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Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

mugs We’re saying hello again to one of my new interviewees from last year, Lyndsey Michaels, working as Lyndsey Michaels Bid Writer. While we all have the odd tight deadline and specialised area, Lyndsey’s job is all in that line, as she works helping companies to bid for tenders, all with quick turnarounds and a need for attention to detail, marketing skills, amazing writing skills, time management, customer care … it’s an area I’ve edited in but moved out of, so I have nothing but admiration for her, knowing something of what it entails! Anyway, when we first met Lyndsey in July 2014, this was how she wanted the next year to go: “More of the same! I’m happy to be settled in both my job and in the local area and am content to keep ticking along. I have a few added extras I’m working on – more resources for both clients and other bid writers – but the core business will remain the same. That’s what it has always been about for me: stability and ownership of my own time. It may not seem terribly ambitious but it feels like ‘success’ to me.” Read on to see how she’s doing (I was particularly chuffed to read the extra bit she added at the end!)

Hello again, Lyndsey! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

More or less. I’ve continued tweaking my service offering and refining my processes and that seems to have paid off. I now have a very clear idea of my ‘ideal client’ – their size, type of company, structure, their own aims etc. – this has meant that my own ideals are very much in line with those of my clients, resulting in better relationships and ultimately more successes. It’s also helped me to develop a better process for deciding whether to take a client on or not. I’ve been referring more enquiries to other bid writers, which leaves me free to work with clients I’m more well suited to, ensures that those clients I don’t take on are connected to the right people for them and helps me strengthen my relationships with other bid writers.

My time management has improved significantly, mainly due to the need to stick to the dog’s routine! It means that I’m making the most of every hour in the day, whether that’s working, walking, or just scheduling that all important afternoon nap!

A few things I’ve tried have not turned out in the way I’d originally aimed for:

I set up an online community specifically for bid writers and those involved in bid writing with the hope that it might be a useful place to share resources, experiences, opportunities, horror stories and the like: UK Bid Writers Guild

It’s been slow to take hold but I think that’s partly due to lack of time to promote it on my part and possibly partly due to that natural wariness that any freelancers have about befriending their ‘competition’! I’m keeping it alive for now but may reassess what to do with it at the end of the year.

The (never-ending) book on bid writing has been put on hold for the time being. This was a positive, conscious decision though, as I’m currently piloting with a few selected clients a method of bid writing training that, I believe, is unique in my industry. Once I’ve ironed out a few wrinkles through the pilot and developed the method into a replicable format, I plan to revisit the book and publish it as a companion to the training and another version as a standalone resource.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The biggest change by far is that I finally invested in a new computer! I’d been holding off replacing my old one until I could find one that would fully meet my needs, without making compromises. My old computer had been on its last legs for a very long time and there was always the worry that it would finally die at a crucial moment (my work is deadline driven) – it’s great to have confidence in the equipment I’m using and it’s a worthwhile investment as it’s the foundation of my livelihood.

My physical surroundings are much the same; my office layout seems to work well for me. My daily routine also hasn’t changed much, rather I think it’s ‘bedded in’ (last year I was still getting used to having a dog). My commitment to my business remains more or less the same; if anything’s changed it’s that any remaining uncertainty over whether this is the right job for me has now evaporated. That’s a nice feeling to have, that what you do every day is right for you.

This increased stability has also allowed me to start thinking of or acting on other projects and ideas not related to bid writing, which is great. I won’t lie, it’s been a hard slog to get to this point, but that does mean I can always justify putting time and energy into some weird and random side project when I want to! For instance, I was recently asked to update some illustrations I’d done a few years ago for a local company, which made a nice change from writing and was a good opportunity to refresh my design skills.

I’m also in the process of applying for a patent for an invention that’s been rattling around in my head for a long time. The details are all Top Secret at the moment but you never know, it could be the next ‘Aglet’!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

The learning is never-ending! From the knowledge I gain of other sectors and industries every time I take on a new client, to minor changes to my day-to-day work processes, I’m always looking out for transferable ideas and ways to improve what I do and how I do it.

I’ve learned that shredding and scattering the contents of my office bin and/or flinging a shoe at me is the best way to prompt being taken out for a walk, if you are a small, cheeky dog.

I don’t think I’ve had any great epiphanies about anything work related this year, but there’s still time!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Last year, I said it was important to be clear and upfront about your expectations for clients. I stand by that and it continues to save me a lot of wasted time and hassle.

However, I hadn’t ever needed to think about what to do if a client exceeds expectations! Normally, I request a down payment to secure my time prior to a project starting, usually an agreed percentage of the total value of the job with the balance payable on completion. This works well because it stops clients from disappearing part way through then refusing to pay – it weeds out any chancers right at the start.

I had one client, though, who paid me not just the full amount for the agreed project up front, but then dropped another similar payment into my bank account as the end of that project drew near. In all, they’d given me more than 200% of my quote, without any prompting. While that sounds great, in reality, I was then effectively retained by them indefinitely but with no agreed project parameters. Their (unspoken) expectation after that payment was that I would be ‘on call’, available as and when they wanted, often with no notice and frequently with little instruction; they struggled to understand that, unasked for payment or not, I still had booked-in, contracted commitments to other clients and couldn’t drop everything for them whenever they wanted. The upshot: I ended up firing the client and offering them a refund.

What I should have done is stick to my guns. As soon as the unexpected payment came through I should have either given it back immediately and restated my payment terms, or clearly redefined the parameters of the agreement to avoid any crossed wires. You live and learn!

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Again, more of the same! Day to day, I certainly see my routine and clients remaining much the same. I’m excited about the training programme so will continue to work on that and refine it until it’s ‘market ready’. At some point though, I will have to take the leap and just get on with it, so I’ve given myself a few internal deadlines to stick to. The launch of that service will also coincide with a refresh of my website, which I’m really looking forward to.

Other than that, while I’m committed to keeping my core business focused on bid writing and closely associated services, I’m also hoping that the extra time I can now give to random side projects might result in something marketable. It’s not a key objective but it would be nice to have another basket with a couple of eggs in!

One last thought from Lyndsey:

The right kind of publicity can make all the difference and it’s not always about typical marketing and advertising. For instance, your first interview with me last year has been a major factor in bringing new clients in. Whether they find the interview first, read it and then click through to my site or whether they find my site, read the interview via there and then contact me, it seems to give people a deeper insight into what I do as a freelancer and who I am as a person. This understanding, right from my first contact with a client, is another key factor in growing a client base that are well aligned to my own motivations and ideals. I’ve also been able to significantly reduce the amount I spend on online advertising, so it also has a financial benefit. It’s really been invaluable and I would always encourage other freelancers to make the most of opportunities like this. Thanks, Liz!

I was honestly so thrilled to read Lyndsey’s last paragraph and asked her if I could include it at the end of her interview. Although I obviously get ‘hits’ from these interviews, I do do them to help my fellow small business owners and share lessons learned and good practices with my community, so it’s lovely when it works and really benefits my interviewees! Any other tales of successes and contacts coming from the interviews gladly received!

On the topic of communities, it’s interesting to see that Lyndsey’s set up a private group for people in her business. I did this with some fellow editors a little while back and it is great to have a place just to go argh! or ask for advice privately from time to time – we also applaud one another’s successes. I think the copywriting business in general and bid-writing in particular feels a little more competitive than editing, so it’ll be interesting to see how that works out – I know I’ve got some good editing friends and great people to pass work to and to cover me for holidays and absences, so I definitely thrive in a community of cooperation and I think many other people could, too.

If you’re looking for a bid writer (or bid-writing resources), visit www.lyndseymichaels.com. You can email Lyndsey or call her on 07813 606033.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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How do I hide a Facebook post?

Today I’m going to share with you how to hide a single Facebook post, and control what you see and when.

Why would I want to hide a Facebook post?

I usually want to hide a Facebook post if the post itself upsets me in some way, or presents a spoiler on something, but I don’t want to unfriend or unfollow the person who posted it. A personal example is when people post pictures of cruelty to animals or people, something I really don’t want to see scrolling through. Or a picture of a spider.

Note: if you just want to stop getting notifications on a post in your email, but not hide it from your timeline, follow these instructions.

How do I hide Facebook posts in my timeline?

If you want to hide a post …

First, find and press the little down-arrow in the top right-hand corner of the post:

Facebook post hide arrow

This will give you a menu of things you can do:

Facebook turn off notifications

You can see here that you can Hide the post. Facebook will confirm when you’ve done this.

How do I hide my own Facebook post?

I’m not sure why you would want to do this, but if you want to hide one of your own posts, you get more options when you click that down-arrow:

Facebook hide your own post

How do I hide Facebook posts in a Group?

If you are a member of a Facebook Group but choose not to have it come up in your timeline (for example, if you’re in a photo-a-day group and would end up with 80 posts a day in your Facebook timeline), you CANNOT HIDE A POST.

How annoying is that! But you can at least turn off the notifications – see this post for instructions.

This post has shown you how to hide posts from your Facebook timeline, on your own posts but not in Groups. You can find more on social media in the Resource Guide or by using the Search box in the right-hand column.

If you’ve found this post useful, please share it using the buttons underneath!

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Facebook

 

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Small business chat update – Pat Wilkes

mugs Hello! It’s Small Business Chat update time, and today we’re catching up with Pat Wilkes from gift company Starlight Gifts By Pat, who we first met back in June 2013, when she was just getting going with the gift side of things. We spoke to her last in August 2014; at that point, Pat said her aim was this: “Hopefully the business will continue to grow and I will be looking for more outlets to sell from and reduce the number of fairs again. I want to try selling online at some point. I would like to think that eventually I will reach my goal of using my creativity to make a living.” So, how’s she getting on? Read on to find out!

Hello, Pat, and it’s lovely to chat with you again. Are you where you thought you would be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes, I think I am. I still have a day job part time and I think that it will remain this way until I can retire in a couple of years. The plan has changed a little in that respect, but my long-term plan is I retire from my current job then and add to my pension with my small business and see how that goes. In the meantime, I am continuing to build the business gradually and slowly in the hope that this will be sustainable long term. My business was in the black this year and not the red, which was a big bonus for me and I am really happy about that.

What’s changed and what has stayed the same?

I think my mind-set has changed towards the end goal and I’ve realised that I do need to put the business out there in order to continue to build it. I now have stock in four shops, with the possibility of another being added in the near future. I now only do a very small number of events and they will be more concentrated around the run-up to Christmas, and I vet events really hard before agreeing to take part.

I would say a lot has stayed the same but has been tweaked along the way as things evolve and I learn.

What have you learned and what do you wish you had known a year ago?

I would say that I continue to learn all the time and I am much more sceptical about event organisers and how they go about things, for instance how much promotion they do and how much they spend on this.

I am much more wary of other makers, having had first-hand experience of ideas being copied. We put ourselves out there, proud of what we make, on things like social media and it’s difficult to take on board and can be very disheartening. I no longer give away where I get materials from, so I suppose I am not as open as I used to be with customers and fellow makers. I think this comes with experience, and I have found it difficult, being such an open person.

As for what I wish I had known, that can only be that this year has not been the greatest for the small business, and that includes the shops I supply, all of whom have taken a drop in sales. This appears to be across the board, so if I had known, I would not have doubted myself and what I do. It’s really not down to things on a personal level, but a nationwide problem with customers having less money to spend on non-essentials.

Do you have any more hints and tips for readers?

Always vet events before signing up – speak to other makers who have done the fairs.

Always research any shops you are going to supply, find out what the percentage is for commissions and check what sales are like, is there good footfall, etc.

Get the business promoted by doing things like these interviews with Liz.

Find out what works for you in social media: there is more than just Facebook.

Speak to any maker and they will have moments of self-doubt: it’s all perfectly normal. No one is always happy all the time with what they make.

Evolve: find out what sells and what your customer base is.

Where do you see yourself in a year’s time?

I hope to be another year closer to retiring and being able to use my small business as an income, and I hope to be still supplying shops and doing a few events, as I do enjoy meeting my customers. I hope the business continues to grow and that I keep on learning and it all stays in the black.

Congratulations to Pat for moving into the black – a good step when you’re a maker who has to buy supplies! Thank you for the mention of these interviews – a few people recently have mentioned to me that they find them a very good marketing tool, and that makes me very happy! I would be interested to know whether other makers have found this a particularly bad year and what they’ve done to combat this – do contribute a comment if you’ve got anything to say on that point. And best of luck to Pat for a good year ahead!

You can visit Pat’s website at www.starlightgiftsbypat.co.uk and view her products, or visit her Facebook page. Click to email Pat, too!

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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How do I stop seeing notifications for a Facebook post?

Today I’m going to share with you how to turn off notifications for a single Facebook post, and control what you see and when.

Use these instructions if Facebook usually notifies you with an email when there’s a new comment on a post by somebody.

Why would I want to turn off notifications on a Facebook post?

Sometimes you want to post a comment on a Facebook post but you don’t want to see all of the replies and comments that come after it. Why might this be? Here are some examples …

  • Your friend has had a good (or bad) event in their life and posted about it, and you want to post a message of congratulations or support but you know about a million other people are going to post a similar comment and you don’t want lots of emails flooding your mailbox.
  • You’ve entered a competition by commenting on a business’s post but you don’t want to see all the other entries.
  • You’ve commented on a news item someone’s shared but it’s quite upsetting and you don’t want to be reminded of it every time someone else comments.

These instructions work for posts in either your main timeline or a Facebook group, but they look slightly different so I’ve broken it down into two sections.

So, how do I prevent Facebook from emailing me every time there’s a comment, if I don’t want to change my whole Facebook alerts settings?

How do I turn off Facebook notifications in a post on my timeline?

If you want to keep a post available in your timeline (i.e. you don’t want to hide it) but you don’t want to get notifications of further comments on the post once you’ve commented, here is how to Stop notifications.

First, find and press the little down-arrow in the top right-hand corner of the post:

Facebook post hide arrow

This will give you a menu of things you can do:

Facebook turn off notifications

You can see here that you can also Hide the post or unfollow the person who posted it. But we want to click on Turn off notifications at the bottom of the list.

Now Facebook will confirm what you’ve done:

Facebook notifications turned off

This is useful, as you can click Turn On Notifications if you did this by mistake.

If you want to turn your notifications back on at any time (so that you receive an email every time someone else comments), go and find the post, click on the down-arrow and choose Turn on notifications:

Facebook turn on notifications

Now you will receive an email every time someone comments on the post.

How do I turn off Facebook notifications on my own post?

Of course this is slightly different – if you want to turn off notifications on one of your own posts, you get more options when you click that down-arrow:

Facebook stop notifications own post

How do I turn off Facebook notifications in a Group?

If you are a member of a Facebook Group but choose not to have it come up in your timeline (for example, if you’re in a photo-a-day group and would end up with 80 posts a day in your Facebook timeline), there’s a slightly different way to turn off notifications.

In this example, a friend has posted about the Great British Bake-Off and another friend has mentioned, and tagged me in their comment, that I haven’t seen it yet and will be watching it tomorrow. I don’t want to see any more comments in case someone lets slip who’s left the competition.

Click on the little down-arrow in the top right corner of the post …

Facebook post notifications

This will bring up a menu. Here you can also report a post as spam if you need to – but we’re going to concentrate on turning off the notifications. You do that by clicking on Turn off notifications:

Facebook turn off notifications

Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a message above the post telling you that you will no longer get notifications about this post. This means that whenever anyone comments on the post, you won’t get an email telling you that this has happened.

Note that you will also see a clickable link allowing you to Turn On Notifications – which is very useful if you’ve done this by accident. You can click Turn On Notifications to make sure you still get comments emailed to you:

3 turned off

If you want to turn notifications back on for a post, go and find the post (you haven’t hidden it, so it will still be in your timeline or the group it was posted in). Click on the down-arrow again and choose Turn on notifications:

Facebook turn off notifications

Now you will receive an email every time someone comments on the post.

This post has shown you how to turn off notifications in your Facebook timeline, on your own posts and in Groups. You can find more on social media in the Resource Guide or by using the Search box in the right-hand column.

If you’ve found this post useful, please share it using the buttons underneath!

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Facebook

 

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Small business chat update – Alison Thompson

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Chat update, and I’m pleased to be doing my fourth interview with Alison Thompson from The Proof Fairy, who started off, like me, as a proofreader and editor, but has since branched out (like me, but in different directions) into authorship, coaching and event organisation. We first met Alison in this series in July 2012, and  she updated us in July 2013, and August 2014, at which point this was her plan for the upcoming year: “Every time I’ve predicted where I’ll be something has changed along the way! As The Proof Fairy I would like to be doing more book coaching and I definitely still want to have a freelance proofreader working for me, so I can pick and choose the projects I want to handle myself. I have a couple of books I want to write, if time allows.  And in terms of the ADHD stuff, who knows where the next 12 months will take me? All I can say is that I feel like I am entering a really exciting period of my life … So watch this space!” Did things change or stay as she predicted? Read on to find out …

Hello again, Alison, it’s lovely to have you back. Are you where you thought you might be when you looked forward a year ago?

It’s a bit depressing but in many ways I haven’t moved forwards at all as The Proof Fairy – in fact, it feels like I’ve moved backwards a little! I haven’t had very many writing coaching clients and I seem to spend about 70% of my working day doing proofreading these days! I would still like to take on a proofreading assistant but think I’m a bit of a control freak and can’t quite bring myself to trust anyone to do the job as well as I do it!

The new ADHD business has been very exciting, though. I ran a big event, an ADHD Inspiration Day, in Swindon last October and 80 parents, teachers and experts came along. It was an incredible event and was only possible thanks to the people who supported a crowdfunding campaign I created, which raised over £2,000. From there I ran a group coaching session and have also done some telephone and face to face coaching with parents, which I’ve enjoyed hugely.

Later this year I will be launching an online ADHD parenting programme, looking forward to that. But best of all, I have just been given a contract with a major publishing company who want to publish an updated edition of my book, The Boy From Hell! I had a feeling there could be exciting times in store for the ADHD business and I wasn’t wrong!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Well, we moved house earlier this year, so my location has changed – though I’m only six miles down the road. It was surprising just how much upheaval the move caused to the business, and it took a few months to get back on top of things. I’ve also had some interesting new clients and projects to work on – as well as repeat business from lovely people who keep coming back!

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Think big and keep your options open – you never know what’s around the next corner.

Any more hints and tips for people?

As soon as you can, start to think about which parts of your business you could outsource. I have been working with a Virtual Assistant for over a year now and it’s relieved the pressure hugely as I can now send some of the more mundane tasks to her while I focus on what I do best.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

Who knows! I’m hoping the ADHD business will provide a regular, almost passive source of income, leaving me free to pick the most exciting projects to work on with my Proof Fairy hat on. I’ll have had an updated version of The Boy From Hell published and I’d like to have another couple of books under my belt too – a parents’ guide to ADHD and an erotic novel!

So, things did develop and pretty well in the ways Alison had hoped, and exciting times are coming. As a writer myself, I’m hugely impressed that she’s got picked up by a publisher and glad her very useful book will be getting a wider audience thanks to having a publishing company behind it. And I fully echo her call to keep your options open – as I’ve said before, my business has developed in ways I didn’t even consider when I first started, and that’s to do with giving things a go (while checking that they’re right for me) and exploring new avenues. Good luck to Alison for her exciting year ahead!

Contact Alison by email or at www.theprooffairy.com – or call her on 01367 888229 Mob: 07927 330293. Here’s Alison’s book,The Boy from Hell: Life with a Child with ADHD.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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MailChimp 5 – linking to your sign-up form on Facebook and your website

After publishing my article on how to create a sign-up form, I had a query about how to publicise it. This article tells you how to find the URL for your sign-up form in order to promote and link to the sign-up form in various places on the Web, including your own website, Facebook, etc.

Why would I want to publicise my MailChimp sign-up form?

You can have the best form in the world, but if you don’t share it, no one will sign up. Places to promote and share your sign-up form include …

  • Your website and / or blog
  • Your email signature
  • Your company Facebook page
  • Posts on your company Facebook page
  • Twitter
  • Your LinkedIn profile or updates

How do I find the URL of my MailChimp sign-up form?

The key to all of this is to find the URL or web address of your sign-up form. Every one has it, but it’s hard to find. Here’s how you do it.

From the first page of MailChimp, when you’ve signed in, click Lists:

Go into MailChimp list

Then, choose the list whose sign-up form you want to promote (like me, you probably only have one) by clicking on the link:

Mailchimp choose list

Now click on Signup forms:

Mailchimp signup forms

Now you will find a list of ways to create a form which does not look like the right place. It IS the right place.

Incidentally, if you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you will find ways to create a sign-up form embedded in a Facebook page or on a tablet, where people can enter their details directly. Both of these options walk you through the process.

Mailchimp special forms

For the moment, we’re looking for that URL, so scroll back up and click on General Forms (which is where you created your sign-up form in the first place):

Mailchimp general forms

Although it really doesn’t look like this is the place to go, I know, here you will find your URL!

Mailchimp signup URL

You can copy and paste this URL and put it anywhere on the Web.

In addition, this page also has little icons for Facebook, Twitter and QR. These will just generate a link for you (if you’ve linked your MailChimp account to Facebook and Twitter for sharing purposes). Clicking on the Facebook icon will give you this post ready to pop on your Facebook page:

Mailchimp auto facebook post

How do I share my MailChimp newsletter sign-up form on social media and my website?

Now you have the URL which links to your sign-up form, you can add that link anywhere you want.

  • On your website, you might do as I have (look right!) and add a link to the sign-up form to your menu. In WordPress.com, you can choose Appearance – Widgets and create a Text widget. Then use HTML coding to add a link, for example <a href=”YOURURL”>Sign up for my email newsletter! </a>
  • In your email signature, use your email service to add a line to every email you send, again, you will probably need the coding above.
  • On Facebook, use the embedded form mentioned above, or do a post including the URL and “pin” it to the top of your Facebook page
  • Everywhere else – share the URL and get people flocking (maybe) to your sign-up form.

In this article, we’ve learned how to find the URL or web address of your MailChimp newsletter sign-up form in order to share it on the Internet, and talked about how and where you can share it. You can find a growing set of articles on blogging, social media MailChimp etc. in my resource guide.

Do click on the share buttons below or comment if you found this article interesting or useful!

Other relevant posts on this blog:

MailChimp 1 – Signing up

MailChimp 2 – Setting up your list and importing contacts

MailChimp 3 – Creating a sign-up form

MailChimp 4 – Designing your newsletter template

How to avoid two common mistakes when using MailChimp

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Business, Marketing, New skills, Newsletters

 

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Small business chat update – Sarah Hodgkins

Small business chat interview two mugsAfter a brief summer hiatus, we’re up and running with Small Business Chat Updates, and today it’s time to chat  with Sarah Hodgkins from Charlotte Designs, which is a mural company, although now branching out into other related areas, as we shall see. We met Sarah for the very first time last year – so she’s a newbie to this interview series, if not to the business, being in her tenth year this year (congratulations!). When I asked her then where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she replied “More of the same, really. The commercial side is growing faster than the domestic side and I see that continuing. I would like to be doing more in the dementia field and more workshops.” Well, as usual, things haven’t gone quite as predicted (I think they do for about 1 in 20 of my interviewees, on average), so let’s see how she’s getting on …

Hello again, Sarah; it’s good to have you back. So, Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

The short answer to that is no, not really. Business overall is good and I am up on where I was this time last year.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I have seen a sharp increase in the amount of commercial work I do and I have seen the schools work increase. But the care home work, which I thought would increase, hasn’t and I am finding a lot of resistance to it which is very surprising, not to mention disappointing.

However, the biggest difference is that due to health issues, I am having to change the focus of the business. I am looking to launch a range of wall stickers which I intend to sell online. I have recently applied for government funding to help with this project which I hope to launch in October.

There are also more mural artists starting up, this is both good and bad. Many are very cheap and undercut me considerably, but you do get what you pay for and I am more confident in my pricing than ever before. I have also seen a resurgence for faux effects, which is great for me. I expect to do more of this type of work going forward.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I have learnt that there are a lot of people who do their job blindly, without taking any notice of the glaring, overwhelming evidence in front of them. And that trying to inform such people is a thankless and fruitless task. I wish I had known that my back was going to give up sooner, I would have given serious consideration to the sticker project long ago.

Any more hints and tips for people?

No matter how good your product or service, if people don’t get it, they won’t buy it. Have several markets for your product or service, that way, if one market takes a downturn, you will have other markets to see you through.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

This is going to be a very different year for Charlotte Designs. I will be launching my new stickers and starting to offer more canvasses for sale. I am also exploring more workshop options. I see myself relying less on mural painting and more on other skills to generate income and managing an online business. Which is very different and way outside my comfort zone.

It’s interesting to have to step outside your comfort zone in your tenth year, but it also shows a persistence and flexibility which I believe will serve Charlotte well. Balancing your workload across a range of different markets is also, I think, key – it’s something that I do, and I encourage other people to do, too. I’ll be very interested to find out how Sarah’s doing next year, and I’m sure we all wish her well with both her health and the new development of her business (do post a comment if you’ve had a similar moment of stepping on through new areas in an established business!

You can find Charlotte Designs online at www.charlottedesigns.co.uk and of course contact Sarah – you can email her or call her on 07771 782031.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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