5 steps to successful project management

Managing business projects: Our top tips for success

Project management is not always as straightforward as it sounds, but with a few key steps, you can ensure that your project stays on track.

Effective project management is critical to business success but, all too often, the management of important projects is far from effective, with many being completed past the deadline, coming in over budget, and failing to achieve the original objectives that were set.

To help you avoid falling into this trap, we’ve put together some of our top tips that will help you to achieve project management success.

Get a detailed brief

The key to successful project management is to create a detailed brief from the outset. This should encompass the full scope of the project and include elements such as key deliverables, project milestones, and resourcing and budgeting requirements. Agreeing these elements with the client from the very beginning of the project will enable you to plan effectively. ‘Kick-off’ meetings, where all parties get together, are a great opportunity to set expectations, assign roles and responsibilities, and create a workable roadmap.

Select the right team

A successful project requires a good team behind it, so it’s important to ensure you have the right mix of people working on your project. To do this, choose people whose skills and experience are a good match for the requirements of the project – and try to keep your team to a manageable size. When it comes to project management, the old adage of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ holds true – a smaller, leaner team tends to be more effective and business experts recommend limiting the size of your team to a maximum of six to ten people.

Set clear roles and responsibilities

Once you have a project team in place it’s important to define each team member’s roles and responsibilities. Every team member has a specific role to play in the overall project delivery, and it is your job to ensure that each person understands their role and how their work contributes to the wider project. However, try to avoid micro-managing – give your team some breathing room so that they feel trusted and empowered to do their best work.

Hold regular catch ups

Holding regular catch ups with the project team and the client is key to ensuring that projects stay on track. They offer an opportunity to check on the status of the project, check progress against agreed milestones and objectives, and spot any potential issues at an early stage, allowing you to identify and implement effective solutions before these issues get out of hand. These meetings can be held in person, or via conference-calling or Skype – whatever works best for your team – just try to avoid getting bogged down in too much detail and instead concentrate on presenting the most relevant information.

Harness technology

These days there is a plethora of technology out there designed specifically to help with project management, so don’t be afraid to harness this technology to improve the efficiency and efficacy of your project. A good digital project management software will provide a streamlined platform that lets the team manage all aspects of the project and access key project information in one place, while resource management tools are a great option for helping ensure that you make best use of the resources available to you.

When it comes to project management, our best tip is to prepare for every eventuality. Things sometimes happen in business, but if you’ve planned thoroughly, you’ll be able to roll with the punches and deliver a successful project that meets its goals.

Best Camera Accessories For Beginners

Building Up Your Camera Gear Collection

A list of must-have camera equipment when you’re starting out in photography.

If you’re new to photography, you’ll already know that getting started can be an expensive business and may even put off some amateurs with a passion for taking shots. The amount of equipment in the market can seem mind-boggling. But there’s no need to spend a fortune stocking up on every bit of kit out there. Here, we introduce some key camera accessories that every budding photographer should have.

Manipulating Light

Taking high-quality images relies on the light being just right, which is something that photographers are constantly striving to manipulate. There are a number of accessories that are ideal for beginners to get to grips with. Begin by purchasing an external flash – although your camera may already have an inbuilt flash, these are really restrictive, as the flash will only ever come from the direction of the camera, whereas for a better quality shot, you need to be able to adjust the angle of the flash.

If you’ve been studying beginner photography, then you’ll already know how important it is to get your white balance right. For this, you’ll need to pick up a grey card which is affordable online, although some people even create their own DIY grey card using neutral grey paper.

Another accessory that you’ll need to help you cope with excess light is a polarising filter. This is particularly useful when it comes to reducing the amount of reflected light that is cutting across your shot.

Steady Hands

Even if you’re able to keep your hands quite still, there’s few better investments than a tripod to stabilise your camera. This is really important if you’re shooting in low-level light or are taking long-exposure shots.

Power Up

There’s nothing worse than your camera running out of battery in the middle of a shoot, especially if you’re away from home. This is why it’s important to stock up on rechargeable batteries and remember to take your battery charger with you wherever you go. Ideally, you’ll go for a charger model with space for 8 batteries. As most cameras require 4 batteries, you’ll always have spares to swap in at a moment’s notice.

Strap Your Camera

One of the most important pieces of equipment you can invest in if you’re going to be shooting on and off all day, is a strap to hang around your neck. This is essential if you’re on the go shooting travel photography for instance. Your arms will be exhausted if you don’t give them a rest every so often and let the camera strap take the weight.

Cleaning Your Camera

As a beginner photographer, you should learn good maintenance habits, and one of the most important is cleaning your kit regularly so as to protect it from dust and debris. For this you should invest in a lens pen, a soft bristle brush and a microfibre cloth.

It might take you a little while to invest in all the above bits of kit. In fact, you may even find that you’re ready to upgrade your first camera before you’ve acquired an accompanying selection of kit. Trading in your original gear could be a great option for you – if you’re wondering where can I sell my Nikon camera? – you should use a reputable camera selling platform which will give you a cash offer. You can then take the money and put towards your new camera purchase and your choice of accessories – it won’t be long before you’ve got quite a collection!

Why Landlords Should Use Letting Agents

Keeping On Top Of Your Rental Responsibilities

Being a landlord is no easy job, particularly if you have a portfolio of properties. Why not hire a letting agent to take on the burden for you?

Being a landlord comes with great responsibility, which not all take seriously. A London landlord was recently fined £214,000 for health and safety failures which put his tenants at incredible risk. The landlord in question owned multiple properties across the capital which were all investigated as part of the case against him. The offences ranged from failure to supply gas and electrical certificates, not providing an adequate fire exit route, and in one property, there was an exposed live electrical cable as part of the cooker hob which could have caused electrocution.

Clearly this landlord was unscrupulous but if he had used a letting agent to help manage his portfolio of properties, then it would have been necessary for him to meet legal rental regulations and he could have saved himself considerable expense.

What Do Letting Agents Do?

The job of a letting agent begins with your vacant property. They will find suitable tenants to live in your property for a pre-agreed period of time. If you have specific criteria about who you want to live there, then they will vet people for you and carry out reference checks so that you feel comfortable – you may not want smokers or people with pets to move into your property for example. You’ll likely have a specific figure in mind for the rental price, so your letting agent would negotiate on your behalf if needs be until you’re happy with the arrangement.

They’ll also draw up a contract for both the landlord and tenants to sign, and can also carry out an inventory check prior to the renters moving in. This procedure is a list of the contents and condition of each item within the property, so that if your tenants rip a huge hole in the sofa, then they won’t be able to turn around and say it was in that state when they arrived.

Management Service

Brentwood estate agents explain that there are typically different levels of management services on offer, and whilst some landlords do like to be involved to some extent and build a longterm relationship with their tenants, others prefer to simply collect the rent and pay the bills. If you live away from your property or are too busy to be a hands-on landlord, then it makes sense to sign up with a lettings management service to deal with the daily running of your property. Your tenants will be able to call the lettings agent instead of you if there is a leaky pipe or a problem with the boiler. Although you’ll be kept fully informed about what’s going on with your property, you won’t have the responsibility of dealing directly with your tenants.

Choosing Reputable Lettings Agents

It’s important to understand though that choosing a substandard lettings service is as good as not having one in place at all. Therefore, it’s essential that you choose a lettings agent who is a member of the professional body ARLA. This will give you peace of mind that you’re meeting regulations and operating inside of the law.

Whether you’re currently a landlord who is struggling to keep on top of your responsibilities, or else you’re new to the buy-to-let market and want some hands-on assistance in managing your tenants, then signing up with a lettings agent is the right move for you!

You’ll Want To Have Your Engagement Photoshoot At These 5 Beautiful Places In Essex

Stunning Scenery Makes For Stylist Shots

From the beach huts of West Mersea, to the picture postcard village of Finchingfield, Essex is the place to be when exploring location ideas for your photoshoot.

If you’re lucky enough to have an engagement photoshoot booked, then you can look forward to some spectacular images to pour over, well in advance of your big day. An engagement shoot is completely relaxed with very little pressure and gives the photographer a great chance to get to know you both as a couple. Naturally you’ll want to make the most of your shoot by choosing a beautiful location to be snapped in – here are some of the most picturesque locations in Essex that will make for some fantastic shots.

Finchingfield Village

Frequently featured on prettiest village in Essex, or best place to live in England lists, Finchingfield is small but perfectly formed. The duck pond and sloped village green surrounded by quaint little cottages would create an incredibly charming background for your shoot, particularly if your photographer can capture the reflection of the water in the picture. Engagement shoots are all about enjoying time with your partner, so why not grab a cream tea or a pub lunch whilst you’re in the village?

Beach Huts of West Mersea

If you want a truly relaxed vibe for your engagement shoot, then kick your shoes off and feel the sand on your toes as you run around together outside the beach huts of West Mersea. Essex residents are lucky enough to have a number of pretty beaches to choose from, but the beach huts of West Mersea are so colourful with a range of vibrant pastel shades to choose from, which make this the perfect backdrop for your shoot.

Hatfield Forest

This ancient royal hunting forest has it all. Aside from being a great day out, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to using it for your couple shots. You might want an atmospheric holding hands shot taken in the forest area, or prefer to embrace for a kiss on the open plains with deer grazing in the background. If you’d like to show your more adventurous side, then why not ask your photographer to take shots of you both rowing across the boating lake?

Thaxted Windmills

Not many couples are lucky enough to have their engagement photos taken in front of a windmill, but if you head to Thaxted, on the road between Dunmow and Saffron Walden, then you’ll spy the stunning windmill along the way. John Webb’s Windmill was built in 1804 as a tower mill, and is the only remaining mill in the Thaxted area. A picnic area with benches surrounds the mill, which affords spectacular views and would be a dream location for your shoot.

Hadleigh Castle

The final place on our list is an English Heritage site and combines the dreamy ruins of a castle, overlooking the Essex Marshes where the Thames meets the North Sea. To say the scenery here is dazzling here would be an enormous understatement.

Once you’ve chosen your preferred engagement shoot location, or at least created a shortlist, then get in touch with your wedding photographer Chelmsford team to talk about shot ideas. Remember that your photographer wants to deliver exactly what you have in mind, so the more information you can provide about your vision, the better your shots will be!