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Small business chat update – Bob Fowke

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update – this time with Bob Fowke from publishing company YouCaxton. I first interviewed Bob in 2012, and he updated us on his progress in January 2013 and January 2014. At that point, this is where he wanted to be by now: “We hope that our name will be known for quality at a national level. It’s going to  take more  than a year, but I’d love YouCaxton to be thought of as the Rolls-Royce of self-publishing – and, incidentally, we just published a biography of Charles Rolls and it’s selling very well”. A good link there, and amazingly for the interviewees, he does seem to be in the position he wanted to be – so many people have changed direction, moved their focus or just found the market has pushed them in a certain way, so this is quite a rarity! Let’s see how Bob is getting on …

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

Almost exactly, I would say. We’re gaining a good reputation by dint of hard work and through taking endless care of our writers, and we’re becoming well-recognised in our field. We’ve published some wonderful books and there’s more in the pipeline. There’s a real thrill when something worthwhile comes across my desk.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

It’s been incremental. The website has developed consistently and we’ve been able to take on more work – steady growth in other words. The biggest change is that we’re starting, tentatively, to act as publishers for one or two very specific books. We intend to make use of all three publishing models: publishing, co-publishing with authors and self-publishing by authors.

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

I’ve learned a lot about book design – even though I’m not the designer. It’s a subtle art.

Any more hints and tips for people?

It’s always the same. If you’ve written, or want to write, a book, by far the most important thing is to make every effort to write a good book. There are a lot of books out there and it’s not easy to stand out from the crowd. Publishing may have changed but this simple but hugely demanding requirement remains the same. The big danger with self-publishing is to publish prematurely. Take your time and don’t publish before you’re really ready and make sure you have it properly edited.

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

A bit bigger and slightly more diversified – with a Rolls-Royce of websites and superbly experienced editors and designers able to give the best service available. We still aim for quality above quantity.

Sounds like a good plan for me – slow growth and refinement of your business offering is a good way to go. And although I don’t work with YouCaxton, I can certainly echo Bob’s exhortation to wait a bit and let that book get as good as it can before publishing. One of my clients is on his seventh set of re-writes at the moment, and I know that process of refinement in his book is going to make a better book, just as Bob’s refinement and polishing of his business is going to make a better business.

The YouCaxton website is at http://www.youcaxton.co.uk/ and you can find all the requisite contact details there. Bob himself can be found on Twitter.

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 March 2, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Andrew Donnelly

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update – with Andrew Donnelly, who creates apps for iTunes (see the link at the bottom of this piece). I originally interviewed Andrew back in August 2011 and then followed up in September 2012, and the last one was in October 2013. When I asked him then where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he replied “I have work planned to take me up until 2014 at the moment, so my focus is on that, and I expect that to last into mid 2014. Working alongside a global brand on strategy and producing apps for them is an enjoyable experience so I hope it continues.” At that point he was working with just one company, giving them exclusive rights to his experience and expertise – now things have broadened out and shifted for him, as happens in fast-moving industries like technology. Let’s see how he’s getting on.

Hello again, Andrew! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

2014 was another good year for me as a business. The demand for iOS app work has increased dramatically from businesses, however with this has come a a shift in what I do slightly. I have found myself working more on what are called Enterprise apps (which means they are not delivered through the App Store but direct to the device). With this shift, also my main focus has been working on iPads, which has brought its own challenges, too.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I was hoping that the work with the Global Client I mentioned in last year’s interview would continue, however this didn’t materialise, Ive learned that the App Development market changes very quickly and keeping up with the new trends has required a lot of work outside of normal working hours. However, that has brought its own rewards with a greater knowledge of the technology.

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

This year, I wrote my first game Red Dot (give it a go, it’s free, it’s a pretty simple one but quite addictive). It was built using Sprite Kit – I wish I had done this sooner, as I’m eager to make another one now.

Any more hints and tips for people?

“Not my circus, not my monkeys” has been a good mantra to follow, as in concentrate on what you need to do, not what’s going on around you that doesn’t concern you.

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

Looking forward, I can see a lot more App work in the world of connected technologies and home. I think this is going to be a year where the game changes dramatically in the sense of what we can do with smart phones in a number of areas
1) connected home – controlling central heating, lights, garage doors, kettles, to name a few, are all out to market already.
2) Wearables – watches, fitness devices, gaming controllers, smart clothes all seem to be in the pipeline.
3) Beacons – like a personal GPS, you can set them up to detect based on proximity and action apps on the back of that, e.g. shop store fronts can offer discounts to customers who have the app installed.

I see the business looking into these technologies in more depth and producing apps to support them and make everyday life a little easier and smarter.

That’s all very interesting – we’ve been dabbling in the world of wearables here in Libro Towers, and there’s a lot more talk about that sort of thing even permeating into the less techy worlds. It must be exciting to be at the forefront of technological development like Andrew is, but then again, “Not my circus, not my monkeys” can be applied very generally!

You can find Andrew’s iTunes apps here.  and contact him via email or Twitter: as he says, “I’m always still open to giving people advice or guidance to help them out”.

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 February 28, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Simon Forder

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update – this time with Simon Forder from RingHello. Simon is one of my original 2011 interviewees, with a catch-up in October 2012, and we last caught up with Simon in November 2013, when things were changing rapidly in the telemarketing business but he was excited about having his new book published. At that point, he said, “I am hoping in a year’s time to have consolidated the position with regard to The Castle Guy, so that I can spend more time on this passion of mine, and to be more stable with my RingHello work, rather than be working on a month by month basis. Having new clients is always a nervy time, so as I continue to get results for them this should happen. Speak to you next year!” So, how have things gone?

Hello, Simon, how are you? Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I’m not sure that this time last year I had an expectation about where I would be, more an idea about where I wanted to be. By and large I think I am in the right general area, but of course things happened a bit differently to how I might have expected them to. A shoulder injury has caused delays in the development of The Castle Guy side of my business, but at the same time allowed me the space I needed to sit back and approach things from a different and very exciting direction – after having the time to reflect on it all! As the telemarketing is my bread and butter still, I concentrated on getting the job done during the day, leaving me little scope to continue at my desk in the evenings. So I am in a more consolidated position with The Castle Guy. With telemarketing, the business has remained constant, which is a good thing.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Reading through the comments I made last year, the market hasn’t changed all that much since 2013, and all the statements I made in our previous interview still ring true today – I am still having these conversations with prospective clients. The moves we made to encourage clients to us that value what we can do, and discourage those whose business models don’t fit with ours, have been successful, and we don’t get very many queries from people who don’t already buy into our way of working, and our areas of speciality.

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

With my increasing focus on The Castle Guy, I have found that it is very easy to allow myself to get over-ambitious with what I can achieve in a day, and that quite often because I like to do things thoroughly, they (a) take longer than I expect and (b) don’t need to be perfect, because what I see as imperfect other people see as an exceptional piece of work. This has meant I have become far more aware of making sure I don’t over-reach myself and burn out. I wish I had known this time last year that I would still be suffering pain from an injury after 12 months; it would have enabled me to do a little at a time rather than do nothing and hope that I would recover quickly and just get cracking again.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Just one – listen to what your body tells you! If you don’t, it might just have to shout louder.

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

Ooh, I don’t know. I plan to have made significant progress with The Castle Guy, so that I can devote more time to it, and develop it further. The more I do with it, the more I should get back, so fingers crossed for a successful 2015! With RingHello, I’d still like a bit more stability, but perhaps that’s a change in the marketplace that’s permanent. Either way I am confident that what is right will happen when it’s meant to. And I also hope to be back to full fitness by then too!

It sounds like it’s been an eventful year, but one from which Simon has learnt and drawn some basic principles, so the effort hasn’t been at all wasted. Getting customers on board who already accept and prefer your way of working is a major bonus, and bodes well for the future. We wish Simon all the best for a full recovery, too, of course!

Simon can be found at ringhello.co.uk and you can find all his contact details here or call him on . His book is available via his website and on Amazon.

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 February 21, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Shelly Terry

Small business chat update – Shelly Terry

Well, I’ve had a bit of an influx of updates after the Christmas rush for our crafty folks, so I’m back to the occasional tradition of posting an update more than once a week (public opinion suggested that this was more popular than two-person posts but do let me know what you think). So, after Saturday’s chat with Jennifer Woracker, who’s been on maternity leave, we have Shelly Terry from hand-made card company, Evelyn Mae, who’s expecting her first baby! Of course this is going to have an impact on her business, and not only that, but she’s just moved house. This was expected, though – when we spoke to Shelly last in March 2014, she said, “This time next year I will have moved house and cities, and as yet, I don’t know where that will be, so hopefully in my new home I will be able to set up my office again (space providing!) and be exploring a new city and all its opportunities for my work”. Let’s hear how this year has gone …

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

I am exactly where I expected to be, albeit a few months later than I’d hoped! We moved about 3 weeks ago – so not only am I still unboxing, I am also changing addresses and tackling paperwork as well as downsizing the office! I haven’t had time to explore the business opportunities locally, but that will be on hold until next year now, I would think.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Firstly, we have stayed in Kent, now living just outside Canterbury, so a lot of opportunities locally have stayed the same. I still have a room for my office/workshop, but this time it also doubles as a guest room, so I am streamlining the equipment and learning to be ruthless! The biggest thing that has changed this year is that we are expecting our first baby – so this is hugely impacting Evelyn Mae!! I am half way through the pregnancy, so I am desperately trying to get up to speed, and getting organised so my customers know exactly what they can order and how long for.

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

How tired I would feel being 20 weeks pregnant and trying to move house as well as downsize the workshop and replacing old equipment! If I could do it again I would have been far more ruthless in getting rid of things, and I would also have replaced my laptop before I moved, rather than waiting for it to die – as it has broken this week, exactly when I needed it the most!!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Time flies, so planning and time off is important, as is getting jobs done and not always saying ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ !

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

In a years time, our baby will be 7 months old, so I am hoping that I will have offered a few Christmas letters, and be readying myself to open again – whether that is full or part time. I fully intend to spend as much time as I can with our baby, so as long as I have a business plan my husband and I are happy with, I will feel accomplished.

Wow – busy times ahead, but some good general points to pull out for everyone here – regular readers might remember Ruth Badley, who suddenly moved to Dubai and wished SHE’d sorted out her office in advance, too! Although we can’t be prepared for every eventuality, it is important to keep things up to date and keep any equipment maintained or replaced in good time, in case something unexpected suddenly happens. I know I’ve been a lot happier since I’ve had a back-up person who can pick up my work if I’m suddenly indisposed. We of course wish Shelly and her family all the best for this exciting year, and look forward to finding out how it all goes!

You can find Shelly’s work online at www.evelynmae.co.uk (with links on there to other crafting sites where she has a presence, such as Etsy). She has a blog on that site, too, and you can also find her on Facebook.

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 February 16, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Jennifer Woracker

mugs It’s Small Business Update time – hooray (and for a little while, you’re going to see bonus ones on every other Monday, as everyone suddenly got in touch with their updates after Christmas – I do have a lot of crafters on the list, like today’s interviewee, so that’s completely fair enough!). Today it’s the turn of Jennifer Woracker who was from Twinkleballs last time but now also has a new venture! We first met Jennifer in December 2012 and caught up with her most recently in January 2014. When I asked her then where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she replied “I hope to be running cake decorating classes locally and to be on my way to having a tutorial book published. However, this might take more than a year, as I think the new baby will slow things down. I am also working on a new range of clay characters that will make extra special keepsake gifts for special occasions”. With a new baby on the way, who knew what was going to happen … in fact there’s a baby and a new line of business in the picture now! Read on to find out more …

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

No, things have moved in a different direction and I am busier than I ever imagined I would be.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I no longer work with fondant, I only make polymer clay products now and I have moved away from cakes. I still make cake toppers, but my most popular product is my award-winning ‘Forever Family’ Baubles. They are so popular I have opened a new Facebook page and website just for them. The TwinkleBalls Big Bauble Boutique offers one of a kind keepsake gifts for all occasions: hand-sculpted polymer clay caricatures, displayed in acrylic balls, finished with a decorative ribbon.

My most popular design is the award-winning classic ‘Forever Family’ Christmas Baubles, tiny models of your own family wearing festive jumpers and playing in the snow. I am also working on a New Home bauble, a Baby Shower bauble and an Engagement bauble, I have a waiting list of over 40 people already!!

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

I wish I had kept updating my website whilst on Maternity leave, it has lost its place on the Google ranking and I am struggling to be seen again. I need to start work on Christmas orders a lot earlier – last Christmas was crazy busy and I only just managed to keep up!

Any more hints and tips for people?

It has become a lot harder to be seen on Facebook, so I recommend spreading yourself a little wider with a website and use other social platforms such as Twitter and Etsy. I myself need to put a lot more effort in to these areas!

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

Hopefully having two very successful websites selling my unique products all over the globe. My younger son will start full time school so it will free up a bit more time for me to take on new orders, with my baby girl by my side!

If I get really popular I might even have to take on an assistant, but success scares me, so I will just concentrate on the here and now at the moment.

It can be scary working out what to do when your business really starts to take off (I have a series of blog posts on the topic if you’re interested in reading about the options – one of which is, indeed, taking on staff). It’s interesting how many of my interviewees end up going in a different direction to the one they’d planned – but it’s always good to be flexible and to see where your business takes you. I salute Jen for managing to develop this lovely new line of products while looking after a new baby – and I’m sure she’ll find a way to get back up those Google rankings and build her business over the next year!

You can find Jennifer’s new venture online at www.bigbaubleboutique.com  and on Facebook.

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 February 14, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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MailChimp 1 – Signing up for MailChimp

Welcome to the first in a series of walk-throughs that will show you how to set up a MailChimp account, set up templates and lists, and send out a MailChimp newsletter. You can start to set up your subscriber list in MailChimp 2 and create a sign-up form in MailChimp 3

What is MailChimp?

MailChimp is a web-based service which allows you to send out newsletters to a list of people who have signed up to receive them. There are other services out there, but MailChimp is very popular, often recommended to newbies and is free as long as you have under 2,000 subscribers and send out fewer than 12,000 emails per month. You can upgrade in order to get extra features and also if your list goes over the 2,000 mark. Please note right here and now that I’m not being sponsored by MailChimp for doing these posts – I’ve been asked to do them by people I’ve been working with at social media training sessions, and I happen to use MailChimp myself so can give you all some training resources. Other similar services include iContact, Constant Contact and Aweber and you might want to check these out before committing to MailChimp.

Why use a special program? Why not just send out emails?

That’s a good point: if you have a load of emails to send out, why not, you know, just email them? Here are a few reasons:

  • It’s really, really easy to cc instead of bcc when you send out a mass email. CC is the one where everyone can see the email address of everyone the email’s been sent to. People get really annoyed when that happens.
  • Internet service providers can get really suspicious if you’re sending out regular emails to hundreds of people – or if one of their clients receives such emails. Your newsletter is likely to bounce into a spam folder and your own ISP might block you from sending them.
  • There are rules on spamming and using people’s email addresses to market to them without permission. The key is to allow people to opt in rather than assume they are to opt out. Services like MailChimp look after this, making sure people opt in to your mailings properly and that your details are on your emails. So you can be reassured that you’re not doing anything inappropriate.
  • It’s really easy to design nice newsletters, include photos and all sorts when using a service like MailChimp.

How do I sign up to MailChimp?

In this post, we’re going to walk through exactly how to sign up to MailChimp. In future posts, we’ll look at more detail of templates, getting people onto your list, etc. But here are the stages of signing up:

First of all, go to www.mailchimp.com, where you will find a button marked Sign Up. Hit that button:

mailchimp signupThis will take you to a screen where you can sign up for your first, free account. At this point, you need to enter your email address and create a username and password:

mailchimp sign up username and passwordNote, because it’s not that clear, that your password must tick all the boxes below the password entry area. Here I’ve missed out on “one special character”, so I had to add an exclamation mark to my password:

mailchimp passwordAt this point, the Create my Account button stops being greyed out and you can press the button. Now you’ll be asked to validate your account …

mailchimp validateAt this point, you need to pop over to the email account that you gave in the sign-up step. The email from MailChimp will obviously be from them and will have a subject line that talks about validating your account. When you open the email, it will look like this:

mailchimp validation emailClick on the button and you’ll go through an initial validation stage …

Mailchimp validationPop the number in, press the Confirm signup button, and you’ll then have a form to fill in.

7 enter details 1

Mailchimp enter detailsFill in as much of this form as you can. The address details are so that MailChimp can include them at the bottom of your newsletters. This is good practice and it’s a legal requirement in many countries to include this information on emails. However, if you run your business from a private address, as I do, I think it’s fine to smooth over the details a little and, for example, not include your house number. I am not a lawyer, though, and you might wish to check the legal requirements in your country.

You can add a profile photo at this point, if you wish.

Once you press the Save and Get Started button, you will find yourself in the main MailChimp screen, from which you can create templates, an email list or a campaign (i.e. an actual newsletter). This is also the screen you will encounter when you go to the website and log in rather than signing up.

Mailchimp logged inSo here you are, all signed up and ready to go.

Coming soon – articles on creating a newsletter template, adding sign-up forms, and sending out your campaign …

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 2 – setting up a subscriber list and importing contacts

MailChimp 3 – setting up a sign-up form

How to avoid two common MailChimp errors

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Business, Social media

 

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Small business chat update – Professor Elemental / Paul Alborough

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update – this time with my ex-colleague, now performing in pith helmet and safari suit as the rather marvellous and steampunky Professor Elemental, Paul Alborough. I’ve watched Paul’s career with huge interest and admiration, and he’s managing to sustain a career in what I think is called Chap Hop, with forays into novel writing (I review his novel on my book review website), comics, Kickstarters, trans-Atlantic appearances and more. We first met Paul in this interview series in February 2013, when he’d been freelance for just a year, and when we caught up with him in February 2014, he had had an exciting year and was reaching a nice steady phase that he wanted to continue, telling me that for the upcoming year he wanted to be, “Doing slightly more writing and maybe just a smidgen less admin. To be honest, though, if my life continues like this, I can’t imagine wanting it to change all that much …” When I got in touch to sort out this year’s answers, it came at a time when Paul was creating what he described as “the world’s biggest spider diagram” in an attempt to work out what 2015 looks like, and he told me that he finds it helpful doing these interviews every year – I do, too, and I know many of my other interviewees do. Anyway, let’s see what the Prof has been getting up to …

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

I’m delighted to say that I am. By which I mostly mean I am safely tucked up in my rented office, surrounded my toys and comics, larking about on the Internet, while eating crisps.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

There have been some subtle but important changes over the last year; Thanks to my brilliant new manager, we are finally getting to grips with organising shows so that I am not at the mercy of whoever books me. I’m going off to the States a bit less too, it’s a great experience but can be very disruptive to the rest of my life outside of work. I was also lucky enough to harness the power of crowd funding last year and that was a brilliant, if exhausting experience- one that I am keen to repeat and expand in 2015. Most importantly, I have a new rule that I am not allowed to start the day without writing at least one verse or story. This has put creativity back in it’s place at the top of the ‘to do’ list each day.

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

Things that I have learned in 2014: Rich bankers make terrible audiences, people are very kind, Radio 6 will play your music if you can get it to the right person, if you are chosing a butler, a polite Canadian is an ideal choice, you *can* have too much of a good thing, Swedes don’t do small talk, don’t release more than one project at the same time, reindeer tastes better than you think, never, ever drink home made moonshine from a jar. Even if it would be rude not to.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Find good people to collaborate with in as many ways as possible. Every project last year came about in partnership with other creative and business types and it made such a difference to productivity. Not only do collaborations make projects more fun to work on, but they can also help meet deadlines and boost your enthusiasm if it starts to wane. Plus, the more people who are involved, the more people who will help you shout about your project when it is completed.

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

Having experimented with releasing comics, novels, toys and card games alongside the music, this is the year where I want to try tying it all together. My aim is to create a project that tells a story using every medium I have at my disposal, while also involving all of my favourite creative friends that I have worked with so far. Even better, if I can get the crowdfunding right, i can ensure that we all get paid for our work too. It’s the biggest thing that i have ever attempted though, so wish me luck!

I always love what Paul tells me he’s learned during the year (check back to last year’s interview for more hilarious learning points) but obviously there are some serious points here, too. It’s always fascinating to see what happens when a new freelancing project or business settles down into the mature stage, a time when you can reassess your work schedule, redress the work-life balance and enjoy a sense of control and freedom. I can’t wait to see what happens through 2015!

You can find Paul’s work, writing, toys, comics, music, books, etc., at  www.professorelemental.com – and also on Twitter and Facebook,

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 February 7, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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