It’s probably fair to say that people who enjoy cleaning – whether that’s the morning after an eventful party or simply the regular upkeep of your house – are in the minority. So for many, having a professional do the job for you is a godsend. But it’s not always as straightforward as it may seem, so to help you make an informed decision first time round, we’ve included Bark’s top tips for hiring a cleaner below.
Unlike hiring a plumberor hiring an electrician, who are generally brought in for one-off jobs, the majority of people looking for cleaners will want a regular service. This means it’s likely your cleaner will spend a large proportion of time alone in your home, making trust imperative. While initial contact may well take place online, don’t be afraid to ask for a face-to-face meeting to get a better feel for them.
So the meeting with the person you’re interested in hiring goes really well – but don’t take their word for the quality of the work they do. It’s important to seek out endorsements and recommendations from third party sources. Look particularly for testimonials on channels that aren’t run or owned by the cleaner – such as directories, listings, and Bark.com – to get the best, impartial insight in to their standards.
Is your cleaner being vague about their fees? Then your ‘spidey senses’ should be tingling! Cleaning, as a service is largely charged by the hour and tends not to differ immensely from building to building, apart from if you’re looking for more complicated packages such as a deep clean, additional ironing services or for your cleaner to bring their own equipment. An upfront answer should therefore not be hard to come by.
You may get on with your cleaner well; they may be both local and affordable but if they don’t clean your house effectively, then what’s the point? Inviting professionals for a trial session is commonplace and will help you when making your final decision. At the same time, you’ll be able to show them where things are tidied and allows time for any questions.
On 6th October 2015, we hosted an engaging Twitter Q&A with the highly successful businessman, Nick Hewer. Nick gave us an insight into the business world and offered advice for budding entrepreneurs on the hashtag, #AskNick.
Nick Hewer is well known as the host of Channel 4’s Countdown, and from 2005 to 2014 he appeared as Lord Sugar’s adviser on the British television series, The Apprentice. Nick has been working with Bark.com since our inception, so we were delighted to have him take over our Twitter feed, offering valuable business advice and providing career inspiration along the way. If you haven’t yet seen it, here’s Nick explaining how Bark.com works earlier this year.
Missed out on the Q&A? Don’t worry, because we have compiled Nick’s answers for you to digest below!
After a fantastic Q&A, Nick signed off…
Thanks to everyone who got involved in the Q&A! Was your question answered? Is there anything else you would like to #AskNick? Let us know in the comments below!
We’re delighted to announce that Nick Hewer, former right-hand man to Alan Sugar and highly successful businessman is set to join Bark.com on Tuesday, October 6th, for a day of expert advice and insight into SME success.
After 10 years on The Apprentice, Nick retired from the showat the end of the last season, and is now working as a consultant for a number of small businesses as he continues to make his mark on the UK’s entrepreneurial scene (as well as, of course, presenting Countdown!).
He’s been working with Bark.com since our inception (here’s him explaining how Bark works back in March) and as part of our partnership, next Tuesday, Nick will be taking part in a live Q&A session on via the @barkteam twitter page, giving budding entrepreneurs and small business owners the chance to have their business queries answered by the man himself.
Have a burning question? Let us know using the #AskNick hashtag and we’ll do our best to go through as many as we can. Or, if you just happy to sit back and absorb the insights, tune in from 1-2pm.
If you can’t make it though, not to worry – we’ll also be sharing Nick’s top tips for SMEs on our YouTube channel and via our blog, so watch this space.
The flights are booked, the selfie stick has been bought and your blog is up and running. Going travelling, or indeed moving abroad, is one of life’s most exciting adventures. All that stands between you and wanderlust is the passport checks and baggage reclaim, right? Wrong… You can’t just up and leave without tying up the loose ends your bound to encounter in the run up to your trip. From learning the local language to arranging a new home for your pooch, here’s some words of wisdom from the wise heads at Bark for you to bare In mind before you board that flight.
You may think that you’ll pick up the local language easily once you’re out there and going about your daily life, but its always best to gain a grasp of the language of the country your heading to before you arrive. Us Brits are notorious for showing up on foreign soil and expecting the locals to be fluent in English– don’t be one of them. Be it Spanish, French, Chinese or whatever language you’re looking to learn, there’ll be a professional on hand to get you speaking like a local in no time. Just to us what language you’re looking to learn and we can find the ideal language professional. Capisce?
Store Those Memories
Another major headache of moving abroad is deciding what to do with your belongings. Most airlines these days place limits on how much you can place in the hold or in the cabin. If you’re renting out your place, you wont be able to keep stuff there, and we doubt your parents will be happy holding refuge to every possession you’ve deciding against taking with you on your travels. Your best bet is putting it into storage. It’s safe and secure and saves so much hassle. What’s more, it’s reassuring to know that your cherished possessions are stored, ready to be reunited with you when you return. If you go down the storage route, you’ll need a removal professional to transport your possessions to and fro. Or, if you prefer, you can always do it yourself and hire a van to get the job done.
This advice may tug on your heartstrings, so a word of caution against proceeding if you can’t face the prospect of giving up your best friend. One of the harsh realities of moving abroad is leaving your loved ones. Giving up a pet can be especially tearful. Of course, you’ll want to ensure your pet receives the best care possible in your absence, and if you intend to return in the not too distant future. If worst comes to worst and you have to say goodbye to your pooch for good, you’ll need to find a professional pet adoption agency.
So, you’ve tidied up the home ready to let out, the taxman knows you’re heading abroad, and happy in the knowledge your pet is in safe hands. All that’s left to do is throw the biggest going away bash in history. This is your chance let out all the stress of preparing your move abroad and say goodbye to all your loved ones. You’ll need to plan this thoroughly. If you simply don’t have the time to organise your own do, you can find a professional to plan the party for you. From preparing food and drink, to finding the right venue, the team at Bark can ensure you get the perfect send off.
For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our otherblogs?
Summer barbecues may seem like a distant memory already, but as the colder months approach, there are still plenty of opportunities to celebrate and host coming up in the calendar. So, why not really go all out to impress your guests with your culinary prowess?
AtBark.com, we’ve seen requests for all manner of catering rise as hosts look to spice up their socials with dishes from around the world, so if you’re looking for a little inspiration, why not try one of our top ten street food picks to get the party started.
DIY tacos and burritos: A simple Mexican staple, but easy to personalise, lay out the wraps and taco shells, and provide bowls of chilli con carne, rice, cheese, salsa, guacamole and an array of vegetables. People can pick and choose as they like.
Bubble Tea: Becoming ever more common in the UK, this beverage first found popularity in the streets of Taiwan. Traditionally a cold milk tea mixed with tapioca balls, there are now a variety of flavours to choose from – milk or juice based – and fruit jellies or popping balls that can be included for a refreshing non-alcoholic alternative drink.
Poutine: Straight over the Atlantic from Canada, Poutine seems like the perfect complement to a boozy evening. Chips, gravy and cheese…what more could your guests want?
Bunny Chow: This South African delicacy really gives you options. Hollow out some bread and fill it with a curry of your choice. This fun dish is great for soaking up alcohol, but maybe keep the napkins at the ready.
Arepa: Heading to South America, this slightly thicker flatbread dish is popular in Colombia and Venezuela and it is usually filled with a combination cheese, egg and avocado.
Jerk Chicken: Something a bit more familiar here, but a well-loved dish-if you can handle the spice! You could serve this with rice, or make it more of a casual party food by skewering it with peppers and pineapple.
Currywurst: This idea of curried sausage may seem odd to some, but citizens of Germany swear by it. The sausage is steamed and then fried, sliced and served with a spiced tomato sauce. Leave in a bowl or serve with chips – whatever suits your guests.
Ceviche: This Peruvian speciality may not be ideal for all but the blend of raw fish marinated in citrus juices and seasoned with onions and chillies can be served with a variety of side dishes such as sweet potato, avocado and corn. It’s certainly among the lighter options! What’s more, go the extra mile and wow your guests by gaining a firm grasp of the local dialect.
Burek: Go to a street stall in Bosnia and you’ll be greeted by many different types of pastry goods. The main flaky favourite is made with ground beef but there are alternatives filled with egg and cheese or potato and onion. If these don’t suit you, why not explore with your own flavour combinations?
Banh Mi: All over Vietnam, you’ll see stalls serving baguettes, covered in mayonnaise and pâté, filled with pork or meatballs and garnished with cucumber, carrots, coriander and chillies. They’re a firm, if slightly messy, favourite among tourists, but perhaps worth cutting into smaller bite sized pieces for an easy to handle snack.
People will always remember the food from parties so if you can pull some of these off then it will help to make yours one to remember for a long time! Or have the dishes but save yourself the trouble and find a caterer or even a professional chef to do the hard work for you – we won’t tell if you don’t!
For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our otherblogs?
We are surrounded by media. From when we sit at the bus stop in the morning to when we chill out in front of the TV in the evening, we are constantly targeted by large companies and brands who are desperate to gain our attention. This has become increasingly prevalent in the age of social media, which has provided another avenue from which brands can target us, even drilling down into our demographics and interests. With that in mind, small business owners now need to make sure that they are developing an online presence, to make them stand out in industries that are already heavily saturated.
It’s common knowledge that online presence means brand awareness. Nowadays, how you present your brand online is similar to meeting a customer for the first time. Your online brand is essentially what people think of you when you are not available. Online presence is often a test of credibility for many technologically savvy consumers, who would rather connect with businesses online first before making a purchasing decision. This poses an opportunity to impress and capture the attention of potential customers. These days the first port of call when looking for information about a product or a service is to ‘Google’ it, meaning online presence is crucial if you want to make your business a successful one.
So how can you become a major player in this competitive age? Here are 5 ways to effectively maximise your online presence:
No matter how big or small your company is – branding matters. From word go a clear and consistent branding strategy should be developed, which can be pumped across all online channels to create brand recognition. According to the founder of The NY Brand Lb, Mary Van de Wiel, “without a brand you ultimately lack an identity, a presence – and a purpose.” You should think about your tone of voice and your values, as well as your visual aesthetic. Not particularly creative? Don’t know where to start? Then maybe you should find a graphic designer who can help you pinpoint what your business is about in a visually appealing way.
Website Design and Development
You never know who will be knocking on your virtual door at any time of the day or night – so make sure your home on the Internet is kitted out for new visitors! Creating and more importantly maintaining a website is a useful tool for every business. Here, you can shout loud about your portfolio of work and maybe even offer your tuppence-worth via a company blog. Your website needs to be functional and user friendly, and this is where a professional with experience in website design and development may come in handy! Once you find the right web developer, start thinking about optimising your website. This will make sure that your website performs well on search engines – just like the aforementioned Google! Be front and centre of the online world, and drive traffic to your website with the help of an SEO professional.
You’ve developed your brand, and mastered your website. But how can you enhance the visibility of your brand even further? The key is to make sure you are on social media – which is both effective and cost effective. Social media not only helps you to grow your customer base by reaching a wider audience, it also helps you to promote brand recognition and loyalty. Find a social media marketer who can help you maximise channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Although not the most widely used social network, G+ should also be maximised. Effective use of G+ can determine your inclusion and ranking in the carousel of businesses that appear at the top of the Google search results. As well as aiding your SEO, there are also advanced features available to businesses using G+. Check out G+ for yourself and add Bark.com to your circles!
If you’re feeling particularly competitive, you might want to also get set up on new and emerging social networks like Snapchat and Periscope. The opportunities are endless!
In this day and age, almost everyone has an online presence in some form, even if it is just an email address. Email marketing is a sure way to stay on the radar of potential customers, and it can definitely allow you to establish profitable relationships in the long term. This is to be used wisely, and should not be spam abuse. Instead your emails should offer something to the consumer – be it special offers, industry news or company updates. Feeling a little confused? Then find an email marketer to help you get the job done.
Regardless of how strong your online presence is, you won’t be able to sit back, relax and let the cash flow in. You need to get ahead of your competitors, who are battling against you with extensive advertising budgets. If a customer can’t find you when they are searching for a product or a service, then you simply won’t get the business. Joining an online directory like our very own Bark.com ensures that you are placed directly in front of the right people, often for a very minimal spend. No matter what service you provide, learn more about joining Bark by visiting our Pro-Centre.
Incorporating a targeted email marketing campaign with your slick new branding, user-friendly website and engaging social media strategy will set your small business on a path to success, all with the added help from an online directory like Bark.com!
Do you have any other tips for small business owners? Let us know!
For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our otherblogs?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the joys of freshers week after the stress of getting to university and the nerves of meeting new people. And after all, fresher’s week is a time to relax and find your feet. But when the freshers cloud of cheap vodka and dodgy kebabs begins to fade, it can be hard to re-adjust and know what to do with yourself. Here are some tips to help clear away those post-freshers blues and get yourself going for the year ahead.
Quick off the block: It’s tempting to miss your first few classes – you’re exhausted from your first week and probably suffering from fresher’s flu. However, these first classes give out a lot of information and if you fall behind now, it’ll mean missing a lot of nights out later in the year. Try and make as many as possible and if you absolutely have to miss one then e-mail your lecturer to try and get some information.
Explore: It’s pretty safe to assume that most of your fresher’s experience took place in a kitchen, some questionable dark clubs and the local chicken shop. So get out and explore the area you’re in! Go for brunch, join a local sports team or get rid of all those fresher’s toxins with a nice spa day and massage. As an added bonus, you can get discounts for so many of these activities at the freshers fare!
Supplement: It’s nice to have some down time, but remember you’ll never have this much free time again. You’ll probably regret it if you don’t make the most of your spare time at uni – so take up something on the side of your studies. Whether that’s photography or another language, broaden your horizons and you never know when it might come in handy.
Don’t feel trapped: Many students will spend freshers with their flatmates – mainly because this is easy and can help them feel more secure. This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with these people for your entire life or even until third year – you can find friends in your classes or societies too. Do try and keep your flatmates on side though, you do still have to live with them and you don’t want to end up in a passive aggressive notes-on-the-butter stand off!
Get some kind of routine: Okay, so we’re not going military style but try and get something of a schedule. Nobody wants to be left with a 3000-word essay to write the night before it’s due with a hangover, all our plates to clean and a massive pile of washing (cleaners don’t tend to fit in to the student budget – although for the lazy of you, we can help with finding a cleaner!) It is inviting to “forget” about tasks like this, but they are all part of university life, and getting on top of them can make the difference between grades.
Change course: Don’t be afraid to switch subjects – it’s better to do it early than to find yourself going into 3rd year with a course you hate. Do give things some time to settle though, as you might start to enjoy the course once you get into it. If this is on your mind go and speak to your advisor, head of department or even the careers department – all of whom are well placed to comment.
Budget: The most talked about – or the most ignored subject for students. Blowing all your money during freshers may seem like a great idea, but when you’re eating 18p instant noodles along in your room for the three months you might regret it! Many students do go into their overdraft so try and find one with no interest, but also thinking about getting a part-time job. It’s a great way of meeting new people and exploring the town a little more, and can help you make ends meet.
If you’re looking for different opportunities of chances to learn new skills why not check out Bark.com to get help from professionals in your area?
For more Bark.com tips and insights, why not check out our otherblogs?
At last the gusto, chatting and mind games can finally come to an end as we find ourselves on the eve of the start of the Rugby World Cup. This is not any ordinary World Cup being hosted in England. You feel a repeat of their run to the final in 1991, the last time the tournament was played on home soil, represents the bare minimum most fans, players and pundits expect. We at Bark.com have been as guilty as anyone in getting excited and with friends across the Severn Bridge becoming sworn enemies over the next couple of weeks; it promises to be a tasty pool stage.
The plan is that much like the class of 2003 and the Ashes Winning side of 2005 and the football team of…oh wait… this side has the ability to inspire a nation. It may lead to younger children looking for coaching or perhaps for those already playing and seeing the size of those on the field, regular trips to the gym or hiring a personal trainer may be on the cards. It could well be the flexibility of the players that has you in awe and in that case don’t be afraid to do a Ryan Giggs and hire a yoga instructor or find a Pilates experts but there is always the far more appealing option of finding a hiring a massage therapistto ease those muscle aches and pains.
If participating isn’t for you then there is still plenty to do as a spectator and a number of ways to enjoy the experience. While most would have been unable to get their hands on tickets or flat out refuse to pay the extortionate fees, the TV at home or pub with friends represents a decent alternative. You may want to host a rugby-related event for friends and family, or you could leave the barbecuing to the expert and let the good times flow. If you’re really going to get in to the tournament, you may also be keen to look the part and get the shirt of your choice to help support your team; you will not be struggling to find Rugby World Cup memorabilia for the next six weeks.
Hope can often be one of the worst human emotions but hope is exactly what this English team represents. If a tricky group containing fellow heavyweights Australia and Wales can be negotiated and South Africa can be avoided in the quarter-finals then England can expect to go pretty close to claiming the Webb Ellis Trophy which they last won down under in 2003. An encouraging Six Nations performance, much-improved display against Ireland in their final warm-up and a patriotic Twickenham crowd who will be present throughout has given renewed confidence to this mercurial but inexperienced England side. The likes of Jonathan Joseph, George Ford and Andre Watson all have the ability to be match winners on their day but none have ever played so far as a minute in a World Cup match. Be bold, courageous and back your skills should surely be the advice to let these young flyers flourish.
You only have to look back to 1995 and the victory for the Rainbow Nation and the iconic image of Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to South Africa captain Francois Pienaar to see the enormous unifying nature that the tournament can offer. Let’s hope the country can take heed from that competition as well as the feel-good factor of the 2012 London Olympics and get behind the home nations and give the whole country a lift.
The Great British summer is well and truly over. Bar the odd mid autumn balmy weather, we’ve got darker mornings, bitter winds and winter coats to look forward to as winter sets in. Don’t worry, we’re not there just yet, but have you thought about how well equipped your home is to deal with the chillier months? If you’re not sure, it’s best to double check that everything is shipshape before the cold snap because the last thing you need is a winter domestic mishap that puts you out of pocket and potentially out of home.
Here are the most important areas to prepare around your home to ensure you’re ready for winter.
First things first, it is absolutely crucial that you head into winter with well insulated piping. Poorly protected pipes that aren’t properly insulated are likely to freeze during winter, and with that bring an inevitable blockage that could wreak havoc inside your home; potentially a complete central heating collapse or even dreaded water damage. Of course, you can prep your pipes yourself, but we always suggest calling in the expert just to be on the safe side. For your pipes to last the winter, they’ll need to be well insulated, checked regularly and have a regular supply of warm air circulating through them. If your pipes do freeze, it’s best to summon a professional plumber as fast as possible.
It’s the little things that make the biggest difference. There’s nothing worse than trying to keep nice and cosy on a cold winter’s night only for a chilly draught to invade your home. Door and window frames, floorboards and letterboxes are the main culprits for allowing the draught in. A simple DIY session can amend these gaps and leave your home nice and toasty. You could even go the whole ten yards and install a porch or conservatory onto your property; ultimate protection for maintaining the warmth, and added space to relax in.
The roof is perhaps the most overlooked part of any property, but ensuring it’s in prime condition is probably the most crucial part of our heat-saving masterplan. Winter brings falling leaves, and with that brings blocked gutters. What may be a quick-fix can easily become a major issue that threatens to undo all your hard work. What’s more, if you have cracks and weaknesses around the roof, the dastardly frost can wreak havoc and cause leaks that require a costly fix. It’s important to check your roof as often as possible before winter sets in, both from the inside and the outside. If you suspect anything is wrong, however slight, it’s probably best you find a roofer to fix the issue. What may be a relatively cheap fix could end up costing thousands if left unattended.
Ensure you’re insured
So, if you’ve stuck to the plan, you should have your pipes sorted, your boiler in tip-top shape and a nice warm home complete with double-glazing and a new roof. Bring it on, Winter. Right? Wrong. The last thing you need is to be complacent and think that the job is done. It is crucial that you’re fully insured to cover the worst case scenario. Who knows what weather we could have in store?
It’s always best to cover every base and insure your home. After all, what’s the point in going to great lengths to prep your home for it all to come unstuck through freak weather?
But what if you want to take it up a gear? Helping you to make the move from amateur to professional, portrait photographer David Harrison offers his top tips on entering the industry.
Finish what you start: Whether it’s uploading the best pic of your day to Instagram or getting a print made, it’s all too easy to snap away and never have a ‘finished ‘image. Keeping going and putting in that extra bit of effort will make it all worth it in the end when you have the perfect picture.
Keep busy: Motivation is key. Never put pressure on yourself to overdo it, but do make sure you keep busy and have a range of options to work on – this will make the experience more fun! It will also give you a stack of pictures to add to your portfolio.
Be passionate: Photograph what you know, what you love, what you care about and what you have access to. This will make the whole process much more enjoyable, and help you with points 1 and 2. You are unique and so is what you see, so show it!
Network, Network, Network: Important in so many aspects of life – tell everybody what you are doing and, most important for your line of business, show them. You will be surprised how many people will have something you can help them with, and you may even learn something new. The more your work is out there, the more opportunities will come your way.
Keep the day job! Good photography takes time. Nobody is a pro straight off the bat and – as always in life – there’s a lot to learn. If you’re thinking of becoming a professional photographer, start it off as a hobby, learn different skills, techniques and most of all, have fun! In this way you can enjoy your photography, while learning the right skills and making the contacts to take it to the next level.