Like most people I love travelling. And one of my favorite things to do (and this may strike you as strange) is pack for my trip!
Whether I’m packing for a weekend away or a trip halfway around the world, I always take the same amount of care when packing my things. I have a lot of fun putting together ensembles and squeezing them all into my suitcase(s) a la Tetris, and I especially like accessorizing for my time away. Which brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves: tangled jewelry. What’s the point in bringing along the perfect accents to my carefully planned outfits if they’re just going to get tangled up into a frustrating mess by the time I arrive at my destination? So, today I’m sharing my three favorite jewelry storage solutions, all using things you probably already have lying around.
1. The Pill Box
I love pill boxes, but not for the obvious reasons. Instead of storing my daily multivitamins I use them to store my precious earrings. I opt for the transparent ones so I can easily identify what’s inside. And to ensure everything stays contained during the hustle and bustle of my trip, I’ll throw each pill box inside a sock before rolling them up.
2. The Glasses Case
Chances are you have one or two of these lying around. I know I do. And they’re great for storing larger statement necklaces. I usually only bring along 2 or 3 statement pieces like this when I go away, and all I do is stash them in a hard glasses case. These are typically lined with a softer material, so I know my jewelry won’t get damaged.
3. The Hair Clip
Over the years I’ve tried many bangle storage solutions, but this one is by far my favorite. I always bring along a large, curved hair clip to hold my bracelets because it’s a great way to keep them all together and my suitcase organized.
How do you keep your jewelry organized when travelling? Share your tips below!
PART 3: Marketing to Clients
As an event/wedding planner, you’ll be involved on both sides of the marketing fence: Business to Customer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B). The first is your traditional marketing to clients. The second is marketing yourself to other businesses who can help you succeed (vendors, etc.)
Let’s start with marketing to clients.
B2C Marketing relies on knowing your target customers, inside and out. Once you understand who your target is and where he/she spends her time, you can start developing a marketing strategy. For example, most newspaper ads are obsolete… unless you’re trying to reach an audience who still goes to print for their primary source of information and entertainment. And the same can be said for the flip side: promoting yourself on social media is great, but make sure to focus on the websites where your clients will see your efforts!
As you go through this list of potential marketing mediums, ask yourself if they are right for your customers.
Paid Search (Digital)
This one is a no brainer. If your clients use the Internet, they probably use Google. Using Google Paid Advertising is an easy way to ensure your website shows up at the top of the list when a customer searches for your business name or the services you offer. You can easily set up a google AdWords account for free, and set a modest daily budget, targeting a few industry keywords to get the ball rolling.
Pros: You can get to the top of search listings without spending tons of time getting links to your website
Cons: Depending on which keywords you’re bidding on, Google can get pretty expensive.
Advertising in Newspapers or Magazines (Traditional)
You can buy ad space for your business in Newspapers or other print mediums. These spaces come in a variety of sizes and you can design your own ad to fit within the allotted space.
Pros: Most print ads have a high reach and can be relatively inexpensive
Cons: It is very difficult to gauge the effectiveness of print advertising; most readers have developed “ad blindness” and might not pay attention to your ads.
Printing out flyers or brochures to be sent to potential clients as promotional mail is a way to get many impressions. A well thought out campaign (you have to think outside the box) has potential to get noticed.
Pros: Reach thousands of people in one fell swoop; target individuals, businesses, or both.
Cons: In order for direct mail to work, it can be very expensive and take a fair amount of your time to get it right. It’s also very difficult to track results, outside of sending out discount offers which can end up cheapening your brand.
Get a writer’s attention
Probably a more effective way of getting your name into a newspaper, magazine, or influential blog is to attract the attention of a writer who’s interested in your business. This can be done in a few ways:
- Reach out to reporters or bloggers to feature a special event or aspect of your business (are you planning a unique event? Do you have a funny story to share? Another piece of content that could be useful to their readers?). Just make sure it’s not self-promoting. No reporter will write about a discount or sale, for example, but they might write about an event you’ve organized.
- Offer your services as an industry expert. There are many reporters or bloggers who are looking for reliable sources to feature in articles they’re already developing. Resources like “HelpAReporter.com” are great ways to get your name and your business featured in leading industry publications.
Pros: Doesn’t cost anything but your time; you can end up being featured in very prestigious publications (especially with option 2)
Cons: It does take a lot of time and you’ll face a lot of rejection. That’s part of the challenge.
Using your Social Media Channels
If you’ve been following this series, you now have a website and a few social media accounts that are ready to roll. Facebook and Twitter are the overlords of the Social Media industry. Instagram is also a great medium for wedding/event planners, since the business tends to yield plenty of gorgeous pictures.
A few tips to succeed at Social Media Marketing:
- Post regularly and consistently. Have a “social media schedule” and stick to it. There are many types of software out there that can help you schedule posts in advance. A few examples are buffer and hootsuite.
- Treat your social media like a time bomb. Be ready to quickly respond to comments on your posts or direct messages from potential clients. Social Media users aren’t patient. Taking too long to respond to a comment, question, or inquiry is a recipe for disaster.
- Don’t ask without giving back: follow your followers and participate on their social pages as well. They’ll return the favor.
- Ask your satisfied clients to post their event pictures and tag your business. Word-of-mouth from a happy customer is the best advertising you can ever ask for.
Here’s a social media secret not many small businesses understand: Your followers don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Posting a message about how great your business is, is sure to fail. Posting content that is useful to your follower will be liked and shared, thus promoting your brand. (“useful” can mean anything from funny to inspiring to solving a specific problem.)
Once you’ve set up your website and have a decent following on social media, consider launching a blog on your site. You can blog about anything related to your business, as long as you’re sensitive to your clients’ privacy.
A critical aspect of a blog is to keep updating it regularly: daily is best, but at a minimum once a week. Writing blog articles that are useful to your readers can attract new clients and help forge relationships with other industry professionals.
Which brings us to the final part of this series. Stay tuned for the upcoming fourth and final piece: Marketing yourself to Vendors.
Are you looking to start an event and wedding planning business? All of QC’s Event and Wedding Planning Courses come with our “Achieving Business Success” DVD series that offers much more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to market yourself effectively to clients! Learn more here.
This week we sat down with one of Winghill Writing School’s tutors, the amazing Joan Hall Hovey to talk her new book, what keeps her writing, and her advice and words of encouragement for those who want to become authors.
Your new book, The Deepest Dark is a true nail-biter. Can you summarize the plot in a few lines?
I’ll give you the blurb on the back of the book:
Following the deaths of her husband, Corey, and ten year old daughter Ellie in a traffic accident, author Abby Miller sinks ever deeper into depression. She contemplates suicide as a way to be with them, and to end her unrelenting pain.
In a last desperate effort to find peace, she drives to Loon Lake where they last vacationed together, wanting to believe they will be waiting for her there. At least in spirit. Barring that, the pills Doctor Gregory gave her to help her sleep, are in her purse.
The cabin at Loon Lake was her and Corey’s secret hideaway, and not even Abby’s sister, Karen, who she is close to, knows where it is.
But someone else does. Ken Roach is one of three men who have escaped from Pennington prison. He and his cohorts are dangerous predators who will stop at nothing to get what they want – and to keep from going back to prison. Having already committed atrocious crimes, they have nothing to lose.
Unknowingly, Abby is on a collision course with evil itself. And the decision of whether or live or die will soon be wrenched from her hands.
What do you love the most about this book?
I love my characters when they’ve told their stories well, whether they are of good hearts or dark hearts. And there are both in my books, which is necessary in any good novel, and especially the suspense novel. As the story reaches its ending a rightness of things should evolve. You can feel it when you’ve achieved that, and that’s always exciting. As it was with ‘The Deepest Dark’.
What were some of your greatest hurdles in developing this story?
I’m not aware of any hurdles in particular. But there are always difficulties in the process of writing a book; you can’t avoid it. You are, after all, creating something where nothing has been before. You are creating an entire world and the people in that world must be believable and their stories must keep the reader turning those pages, eager to know what happens next, and unwilling to put the book down until the story ends, and all the loose ends are tied up.
Why did you decide to become an author, and what keeps you coming back to the metaphorical typewriter?
I was first and foremost a voracious reader, as writers generally are. At some point came the compulsion to let my own voice rise from the page. I think writing became for me a way for a shy girl to get attention, and I had a knack for it. There is something about hushing a classroom of students while you read your story aloud, that is exhilarating. I learned I could keep my childhood friends riveted and begging for more, especially with a ripping good ghost story. There is power in that.
As a Winghill tutor, you’ve helped develop the writing skills of countless individuals. What do you think are the most common challenges these aspiring authors face on their road to success?
Believing in oneself. It takes courage to be a writer, never knowing if your work (you) will be praised or ridiculed. We must simply rise above the fear and do what we know how to do when all cylinders are firing. And do it again and again. There is no other way. The challenge is not to give up.
Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for anyone who would like to become an author like yourself?
Never let anyone tell you you shouldn’t pursue your dreams. If you have the drive and even a modest talent, you can do whatever you set out to do. But know it won’t be easy, as anything worthwhile never is. Stay with it. Practice. Write something every day. Read everything you can get your hands on about writing. Read widely and deeply, and most important, devour books written in the genre in which you want to write. Remember that even Shakespeare wasn’t above changing a line if it didn’t get a laugh where it was supposed to, or no one cried at the sad parts. Good writing is in large part rewriting, so expect to do plenty of it. We don’t always get it right first time around.
Lastly, I tell my students not to think too hard. Rather, IMAGINE. Let the story come to you.
Joan’s new book, The Deepest Dark is available now on Amazon. If you’d like to learn more about Joan, head over to her profile under TUTORS on the Winghill site.
Part 2: Building your Brand
You have an angle, and you have registered your business name. Now it’s time to get serious. Building your own brand can be tons of fun and can attract some real attention if done right.
Before diving into building your website, business cards, marketing collateral, etc., remember this one fundamental: CONSISTENCY!
When you’re building your brand, you’ll want all aspects of the business (from your website to your business card to your advertising) to have a consistent look and feel. Think about a logo that’s easy to use in different formats, images that are easily convertible from online to print, and a specific writing tone that helps clients identify with your brand.
It’s 2014, and there’s no excuse for a business not to have a website. You might not get a lot of traffic at first, but most clients won’t trust you if you don’t have some online presence.
You can easily find online templates that help you build a professional-looking website. I personally love squarespace.com: for a very inexpensive monthly subscription fee, you can build a professional website based on numerous templates, even if you don’t have any web design experience.
A few pointers when building your website:
– As previously mentioned, make sure the URL is somewhere along the lines of [your business name].com. The closer the domain is to your business name, the better.
– Unless you’re a web designer (or you hire one), stick with a proven template. It might be useful to spend a little time researching best practices for web page design to avoid making classic mistakes (i.e. avoid flash-based websites, etc.)
– Plan your site before getting started. On paper, write down the “wireframe” for your website: how many pages you need, what content will be on these pages, what the navigation will be like. At minimum, you’ll have:
1. A home page
2. A “products & services” page
3. An “about me/us” page
4. A “contact” page
– Research basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) principles and stick to them. This will help users find your website when they type your business name into Google.
– Be careful with the photographs or images you use on your site. Make sure you have the rights to use them in that context. Stock photography is an option, but if you have the time and resources to use your own photographs, there’s nothing better!
A note about email addresses: having an email address for your business hosted on a personal email provider looks amateur at best. It’s very easy and inexpensive to set up a business email account that can help you look infinitely more professional.
Consider: firstname.lastname@example.org vs. email@example.com. Which one would you trust more?
Your Business Cards
Business owners spend a lot of time designing and updating their business cards. It’s an important aspect of any business that deals with clients face-to-face, but at the same time a traditional business card can miss the mark if it doesn’t link your business image.
Before you get started, establish a budget for your business cards. Figure out how much you’re willing to spend on the design and production of your cards, and also figure out how many cards you’d realistically need. You’d be amazed how many people forget this crucial step and end up spending over 20 hours and thousands of dollars on business cards that are hardly ever used.
Business Card Basics:
– All Business Cards should contain the following:
1. The company name and logo
2. Your name and position
3. Your phone number and email address
4. The company website
– Keep it simple: avoid busy photo backgrounds or fancy, illegible fonts.
– Stay within standard business card dimensions. They are easier for clients to handle.
– Keep it consistent: try to use the same terminology, font, colors as you do on your website.
– Consider alternatives to the standard paper card: Today you can find suppliers that will create business cards made of plastic, hardwood, lace… whatever you’d like! These types of cards are more expensive, but are more likely to be noticed (and used!) by customers. So if you have a healthy budget and need a limited amount of cards, this is a wonderful option to consider!
Your Social Media Pages
Along with your website, you’ll probably want to become an active presence on social media channels. This is an area to connect directly with your clients and other vendors.
We’ll discuss the intricacies of Social Media in part 3 of this series, but here are some basics you’ll want to keep in mind when building any social media business account.
1. Surprise-surprise, you’ll want to keep consistent with the business image you’ve already developed on your website and business card. That means using the same colors, text and image styles, etc.
2. Make sure your logo is present on all your business pages, and link back to your website on all your accounts.
3. If your name is anywhere on your business’ social media accounts (and it should be), then pay attention to your personal profile as well. Make sure your own profile doesn’t contain any messages or pictures that could alienate or offend your clients.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Marketing to Clients
Are you looking to start an event and wedding planning business? All of QC’s Event and Wedding Planning Courses come with our “Achieving Business Success” DVD series that offers much more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to build a successful brand! Learn more here.
Today marks the first in a series of posts dedicated to the mystery that can be accessorizing men’s clothing. Each week we’re going to detail a different way to spruce up a mens outfit, so be sure to check back week to week for the full series!
As a fashion-conscious man, I’ve always envied that women seem to have a limitless amount of options when it comes to making an outfit pop by accessorizing. For many years as I developed my own personal sense of style I watched women’s fashion from the sidelines, trying to get the same sort of impact in my own daily looks. After reading countless magazines, taking cues from other male fashion mavens, and racking my own brain, I can tell you that there is an answer my friends, and I’ve done the research so you don’t have to! So without further ado, I present the first of five ways to up the ante in your menswear looks.
1. Tie clips/bars: not just for making sure that tie doesn’t fly up into your face
Tie clips (or bars if you prefer) came to prominence in the 1920’s as a way to hold one’s tie in place due to silk becoming a more popular material for ties. Previously, ties were held in place by tie pins – a sort of tack you would push through your tie. This would totally ruin a silk tie, so the clasp-like style of tie clips were invented to address this new need.
Let me first say that tie bars are one of my favourite ways of accessorizing what could normally be a pretty straight forward look. My best kept secret for tie clips is The Tie Bar (dot com). They carry them in a variety of colours and styles. You can’t beat classic silver, but some of my favourites are the coloured ones. As you can see below, they’re a great way to give a little splash or accent of colour to the outfit.
The trick to keeping it modern is by going with a modern width. Try to avoid the full length ones that go all away across the tie – you’ll drum up bad flashbacks of an 80’s banker in most cases. If you’re wearing a modern width tie (usually 2 1/2” wide) stick with the 1” tie clips.
That’s it for our first installment; check back next week where I’ll be writing about what I think will be the next big thing in menswear accessories.
As an avid magazine reader (who says print is dead?), I amass a lot of magazines – making my coffee table cluttered and making me look like a slob when company comes over. I also never really want to part with them; reading an article I had skipped previously, or referring back to them later on. An Ikea trip soon gave me a bit of needed inspiration to put together this super simple wall-mounted magazine rack.
What you’ll need:
– RIBBA picture ledge
– GRUNDTAL rail, stainless steel
Step 1: Place the Picture Ledge
You’ll want to place the RIBBA picture ledge where you want it and make sure it’s level. Once you have it how you want it, take a pencil and use it to mark where the screw-holes are. Remove the ledge and take your drill and drill holes on your markings to make it easier for the drill to put the screw in the wall. You can now re-place the ledge and use the drill to put in your screws, keeping the picture ledge in place.
Step 2: Place the Rail
You’ll want to do the same thing you did with the picture ledge with the rail. Again you’re going to have to place it (I used one of my magazines to stage it to see how it’d look), mark the screw holes with your pencil, and use your drill to make the holes to make the screws go in easier. Screw in the rail, and you’re done!
This is a simple, 20-minute job that makes a big difference! Gotta love when something has style AND function. Did you give it a shot? Did things a little differently? Sound off in the comments and let us know how it turned out.
Have the DYI bug? Look at our archives for more great projects!
Research = Good. Plagiarizing?? Not so much!
The risk of plagiarism is a deep, dark fear in many writers’ hearts. After all, in the creative writing world, all depends on your reputation and ability for original thought and imaginative, inventive, expression.
And you never want to lose your good reputation for, “…. good opinion, once lost, is lost forever” And yes … we did copy that from a book! After all, who could say it better than Jane? Did we plagiarize it? No, Sirree. We quoted a short excerpt, are attributing it to Jane Austen and including the fact that it comes from Pride and Prejudice, although you already knew that.
In a world where many have claimed with justification that there are really only seven main basic plots, it might seem inevitable that the same old thing, written in the same old way would just keep on re-appearing, one author plagiarizing from the last.
Yet it does not. Every year, countless books are written with fresh variations on these themes, variations that are original, compelling and narrate a story in a unique way. Here’s the thing. If the words come from your own head, even when based on research from previously printed facts or fiction, you can relax. They’ll be original and you will be safe from criticism.
You can liken it to the infinite variety of faces we raise to the sun. Basically, we all have pretty much the same main features. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth. Yet those few features are reproduced in many billions of different ways that result in instantly recognizable unique faces.
We humans are a complex, infinitely variable lot and our thoughts and experiences are just as infinite. So relax. If you are not copying, you won’t be plagiarizing.
Event and wedding planning is a tough sell. You have to get noticed in order to get clients. Many new and aspiring event/wedding planners struggle with this area of the business… even more than the actual planning itself!
In this series, we’ll look at the different requirements to building a professional brand, marketing yourself to clients, and forging beneficial relationships with vendors.
Part 1: The Basics
Before you even think of marketing yourself, there’s a lot of work to be done. You wouldn’t sell a half-baked cake, would you? Nor should you rush into marketing before having all the pieces of your business squarely in place. If you fail at this first step, you’ll probably end up leaving clients with a bad taste for your business.
Before you can start selling to clients, you have to know what they want. Too many event/wedding planners try to corner a market that doesn’t exist. For example, selling beautifully elegant, extravagant and costly weddings to low-income rural communities probably doesn’t have a great chance of succeeding.
Do you work in a busy metropolitan or in a small close-knit community? Either way, you’ll want to research what your clientele wants in a wedding and event planner.
If you’re in a large city, there are probably many options for you to choose from. Your challenge will be how to stand out from your competition. Make a list of all event and wedding planners in your area, and what their marketing angles are. You might spot a gap in the market that clients would like filled. You can then survey the community and see what they think of your ideas.
Event/Wedding planners in small towns or rural areas have a different challenge. Residents in these areas probably aren’t used to the idea of hiring a wedding/event planner. In these cases, you might want to focus on a specific passion the community shares. For example, is the community particularly proud of a local sporting team? Is there an annual festival everyone participates in? Do all residents share a similar cultural or religious background? Becoming a community expert might be a fun way to break into the market and attract some outside attention as well.
What’s in a Name?
It’s amazing how much the name of your business matters. Making a mistake at this stage can alienate your clientele before they get a chance to know you.
You have two options: Market yourself as an individual (i.e. Jane Doe, IEWP™) or come up with a name for your business. Here are a few considerations:
– If you have a name that’s difficult to pronounce, you should probably come up with a business name that’s easier on the tongue. It might be unfair, but some clients will avoid names they don’t understand, for fear of insulting you by mispronouncing it.
– If you come up with a business name, make sure it resonates with your target clientele.
– Your business name shouldn’t make people think. If you have to explain what it means, you risk confusing clients before they even walk through the door.
– If the business name is too long, shorten it. There’s nothing wrong with having different business names for legal vs. marketing use. Example: QC stands for “Quality of Course, Inc.” Which is the name of the parent company. Imagine if the school were called “Quality of Course Event Planning”. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue!
– Do your Research! Choose a business name that isn’t easily confused with a consumer product, another business, a competitor, etc. If you make a list of 10 possible business names, odds are 5-7 of them will be thrown out at this point.
– Make sure your business name can be registered, and that you can secure a domain name (website address) that makes sense. If you’re unable to buy [your business name].com (most are pretty cheap), then you’ll probably want to go back to the drawing board.
A quick note about websites: We’ll discuss “building your website” in the following section. But when choosing your business name, consider that easy and common “Keywords” in a business name (like “event planner” or “wedding planning” for example) will help clients remember you and easily find you online.
After you’ve settled on a solid business plan and a name for your business, then you’ll be ready to move on to part 2 of this series: building your brand. Tune in on Wednesday, May 21st for more business advice!
Are you looking to start an event and wedding planning business? All of QC’s Event and Wedding Planning Courses come with our “Achieving Business Success” DVD series that offers much more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to launch a successful business! Learn more here.
It’s early morning, the beginning of the two hours uninterrupted writing time you had sworn to yourself to undertake. You are at your desk, eyes-wide, heart hammering, straight backed, a cup of tea in hand, a blank screen before you. You are going to start developing characters for a new story for a creative writing competition.
Step No. 1
Do NOT get up to: make the beds, make sure the plants have been watered, phone your mother/best friend, wash the floors, go shopping, clear out cupboards, wash the car, or do any of the multitude of excellent other tasks that suddenly issue their siren calls to you.
That is procrastination. That is not a good thing.
Back to writing, then. Sigh. Writing is such a huge job. Where do I start?
Let’s, “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
Then let’s proceed from there, step by small step.
OK. Let’s think about options. What premise shall you choose? After all, you don’t have to pick something earth shattering. How about two women, strangers, sitting side-by-side in a train en route for New York? Hmm. Might be interesting if you can flesh them out and make them intriguing. You just checked the Washington DC- New York time schedules online. The trip is three hours so that journey would give them time to chat, reveal their problems and backgrounds and reflect on life together.
Who are they? Hmm. As the all-powerful creator here, you can opt to make these women whatever you choose. Let’s make it interesting. Let’s make one a glamorous and still beautiful 60 year old Muslim Iranian woman who came to the US from the Middle East many years ago. No headscarf, she is not a practicing Muslim although she still identifies. Let’s make her fellow passenger a Jewish woman, also clearly prosperous, not as beautiful, whose family came as immigrants from Russia a hundred years ago. They both cleave to their respective histories and ancestors.
Can they find middle ground? We-e-ll, they both live in Washington, that’s one thing. How about you make the Iranian a woman who married a non-religious Jewish husband? How about she has never really felt accepted by his family? That will introduce some tension! How about they are both going to New York to visit their respective sons? That will give you the chance to introduce the sons and make them part of the history if you want to.
Let’s make one son a conventional New York go-getter with a career in finance. Let’s make the other one a New World entrepreneur. How about you give him a site selling shoes online? (Seems crazy, but those sites do very well).
What? They both have new, serious girlfriends who the mothers are going to meet for the first time over dinner that night?
Well, well, well, that’s an alluring premise, they really do have things in common. Both are nervous as can be at the prospect of meeting these important new women in their sons’ lives. Lots of readers will empathize with that.
You are starting to get interested in this story. Coffee time yet? No thanks. You are too busy creating. You are working step-by-step and you are enjoying it!