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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

 
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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. 

 
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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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Spring cleaning your budget for the new financial year

spring clean your financesToday we have a guest post by Chinny Ogbuagu from Pitney Bowes, who’s going to share with us her tips for spring-cleaning your budget as you submit your tax return and move through the new financial year. It’s always good to get other people’s views on these matters, and it’s timely for me as I sort out my bank statements and records and get them all sent off to my accountant. You don’t leave it until January, do you? Read on for plenty of handy tips and hints … 

Many of us think of spring cleaning as dusting away those cobwebs, sorting out your clothes and tidying up your house. Many business owners don’t often think about the new financial year: here are some top tips on how you can start planning by streamlining your budget for the coming year.

Review Your Budget

Have you ever heard of the saying “in with the new and out with the old”? You may want to spend a day going over your expenditure during the past few months and work out if there is anything you aren’t putting enough money aside for or maybe areas where you are spending too much. Look at areas in which your company can save costs such as business phones or internet providers, and maybe even costs of office rent and stationery. It’s always a good idea to review this on a monthly basis, as it can save you time and money in the long run.

Sort out your paperwork

This is the perfect opportunity to look thorough all of your paperwork and files and shred any documents you no longer need, especially if they contain any personal information such as names, bank details, addresses or phone numbers. You might need to invest in an industrial shredder for this and there are a number of affordable options for you to choose from at a number of office suppliers such as Pitney Bowes. Do take advice from your accountant on what you are allowed to shred and what you must keep for a statutory number of years.

Create Your Own Financial Calendar

Create an online financial calendar. This will help you to set reminders throughout the year to do things such as review policies and outlines tasks you should complete every month. You can even set this up in Gmail and set reminders to your mobile phone, or alternatively invest in an online financial calendar so you don’t forget when something important needs to be paid for or relooked at.

Go Paperless

You know that you have made progress when you clean out your sock drawer and you can finally close it after years or months of storing items you no longer wear.
According to the HMRC, you are advised to hang onto tax records for a particular accounting period for normally six years from the end of that period. For example, if the accounting period ends on 31 December 2012, the records have to be kept until 31 December 2018.

It might be easiest to keep the hard copies of those. But things such as bank and credit card statements, as well as pay stubs, can be scanned and stored in a cloud-based filing provider, such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

An article on Learnvest claims that you should keep your documents for the following before shredding (again, do check with your accountant and note that this can be different for different regions of the world):
Destroy in a few days:
• ATM receipts, once you record the transaction
• Bank deposit slips, once the funds appear in your account

Destroy after 1 month:
• Receipts for things you bought on a credit card, once you get your statement, unless you need it for a return or a warranty
• Credit card statement, unless it has a tax-related expense on it

It’s important for businesses to keep on top of this so that you don’t spend more than you have to:: just like you would with your shopping or household expenses, look at the best value for money. This will help to you keep up with today’s rising costs.

This article was written by Chinny Ogbuagu who works for Pitney Bowes helping small businesses to save time and money with their range of equipment and services. She’s also an avid social media user, following and commenting on industry trends.

 
 

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Small business chat – Kath Kilburn

mugs Hello there! After a short hiatus, Small Business Chat is back, with lots of fab new interviewees joining the roster and hopefully updating us for a few years to come. Unfortunately, a few of the original interviewees have gone out of business or just dropped out of touch (I do put a note on the last interview after a suitable period of time, so my readers or anyone searching for them know what’s happened), but that did mean that I was able to open up some spaces for some brand new interviewees, some with very new businesses, so you’ve got something a bit different to read and some more people to find out about.

Today we’re chatting to Kath Kilburn from Three Bags Full, who’s bought the wool, bought the shop and written the book! Kath started her business just under a year after I launched Libro, and I have to say that if you can run a successful business during an economic crisis, it gives you hope for the future! Kath had been pondering branching out on her own for some time, but, as for many, it took redundancy to make her launch her new business.

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

We started Three Bags Full in June 2010, towards the start of the economic downturn..

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I’d thought about starting a wool shop two decades earlier but it didn’t happen for various reasons. In early 2010 I was made redundant from my teaching job. With little prospect of finding another, we pooled our – mostly my husband’s – finances and the shop was born.

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

I’ve always loved wool, loved knitting and crochet and loved dealing with the public so it seemed like the perfect job for me. I’m also not very good at having a boss…

Had you run your own business before?

Never.

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

We started full-time. I’m in the shop five days, but Mike’s retired and he covers and helps out when necessary.

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

Well, whatever they’d told me I’d probably have listened politely and then done my own thing anyway, but maybe some advice about the importance of location for a shop would’ve been useful.

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

I’d tell myself that Ravelry – a website and forum for knitters and other fibre artists – does not hold as much sway in the UK as in the US. And it holds relatively little sway in Halifax.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Very little. We made a lot of mistakes but that was inevitable as initially we were just feeling our way. We make fewer wrong calls these days but sometimes you just have to make a judgement and it’s not bound to be right. You can only, as a shopkeeper, try as hard as you can to provide the stuff that local people, and tourists if you get them, wish to buy. Knowing what that is comes from experience.

Our mistakes have actually had a beneficial spin-off for us, insofar as I wrote my e-book, “So You’d Like to Open a Wool Shop…“, based on the premise that we made the mistakes so other potential shop owners wouldn’t have to. I’m pretty upfront in it about things we could’ve done differently.

What are you glad you did?

I’m glad we bit the entire bullet but, specifically, I’m glad we embraced some things I was initially reluctant about, for example, taking payment by PayPal and, more recently, selling some items on eBay.

What’s your top business tip?

Unless you love bookkeeping and are good at accounts, pay someone to deal with your books for you. (This doesn’t excuse you from keeping good records though.)

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

We’ve grown, but not really diversified, except in a small way.

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

Unfortunately last year the council closed our building in a very clumsy fashion and we consequently lost quite a lot of trade, so we’re now in a new location and slowly re-building our clientele. I’m hopeful that by next year we’ll have regained the ground we lost!

I wonder if any of us would be very good at having a boss now … Anyway, it sounds like Kath is good at pulling success out of adversity, using the lessons she’s learned to put together her book, for example, and I’m sure that the new premises will work out well for Three Bags Full in the next year. I look forward to reading the update!

You can find Kath’s website at www.threebagsfulluk.com and call her on 07941133155 or email her if you want to get in touch.

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 June 21, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Developing your Business: Expanding into Regional Offices

Sneak preview of the image from my new bookWelcome to another expert post in my series on growing your business. Today we’re going to take a look at why it makes sense to have a physical presence around the country (or beyond), written for us by Juliet Martin, representing Regus. Linked to this post, you can read about small business owners’ own experience moving out of the home office here, and Sam Barnes’ post about what to consider when planning to move outside the home here. Juliet’s going to share with us the value of renting offices in different places.

Advantages of Renting Corporate Settings around the Country

Today’s ever-growing business world is taking with it the ability for any one enterprise to be localised in a particular place. This means you should at least consider setting up new branches or virtual offices in multiple locations across the nation. Even though you will have to then manage a number of settings, you will gain plenty of benefits in the long run. Adapting to these modern, global times will provide you with the following five corporate advantages.

A commercial building

It pays to have more than one branch for your business Image

1. Access to Local Resources

If you produce any kind of goods, you may find that the various materials and components required are sourced from multiple areas around the country. For example, you may find the following are located in different regions:

• Mines
• Factories
• Ports
• Plantations
• Refineries

By opening up small branches near each of these facilities, you will then give your company greater access to a range of materials and services directly from the source. This means you won’t have to rely on a third party to bring these essentials to you.

2. Lowering Your Monthly Rent

Believe it or not, it may actually be more cost-effective to run a number of bare-bones offices around the country than a fully functional corporate setting in a single location. After you have negotiated to reduce the rent of your many branches, you can then look forward to even more savings thanks to the smaller and more compact premises that your company is now working from. If you can simplify how your work settings are planned out, eliminating excess features and only renting what is necessary, you can streamline your outgoing cash flow and still benefit from a number of corporate environments located around the country.

3. Honing Your Corporate Marketing

One difficulty that any localised business has is that its target audience is fairly limited, being restricted to a single geographical area. You can get around this by working from several different locations across the country. In general, people will wish to work with a business that has a presence in their neighbourhood because:

• It provides a local face to the company
• Contacting the enterprise is much easier
• Delivery times won’t be needlessly long
• Employees will be much more relatable

By branching out across the nation, you can tap into a wider consumer base than ever before, enabling you to find additional customers and boosting your sales to help cover the rental costs of your various corporate locations.

4. Added Convenience for Clients

Another advantage to the consumer is that it is far easier for them to come and visit your workplace if you are found scattered across the country. To cater to all your client’s needs, rent some office space at business centres around the nation. This will give them additional convenience as they can deal with your company in a number of ways thanks to your now local business setting. For example, they should be able to:

• Visit your office without driving for hours
• Post parcels and letters to you cheaply
• Phone without expensive long distance rates

There are times when your clients want some personal attention. In these cases, email won’t suffice. Video conferencing can be difficult to set up properly too. A better solution is just to have a local branch available so they can arrange for an appointment with you or a company representative without having to go through a lot of hassle to get there.

5. Broadening the Talent Pool

Lastly, by making the effort to rent corporate premises around the country, you will then have access to a greater range of skilled workers for your business. The truth is that having the right resources is crucial to helping you identify new talent. In this case, the resources in question are your local offices which can then tap into the growing number of potential candidates found in those local regions. People may not want to relocate to another city to work with your company so having multiple branches will give them a reason to sign on with you even though your main office is found halfway across the nation! In this way, you can increase the sheer talent within your organisation and grow your products and services accordingly.

As a brief recap, we can see that renting workplaces across the country can indeed provide many benefits to any enterprise. These advantages include the following:

1. Ease of access to national resources
2. More cost-effective rental payments
3. Effective locally targeted advertising
4. Increased consumer convenience
5. Wider talent pool for new employees

We would recommend that you get out there and expand your business operations as soon as possible to reap all of the above rewards. By occupying some of the best corporate spaces around the country, your company can grow and your customers will get even better service as a result! To make the process easier, get in touch with a provider such as Regus for assistance on renting suitable spaces at cities or regions you have interests in.

Author Bio: Juliet Martin is from Regus, a global office space solutions provider. Founded in 1989, Regus is a global organisation that aims to provide only the best office spaces and meeting venues to all kinds of businesses.

This post is part of my series on growing your business. Read more here and read about my own business journey in my books.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Organisation

 

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How to add an admin or moderator to your Facebook business page

In this post we’re going to learn how to add someone as a moderator on your business or organisation’s Facebook page, and also what it looks like when you are added as a moderator of a page.

How do I add someone as an administrator to my Facebook page?

To be added as an administrator of a page, you must Like that page first (or to be added as an administrator of a group, you must be a member of that group)

To add someone as an administrator of a page, they must Like that page first.

To add someone as a moderator, find See Likes on the Admin Panel of your page

1 likes button

You will see a list of people who have “Liked” your page, each with a little icon to the right.

2 list of likes

Find the person you want to add, click on the icon and choose Make Admin:

3 make admin

Once you’ve done that, you will get another screen which shows all of the people who are admins of that page:

4 make admin

This shows that you’ve added someone to have admin rights. Note the x top right – this can be used to remove them. Press Save … and you’ll be asked for your password (just as a safety measure):

5 make admin

Add your password and there they are, an admin.

How do I access the Page Roles area to change what my moderators can do?

If you want to change the roles that people have in moderating your page, go into the Page roles area by choosing Edit Page in the Admin Panel, then Manage Page Roles:

Facebook page moderator page roles

What are the different Facebook page moderator levels?

You can choose different levels of moderation to give to your admin people. If you want to change these at any time, go into the Page Roles area by choosing Edit Page then Manage Page Roles (see screenshot in the previous section.

Now, click on the arrow by the role name assigned to your moderator, and you will see a list of choices. The role that the administrator currently has will have a tick next to it. Click on a role to change the privileges that the administrator has.

Facebook page role optionsAn Admin can send messages, post as the page, create ads, see which person has created a post or comment, view insights (stats etc.) and assign page roles

An Editor can do everything that an Admin can do, plus they can edit the page itself.

A Moderator can do everything that an Admin can do, plus they can delete comments on the page

An Advertiser can see who created posts and comments, view insights (stats) and create adverts

An Analyst can see who created posts and comments and view insights

What does it look like when I’m added as an Admin of a Facebook page or group?

When the moderator of the page adds you as an admin, you will receive a notification. Depending on how you have notifications set up, you may receive an email – there will be a notification in your Facebook Notifications list. Here’s Laura’s which arrived after I’d added her, above:

facebook notification - added as moderator

On your own Facebook feed, you will see all of the Pages you administrate under the Pages heading. For groups, there is also a section called Groups You Admin under the Groups heading.

6 groups you admin

And here’s Laura’s Facebook menu, showing that she’s now administrator of her own page and mine:

List ofFacebook pages for which you are admin

To view the page or group for which you have admin rights, click on the page or group and your view will be that of the administrator, with the Admin panel at the top:

7 admin panel

What does having moderator status for a Facebook page actually mean?

Once you’re a moderator / admin, you can do any or all of the following (see list above for the different roles): see all of the statistics for the page, who likes that page and how the posts on the page are doing; comment under the name of the page (so in my case, Laura can post on the page as if she’s called Libro Proofreading and Copyediting Services) and delete other people’s comments as appropriate; create adverts.

So, if you are the owner of a page and add admins, be careful if you’ve associated a bank account or PayPal account with the page, or make sure you choose the appropriate role level for your moderators and make sure you trust any people to whom you’ve given full roles to not to go booking millions of adverts without your say-so!

To summarise – if someone asks you to be a page administrator / moderator for their or their business’s Facebook page:

  • Make sure you ‘Like’ their page first
  • Ask them to find you in the list of people who ‘Like the page’
  • Ask them to click and make you a moderator
  • You will receive a notification and the page will appear at the top of your page list in the left-hand margin
  • Click on the page name in the left-hand margin and you will have full administrator rights

In this post, we’ve learned how to add someone as a page administrator, and what happens to that person’s view of Facebook once this has been done. Thanks to Laura Ripper for providing screen shots and being a guinea pig page admin! Her Facebook page is here and the Libro one is here.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful, please share it using the buttons below! Thank you!

You can find more resources on social media in my blog resource guide (link takes you to the social media section) and read about using social media for your business in my book on growing your business.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Business, Social media

 

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