At QC, we believe competition is a good thing. Your competitors are a reason to offer the best service you possibly can, and to go above and beyond for your clients and customers.
Treat them with respect and your competitors can be your friends! They can refer business your way and hold you to a high standard of excellence!
But many people don’t realize this and instead take a disrespectful and unwarranted approach to their competition. Many businesses will badmouth other companies, discredit their services, and flat out falsify information hoping to score a few more customers out of those tactics.
Today we’re going to focus on a few best practices to use when dealing with your competition.
NEVER badmouth another company
Even if your business is infinitely better than another, you shouldn’t trash another business. Ever.
If someone flat-out asks you what the difference is between your two companies… you should focus on telling them what you do exceptionally well, instead of focusing on what the other company does poorly.
Think about it: when your tactic is to badmouth another company… all you’re really telling the customer is that you’re not as bad as they are. Basically, you might as well chance your business slogan to “We’re not the worst out there!”
Don’t compare competitors on your website
Once in a while I come across a business that lists “comparison charts” on their website where they compare their brand to their top competitors. This makes me cringe!
- It makes you look petty and unprofessional.
- If I wasn’t already aware of your competition, you just put the idea in my head that I should be shopping around.
- I won’t trust your chart. Of course you’ll only list your strong points and none of your competitor’s.
- I’ll look for how you’re bending the truth. Guaranteed there are some lies in there… and even if the chart is 100% true and accurate… I’ll still believe there are lies in it, somewhere.
- If I find a competitor of yours who doesn’t use this shady tactic, I’m going with them simply for that reason!
Now, I hope you are the best at what you do! That’s what we’re all striving for… in any industry. But there’s a way to advertise this without stooping to the competitor comparison.
You can have a strong page on your site that explains “what we do best” or “why choose us”. These types of pages are great because they allow you to boast your strengths (which you should do!) without any of the negative points outlined above.
The exception to the rule
If through your analytics you find that many people visit your site via another brand’s keywords, it might make sense to have a hidden page on your site that ranks well for those keywords. If you use Pay per Click advertising, you can also have targeted ads for those keywords that sends traffic to that specific page.
Note: a “hidden” page means people cannot easily find that page if they’re already on your website. Don’t have a direct link to the page via a header or footer menu, for instance.
HOWEVER… even if you do have one of these competitor pages for web traffic purposes, you should still stick to the above points: don’t badmouth your competition, and don’t directly compare them against your brand. Instead, focus on the features you both offer, or perhaps how your philosophies differ.
In the end, encourage customers to explore both brands and make up their own minds. If your brand really is better… you shouldn’t be afraid of letting the customer decide for himself.
Don’t participate on Social Media debates
If you find conversations on social media or forums where people are debating between your brand and a competitor’s, don’t inject yourself into that conversation for the purpose of selling your brand. Let the conversation flow naturally. If you have a good brand, your followers will speak up on your behalf.
You CAN, however, respond to posts that ask specific questions about your brand or that represent you in a poor light. But do so cautiously. And again, only focus on your brand… not on the competitors at all.
Make them your ally!
Write down your top three or top five competitors, and think about how you can get them on your side. Perhaps you can all create a Facebook group to offer expert advice on a specific topic? Or come up with referral agreements if one of you has too many clients to handle.
At the very least, if you can get together with your competition and agree on a few guidelines on how you’ll portray the other to customers and partners, this can go a long way to a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship.
How to respond
If you find a competitor that mentions your brand in a false and/or dishonest manner, you should contact them privately and respectfully ask them to take down the inaccurate information. Be respectful and don’t pick a fight. If they refuse to comply, then it’s time to get the lawyers involved.
Never retaliate by doing the same thing on your website. Don’t start a public feud, because you might open yourself up to liability. If it comes to getting the lawyers involved (and I hope it doesn’t!), keep your chin up and let the legal hands handle it. That’s what you pay them for!
When you first started your business, you were likely a one-man (or one-woman) band. You probably did everything yourself from building your website to cleaning the office to meeting with clients and actually doing the work you’re fond of.
Moving forward, we hope you’ll arrive at a point where it’s all just too much to handle on your own and you start thinking about hiring someone to help you out! Hiring a few extra hands can be a daunting task. There are so many things to think about when you make that decision.
Today we’ll look at a few questions to ask yourself when considering expanding the business.
What elements do you need help with the most?
You’ve probably come to the decision to hire someone because you’re overwhelmed. But what specific tasks do you find overwhelming? Sit down and make a list of the most frustrating parts to the day. What don’t you have any time for and where do you need the most help?
What do you want to spend your time on?
This is a very important question. Many business owners will rush to hire someone with similar skills to their own… only to find themselves handing off all the “fun” projects to the new hire, and being stuck with the day-to-day maintenance of the business such as the bookkeeping, etc.
So spend some time thinking about the tasks that could be handed off to someone who holds a different skillset. Ideally you get to spend the most amount of time with your clients. So a good first hire might be a part-time bookkeeper or accountant who can help with the budgeting & financial reporting. A personal assistant can be another great start: someone who has the ability to schedule your day, help you with client communications, and keep track of invoices, contracts, etc.
Do you need full-time or part-time help?
Really think about this. If you’re overwhelmed with running the business yourself it can seem like you need three extra sets of hands for 60 hours per week each! That’s likely not reality. And the last thing you want is to hire someone to sit on their hands.
Take some time to objectively look at the tasks you want this new person to complete, and how much time these should take. Average it out and include this in your “help wanted” ad. Being clear about the time commitment will help avoid applications from unqualified candidates.
How much time do you have for hiring & training?
This is such an important question most people overlook. When you hire someone, it will take a chunk of your time to peruse resumes and interview potential candidates. You’ll also want to set aside a fair chunk of time to train your new employee. No one will succeed if you stick them at a desk and expect them to read your mind. Training, mentoring, evaluating, and nurturing are all part of the deal when hiring someone new.
Do you have the capital to hire someone?
If you’re bringing on a new employee you need to consider the up-front costs, not just in your time, but in overhead costs as well. Can you supply them with the tools they need to do the job? Most employees will require a quiet workspace that contains a desk, phone, and computer. You should also consider added costs such as Internet usage, etc. that will increase once it’s more than just yourself using the office.
Are you willing to take on an Intern?
An internship or co-op can be a cost-effective way to get some temporary help. You can work with local schools to recruit someone who’s right for the job. The downside is they often require more of your time in terms of training. Still, it’s a viable option to consider and can lead to some of the best employees you’ve ever had.
What are your legal responsibilities when hiring someone?
This will vary based on your city, state or province, but you need to know all the requirements associated with becoming an employer. Everything from wages to employment insurance to employee benefits, you need to know what you’re required to offer employees, and what’s standard for employers in your area as well.
That’s a lot to consider!
Yes it is.
Hiring someone shouldn’t be done lightly, but doing so when well-informed and prepared for the task at hand can be the best business decision you ever make!
Whether you’re a designer, planner or makeup artist, there are tons of trade shows you can attend that aim to help you improve your skills. There are also tons of trade shows aimed at the public that can help you get clients.
Here are our tips on how you can get in at a trade show, and how to ensure you aren’t wasting your time!
Pick and choose the right shows for your business
There are literally thousands of shows, and you can’t be at all of them. Make a list of the shows you want to participate in, then narrow down that list. Some elements you want to consider include:
- Cost of exhibiting
- The attendee profile (target audience for the show)
- Other exhibitors who will be present
- The time & location of the event
- The total expected attendee count
If you exhibit at a show where you’re out of your league, you’ll seem like an amateur. If, on the other hand, you are a seasoned professional attending an amateur trade show, you’ll come off as snooty.
Set a goal for the show
What do you want to accomplish by attending this trade show? You should be able to answer this question. I know ultimately you want to generate new clients, but how are you hoping to do this? Your goals might be to:
- Collect names for a mailing list
- Schedule free client consultations after the show
- Network with other vendors
Whatever your primary goal is, make sure you have one! This will help you keep focused when you’re planning your booth setup & putting together your day-of gameplan.
Set up a professional booth
Once you’ve registered to be a vendor at a trade show, it’s time to plan your exhibit. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of the show:
Whatever show you’re attending, you likely won’t be supplied with much more than a table and a couple of banquet chairs. It’s up to you to bring a professional backdrop, table covers, extra chairs, etc.
Have good signage
People shouldn’t have to try and guess who you are or what you do. Make sure you have banners printed that clearly show your company name & logo, and maybe your tagline as well. This will help you by ensuring only people who are interested in your services swing by your booth.
If you want to have any type of electronic display, check with the event organizers as quickly as possible to make sure you’ll have a power source, WiFi… whatever you might need. Don’t take these for a given… you might need to make special arrangements, like renting a TV or bringing your own extension cords.
Make it comfortable and FUN!
When people attend trade shows, they walk around dozens or hundreds of vendor booths. If yours doesn’t stand out, not many attendees will choose to stop by. So think outside the box and give people a reason to stop by!
- Having extra comfortable seating in your booth where people can get away from a crowd for a few minutes will encourage attendees to do just that. And while they’re sitting down, you can engage them in a conversation!
- Everyone likes free stuff. Give away swag or other tokens that people will like, and that will help you stand out. Stuff like branded tote bags, USB sticks, reusable water bottles, etc. are always useful and are a sure way for people to remember you!
- Offering free food is also a great way to get extra visitors. Just be careful of food allergies, and don’t offer anything too messy!
- Make it a game! Some of the best trade shows booths I’ve visited had cool games to engage stoppers-by. Have visitors spin a prize wheel, participate in an online draw if you have a computer handy… I even once saw a booth that had a “dunk tank” where you could make one of their reps fall into a pool of water by answering a trivia question. Those are the vendors you remember!
Get adequate show staff
Trade shows are long and exhausting! Attendees might only be around for an hour or so… but you’ll be there from dusk ‘til dawn! It’s impossible for you to do it alone.
So plan ahead and make sure you have adequate show staff to help you out on the big day. If your company is large enough that you have employees, ask them to pitch in and attend the show. They’ll likely be able to sell your services as well as you can.
Your other option is to hire show staff to help you out. You can hire individuals for the day off of job boards, or go through a marketing or advertising agency who have employees for this very purpose.
Whatever show staff you hire, just make sure:
- They are informed enough about your services to be able to answer simple questions;
- They are lively and enthusiastic. (TIP: try book your show staff in 4-hour shifts, MAX, and give them a few breaks within that time)
- They are polite and friendly. The last thing you want is for someone who is representing your brand to just stand there and ignore potential clients!
On the day of…
You’ve set up your booth and your staff is ready to sell your services. The doors to the show open… here we go!
A lot of trade show attendees will be shy and hesitant to come up to a booth without a warm welcome. If anyone so much as glances in your direction, make them feel welcomed with a smile and a friendly “Hi there!” It can go a long way, trust me!
Avoid the up-front sales pitch
This will just scare people away. You have two ears and one mouth, so try to listen twice as much as you talk. When you first engage with a customer, try asking him questions that relate back to your services, instead of shoving a brochure in his hand and taking down their information for a consultation right off the bat.
Don’t waste people’s time
If you’ve done your job right with cool giveaways and a fun booth, you’ll attract all sorts of people to your booth. Not all these people will be potential customers – or even remotely interested in your services – and that’s okay. As long as you’ve done your job and picked a good show, there will be loads of potential customers there, so don’t waste time trying to sell to those who don’t want it.
When you first greet people, try to have a greeting that will allow you to quickly gauge the person’s interest. If they aren’t your target client, politely excuse yourself (encourage them to take advantage of your freebies anyway!) and move on to the next person.
Note: You might have the urge to ask those who aren’t interested in your services to move away from your booth. Don’t do this. A busy booth is more attractive to attendees than a “dead” one, so keep as many people around as possible!
If you follow these tips, your trade show could be a huge success! Good luck and let us know how it goes!
When you meet a client for the first time, it’s a two-way interview. They want to know if you can do the job they have in mind, and you want to know if they, as a client, will be a good fit for your business.
The question a lot of designers ask: Should I charge a fee for the initial consultation?
There are two views to this approach. At QC, we believe time is money and you should charge clients for your time. Others believe not charging clients makes you more appealing to the masses.
Let’s explore both options.
Why you SHOULD charge for the consultation
- You’ll waste less time… and so will your clients
If clients have to pay a fee to get you to consult on their project, they’re much more likely to have thoroughly considered their situation and have decided you’re a strong contender for the job. They will probably have spent some time checking you out online and have already decided they like your style. Even if they end up not hiring you, they are happy to pay to hear your ideas in the initial meeting.
- You’ll spend more time with your client
If you’re paid for a consultation, you’re much more likely to be on your “A” game during that meeting. You’ll give your client the attention they deserve, and you won’t mind spending a few hours with them. If you’re not charging for your time, you’ll probably be watching that clock and trying to get back to your real work—the work that pays the bills—as quickly as possible
- You’ll weed out the DIY-ers
Many clients will call a decorator over for a free consultation, just to hear their opinions, without ever intending on hiring anyone. And hey… there’s absolutely nothing wrong with people who design and decorate their own homes. More power to them! But, that’s not your target market and you aren’t going to spend a few hours in a client consultation with people who have no intention of hiring you.
- It’s an added stream of revenue
Who says no to more money! Charging for the consultation may be a way to weed out clients who are never going to hire you, but there are also clients who ONLY want a consultation with a designer, and who ARE willing to pay for that service.
- It’s the industry standard
Check out most design and decorating firms out there… and you’ll find most charge for consultations. You don’t want to seem like an amateur in your area by being one of the few companies that doesn’t charge in the same way!
- You’ll offer a higher level of service to your clients
When you don’t charge for the consultation, you’re more likely to treat the meeting like a poker game. You won’t want to give away your best ideas in case the client doesn’t hire you. You’ll ask them questions, but you won’t give them too much feedback. If they’re paying you, however, then you’ll feel much more comfortable sharing your suggestions and thoughts openly with the client. Even if they don’t hire you, they’ve paid you to do so.
Why you might NOT want to charge for your consultation
- You ARE an amateur
If you’re brand new in the industry, and especially if you don’t have any training, people are more likely to give you a chance if you don’t charge above your station. Offering free consultations is a way for potential clients to get to know you, since you don’t have any references or work samples to fall back on.
- You have plenty of time
If you’re struggling to get clients, if business is scarce or if you simply have more hours available and want to fill those up, offering free client consultations will have more people calling you. Those extra phone calls have the potential to land one or two extra clients. Mind you, you’re paying for those clients… with your time!
- You prefer to meet clients at your office
When you don’t charge for the consultation, clients can’t expect you to come to them. If you prefer staying at the office and having clients come to you, then you can book free consultation appointments where the client can bring in photos or floorplans and discuss the project with you.
- It’s not the norm in your area
Above all else, I always stress the importance of knowing your competition. Sure, charging for client consultations is the industry norm, but if you’re in a smaller city or in an area that isn’t financially stable, it’s possible that the opposite is true. You certainly don’t want to be looked at as “snobby” because you’re the only one around who charges for a consultation. That is… not unless you’re positive you’re the only one around who’s worth it.
What side of the fence are YOU on? Do you charge for the client consultation? Let us know in a comment!
If “Social Media” to you means watching the news with a group of friends, this article is definitely for you! If you own your own business, you’ll want to read on as well. The following is a guide on social media for beginners:
What is social media?
Any platform where users register an account and share content is considered a Social Media platform. There are some that are infinitely more popular than others, however certain smaller platform are better at reaching a very specific type of client.
Some of the most common social media platforms out there include:
- Facebook: One of the most popular & well-known social networks on the planet. Users share content with “friends”. Approx. 1.2 billion users worldwide.
- Twitter: Users connect with eachother and share short updates (or “tweets”). Messages limited to 140 characters at a time. Approx. 700 million users worldwide.
- Google+: Another general blogging-type network. Friends connect & share content.
- LinkedIn: Networking site aimed at businesses and business professionals. Users post their professional resumes, recommend employees & peers and rate others’ professional skills.
- Pinterest: Online inspiration boards where users organize & share photos & other content from other websites.
- Instagram: Users upload their personal photos & short videos & share them with followers.
- YouTube: Video sharing website
- StumbleUpon: Users “stumble” through websites that match their selected interests
- Flickr: Photography networking website. Users upload, share and comment on their photographs (usually on a professional or amateur professional level).
- The list goes on!
Why you should care
As the owner of a small business, it’s likely your job of ensuring your brand has a good online presence. A good business website is a start, but a social media presence is arguably just as important.
Just about 90% of people out there today have at least one social media account that they check regularly. Just think about how many of the above-mentioned platforms you yourself use! Now think about HOW you use them.
You probably keep in touch with friends and family, share useful content, comment on other people’s postings, look up products and services, post reviews on your favorite and least favorite brands…
Wait, what? You interact with brands on social media?
Most people do.
Now imagine if, say, you wanted to find a good nail salon in your area. You might start with a google search, find a few nearby, and then likely you’ll go check out their Facebook page for pictures posted by their regular customers. You might read a few customer reviews and you’ll definitely take note if this doesn’t exist or if you only see negatives on there.
The same is true for most service-based businesses. Your success relies on your online reputation.
You’ve convinced me: Social Media is important. Now what?
Well, your first step is to identify what social media platforms are right for your business. There are literally hundreds of different platforms out there, and you certainly can’t be on all of them. Here’s my advice:
Focus on the biggies
You can’t get away from at least having a presence on Facebook and Twitter. You might not like it, but it’s a reality. With a presence on these two networks, odds are you’ll be able to connect with 80-90% of your target market.
Find out where your clientele hangs out
While most people have a Facebook and Twitter account, you should endeavour to find out if there’s also a large portion of your target market that spends their time on another social channel.
If you find that 40-50% or more of your target are all active on another channel, you should be there, too. A few to consider are Pinterest and Instagram. These have been growing over the past few years and, especially if you have a visual-based business, they’re relatively easy to keep updated with minimal effort.
Which brings me to my next point…
Be where it makes sense!
If you constantly take many pictures of your work, it makes sense for you to have an Instagram presence. But YouTube? Maybe not so much.
While you should keep an eye out on where your target market hangs out, don’t have a presence on any platform unless you have a purpose for being there. If you don’t have any images you can share, stay off the photography sites like Flickr. If you don’t have any video content, you don’t belong on YouTube.
LinkedIn is a tricky one. It can be a good place to interact with other businesses, or to get job offers, but it’s not really the place to chat with your target market 1-on-1.
What should I post? How often?
This question has been around ever since businesses have jumped on the social media bandwagon.
There are no golden rules. You should experiment on what works best for you. However, here are a couple of best practices that I’ve found work well:
Keep it relevant, change it up, post often
Try not to post for the sake of posting. Whatever you post – on any channel – should be something that will be considered useful to your followers. This could be a status update from your business, images of a job well done, a poll for your clients, sharing an interesting article or image from another source, etc. The key is to stay on topic (a makeup artist suddenly sharing an article about their favorite horror novel is just weird… and you’d be surprised how often things like this happen), and also to post a variety of content to avoid becoming stale.
In terms of the frequency of posts, you want to be present without being annoying. This varies depending on the channel. As a minimum, try to post to sites like Facebook and Instagram every day or two. Twitter should be once a day or more, while other sites like LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube can be once every week or two.
If you post to a channel less than once a month… you probably shouldn’t be there.
Monitor your brand mentions, and respond quickly!
Now that you’re on social media, you’ll be able to keep tabs on what others are saying about you. Social isn’t about talking. A lot of it is about listening, too.
You should perform regular searches for your brand name, and see if any comments require your attention. Also monitor posts to your page by other people, as well as personal messages. These should be answered quickly: at least within 24 hours, excluding weekends.
How to respond
Think of social media as customer service that everyone can see. Whenever you respond to a post about your services, keep in mind that how you respond is seen by other potential clients. So even if there is a post from an irate customer – and especially if that customer is wrong or worse, derogatory or abusive – you need to remain calm and respond professionally.
Never, ever, get into an argument with someone over social media. Never tell people off, or respond in any way other than courteous and respectful. If you keep your cool, odds are other users will come to your defense.
What about my personal profiles?
Odds are you’ll have a personal profile on at least a few of the sites where you now have your business account. There’s nothing wrong with that. But be mindful that most users will be able to link your personal profile as the person who owns or runs that business.
With that in mind, be careful about what is visible on your personal account. There’s nothing wrong with being yourself on your personal account, but consider adopting the highest security and privacy settings available so that users who aren’t your friends won’t see the less-than-professional content.
Basically, make sure your personal brand doesn’t clash with your business. You can check out our article on personal branding here.
The key takeaways
I know we covered a lot in this article. You may be a little overwhelmed, and that’s okay. To sum up, here’s what you need to take away:
- Be present on social. Figure out the few sites that will give you the best exposure for the least amount of effort. Odds are these are Facebook and Twitter.
- Post stuff that matters to your followers. Tie it back to your business.
- Don’t be boring, and don’t be annoying. Post frequently enough to be heard, but don’t overdo it.
- Treat comments like ticking time bombs. Be professional, friendly and courteous. Never engage in a social media war with a commenter on social.
- Limit what others can see on your personal profiles.
This should be enough information to get you started on a good note. But you’ll of course have to experiment to see what works best for your target audience. Don’t be afraid to take chances and think outside the box!
If you found this article helpful, you’ll want to check out our business archives for more useful tips and tricks!
The interior decorating & design industry is one of the fastest-changing ones out there. As a professional, it’s your job to stay on top of the most current industry standards and trends. After all, your clients come to you for your expertise and you certainly don’t want them to know more about your industry than you do!
So how can you make sure to stay on top of what’s going on?
Read, Watch & Listen
The Internet isn’t just there for you to advertise your services. It also contains a horde of information that can be valuable for your business. So set aside 30-45 minutes every day to scour the Internet for the latest and greatest!
Follow influential industry leaders on social media
There have to be a few people out there whom you truly admire for their design and decorating work, right? Taking the time to follow these people on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram means they’ll become a source of content curation for you. If you have similar interest to these industry leaders, they’ll recommend articles to read and videos to watch that will keep you well informed!
That goes for YouTube, too!
Those industry leaders we spoke of… they probably have YouTube channels. Subscribe to them and watch some of their videos. They can teach you something new or at least give you a few fresh ideas you can use to “wow” your clients!
Read (or at least skim) the most popular design & decorating blogs
Go ahead and Google “Top Decorating Blogs” and add a few from those top 10 lists to your daily repertoire. Sure you don’t have the time to read every single article posted every day (unless that’s your full time job), but skimming their headlines at least once a week will yield a few articles that are worth your time. Make it a habit to at least read a few of these articles every week.
Subscribe to popular design & decorating newsletters
Some manufacturers, vendors and suppliers are more well-known than others, and strive to keep their brands relevant in new industry trends. As such, they’ll often send out weekly or monthly newsletters that talk about the latest and greatest for their brands. Sign up for these email lists and you’ll quickly find the few emails that are worth your time!
Jack of all trades = master of none
While you should have a general idea of what’s going on in the industry, you can’t be an expert in every topic… so don’t even try. Instead, pick and choose which trends your brand will be known for, and focus on those. If a client comes to you looking for a trend that isn’t in your wheelhouse, you should be ready to refer them to another professional who can provide that expertise.
Ask your audience
If you’re doing your business justice, you have a social media presence. Why not poll your audience and find out what trends they’re most excited about for the upcoming season? If you find out what your target market is excited about, you can endeavour to become more of an expert on that particular topic.
Find a gap in the local market
As a savvy business owner, you should know what’s going on locally. Keep tabs on your competition and what trends they’re focusing on. If there’s a particular trend no one else is doing, make sure you gain some knowledge on that subject! This isn’t a golden rule… and you should always make sure to do what’s best for your brand… but this tactic can help set you apart from the competition and increase your market share.
Start your own trends
If you truly want to excel in the industry, you should endeavor to become a trendsetter yourself. Don’t be afraid to generate a bit of buzz and excitement over some of the work you’re currently doing. Set up your own social media accounts, blog and YouTube channel to talk about YOUR best practices and trends. This will not only set you apart from your competition, but will also impress your potential clients!
Just do it!
You might think it’s impossible to spend the better part of an hour each day just doing research, but it’s a good habit to get into… and it’s NOT a waste of time! Staying informed can mean the difference between getting new clients and being left out in the cold.
Tell us! What are YOUR go-to sources for keeping up with the industry? Let us know in a comment!
How to keep focused and stay motivated during your online studies
Online learning is great. You get to learn at your own pace, on your own time, and if you take full advantage of your teachings, you come out well versed in your chosen industry and you have a solid foundation for an exciting career!
But that’s only if you graduate.
Since online learning is self-paced, your inner procrastinator will inevitably speak up sooner or later. It can be hard to shut up that voice and stay focused throughout your studies.
Unlike high school or even college, no one will stay on your case and give you deadlines. No one will be upset if you don’t show up for class. You really have to motivate yourself and keep going until you reach that finish line!
Lucky for you, here are a few tips that can help!
The flexibility of online learning can make planning for your course a little challenging. Some QC students complete their entire program within 2 months, while others take the full three years!
Where do you want to be on that scale? Perhaps you already have a job and a family and intend on taking a year or two to complete the course, which is just fine. On the other hand, you might need this certificate to get a job ASAP.
Whatever your situation, set a goal for yourself. Write it down in a calendar or day planner.
Note: Though you have up to three years to complete any QC course, we suggest you set your target date of completion no more than two years out. That way if something happens and you are set back, you’ll still have plenty of time to catch up!
Make a plan
Once you receive your course materials, read through your course guides and make a list of all the assignments you have to complete.
Now grab a calendar and give yourself due dates for all these assignments. You can do this by hand, in a google calendar, or any other software you use to keep you organized. Myself, I’m a huge fan of Trello and Asana. Both have lists, due dates, calendar integrations, email reminders, and just about everything you need to stay organized.
If you’re interested in checking out other tools that help you keep organized, read this: 10 great apps to stay organized.
Note: Make sure you give yourself realistic deadlines! Really think about how much time each assignment will take, then give yourself a buffer on top of that.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
You probably enrolled in an online course because you think it will bring you closer to your dream job, right? So why wait until after graduation to get started?
Instead of looking at your online course as yet another roadblock before you can truly dive into the industry, try treating every assignment as real-world industry experience. Become a professional before you even graduate: get a few clients and work on their projects pro-bono to help build your portfolio. There are quite a few people out there who will entertain students in the industry for a discount, however they will still expect a very high standard of work.
TIP: If you’re worried about staying motivated, make a list of the reasons why completing your course is important to you, and keep it somewhere visible!
This is the real world, darling, and delays will inevitably happen. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t complete an assignment on time or you’re falling behind on your school work.
Instead, use delays as an opportunity to make you a better planner. Take out your calendar (whichever one you’re using), and update future due dates based on what you’ve now learned. You might want to think about giving yourself a greater buffer between assignments, or lengthening the time spent on each unit.
If you’re overwhelmed, there’s no shame in asking for help. QC’s student support team is available to help you work through course assignments whenever you need that extra hand.
But it doesn’t stop there. If the road block is a personal one, try talking to friends or family about your hiccups and to get some encouragement. Even if you confirm with your friends that you were born to be a makeup artist, designer, or writer… it might be a much needed boost to keep going!
Celebrate your Accomplishments
If motivation is a problem for you, take the time to celebrate your progress. When you complete a reading or an assignment, reward yourself with a snack, a walk, a favorite movie, whatever you love to do!
Don’t be afraid to turn off for a day or two. If you schedule breaks, you’re less likely to stop half-way through a reading or assignment!
It’s easy to be motivated with something that’s fun. Whether you’ve enrolled in QC’s makeup artistry, event planning, design, or writing programs, it must be because you have a passion for that line of work.
So have fun with your assignments!
Create a makeup look you’ve always wanted to try, and get your tutor’s feedback on how it can be improved. Or redecorate your bedroom (possibly for the 15th time), and send the pictures to your interior decorating tutor for valuable insight. Write a short story about something that fascinates you.
Any of these sound like fun? Work them into your school assignments!
As Greg Anderson once said, “When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live.”
So if your school work is on the path to your dream career, keep that in mind as you complete your work and don’t give up!
Thinking about online learning? Check out QC’s full course catalog to find a course that’s right for you!
Whether you’re a makeup artist or a writer, an event planner or a designer, you are a professional.
But what does that really mean? Basically, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Especially when looking for clients or applying for a job, the slightest lack of professionalism can send that opportunity out the window.
Many professionals who are just starting out have a difficult time with where to draw the line between their personal and professional lives. Whether you’re meeting with a client, networking with partners, dealing with vendors, or interviewing for a job, you should always follow the simple rules of maintaining professionalism. Below you’ll find some of our greatest pet peeves when it comes to dealing with professionals.
DO: Check your spelling
Good luck, my friend. That portfolio is going in the trash.
Same when looking for a job, if a resume or cover letter contains a spelling or grammar mistake (or both), 10:1 you won’t be called in for an interview.
While you might be in the habit of writing “slang” when speaking to friends, texting or emailing, it’s so important to drop that habit when communicating in a professional manner. Whether you’re emailing, texting, or messaging someone over social media, always:
- Use full sentences. This includes proper punctuation.
- Check your spelling, and then check it again. You can use the spell checking feature in your internet browser to help ensure you avoid the most common spelling mistakes.
- Write in a clear and concise manner. Business communications are short and sweet. Of course you always want to be friendly and courteous, but there’s no need to drone on about irrelevant topics.
Interested in learning more about writing good business emails?
Read this: “Writing Tips: Sharpen Email Messages“
DON’T: Mix business and recreation on social media
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram… and dozens more social media networks to choose from. You probably have your own profile on at least some of these networks, where you keep in touch with family and friends.
One of the greatest mistakes you can make is to use your own personal account as a front for your business as well.
It’s easy to create business pages on all these networks, where you can share content relevant to your business without sharing personal information.
Going a step further, if your personal profile contains discussions that could be considered controversial or offensive, or photographs that depict you in a less-than-professional manner, you might want to think about changing your privacy settings to a “private” profile. This is especially crucial for job hunters!
DO: Dress appropriately
When you own a small business and especially if you work from home, there’s a tendency to think more casually. Especially if you’re entertaining clients, avoid the pajamas, sweat pants, or that favorite sweatshirt with the holes in it. This includes having clients over to your home studio for a makeup trial!
- Cleanliness and proper grooming are number one. If you’re working with a client’s clothing or makeup, let your client see you use a good hand sanitizer.
- Avoid heavily scented soaps or perfumes. Some clients can be very sensitive or even allergic to scents.
- Avoid jeans, shorts, cargo pants, t-shirts, etc. They give off the wrong impression.
- Invest in a smart business suit or two.
Looking for a new job?
Check out job interview styles!
DON’T: Become best friends with your clients
This is especially tricky for event planners or designers. You really get to know your client, in and out. You help them design their house or plan the most important day of their lives. Frankly, when you spend that much time with anyone, it’s easy to become friends.
But you need to know where to draw the line. Your clients have hired you to do a job:
- While there’s nothing wrong with giving a client your cell phone number, you should also give them guidelines on when they should use it. Keep phone conversations professional.
- Event planners are sometimes encouraged to join their clients for a meal or a drink on the big day, as a thank-you. Don’t. Your clients are there to enjoy themselves… You’re there to work.
- Avoid becoming friends with your clients on social media. You should have a professional page for your business as we discussed above, and your clients are surely encouraged to join your network. But when it comes to your own personal profile, keep that for your friends and family.
DO: Your homework
This is especially important if you’re networking with other professionals or interviewing for a job. You want to make sure you have enough background information to lead a conversation and ask intelligent questions!
- Research the individual or the company ahead of time on their website and social media.
- Take notes and memorize a few interesting facts about them or their business that you can use if the conversation grows stale.
- Come up with a few questions you’d like to ask, before you even meet. This will show that you’re serious about the opportunity, whether it’s a new business relationship or a new job.
DON’T: Give Up!
Mistakes happen, and that’s how we learn! A lack of professionalism can lead to a lost opportunity, but as long as you learn not to make the same mistake twice, you’ll be ahead of the game!
Do you have a professionalism pet peeve? Share it in a comment!
Benjamin Moore is always a favorite, “go to” site for interesting ideas, new products and all round color and painting advice and help.
The site’s Personal Color Viewer is a flexible, powerful tool that is easy to use but offers really insightful tools and options. Found in the section of the site reserved for professionals, it offers excellent options that allow you to demonstrate to your clients exactly what you are proposing for a project.
You can easily wash any number of model rooms with an infinite variety of different paint options, or simply download a room from a current project of your own and use the tool to try out and demonstrate various possibilities for your clients.
Beware, however! This tool is probably a better time waster than Free Cell or Facebook. You can easily pass a pleasant hour experimenting with different color ways when you really should have been concentrating on writing!
Do you have a favorite online tool? Tell us about it!
Considering leaving your job to start a new career? Here’s what you need to know!
Are you tired with the ins and outs of your current job? Are you sitting behind a desk all day counting the minutes until you get to go home?
If you’re unhappy with your current job, you’ve probably thought of changing careers. Many of QC’s students come to us from full time corporate jobs that just aren’t right for them.
But, I know what you’re probably thinking. If you have a full time job that pays the bills, you’re probably terrified of giving it up for the uncertainty of chasing your dreams. I don’t blame you. It’s incredibly scary!
But don’t worry. You CAN chase your dreams without risking too much. You just need to be smart about your approach.
First thing’s first: make sure you choose a career path that’s right for you. The last thing you want is to end up in another job that you don’t care for.
Choose something you believe in and that’s based on something you LOVE to do! Do you rearrange your living room or bedroom every two months? Interior Decorating might be right up your ally. Are you the ultimate organized person who just loves to put on a great party? Event and Wedding Planning could be for you.
But don’t just throw a dart to figure it out. If you’re not sure, try getting in touch with a few professionals in your area, and talk to them about why they love their job. Find out the good and the bad, and decide if it’s right for you.
Take your time! I know you want to get a move on, but don’t rush into it. Consider all your options.
It’s tough to break into any industry, especially without any form of training. You can become a certified professional in many different fields through distance education programs. These programs are easily completed even if you have a full time job.
How? Our student support team is asked this all the time.
Truth is, distance learning programs are designed to fit your busy lifestyle. You don’t need to travel to a campus every day and there are no hard deadlines to meet. Just work at your own pace and complete assignments when you have the time to do so.
In most of QC’s courses, if you commit a few hours a week to your studies, you can complete one of our professional programs within 4-6 months. But, that’s just an average. Some of our students complete their course in as little as two months, and some take a full three years to complete. The choice, ultimately, is yours!
Thinking about an online event planning school? Check out this handy FREE e-book, “Choosing an online event planning school that’s right for you!” and make an informed decision!
Don’t quit your day job… yet
Once you’ve been certified in your chosen field it can be tempting to quit your job and dive head-first into starting your own business. And hey, if you have the means to give it a go, then by all means, dive in!!
But, for most of us, there are bills to pay and maybe even a family to support. You can get started with your new business on a small scale, part-time, while keeping your full time job (for now), just to reduce that stress level.
Slowly get your name out there by taking on a few clients whom you can work with on evenings and weekends. Build up a reputation for yourself, and save whatever earnings you make from your work, so that when you ARE ready to go at it full-time, you’ll have a strong foundation to rely on.
Be careful! If you have a day job, it can be tempting to use company time & resources to work on your own projects. Don’t fall into this trap. If you decide to stay at your full-time job, it deserves 100% of your focus while you’re there.
If you don’t want to start a business…
If owning your own business isn’t your cup of tea, you can always try to get a job within a corporation who offers your services (a party planning service or a home staging firm, for example.)
If a firm or agency hires you on as a salaried employee, then there’s little risk in accepting it. Just be aware of what you’re signing up for. Be sure to be crystal clear on the type of work you’re expected to do, and of whatever “non-compete” clause they may require you to sign.
Once you’re fully informed and a job offer is promising, then you’re all set!
When to spread your wings
When you get to a point where your reputation is spreading, you’re getting new clients regularly, and you could fill your entire days with your own projects, it’s time to say goodbye to your day job and hello to your new, full time, dream career.
Hopefully, by now you’ve saved up a bit of a nest egg to support your new business as it grows and expands.
Don’t rush! Don’t take on more than you can handle, and give it your all. This is where you wanted to end up, and you’ve made it. Now take your time and do it right!
Give it a go!
If you’re smart about it, there’s very low risk in starting a new career. Take your time and don’t rush into it. There’s nothing wrong with going at it part-time for a few years before you take the plunge. You can build up your skills and gain some extra cash at the same time!
What are some of your concerns with changing careers? Let us know in a comment or contact us to talk to a Student Support Agent today!