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10 Surefire Ways Of Spotting A Cowboy Builder

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10 Surefire Ways Of Spotting A Cowboy Builder

When you’re planning construction, you’ve got a lot on your mind – the last thing you want to worry about is whether your builder has skipped town or not. But that’s what happens to people every year at the hands of cowboy builders. These guys offer temptingly low costs and impossible promises, then leave behind disasters and unfinished jobs before getting out of dodge.

For those interested in protecting themselves from this unfortunate fate, there are signs to look out for. The following list will help you identify cowboy builders before they can squeeze your wallet.

1. They will be available immediately for work

An established business will have a fairly full schedule. If someone tells you he’s available for work tomorrow, be suspicious. Why isn’t he busy? Why doesn’t he have other customers to attend to first? It may mean he doesn’t have any customers. When you discuss scheduling with your builder, take the time to examine the dates presented to you. If the availability seems suspiciously convenient, it probably is.

2. They won’t have references to provide you with

A reputable builder can offer you names and addresses of previous customers; a cowboy builder will be reluctant to share that information with you, or refuse outright.

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Further, a reputable builder’s references will check out. Always be sure to call and visit the references provided. Ask to see the work the builder completed, as well as inquire into the quality and timeframe of the work. If you can’t get anyone to show you an example of a builder’s previous work, assume there is no good example.

3. They will provide an exceptionally cheap quote

When looking for a builder, you’re probably going to shop around a bit looking for quotes. Don’t go with the cheapest price – that may be a cowboy builder, whose charges have nothing to do with the cost of your proposed project and everything to do with how much they can swindle from you.

Make sure to ask for an itemized quote. In the UK, some financial institutions provide an online app that helps customers determine what the going rate is for a building job. This can help you ascertain whether your builder is lowballing you or overcharging. Materials and costs should be explained, and a pay schedule should be created to either pay in installments or upon completion of the work. If they ask you to pay upfront, find another builder.

4. They won’t have a registration or license to show you

Always ask your builder to show their credentials. Many countries have national registries or organizations that builders are required to register with in order to be legally recognized and licensed. Look into the registration your builder should have, then check to see if he does have it. If your builder tries to offer any reason for not having credentials, walk away. Whatever the reason is, it’s not good enough to put your own property in jeopardy.

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5. They won’t have a landline or address

A cowboy builder doesn’t lock himself down to any particular place as part of his strategy. If your builder can’t provide a landline number or a permanent address to contact, then he might have reason to stay under the radar. That’s not good news for you. Although landline numbers are declining in popularity, a lack of a business address is a big red flag.

6. They will ask you to pay in cash

Along with asking you to pay upfront, a cowboy builder will often ask for cash payments. This allows them to avoid paying taxes or registering the payment as income. It also prevents you from having a paper trail to prove that you’ve paid him. Never pay your builder in cash. A transaction with a paper trail is critical to protecting yourself in case of a shoddy or unfinished job, and provides you with the means to claim a refund.

7. They won’t have a clear timeframe for finishing the project

An experienced builder can give you a reasonable estimate for how much time your project will take, from beginning to end, including estimating what will be accomplished at what point.

If your builder won’t commit to a time frame or seems unsure or how long it will take him to complete a project, he either doesn’t have the experience to calculate it or isn’t intending to finish it. Get a timeframe in writing, and even after hiring your builder, remember to check the time frame to make sure that he’s following his own schedule.

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8. They don’t have a history

If you look up your builder online, you expect to find some indication of his presence and history. Past customers will have talked about their experiences, registration for his business will be available, and information about him will be online. If your builder has none of these, definitely be wary. They could be offline, but it’s unlikely that any reputable builder has no online presence to back up his work.

9. They won’t explain the work they’re doing to you

A decent builder will take the time to communicate with a client about project expectations and requirements. Be sure to talk to your builder about what exactly will be happening during the project. What materials will he use, how will he construct, what does he need to do, what variables are still present?

If your builder dismisses your questions, refuses to simplify explanations and generally resists being transparent about his building plans, you may be dealing with a cowboy builder who’s hiding behind jargon to mask his credentials or ill intentions. Red flag.

10. They will refuse to sign a contract

Never begin a medium to large project without a contract, and consider a contract for a small project as well. A contract will lay out all the terms of the project, including payment plans, construction plans and timelines. These are all critical to have in writing. A builder who’s reluctant to sign a contract is trying to protect himself, but not you.

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Contracts are mutually beneficial for customers and reputable builders. If your builder is afraid of contracts, he might just be a cowboy builder, and you should stay away.

Construction projects can be overwhelming, and it’s difficult to keep track of everything that can go wrong. You want to know your builder can handle his side of the job.

Featured photo credit: Dave Barker via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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