This is the second post in our “Things to ask” tech series. Click on the link to read the previous article about “Three things to ask… Your software developer“.

Whether you’re a freelancer, a consultant, a business owner, or even someone in the arts, a website is one of the most important parts of selling yourself. In our always-connected world, a lot of the time your website is the first impression you’ll make on your potential clients or audience, and we all know that first impressions matter.

Your website will be your calling card, the front page to you and what you stand for. But for many of us who don’t have the skills to develop a website ourselves, we need to hire someone else to do it. There are many people who claim to be competent web developers, but far less who can actually back up that claim. How do we know that we’re not going to be taken for a ride?

Here Kasia Gospos, the founder of Leaders in Heels, shares four things you should ask your website developer.

Can I see your previous work/contact your previous clients?

…ask them specifically what part of the website they builtWhen looking at a developer’s portfolio, be sure to ask them specifically what part of the website they built. Websites are often built by multiple developers, sometimes over a long period of time. Don’t simply assume that the websites in a developer’s portfolio were completely built by them–they may have come in much later and only worked on a small area.

This links in to contacting the developer’s previous clients. A developer can easily make their look more glamourous than it actually was, so chat to others who have worked with them and ask how effective and reliable the developer was. Someone who’s not willing to give any references should be a bright red warning flag!

How many changes can I make?

Don’t forget to ask about ongoing costsNo matter how glitter-eyed you are over a particular theme or design, there will be changes. Most of the time, there will be a lot of changes. Confirm upfront how many rounds of changes are included in the price, and whether the changes allowed are large ones or small ones. Changing the size/colour/style of text or adding a button is a small change. Adding more features to a page such as transition animations or a shopping cart functionality is a big change.

Don’t forget to ask about ongoing costs. If you discover a change you missed during the initial build, how much will it cost to fix the problem?

How can I make the build more cost-effective?

It’s easy to get carried away with great ideas for features and page designs, but custom builds will take more time and, of course, cost more money. There are many standard website themes and plug-ins that will give you the functionality you need, if you’re willing to compromise. Ask your developer whether there are existing templates or code that can be used instead of building from scratch, and how much that will save on the final bill.

What are your payment terms?

The best approach is to agree on payments scheduled by agreed milestonesIt’s important to be clear on this from the very beginning. Does the developer require payment upfront? Half now, half when complete? The best approach is to agree on payments scheduled by agreed milestones such as implementing a new style, additional pages, a shopping cart, or SEO tools.

Also ensure that the contract enables you to pull out easily in case you realise the developer has a different vision to yours that they’re not willing to budge on, or if their work isn’t up to the quality you expected. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a build, realising it won’t work, but having no way out until the end when the entire site has been built and invoices paid.

Do you have any other questions you think are important to ask your software developer? Share them in the comments below!

Former front-line social worker and champion of the not-for-profit sector, Anne Cross has reshaped the way healthcare, community and aged-care services are delivered to hundreds of communities and the thousands of people UnitingCare helps every day.

On Wednesday night, Anne, the CEO of UnitingCare Queensland was named the 20th Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year, joining an illustrious list of Australia’s leading business women.

Not one to dwell on her achievements, Anne used her victory speech to advocate for women’s rights, pay equity, childcare and to stand up against women experiencing violence.

“I care about the wellbeing of people and communities and am driven by the contribution not-for-profit organisations make to the social and economic life of Australia.”

Prior to the awards ceremony, we sat down with Anne who shared with Leaders in Heels her four tips for career success:

  1. Find people you admire and develop relationships with them. Anne recommends creating and nurturing these relationships to get the support that you will inevitably need throughout your career. This support was particularly important for Anne in 2003 when she was appointed CEO of UnitingCare and managed the merger of more than 100 separate aged care, community services and hospitals scattered across Queensland into one organisation.
  1. Have people who believe in you. If you don’t have these people around you, foster these relationships through mentoring: people always see things in you that you don’t see yourself. Prior to Anne’s appointment as CEO the merger process lacked clarity and capital investment had stalled. A strong support network is critical to overcome challenging times in all of our careers. Anne’s hard work and willingness to look to professional mentors assisted her to lead the consolidation of four separate organisations within UnitingCare Queensland, and she now oversees 16,000 employees and 9,000 volunteers across 400 locations.
  1. Overcome the fear of failure. Watch for and identify this behavior. After changing from a science degree to study social sciences and “change the world”, Anne has had a diverse career that spans government, executive roles and even a start up! But she admits that although she thought that she could do everything when she was young, along the way she has become more risk averse. Anne suggests identifying this behaviour and moving right on!
  1. Know what you have to do now and be very grounded in this, but always look over the horizon. Anne takes time to listen to the stories of the organisation, understanding the issues and worries for people coming into aged care. Anne’s commitment to connecting to the on-the-ground work with the overall strategy of the organisation is a key to her success, and a must-have tool for all leaders.

Thanks Anne, and congratulations on being the 2014 Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

Other winners on the night include Kate Weiss, the owner of Victorian food company Table of Plenty; Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, the CEO and Managing Director of ASX50 property company Mirvac; Assistant Commissioner Donna Adams, Tasmania’s highest ranked female police officer; Andrea Galloway, CEO of the NSW not-for- profit organisation Evolve Housing; and Tina Tower, the young owner of franchise tutoring business Begin Bright.

A three-month holiday. A new, top-of-the-line mountain bike. A fancy degustation dinner at Tetsuya’s.

There are things or experiences that we all want — but more often than not, they’re simply dreams without plans. If you want to make your dreams a reality, it’s important to develop good saving habits.

Recently MoneySmart, a division of the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC), conducted an online ‘Money Goals’ poll to determine how and what Australians are saving for.

One of the key findings of the poll were the techniques used by successful savers. If you want to know how you can finally cross that item off your wish list, then read on!

1.     Know how much money you need

Budgeting for some things is simple. Whether it’s a car, a bike, or even a house — it’s not hard to know exactly how much they’ll cost you upfront.

Then there are things like holidays. Flight prices are always changing, as are exchange rates and hotel costs. And let’s not even start on spending money! That single unplanned activity you stumble across in your travels may end up blowing your budget completely, or maybe it’s that expensive souvenir you simply can’t pass up.

To stay on track with your savings goals it’s important to list out each item, then do your research. Calculate how much money you’ll need in the worst-case scenario and use that as the figure you’re aiming for. It’s easy to want something but there’s some serious savings work involved if you’re actually going to achieve your savings goals!

2.     Have a specific saving timeframe

Set a firm deadline for each thing you want to save forHow long are you willing to wait before you reach your savings goal? After all, that new Kate Spade handbag won’t take long to become last season. The two-door convertible you fell in love with in your younger years might not be so practical if you end up having a family. And no one really wants to be in their sixties or seventies before they can finally afford their first house.

Set a firm deadline for each thing you want to save for. Much like work or assignment deadlines, this date will be your motivator!

3.     Have a clear savings plan

To successfully save for the things you want, you’ll also need a clear savings plan. Once you know how much money you need for each goal, and set a timeframes for them, you can work backwards and calculate how much you need to put aside each month or each week.

Yes, this will be painful. It may mean going drinking with friends only once a month, selling something to drastically reduce the overall amount of your savings goal, or sending the kids to public schools instead! The key thing is to ensure your targets and deadlines are realistic. Saving for that multi-million-dollar mansion in five years is probably out of reach if you’re on an average office worker’s salary. But you might be able to make the down payment for a modest house or apartment!

4.     Regularly review progress toward your goal

…identify periods where you’re not making any progress towards your goalIf your savings plan has long deadlines, it’s important to stay motivated. The best way to do this is by constantly reviewing your progress. It can be a real pick-me-up to see you’re that much closer to your dream holiday, or the sexy convertible you’ve had your eye on for a while.

It also helps you to identify periods where you’re not making any progress towards your goal. Was it because of unexpected emergencies, such as a car breakdown or medical expenses? Or was it because you went on that shopping spree after a particularly terrible week at work or home? By critically analysing your financial habits, you can develop strategies to ensure you’ll stay on track to meet your savings goals.

If you like to see visible signs of progress (who doesn’t?) there are apps such as ASIC’s TrackMyGOALS, available on Apple and Android, which let you set, share, track and review your savings goals. You can also upload pictures of your goals to remind you just what you’re saving for!

5.     Tell your family and friends

It’s much too easy to slack off if you’re the only one who knows you’ve slacked off. Accountability is another key motivator, whether it’s your family continually asking how you’re going, or the potential embarrassment of informing your friends that you can’t actually afford the awesome holiday you boasted about all year.

The more people you tell, the more people you’ll have to make excuses to — or explain yourself to — if you don’t meet your goals. And for those of you who prefer the carrot over the stick, if you choose the right people to tell, you’ll have a personal cheer squad to get you to the finish line of your savings goals!

This post was sponsored by ASIC’s MoneySmart website. Visit the MoneySmart website to get free and impartial information and guidance about all aspects of personal finance to help Australians make informed financial decisions. The MoneySmart website also has useful free tools such as mortgage calculators and budget planners.

featured image: TruShu

Google Maps has always been a great tool for getting directions and looking up places you’re about to visit. But did you know that it can do a lot more? Here are three of its lesser-known features that you might find useful in your everyday life.

#1 Get directions for public transport

Screenshot 2014-05-19 15.05.53

For many major cities around Australia and the world, Google Maps can provide public transport directions. (Melbourne is the only capital city still not on board – sorry Melbournians!)

It’s as simple as going to the site, typing in “<Place A> to <Place B>” and selecting the little train symbol just above the list of directions. Google Maps not only provides the name of the train line or the bus number, it also tells you what time it arrives at your stop.
Note: Only useful if your public transport actually follows the schedule!

I especially love this feature when I’m overseas and have no clue what bus goes where, or which stop to get off. It really helps when I can’t read the language.

It can also provide walking and cycling directions, and local flights. You can find the full list of cities where public transport is covered here.

#2 See real-time traffic conditions

Screenshot 2014-05-19 15.36.06

If you’re driving, you can zoom in on the map and see the traffic conditions on your route. Blue means conditions are as normal, yellow means mild congestion, red means congestion, and dark red means you’d better have some good music on your stereo because you’re going to be there a while.

You can also search for traffic near a place by simply typing “traffic near <place name>”. In this case, free-flowing traffic is green instead of blue. It’s very useful when you want to know what traffic is like along your usual routes, so you can detour if necessary.

#3 Explore an area

Screenshot 2014-05-19 15.51.53

You can choose a city you’ll be visiting (or even your own, if you’re so inclined!) and click on the little photo and arrow icon on the bottom right corner of Google Maps. It’s just below the “+” and “-” buttons for zooming in and out.

This pops up a strip along the bottom of your page which lists many popular sights in the area. You can click on them to see photos of each attraction, and it even draws a line to show the exact location on the main map. It’s a great way to plan a trip, and get an idea of what you want to see.  Or for those who can’t afford to travel, it’s also a great way to have a mini-holiday from the comfort of your own home!

What Google Maps features do you like to use, or find particularly useful? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!