Pre Planning for a Builder

Most people when embarking on a home renovation or other building construction usually take time to plan. It never hurts to be over-prepared, especially if you are considering renovations or building works which means you are going to have to deal with professional home renovators or commercial builders for the first time.  Here are three ways to be usefully over-prepared.

See a house they have renovated

Unlike large commercial constructions, home improvements are very personal. The final result has to be just right or so darn close that you are happy. At the same time, it often involves a single professional renovator with a few helpers or a small team of professionals. The workmanship is therefore closely tied to the skill and style of one or just a few builders.  If special tasks, such as bathroom renovation or extensive carpentry, are involved, the personal touch is all the more critical. It is therefore important to explain the requirements to the builder precisely and to consider the response and suggestions. But the only way to be certain of the builder’s workmanship is to see a sample of his work.

Verify the quality of material to be used

Some builders and home renovators may employ the cost-cutting trick of using cheaper material to make the bid more appealing. Cheap is not necessarily poorer quality, and your own budget may restrict you to a certain level. But, particularly if you are out to make a custom home, quality is usually much more important. A visit to a construction depot or hardware and material shop is a good way to get a feel of the quality and options available – and could make the difference between a good renovation and a superb one.

Check out the warranty and permits

There are local industry standards for warrants in most area.  Chances are that if your builder is offering a warranty, it is good to go providing they are fully licensed. But since a below standard warranty could cost more, so it is best to verify with the local builders association, council or concerned local authority.

Relocation guide to choosing Removalists

To discover a trustworthy relocation mover to help pack your stuff and move them to your new place safely is certain to be a challenge especially when the stress of moving becomes part of the mix. These are a few pointers to help to ease the way and let you find the most reliable relocations company.

To start on the process of selection check their web site and establish whether or not you are dealing with the company or somebody trying to total services and then hire subcontractors. To be safe you truly want to handle the company that may do the work so you have got some recourse. Read about the company, its background and years in service. The quantity of years in service will probably steer you on their experience and expertise in home and office relocations. If the web site offers thorough info concerning the firm’s moving services and referrals, possibly they are also careful in packing and moving your things.

Check the client service. Give them a call and see how they can make a reaction to your investigations. They should be able to answer nearly all of your questions. By being informed about the services they supply implies proper coaching from the management. Even if you’re simply a possible customer, they ought to be polite and professional in handling your questions. If they extend a customized customer service, then that gives the idea that they are truly capable of taking great care of your things.

Check the insurance programmes and van ownership and whether or not they are members of a credible Movers association. The number of beefs from house movers about broken items and then no recourse to the cheap price removalist grows every year so enquire on insurance for your effects. The company should own the trucks and supply transit insurance. Even better, find removalists who offer no-damage guarantee or those that are prepared to mend or replace damaged items, if there are any.

Look for a definitive cost relocation quotes or budget-friendly moving system offers or precise price end to end moves. Some removalists also supply an hourly rate system where you play a role in planning and preparation so that less time is consumed in moving your things. You can do the inventory and packing and leave the transporting of boxes to them. When they’re in your home to pick up your items, you may also help in carrying lighter boxes into the moving van. This way, removalists spend a little less time in your place and you could be charged less though unlooked for snags tack onto your total bill.

It isn’t straightforward to move homes; planning, time, effort and quotes are required. Once decided, ensure you get assistance from the pros so you can save not just effort and time but also money. Choose pro relocation corporations or removalists who can offer the highest value for your budget without hazarding the safeness of your effects.

Navigating the Online Maze

Getting your business online

The Internet is a maze of opportunities, with every new craze popping up as the next frontier for “guaranteed” success.

With so much at stake, understanding the online market and, more importantly, how it can be best used by you, has become paramount to succeeding online.

The Internet is purely a medium, a platform of connections that provide a place to display information. Though like a blank canvas atop an easel, complete with paints and brushes, if there’s no vision, then it’s hard to get started.

Outlined below is a quick mud map of the online market, some of the keys to look out for and a starting point for your business to begin or expand your journey into the online frontier.

Where to Begin

With so much diversity, so much to offer, it’s the old saying of a kid in a candy store … or the modern equivalent, a man visiting Bunnings.

Confronted with so much, understanding where to begin your online foray can prove daunting, especially for those that may not be Internet savvy.

Assuming you own, run or wish to promote a business, it starts with Google. As the market dominator, Google by far controls the majority of online search. Between Google search and YouTube, they account for well over 90% of business related search traffic.

Featuring on Google is not as simple as it may sound, but a great place to begin is to add your business to Google Places.

This is a free service that can be created by any business owner. Though note, many companies are selling this service and some provide “optimisation” to increase the chances of the page featuring higher than those pages that have not been fully updated.

Online Advertising Wordle

To attempt to divide the web into just three segments is folly, though for this exercise I’ve attempted to provide a few pointers about primary categories within the online culture.

Business Websites & Blogs

For simplicity, I’ve combined business websites and blogs (web logs or online journals) as predominantly information sites.

A business website is defined here as purely a reference source, not a shopfront. It is used as a form of advertising but not necessarily for selling.

Having an online presence, with your own website is important. More and more, prospective customers are turning to the web to gain a better understanding of your offer and more detail on your company.

A website is your opportunity, first to present your business to the world, and second it provides a mechanism to be found in a search engine such as Google.

There are a multitude of web development companies, graphic designers, SEO specialists, hosting providers, all claiming they can do a better job than the next. Navigating this first stage of developing a site is where many companies can get unstuck.

Warning! A plug: dLook provides web development, hosting services and can optimise the website for best placement on Google – contact us if you’d like to know more.

In terms of blogs, these provide an opportunity to regularly add fresh content that is relevant to your business and … well, like this post, hopefully attracts new customers that may not have visited your website otherwise. Blog sites such as WordPress, Blogger, and even Twitter (micro blogging or short form blogs), provide free platforms to simply create your own blog site.

Online Multimedia and Social Presence

Again at risk of seeming completely ridiculous I have bundled social media (Facebook, Pinterest) and multi media (YouTube, Vimeo) together.

For sake of word count, I’ve kept these together to capture other forms of content, such as videos, graphics or social posts.

Finding a way to use these best for your business is becoming an art form in itself. Everyone is quick to suggest you must have a Facebook business page or ask have you got Pinterest yet? But these may not suit every business.

A video hosted on YouTube and/or Vimeo is a great addition for your website and online presence, as some people would rather watch than read.

Though, in terms of social media (Facebook), the question really is how often are you going to be able to update your social media? Will you be posting every day? Once a week? When you remember?

If it’s less than daily, you probably need to question whether it’s worth it.

Social media offers a chance to engage your customer regularly, but if your updates aren’t engaging or you only have your best mate as a follower, well … maybe you need to talk to a social media specialist or review the best use of your time.

Online Advertising

There are a number of forms of online advertising, from placing text based ads on Google search results (Google AdWords) to banner ads (graphic ads displayed on various sites), and, of course, directory advertising with companies like dLook (shameless plug but that is what blogs are for).

Google AdWords is a great way to quickly launch a business or a product in targeted markets via search results. This is quite time consuming and a difficult process. Using Google AdWord specialists can be costly but much more effective. Though this is a pay per click model – which means every time anyone clicks on your link you are charged. Anyone means anyone! Whether that’s a customer, a competitor or just a random clicker.

Affiliate marketing, banner ads and “product placement” on sites is also quite popular. The main platform for this has also become Google AdWords, though a number of affiliate sites are still providing a similar service. Here a graphic ad of your business is displayed, and again, you may be charged per click or on a cost per thousand (CPM) impressions. dLook provide banners to our premium listings on a reduced fixed fee cost – we chose this as it was the most easily managed and allowed a business to forecast exact costs.

Directory advertising, dLook and others, varies signficantly. Some directories provide free listings, some charge a small fee. The key to understanding value in directories is what you are getting for your investment.

A paid listing in dLook receives its own branding page, free from other advertising and is full featured, complete with optional coupons, quote function and business reviews. dLook can also embed videos, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Of course, we’ll back our own product, but key to success in dLook is using our features. dLook provides a full featured service that can provide a standalone presence in the online space, or a great complementary page to support your website and backlinking strategy.


Fifteen Seconds of Fame

The Most Elusive Viral Post

The concept of something “going viral” has been around for a long time, but since the internet crashed the party, the phrase took on a whole new meaning.

There are thousands upon thousands of examples of things going viral on the internet, from ideas, to jokes, urban legends and media of all forms.

With the advent of blogs, social media and online mass media (the viral dream team, if you will), text, music, pictures and videos have seen their fifteen minutes of fame like never before, with millions more people tapping into what they otherwise would have missed on the snail paced mediums of television and radio.

The idea of viral media may have started off on obscure forums open only to the computer geeks of the 90’s, but today it involves everyone, from teenagers on Facebook to work colleagues sending chain mail.

If you think you’ve never seen viral media, think again.

Ever heard of the “FREE HUGS” campaign?

It started with a video filmed in Sydney’s Pitt St Mall in 2006 – check it out:

Not only has the YouTube clip had over 73 million views to date, it has also sparked hundreds of copy cat videos; a successful campaign to say the least.

How about acclaimed singer Susan Boyle, who started out with a show stopping performance on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.

Luckily for all of us who didn’t happen to watch it as it aired, it became one of the most watched videos on YouTube, with 4 million views in just 4 days (and now more than a gob smacking 100 million views).

Pictures Going ViralPictures have had just as much internet success, from shots of married celebs sneaking around to some photos that just have to been seen to be believed:

But it’s not just any media that goes viral – it must meet the needs of millions of internet users from across the globe.

While a lot of viral media falls into the funny category, it’s one of the hardest criteria to meet; to go viral means it has a universally funny meaning, something which most comedians won’t even claim to have!

Although, a sneezing panda is probably funny whatever language you speak.

Of course, some media spreads like wild fire for a different reason – maybe it’s uplifting, controversial or just downright weird.

Whatever the reason, with the ever growing population using social media, going viral is sure to continue being a big thing,.

Social Networking for Business

Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Use Social Networking Sites for Business

Social Media IconsYou’ve heard it from your daughter, you’ve heard it from your staff, you’ve read it on paper, and it seems the people still can’t get enough.

Yes you guessed it right, we’re talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like.

Well there is really something about social networking sites that people from all ages, from all walks of life all over the world show interest and approval for the social media.

Small businesses even use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to publicize information about their products and services.

Now the bigger corporations socialize their companies not merely to increase sales but also to cultivate credibility and reinforce recruitment efforts.

Maybe now is the good time to take into the plunge and immerse your business into social media marketing.

If you think that isn’t worth your time, read on and see the top three reasons why you should use social networking sites for your business.

1. Social presence and brand exposure

More and more people gather online and use the World Wide Web to research, inquire, and explore about the products and services they intend to obtain.

By having a social presence, it will be easy for your potential clients to become aware of your brand or business.

They can read the feedback from your loyal clients, see how you respond to criticisms and suggestions, and distinguish how your product/service differs from the rest.

2. Improved customer service

You are sure to reach out to your customers in a more personal level.

Listen to what they are saying about your product/services and respond immediately to their questions, suggestions, and concerns.

Show the watching community that your business values interaction.

Now you can easily provide answers and support to client’s inquiries and concerns, give details about the products and services you offer, and reach out and actually connect with your target clientele.

3. Good old word-of-mouth marketing.

Through your social media presence, your product can easily be recommended or shared to other people through online conversations and reactions (such as tweets, likes, shares, pins, etc.).

This provides your business a good exposure and that, in time, can lead to a pool of loyal clients, increased sales, and strong business credibility.

Do not be afraid to use the social media for business.

The changing times influenced people to become more Internet-savvy and as the world becomes more online, you need to be there too.

Social Media Branding Cheat Sheet

How many social media accounts do you have for your business or brand?

And what’s the best fit?

Most brands choose to focus their attention on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ Local.

But, no matter what social media account you focus on, your attention to detail will help you create a better first impression.

This is why it is important for businesses to take note of the image dimension requirements on each social media account.

In the last couple of months, we’ve been exposed to a number of changes and redesigns from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ Local, Pinterest, and a couple of days ago, Twitter.

Here’s a quick brief on the redesigns and image changes:

Facebook – changed the image dimensions of the profile picture and created a cover photo option.

Google+ Local – updated cover photo dimensions, and allowed users to upload animated gif files

LinkedIn – complete redesign of the home and profile page, bigger images.

  • Standard logo – 100 x 60 pixels
  • Spotlight Banner – 640 x 220 pixels – located on products / services page of a company profile
  • Square logo – 50 x 50 pixels – used in network updates

Twitter – new profile page launched a couple of days ago, “Me” option on the Tabs bar will show a different page view. You have the option of creating a “Header” (similar to a cover photo), when you choose the “Edit Profile” option and choose “Design” to add a “Header”.

  • Header photo- 1252 x 626 pixels

Check out the infographic cheat sheet on image sizes, created by Luna Metrics:

Cartoons, Childhood and Caricatures

I love cartoons. I mean, who doesn’t.
It’s an age of innocence that only lasts about a decade where every story begins with ‘Once upon a time’ and ends with ‘happily ever after.’
The End.
Or is it?
I have fond memories of getting up early before school just to sit in front of the television and watch Tom & Jerry run around chasing each other.
Or classic characters such as Dick Dastardly and his fighter pilot dog Muttley, with that unmistakable bark-cum-laugh…hi hi hi hi hi hi hi!
Thanks to those ingenious Warner Brothers, mothers and fathers around the world taught their children about the birds and the bees with cats and dogs.
And rabbits, roosters, panthers, bears, ducks, mice. In fact, it seemed, anything but a human.
And who can forget Bugs Bunny’s penchant for carrots, Wiley Coyote’s obsession with ACME explosives, and Pepe Le Pew’s incessant romantic advances towards anything with a pulse.
Come to think of it, those crafty cartoonists were prepping us little rug rats for life in (and beyond) the playground.
If you take away the cute characters, whimsical music and of course, the breakfast timeslot, you had an adult narrative of Food, Hate and Love that was fed daily into impressionable minds along with Coco Pops, full cream milk and that mesmerising melody of ‘snap, crackle and pop.’
I’m not sure which was more saccharine – Fruit Loops or the Loony Tunes?
Saturday morning television sure was a regular Animal Farm. (And no, not the one you’re thinking!).
You learned the facts of life from cartoons – way before The Facts Of Life was first aired in the 80’s!
Then there was that bizarre collection of blue creatures called The Smurfs who lived in a magical forest and ate magical mushrooms (or was that the writers of the show?). Let’s not forget this was way before The Blue Man Group – and a lot more interesting, if you ask me.
I mean, where in any society does there exist a people consisting of just one female and a seemingly endless supply of males, led by their Papa?
I think that’s where the phrase ‘Who’s your daddy’ had its roots, but that’s another subject altogether.
The point is, whether you’re a big kid or a small kid, cartoons are always lots of fun.
It doesn’t matter if you’re watching them on TV or watching a professional cartoonist draw a caricature, a creative illustration, a black and white sketch, or an artistic doodle can take us all back to that golden age of innocence. So next time you see a caricature artist sit down and take you back to your childhood.

Encourage Creativity in Your Child

I come from a long line of accomplished craftsmen. Some of my ancestors worked with wood and later steel, others with fabric and some with the land. When I gave birth to my girl, I hoped she would have the same talent as me, writing. But as she grew and her personality started to blossom, it was all too clear that craft which was her legacy was art.

At just two years of age she spent majority of her time drawing and painting. Of course her masterpieces were not studio worthy at this point, but that did not stop them being hung in the studio De Refrigerator. From drawings with crayons of the family to gracing the drive with chalk squiggles, she won’t have had all the talents yet, but she most definitely had passion to burn.

She grew up quicker than I could believe and soon she was in primary school. It was here that she first started to engage others with her creations. Craft was her favorite school activity and her teachers often told me how impressed they were with her creativeness and flare. For her eighth birthday I acquired her paints, brushes and a canvas or three from the local art supplies shop, it was the best decision I ever made.

Coming to the end of school my daughter’s aptitude for art actually shone. Branching out from standard painting, she dove head first into creative outlets, using a massive range of craft tools and craft supplies. Poster paints gave way to oil paints, glitter pens to gorgeous ink and fountain pens. Her works were totally varied showing different subjects, themes, styles and attitudes as she explored the arena of art.

Framing a print of one of her top selling works was a humbling day. When I see that picture I think of all of the papers that used to flutter about her room and the dozens of sketch books full of doodles and designs. Sure, some of her talents came from art classes, but I still believe the majority of it’s a gift from our heritage, a gift that she has respected, I have encouraged and we both feel blessed to have.

So encourage your child to take up a creative pursuit as I did mine, you never know what surprises may be in store.

Challenge Yourself and Learn How to Sew

Have you ever walking into a store, picked up a piece of clothing and thought to yourself, “I can do this!”? If you’re like me, and you hate paying ridiculous prices for something you could make yourself, you might consider learning how to sew. Not only is it a whole lot cheaper than paying retail, but it’s also a great way to unleash your creative fashionista.

I first learned how to sew when I was in my late 30s. I was nervous at first, especially since it feels like the older you get, the harder it is to learn new things. I didn’t know the first thing about sewing, so I signed up for a sewing class to learn the basics. Before long I was altering my old clothes, crafting cute little purses and even making my own patterns!

It was such a blast being able to do something creative like that, and part of me felt like a kid in arts and craft class all over again. I found myself obsessing over each next project and constantly looking out for new ideas. I couldn’t wait to try and imitate different styles I’d admired in the magazines or in the shop windows. The great thing was that I could find inspiration in the things around me, but also put my own creative twist on it.

After the first few weeks of the sewing class I finally had something to show for it – a gorgeous yellow dress that was perfect for summer. It was a cute little sleeveless number with tiny ruffles at the bottom. It was custom-fit for my body shape and draped at all the right places. I couldn’t believe how many compliments I got on it! The best part was that when my friends asked me where I got the dress, I could proudly tell them, “I made it!”. The look on their faces was priceless. Then came the costumes. First I was Marie Antoinette, then Catwoman and even a Medieval princess. These costumes would have cost me loads to hire, and even more to buy, but with my trusty sewing machine I was able to make them at a fraction of the cost – tailoring them to suit my body specifically.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the entire experience was the range of people who were taking the sewing class. There was everyone from teenagers to senior citizens, and even a few men thrown in the mix! By the end of the course, we all walked away with bags filled with our freshly sewn goodies. Best of all, we all left with a useful new skill. Now, when I walk into the store and look at the clothes on the racks, I tell myself, “I really can do this!”

Start Enjoying Antiques and Collectables Today

Do you have a fascination with vintage films, clothing or style? Do you wish that you were born in a different era? Or do you simply wish to have well made, hardly furniture that also comes with a bit of history?
If you said yes to any of the above then you are probably someone who has a love for antiques. Antique collectables and jewellery can make your home as well as your wardrobe look truly striking and elegant. However it can often be hard to discern the real from the fake, or to find good quality antiques that won’t fall apart as soon as you get home. This is where a good and reliable antique dealer or retailer can come in hand. The best antique dealers specialize in a wide range of things. The four most popular antique categories include: furniture, jewellery, collectables and clothing.

Furniture such as tables, draws, wardrobes, sideboards, chairs and hat racks are some of the most popular types of antiques on the market today. Antique beds have also come back into vogue, with a large number of businesses specializing in the restoration of these items. All antique furniture, whether restored or in an original condition, should come with a certificate of authenticity, if they do not it is best to either avoid or to hire a specialist to come and check out your potential purchase.

Behind furniture, one of the most popular categories of antiques is jewellery. Wearing antique jewellery can be an incredibly humbling experience, knowing that you are wearing something that was once someone else’s cherished possession or marked a milestone in their life such as marriage. There is a wide range of antique jewellery out there, ranging from rings with all types of stones like ruby, emerald, diamond, sapphire and opal; to other jewellery such as bracelets, necklaces, chains, pendants, earrings, watches and cuff links. These pieces often come from many eras ranging from the Georgian, to the Victorian and Edwardian, up until the 1980s even. Artist movements of the twentieth century such as Art Nouveau and Art Deco have also produced many beautiful pieces of jewellery that are available in most antique stores.

Collectable items such as jewellry cases, perfume bottles, card cases, vestals, cigarette cases and lighters, to name but a few are also popular gifts to give loved ones. When it comes to purchasing an anniversary or birthday gift most staff have an extensive knowledge of their antique and will be able to guide you toward buying the right gift.

The popularity of vintage clothing has also increased in recent years, with many stores specialising specifically in buying, repairing, maintaining and selling clothing from a range of decades, most commonly the 50s, 60s and 70s. If you love vintage clothing but cannot always afford the price of the real thing, many vintage clothing stores also sell retro inspired reproduction clothing for a fraction of the cost. So you can look like your favourite era without having the pay the hefty price tag!

There really is a wide range of antiques out there to suit a wide array of tastes. So what are you doing? Go to your nearest antique store today and find something that can continue to the loved for many years to come!