Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

March 23, 2015 7:00 am

QC’s Guide to Project Management

Project Management Ew 2

It’s a term that can intimidate and put off many professionals. The thought of “project management” leads many people to envision old businessmen in suits around a conference room table with charts and graphs, arguing about things like “deliverables” and “scope creep”. Ew.

Truth is, every business owner, every manager, participates in project management whether that’s what they call it or not.

It’s the key to any successful business: planning ahead to ensure things are completed on time and within budget. Having a basic understanding of basic project management methods will help you become a well-rounded business owner and professional.

Regardless of the method you use, there are some key elements that one must follow when planning a project.

Let’s pause. The word “project” deserves a definition. It can mean anything from a case study, to a single blog article, to a full-blown home renovation.

Goals & Requirements

First thing’s first: write down what you expect to see as a finished product. What, in your mind or in your understanding, would classify the project as “successful”. If it’s a particularly large project, you’ll likely have many goals… in which case you’ll want to list them in order of priority.

Keep these goals handy and when you’re working on your project, continue to refer back to them. It’s amazing how easily human beings get side-tracked and focus on details that really don’t matter in the end. Before you start a task, ask yourself if that task will help you reach the end goal(s). If the answer is “no”, then your time is likely best spent elsewhere.

On top of your overarching goals and objectives for the project, are there any requirements you must meet? This will probably include elements like your budget, target audience, language, and – if you’re working with a client – any requirements from your clients (colors, themes, etc.)

You’ll also want to establish who your stakeholder(s) is or are. The stakeholder is whoever has the “final say” on the project. This person will be the one to help you establish all your requirements for the project, and the one who will decide – at the end of the day – if the end product meets those requirements.

Note: This is arguably the most important part of project management. Take your time and work with the stakeholder(s) to make sure they agree with your interpretation of the requirements for the project. If you’re the stakeholder, then you’re in great company! If your stakeholder is a client, this is where a good client interview (probably several) will be key.

Project Management Stakeholders

Breaking Down Individual Tasks

Here’s where the nitty-gritty comes in. An effective project manager (yes, that’s you!) will work very hard to list every, single, task required of a project in order for it to see completion.

The devil’s in the details!

You’ll want to get quite granular in your task descriptions. The best way to achieve this, is to work backwards.

Start with your end goal. Let’s say the project is the launch of a brand new online store. Next, list the 5 or 6 main tasks needed to achieve this launch. Let’s say the launch has 6 major tasks that need to be completed before it’ll be ready for publishing:

  1. Wireframe
  2. Text
  3. Images
  4. Shopping Cart
  5. Design & Layout
  6. Testing & Launch

Next, break down each of THOSE tasks into the 5-10 sub-tasks required.

For example, the task “text” would be further broken down into six subtasks, for each webpage:

  1. Research
  2. First Draft
  3. Review
  4. Peer Review
  5. Proofread
  6. Final copy

Depending on the project, there could be 3 or 4 levels of sub tasks. Your task list will probably end up looking like a big tree!

Busy Schedule

Planning for Time

Almost every single project will have a firm deadline. This could be the date of an event, a publication date, a meeting or conference date. Make sure you know what date this is!

Now, are there any secondary due dates that are set-in-stone? Do you have client meetings scheduled? Maybe it’s a first draft for an editor? Again, make sure you have ALL these dates written down.

Next, go back to your task list as discussed above, and try to estimate the amount of time you think it’ll take to complete each of these tasks. You can either go at a high level and just estimate in days, or go much more specific and estimate in hours or even minutes!

Personally, I find planning tasks in terms of “days” works pretty well, drilling down to half-days or quarter-days for very small tasks.

Choosing your Method

The project management method you use will depend on a few factors.

The first is how many people you have working on the same project. If you’re a one-man (or woman) show, then likely the method you choose doesn’t really matter since only one task will be completed at a time. If you have multiple people working on the same project, you’ll want to use a method that allows each person to work effectively to help you reach your end goals!

You’ll also want to consider the skillset of those working on the project. Do they all have identical skills, or do you have a few specialists who will work on only select tasks?

Next, look at your task list. Are all the tasks dependent on one another? Does task A need to be completed before Task B can start, and so on? In most cases, you’ll likely find that some tasks need to be done sequentially while some can be done independently.

If we return to our online store launch example, for instance, it’s definitely a good idea to get the text finalized before you choose the images for your site. However, while these tasks are being completed, you can also have a developer work on the shopping cart.

With those two elements in mind, consider which of the following methods work best for you:

Classic Waterfall Method

This linear approach is also considered “classic project management” by some industry veterans.

True to its name, the waterfall method works wonderfully for projects where one task depends on the previous one in order to complete the project. Once everything is complete and absolutely perfect, the project is complete.

It’s very simple: Complete task A, then move on to task B, and so on. Assign due dates to individual tasks, working backward from the final project due date and based on your time estimates for each task.

Classic Waterfall Method

Using the online store example again, let’s say it’s due next Friday March 27th. I’ve established that the final two tasks are layout (estimated 2 days to complete), followed by testing (estimated 1 day to complete).

Giving myself a bit of a buffer, the due date for the “testing” task (with all its sub-tasks) will be Thursday the 26th. Working backward from there, and knowing the testing task will take me a day, the “layout” task therefore cannot be due any later than Wednesday the 25th.

The great news about the waterfall project management method is that it’s very MS-Excel friendly. You can easily download about a hundred different templates for Gantt charts that will help you plot all your tasks and figure out their due dates!

Agile Method

Agile project management has increased in popularity over the past 10 years. The word “agile” is taken quite literally… meaning, flexible!

In an agile method, you’ll pair tasks that must be completed sequentially with tasks that can be completed at any time. The goal of agile is to complete (meaning, launch, publish, release) portions of the project while continuing to work on other tasks.

For instance, with the online store launch, an agile approach to the project would see us publishing each web page as it’s completed, while we’re still working on other pieces of the site.

This type of process is most useful when your project is a specific “product” and not a “service”. For instance, an agile approach to organizing a fashion show wouldn’t be very practical!

By contrast, a home renovation project might be exactly the perfect situation for an agile approach. In this case, you might complete the living room first, then move on to the kitchen, then the bathroom… this might be more practical for the homeowners than gutting the entire house and working on all the plumbing, then all the electricity, then all the painting, and so on.

Agile Method

While both agile and waterfall methods will have the same completion date (or close to it), the agile method will allow you to “deliver” parts of your project in increments.

Where the waterfall method will rely on a Gantt Chart, the agile method is best organized on a board where you can write tasks on cards or post-its, and move them from a “to do” column to a “doing” column and finally to a “done” column.

Pro Tip: If you like the idea of this board approach, check out Trello – an online software that quickly allows you to organize a project by individual task.

Once it’s all done

Something not many people bother with – though it’s highly beneficial – is to take some time once your project is complete to look back and analyze how the entire project was done, from top to bottom. Are there any elements that could have gone better? Did you encounter any unexpected delays? And on the flip side, did anything go particularly well? Answering these questions will allow you to plan your next project more effectively.

Now get to it!

If you’re the type of person who has the “it’ll happen when it happens” philosophy, I challenge you to try this more practical approach to your next project. I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

We’re curious! What methods of project management work the best for you? Do you have any other tips on project management for beginners? Let us know in a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

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When you think of owning your own business, you think of doing what you love, setting your own hours, being your own boss… sounds just wonderful, doesn’t it?

And it can be. It really can be a wonderful fantastic experience. Many business owners I know swear that they would NEVER go back to working for someone else. They absolutely love being in charge.

That having been said, odds are these people knew what they were getting into when they started on their journey. Owning a small business isn’t always fun and games. The reality is there is a lot of work that goes into it… and work that you don’t get paid for. Luckily, there are many different tools that can help you with managing your business.

Here are some you’ll want to research NOW!

A good Content Management System (CMS) for your website

Build your Website

I really, really hope your business has a website. If it doesn’t, you need to build one, yesterday. With any luck, your site will be built on a platform that makes it easy to edit the content, add pages, move content around, build your blog and more.

If you’re in the market for a CMS, you’ll want to road test a few and see which ones you like best. Some of my favorite ones include WordPress, SquareSpace, and Weebly.

With a good CMS, you’ll be able to spend less time coding your web pages and spend more time focusing on top-quality content!

Read more about building your own website here!

Social Media Management Software

Assuming you’re in charge of your business marketing efforts, you’ll probably be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. at least once a day, if not more.

Social media is essential for any business to keep in touch with its customers, but keeping on top of all those different channels can be exhausting and overwhelming. Luckily there are a few awesome tools to help you schedule posts in advance, monitor comments, and even read and reply to direct messages on multiple platforms and accounts – all with one login!

Much like a CMS, Social Medial Management tools are available in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll want to find one that suits your goals and tech-savviness. Two tools that you’ll at least want to consider are Hootsuite and Buffer.

Need more info on social media? Check out this post: Social Media for Beginners

Social Media Smartphone

Project Management Tools

The lists… the lists!

It can take a while to find a good project management software that will actually save you time and not add to it! But once you find that software, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

A good project management tool will work with you, not against you. The best advice I have is, look for one that doesn’t feel like work. If you’re a very organized, list-driven person who already writes everything down, then something like BaseCamp or Microsoft Project might be right up your alley.

If you’re like me and tend to play things by ear and shift gears every fifteen minutes, then you’ll want something much more simple. A tool like Trello or Asana might be your cup of tea.

Again you’re not short on options here. Most of these tools are free, or if they’re paid you can at least get a trial version to test them out. Give yourself enough time to truly evaluate these types of programs. Commit to one for at least a week or two before you make up your mind!

Email Service Provider

Email Provider

You probably use Outlook or Thunderbird for your business emails, and that’s just fine. What many small businesses don’t use, is an email provider for their regular client communications like newsletters.

While most aren’t free, most email service providers can be very inexpensive depending on your list size and can save you SO much time. What’s more, an email provider will protect your business emails! Especially when you send out content such as newsletters, there’s always a chance your email will be flagged as “spam”.

Now if you follow best practices this is extremely unlikely, but it can happen to anyone. If you use your regular business email to send out newsletters and (God forbid) your newsletter is flagged as spam, there’s a very good chance that your regular one-on-one client emails will start going into people’s “junk” folders without you even realizing it.

For a small business, this can have devastating financial consequences.

For that reason alone, I strongly urge all business owners to create an account with an email provider who can help you send out quality newsletter content to your email list, safely. Some of our favorite providers include MailChimp, Emma, and StreamSend.

Accounting Software

I love Microsoft Excel… it’s awesome. But Excel alone can’t help you with your business accounting. Unless you’re a genius, do yourself a favor and invest in a good small business accounting software. (You might want to do yourself an even bigger favor and at least pay an accountant to help you set it up!).

Software like Quicken or Sage 50 are fairly easy to use and will help you keep track of your business cash flow, taxes, salaries, etc.

Trust me, it’s never too early to start with this one!

Are you planning on starting a small business? What types of tools do you think you’ll need to get off on the right foot? Let us know in a comment!

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Attending a job interview is a nerve wracking experience for new professionals. Even with practice, some people never kick their jitters. Despite the stress job interviews can cause, there are things you can do to feel less worried before you face your potential new boss! Try practicing the following skills before and during each interview to help you de-stress and really impress your interviewer!

Impress the Interviewer

1. Do dress appropriately

How you dress for an interview is a big part of the first impression you leave! You want to ensure that you’re not only dressed appropriately for a job interview, but also that you’re dressed well for the specific type of interview you’re attending. If the company is a high end corporation, consider professional attire like a blazer and dress pants. If you’re interviewing for an industry where your skills can be displayed on yourself, such as makeup artistry or hair styling, make sure that your own makeup or hair are done to the quality that the potential employer would expect from you on the job. Regardless of what type of interview it is, avoid dress that is too casual, looks messy, or might be considered too revealing.

2. Do show up on time

Your ability to show up prepared and on time is being assessed when you attend a job interview. Rushing in at the last second or arriving late will almost certainly lose you the position. Aim to be there a little to give yourself some emergency time. You shouldn’t arrive so early that the interviewer feels rushed or like they’re keeping you waiting, but punctuality is one of the best skills you can display.

Don't be late

3. Don’t be too casual

Being friendly in an interview is a good tactic. Potential employers want to see that you have good people skills and can communicate with those around you. There is a fine line, however, between being pleasant and being overly casual, which can tarnish an otherwise good first impression and come across as inappropriate or unprofessional. Be careful with things like jokes, greetings, and even your posture. Relaxing a little is beneficial because it might take the edge off your nerves, but forgetting that you’re in a professional setting is risky. Your interviewer might not be impressed if you treat them like your buddy.

4. Do listen carefully

Interview questions aren’t always simple, so make sure you’re keeping track of the details while you prepare for your answer. This will help you answer as effectively as possible. You should also listen hard if there is a practical component. If the interviewer asks you to do a sample to display the skills you’d use on the job, listen to and follow all instructions! Your ability to listen to information and act accordingly is something they’ll be evaluating.

5. Do answer the entire question

Sometimes interviewers ask long questions with more than one part. Handling these questions can be stressful because they often require long answers, and candidates worry they’ll forget part half way. Here’s another place to use your listening skills! You want to answer each part of every question you’re asked, so pay close attention when the interviewer is speaking. They’re asking you those questions for a reason, and you should provide them with the information they need to consider you properly. If you consistently miss the point of the question or fail to answer completely, their evaluation of you will reflect that.

6. Do some research in advance

One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to research the company and the position itself. If you try to answer questions without knowing what the company does or what the position you’re being considered for entails, your interviewer won’t be impressed. As soon as you’ve applied for the position, or at least once you know you’ve got the interview, gather information about what services the company provides, who the important people are, and what they’re expecting of you.

Do Online Research

7. Don’t talk too much

You will obviously be doing a lot of speaking in a job interview, since you’re being asked several questions. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should speak for long periods of time without break. Part of good communication is the ability to get your points across concisely, and your interviewer will be paying attention to how well you do this. If you ramble or get off topic, sum up your current point and recover quickly. You want to provide the interviewer with as much information as possible, but don’t overwhelm them with unrelated details.

8. Don’t let your nerves show

It’s completely normal to be nervous in a job interview. You will be expected, however, to rein your nerves in and conduct yourself well. Remember that body language is one of the biggest indicators of nerves! While you’re speaking, try to avoid nervous habits like jiggling your leg, twirling your hair, touching your face, or fiddling with your fingers. It’s okay to be nervous, but try not to let your interviewer see just how stressed you really are. They will expect you to conduct yourself professionally regardless of how many butterflies there are in your stomach!

9. Do find a balance between confidence and cockiness

Displaying a certain amount of confidence is necessary in a job interview because you’re being asked to list your skills and tell someone why you’re worth their time and money. If you lack confidence, you might have trouble convincing your interviewer that you’re the most qualified candidate available. On the other hand, being too confident can come across as cocky, which isn’t generally a quality that employers appreciate in their candidates. While you’re preparing for the interview, practice speaking positively about yourself without ‘tooting your own horn’. Interviewers are looking for candidates who have a solid sense of self, but who can also stay humble.

Stay Humble Interview

10. Do ask questions

At almost every job interview, you will be asked if you have any questions. This isn’t a trick; you are allowed and even encouraged to ask questions! If things went well and everything is straight forward then you might say that you don’t have questions for now, but be careful. Having no questions about the company or the position might be interpreted as disinterest and your interviewer might think you’re too eager to get out of there. Consider having a few general interest questions prepared just in case you get the sense that your interviewer expects you to ask for more information.

You’ve got this!

Stay calm, prepare in advance, and don’t beat yourself up too badly if it doesn’t go well! Job interviews aren’t easy, and everyone struggles with nerves beforehand. If you can master these skills and remember tips like this when you go in, you will increase your chances for success.

Need some tips on writing a resume to go along with your new job interview skills? Learn how to write the perfect resume here to land that interview!

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February 17, 2015 8:00 am

Working with Contractors

As an interior decorator, you have the professional skills to plan the look, feel, and flow of a room for your clients. You can choose which furniture styles, lighting options, and color schemes are best for their space and the atmosphere they’d like to achieve. There are some things, however, that you want to do to transform the room but that aren’t actually within your scope. Perhaps you want to open up a small dark bedroom by building a new picture window? For services like this, it will be necessary for you to work with an independent contractor. Here are some tips for doing so successfully!

What do contractors do?

Contractors are most often the people that will help you with the physical remodeling of your space. If, in the process of designing the changes that you’ll make to a room, you or the clients decide that a wall should be moved or a window should be created, you’ll hire a contractor to complete those renovations. As a design professional, it’s not actually within your scope to altar the physical structure of the room. Contractors are responsible for making architectural changes to the room, according to the design plan that you provide them with. The contractor is the professional that you’ll consult with and hire for renovations that go above and beyond your interior décor skills.

Working Contractor

Where can you find quality contractors?

There are several ways of finding contractors to help you with remodeling projects. The first is to network within your industry. Despite competition, you might find that other more experienced local designers are willing to share positive recommendations with you. Speak with any design contacts you have in your area and see if they’ve worked with any contractors that they’d positively refer you to. If you’re new to the industry or no one has a referral for you, try online forums for your local area. These can be either networks for design professionals specifically, or even resources intended for clients doing home renovations. Sites like these often have helpful service reviews from previous clients that you can read before choosing someone to work with. If no such thing exists for your area, you will be responsible for either choosing a contractor yourself, or compiling a list of potential contractors and presenting it to your clients for them to choose from. Use your own judgment and conduct a consultation interview with them first to ensure that the project is within their scope. Also make sure to ask about experience and licensing, liability insurance, pricing, and even references. You want to secure quality services for both your sake and your clients’.

Get Estimates

Once you’ve narrowed the list of contractors down to about three potential people or companies, obtain an estimate from each one. Show the contractor your plan and the space, and explain to them in detail exactly what you and your clients want. Have them do an assessment of the work your plan requires so they can provide you with their rate for that work. Request the most accurate pricing possible, rather than a vague number, so that you can pass concrete information on to your clients for approval. Once you have three estimates, meet with your clients to see which contractor offered the best price for the best service. Don’t just automatically choose the cheapest one if you believe you might get better quality service from one of the pricier options. When your clients have decided which price is most affordable for them and you’ve agreed upon which service is best, you’re ready to hire your contractor!

Get Estimates

How can you help each other?

The best thing a design professional can do for their contractors is to finish their plan as thoroughly and concretely as possible before the contractor starts working. If you’ve only partially decided how you’d like the finished product to look and you let contractors begin remodeling physical aspects of the room, you don’t leave yourself space to adjust the plan later. Once the wall is moved or the new window is created, there’s no going back unless you’re prepared to pay much more than you would if your plan had been concrete and nothing needed changing! Chances are that your clients won’t be happy with you in that scenario. If you have all of your details worked out in advance, you’ll be well prepared to answer any questions they might have as they work, and you’ll also be ready to answer questions together for the client. Your professional image will benefit from good organization and a clear vision of how the contractor’s work fits into your own process. The contractor can also help you in return by listening to your plan in detail, sticking to what you’ve asked of them, and checking regularly with you to ensure that nothing has changed. Over all, good preparedness and effective communication are essential to working alongside contractors.

Contractor compensation

Once the contractor has successfully completed their remodeling portion of your project, you can forward an invoice to your client for those services. The cost of having the remodeling done will be calculated into their total owing cost for your design contract. When the project has been finished entirely and your clients have made their final payment, you can ensure that the contractor’s costs are covered and they have received their portion of the payment. If, during the design process, the client was extremely hands on and primarily dealt with the contractor themselves, they might take that invoice and pay it directly to the contractor themselves. If the client was more absent throughout the process and you were the primary point of contact to the contractor, the client might pay the entire amount for all services rendered directly to you, and you will be responsible for forwarding the portion of that earned by the contractor to them as soon as you receive payment.

Contractor Compensation

Don’t be afraid to work with contractors!

Establishing strong working relationships with contractors during a project is an effective networking opportunity, especially for new interior decorators and other design professionals! If all goes well, you might be able to work with that person or company again, eliminating lengthy steps from the process of hiring someone new to remodel and renovate.

If you’d like to learn more about working with contractors of different kinds, make sure to take a look at the courses offered here at QC Design School!

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A resume will NOT get you a dream job. But a good resume can help land you an interview for that dream job.

Download Now - Resume Skills Ebook - QC Career School

When looking for a new job, too many people will simply pull up a job board website and send the resume they wrote in high school to every single job posting that “kinda matches their skill set”. Guess what: most of these applicants will never hear from the employer.

Thing is, when you apply for a job you should have a reasonable expectation of at least hearing back from the hiring manager for an interview. In order to do this, you need a resume and cover letter that sell YOU.

Even if you don’t have all the skills the job might require, if you can show your enthusiasm and abilities via your resume and cover letter, you’ll probably hear back from someone at the company. Today, we’re going to focus on how you can write the perfect resume that will get you noticed!

Download QC’s free ebook today to learn resume skills that will help you land an interview!

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January 29, 2015 8:00 am

The Worst Types of Clients

As a design professional, you are working in a client-driven industry. This means that your ability to do your job successfully is dependent upon your ability to work well with clients and master the complicated art of balancing their wishes with your professional knowledge and skill. Navigating your way through a design project with a client can be a pleasant and rewarding experience, and if you’re truly passionate about your work, you’ll find a way to make even challenging client relationships work! There are some types of clients, however, that can be particularly difficult to work with even in the best of situations. Here are some behaviors to keep an eye out for, and tips on how to handle clients who might test your patience!

Discussing Business

1. “We’re doing it my way”

Even though they’ve made the choice to hire a professional, some clients are hesitant to give you control of the project. Most can be coaxed into letting you steer the boat if you are informative and respectful of their concerns, but every once in a while, you’ll encounter a client who just won’t take your professional advice and insists on doing things their way, even if you’ve warned them that their way isn’t the best option. Some design professionals find this particularly frustrating when the client opposing all of their decisions has questionable taste! Don’t question your knowledge simply because a client won’t listen. In the end, they are paying the bill and therefore have the final word in most cases, but you are still the professional and you are justified in telling them why you recommend doing things differently and what you think would be best.

Angry Client

2. “You’re charging me for THAT?”

Some clients have misgivings about paying money for professional services, even though they’re the ones who hired you! At the outset they might agree to your pricing, but as the project moves forward, you might find certain clients resisting the topic of payment, especially where additional charges are involved. You will have to practice patience and respectfully remind them that aspects of the project naturally cost more if they decide they want additional services, or if unavoidable complications arise. Don’t let a client who is afraid to invest in their project devalue your services and stop you from charging appropriately. You are a professional and you provide a specialized service. Whether or not the client thinks that you should be charging them for an unscheduled consultation meeting they requested last minute doesn’t mean that you should be providing your expertise for free.

3. “You can make that work, right?”

Because they aren’t professionals in your industry, it’s understandable that some clients might be confused about precisely which services are actually within your scope. This can result in their expectations not aligning with what you’re actually prepared to do on their projects. You can try to manage this by asking them right away, during your first consultation, what their expectations of you actually are. Some clients, however, might continue to operate on the assumption that you will be able to pull any service they want out of a hat at any time. Politely but firmly remind these clients that you specialize in certain services, and also that these services take time and cannot be provided on a whim. Reiterate this at each step and suggest any contacts you have that might be able to provide them with the additional services they’re looking for. If the problem is that they’re expecting things from you on an unrealistic timeline, try updating them frequently and providing them with as firm of an idea of how much time you’ll need to complete current tasks as possible.

4. “But the customer is always right!”

Sometimes, no matter how reasonably you deal with a client’s demands or how good you are at accommodating high expectations, you will encounter people who are still very difficult to satisfy. You may have heard the old saying “The customer is always right”, and it’s likely that your client has as well! Unfortunately, there’s no secret handbook for helping difficult clients realize that, even though design professionals must cater to their paying clients, they are not obligated to accept disrespect. Standing your ground when you are handling the situation correctly and remaining respectful yourself are your best tactics for helping a client realize that your decisions are made for a reason and that you aren’t just there to mindlessly do their bidding.

Silent Client

5. The one who doesn’t say anything

Perhaps the most difficult client to deal with is the one who fails to communicate. Most tactics for dealing with challenging clients involve interacting with the person, which is very difficult if they aren’t answering any lines of contact! Clients who don’t answer their phone and miss meetings, but still insist that they want to go ahead with the contract when you do see them, force design professionals to choose between procrastinating until they can get more information or ‘winging it’ on very little information in the interest of finishing the project. If you choose to wait on certain decisions until you can get a hold of the client, you risk dragging the project out much longer than your schedule can afford. If you move ahead without clarification from the client, however, you risk wasting money and effort on something that they will make you change later. You will have to do your best to balance completing your work to the best of your ability with keeping in contact with the client as well as you can under the circumstances.

Take a deep breath!

Remember, these behaviors aren’t standard for every client! Don’t let the prospect of dealing with difficult people prevent you from doing the work you enjoy. If you can remain collected and concentrate on doing your job to the best of your ability in any circumstance, your clients will see how professional you are and how much you care about your craft. This might not solve the problem for you, but it will certainly help you avoid aggravating a tense situation. The positive contracts and wonderful clients that most of your business will be made up of will balance out the rest!

For more information on how to handle a design project with a difficult client, check out the courses here at QC Design School!

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January 26, 2015 8:00 am

Researching New Career Opportunities

Considering a big career change can be a daunting prospect no matter how long you’ve been in your current position. Checking out new career opportunities, however, doesn’t have to be a scary thing! As long as you’re prepared to invest time into researching your options and choosing the path that you think is best for you, taking steps towards a new career can be an exciting process! Here are some exciting career paths that you may not have considered before, and tips on how to take the first step toward getting more information about them!

New Careers

Where should you start?

If you’re considering a career change, then you’ve already taken the first step! What happens, though, if you haven’t gotten as far as choosing what you’d like to do next? Most often, people’s choices for new career paths fall into one of these categories:

    • It’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but you’ve never had the chance. Maybe now is the time to finally try it?
    • It’s something that you already know you’re good at or very passionate about, but you’ve never devoted your whole attention to it or tried doing it full time.
    • It’s something that you used to do and enjoyed, but circumstances prevented you from continuing.
    • It’s something you’d never thought of doing until very recently. You just know that you need a change, and you’re open to new ideas.
  • What are the first steps?

    Once you’ve figured out what you’d like your new career path to be, you can take the next step in seeking more information about that industry. Even if you’re not entirely sure which direction you’d like to go in, researching a few different careers can still help you narrow down your decision. Gathering details and informing yourself about your options is never a bad thing. Here are some ways that you can help yourself come closer to a decision:

    Research Online

    Check out online forums:

    This is one of the most accessible ways to learn about a potential new career path. Reading what other people have to say about their experiences working in an industry can be especially useful if your mind isn’t fully made up yet. You shouldn’t base your choice entirely on the words of others, but you’ll know it might not be the right career for you if you’re unsure after reading a few people’s accounts of their professional experiences. You might, however, find testimonials from working professionals very inspiring. If you’re visiting a discussion forum, you can usually interact with the professionals you’re reading about in order to have your questions answered.

    Talk to professionals in your local area:

    If they have time, speaking with local professionals working in the industry that you’re curious about can be extremely helpful. Not only will you be getting details from someone actually doing the job you might pursue, but you’ll also be getting information that is specific to your area. If you’re interested in staying there for your career transition, information about the local industry is especially valuable!

    Attend conferences or information fairs:

    Unfortunately, conferences and information fairs aren’t always an option, particularly if you live in a small place or somewhere with a very small industry. If you have the opportunity, however, attending information sessions or open conferences can be extremely helpful. The whole point of information fairs, after all, is for you to learn about the industry! These events also present you with a unique networking opportunity, which can be beneficial if you do pursue that career path.

    Take part in online seminars:

    While online seminars and information sessions aren’t quite as useful for networking opportunities as those you can physically attend, they’re still extremely helpful and are much more accessible. The seminars are often interactive, with a live chat forum for asking questions and speaking with others who are curious about the industry.

    Look up schools like ours:

    Even if you’re not sure that additional training is what you need, looking at the information provided by professional training programs for the career you’re interested in can be very informative. Most schools provide detailed breakdowns of exactly what the career involves, what qualifications those professionals need, and what you can expect to gain from working in that industry.

    Online Education

    What are some interesting career options to start with?

    Did you know there are many different types of careers within the industry that caught your eye? If you’re having trouble narrowing down exactly what it is you’d like to do, learning about the industry more thoroughly might help you! Perhaps there’s a specialized career option that’s best for you? Here are some examples of why you should always seek more information:

    Event Planning: If you think you might be interested in the world of event planning, have you considered which aspect of the industry might suit you best? Are you interested in general event planning, where you might organize a birthday party one day and a business meeting the next? Would corporate event planning, specifically, interest you more? Perhaps you’d prefer wedding planning. Maybe you thought you were interested in even planning but, now that you’ve got more detail, you’ve realized that your interests really lie in event décor. The world of event planning is diverse!

    Design: There is more than one type of design professional, and knowing how you’d like to specialize is the key! Are you more interested in the architectural structure of the room, like an interior designer might be? Would you rather concentrate on the style and flow of the room as an interior decorator? Perhaps home staging would be your strength. Seeking more information about becoming a design professional is important and can help you determine which type of career you’re most interested in and which steps you’ll need to take to get there.

    Makeup artistry: The makeup industry is among the most diverse! You may have decided that you’d like to be a makeup artist, but have you thought about what type of makeup you’d like to specialize in? Wedding makeup, glamour and fashion makeup, theatrical and fantasy makeup, and special effects makeup are just some of the options open to you!
    Keep learning!

    Deciding that you’d like to make a career change is the first step to succeeding at something new. By researching the opportunities available to you, you’re taking the steps to reach a new goal in the working world and helping yourself make the most informed career shift that you can.

    Don’t forget to take a look at the variety of courses QC has to offer to see if we can help you take advantage of new career opportunities!

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    January 20, 2015 8:00 am

    Additional Revenue Streams for Designers

    Working as a professional in the design industry presents you with many different career options. Even once you’ve decided on which type of design professional you’d like to be, you have several exciting options for additional revenue streams within each specialization! These let you practice new skills, change up your routine, and supplement your income. For example, interior decorators might spend most of their time conducting their usual design process with clients. In the off season or during slower business periods, however, there are many things that interior decorators can do to continue earning money for their professional design skills above and beyond simply working with private clients. Here are some additional revenue streams for interior decorators!

    Guest speaking:

    Guest Speaking

    Many professional interior decorators are paid for time spent presenting on their area of expertise in order to help other decorators and communicate within the industry about new trends, techniques, or information. Others are asked to speak at events like home and design shows in order to highlight the benefits of hiring a decorator to groups of potential clients. Guest speaking presents decorators and other design professionals with the opportunity to network with other people in their industry, as well as with people seeking their services. It also gives them the chance to set themselves on the map as experts in their field, as a good presentation will contribute positively to their reputation. Many guest speaking opportunities will be offered to more experienced professionals, but this isn’t to say that the input of beginning interior decorators is never sought after or valued. Because you have recently completed your training, you might be viewed as having a fresh outlook on the industry. Rather than hiring someone who’s been practicing the same techniques for years, some event coordinators might seek out new decorators to get an updated perspective on industry-related issues. If you conduct yourself professionally and display that you’re very knowledgeable in your area, you might be looked upon as qualified to speak at events despite being fresh on the scene!

    Writing and publishing:

    Writing and Publishing

    At international and local levels, there are many different magazines, websites, blogs, and information sources that design professionals can write for! Writing can be a great source of additional revenue, particularly during slower periods when you have more time to invest in developing a quality piece. Because you’re a working professional in your industry, you’re considered an expert, so your input might be valued by many different publications, particularly if your insight is unique and up to date and your writing is detailed and clear. Writing is a great additional revenue stream because it’s something that you can be very pro-active about! Particularly as a beginner in the industry, you might have to wait until things like guest speaking opportunities are presented to you. With writing, however, you can take action and contact different sources to inquire about publication opportunities. Seasoned professionals might be approached by magazines and websites for publications, but beginner interior decorators can still find extra income in writing by taking the first step and communicating actively with magazines and websites about writing opportunities.

    Hosting seminars and workshops:

    Like guest speaking opportunities, the chance to host an event is often given to more experienced professionals who have had the time to build a reputation. Even so, newer interior decorators and design professionals might still find themselves given the chance to host seminars or workshops in order to generate additional revenue. Perhaps this event is put on by the design company you’re working for and they want to give you a challenge and see you display your skills outside of the traditional designer-client structure? Maybe a local group of architects or contractors has organized a seminar for potential clients seeking information about renovating their homes, and they’d like an interior decorator at the event to present attendees with a well-rounded information package about home improvement? Maybe you are a free lance designer and you’d like to take the reins and coordinate with other design professionals in your area to organize a seminar for local clients in order to attract business and generate additional revenue for a number of interior decorators at once? Working with competitors like this can be beneficial for everyone if the seminar is organized as a team effort!

    Independent consulting:

    Private Consulting

    Many professionals in different industries will work on smaller independent consulting projects above and beyond their regular position with a company. Providing there are no conflicts with your contract and your method of gaining independent clients is ethical (i.e. you aren’t soliciting clients away from your company or colleagues), this is a great option for additional revenue for interior decorators. For some clients, getting the professional opinion of an interior decorator before they actually go through with any contract is an attractive option within the process of renovating their home. You might be approached to consult on a space that isn’t yet finished or built, and therefore isn’t ready for you to actually decorate, but you can still provide insight into what kind of decorative potential the space will have. Architects and design professionals with other areas of expertise might sub-contract you to help them determine the physical characteristics of a room so that their client’s decorative vision will be possible once the space is built. Even though you might not be fully conducting your regular interior decoration process from beginning to end, you are still providing insight and knowledge and you will therefore be paid for your expertise when you consult.

    Take Action!

    Although some opportunities for additional revenue might be presented to you, you should stay active about seeking them out yourself as well! Particularly as a beginning professional, taking on extra projects gives you more than just extra income; it’s also a chance to prove your skills in different contexts and build your reputation in other areas of your industry! Keep an eye out for new chances to develop additional revenue streams in many different areas.

    Are you interested in learning more about the different ways that interior decorators and other professionals can establish additional revenue streams? Check out the courses at QC Design School for more useful business information just like this!

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    January 14, 2015 10:49 am

    Time to Ramp up your Marketing?

    January is often a busy time of year for most businesses. Clients are done with their Christmas shopping and are now making New Year’s Resolutions that often require different services.
    Consider these scenarios:

    • People who decide to buy/sell a home over the holidays might need a stager or decorator
    • Clients might make a New Year’s Resolution to redecorate their home or a specific space. They’ll be looking for decorators, feng shui experts, and/or redesigners!
    • “Getting organized” might very well be in the top 10 New Year’s Resolution Lists. Enter you, Professional Organizer!
  • So how do you ensure you get a piece of the “New Year Client” pie? Smart vendors will beef up their marketing during this time. Here are some tips you can use to start your New Year Marketing Campaign!

    Marketing Strategy

    1: Think of a “New Year” Campaign

    Relevant content, as we all know, is the #1 most useful element in any successful marketing campaign! Think about what type of message you could launch seasonally that will resonate with your specific target audience.

    These messages could be along the lines of “New Year, New You”, “Time for a Change”, “Start the New Year off Right” or whatever other message you think might work.

    Just remember: Your target audience has to read your message and think “Hey! That’s me!”

    More Content

    2: Develop your content

    Once you have a great idea for a New Year campaign, think about how and where you can spread the message. You can develop some targeted content for:

    • Your blog
    • Your social media accounts
    • Your paid advertising
    • Your SEO efforts
    • Your email marketing campaigns
  • Of course, you can develop only a few pieces of content and repurpose them for the above channels. The key is to deliver a punchy message for the channel where you’re advertising.

    For example, say you write a great blog article about “things to do after a New Year Engagement”. Your target audience here is pretty clear, right? Ok. Now you can develop Social Media content that links to that article. You can build SEO strategies around getting more traffic to that one article. You can even run an email marketing campaign for it!

    3: Increase your presence

    In addition to spreading your new seasonal content, consider simply upping your game on all channels.

    More exposure of your brand – whether it be to your seasonal content or not – will do you some good if you believe there is an increased demand for your services.

    Examples of increasing your presence would be:

    • Adding keywords and increasing budgets on your paid advertising
    • Increasing your blogging frequency (if you typically blog once a week, increase to three or four times a week. If you blog once a month, try once a week or even more frequently during peak seasons.)
    • Increase your post frequency on social media (but don’t go overboard!)
  • 4: Analyze your Results

    Analyse Results

    Very quickly, you should be able to tell if your targeted campaign is working or not. This is where your website analytics are vital!

    Especially if you’re using paid advertising, be sure to closely monitor your spend after you launch your campaign. You don’t want an irrelevant ad to eat up your entire marketing budget.

    If you’re seeing a large amount of inbound traffic without much other impact (no increased leads or additional client sales, for instance), then likely potential clients like your marketing message but don’t see the continuity when they get to your website. You might want to consider a targeted landing page in this case.

    5: Remember to end it!

    Have you ever roamed the Internet in April only to find an ad for “Christmas Sales”? It happens. That’s for one of two reason. Either:

    1. The business plum forgot to take down the ad; or
    2. The business purposely decided to leave the ad up because it performed better than other ads in the past.

    If you’re thinking #2 above is a good idea… then we need to have words. Please don’t do it. If your seasonal ad is performing wayyy better than any other ad you’ve ever had, then think about why the message is doing so well, and how you can devise another message to be equally as productive.

    By the way… You might also want to consider what metrics you’re using to decide how successful your ad is!

    Do you ramp up your marketing during peak seasons? Have you had much luck with this approach? Let us know in a comment!


    There’s no better time for a fresh start and a new perspective than at the beginning of a new year! Setting goals for the coming year and making New Year’s resolutions can be a great way to transform yourself and shed whatever insecurities, bad habits, or negativity that plagued you throughout the last year. Of course, the turn from the year 2014 to 2015 won’t magically solve all of your personal and professional problems! Meeting your goals and overcoming your hurdles will take work! Here are some ways that you can work on personal development throughout the new year to maximize your potential and transform into a ‘new you’!

    1. Try not to give in to negativity

    Avoiding negativity is, of course, much easier said than done. Despite how difficult overcoming negative thoughts can be, this is an essential step in changing for the better in the New Year. Particularly if you’re coming out of recent difficult experiences, concentrating on the positive things around you will help you avoid being held back by negative thoughts. When you start feeling gloomy, take a deep breath and think of things that make you happy. Resort to easy, accessible steps that you can do quickly in order to cheer yourself up almost anywhere before negative feelings take root. Keep a picture of a very happy memory on your phone, listen to a song that makes you feel cheerful, or look an old text that you’ve saved that makes you feel appreciated. If nothing else works, sometimes you do just have to ride the negative feelings out. Make it your resolution, however, to firmly pick yourself up as best you can once you’ve taken the time to let yourself feel down. Don’t let negativity become the norm!

    Cheerful Music

    2. Practice gratefulness

    Thinking of all the things you have to be grateful for can actually help you with your goal of stamping out negativity! If you can think of at least one thing every day that you appreciate in your life, things might look a little brighter. If you operate in your daily routine thinking about how grateful you are for your good job, your nice home, your great friends, or even little things like a yummy breakfast in the morning, you’ll find yourself in a much better mood than if you spend your morning grumbling about how much your commute to work sucks. Practicing gratefulness can also be highly motivating. The more positively you feel about your life and the opportunities you’re afforded, the more likely you are to be pro-active about achieving goals.

    3. Don’t forget about self care

    Particularly when you’re very busy, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself! Of course, you’ll probably still remember to take a shower and eat at some point during the day, but remember that it takes more than the basics the make sure that you’re well cared for mentally, physically, and emotionally. Working hard is important, and also essential to achieving both professional and personal goals, but if you’re working yourself to the bone every day and letting that carry into your weekends, you might burn out. Every once in a while, take a self care day to rest. Take a hot shower, read the book you’ve been meaning to finish, call the friend or relative you haven’t had time to catch up with, or give yourself a few extra hours of sleep. Do what your body needs and what your mind feels like doing. These can be important to thorough wellbeing just like eating enough healthy meals!

    Relaxing Read

    4. Work on communication with others and yourself

    Communication is a life skill, both personally and professionally. If you can communicate your wants and needs to others and listen effectively when they answer, you’ll progress towards your goals much more easily. Think about which areas of communication you need to work on most. Maybe you’re an outgoing, talkative person who would benefit from scaling back just a little and listening to those around you more carefully? Maybe you’re a very shy person who keeps their feelings hidden and gets brushed off easily, and so would benefit from speaking up more? Maybe your problem is something as simple as talking too fast or forgetting to check your spelling when you email colleagues? Identify where your communication skills could use improvement, and apply yourself to adopting those improved habits so you can use them as tools to work towards larger goals.

    5. Practice stress management

    Some stress management tactics can be done in the moment, some are preventative, and others are done in reflection after you’ve made it through the stressful situation. The important thing to note is that stress can throw off your progress in all other aspects of self-development, so you should be mindful of how it affects you and what triggers you most. Some people use meditation or yoga to calm themselves and reduce stress, while others keep their schedules and workloads as organized as possible so they don’t become overwhelmed. Whether you find an outlet in sports, writing, or social activities, try to channel your stress into something productive to minimize the negative toll it takes on you and the progress you’ve made. Don’t adopt a “suck it up” attitude when it comes to stress if there’s something you can do to help yourself!

    Yoga and Meditation

    You’re worth it!

    Remember, self-development should be an empowering process, not something you feel obligated to put yourself through because you didn’t feel good enough before! You’re simply striving to be the best version of yourself that you can be. If one of your goals for becoming a ‘new you’ is going back to school, check out the different courses here at QC Career School to see if we can help you reach your goals!

    Do you have any other New Year’s Resolutions that you’re committing to stick to in 2015 to become a new you? Let us know in a comment!

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