaces, etc).

    You need to make a home for everything and commit to staying organized. Use a filing cabinet or desk file organizer to store records as well as ingoing and outgoing paperwork. Keep a notepad close by for taking notes while on calls or with clients. A notepad is a better choice than scrap paper because your notes will be bound together instead of loose. If you’re not using computer software to track your finances you’ll want to use a ledger to record each transaction. You can store it in a portable organizer along with all of your receipts.

    Don’t forget about waste disposal in your home office design plan. You’ll want a trash bin for general garbage as well as a recycle bin for your paper waste. Be sure to shred any documents that contain private or financial details before disposing of them.

    We hope this helps you design a beautiful office space that’s comfortable and practical. Remember, this is the one office where you get to be both the boss and the worker bee! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to create a space you’ll enjoy using!

    Did you find some great tips in this post? Be sure to share it with your friends by using the icons below to ensure they create appropriate home offices as well!


    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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    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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    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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