Prepare a Deck or Patio for Entertaining

Few things are better than having a functional and beautiful outdoor space such as a patio to entertain guests. Having a great outdoor space enables a person to host parties or intimate gatherings all year long. Establishing an entertaining space and maintaining that space is essential when planning another year of fun in the sun.

There are many things homeowners can do to ensure their entertaining space is safe and functional. As the season approaches, include some landscaping and decorating components to your preparatory plans to make the space as comfortable and aesthetically appealing as possible.

Here are a few key tips for readying your yard for entertaining possibilities. Expand on these basics to customize an area for your unique needs.

Preparing a Deck or Patio for Entertaining

Check the area for any needed repairs. Prior to your first entertaining session, look over the deck or patio to take note of any flaws that may present safety hazards. Are there any loose railings? Are all screws and nails flush so they do not cause tripping? Are there any cracks in concrete or loose patio blocks? Be sure to remedy all of the repairs needed to ensure guests will be safe. If you are unsure of any structural deficits, consult with a contractor.

Hire a reputable contractor. If you are just laying the groundwork for a new patio or deck, it is important to get the necessary permits and then hire a person who has been properly vetted. Check qualifications and licensing before hiring a contractor and ask to view a portfolio of his or her previous work. Word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted friends and family members are good, and you can also double-check qualifications by contacting the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged or use a service such as Angie’s List to read reviews of his or her work.

Think about closing in a portion of a deck or patio. The use of a canopy, netting, or even greenery to protect an entertaining space can help minimize weather-related damage to outdoor furniture. Netting will keep a good number of biting insects at bay when the weather is warm and humid. Having a bit of concealment also means you can create a private space that isn’t easily viewed by neighbors or passersby.

Plan well-defined areas.  Just as rooms serve different purposes inside of the home, outdoor areas can be separated according to usage. Establish a sitting nook where guests can gather and talk. Have a bar or serving area where refreshments are made and served. Make sure there is a shaded area for when the sun is too uncomfortable to make sitting outside enjoyable. Similarly, have a sunny area where people can soak up a few rays or dry off after a dip in the spa or pool. Don’t forget to establish a spot for the kids to converge with scaled-down amenities.

Consider a fireplace or fire pit. For centuries man (and woman) has gathered around a fire for socialization and a means to warm up. Having a backyard fireplace, pit or chiminea is a conversation-starter, a decorative focal point, and a functional tool to extend the number of seasons in which outdoor entertaining can take place. Place the fire wisely and with concern for safety. It should be out of the way of foot traffic, but central enough so that it can be a gathering point.

Invest in quality outdoor furniture. Today’s yards are extensions of a home’s interior. Guests no longer want to sit on uncomfortable metal or plastic furniture. There are many different outdoor sofas and chairs that are as stylish as they are comfortable. These pieces can be matched to the decor inside your home for a cohesive look.

Accessorize. Consider the creature comforts of indoors and mimic that outdoors. Don’t shy away from hanging artwork on an exterior wall or using urns or pottery to decorate the space. Weather-resistant materials ensure everything from clocks to televisions can be used outdoors. Think about having an entire set of serving dishes and other entertaining items for the outdoors.

When refurbishing outdoor entertaining areas, emphasize comfort, safety, and functionality.


Need a Career Change? Turn Your Hobby into a Career!

The notion is oft-repeated at graduation ceremonies or passed down from generations: If you find something you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Often times, those in need of a career change need to seek work that they will love to do on a daily basis.

While that’s a comforting thought, many adults recognize there are plenty of things they love to do, but no guidebook as to how to turn those beloved hobbies and passions into a career. Though there are no formulas to ensure the transition from hobby to career will be a success, there are ways to make the process go more smoothly and give aspiring entrepreneurs a solid foundation.

Talk to successful entrepreneurs who have gone through a career change. One of the best places to start pursuing your dream is to speak to others who have successfully pursued theirs. Chances are things were rocky at the start, but those who made it through those early struggles can likely offer some insight as to possible pitfalls or roadblocks to avoid or look out for. Use their experience to your advantage in an effort to make your transition go more smoothly.

With regard to seeking guidance, even the government might have some advice or offer free seminars to prospective business owners. For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers a host of advice about starting a business. Whether’s it’s nuts-and-bolts advice about finding funding or less official pointers like finding a mentor to help you through the process, the SBA is a great resource for aspiring business owners. In Canada, the Canada Small Business Financing Program has approved roughly $1 billion annually in loans to businesses since 1999 and makes a great resource for prospective business owners. In addition, prospective business owners should consult a financial advisor to help arrange finances and determine just how much it might cost to develop new business.

Need a Career Change? Turn Your Hobby into a Career!

Don’t limit yourself to one idea. If you have a specific idea for a company but the market appears flooded, don’t limit yourself to that specific idea. For example, if your passion is lawn care but your community already has several landscaping companies already in operation, consider another idea that allows you to put your green thumb to good use. Perhaps there’s a stronger market for a gardening service or a landscape architecture business. Explore all of the possible ways you might be able to turn a hobby into a career and be as open as possible.

Determine if there is a customer base. A little market research can go a long way toward turning a hobby into a career. In order for your business to be successful, you will need customers who want to buy your product or services. For example, no matter how big a movie buff you are, you likely won’t be successful if you open a video store since people now have monthly subscriptions that deliver movies directly to their home via the Internet or the postal service. Some basic market research will help you determine if there is a need for your services and how strong that need might be. The stronger the need, the more likely your idea will resonate. If possible, speak with people who already work with your potential clientele and get their opinions on your idea.

Fully commit. Going into any prospective business venture half-hearted is a recipe for disaster. Though there’s no guarantee you will be successful, your chances are much better if you fully commit. Expect to put everything you have into this new venture and recognize that your hobby will no longer be something you do on weekends, but something you do to feed yourself and those who rely on you. Fully committing could likely mean quitting your current job and working around the clock until your fledgling business gets off the ground. If you aren’t ready to make a full commitment, be it a financial or emotional investment, then you might to put it on hold until you’re truly ready to make the leap.