Archive for the ‘General’ Category
It’s official- you’re a certified interior decorator! You’ve learned theories and techniques, practiced in your own space, and you’re ready to start your professional career!
Many beginner interior decorators feel apprehensive about how to spark their career once they’re finished training. How can you start building a client base? What steps should you take in your first year?
Turning your training into practical work experience doesn’t happen overnight. Here are 7 steps you can take to get the ball rolling!
1. Start networking
Interacting with other design professionals, or even just décor enthusiasts, will do wonders for getting your name out there. The professionals who trained you might connect you with job opportunities. Fellow designers might know of clients they can’t take but whom they’d be willing to refer you to.
Network online in forums and on social networks, interact with other interior decorators at conventions, or seek out other professionals who might need interior decorating services, like real estate agents.
Pro tip: While the Internet is a great way to make new contacts, nothing beats a face-to-face interaction! Don’t rely solely on Facebook. Take the time to meet key influencers in person!
2. Become a brand rep
Some qualified decorators look at becoming a representative for a brand as being a step down from working their independent contracts. Many interior decorators prefer to concentrate on freelance decorating that could lead to establishing their own business, or to working with design companies. In reality, becoming a brand rep can support these other jobs.
Especially during your first year in the industry, representing and selling a particular decorative brand can be both an educational and a networking opportunity. By selling décor as well as designing interior spaces, you’ll secure yourself a secondary source of income, either between or during other contracts.
3. Become an assistant
There’s no shame in starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder when starting out in a new industry. Shadowing a more experienced interior decorator is an amazing opportunity to refine your skills and learn through hands-on work. That decorator’s clients might even recommend you to others if they like what you do!
Shadowing someone with more experience lets you see what successful designers do right and how they handle it when things go wrong. Assistantships are a great transition between your training and your professional career. They’ll prepare you for making your own way in the industry.
4. Volunteer work
Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean you should give your services away for free. Doing too much work for no pay devalues your skills. Potential clients might think that you work for free because you’re not very good. In your first year, however, certain volunteer work can be beneficial. Volunteering is a great opportunity to practice while you network. Contact local retirement homes, new small businesses, or charitable foundations and donate your time in exchange for experience and a chance to help people.
5. Keep applying
During their first year in the industry, many interior decorators struggle with inconsistency between contracts and jobs. Don’t let this discourage you from taking temporary contracts or applying for jobs with design companies.
Not hearing back from potential employers is no reason to stop distributing your portfolio and resume. Think about it this way: the more resumes you submit, the more potential clients or employers will be introduced to your name. In the time it takes for one of them to call you, submit more applications, work small contracts, take volunteer opportunities, or shadow more experienced professionals.
The things you do between big contracts keep you in practice, teach you new things, and build your resume. It also looks more impressive to potential clients and employers if you’re active between jobs, rather than disappearing from the industry.
6. Build your brand
One of the smartest things a beginner interior decorator can do in their first year is build their brand and establish a solid presence online and in their local industry.
When you’re not volunteering or assisting, work on building a quality website, starting a blog, and creating a professional portfolio. The stronger your branding platforms are, the more easily potential clients and employers can see the quality of your work, making them more likely to hire you.
Need help to get started? Check this out: Building Your Website: What You Need to Know
7. Offer lessons, workshops, or parties
If you find that you have space between work opportunities, do something about it! Try not to sit back and wait until something falls into your lap. Interior decorating is one of the few industries where professionals can create work for themselves.
Between jobs, tell your friends and past clients that you’re available for things like instructional workshops and décor parties where guests learn about decorating techniques and have the chance to purchase decorative pieces. Even one-time jobs like these support your resume, and they also show potential clients and employers that you’re pro-active about your career.
Keep it up!
Your first year working as a professional interior decorator might be a challenge, but there are ways to help yourself. Don’t let feelings of uncertainty stop you from taking steps towards an active career and a solid client base. New decorators who show initiative and drive during their first year in the industry will spark a successful career for themselves.
How are you planning on starting your career in design? Let us know in a comment!
For many people, becoming an interior decorator is something they choose to do as soon as they discover their passion for style, design, and coordination. For others, the choice comes later on, after other career paths and years of consideration.
The beautiful thing about interior decorating is that it’s never too early or too late to begin learning professional techniques. As long as you have an eye for style, can work time efficiently, are prepared to think outside the box, and are always willing to learn, you’ll be prepared to take the first steps toward professional interior decorating at any age.
“Am I too young to become an interior decorator?”
When it comes to learning basic interior decorating techniques and building a good foundation for professional training, you are never too young!
Any person with a passion for coordinating details and celebrating style and expression should begin practicing whenever they can. In fact, the younger you start decorating your own spaces (or even the spaces in your family’s home), the more time you have to improve and explore your skills.
It is true that many interior decorating programs or colleges require you to be at least 18 to enroll. There are some, however, that understand how the passion for décor can start at a younger age. Some programs accept students as young as 16, as long as a parent or legal guardian is willing to sign a consent form giving them permission to enroll.
In most places, interior decorating is an unregulated profession. If you wish to branch out into interior design and actually change the physical structure of a room, however, you’ll be required to complete additional training and become legally licensed. This doesn’t mean you can’t train as an interior decorator or begin developing your décor skills earlier to gain experience until you’re old enough to train and consider licensing.
If your local area doesn’t permit training until you’re 18, don’t be discouraged! Use online resources to help you begin practicing, or at least thinking about, basic décor skills. Google interior décor blogs or vlogs and read planning magazines to introduce yourself to themes, styles, trends, and decorating strategies. Use reputable resources as a research guide.
The best thing you can do is practice. Help your mom re-coordinate the furniture layout in her home office or give your best friend’s bedroom a complete decorative makeover. You can even build a small portfolio to present to the programs you apply to later. People might not pay you for the first few spaces you decorate, but your friends and family make great practice clients if they’re willing. The more experience you have before training, the higher your chances of being accepted into the program of your choice when you’re old enough.
“Am I too old to become an interior decorator?”
As long as you’re passionate about style and décor and willing to learn new things, you’re never too old to become an interior decorator. In fact, many decorators start their careers after years of working in other industries, raising children, or debating whether they’re ready to commit.
For some, a later start is actually beneficial because they’ve already achieved goals and reached personal or professional milestones. Many older decorators are prepared to devote their full attention to interior decorating. They’ve also had a chance to gain relevant life experience that might make them attractive candidates for training programs and potential clients.
Interior decorating programs and colleges have no age limit for seeking professional training. As long as you’re able to complete the tasks required by the decorating process, you are not cut off from training as an interior decorator just because you’ve reached a certain age.
Getting your first clients
No matter what age you are when you begin your interior decorating career, attracting your first clients can be intimidating. You can make it easier by knowing where your target market lies, which can be influenced by your age.
In the public’s eye, a young interior decorator might appear trendy, fashionable, and up to date on the latest social and pop culture trends. This doesn’t mean that older decorators can’t be these things too! It simply means that younger decorators might have better luck targeting a younger crowd of potential clients than they would with more mature groups.
For example, a young, single professional buying her first condo in the city might be more attracted to decorators that are closer to her age. Mature decorators are just as capable of planning chic, trendy spaces, but clients often like to work with decorators they can identify with. A 23 year old might be more excited to work with someone closer to her age who probably likes the same things as her.
Mature decorators often have the best luck working with clients in a similar demographic to their own age as well. An elderly married couple looking for help updating their living room will probably feel more comfortable hiring a mature planner with more life experience than they will hiring someone very young who perhaps hasn’t owned a home of their own yet. Once again, this isn’t because young planners can’t coordinate traditionally stylish spaces for older generations! Clients might simply see themselves reflected in the experiences of a planner closer to their own demographic.
Identifying your target market is a crucial step to building a client base in any business. Interior decorators are no exception. Don’t restrict who you’ll work with simply because of your age, but keep in mind which groups might be most keen to work with you. Who will identify with your experience and style?
A trendy young decorator could very easily be hired by an elderly lady looking for a fun, colorful new kitchen design and an older decorator might be hired by a young couple who want elegance and class in their master bedroom and see that capability in the decorator’s maturity. Don’t let yourself stress over whether or not you’re too young or too old to find clients. Instead, use your age to your advantage and market yourself to clients who will value your life experience!
Regardless of your age, pursuing your passion for interior decorating is worth the time and effort. You should never be discouraged by other people questioning whether you are too young or too old to become an interior decorator. Professional decorating is the type of industry where you are constantly learning and growing, no matter your age or experience level. If you have the dedication to develop your skills from basic to advanced, then you have the potential to excel at any point.
Would you like to learn more about becoming a professional interior decorator? Check out the courses here at QC Design School!
Are you the kind of person who loves to keep things neat and tidy? Do you take neatness a step further to create efficiencies wherever you can? You probably have what it takes to be a professional organizer! In fact, if you find yourself itching to organize not just your own stuff, but your friends’ stuff too, you might be perfect for the job.
The professional organizing industry is booming. People are taking on more jobs and projects, giving them less time to stay organized at home. Television shows like “Hoarders” have also made hiring a professional organizer realistic and even kind of trendy (but fingers crossed that you won’t have to wade your way through 100 years of newspapers to shake your client’s hand)! Starting a professional organizing career has never been so lucrative and it’s not expected to slow down anytime soon.
Besides being a trendy, solid, and profitable career choice, here are the top five perks of becoming a professional organizer!
1. Do something you’re passionate about
Do you genuinely enjoy keeping things neat and tidy in your spare time? Do you find yourself itching to organize public places better? As much as people might tease you about your cleanliness, you can actually build a successful career based on your organizational habits.
The best careers are ones that concentrate on what you’re already passionate about, and your love for coordination might be the perfect motivation to start profiting from what you actually love doing.
2. Help other people
Lack of organization can actually consume a person’s life and limit what they achieve in their day to day routine. Whether it’s their home, their finances, or simply their shoe closet, regaining control is often stressful and time consuming without some guidance.
This is where professional organizers can save the day. You can do more for a person than just organize their closet nicely or help them get a few financial records in order. In extreme cases, you might actually save someone from becoming so overwhelmed by disorganization that their job or personal relationships suffer. Teach your financially struggling client a better way to organize his credit card statements so that due dates are met and interest charges aren’t incurred. Your advice might help him climb out of debt. Help a client with a set of twins and a set of triplets under the age of 5 develop a system to color code, wash, dry, fold, sort, and store her family’s laundry efficiently so it doesn’t overwhelm her home and consume her entire week. Professional organizers do more than just make things look tidy; you will actually make a difference in people’s lives.
3. Do fulfilling work
When you play a role in pulling someone out of disorganization, you do more than just help them. You’re also helping yourself feel fulfilled by your career. No matter what kind of client you work with, you’ll feel rewarded at the end of each contract because you’ll see noticeable results. That basement is now a working home office rather than the alarming cave of mysteries it was a week ago.
Professional organizers take action and achieve things. Even if your goal that day is simply to get the closet under control before you move onto the dressers, you’ll always have something to work towards.
4. Gain useful skills
Professional organizers are problem solvers. You’ll be presented with a new set of hurdles each time you start a contract. Your challenge will be to adapt your skills to meet that client’s needs. Contracts that use your past experiences but require some adjustment will teach you the most because this is where you’ll evolve your knowledge and develop new tricks and techniques.
Perhaps there’s a space efficient but “out of the box” way to store the bottles of vintage wine your client has left sitting in heavy, dusty crates for the past 30 years? Your skills are also helpful outside of your work day. The better you become at coordinating objects and information, the more organized you’ll be able to keep your own life and space.
5. Control over your career
Professional organizers can work their jobs in different ways. If you like order and working as part of a team, for example, you might work for a company that specializes in interior decor and design services. Other design professionals might be experienced in making the space look gorgeous, but you’ll help make it functional as well.
If you are willing to risk less structure in order to take more direct control of your career, you might work as a freelancer or small business owner. Evaluate your needs when it comes to scheduling and consider whether you have the necessary skills to provide independent services that will turn a profit.
Professional organizing is the kind of career that teaches you valuable life skills while you help others and make a living. It’s also a satisfying option for people who enjoy problem solving, achieving goals, and taking full advantage of the space around them.
Do you think a career in Professional Organizing might be right for you? Visit QC Design School to learn about professional training that will get you started on the right foot!
Design professionals are familiar with how quickly trends can change. Each year, interior décor is influenced by fashion, society, and popular culture. As a result, the colors, patterns, and furniture that were popular last fall might not be the “in” thing this year.
Trends don’t mean the designs you create for your clients this fall will be unfashionable in a year. Design trends evolve from one another and grow from what was stylish before. You can help your clients update their space in simple ways, like adding throw pillows in a trendy color or updating the light fixtures for a new finish.
Whether you’re updating a space or giving the room a complete face lift, here are some trends to consider for fall 2015!
1. Neutral tones
Neutral tones are always a part of the fall season, but this year calls for them especially. Warm, inviting spaces are what’s “in” for 2015 and smooth, calming colors like beige, taupe, sandstone, and olive are the perfect palette for creating that comfortable atmosphere. Research décor colors that were popular in the 1960s and let those be a loose inspiration for this fall (but without quite so much orange)!
2. Color mixing
Are your clients bright, colorful people whose style doesn’t quite fit a neutral palette? Colors are always in style, even when neutrals are the height of popularity. Simply choose from the colors that are trending most. For 2015, the hottest looks are vivid shades of pink, purple, green, aqua, and turquoise, particularly when they’re mixed in bold combinations. If your clients prefer something louder than a simple mix of colors, try combining a color with a bold but complimentary pattern. Of course, you should always be careful with bright colors and patterns. Clashing isn’t in!
3. White on white
If neither vivid colors nor neutral tones are the right choice, try something simpler and more visually clean. For bright, spacious rooms, white on white is the fall trend. Place a white sofa on a clean white carpet or compliment the stark white kitchen island with a row of angular white hydraulic stools. Using white as the base color for a room lets you accessorize with colors, patterns, and tones that might clash otherwise.
4. Wall collages
Fall 2015 is a time for personalization. One of the best ways to add a personal touch to a room is with a photo collage. We’re not talking a small, collage-style frame hanging in the corner! Help your clients choose images that make them feel inspired and dedicate an entire wall to creating a bold, uplifting collage. Keep the frames subtle, because they’re not the focus. Instead, play with the size and shape of the collage and the brightness of the images inside. Consider including your clients’ art, pictures of their family, scenery from of places they love, or shots of people and things they love in pop culture.
5. Flea market finds
If you’ve ever been to a flea market, you know that the style of what you’ll find there is a little different than what you might see at a grand antique sale. Think about rustic kitsch style and household wares from periods past, like you might find in your grandmother’s kitchen. Choose pieces that have style and a vintage air about them, rather than objects that look old, worn, or outdated. Incorporate pieces that contribute to the atmosphere you want into the room’s décor in whatever creative ways you can!
6. Incorporate collections
Perhaps a picture collage in the family room isn’t quite personalized enough for your clients. One of the most interesting trends of the season is to include your clients’ collection in their home décor. Of course, this trend might not be the best choice if your clients have spent the last 15 years collecting superhero-themed underpants. Proudly displaying their collection of vintage 45” records as a wall mural, however, is stylish, tasteful and creates an atmosphere.
7. Big, comfy sections
We’ve all sat on chilly modern sofas made of straight lines and shiny materials. These are appealing in certain spaces, but they’re not what are trending for the home this fall. When it comes to seating in the family area, fall 2015 is a time for comfort and warmth. Help your clients choose a soft sectional that they can stretch out on and sink into, no matter the style or color scheme.
8. Dine with old and new
This fall’s trendiest kitchen space combines old and new styles for a comfortable but refreshing look. Take advantage of big spaces to pair large, rustic-looking wooden tables with chairs that feature sleek lines and modern metals or materials. If there are other accent pieces in the room, choose colors and styles for the chairs that coordinate. The contrast between sleek, modern elements and classic older piece creates balance in the room.
9. Vintage style bath tubs
Have you ever visited an old hotel with a grand claw footed bathtub sitting separately from the wall? This vintage style tub is back in fashion for fall 2015. Of course, the claw feet aren’t a necessity if they’re not what your clients are into! You can even draw the rest of the décor in the bathroom together by choosing a colored tub instead of the classic ivory look. Further establish style with tap handles and shower heads in different shapes and finishes. Choose clean silver metal and sleek, straight handles to modernize the tub, or a golden tap with ornate fixtures to hit the vintage theme home.
10. Four poster beds
Perhaps the grandest trend in bedroom furniture history is back in style. Suggest a tall four poster bed for your clients’ master bedroom. Choose warm, neutral tones for the curtains (which you can change later for a light summer material). Help your clients choose a wooden finish that makes the room feel comfortable. Wood with a slightly worn driftwood finish is particularly “in”, and large pieces are easily reflected across the room with things like driftwood-style picture frames or end tables.
At the end of this season, take a look back at the beautiful designs you’ve created throughout the fall. Look at the colors, furniture styles, and patterns that you incorporated this year and keep an eye on them. Knowing what was in style last season can prepare you for seasons to come!
Have you discovered other up and coming fall home décor trends for 2015? Tell us about them in the comments!
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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Running a business is always stressful. Sometimes you don’t have some of the securities that are attributed to most employees, like a regular paycheck, paid sick leave or vacation time. It’s especially stressful if you don’t have any employees, since that means if you’re not working the business isn’t making any money. For that reason, it can be very tempting for designers to always be working!
When we talked about stress management tips we discussed the importance of taking care of oneself, especially business owners! If you let yourself get burned out, you’ll lose focus and you’ll be far less effective at running your business.
What’s a sure fire way to avoid burnout? Why, taking a vacation, of course!
By planning ahead, a designer can take a stress-free vacation without putting their business at risk! Sound like a good idea? Read on for tips on how this can be done.
When to take a vacation
Likely if you take a vacation your business will close during that period of time. So, think ahead and don’t plan a vacation around the busiest time of the year! As an designer, avoid vacations during peak home renovation season, hot home buying/selling season etc. where your services will be most required. If your business has a natural “slow season”, try to schedule a vacation around that time.
Whenever you run your own business, you should pay yourself a set regular salary as the business owner. Additional business income should then go into the company reserve and earmarked for expansion, development and/or emergencies.
If you follow this formula, you can also permit yourself a week or two of “paid vacation” each year. Financially, this is the most sound way of going about taking a vacation, because it will be factored right into the business budget.
Keeping Clients in the Loop
The vast majority of clients are intelligent, reasonable people. They should understand that as an owner (and sole employee!) of a business, you need time to recharge your batteries sometimes, just as they do.
Usually if a client becomes frustrated or irritated due to a “temporarily closed” business, it’s likely because a lack of communication from the business owner.
Be sure to give your clients plenty of notice before you close your business for a vacation:
As soon as your vacation is scheduled:
- Inform your current clients that you won’t be available for that period of time. If possible, try to include your vacation in the initial planning of your client’s project. In other words, try to have few (if not zero) items “in the air” while you’re gone. The more you can convince them you’re on top of the design project before you take off, the less stressed they’ll be!
About a week before closing:
- Call or email the clients you’re actively working with and remind them that you won’t be available during that week, but they’ll be your #1 priority when you get back;
- Consider sending an e-mail to your marketing list in case they may try to get in touch with you;
- Prepare an “out of office reply” for your emails and phone line. In this message, be sure to indicate a date when you will return the person’s message, and honor that date.
Just before closing:
- Put a notice front-and-center on your website indicating your business is closed and when it will reopen;
- Add the same type of notice on your main social media accounts (and “pin” those to the top of your page);
- Enable your “out of office” messages for your email account and phone line.
NOTE: When communicating this information with clients, don’t apologize about taking a vacation! Instead, simply own it. Yeah, you deserve a break too and you’re taking it. Clients will be happy for you!
Now, unplug for real
Have you ever been on vacation and just couldn’t resist the urge to check your emails? We’ve all done it. But in order to truly benefit from time off, you really do need to turn everything off.
Trust me, my friends. No one wants to hear this, but your emails will keep. Your phone messages will wait. There won’t be a disaster while your business is closed for a week.
If you work out of a separate office, that’s great. Leave your laptop and smartphone at the office where you’re not allowed to visit during your vacation.
If you have a home office, it can be a little trickier. Unplug your computer and put it away. Put the business phone on “silent”, and same goes for your business smartphone. If you happen to only use a single smartphone for your business and personal use, at the very least turn off the email notification icon and reminders on your phone. Please, please just… leave the email alone for a week!
If you think this will be particularly difficult for you, come up with an alternate activity to emailing. For example, every time you desperately want to check your email, you have to spend 30 minutes gardening instead. Or walking the dog, or lounging by the pool, or take the kids to the park. After a few days, you’ll forget all about that pesky smartphone, and that’s exactly what needs to happen!
Are you planning on taking a vacation this year? Let us know in a comment!
Everything stylish comes and goes, and old interior decorating techniques are often replaced with exciting new ones. This year, the up and coming design techniques for updating your space are largely centered on giving the room a fresh new feel without breaking the bank. Check out these ten simple decorating techniques that professionals and clients alike will love.
1. Do it Yourself
Simple DIY projects are a fun way to update a space with a personal touch. Try up-cycling a stylish old wood or wrought iron chair by giving it a new coat of paint in a color that matches the scheme of the entry way. Turn the baby crib into a chalkboard-topped desk to transform a nursery into a play room for big kids. Letting the craftsmanship that goes into DIY pieces show gives the room a comfortable touch.
2. Get Rid of Clutter
We don’t just mean the laundry piled on the chair in the master bedroom or the files sitting on the kitchen cabinet! The number of furniture pieces in a room can clutter the space as well. Having more large pieces than necessary takes up space that could be used to enjoy the view or move more easily from room to room. Taking advantage of the space you have is great, but that doesn’t always have to be done by filling it up. Feeling cramped is never pleasant, so rid your space of chairs or ottomans that don’t get used and enjoy some breathing room.
3. The Walls are your Canvas
Of course, we don’t recommend that you let the kids color the walls with markers! Decoratively, however, your walls are a great place for expression, and you can do more with them than just hang art pieces. Try patterned wall paper half way up, accompanied by a matching color and thick accent border. This technique makes the walls a statement piece, but lets you control how subtle or bright that statement is. Making the walls decorative balances spaces with otherwise simple decor.
4. Show Off what you Like
Are you an avid fan of old Hollywood movies? Have you been collecting pictures of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe over the years? Technically, you only need three pieces to make a collection! Why not update a room with things that you already have, especially when you like them so much? Try devoting the master bathroom to your glamorous icons by placing your collection around the room. Let your collection become the theme and match the rest of the color and décor to those pieces.
5. Let the Curtains Talk
Sure, curtains are functional, but they can be decorative as well! They can even be a DIY project for people with sewing experience. Tie them into the color scheme by choosing a shade that works nicely with the rest of the room, or let them stand out by picking a bold pattern that balances a more simple space. Don’t shy away from words like ‘bright’ and ‘intricate’. These can add personality to a room that needs an update.
6. Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall (or Anywhere Else)
Mirrors can do more than just tell you how you look! Try opening up a small landing with a collage of mirrors on one wall. Maybe the beautiful vintage mirror you saw at the garage sale would make a more interesting piece above the sofa than a popular art print? Mirrors are versatile pieces that come in endless colors, finishes, shapes, and sizes. Chances are good that you’ll find a mirror that works with the décor you have, but still brings something bright and new to the space.
7. Let the Outside in
Nothing brightens up a dull space like a little life; plant life, that is! Adding different plants to the room can transform the atmosphere and give it a lively, fresh feel. Try contrasting plants of different heights or with differently shaped leaves to give the space a balanced look, or tie the plants into the theme and color scheme with decorative pots and vases. Through spring, summer, and fall, the plants will bring in some of the fresh outdoor feel, and through the winter they’ll remind you what’s beyond the cold!
8. Mix it Up.
Who says a room can only have pieces of one style? As long as the space still looks balanced and visually pleasing, there’s nothing stopping you from mixing things up a little for a quick and cost effective makeover. Perhaps your rustic cottage sitting room would benefit from a few chrome accents, like lamps or end tables? Bringing a slight modern element into a more classic room can be the perfect updating technique.
9. Break Away from the Classic
In most homes, you’ll find specific pieces in certain rooms. For example, comfortable seating and a coffee table of some kind can nearly always be seen in the sitting room. These classic furniture pieces don’t have to be sacrificed to update the room. Consider switching an old four legged coffee table for a sleek, modern piece supported by curving glass. If your style is more rustic, try a smooth wooden table that sits right down on the floor, with drawers down the sides. Look for seating that, while still comfortable, gives the room a unique look with its color, texture, or alternative shape. Your room will still have all the classic elements it needs, but with a fun twist.
10. Get Natural
Wooden elements are perfect for rustic rooms, but they can look great elsewhere too! Natural wood can be especially versatile. This means that the wood hasn’t been stained, glazed, or treated. Natural wood complements many colors and styles and can look classy or relaxed, depending on the rest of the room. While wood can be damaged more easily without a glaze or treatment, it also looks more fresh and clean. Whether you’re incorporating big furniture pieces or small accents, natural wood will cleanly emphasize your chosen themes and colors.
Interested in Learning More?
Keeping track of up and coming décor techniques is all part of being a great interior decorator. For more information about how you can work in décor, check out the courses at QC Design School!