Tag Archives: business

What is prosopagnosia and how does it affect the self-employed person?

Cartoon expressing the experience of prosopagnosiaI read an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper this week about prosopagnosia (or “face blindness”).This is a condition I suffer from (not in the most severe way, but it does affect my life – and my business life), and I haven’t found much else about prosopagnosia and the businessperson. So, I thought it might be useful to share some information about what it is, how it affects me, as an example, and some coping strategies I’ve worked out for it. I would love other prosopagnosics to share their experiences and solutions, too, and I’ll link to some useful resources at the end.

I know this is a long piece, but I didn’t want to be all teaser-ish and leave the coping strategies to another blog post. Feel free to jump down to those, though, if you want to!

What is prosopagnosia?

Prosopagnosia is also known as face-blindness, and this key term really explains what it is. Someone with the condition can see another person’s face OK: they can usually identify it as a face. What they can’t do is recognise who it is, tell the difference between similar-looking people, recognise familiar people in a different context, etc. In severe cases, people can even be unable to recognise their own family members, in whatever context, apart from knowing “If it’s a man in my house, it’s likely to be my husband”. Many prosopagnosics have complicated workarounds to help them to recognise people – their gait, glasses, common items of clothing – but this isn’t always fail-safe.

A side-effect of this can be an inability to distinguish expressions and emotions on people’s faces.

Where does it come from? You can pick up prosopagnosia from a brain injury or stroke, but most people acquire it as what the experts call a ‘developmental disorder’, i.e. it’s a connection that doesn’t get made at the right time when your brain is developing in early childhood.

It can be really distressing to be like this. I’m a reasonably friendly and warm person who likes to help other people. I have a horror of offending people or being rude. How horrendous to find out that you’ve repeatedly blanked someone in the street or to ask someone what they do, only to see a shocked expression and realise that they told you all about their business last time you met.

There’s lots of information and the scientific stuff on a handy University of Bournemouth website.

My experience with prosopagnosia

I didn’t know I was prosopagnosic for years – but I discovered the term in my 30s and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. It was “A Thing”. I wasn’t just weird (well, not in that way, anyway). Other people had it!

I don’t have the most severe form of the condition. I can usually recognise family members and close friends. But it’s not like that thing where you know you know someone but can’t remember their name. I will see someone I spoke to last week – yesterday, even – and if they’ve not “taken” in my mind, I will not have any idea that I’ve ever met them before. Until they walk up to me, know my name, and know things about me, that is.

experience of prosopagnosiaSo, I have trouble recognising people or knowing that I’ve ever seen them before. I will walk past people I know quite well. I have developed coping strategies – I joke that I got together with my husband because he had a distinctive hairline (he had a widow’s peak, not some weird curlicue business) and a goatee and has a distinctive gait. This is only partly true. But I do get very discombobulated when he changes his beard, and I am well-known among my friends at parkrun for having real trouble picking him out in a crowd of runners – even if he has his special hat on.

I’m also not good when watching new TV programmes with lots of people (Strictly Come Dancing can be difficult in the early weeks), such as soaps and reality shows. This sounds funny, but it can REALLY annoy the person you’re watching with. I am known for mixing up pairs of people who I genuinely think are the same person (Matthew Broderick and John Cusack for example). They may not look identical to you, but if they have similar coloured hair and body shape, they’re the same person to me.

I don’t THINK I pick friends based on them having very definite looks or features, but I wouldn’t put it past me. I know I recognised one friend from her shoes rather than her face or hair when I saw her on the high street once (phew, got away with it).

Two things that I find particularly difficult are:

  • Changes in context. Give me someone from running club in running kit on club night or, within reason, in normal clothes and a similar hairstyle, volunteering at parkrun and I’m fine. Present them to me on the high street, in town, on a train, at the airport – not so much. I met someone in the gym the other day who recognised me from one meeting, when I scanned her barcode at parkrun a few weeks before. She knew she knew me from somewhere – not something that I’d manage to achieve!
  • Changes in look. I am constantly amazed that someone I know from said running club can recognise me not in flourescent gear and with my hair down rather than in bunches. To me, that’s a different person, someone I don’t know. How do they do that?

I’ve actually reached a point where I just explain it to new people I meet who I might meet again. I didn’t do this when I started networking for business, and I really wish I had. I certainly remember asking a “new woman I’d never met before” her name and being horrified to realise I’d met her twice before, and had quite long conversations with her. I wish I’d explained my condition then, and I will be sharing this post with her!

The good news: I do eventually get used to people and recognise them pretty well immediately – but it takes more meetings than it will for the average person. I’m also quite good at telling identical twins apart, maybe because I’m used to doing the checking of extra details that non-prosopagnosics don’t have to worry about.

Prosopagnosia and business / self-employment

Business revolves around recognising people. Even if you craftily have a job where you don’t have to deal with your clients face to face (hello, editing and transcription!), you tend to end up doing events, going to networking, etc. All of that can be a minefield. It’s all about who you know, and meeting, liking and trusting people – difficult if the person you’re speaking to seems to think they’ve never met you before when you had an in-depth conversation about widgets last time you met.

If you’re an introvert, by the way, this can make business encounters and networking even more exhausting than they already are!

I’m going to share some coping strategies that I’ve used in my business life (or should have used sooner). If you have this issue, too, I would LOVE you to share your experiences and coping strategies in the comments below!

Coping strategies for the business owner or businessperson with prosopagnosia

Tip 1: Be honest about it

I really wish I’d always done this. When I meet new people who I might meet again, I now pretty well always say, “Just to let you know, I have a condition called prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, which means that I have trouble recognising people. If you see me out and about, please come and say hello and remind me who you are!” It breaks the ice a bit, and I’ve not found anyone so far who’s reacted badly to this (why would they? Would you want to meet someone who did react badly again?)

Tip 2: Use the features of networking to your advantage

Networking events often feature badges and usually feature business cards. Hooray! You can at least make a note of people’s names and check their badges next time. I am good at recognising words and so I’ll commonly collect business cards from people I’ve met, then look out for those names next time. If you can’t read the badge from a distance, make a conversation about it: “Oops, my badge is peeling off,” “Where did you get your name badge from?” (this one only works at the beginning, obviously). Moving around the event and re-meeting people, a quick glance at the badge will reassure you as to whether you’ve met them before.

Tip 3: For one-off events with a lot of circulating, concentrate on a non-facial feature

If you’re at a one-day conference or training day, people aren’t likely to change too much. If you know you’re not good with faces, concentrate on earrings, unusual shoes, an e-watch – any clue that you can pick up that will help you to match the person to someone you know when they come around again (you probably already do this, but just in case).

Tip 4: Try to have a role at events

Weirdly, having a role that means lots of people talk to you can make it easier. They probably won’t expect you to recognise them, so if someone’s chasing up their gluten-free lunch, they’re likely to say so, meaning you can context-match and have the appropriate conversation.

Tip 5: When you’re having a meeting, turn up first

If you’re already in the meeting place, perhaps sitting down in an open and friendly position but looking at your phone or gazing calmly around you, it’s much more likely that the other person will come to you. If a different person you know, nothing to do with the meeting, just happens to come in, you’re just going to have to hope they have very different attributes (different gender, age, etc.) to the person you’re meeting – but I’ve never had a mix-up.

This one works for dates and meeting up with a new friend, too.

Tip 6: Be super-friendly

If you can manage to be super-friendly and approachable with a “Hi, how are you?” you can often pick up hints as to whether the other person already knows you from their answer.

Tip 7: Have a friend with you

If you know you’re going to be doing a regular event, volunteering session etc. there’s no shame in enlisting the help of a friend. I try to take my husband when I’m meeting people at the railway station (so many faces!) and pal up with a known person who can give me clues and cues when I can.

Tip 8: Do a job where you can hide the prosopagnosia

My job, as I mentioned above, doesn’t involve me being face to face with clients. I really do not know how I’d do that, actually. If you do have that kind of role and this condition, I really would like to know how you manage, as it will help other people (pop a comment below or get in touch if you’d rather be anonymous). You can use the tips above to work out who people are, and if you have regular customers, you will start to recognise them in time. How do waiters and teachers manage it, I wonder?

Dealing with prosopagnosics

If you meet one of us and you know (because we’ve told you) or suspect that we are prosopagnosic, please bear with us! We do not mean to be rude! Of course, I’m better at recognising (ha ha) this in other people, and I have managed to reassure and inform a couple of people that it’s not them, it is A Thing, but if someone fails to recognise you a few times, reintroduces themselves to you when you think they know who you are, or has to ask your name when they’re ticking you off a list and they’ve met you a few times before, chances are they’ll have a touch of prosopagnosia.

Top tips for dealing with someone with prosopagnosia:

  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Do introduce yourself, just “Hi, it’s Liz the slow runner, we met at the back of the pack at last week’s run” will work wonders.
  • Don’t think they’re stupid, it’s just one aspect of them. We all have blind spots. I’m really good at recognising voices, for example.
  • Don’t suddenly grow a beard or dye your hair without warning them (that’s a bit of a joke of course, but if you’re close to a prosopagnosic, it’s best to warn them of any major changes in appearance coming up, and remind them afterwards).
  • If they ask you who someone is, or to help them spot their husband in a crowd – again – don’t sigh with exasperation, just try to help.


I hope this has helped anyone with prosopagnosia feel less alone. If you want to get in touch with me about it, feel free to do so via my contact form.

The Guardian article explains things very clearly and easily, with good examples.

The prosopagnosia website is a bit more formal but ever so useful, and there’s a discussion forum, too!

And as I said, if you have anything to add or any help you can give or stories to share, please comment below. And if you know anyone this article might help, please share it using the sharing buttons below. Thank you!

PS: This was quite a difficult article and image that I wanted to get right. Thank you to the people who helped me out!

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Posted by on October 8, 2015 in Business, Prosopagnosia, Skillset


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Small business chat update – Julia Walton

Small business chat update – Julia Walton

Today we’re catching up with Julia Walton from J. Walton Restoration  who we first met in July 2013 and then again in August 2014. I’ve been really enjoying watching her Facebook page for the last couple of years, seeing the amazing furniture restoration jobs she’s completed. When I asked Julia in 2014 where she wanted to be now, she replied,  “I’m really not sure. Permanent workshop space is an issue and I think that’s something I need to look at, however relocation back to the north of England is niggling away at the back of my mind, we’ll see,” and indeed she did relocate this year – read on to find out how things are going and a special news flash at the end.

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

I’ve just jumped off the deep end into the unknown and left my workshop and clients behind to move to be closer to family. Over the past month I’ve been relocating, cruising my narrow boat up from West London to Yorkshire. I didn’t know if we’d have the confidence to do it but it’s been part of the long-term plan for a while.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The location is completely different, and that will bring with it a change in clients. It’s VERY early days though as I have yet to even find a workshop.* I’ll be looking for the same sort of work, though I might need to look a little further up here as I’ve had to leave my best contact and the work he supplied behind.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
On the work front, I don’t know, but on a personal note, it would be how much I enjoy cruising the canals. I live on a narrow boat and that’s how we’ve travelled north. We’ve lived aboard our boat for 3 years but never cruised for so long. Waking up in your own bed each morning but somewhere new is a real experience, I love it.

Any more hints and tips for people?

At this stage I”d hesitate to  encourage people to take the plunge and relocate without a safety net, ask again in a years time and we’ll see whether I’ve sunk or swum!

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

Hopefully I’ll have set up my workshop and begun building clients and confidence in the new area.

* STOP PRESS  Julia got in touch just before I published this update to report that J. Walton Restoration is now located in Exchange Mill, Elland, located just 5 minutes from J24 of the M62. The area as far as clients are concerned is around Huddersfield, Brighouse, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, perhaps Leeds. West Yorkshire in general.

It’s all so exciting – and fancy relocating via living on a narrow boat – I think Julia’s the only one of my interviewees to live in such an exciting home! Best of luck to Julia as she re-establishes herself and her company in Elland and we’ll look forward to catching up with her newt year. Do follow J. Walton Restoration on Facebook to see all the lovely projects she’s been engaged in.

Julia’s website is at and her Facebook page is here. You can read her blog of her narrow boat cruise North here.

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 October 3, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat – Carrie Weekes and Fran Glover

Small business chat interview two mugsI’m delighted to feature Carrie Weeks and Fran Glover from A Natural Undertaking on the day that they’re also featured on the nationwide Small Business Saturday Small Biz 100 blog.

I first met Carrie, now co-running a funeral director based in the Moseley/Kings Heath area of Birmingham, almost exactly 20 years ago, when we were studying for a Master’s in Library and Information Studies. Who would have known that two decades later, we’d both be successful businesspeople, me an editor and Carrie a funeral director? Well, actually, I don’t think the link is too tenuous, as, like the librarians we thought we were going to be, we are helping people and providing information. I wonder where our course-mates are now! I’ve been watching Carrie’s business, started up with business partner Fran Glover, grow over the last year or so, and I have to say that if I could have predicted a business that was going to be a success, it would be this one, as they’ve planned, branded, networked and worked their way into an excellent position already. Let’s meet Carrie and find out how the business started and has been doing …

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

Our business is called A Natural Undertaking, and we’re an independent Funeral Director. We registered as a company in May 2014, ran our first funeral in September 2014 and officially launched the business in November 2014.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I had just come through a period of enforced unemployment while looking after my daughter, who was very poorly. When she got better, I was in a position where I had no job. I decided to take the idea I’d had in the back of my mind for years and find a way to try to do it – “if not now, then never” was the thought behind it.

Plus, for the previous 25 years, I’d worked for other people. I’d reached a point where I’d seen a number of friends setting up their own businesses, and realised that it was possible.

Obviously, there was a career path where I could work for a funeral director rather than setting up on my own, or in a partnership, as I eventually did. But as an independent company, we can see the process through from beginning to end, and can be flexible for our clients. That really appealed to me, and continues to appeal.

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

Although it might seem like an odd choice to some people, I had a long-held belief that the funeral business had not changed for the past 100 years, and funerals I had been involved in didn’t reflect how interesting people were and how society has changed.

We have also changed as consumers: the advent of the Internet has given an opportunity to change the business model, giving interesting challenges. In the old days, you’d have a local funeral directors on the high street, which probably ended up being bought out by a big company, selling packages which suited them. Now, the process can be broken down into its component parts, giving people choice and exposing the myths about what can and can’t be done.

I’m also passionate about helping people and giving them choice and options. As a funeral director, every client is different, and I love finding out about people and giving their loved ones the choices that will help them through their grief. It’s rewarding for me and it helps them at the same time.

Of course, I did a large amount of work experience and training in the industry before I took the plunge myself.

Had you run your own business before?

I hadn’t run my own business before, but I’d worked at a business library helping start-ups and with social enterprises, helping them with their business plans, so I had the theory behind the business side of things (and got experience with the practical side once I’d worked out this is what I wanted to do).

Fran had run her own business and also had marketing experience, and that’s how our business happened: she came in to give me support as a friend and mentor, then decided to join me and become an undertaker. She saw that this was a viable business proposition with a gap in the market as well as being a way that she could feel she was doing something more meaningful.

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

In the 12 months before we started trading, I did a lot of work experience with like-minded funeral directors across the country. A vitally important aspect of this was networking and identifying individuals and companies in the whole movement that’s been recently opening up the ‘death conversation’ – with the Natural Death Centre, death cafes, death salons, the Good Funeral Awards and a loose network of operators who were interested in the same things that we were.

I identified the leaders of the conversation and made contact with them in order to learn from the best; the pioneers. I went to see them, they recommended me to others, and I met all sorts of people. I have to say that I found people outside the mainstream welcoming and supportive of our plans.

Being a funeral director isn’t a profession with a single career path. There are legal responsibilities and health & safety and risk management considerations, but unlike in the US, there is not a universally recognised system of qualification. We surrounded ourselves with brilliance, knowledge and wisdom, in effect apprenticing ourselves to the best people.

This period of fact-finding and training overlapped with us registering as a Limited Company – it was important to us from the start to take the less risky route with limited liability. We went in full-time committed from the start, but built the business slowly.

Two things that helped us in the beginning were support from the Chamber of Commerce, including a training event called Ready for Business, and the associated support of a mentor, who for a few vital months helped with our business plan and acted as a sounding board and a source of external accountability.

Before we started pitching for any business or running any funerals, we developed our branding and worked on our brand development, pitching ourselves, the language used on our website and marketing materials. We leased a vehicle and equipment and obtained a government Start-up Loan.

We always made sure we were covering our costs, and continue to do so.

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

That this is a 24-hour business, both from the point of view that obviously someone could ring us in the middle of the night to ask about our services, but also more fundamentally that if it’s your own business, you can’t switch off. It even invades your dreams!

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

Don’t worry about what other people in the business are going to think about you. We started out scared about upsetting The Funeral Business – but it’s not about what they think, it’s about what the individual families we are helping think.

Do a good job, one family at a time. Some people might call us a Disruptor, we simply believe that we are a business that’s helping to change the business model. Having 35 families and counting that are really pleased with what we’ve done for them gives us the confidence that this is needed.

The main message: you have a right to do this.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I wish we’d had the confidence to have a higher profile locally early on, to have had more guts to really promote ourselves locally. The funeral business works on quite a small network of word-of-mouth and reputation: now, people who have been to our funerals get in touch when it’s time to organise one for their loved one.

What are you glad you did?

There are a few things we’re really glad we did:

  • First of all, we put in place a network of support right from the beginning. Written into our business plan and future plan is the aim to make our own lives better, too. That means having cover from our associates so that we can have family time and take holidays, and maintaining a good work-life balance right from the start.
  • We’re glad that we spent time, money and effort on the branding, getting a proper design for our brand, website and marketing materials, being sticklers for detail, working out what we wanted and getting it: the right name, the right feel. It was a bold decision to put the branding on our vehicle, which is non-traditional in the business but has resulted in us picking up work.
  • We’re also glad that we’ve been part of the bigger conversation about death and dying, that we’ve networked and taken full advantage of the opportunities that are offered to us. If you give people quality information and work for the good of the industry and society as well as your own business, people will be able to make more informed choices, and will go to a business that allows them to make these choices, that will deliver them. The things that we do now: having stalls at local street fairs, running death cafes, educating the public on the choices available, will ultimately benefit our business as well.

What’s your top business tip?

If you just do the best job you can, every single time, take every opportunity to learn from what you’re doing, and don’t worry about everyone else, that WILL pay off.

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

We’ve been growing steadily as our confidence has grown, including more work coming locally through word-of-mouth and our growing reputation. We’ve been running more creative funerals and getting recognition for that – we’ve started developing a real USP in that area. We have the confidence to offer families different options, so people are going for them.

We have received recognition for making natural, ecologically friendly, green options available as an integral part of what we do. We incorporate this naturally, for example encouraging people in Birmingham to realise that they can have a natural burial, even if they live in a big city. As part of this recognition, in September 2015 we were awarded Green Funeral Directors of the Year at the Good Funeral Awards. We were also nominated in the Most Promising New Funeral Directors category. As all of the nominations come from families who we have helped, this meant a lot to us.

Carrie Weekes Fran Glover A Natural Undertaking funeral directors Birmingham

Carrie with A Natural Undertaking’s Good Funeral Award at the Kings Heath Street Fair, Birmingham

We were also chosen as Virgin Start-up Ambassadors in May 2015. We got to have lunch with Richard Branson, who told us he thought our business was “100% a great idea”. We’ve been involved in networking and coaching events through this, and also write a monthly blog post for Virgin.

Finally (for the moment), we have been selected as one of the Small Biz 100 for this year’s Small Business Saturday and we’re featured on 1 October 2015. As part of this nationwide event, we’re trying to get local businesses involved in talking about small businesses and encouraging people in the area to use them.

All of this has helped us to raise awareness not just of our business, but of some of the conversations people should be having about death and dying.

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

  • We want to have a higher percentage of our funerals to be from the Kings Heath and Moseley area and a higher percentage of those to be natural burials, because those are beautiful.
  • We want to be seriously considering our own premises and what those would be.
  • In parallel with the business development, we would like to be more visible and high-profile around Birmingham as facilitating the death conversation.
  • We want to make sure that we’re continuing to look after ourselves.
  • We want to bring other local companies into our network so that we can run our business within a local, sustainable supply chain.
  • We want to be making sure that people have more information and better choices about funerals for themselves and their loved ones.

They have 1-year, 5-year and 7-year plans; they used their experience and knowledge and added in specific training; they network with the best in their industry niche; they’re already winning awards; and they’re doing things ethically and kindly and supporting other local businesses. With all of that on the go, I’m confident that we’ll see Carrie and Fran’s business grow and thrive over the next year, and many years to come. What a long way from our library studies for me and Carrie![I can remove the last sentence if it’s a bit naff!]

You can find A Natural Undertaking online at
Carrie Weekes or Fran Glover are available 24 / 7 on Phone: (0121) 444 0437 and Mobile: 07986 423 146 and you can email them, too.

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

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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat update – Tammy Ditmore

mugsI always like featuring my fellow editors in this interview series. As I’ve said many times before, I approach other editors in a spirit of cooperation, not competition. It’s important to me to support new editors, learn from more established editors, lean on and support my peers and have great people to recommend prospective clients on to when I can’t fit them in or know they would be a better fit. And it’s great to see all the different things we all get up to! So it’s with great pleasure that I come back to Tammy Ditmore for an update. Tammy’s business is called eDitmore Editorial Services. We first met Tammy in June 2012, and she updated us on her progress in June 2013 and most recently in August 2014. When I asked her then where she wanted to be now, she replied, “Probably in about the same place as I am today. I recently stepped back and took stock of my current family and life responsibilities, and I realized I just need to focus right now on keeping my business steady so that I have the time and energy to take care of these other obligations. I do have some dreams for expanding into other areas at some point, but I don’t think this will be the year for that. Admitting that I needed to take a step back — or at least not try to move forward — was hard at first, but it’s given me a greater sense of peace and helped me focus on what’s most important to me right now. I believe there are seasons to life, and I don’t want to miss this particular season by trying so hard to launch myself into the next one.” Now, Tammy has had, it’s fair to say, a tough year, but she’s learned a lot about her business and how it works with the rest of her life during that year, and is generous enough to share those lessons with us today.

Hi, Tammy, and welcome back Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes, pretty much. It was a year of transitions for my family, and because of that I have focused a little less on my business during this time. I’m grateful that I’ve still been able to work steadily through the year with little income dropoff. I have overloaded a bit in some months so I could step back in others and spend more time with my family.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’ve had less work from some of my steadiest clients from the past few years, mainly because of turnover at those clients, I think. But I have continued to pick up new editing clients from other sources, and I’ve reconnected with a few clients from the past. The type of work I’ve been doing has remained a mixture of copy editing and developmental editing for books and other projects. But I also did a bit more writing this year, and I think there may be some opportunities soon for me  to do even more writing, which I’m looking forward to.

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

I have learned that a large project with a number of writers and specialists involved can offer some real challenges, despite all my efforts to keep things on track. I wish I had been more confident that my business really did have enough of foundation that it would not collapse if I gave it a little less attention. I’m very glad to have learned that—although I know I can’t take the business for granted either.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think it’s important to remember that we run a business; our businesses should not run us.

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

I’m looking forward to this year. I’m headed into it with some renewed energy and ideas, and I anticipate having more time this year to concentrate on developing some new opportunities. I’m co-hosting a webinar on editing soon (this is airing live on September 30 and will be available for replays after then: follow this link for information), and I’m going to be on an editing panel at a writer’s conference in November. I’m talking with some potential clients about doing more writing, and I’m learning a new program (InCopy) for another client. By this time next year, I hope I will have some solid writing projects along with my editing projects. And I may even begin offering some consulting services this year; I’ve been doing more and more of that informally, so I’m thinking about how I could make that a part of my business services.

A rather unpredictable year for Tammy, then, but she’s pulled out that important point: “It’s important to remember that we run a business; our business should not run us”. I’ll be excited to learn how her new ventures into writing and possibly consultancy go – it’s interesting to see how our careers shift and change shape as we go along – personally, I’ve ditched the writing work and have segued calls for mentoring into some new products to help people self-mentor, but I love to see how other people face those challenges.

Tammy’s website is at and you can of course contact her by email. She’s based in Califormia. And here’s the event on September 30 again: How to Team Up with the Perfect Editor for you.

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 September 26, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat update – Tone Hitchcock

mugsIt’s time for a Small Business Chat update, and I’m thrilled to be interviewing the lovely Tone Hitchcock of Anthony Hitchcock Art & Design for the fourth time (his sister and cousin also feature in this series, coming soon!). Tone is a model-maker extraordinaire, and it’s lovely to see him being able to forge and strengthen his career in this creative corner of the self-employment world. first interviewed Tone in May 2012 and then we did an update in June 2013.  The last update was in July 2014, at which point, when asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he repeated his reply from last time: “This time next year, Rodders…” Let’s see how he’s been getting on, and he’s treated us to some fab photos of some of his work again, too!

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

Things appear to be going nicely to plan (still not quite a millionaire, but hey), and I’ve made some fantastic contacts. I’m in a position now where I have a few very exciting potential projects lining up; this time next year, I shall hopefully be able to talk about them. Either that, or be weeping into my beard…

Sounds exciting! What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m still doing props and models, with the occasional bout of doodling, but this year I’ve completed some work for Bristol Museum, in conjunction with Cheltenham Science Festival. I sculpted a lifesize Pliosaurus skull for them, working from the actual fossil, which is not yet on display at the museum, which meant that I got to poke around ‘backstage’ there, which for a massive nerd like me was a real thrill. The fossil itself was found in Westbury, about 8 miles from my house, and represents a new species (P carpenter), so it is a properly West Country beastie. So far, the feedback I’ve had on it from Paleontologists has been very complimentary.

Tone Hitchcock plesiosaur skull

Plesiosaur skull model created by Tone

Tone Hitchcock plesiosaur

Reconstruction of the plesiosaur

After tightening up my paperwork, and client-vetting bureaucracy, this year seems to be running more smoothly, too. I’ve been able to head off the nutters fairly early for a change!

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

There were a couple of slow patches this year, so I guess the important thing I’ve learnt is perseverance. You can’t just sit around and wait for things to fall into your lap, you need to get out and find opportunity. I hate to use the phrase ‘networking’, as it sounds so cheesy and calculating, but it is a very necessary thing.

I’m probably quite lucky in that a lot of my more useful contacts have grown about quite organically, through mutual interest and friendship, rather than being approached from a business point of view. A case in point is Ben Garrod (Evolutionary biologist, one of only a handful of people in the world who re-articulates skeletons for museums, presenter of the BBC 4 series ‘The Secrets of Bones,’ and all round good egg), who I met on Facebook a couple of years ago. What started as bonding and banter over our skull collections led to Ben putting my name forward when Bristol Museum mentioned to him that they were looking for a sculptor.

Any more hints and tips for people?

The usual tips: keep going! And also, make the most of every opportunity you can, as you never know where it could lead. I recently appeared as an extra in a Hollywood production being filmed in Wells (they were looking for long-haired beardy men, and it’s only down the road, so it seemed silly not to apply for it), and as well as being a laugh, it afforded me the chance to give out my card to a few industry types, and also to make a pair of signet rings for my similarly hirsute cousin and me to wear on the day of shooting.

Tone Hitchcock's hand with ring

Ring sneaked onto set

I very much doubt that you’ll be able to see them on screen, but I couldn’t resist the chance to sneak some of my props onto set alongside Charlize Theron & Emily Blunt.  😊

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

More film prop work would be nice, more museum stuff… and of course, I’ll be writing the next update from my yacht in the Bahamas…

Tone Hitchcock film prop

Bonus organic alien bomb made for a low budget British horror film

It’s brilliant to see how well Tone’s doing and we can all pull good business advice out of his tales, too. I completely agree with the need to remain open to new experiences: I would never have written five books if I hadn’t done the first blog about my life as a freelancer, and I wouldn’t be having great fun working as a transcriber if I hadn’t taken the plunge and tweeted to a prospective client five years ago! I can’t wait to find out what Tone will get up to next year …

See what Tone’s been up to recently at Anthony Hitchcock Art & Design at You can, of course, email Tone.

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 September 19, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat update – Diane Grogan

mugsIt’s time for an update with Diane Grogan from Kanine Kampus and Pet Au Purrs, a dog day-care company in Oldham, who we first met in May 2013  and updated in August 2014. At that point, they’d just moved business premises and Diane had good advice to give about checking business rates, etc. This is where she wanted to be by now: “We are seeing a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and if we keep our heads down and work hard we will be on track to continue and expand towards the end of next year”, but as you’ll see as you read on, it’s been a year of decisions and (positive) changes to get back on track. As Diane said when she replied to my update request, “Lots of things have changed since last year, so it’s a good thing to be updating people”.

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

Not quite: we realised that we were never going to be able to afford the building we were in, as the rent and business rates were going up each year, and we would have had to hike up our prices to break even. We also had two new day-care centres open close enough to affect us, so we decided to call it a day, ease the worries and just step back into the dog home boarding, dog walking, dog grooming  and pet sitting that we ran alongside the day-care.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We no longer have the day-care centre, but still offer group dog walking where dogs can spend four hours or more in the company of other dogs (up to four at a time ) in the fresh air and open countryside, as well as our other core services.

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

To stop worrying so much and go with what you know.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Research the rent and rates on a building, as they are often not clearly advertised; also look into electricity costs and other utilities.

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

I am really enjoying being back outdoors, I feel healthier and happier without being dragged down with paperwork and jumping through hoops with councils and licences, So I intend to keep doing what I’m doing and enjoy the work.

I’ve always been so glad I don’t have to have anything to do with facilities or business premises as a sole trader working on a computer at a desk; they can be very tricky, not to mention expensive, things to deal with. I’m glad that Diane’s made the right decision for her business and herself, and is feeling better and less weighed down for it. Here’s to a good year!

You can visit Kanine Kampus and Pet Au Purrs at, phone Diane or Paddy on 07942 892 728 or visit their Facebook page.

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 September 12, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat update – Nicky Lloyd Greame

mugs It’s time for a Small Business Update with Nicky Lloyd Greame from the business coaching and mentoring company People and Potential, who we met first in July last year. She’d only been going since the beginning of 2014 and was full of exciting plans for the upcoming year: “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.” So let’s see how Nicky’s doing a year (and a bit) on …

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

I’m actually in a different place than expected  – yet I firmly believe this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.  Life has a funny way of steering you in the right direction – often without you even realising it!!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

My work/life balance is still perfect as I’m still in control, my business is still building and my client base growing at a steady rate.  All of this is of course great news and what is even more exciting is what has changed:

The focus of my work has now evolved into an even smaller niche.  My training and coaching is now very much focussed on the area of Mental Health.  In addition to coaching individuals to help them strengthen their mindset and build their resilience to help reduce and even eliminate symptoms of stress, anxiety and even depression I now go into companies and offer management training.  This training is designed to help employers/managers to be more aware of how they can manage members of their teams who are at risk of, or are struggling with mental health issues that affect their performance an attendance at work.

I have also spent much of the past year helping an Autistic teenager who has been struggling with severe mental health problems.  This has opened up a number of other opportunities to helping children which is incredibly fulfilling.

Last but by no means least –  I am now an award winning NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) trainer (2015 trainer of the year), Master Practitioner and hypnotherapist.  My days are never boring :-)

Any more hints and tips for people?

Spend as much time working on your mental health as you do on your physical health.  Practicing positive thinking, mindfulness, meditation etc on a daily basis helps build your resilience to stressful times and prepares you for those difficult days – and the healthier your mental health – the less difficult those difficult days seem to be.

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

I have just developed a new concept which will launch in the next few months, all about healthy, daily exercises for the mind.  I have a series of courses and products around it and I plan on rolling them all out throughout the next 6 months to a year. I now also have a new member of the team who will be helping me deliver all this new training to corporate clients and members of the public alike.

Oh, and watch this space for the new improved website launch.

I’m impressed that Nicky has managed to get her life-work balance sorted out right from the beginning, as I know that’s something that many people struggle with. And I think it’s great that she’s working in the area of mental health, especially within organisations. Looking after your mental health as a freelancer / small business owner is vital, too – I make sure I get plenty of exercise, as that keeps me feeling well and happy, and it’s well worth having a think about that aspect of your business life.

You can find Nicky and People & Potential onlline at and you can email Nicky, find her on LinkedIn, 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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Posted by on September 5, 2015 in Business, Small Business Chat


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