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Small business chat – Lindsey Gordon

mugs Today we are welcoming another new small business chat interviewee – this latest crop of new ones have been really interesting, haven’t they, and I hope we have them to stay on the roster for a good few years to come. Lindsey Gordon is the proud owner of the I Want Something … Gift Shop, which she only started at the beginning of this year – however, as you’ll see, Lindsey has run  her own business before, selling children’s clothing, so she wasn’t a complete novice. I’m seeing an interesting theme about employers not being flexible or understanding for their workers, and I think this is a great loss to those employers, although a good thing for the self-employed community. Why does this still happen when there are more regulations than ever encouraging employers to be flexible? Anyway, rant over, let’s meet Lindsey and see how she’s doing …

Hello, Lindsey! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

I set up I Want Something… Gift Shop in January 2014

What made you decide to set up your own business?

Since having my first child in 2006, and not having the most understanding or flexible employers when I returned to work, I always wanted to work for myself so that I could spend valuable time with my children, but keep myself (relatively) sane with something for myself, too.  I’ve never been the most confident person, but after our middle child was born sleeping in 2008, I knew life is just too short, and I wanted to show my children that when you put your mind to it, anything is possible.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I had been selling children’s clothing online and was finding it increasingly difficult to find quality, unique clothing that didn’t break the bank. In 2012 I purchased my first embroidery machine, sourced quality blank t-shirts and started creating unique embroidered children’s clothing. It didn’t take long before I expanded from children’s clothing to adults, then bags, towels, and lots of personalised gifts.

Had you run your own business before?

I originally started Belle Bambini, selling children’s clothing, but once I expanded my product range I decided that the name didn’t really suit what I was doing anymore and with a little inspiration from my then two-year-old daughter, I Want Something… was born.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

At the moment I work around the children.  Our youngest goes to nursery 1½ days a week and between us we juggle school runs so that I get 2 days to work on my business and the rest is done around the children in the evenings, etc. Once our daughter starts school full-time in September this year, I’ll have more time.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

Hmmm…nothing really that I can think of. I always knew running my own business would mean long hours, a lot of juggling, hard work and a rollercoaster of emotions. Everything else I think you have to learn as you go along – the good and the bad.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Don’t let what other people are doing distract you from your own goals and plans. It’s very easy (especially if you’re not very self-confident) to get disheartened when it’s very quiet and your competitors seem like business is booming. You have to push through those ‘wobbly’ days and keep focused on what it is you’re creating for yourself.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  If I knew then what I know now there are suppliers I wouldn’t use, products I wouldn’t buy in, and more research I’d of done. I think you have to learn from your mistakes as you go really.  I do wish I’d planned better and been more organised from the start.

What are you glad you did?

Took the chance.  It would have been much easier to not take that initial leap but I wouldn’t have met some of the amazing people who I’ve met (both customers and other business owners) or had that buzz of creating something that (hopefully!) makes your customers just as happy.

What’s your top business tip?

Plan.  Have a clear idea of what you want to do, where you want to get to, and how you’re going to get there. Sure, not everything will work out exactly how you initially think, but when you have clear goals it keeps you focused and gives you a measure of what’s working and what isn’t as you grow.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
I’ve definitely diversified. Now, children’s t-shirts are just a small part of what I do.  It’s difficult to grow at the moment as I’m restricted by time and I’d rather not take on more work at the expense of customer service, but I’m happy to have such a wide range of products that keep every day different.

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

In a year’s time I’ll have more working hours which will hopefully have allowed me to expand my customer base. I’d like to be well on the way to being able to afford a larger embroidery machine, which will cut down on the time it takes to embroider each item and allow me to introduce some new products that my current machine just can’t work with. Hopefully I’ll have been able to attend more markets and fairs, allowing me to spread the word about I Want Something… face to face locally.

What a sensible lady, and with good, sensible plans going forward. It’s always good to look to the future and push yourself a little bit, but not over-extend yourself, and it looks to me like Lindsey’s got that sorted out. What a good example to her children she’ll be as they grow up with their entrepreneurial mum (and supportive dad, of course). I hope we’re hearing more about that new embroidery machine this time next year!

You can find the I Want Something … Gift Shop online at www.iwantsomethinggiftshop.co.uk and also on Facebook. You can email Lindsey if you’d like to talk about any orders.

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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Happy fifth birthday, Libro!

Libro birthday cartoonI started working for myself (very much part time) in August 2009 – so now it’s Libro’s fifth birthday!

What am I doing to celebrate? Well …

I’m having a little party today over on the Libro Facebook page … including a draw to win a free Kiva loan

I’m making some loans to Kiva (see below) and donating one to someone else

I’m celebrating the relaunch of my two main business books, with their new titles and covers …

… And I’m launching my new website devoted entirely to the books I write, where people can find info, links, reviews and news in one place

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Libro’s birthday by popping over to say hello on the Facebook page or by doing a Kiva loan yourselves.

Happy Birthday to me!

Kiva is an organisation that facilitates loans to small businesses around the world, who traditionally find it hard to raise capital. You commit from $25 upwards, and you can choose by gender, country, industry sector and individuals within those areas. They then pay the loan back to you in small increments – you get an update email on repayments once a month and sometimes updates on the individual or group you’ve loaned to, if the organisation handling the loan provides them. Once the money’s paid back, you can reinvest it or withdraw it if you want to. I love helping people to help themselves in this way; it feels like I’m helping to make a difference to another small business somewhere far away from me.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Business, Celebration, Ebooks

 

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Small business chat update – Tone Hitchcock

mugs Today we have a second update interview with Tone Hitchcock, brother of a friend, who I’ve known since he was knee-high to a grasshopper (OK, already taller than me) and I was a dodgy undergraduate goth. Tone makes the most amazing models, and I know readers have enjoyed seeing pictures of them in the past, and popping through to his website, so I’ve added some of his latest makes to the bottom of this interview. 

I first interviewed Tone in May 2012 and then we did an update in June 2013. When I asked him where he hoped to be in a year’s time, this is what he said:  “So… this time next year, Rodders, we’ll DEFINITELY be miwionaires… Well, maybe not, but I will definitely be doing more prop and model work. This last year was testing, but it has also provided a really good foundation to build on. Moreover, it’s also toughened me up a bit professionally, which is a good thing: in common with most artists, the business side of things is not something that comes naturally to me, but it is a massively important part of my work, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. If the paperwork is up to scratch, I can get on with making random bits of weirdness (the fun part) without worrying.” As you can see, Tone has been experiencing an interesting (to outsiders) and common (to artists and other creatives) struggle between his artistic self and the admin and organisation that you need to face up to in order to succeed in self-employment: by his own admission he’s still chipping away at it, but he’s learning and working hard on this every year, and that’s the main thing. Let’s see what Tone’s been up to this year …

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

I am pretty much where I’d hoped to be a year ago; I’m getting more work in, and seem to be picking up more regular freelancing work from Cod Steaks workshop in Bristol, which is brilliantly varied. I’ve made parts of an oil rig, a life-sized elephant, two oak trees, a pile of gold ingots and a couple of sacks of beans (amongst other things!) there, all of which is brilliant for my portfolio, and incredible fun, too.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I am still doing much the same sort of work, but I’ve also done a fairly big stint of illustrating, which is what I did before I started sculpting. It was quite nice to go back. I’m also definitely getting better at spotting time-wasters, and the inevitable client who wants “a ‘wow’ piece that will blow everyone away and take up an entire wall” but hasn’t actually thought about how much something like that will cost. I guess I’m getting a little blunter; it does actually take a while for most freelancers to get to the point of properly valuing their time, rather than taking anything that comes along out of fear. Sadly, a lot of people know how precarious freelancing can be, and try and use that to get something for nothing…

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

I’m still working on getting the admin side of things sewn up. Having a well-thought out form that describes exactly what the client can expect, and what charges are involved, is invaluable; I’m probably 80% efficient in this respect at the moment, but I’m aiming to get better! There is probably always going to be a certain amount of tension between the artist side of things and the business side of things, but you can reduce that by having rules and sticking to them.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Don’t give up, ever. Talent will only get you so far; you need to work at your chosen profession, and persevere.

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

This time next year, Rodders…

There’s a bit of a theme here, isn’t there, if you look back over the last few interviews – that common fear that tempts us to underprice our services and products in order to get work … any work. It’s a temptation we must resist: we must have faith and confidence in our own abilities and charge what we are actually worth! I can’t wait to see what Tone gets up to in the next year, and I’m sure you’re all looking forward to his next update (and pics) … here are some below to keep you going.

See what Tone’s been up to recently at Anthony Hitchcock Art & Design at www.tonyhitchcock.co.uk. You can, of course, email Tone or call him on on .

Here’s an important copyright notice on the images below: all images copyright Cod Steaks for a museum in Portugal called World of Discoveries that details their colonial past.

Mask by Tone Hitchcock Copyright Cod SteaksHowdah by Tone Hitchcock Copyright Cod Steaks carved tusks by Tone Hitchcock Copyright Cod Steaks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 July 28, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Lyndsey Michaels

mugs Welcome to a brand new Small Business Chat interviewee, fellow South Birmingham freelancer Lyndsey Michaels, who goes under the business name Lyndsey Michaels Bid Writer. Lyndsey works in a very specialised and high-pressure area of the copywriting business, writing tender documentation for companies, often at short notice and with very little information to go on. Lyndsey’s been working a s a freelancer for a while now (how many of us secretly know that we’re not exactly suited to working in an office after spoiling ourselves living our flexible lives outside one?) and has loads of experience to share with us. Find out how she got into this high-pressure job and why she likes doing it so much …

Hi, Lyndsey! What’s your business called?

My official business name now is just ‘Lyndsey Michaels’, although I do tack on ‘Bid Writer’ in any blurb for clarity.

I spent a long time trying to think of a good name for the business but never found one that properly reflected what I do in a snappy enough sound bite. Ultimately, I realised that what I’m ‘selling’ is me: not just my skills, my experience and my knowledge but also my personality – how I work and communicate with my clients is a key selling point.

When did you set it up?

I’ve been a contractor for most of my working life, with intermittent freelancing between contracts since the early 90’s, so in that respect I’ve been freelancing on and off for 20-odd years. In 2006, I formalised it through a limited company with my then partner but still took on contract work on a regular basis. The business as it is now really came into being in early 2011; I made some decisions about the type of work I was looking to do, the type of clients I was hoping to attract and the lifestyle I wanted to achieve. Since then I’ve been full time freelance and I no longer work as a limited company.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I’m basically unemployable! What I mean is, the temperament and values that make me a good freelancer and that help me get the best out of and for my clients are the same things that make me a terrible underling – to do my work well, I need to be flexible, be able to think on my feet and make fast decisions, advise clients honestly, meet deadlines and still find ways to work solidly and focus without interruption. Having worked in numerous corporate environments, I know that some or all of those needs just can’t be met within a 9-5 role with layers of management and inflexible processes.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

A process of elimination. In late 2010 I was feeling unsatisfied with both the level and type of work I was doing, whether contracting or freelancing. At that time, I was predominately offering marketing and communications services, with bid writing almost as an afterthought, tacked on just because I’d done a fair amount of it within the marketing/comms roles I’d had over the years. I spent a couple of days making lists – so many lists! – of how I felt about every aspect of my work, and work in general. I rated them on a scale of ‘I’d rather eat my own eyeball’ to ‘this task makes the Rocky soundtrack play in my head’, with ‘mostly indifferent’ somewhere in the middle.

When I finished all the lists, it really stood out to me that what I really should be doing was the very thing I’d just added in as a bonus service. I took a deep breath, ditched everything else and started to focus purely on bid writing and management.

After years of trying – and failing – to determine what I wanted to do versus what I knew I could do, flipping it round to figure out what I definitely didn’t want to do left me with a specialist line of work that I’m not just good at but am really passionate about. That was a huge surprise and something I’d not been able to see clearly before.

The added benefit of specialising was that potential clients now knew what I did – previously I’d offered so many varying services that people never really understood how I could help them and that obviously affected how many clients I could attract

Had you run your own business before?

Sort of but not in any meaningful way. The limited company set up in 2006 was there to collate all my contracting and freelancing efforts but even at that time, calling it ‘a business’ felt laughable and somewhat grandiose!

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I winged it. Flew by the seat of my pants, knocked on wood, saluted magpies, made wishes on shooting stars and generally panicked my way through. I would have loved to have had a financial buffer of some sort and had actually been planning on being more sensible about the whole thing, taking on another long-term contract and building up some reserves before making the leap to full time freelance. But then I found myself between contracts and with a freelance opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up. So I jumped anyway. It was terrifying on a daily basis (still is, sometimes) but apparently for me, fear is a great motivating factor!

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

That the value lies in the quality of the work I do, not the length of time I’ve ‘officially’ been doing it. I severely undervalued my services in the beginning, assuming that this was necessary to ‘break into the market’. In fact, that caused more problems; potential clients didn’t trust a low-priced service and consequently I had to work much harder for much longer, in terms of finding and securing clients and in terms of hours in for cash out.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Trust your instincts. Maintain your boundaries. Don’t assume other people know better than you just because they talk a good game. And never feel guilty about having an afternoon nap.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

That’s hard to define as I feel it’s been an organic process and any ‘mistakes’ I’ve made have been useful in the long run. I wish I’d been more confident from the start but I think that, for me at least, that confidence could only come with time and experience.

What are you glad you did?

All of it. Even any less than wise decisions I’ve made along the way have ultimately turned into lessons, red flags or benchmarks for the future.

I’m glad I set up a proper office space in my house. It really helps me focus on my work and take myself and my business seriously. I know a lot of people can work from their sofa or a coffee shop or shared co-working space but for me, having an office is crucial.

I’m also glad my partner and I decided to get a dog! She gives me a non-negotiable reason to get out of the house and away from my desk a few times a day and she’s very good at listening to ideas, although her feedback isn’t very useful.

What’s your top business tip?

Be clear and up front about your expectations for your clients. Whether that’s payment terms, input they need to give or their access to your time, it’s vital to nail down anything and everything that could possibly cause you an issue – good relationships with clients will not be harmed by being clear and firm up front but they will certainly be damaged by unfulfilled assumptions and resentment.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

It’s gone better than I originally expected! I have no plans for growth in terms of adding staff or premises, as I developed this business model to suit me personally and I have no interest in managing others. I have made a lot of contacts within my industry though and am now in a position where I can either outsource certain aspects of the work or can pass on whole projects to other freelancers.

There are a few things I tried out and ultimately decided against, including working under a retainer for a tender services company (basically an agency) and taking on a part time bid writing job for a national charity. Both were with the aim of maintaining a guaranteed and stable source of income alongside my own work to allow me to build the rest of my business without risking everything. But in both cases I felt the quality of my work on all projects suffered and it also forced me to turn down many of the other opportunities I’d been hoping to capitalise on. They were both worthwhile exercises though and I am glad that I tried them out

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

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.

That’s certainly a definition of success that I can identify with. For all the differences in how we launched our businesses, Lyndsey and I have a lot in common, and it’s very interesting to see how she’s refined her offering, pinned down what she really does well and can make clear to her clients, and how she has tried, evaluated and changed different aspects of her work. I agree with the need to have a separate and defined office space, too – working within the home, it’s vital that you can close the door on that office and keep up with your everyday life as well.

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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Small business chat update – Samantha Higgs

mugs Welcome to another small business chat update. A quick admin note before we get started – you may be surprised to be reading this on a Monday if you’re one of my large band of online subscribers. I’ve had such a good response to my requests for update posts since the lapse through June that I’m having to double up for a bit! So for the next few weeks, you’ll be reading about a new interviewee on the Saturday and an update on the next Monday. Then we’ll be back to one a week in mid-August. More fun and information!

Anyway, today I’m pleased to welcome Samantha Higgs back to the series. I first chatted to Sam back in April 2013 and when I asked where she wanted to be by now, she replied, “I’d like to be selling more via the internet – especially through my new website – and craft fairs, and also perhaps have an exhibition or two of my work.” Well, Samantha’s had some interesting twists and turns in her career, taking up a new area of photography in the past year that she wasn’t expecting to do so much of. It’s great to embrace these changes, though, as long as you keep checking that the new area is something that you want to do and is doing well for your business as a whole (much like when I started being a transcriber or doing localising). 

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

Some things are as I expected; some are different. I’ve been photographing more parties and private functions than I’d expected and I haven’t yet done the craft fairs, although I have my first one coming up in December. I am also getting ready for an exhibition in Berlin next May, which is very exciting.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Photographing parties and private functions wasn’t something I’d expected to do but I’ve really enjoyed it. Capturing people and atmosphere is fun. Selling prints through my website and other internet galleries has stayed the same, and I still enjoy the creative art work side.

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

I think probably I’ve learned more in the events side of things than in my exhibition work. Most of what I’ve learned has been about dealing with people.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Don’t be thrown off when things take an unexpected turn. Just go for it!

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

In a year I’m hoping I will have just had my Berlin exhibition, where I’m expecting to learn a whole load of new things very quickly.

Big things are happening for Sam, then, and we wish her lots of luck with both her first craft fair and her exhibition in Berlin – how exciting!

Visit the Samantha Higgs Photography website at www.samanthahiggs.co.uk to have a look at some of her work, or email Samantha to find out more.

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 July 21, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Nicky Lloyd Greame

mugs Today we’re saying hello to another new interviewee – Nicky Lloyd Greame from personal and business coaching and mentoring organisation People & Potential. She came to me via another interviewee, dance fitness entrepreneur Mel Carpenter – it’s always nice when one of my interviewees shares with others that they’ve found this a useful process both for their personal development and for their web presence! Nicky came from a position where she’d run her own businesses before and, back in the corporate environment, wanted that freedom that self-employment brings. She took positive action for herself, and now concentrates on helping other people to take positive action for themselves, too, which must be a lovely satisfying job to have! Let’s meet Nicky and see how she got where she is today and where she plans to go from here …

Welcome, Nicky! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called People & Potential and I started it at the beginning of this year, 2014.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I have run my own businesses previously, (salsa teaching and events companies – for eight years)  but went back to a ‘normal’ job at the end of 2010 as was feeling like I needed more of a challenge, and also experienced an element of social pressure to conform to the norm and get a regular job.  Juggling being a full-time single parent with a full-time job proved to be very difficult and stressful, so I started looking at other options.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

After three years back in the corporate world, I began to feel unhappy, and sadly went through a series of experiences which led to severe stress, anxiety and depression.  After collapsing in hospital, I decided I had to take positive action  – for me and my daughter – so began an intense journey of self-development.  I quickly realised that the key similarities in all of the jobs/roles I’d enjoyed was helping and coaching people. This became my key focus and I’ve never looked back!

Had you run your own business before?

Yes – I ran two businesses in the past.  My first business, an events management business in London, only lasted about a year, but my second business, ‘The Salsaholics’ lasted for 10 years (in fact, I still have a number of loyal customers who I still train privately.  I also now coach dance professionals in all aspects starting up a business  – from what language to use when teaching to the practical aspects of running a successful business).

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I must admit, I took a bit of a risk – I quit my job (following a motivational conference I attended – during which I realised I HAD to commit to my dream) and put all my energy into getting it off the ground.  I also got a lot of help from the Enterprise Allowance Scheme run by the government. They provided me with free courses, a business advisor and a business start-up loan – along with a weekly allowance for 13 weeks to help me launch my business properly.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

That it really is not as scary as you think it will be… quite the opposite – its exhilarating. The fear we build up in our heads, whilst it can feel very real, is really unjustified.  You have to realise and accept that things will not go to plan, and it may feel like it’s going wrong – but that is your opportunity to pick yourself up and find another way.  And every time single time this has happened, I’ve always had a better result.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Don’t let your fears drive you – it’s truly astounding what you can achieve if you just take that first step.  And don’t give in to negative thoughts … if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I would have found a coach/mentor sooner … I now have three (for different aspects of my life) and it has transformed the way I do things/look at things – and they keep me on track, because despite anyone’s best efforts there will always be those days when panic, frustration, doubt or even fear sets in.

What are you glad you did?

Quit my job and followed my dream. I’ve never looked back – and my daughter tells me every day how much she prefers her mummy now she’s so much happier all the time. My work/life balance now is perfect, as I am in control of it.

What’s your top business tip?

Two things really:  Firstly, manage your time flexibly but effectively.  I diarise everything, including exercise, research, meditation and checking Facebook/social media (try to only do it twice a day otherwise before you know it you have wasted a few hours).  At the beginning of the week, I set myself general goals for the week – with a time allocation against each… and I review these each morning.  I find this works much better than setting daily goals and then getting frustrated when you can’t meet them.

Secondly – invest in yourself, both in terms of time and money.  Don’t underestimate the impact this can have on your work and home life. I am always learning and growing now – and I also give priority to meditating (just 15 mins a day), exercise and relaxing.  It IS NOT a waste of time – and if you are crazy busy it is actually even more important that you do it.  I get so much more done, and often better quality work done, when I have invested in myself.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

My first thoughts are that I it has stayed the same – but actually it’s grown quite naturally and I am finding the opportunities and clients I really want to attract are coming my way.  My vision has always been to provide single parents with opportunities and help that is often not available to them, either due to money or time or even awareness – and this has been the bulk of my clients, despite me not specifically targeting them in my marketing. I am also a huge fan of joint ventures, and am finding that I’m meeting people weekly who have great synergies with the work I am doing and want to expand into … so I have a number of exciting joint venture projects in the pipeline.

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

I will have two or three books published (I am writing a series of self-help books for single parents – “Lessons from a Single Mum”) and I will be hosting regular workshops and events, in addition to growing my one-to-one client base. I also plan on being a guest speaker at key events empowering parents – particularly single parents.  My vision includes transforming the negative association people often have of single parents – eradicating stigma and celebrating their successes and achievements.

Nicky certainly has big plans for the future, but having turned her own life around, I’m sure she has fantastic theoretical and practical resources behind her to be able to build this area of business. I love the line “If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself” – how often should self-doubting or self-undermining businesspeople remind themselves of that?! Mentoring is so important, too, and I’m glad Nicky mentions that she has a mentor. I’m putting together a workbook to help readers of my books mentor themselves, as I get questions about providing mentoring services myself fairly frequently, and it’s great to see people realising that we can all work together and support one another in our business endeavours.

You can find Nicky and People & Potential onlline at www.PeopleAndPotential.com and you can email Nicky or call her on 0845 094 4093.

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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Using Twitter for your business

Using Twitter for your business

Twitter is an absolutely brilliant tool for business owners – if you use it in the right way. If you use in the wrong way, it can be a nightmare, as bad (or embarrassing) news travels very fast in the Twitter universe!

I personally got a lot out of Twitter in the early days, actually securing clients through using it – and long-term clients who recommended me on to more clients, too. I’d go as far as to say that it’s my number four source of work, after repeat business, personal recommendations and the Proz website. My clients still recommend me to other clients via Twitter, even several years on (the other month, a music journalist tweeted that she was looking for a transcriber. FIVE of my current clients tweeted her with my name!).

Benefits of Twitter: it’s quick and easy to use. Disadvantage: it can be a time-sink. Most important thing to remember: People only tend to see a snapshot of their tweets every day. I only know one person who reads ALL of the tweets in his timeline. This means that your tweeting strategy should be a bit different from your other social media posting strategies.

Setting up your Twitter profile

When you join Twitter, it’s very quick and easy to set up your profile. Your profile is a quick guide to who you are. Anyone clicking on it or searching for it needs to know that they’ve found the right Liz Broomfield / Libro (or whatever) and to see easily what you do.

Twitter profile

I would recommend including the following on your profile, and I’ve seen plenty of other people recommend this, too:

  • Your real name when you log in, as well as your company name for your Twitter ID
  • Your photograph on your profile, rather than your company logo (you can add that to your background)
  • Your company URL in the field where you can provide that
  • Use your 140 letters of profile to the max, including what you do and any extra URLs

As with any profile, you can change it at any point; just click on the cog icon Settings and Help and choose Edit profile.

edit twitter profile

Following and followers

Once you’ve set up your Twitter account, you can start following a few people. Twitter will suggest ones that you don’t really want, based on who’s popular, but you can find interesting people to follow in a variety of ways:

Ask someone for their Twitter ID when you meet them or glean it from their business card or website. Then enter that ID in the search field on Twitter. Or you can search for the person’s name or company name in the search field on Twitter.

Twitter search

Or you can go to http://www.twitter.com/ID without the @ sign]:

search using Twitter url

Have a look at their profile to check it’s the correct person, then press the Follow button if it is:

follow on Twitter

If you’re following someone in an interesting field, have a look at who they’re following. If you click on their profile, you will see links to Tweets, Following and Followers. Click on Following

Following button

and have a look – there will be a handy Follow button by each name so you can simply follow from there (if you’re already following someone, it will be marked as such). Once you’re viewing who someone is following, you will see a dropdown button marked More which will take you to their Lists.

Who someone is following on Twitter

See more about Lists later on, but you can follow either  an entire list or members of one by clicking on the list, and this is another good way to glean people to follow in a particular area of interest.

How do I choose who to follow?

It’s entirely up to you how many people you follow and whether you organise them in any way. When I’m deciding whether to follow people who I’ve found, or who have followed me (you don’t HAVE to follow everyone who’s followed you, but it’s polite to have a look at least), this is what I do:

  • Check their profile to see whether they’re interesting to me
  • Check their list of tweets to see if they tweet interesting information
  • Check their tweets for the same tweet repeated over and over again – this means a lack of imagination, something akin to spamming or an automated response
  • Check their tweets for regularity and date of tweeting – if someone tweets once a week or hasn’t tweeted for a number of months, unless they’re hugely important to me, I won’t bother to follow them because their tweets will get lost in the general melee

I do also regularly run a check over the people I’m following (click on the Me link at the top of the screen and follow the menu down to Following) to make sure they’re still active. If not, I tend to cull. Sorry!

Who am I following?

Lists

Lists are a great way to put the people who you follow into categories or filters that you can look at independently. For example, I have a “Must know” list which includes all of the real-life friends plus some news feeds that I follow, so that if I only have time for a quick dip into Twitter, I can see what’s really important. I also have a “Journos” one so that I can see what my music journalist clients and a few others are up to, for some entertainment.

To add someone to a list …

Click on their name in your timeline to view their profile …

Add to list from profile

… or go to your list of accounts followed (Me – Following)

add to list from me - following

Click the User Options button (next to Following, it looks like a cog)

Click on Add or Remove From Lists

You’ll see a list of all of the lists you’ve already set up (if you have set any up) plus a button, Create a List

Either click on a list name to add that person then press the X in the top right corner to close the dialogue box:

Add to twitter list

or click on Create a List

create a twitter list

and make up a new list name to add this person to:

create new list

(if you make a list private, only you can see it – you’ll know when a list is private because it will have a padlock symbol next to the list name). Once you hit Save list, you will need to tick the particular list you want to add this person to:

add person to new list

Once you have some lists, you’ll see a Lists entry under More when you click on Me. Ideas for lists include friends, particular interests, your business sector, news feeds, sport – anything you want.

You can follow other people’s lists or mine them for good accounts to follow – just click on a particular person’s Twitter ID and you’ll get their following, followers and lists.

Note – this doesn’t work exactly the same on mobile devices or third-party Twitter management dashboards as it does on the basic web-based Twitter interface. These instructions are for the latter.

How Twitter works – @ and #

One thing that you’ll see a lot of on Twitter is the symbols @ and #

@ is used in front of a Twitter ID to notify the person that you’re talking to them or to point someone else to their account. For example, someone might recommend an account for me to follow:

Megmac: @lyzzybee_libro have a look at @thecreativepenn for a good feed for writers

This makes the message appear in my Connect list (see below) and TheCreativePenn’s Connect list, so I will see the recommendation and she will see that she’s been recommended to me. If she wants, she can then reach out to me, and say thank you to the recommender.

# is used to create clickable links that will pull information on a particular topic together in one view. It’s often used at events and conferences – so, for example, #cbsms is used by people tweeting about the Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery. When you see a hashtag (as this is called) in a tweet, it will be a clickable link. Click on the hashtag and you will see all of the recent tweets with that hashtag, giving you a view of what’s going on and who’s talking about it.

Lyzzbee_libro: Off to the social media surgery to help a few people today #cbsms

It is also used to link tweets on a wider topic, e.g. #amwriting, which writers use to talk about the writing process. You can pop a hashtag on a tweet when you want it to come up in such searches, for example I might tweet about my book on transcription and add #transcription at the end, so that anyone looking at that hashtag will see my tweet.

Your Twitterstream and mentions

Whether you’re viewing Twitter online on a computer or via a phone or a third party dashboard, you will have a twitterstream and then various other views.

Your Home will show you your twitterstream: all the most recent tweets by people / companies / whatever that you’re following.

Your Notifications list will show you anything directly concerning your own Twitter account – so messages that have been sent to you with an @[your Twitter ID] as well as people who have followed you. It’s good practice to keep an eye on this so that you can reply to any messages sent to you and say thank you for recommendations and follows. Note here that Notifications gives you information on who’s followed you and favourited your messages, and any messages that start with your name:

Twitter notifications

while Mentions will also show you when you’ve been @ mentioned by someone else:

Twitter mentions

Getting rid of spammers

Everyone gets spammed by Twitter accounts, dodgy or otherwise, that are usually either looking for random followers to boost their numbers or clicks to their undesirable links. The ones with links often only have a link in the text – this is a real red flag and you should never click on a link in a tweet, even from a friend, if there’s only a link and no text (your friend could have had their account hacked).

If you receive an odd tweet or one with just a link, click on the photo or name of the sender. You will typically see that they’ve sent the same short message or no message and link to multiple people. Click on the User Actions button on their profile and you have options to Block or Report: [Note: I'm just using this chap as an example, he's a good guy really!]

Block on twitter

Once you’ve clicked on Block or Report you will see this screen, which allows you to tell Twitter why exactly you are blocking or reporting the person:

Block and report on Twitter

This alerts Twitter that the person is spamming, and will help to save someone not as savvy as you from clicking on a dodgy link and going who knows where in cyberspace!

If you’re just getting annoyed or bored by a Twitter account that you follow, you can click on their photo or name and press the button marked Following – this will change to Unfollow as you hover over it; click it and you’ll unfollow them and no longer see them in your Twitterstream.

Rules for using Twitter effectively

Using Twitter effectively is a matter of knowing how it works and how people view it, and being sensible and polite.

Posting multiple times

The main point about tweeting is that very few people read every single tweet on their timeline. People typically check Twitter on the way to work, at lunchtime, on the way home, and some time in the evening. Once you’re following more than about fifty people, there’s no way that you’re going to see all of their tweets – so think of people as viewing a snapshot of their Twitterstream rather than everything.

This means that it’s fine to tweet a message multiple times, where it would be seen as rude and intrustive to post a Facebook status multiple times in one day.

You also need to be aware of your markets and their time zones – if you have a lot of Australian clients, and you’re in the UK, you will need to tailor your tweets to their time zone, maybe investing in a Twitter dashboard that will allow you to pre-schedule your tweets.

Using a dashboard

It can be very useful to use a dashboard such as Tweetdeck to manage your Twitter accounts. You can view multiple accounts at a time and post as them (handy if you have, say, a personal and a work account) and view your lists in their own feeds. Some of them will also allow you to schedule your tweets to be published at a certain time or on a certain date, which can be very useful (although watch out that you still keep an eye on when these go out, as there have been numerous examples of an auto-tweet posting when it’s really not appropriate, such as after a disaster).

Sharing other people’s material

The other main rule is to be polite and reciprocate and say thank you.

If you retweet other people’s tweets, they are more likely to share your tweets with their network. To retweet, click on the word retweet underneath the tweet, or look for that ‘arrows-in-a-square’ icon which has the same effect. Some people reckon that you should share five other tweets to every one of your own that you post. I’m not that scientific, but I do try to share as much as I post.

Saying thank you and being proactive

If other people retweet or otherwise share your tweets, which you will find out about by reviewing your Connect feed, do drop them a message to say thank you.

If someone recommends your Twitter account or your services to someone else, contact the person to whom you’re being recommended with a polite “how can I help you” and a way to contact you, and say thank you to the recommender.

Not automating too much and not spamming

I’m not a big fan of the automated message when I follow someone’s Twitter account, and many other people find this annoying, too. I like to know that there’s a person behind the account. Similarly, all sales and no sharing, or all automated tweeting and no replying to @ messages will probably get people irritated.

Other useful posts

On this blog: Using Twitter to find jobs

Using LinkedIn for your business

Social media resource guide for this blog

My friend Sandy’s post on Twitter for professional development

 
8 Comments

Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Business, Skillset, Social media

 

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Small business chat update – Stevie Maiden

mugs Today I am thrilled to welcome Stevie Maiden from Maidens Fayre, maker of jams, chutneys and pickles in all sorts of exotic and exciting flavours. I first interviewed Stevie in June 2013, and when I asked where she wanted to be by now, she replied, “I’d like to be doing bigger fayres. I’d also like to find a company that will deliver my produce at a reasonable rate, so I can get them out into the world. Even better, I’d like to supply a few shops.” Well, Stevie’s had a bit of an eventful year, and where she didn’t specify that she wanted to have some time off each week, that looks like something she could do with and wants to build in next! No one said it would be easy, though, and Stevie’s very honest about the trials and pitfalls as well as the good side of business, and does a super job encouraging other small business owners on Facebook. 

So, Stevie, are you where you hoped to be this time last year?

I AM where I hoped to be a year ago.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m working harder than ever, and I’m either buying, cooking, selling or sleeping, that’s it – it’s ALL I do. My husband has left me, so I’ve had to go full pelt to try to make Maidens Fayre a success. Sadly, I’m much too cussed to work for anyone else now!

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

That the price of an event does not necessarily mean good footfall. A small event can sometimes be worth more than a large one. Just because an event has been excellent one year doesn’t mean it will be the next.Also, the better you do in your chosen business, the more negative attention you will attract. Be prepared to deal with it.

Any more hints and tips?

If you’re serious about turning your hobby into a business, do your research. Do you have many competitors, what is the demand for your product, can it pay for itself and once it’s not your hobby any more, will you still enjoy doing it??

Where do you see yourself in another year?

I’m hoping to start to supply tea rooms and restaurants who understand the value of a good, homemade product. I already have a few interested, but I won’t jinx it by saying who :] I’m hoping this will enable me to cut down on events, give me a set time to cook, and maybe give me a day to myself during the week. Sigh: I can always dream.

Sounds like there are some exciting things coming up for Stevie, and I hope the tea room and restaurant plans work out! I do wonder when people sometimes tell me that they want to go into business but they don’t know what they want to do, how they’ll survive when the going gets tough. Stevie loves cooking and creating those interesting taste combinations, and I’m passionate about helping my clients achieve clarity and precision in what they want to say, but what on earth you’d do if you didn’t already care deeply about the line of business you’re in before you go in for it, I’m not sure!

You can find Maidens Fayre on Facebook  or email Stevie or call her on 07739 965 666.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees,

.

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. 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 12, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat – Sarah Hodgkins

mugs Welcome to another brand new Small Business Chat, this time with Sarah Hodgkins from mural company Charlotte Designs.Sarah’s been going for nine years now, so she’s learned a lot and developed her business in that time, starting off with general interior design, for example, then moving to specialising in murals. Although she had some experience of running her own business, I’m going to bet that it’s quite different now from in the 80s, with all the networking and social media that goes on now – I’d love to have some comments on that aspect from readers who’ve done the same!

Hello, Sarah! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called Charlotte Designs, and I set it up in May 2005.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I needed to work but wanted something that would be flexible enough for me to be a good Mum to my children. This seemed the best option.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I had interior designed on and off for many years, and whilst the idea of doing straight interior design again wasn’t appealing, specialising in children’s spaces was a differentiator and a new area of interest. Over the first four years or so of being in business, the mural side grew and the other areas didn’t, so I decided to specialise.

Had you run your own business before?

Yes, in the late 80s.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I started part time; in fact officially, I still am. I did a few jobs for friends free or at cost price to get a portfolio and some testimonials, then did some exhibitions to get the name out and networked.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

That the ebb and flow that you get in business is normal. It takes a while to not panic when things slow down.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Enjoy it, you are doing something that you love, and every mural you paint will make you better.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Nothing really.

What are you glad you did?

Networking: it transformed my business.

What’s your top business tip?

Network!

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

The business has grown steadily. Specialising in the murals was a brave decision, but turned out to be the right one.

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

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.

I can really echo what Sarah says about ebb and flow – I’ve learned to embrace the lulls and use them as an opportunity to recharge my batteries and catch up with other projects (or do power-blogging and scheduling!) but it does take a while to trust that the work will come back! I’d love to know more about her work in the dementia area, and look forward to finding out how she’s doing in her tenth anniversary year, next time.

You can find Charlotte Designs online at www.charlottedesigns.co.uk and of course 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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Small business chat – Susi Zobair

mugs Hello there! Today it’s on with another of my lovely new interviewees: please join me in welcoming Susi Zobair from Smart Bear Creative, a web design company that’s been running for just over a year now. Unlike many of our businesspeople, Susi’s freelance life was not an accident – she actually went back to formal studying in order to get the qualifications she needed to operate on her own, basing her new business on skills she already had from her former career. She even had a dry run at freelance life before she took on her new challenge!

Read on to find out how she did it and her plans for the future …

Hello, Susi! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called Smart Bear Creative and I set up on the eve of my 35th birthday, May 2013.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

After working in the industry for over a decade, I went back to university to qualify my experience and with the sole goal of working freelance, once I’d graduated.
Both my parents have been self-employed in the past and it’s always been a dream of mine to set up on my own.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

Web design, and social media, have been my passion for years; In fact, I have been interested in programming since a young age which was before the Internet was even around (publicly). Every job I have had has involved some form of IT or website design, even though this wasn’t necessarily my official role within the company, and so it seemed like a natural choice for me to pursue.

Had you run your own business before?

I worked as a freelance photographer whilst at uni to supplement my income, but it was more a lifestyle business and I knew the web design would soon take over my priorities, so I really didn’t put full effort into making it work.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I launched right into it. Throughout uni I saved up money to have a nest egg to see me through the first few months and as much as my time allowed during my dissertation, I started sourcing clients before the business was even launched. If I hadn’t done this, I would have had to get a part time job to be able to pay the bills whilst the business cashflow stabilised in the early days.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

To be honest, I’d been preparing for this for years and so I mostly knew what I needed to or I knew how I could find out, if I didn’t. I was fully aware it was going to be a lot of work, that it would take over my life (and it has), but I also knew I would love it!

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Have more faith in yourself, and keep going. You’ll have bad weeks and down days but the good weeks and fab days will far outweigh them!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

The only thing I regret is moving counties after my first 6 months in business. It was necessary for my partner’s job, but it essentially meant I had to start again building my network. It was, however, totally the right decision as Smart Bear Creative is thriving in the new area, but it did put a dip in the cashflow report!

What are you glad you did?

Go for it and not hold back[ even during the bad times it is the best feeling to be self-employed and in control of your own destiny.

What’s your top business tip?

Collaborate – competing with everyone is draining and frankly very hard work. It can even damage your business if you try to better prices. Collaboration increases your network (who are essentially your sales team), and gives you someone to talk to. Being self-employed can be lonely without having a ‘team’ behind you.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

Smart Bear has evolved considerably since the early days. Not only did the move in counties provide different customer needs/requirements but the business itself has adapted to new opportunities when they have developed. For example, we now offer a monthly payment plan as we saw a need to offer this service to our target market, who don’t always have the budget for a lump sum investment.

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

The way things are going, in 12 months time I’ll probably need someone to help me – whether that’s subcontracting my admin/sales/PR or hire someone to be in house. I’m reluctant to hire someone for the actual website-building as this is the part I love most, but if there’s more work than I can handle, I might have to source someone who has a similar style and ethos to my own!

Ah, yes, that tricky question about how to expand your business (I have been writing and commissioning a series of posts on this very topic). But it’s great to see that Susi’s already at this stage after only a year of operation. I wonder which route she’ll take … And how interesting that we’ve had two interviewees in a row who’ve had issues with having to move premises, as we saw last week with Kath from Three Bags Full.

You can find Susi and Smart Bear Creative web design online at www.smartbearcreative.com, on Twitter and on Facebook. You can call Susi on 07927 533 075 or email her.

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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