Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

If you’ve ever looked for a job, you know how stressful it can be. It can be pretty depressing to put yourself out there, apply to a bunch of jobs you think you’d be great for… only to be rejected by some or most of them.

Guess what though: the interview process can be equally depressing for the interviewer! As someone who’s interviewed a LOT of people over the past few years, I can tell you it’s shocking just how many candidates we’ve had who clearly were never educated about what NOT to do during an interview.

Here are a few of my favorite worst interview stories, and what we can all learn from them.

Please Stop Speaking to my Chest

Job Application Rejected

We once had a young gentleman come in who barely made eye contact the entire time. We were two women interviewing this guy, and he spent the entire interview looking at our boobs. Now maybe he was nervous and didn’t realize he was doing it… but if that’s your default response when you’re nervous… you still rank pretty high on the creep-o-meter.

Here’s the kicker: he was actually quite qualified for the position. But there’s NO way I’m hiring a sexual-harassment-suit-in-the-making.

The takeaway: not only should you avoid creepy behavior, but you should also make a conscious effort to make eye contact with your interviewer(s).

Property Destruction Fiasco

Last year a lady came in for an interview and did a great job. She was clearly nervous but she answered all questions well, had some great questions of her own, and I was pretty sure we had a winner on our hands.

When she was backing her car out of the narrow driveway, she slammed dead-center into the wooden deck at the side of the building (where the main entrance is). Seriously, this hit was hard enough to move the entire structure backward a few inches. A colleague saw this from the window and rushed out to see if everything was ok. I guess she was embarrassed and/or didn’t know what else to do, so she just quickly drove away.

What’s worse, when she sent a follow-up email to thank me for the interview, she didn’t even mention the incident. It was like it had never happened.

Again, this was a candidate who had the qualifications to do the job and had a decent chance… but if this is the way you handle bad situations, I don’t want you working here.

The takeaway: If there happens to be a situation where you damage something during an interview, just own it and offer to fix it. Whether it’s backing your car into a deck, breaking the chair you’re sitting in, or even clogging a toilet, there’s no better way of proving that you’re a responsible, accountable person.

The Pompous Jerk

I want candidates to be confident in their own abilities. What I DON’T want is arrogance. There’s a huge difference between the two, but unfortunately this seems to be a blurry distinction for most people.

If you spend your interview time explaining to me why you think you’re a good fit for the job, I’ll call that confidence. What this guy did, was spend the “tell us about yourself” portion of the interview telling us how another company had screwed him over and how he couldn’t understand because he was a perfect fit for THAT position.

I wasn’t there. Maybe he did actually get screwed over, but I’m not a therapist. He was asked to interview so that we could learn about his abilities. Not about how his former employers were horrible human beings.

The takeaway: Be humble and be positive! It’s perfectly ok to be honest about why you left your last job. I encourage it. But don’t throw anyone under the bus and certainly don’t hover on the point! You should spend the majority of your time talking about how awesome YOU are, not how everyone else sucks.

Job Interview Gone Wrong

Diaries of a Nymphomaniac

This is a story from a previous job, but it’s worth reliving.

A lady came in for an interview… I think it was for a customer service role. She was very nice and friendly, a perfect candidate for dealing with the public on a daily basis. I walked her to a private meeting room, for which we had to walk through office space and she got to informally meet a lot of the staff.

When I got her into the meeting room, she immediately started commenting about how many “hot guys” there were working in the office, and how excited she was to work there for that reason. She then proceeded to rank all the men she’d seen on a scale of 1 to 10, and even mentioned she had slept with (and I quote) “quite a few coworkers in the past.”

Yeah. I don’t know what she was thinking.

The takeaway: Even if the interviewer is close to your age and you think you could be good friends, they are there to judge your abilities. Talking about sensitive topics like your sex life is not only inappropriate, but tattoos a huge “immature” on your forehead.

How to Improve

Here’s the sad part. I’m sure all of these candidates are very nice people and more than likely their strange behaviors were simply due to nerves. Interviews can get the best of anyone!

The key is to know yourself. If you’re the kind of person who does strange things when you get nervous, work on that. Get some feedback from people who have seen you in stressful situations, talk to strangers in coffee shops, prepare a list of what you will and won’t say during the interview, and if necessary bring that list with you. Try different relaxation techniques before going into an interview and be as prepared as you can be to help calm your nerves.

Like anything else, the key to good interview skills is to practice as much as you possibly can. If you’re getting a lot of interviews but are having trouble landing a job, odds are your interview skills aren’t up to par. Look for employment assistance services in your area that can help you by setting up mock interviews and providing objective feedback. You’d be surprised how much this can help!

Have you ever done something in an interview you’ve regretted? Let us know in a comment!

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June 22, 2015 7:00 am

Dealing with Business Seasonality

Many industries function according to client demand. During times of the year when many people want the service, businesses and freelance workers experience a busy season and generate lots of revenue. At other points when clients don’t need the service as often, business slows down. For example, event planners might experience seasonality because people don’t get married in the winter as commonly as they do in the spring and summer.

For professionals who are new to the industry, managing the ebbs and flows of business seasonality can be a challenge. How can you prepare for the difference in income and workload that specializing in a seasonal industry involves? What strategies can help you survive the off season or save you from becoming overwhelmed in the busy season? Consider the following tips for achieving balance as a seasonal professional.

Plan ahead

If you specialize in an industry where many of your fellow professionals work freelance, then your industry is probably seasonal. Event planners, makeup artists, and interior decorators, for example, all depend on the level of client demand to determine how often they accept contracts. If you know that your flow of business slows down or picks up at a particular point in the year, you can make the season easier on yourself by preparing in advance. Makeup artists can get ready for the busy prom season by replenishing their supplies of essential products and replacing old brushes before the contracts start coming in. They can account for the possibility of reduced income in between busy periods by saving a portion of each payment they receive to support themselves during the off season.

Replenishing for seasonality in business

Planning ahead can help you manage the stress of either workload, letting you concentrate on providing quality services regardless of how often or how little you’re working. Your ability to anticipate your needs as a seasonal professional will improve with experience.

Strategize with your staff

Many employers in seasonal industries hire staff and let them go according to the level of client demand. Experienced wedding planners might hire assistants in the spring to make sure they have enough people to provide quality service throughout the summer when more clients get married. The assistants’ contracts will end in the autumn when business slows down and less work is available. As long as employees are aware that their contract is seasonal, this strategy can be beneficial for both parties. Experienced planners get the extra help they need when they’re busy, but they save money on payroll when client demand decreases for the year. Assistants, on the other hand, gain relevant work experience during parts of the year that challenge them and pay well. They might use the rest of the year to seek more training or pursue their own business goals.

Attending Conference during seasonality in business

Use your time effectively

Your off season is the perfect time to invest in professional development and advancing your skills. Are there courses you’ve been hoping to take or industry conferences you’d like to attend? Have you been waiting for a time to renovate and improve your workspace or complete an independent project? Makeup artists might use their off season to take a special effects course, while hair stylists might take the opportunity to compete in a prestigious hair show. As long as you’ve saved enough money to support yourself throughout the season while you work towards your goal, investing time in things that will benefit your professional career can be a smart move in the off season. Professionals who make this choice, however, should also use their busy season effectively. Without overwhelming yourself, make sure to take complete advantage of the increased workflow while you can to balance out the time you took off for professional development.

Consider alternative sources of income

Some professionals like to keep busy. Seeking alternative revenue streams during your off season can protect you from financial hardship towards the end. Some people choose to offer different services related to their expertise, while others seek alternative employment all together. For example, a makeup artist might take their downtime from freelance work to sell cosmetics at a retail counter, increasing their knowledge of current products and teaching basic techniques to clients who come in for advice. An event planner living in a small town where their services aren’t needed for a solid portion of the year, however, might switch gears and work as a freelance writer for publications related to their personal interests. Whichever course you choose, make sure that you use your time well. Taking vacation time during your off season can be useful as well, but make sure you can afford it before you pass up alternative employment.

Taking up writing during seasonality in business

Stay in touch

Just because you won’t see your regular clients for a portion of the year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contact them at all. Of course, you don’t want to be overwhelming, or you might discourage them from doing business with you in the future. A simple greeting card wishing them Happy Holidays in December or a polite reminder email that your services are available throughout the summer can build customer loyalty.

Budget well

Regardless of how you use your off season, be smart about budgeting. Saving a portion of your income prepares you to handle unforeseen expenses when work is slow. It also gives you extra funds to quickly solve emergencies that take place in the middle of the busy season when you don’t have time to reallocate your primary funds. Effective budgeting saves seasonal professionals from stress all year round.

Learn more!

The courses at QC Career School teach students how to effectively manage their time as seasonal professionals. If you’d like to learn more about how to use the ebbs and flows of client demand to your advantage, take a look at which course might be the best for you!

What are your preferred methods for dealing with seasonality in business? Leave a comment below to let us know!

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Starting a small business is super exciting, incredibly rewarding, and a challenge worth taking on. As your own boss, you’ll have a chance to set the pace for your business and make all the decisions. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

There are certain tasks you’ll have to perform on a regular basis (probably daily) to make sure the business runs smoothly. These tasks are the backbone of any business, regardless of size or profit margins. Today, we’re going to look at a typical day in the life of a small business owner.

HR

If you have employees who work for you – even if they’re just volunteers – you need to complete some basic human resources tasks to ensure you stay on top of things.

Interviewing candidates, scheduling employees, providing feedback on employees’ work, doing payroll, etc. are all tasks that will need to be completed regularly.

Small business owner conducting interview

Customer Service

Especially when you’re just starting a small business, odds are you’ll have to do a little bit of everything. That includes answering the phones and communicating with customers and inquirers by email and on social media.

Ideally, during business hours you’re available to answer that phone when it rings. If messages are left outside of business hours, then you’ll want to return those calls first thing the next morning.

Same goes with emails. Try to answer emails within about an hour or two of receiving them (the quicker, the better)… and try to respond to all emails first thing in the morning before moving on to other jobs.

Finances & Accounting

As the business owner, it’s your job to deal with all of your business’s finances. This includes cash flow, setting up a line of credit, ensuring clients are paid up, submitting documentation for taxes on time, and so on. Sound like a lot of work? Likely an accountant is one of the first people you’ll want to consult when starting a business.

Inventory

Purchasing & Ordering fall under your domain as well. This might not necessarily be a daily task… but at the very least it’s a weekly one. Do you have enough supplies to get your company through upcoming projects? Is there anything you’re going to need in the next month or two?

Thinking further ahead, are there any upcoming events or expected spikes in business that you need to prepare for now? This is often the case with retail businesses (they’ll start ordering Christmas inventory in July!) and it could be true for your business as well.

Woman starting a small business and doing inventory

Marketing

We’ve talked a lot about a small business owner’s marketing responsibilities on this blog, but I’m quickly going to mention it again. Marketing is an ongoing mission and one that shouldn’t be ignored. At the very least, your daily marketing tasks should be posting to social media and writing for your blog. About once a week, you’ll want to either work on your newsletter(s), or your website, or your search engine optimization.

I’m going to lump networking into this category as well. For many small businesses, some of the best marketing is still word of mouth. Are you keeping in touch with your past clients? What about vendors you’ve worked with in the past (and enjoyed it)? All these little things need to be done!

Maintenance & Upkeep

If you have a home office, maintenance can be anything from cleaning your desk(s) to changing a burnt lightbulb to vacuuming your workspace or washing the windows.

If you’re renting a commercial space or office, you might be lucky enough to have a cleaning staff provided by the landlord. These are the people who will take care of vacuuming and making sure the bathrooms are clean. If you don’t have that luxury, then guess who that job falls onto? That’s right! But even if there is a cleaning crew at your office, you’ll still want to take on the job of spot-dusting furniture, cleaning the kitchen area (if you have one), etc.

Note: Especially if you’ll be meeting with clients at your office, don’t skimp on the maintenance of your space. I can’t tell you how much a messy or dirty office truly turns off potential clients. Let’s keep it clean!

<Starting a small business with a clean space

Working

Let’s not forget the reason why you own this business!

I know this seems like a lot. But with proper planning, these tasks shouldn’t take more than an hour or two a day, leaving the rest of the day wide open for your real, actual, work. The key is not to let any one of these build up by ignoring it. So when you’re just launching your business, set yourself a schedule of daily tasks and follow it! You’d be surprised how much this simple method helps. And hey, if things get a little out of control, check out this guide to stress management!

QC’s courses come complete with business training to get you off on the right foot! Check out our business training series for more information!

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June 1, 2015 7:00 am

Should you Quit your Day Job?

How busy freelance professionals are depends on how many clients want your services. Most industries like this experience ‘waves’ in business. For example, wedding planners are often much busier in May or June than they are in the dead of winter because most people prefer spring or summer weddings. Similarly, makeup artists often get more new clients during prom and graduation season than other times of year.

During slow periods, some professionals find scheduled jobs to make money between contracts. Many brand new freelance professionals also keep day jobs to support themselves while they build their client base. Working a day job while you get to know your local industry and promote your brand can be a very smart choice, but what if your freelance business really starts to pick up? Here are some questions you should ask yourself to judge whether it’s time to quite your day job!

1. Do you have a plan?

This might seem like a basic question. Why would you leave a stable job without knowing your next step? You’d be surprised how often excited entrepreneurs jump the gun! You should have a timeline and a list of goals planned out before you quit your day job. Do you know where you want your business to be in two months, six months, or a year? Do you know which steps you’ll need to take to get there? Don’t give your day job up for nothing. Put a plan in place and stick to it!

Woman making a plan for starting a new career

2. Can you make it happen quickly?

Even if you’re very careful with your savings account before you quit your day job, time is of the essence once you leave. The quicker you put your business plan into action, the smoother your transition from traditional work hours to just freelance work will be. Wasting time will also waste money and motivation. Remember that going back to your old day job might not be an option if you miss other opportunities.

3. What does your industry look like?

Research what kind of presence your trade has in your local area, or the area you plan to work in. Is the wedding planning business booming where you live because the area is trendy for young couples? Is work slow for makeup artists in your hometown because the population is mostly elderly couples working on their farms? Get to know what kind of demand exists for your service before you quit your day job.

4. Who is your competition and how are they doing?

Take a look at how other professionals in your industry are doing. Are they thriving? If so, analyze whether they’re successful because the market is good, or because they have a monopoly on the local area that could prevent you from succeeding. Are your competitors struggling for contracts? Think about whether their troubles are caused by poor strategies on their part or a lull in the market that could negatively affect you too. The success or failure of your competitors can be a good indicator of whether you’re safe to quit your day job.

Competitors arm wrestling

5. What will your business launch look like?

If you’re letting your job go, you should already know how your new business will make a great first impression on your local market. It isn’t in your best interest to give up your steady stream of income in favor of sneaking into your new industry without letting anyone know you’re there!

6. Where will you operate your business from?

Before you quit your day job, you should know where the home base of your business will be. Have you set up an office that clients can visit? Will you work from home? The more organized you are about the ‘home base’ of your new business, the safer you are giving up your day job in favor of working independently.

7. Who are your clients?

Knowing who your clients are is absolutely necessary for starting a new business. You shouldn’t think about quitting your day job until you know what kind of people might be interested in your services, where to find them, and how to get their attention. Quitting your job before you know who your new clients are risks prolonging your time without income.

8. How will you market yourself?

Giving up your day job to work independently should be a long term investment. If you can, you should be marketing your services, image, and brand before you’ve even quit. The more effectively you market to your new client base, the less of a lag in income you’ll experience between quitting your day job and beginning your freelance work. Your marketing strategy should already be well planned by the time you hand in your two weeks’ notice.

9. Who are your mentors?

Do you have a support system in place, both personally and professionally, for when you quit your day job? Have you networked with mentors in your new industry or more experienced professionals who might help you? Throwing yourself into a new area of freelance work without networking can be nerve wracking. Find someone who is willing to give you advice in case your new business venture gets off to a bumpy start. Having that support might help you stress less about quitting your day job, so you can concentrate on the task at hand.

Support system for starting a new career

10. What’s your back up plan?

You should never plan for failure. Being defeatist about your new business won’t help you grow as a freelance professional. Even so, you should have an idea of how you’ll handle it if things don’t go your way. Do you have emergency money put away that you’ll depend on between jobs if your client base doesn’t pick up? Do you have a standing offer from your day job to resume your position if your business plan doesn’t work within a year? Remain positive, but stay in touch with reality as well. Prepare yourself for the fact that back up plans can be very useful for people who take the leap and quit their day job.

Quitting your day job to do what you’re passionate about takes courage and commitment. You shouldn’t be afraid of the idea, but you should prepare carefully. Ask yourself each of the questions above and really assess whether your freelance business is ready for the responsibility of being your only income. If you’d like to learn more about smart freelance business practices in your area of expertise, check out the courses here at QC Career School!

Do you know something who’s thinking of starting a new career and leaving their day job behind? Share these helpful tips with your friends using the icons below!

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Marketing is used to let potential customers know who you are and what you offer. As a small business owner, your marketing budget will be fairly limited. Not to mention the amount of time you have to spend on your marketing tactics!

Digital Marketing Strategy

Today, we’re going to explore how you can get the most out of your marketing efforts on a limited budget with limited time commitment.

In today’s world, 95% of clients will find you on the Internet. While some small businesses still spend time and money on different “old school” marketing techniques like ads in newspapers or banners outside their shops, a good digital marketing strategy will trump any of those techniques while saving you a ton of cash.

With that in mind, we’re going to focus exclusively at digital marketing today.

#1 – Your Website

While not technically a marketing task, your website design will create a first impression of your business in your clients’ eyes. So before you spend time and money into getting people to your website, you’d better make sure users will have a pleasant experience when they get there!

You can learn more in a previous article: “Building your Website: What you Need to Know”

#2 – Search Engine Optimization

What are some of the top words people will use to find services such as yours?

For a design business, likely they’ll go to Google and type in something along the lines of…

    • “Home Staging services”
    • “Interior Decorator in [your city]”
    • “Best Professional Organizers in town”
    • Etc.
  • These are your business’s top keywords. You want to make sure when people search for those terms, your business shows up on the Google search result’s first page!

    In this short blog article, we won’t cover specific Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. But rest assured, if you take 30 minutes here and there to research and implement keyword research, web page optimization, and link building, it’ll pay off in spades!

    Online research for small business marketing tactics

    #3 – Paid Search

    When you enter a Google search for most products or services, you’ll see at least three results at the top of the page that are marked as “ads” (and there may be many more on the right-hand side of the page, too!)

    Those ads are what’s called Pay-per-Click (or PPC) ads. As the name implies, businesses pay Google when a user clicks on that Ad and goes to their website.

    Though it can be fairly costly depending on your line of business, I encourage you to at least research the basics of PPC ads, and make an informed decision as to whether or not they might be beneficial for your business.

    At the very least, you might want to consider paying for clicks on searches for your brand. Or, if you don’t, make sure your competitors don’t show up on those search terms!

    #4 – Blogging

    Having a blog on your website will allow you to embark on Content Marketing. With more and more consumers turning a blind eye to traditional forms of advertising, you need to offer them content that is useful in order to get their attention.

    With content marketing, you develop content (in this case, blog articles, videos, etc.) that would not normally be found on your website, but are useful to your target customer.

    If you make a point to writing about something you know and love (I hope you’re knowledgeable and passionate about your business!), then blogging shouldn’t take more than about an hour a week.

    For more information on blogging, check out this article: “How to Write a Blog”

    #5 – Social Media

    Once you have good content on your blog, you need a way for potential customers to find it! Enter your social media accounts.

    While there are hundreds of different Social Media channels out there, odds are the majority of your potential customers are present on three or four networks, and that’s where your business needs to be.

    You don’t need to spend hours a week on social media to be successful, but you do need a regular presence, because clients will also use these channels to speak to you, ask you questions and (possibly) lodge complaints. Therefore, you need to be present to converse with these clients.

    With a bit of practice, social media shouldn’t take you more than 15-20 minutes a day, at the most.

    Need more information on social media? Check out this article: “Social Media for Beginners”

    Social Media for small business marketing

    #6 – Email Marketing

    Email marketing can be an effective way of communicating directly with people who want to hear from you. When done right.

    For this type of small business, you’ll want to send out one newsletter every month or two, but no less than that. Including list maintenance and setup, we’re talking maybe two hours of work for email sent.

    However, many small businesses make critical mistakes when they start emailing because they don’t take the time to learn how to do it properly. Before sending out a single email, be sure to read this: “An 8-rule Guide to Email Marketing”

    #7 – Measure Everything!

    Before starting any marketing endeavor, ask yourself this question: “How will I know if it’s successful or not?”

    Be sure you set up whatever tracking you need to find out whether your efforts are paying out, or if you’re just pouring money down the wrong avenue!

    Since we’re talking about digital marketing only, a great place to start is to set up your website analytics. These will help you identify your visitors: who they are, where they come from, and what they do on your website.

    Learn more here: “A Guide to Website Analytics”

    When you combine all the items listed in this article, we’re talking maybe a total of 2-3 hours a week spent on digital marketing efforts. Think about it: is a new customer worth an hour of work? How about two new customers? Or five or six? Or twenty or thirty? When you get comfortable with your marketing, you can expect to see those returns.

    But for now, do yourself a favor and research each of the items above properly. In order for your small business marketing to work, it needs to be done right!

    Have you started marketing your small business? What have you learned from your efforts? Let us know in a comment!

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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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    April 27, 2015 7:00 am

    An 8-Rule Guide to Email Marketing

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

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

    Rule #1: Differentiate Between Business Emails and Marketing Emails

    Business Emails

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

    Marketing Emails

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

    Marketing Emails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The benefits of an ESP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Subscribe Button

    Rule #4: Keep your Lists Clean

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

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

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

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

    Rule #5: It’s All About the Content

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

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

    What’s in it for ME?

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

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

    Whats in it for ME

    Don’t overdo it

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

    Rule #6: Be Consistent

    Be consistent with your timing

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

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

    Be consistent with your design

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

    Be consistent with your writing style

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

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

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

    Rule #7: Testing is not a Dirty Word

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

    Please don’t be that person.

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

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

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

    Testing Strategies

    Rule #8: Follow the Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Easter Egg Marketing

    Why Easter Egg Marketing Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What Makes an Easter Egg Successful

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

    Brand Message

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

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

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

    Easy to Find

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

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

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

    Easter Eggs Easy to Find

    Shareable

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

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

    What else should you know?

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

    Plan Ahead

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

    Test It

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

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

    Test Your Easter Eggs

    Engage with Users

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

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

    Have Fun!

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

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

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