Tuesday, July 28, 2020

How to Create Inspiring Instagram and Facebook Posts for the Non-Designer - Part 2

Are you ready to step it up a notch and learn a few more tips and tricks that help make great posts for Instagram and Facebook! 

By now, you might realise (if you have watched How to Create Inspiring Instagram and Facebook Posts for the Non-Designer - Part 1) that I am a little bit of a Canva enthusiast, and enjoy spending time experimenting with the fantastic features that Canva offers. So far, in my video demonstrations, I have only demonstrated the use of the free version of Canva. In this tutorial, I will show how to create designs using features from both the free and from Canva Pro which is a paid for subscription. 

It is defiantly worth trying Canva Pro - they even offer a free 28 day trial of the pro version. You will need to use a credit card to set up your account, but you can easily cancel the subscription if you decide that Canva Pro is not for you! Just make sure that you make a note to do this before the subscription kicks in. 

Let's look at a few more great features on the free version before we head off to Canva Pro.

Check out the video below to see how to add a background and text to an image and also how to add a little animation too! 

This is the adorable 'Shine Bright' image by Cam Woody, which I downloaded from the Qualatex - Inspiration - Balloon Decor section. Please note that only QBN members and CBA's have the ability to download high-resolution copies of these images. If you are not a QBN member or CBA, remember that Qualatex has some amazing and FREE marketing materials available to everyone, and all are welcome to use these resources for social media posts. Even better, you can use Canva to add your own text and create your own unique posts! 

Beautiful Reindeer design created by Cam Woody
With a little (free) Canva magic, I added a background and a little seasonal text - view the video to see how! 

Canva marketing post created by Sue Bowler

Canva also has the ability to 'animate' your post (also a free function) although there are some professional options too which you can use when you upgrade to the pro version. Posting little videos on Instagram is a great way to attract new followers! Statistically, videos are viewed even more than photographs! 

Here is another free marketing image from the Qualatex Lifestyle Photo section that I downloaded, then added my own slogan to! 

Tropical Balloon Design

How to smarten up your own photos

Check out the video to see how to remove the background from one of your photos and replace it with a new background! 

I know that many of you are very keen to know how you can turn some of your own ballooning photographs into more appealing Instagram posts. Getting the perfect photo is almost impossible without being in a professional studio. Let me show you a few tricks that will hopefully change all that! 

I will start with one of my more recent images of a Number Five frame that I made. Before taking the frame outside, which was where it was intended to go, I took a photograph with the frame on a table. The lighting was appalling, and the setting not much better!

Number Five Balloon Frame designed by Sue Bowler

Using one of the Canva Pro features, I was able to remove the background and replace it with something that helped my design to stand out better!

Number Five Balloon Frame design by Sue Bowler

Here are a few more before and after shots! 


Before editing shot of Flamingo in a box design

After a little Canva Pro Makeover

Tropical Flamingo Design by Sue Bowler

Flamingo Balloon Design by Sue Bowler

Keep in mind, not all photos edit successfully using the Canva Pro Background Remover Tool, and the results can be disappointing. Something to keep in mind in this case is you don't always need to show the whole image; sometimes just showing a small section of a photo can be just as appealing! 

Elegant Balloon Frame by Sue Bowler

Beautiful Balloon Fairy Tree by Sue Bowler

I hope that you have enjoyed this tutorial and that it has been helpful! Hopefully this quick tutorial will get you started, and maybe like me, you will even get a little bit addicted and start producing some truly beneficial posts! 

Happy Designing! 

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

How to Create Inspiring Posts for Instagram and Facebook for Non-Designers - Part 1

We all know that good attractive visual posts are really important for our social media presence, especially on Instagram and Facebook. But I think that many are not sure how to go about creating these posts, and often don't have the time or skills to do it! 

Today I want to share with you a few of the skills that I have learned. I am certainly no expert and will never profess to be one, but I know I have really enjoyed learning and becoming more competent in areas like this. The knowledge I have gained has greatly benefited my social media journey, and I hope that it will do the same for you! 

You really don't need to be a design expert to create good posts, are there are a number of different resources that offer good design tools and templates.
  • PicMonkey - offers a 7 Day Free trial but charge after that.
  • Canva - has a free version and if you want to try the Pro Version they have a 28 day free trial.
  • Easil - free Easil Basic version and a monthly charge for Easil Plus that has many more features.
I first started working with PicMonkey some years ago, but I have now gravitated towards Canva after watching a fabulous video tutorial, called Good Design Matters for Your Business by Zoe Adam-Jones. For me, Canva offers almost everything that I need to create great posts!

As Easil is very new to me, so I really cannot give any constructive information about this app but it was mentioned recently on a podcast that I was listening to and thought it would be worth mentioning. If you use Easil, I would love to hear your feedback!

To assist with this tutorial, I have made a video that shows how to find great FREE resources that can be used as part of a social media content schedule. I will also demonstrate a few of the many benefits of using the paid Pro version on Canva (I recommend that you try out the 28 day free trial to see if the investment is worth it for you and your business.)

It is important to have a variety of different post types, as this will help to attract new followers as well as keeping your current followers engaged and stimulated by your posts. It is just as easy to lose followers as it is to gain them!

Post content can vary from;
  • Product Posts
  • Promotion of a Blog Post
  • Competitions
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Videos 
  • Questions
  • Holidays and Special Events
  • Quotes
In this tutorial we will look at how to create a selection of creative posts that will help you to create exciting content for your social media campaigns.

Qualatex Free Marketing Materials

How lucky are we that the Qualatex team is constantly looking at ways to help and support the ballooning community. Have you seen the fabulous range of free marketing materials that are available to use?

These are:
  • Ready-Made Social Media Posts
  • Coronavirus Marketing Materials
  • Facebook Cover Photos
  • Qualatex Lifestyle Images

During the video we will look at each of these marketing materials and talk about how we can use them as part of our marking program.

To access the full range of Qualatex Marketing Materials click HERE

Check out this video where you will learn how to access all the free marketing resources on the Qualatex website and more!


I have already mentioned that I use Canva as my preferred design tool. But watching Zoe's tutorial really helped me to get started! Canva also have their own Design School with some fabulous free tutorials that cover a wide variety of topics.


For non-designers business owners, having ready-made templates available to work with can really help. Professional designers have done all the hard work; all we have to do is make a few minor adjustments to make the design template work for us.

Original Canva Template

The above examples are the Canva templates that I selected with a few simple edits that I made. I tried to keep the essence of the template the same - which is what attracted me to the template in the first place.

If you have set up your brand kit, you may want to use your brand colours for your background and your brand fonts for the text. 

When you change the images, change them to similar sized images.

If you attempt to change too much you will completely change the 'look' of the design and it will probably end up looking messy.

Try to make any changes like-for-like - if you change the font, do not change a bold font to a soft whimsical script. If you change a background colour from dark to light, be sure to make sure that you change the font colour so that it stands out and is easy to read.

Check out this great video where you will learn how to create posts using Canva Templates.

Watch out for Part 2, where I will show you many more exciting ways to create inspiring posts and a very simple way to remove the not so great backgrounds from some of your photographs! 

Happy designing! 

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Starting a Balloon Business - Part 2

So you have decided to start a balloon business and you are not really sure how to go about it?

In part 1. Starting a Balloon Business  I walked you through;
  • Choosing a business name - not as easy as you think! 
  • Legal requirements and other items that you need to know and do.
  • How much you should charge - the hardest question of them all! 
In this second part we will look at;
  • Tools of the Trade
  • Helium
  • Marketing 
  • Training 
  • Balloons and the Environment
Tools of the Trade

Every industry, especially the balloon industry, has their Tools of the Trade. Deciding on what equipment your trade will need can be a bit of a minefield - should you spend a few pounds on a hand pump versus spending hundreds of pounds on an automatic air inflator!

I suppose you should consider if a tailor for example could work without a sewing machine or a builder without all their power tools? 

When you choose to create your air-filled decor with a hand pump, it will certainly require many hours of work, versus the time requirements of a  good electric inflator, with which you can create something very beautiful in a fraction of the time - remember "time is money".

There are many 'Tools of the Trade', and to help you through some of them, I will reference a number of blog posts that I have written that will help you in your decisions.

1. A Sticky Situation - which glue is best for you and your balloons.

There are many different adhesives that work with balloons. Each glue or tape types works differently and are good for different purposes. This post will guide you through the most regularly used glues and tapes used by balloon professionals.

2. Electric Air-Inflators - Which Electric Air-Inflator is Best For You and Your Business

It's essential to your balloon business to have some kind of air-inflators - the question is, which one? The answer is both!
Owning a hand-pump should be a given for your balloon business, as it is an essential tool in any balloon artists toolbox. However, having an electric balloon inflator in addition to a hand-pump will enable a significant increase in the amount of decor work that you can do.

3. Digital Balloon Equipment - Will Investing in a Digital Balloon Inflator Help You to Grow Your Balloon Business?

So why should you go one-step further and invest in a top of the range digital balloon inflator? Check out this post to see what is available and why they are so necessary!

If you attend a training course or balloon event make sure you get the opportunity to try out as much of the equipment as you can so that you get a good idea of what you like, and don't hesitate to ask others what their favourite equipment is and why! 


Helium is an inert gas. Meaning it will not react with any other elements; therefore it is impossible to cause a fire or to burn. It is also colourless, odourless and tasteless.

Balloon Gas

Balloon gas is often use in the balloon industry. It is a mix of helium and air. The mix is approximately 98% helium and 2% air, and is a recycled product that can no longer be used for medical and other professional uses.

There are a number of different helium (balloon gas) suppliers in the UK and many others worldwide.

  • BOC/Linde
  • Air Products

If you are planning to use helium, you should establish who your helium supplier is before you invest in any helium inflation equipment, as each cylinder type has different fittings. As with all gases, the cylinder that the helium is contained in is under very high pressure, so it is imperative that the correct balloon filling equipment is used for the type of cylinders that you are using, and it should never be altered or tampered with.

In the UK setting up a helium account with a balloon wholesaler can often be less expensive than hiring directly from the actual helium companies, as the wholesaler can benefit from discounts that are generally pass onto their customers. 

Helium Safety

  • Always use a trolley when moving or transporting balloon gas cylinders. A trolley will also act as a support stand when inflating during on-site decorating jobs.
  • Always secure cylinders. In case you cannot secure them upright, simply use them lying down on the ground and prevent them from rolling.
  • When transporting or moving cylinders, always make sure that you remove the balloon filling kit, and that the cylinder is well secured so that it cannot move at all.
  • Helium is a non-flammable gas. If the tank is punctured or knocked over, the gas can escape with such force that the tank can be propelled at a very high speed.
  • Although balloon gas is not poisonous, it I can cause you to asphyxiate.  if it's inhaled too deeply, it can be fatal. A similar thing can happen if a cylinder is fully opened in a non-ventilated room.


Marketing takes on many guises in business. Having a good website and having at least one business social media channel is vital for any business. 

I have written many posts on social media and the different platforms that businesses use. You don't need to be an expert, but it certainly helps to do some research to ensure that you get the best that you can from each of these platforms! Here are links to two of my posts that you might find useful.

1. Instagram, are You Using it to Grow Your Balloon Business?

2. Why We Should Social Media to Promote Our Balloon Business

There are many more helpful posts on the blog, use the search option on the blog page to find more! 

If you are looking for social media marketing materials, www.Qualatex.com has so many fabulous free posts and images available! 

How about ready made posts; these are great when used as part of a social media schedule. Having a variety of post types is very important to keep followers interested and engaged, as well as attracting new followers too! 

To see the full range of free marketing resources available from Qualatex click HERE


Learning your trade is so very important. I view many 'ballooning' Facebook Groups and see many "how to" and "how much" questions that are posted daily. While there is nothing wrong with asking a few questions, it is sometimes better and more rewarding to work it out for yourself. Learning through trial and error is the best form of training!

Face to Face Training - if you get the opportunity to attend a hands-on beginner's course with a reputable instructor, you will learn more in one day than you could on YouTube in a month! A good beginner's course is designed to teach you everything that you need to know to get you started. Courses like these cover so much more than how to inflate balloons; a typical beginners course will include the demonstration of a range of different techniques, formulas for creating balloon Arches and Garlands, how to form perfect balloon bouquets using the Staggered and Layered techniques, pricing, equipment... and much more! Qualatex has a fabulous beginner's course known as Qualatex Fundamentals - The benchmark Course for the Balloon Professional. To find out where this course is offered, check out the Qualatex Balloon Education Calendar.

There is a Balloon Basics section on the Qualatex website that will give you tips on how to create Basic Balloon Decor, as well as Basic Balloon Tying and gives you Inflation Tips.

Qualatex also has an Events and Training Calendar on the website. Type in your region and it will give you an up-to-date overview of classes, courses, and events in that region. Just FYI, face-to-face training sessions are currently very limited due to Covid-19 and government restrictions. 

The Q Corner Balloon Convention - this is an incredibly valuable free resource. At the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, Qualatex with the help of the 'Boys from Q Corner' Keith Stirman and Dominic Cassidy, produced an online balloon convention unlike any other. It consisted of over 120 hours of non-stop balloon classes from some of the top instructors in the industry, as well as many new instructors who are rarely seen outside of their country, who I must add, all generously gave their time and creative talents.

To see who the convention instructors are, the classes that they teach and to access all the classes click HEREThe convention was recorded in sessions, each which contained a number of different classes.

I strongly recommend that you download the Class Matrix with class descriptions, instructors, languages and direct links to each class - this is available on the link above.

To give you a little taster, I am including one of the convention session here:

Many industry instructors also have training videos that they have produced and are available to purchase as DVD's or as on-demand video downloads, which are available to view from your laptop, TV or phone at anytime!

I have a few training videos that I have produced in conjunction with Balloon School Pro on Vimeo. Balloon School Pro makes high quality training video's specifically for the balloon industry, with professional instructors that give you as much knowledge and detail as you can get without actually being in the training room with them! This includes overhead cameras, close ups of techniques and supporting information either on screen or by email when you purchase the program. 

There are certainly many opportunities to learn from YouTube, but be very careful! Many of the tutorials are from people who, though their intention are good, are not always teaching the best skills and techniques - be careful not to pick up bad habits! 

Try to learn from the best, and do your research and see whose 'ballooning' style and techniques you like. Follow them on social media - start with the instructors from the Q Corner Convention! 

Balloons and the Environment

This is a very important topic that anyone embarking on a career in balloons should have a good understanding of.

Balloon Releases

Any balloon that is released into the atmosphere will almost certainly create unnecessary litter. To help to protect our environment, NEVER release helium-filled balloons as a balloon professional or as a consumer, and always dispose of balloons, accessories and any packing responsibly. 

Safe Balloon Practices

There are a number of organisations that work very hard to protect the balloon industry, as well as offer useful advice to both the balloon professionals and the consumers.

PEBA - Pro Environment Balloon Association 

PEBAUK - Pro Environment Balloon Association UK

EBPC - European Balloon and Party Council 

Balloon Council 

The Balloons and the Environment guides and social media posts are all available to download, click HERE for a direct link.

I hope that for those of you who have recently started or considered starting a balloon business that you have found the Starting a Balloon Business Part 1 and Part 2 helpful and informative! Starting any business can be challenging, but I hope that I have managed to answer some of the many questions that you have and helped you to understand our industry a little bit better! 

Happy Ballooning! 



Follow me on Instagram @suebowler

Friday, July 10, 2020

Part 1. Starting a Balloon Business

This may seem like an odd topic to talk about, as I expect many of my readers already have established balloon businesses. However, it has been proven that during difficult times, and particularly during recessions, the balloon industry thrives and grows. Even if the party is smaller, people still want to celebrate! This is also a time when people are looking for new business opportunities; so I felt that this would be a good topic to discuss for anyone new to the world of balloons! 

Why Balloons?

There are so many reasons why someone might start a balloon business. I started my balloon business when my eldest daughter (now 30) was 6 months old! I wanted to be able to grow my business at a pace that worked for my family and I. I also needed to ensure that I worked with a product that was non-perishable, and balloons ticked all those boxes perfectly! I am not going to pretend that it was easy; it was a very steep learning curve, and 30 years ago support and resources where extremely limited. 

The biggest challenge in running a balloon business is having the ability and obligation of being the "creative artist" versus being the "business person". This industry is what you could term as an easy access industry, set up costs can be relatively low - and anyone can inflate a balloon... can't they?

There are those who "do balloons" as a weekend hobby to supplement their full-time incomes, and those who set up a full-time "ballooning" career (running  businesses from shops, warehouses, and even from home.)

Often balloons are added to established business, such as florists, greetings card retailers, and event planners.

There are many highly successful, and profitable balloon businesses around the world, and on the other hand there are those who come, play around for a short while and then disappear just as quickly as they came.

Setting up your own business

Setting up your own business and becoming self-employed can be one of the biggest and most exciting adventures of your life! Being your own boss will be in the best interest of you and your business.

You will need to decide if you are going to trade as Self Employed or as a Limited Company. 
When you are self-employed you literally work for yourself (sole trader or sole proprietor is just another name for a self-employed person.)
Being a limited company is completely different. A limited company is a separate legal entity; if you have your very own limited company you are generally not regarded as self-employed.

To learn more about setting up a business and the legal requirements that are needed in the UK, visit https://www.gov.uk/set-up-business. Outside of the UK, just do a Google search - setting up a business in ******* (type the country/state name) and this should direct you to the relevant page and information that you will require.

Choosing a Business Name

This is one of the most important things that you will need to do. There are so many things that you will need to do when setting up a new business, but without a business name it will be impossible! 

  • Open a business bank account 
  • Invoice customers
  • Write terms & conditions
  • Set up a website and social media business accounts
  • Order business cards
  • Open trade accounts
In the world of social media and SEO (search engine optimisation), choosing a name that people are more likely to search for, this will give you a much greater chance of you coming up in search results. So start by thinking about what your customers are likely to be seeking out.

Obviously, having the word balloon somewhere in your business name is important, and if you can include your location too, that would be even better! 

Here are a few examples of business names that fit into this criteria:
  • The Brighton Balloon Company
  • Brighton Balloon Delights
  • Creative Balloons Brighton

Choose a functional name

It can be easy to get carried away with being a little too creative with a business name. Ideally you should choose a business name that instantly describes what your business does. Think long term; how will you feel about the name in a few years time when your business is more established? 

Use your own name

The great thing about using your own name is that you are very unlikely to find another balloon company with the same name and therefore you will be easier to find on Google search. The downside of using your own name is that it will be very difficult to sell your business in the future, so take that into consideration.

My business name is Balloon Art by Sue Bowler, but my business is mainly directed to the balloon industry and therefore using my name, which is also my brand is very important.

Make up a word!

If you want to be a little more creative with your company name, why not morph two words together to create your own unique name!



Ideally, you should come up with a shortlist of around 5-10 business names
before you make your final decision.

Make sure that the business name is not already taken, you can usually check this by doing a simple Google search, or by searching with Companies House, or do a Trademark search.

Check that the domain is available and that you can get your business name as a .com or .co.uk - for UK businesses, and also if it’s available to use for your social media accounts.

Legal stuff

Start by registering your business - in the UK visit https://www.gov.uk/set-up-business

Insurance Cover - You may not realise that having insurance cover is important, but in reality all businesses should have it, including home based businesses. There are a number of different insurances that a business should have: Public Liability – insures your business against third party claims for personal injury or property damage. Professional Indemnity – covers your professional advice. Employer's Liability – provides cover for your employees (this is legally required). If you are operating your business from a shop or store you will also require Building and Contents Insurance.

Inform HMRC or your government revenues and customs department - In the UK you need to register with the UK government (HMRC) to tell them that you’re self-employed. Check to see what your legal requirements are in your country.

Find an Accountant - It might be advisable to find an accountant who will tell you what you will need to do to ensure that you fulfil your tax requirements. 

Comply with data laws - It’s not just big companies that need to know about General Data Protection Regulation - GDPR. Small businesses also have a legal responsibility to keep personal data safe and provide a clear policy on how that data will be used and why.

Employing Staff - If you are employing staff, there are so many other legal requirements that you will need to abide by. I strongly recommend that you look into all of those too! 

How Much Should You Charge?

To know how much to charge for your balloons and decor, you need to know how much you are going to charge for your time, and how much you should allow to cover your overheads (business running costs)... and believe me, even when you work from home, you have overheads. Added to that will be your material costs, helium and delivery charges if applicable. 

So the first thing you should do is work out how much you are worth! Deciding on what to charge for your time is not easy, but if you do not charge enough, you will honestly struggle to make enough money to live on.

As great as it is being your own boss, you need to consider all the benefits you won't get when self-employed.
As a self-employed person:
  • You don’t get paid for holidays
  • You don’t get paid when you’re off sick
  • You don’t get paid when you’re having your lunch
  • You don’t get paid when you’re doing your accounts
  • You don’t get paid when you’re looking for new work
  • You don’t get paid when you’re updating your web site
  • You don’t get paid when there’s no work to do
  • You need to pay for premises
  • You need to pay for business equipment (e.g. computers)
  • You need to pay for insurances (e.g. public liability)
  • You need to sort your own pension
  • You need to pay all the bills
  • You need to do your own marketing
  • You need to do your own sales
  • You need to pay accountancy fees
  • You need to pay legal fees 

I am not going to tell you what you should be charging for your time, but I strongly recommend that you read an article How Much Should I Charge an article from the Small Business Toolbox.

I have found the Small Business Toolbox to be an amazing reference whilst writing this post. Andy MacLellan goes into a great deal of detail about how much you should be charging to survive, and it makes for a very interesting read!
I am also going to point you in the direction of a couple of blogs that I wrote regarding pricing your work. You will often hear people talking about Job Cost Forms. This is a pricing system that Pioneer Balloon Company used as part of the Qualatex Balloon Network (QBN) program. I learned to price using this form and will still refer to it today to ensure that I am earning a fair price for my work and that I make a profit!

I am also including this BMTV video, which features Mark Drury of Qualatex. Mark has helped countless balloon businesses work out the correct costings for their decorations and has given a lot of people the confidence to price correctly.

This video has some great reviews and I am sure that it will help you too!

In Part 2 of Starting a Balloon Business, we will look at the following:
  • Tools of the Trade
  • Helium
  • Marketing 
  • Training 
  • Balloons and the Environment
Happy Ballooning!

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler

*To assist my writing of this post, I have referenced Small Business Toolbox that is packed with some great information for anyone starting up their own business.