Monthly Archives: December 2011

On feedback

Feedback is an important thing. Without feedback from the world around us, through our senses, we wouldn’t know where we were, what we were doing or where we were going. In business, without feedback from our clients and prospects … well, we wouldn’t know where we were, what we were doing or where we were going!

There are two important sets of feedback we should all try to gather as we go through our business life, whether that business is a one-person enterprise or a multinational company.

Customer feedback, aka references and testimonials

Whenever I complete a job for a new client, along with their invoice I have some text I send them which includes a request for a reference or testimonial, if they are happy with my work. I used to link to my Facebook page where they could add their own reference, but since that feature has been removed, I now just provide a link to my references page where they can see what other people have said about Libro’s services.  I don’t get one from everybody, but when I do, I make sure I put it up on the references page, first in the “new” section at the top of the page, then when I add some more new ones, I move the older ones down into their categories. I arrange them into categories so people can find work like theirs to look at, rather than just having a jumble of stuff on the page – and I highlight important phrases to break it up a bit. By the way, sometimes I hear back from someone weeks after I asked. I never hassle for a reference or remind someone, though, as I feel that would be a bit pushy.

So how do I use these references? First of all, I put a little announcement up via social media when I get a new one. Hopefully people will pop over and have a look. This has a few benefits: people will see I’m doing well and be reassured that I’m a viable business to work with; people will see that I do a good job; people might see that I work in a different area to the ones they know about (I have diversified my services along the way so some people I met early in the life of Libro may still only know me as an editor) and then have some work they can put my way or someone they can recommend to me.  Obviously, having the references there means that I can direct people to them if they enquire about my services or ask what I can do for them. And quite a few companies I work with have asked for a CV – having taken some advice from peers, I put together CVs for my different work areas, using the references I’d collected but adding more detail about the kinds of jobs I’d done for the clients.

As well as using my own references page, I am on a few advertising sites which have references – and of course LinkedIn, which has a recommendations feature. I’ve had to be a bit more blatant than I might wish to be in asking people to add references onto these – and I usually only ask regular clients with whom I have a good, ongoing relationship – but no one has minded so far, and it’s helped build my LinkedIn profile and my profile on other sites.

So I make these references work for me – and I am convinced they help me when people are considering whether to use my services.

As an additional point, if the person giving me the reference has a website, I’ll pop a link to the site at the end of my reference. That’s a Google-pleasing link back for them and a touch of generosity on my part that they might remember for next time!

Oh, and if you’re building up your business and doing bits of work for free, make sure you make it a condition of your doing the work that the client gives you a reference. People actually value something more if they have to pay for it, and ‘paying’ by giving you a reference gives you that kind of relationship, plus you have something useful to add to your references page!

Market research

The other kind of feedback that’s vital for businesses large and small, young and old, is market research. You may have done this in the initial stages when you were seeing if there was a potential market for your goods or services. But it’s important to keep checking that you’re on the right track, that you know what your clients and prospects want. I’ve tended to do this myself for my blog rather than for my business as such, although I’ll look at that as I go along. After I’d been running this blog for 6 months, I put up a quick survey asking if I was posting too frequently/infrequently, posting about the right kinds of subject, and whether I was alerting people about the posts in the right way. Actually, in this case, the results I got pretty well balanced each other out: for everyone who thought I posted too much there was someone who thought I could post more, and a majority saying it was just right, and for everyone who was bored by my monthly updates on what I’d been doing, there was someone who said that was their favourite bit! But at least that told me I was on the right track, and this and subsequent feedback on my alerting process led me to minimise the alerts about blog posts on my personal Facebook page.

That’s the thing: you do need to respond to feedback and to do something if something needs doing. We’ll talk about that in  a minute …

Other kinds of feedback

You can also seek other kinds of feedback – another interesting and important area is when you are heading down a path and you need to check you’re going the right way. The Entrepreneur meetup I attend in my city is a good place to chat about what you’re doing and what you’re planning and see if you have the right ideas. I was talking to the owner of a cupcake company a few months ago and persuaded her to look into doing a range of low-fat as well as the usual gluten-free cupcakes; if I want the former, I’m pretty sure there’ll be a set of other people in the city who want them too. A couple of months ago, I had a bit of a tricky business problem that coincided with the Social Media Cafe I attend. So I talked it through with my peers – and I did that recently over email with a couple of peers too; it’s so useful to get feedback from other people in the same line of work, or same size business, as you. On another practical note, many of the authors and publishers I know will distribute online or print copies of their new books to a few selected readers (Joanna Penn calls these ‘beta readers’). They might then use their comments to improve the book, or use their reviews to publicise it upon publication. All useful interstitial feedback.

Take feedback on board and do something about it!

It is, of course, important to take note of the feedback and generate something useful from it. If your clients all describe you as friendly, and you like that, build your brand to include and emphasise that aspect, as if that’s what a lot of your clients like, then more will like that too. If people are being driven mad by your constant alerts about blog updates on your personal social media, scale it back to one round-up per week. If your beta readers hate your character’s name, look into changing it!

No request for feedback is without an ulterior motive – you want to tailor and target your outward face to match what your potential clients are looking for. If you’re going to get something out of people …

  • make sure you say thank you
  • use it

Oh, and talking of ulterior motives, I’ve got a survey on the go at the moment to try to find out how I can post the most useful articles possible on the language sections of this blog. Do go and fill it in, please. You know I’ll take note of the answers!

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Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Business, Ethics, Organisation


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A new survey

I’ve set up a new survey to see how I can best make this blog useful through 2012. Please take a moment to answer as many of the questions as you can – I really want to know the answers!

You can find the survey here on SurveyMonkey.

Thanks for reading … and filling in your answers!

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Blogging, Writing


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Liz Broomfield (now Dexter)

Welcome to Saturday Business/Freelancer Chat. And it’s with … well, me! I realised that I should have interviewed myself, plus this will be published on Christmas Eve and it didn’t seem fair to give anyone else a slot when not many people were looking at the internet; this way there will be 50 interviewees, plus me, plus a rest on New Year’s Eve! I run a company called Libro through which I do proofreading, copyediting, writing, transcriptions and localisation for companies and individuals around the world. I have some great regular customers and then do one-off jobs for people too. I’ve launched my business the way that felt comfortable to me as I went along – a “soft launch” which involved me still being supported financially while building the business. Now it’s a whole new chapter for Libro, which is very exciting!

So, I’ve been running Libro for a couple of years now, I went full-time with the business recently, and I’m enjoying that (and writing a blog about it). Here are my answers to my own questions …

What is your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called Libro. I set it up in August 2009 when a colleague at the library where I worked at the time mentioned he had some students who needed help with dissertation proofreading. It’s blossomed from there!

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I had done writing and editing work in a lot of my previous job roles, and done (unpaid) proofreading and editing for novels and journals in the past. When I discovered a need for my services, and close at hand, I decided to go for it and register my business with the Inland Revenue, etc.

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

I knew I was good at the work and could provide a good service. As I’ve gone along, I’ve added more services to my portfolio, mainly in response to demand, but knowing they were skills I could cover. I started off working with students, as I used to type up dissertations for people back in my own student days, and I had access to the client base via colleagues, many of whom were post-graduate students who could put up posters for me in their departments or recommend me to their friends.

Had you run your own business before?

No! And anyone who knew me before I launched would be very surprised – I am an unlikely entrepreneur!  Just because I’ve always been in the background, doing admin, setting up systems and helping people, rather than being out at the front promoting myself! I have done a lot of different jobs in several different companies, and those have come in handy.

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 worked full-time at my library job from when I launched in August 2009. I went to 4 days a week at the library in January 2011, 3 days a week in May, and officially leave the library completely at the end of December 2011, although holiday owed to me and university general holidays mean that I’ve actually been full-time since December 12.

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

That I could do it, and that I should have faith in myself.

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

Go part-time – or more part-time, earlier! Enjoy the process and start a blog!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I do wish that I’d taken the opportunity to go more part-time earlier. I could have dropped two days at the library from January 2011 but I lost my nerve at the last moment. I then had a very hectic time of it as Libro expanded to fill the space!

What are you glad you did?

Went on the HMRC “becoming self-employed” course. Started my blog – hits on my website increased hugely when I started blogging, and I really enjoy it, too! I listed Libro on a few free ads sites and joined a professional translators’ website which has brought in lots of jobs and a great return on investment. I’m also glad I’ve done it, full stop: I’m really quite proud of what I’ve achieved!

What’s your top business tip?

Trust your gut instinct. Put good systems in place including strong terms and conditions. Treat every mistake and mishap as a learning experience – you’ll get a blog post out of it, at least! And give something back, too. Sharing advice and doing bits and pieces for people I’ve met at the Entrepreneur Meetup and helping out at the Social Media Surgery has helped me stay true to who I am. Oh – and be honest – with your clients, setting expectations – and with your peers. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and seek support from those you can trust.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
I’ve grown and diversified as I went along. I started off proofreading student dissertations, then was asked to write something; well, I’ve written plenty of procedures and newsletters so went for that. Transcription – well, it’s just audio typing! And being on the translators’ site has brought me localisation work where I can bring my experience working for a US company to bear on helping “translate” text from US to UK English. I’ve basically done anything to do with words, even copy typing. I think it’s important to have a range of services to offer. And I have clients all over the UK and in America, Canada, across Europe, India and China!

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

Well, I’ll have been full-time with Libro for a year. Hopefully I’ll be earning enough to support myself, I’ll have taken a holiday or two, and have a good solid roster of regular clients to keep me going.

Exciting times, then, for me, and a good, if different, year ahead! Where was I in a year’s time? Here!

You’re on my website already. You can email me – and you can also find me on Twitter  and Facebook.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please click here for more freelancer chat, or here for information on how you can have your business featured.


Posted by on December 24, 2011 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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Confound or confuse?

I’ve been working my way through the last of Gill’s massive list and this is one of the final ones … I have had some more suggestions here and there, though, so the supply won’t run out just yet!

So, today we have confound and confuse.

To confuse someone is to make them bewildered or perplexed – “He confused her with his rapier wit until she would agree to anything”.”1% fat or 99% fat-free? I’m confused”. In a linked way, it also means to make something less easy to understand – “He confused all the issues with each other until it was impossible to understand his arguments”. And it also means to identify wrongly – “Is that Busted? Oh – I’ve confused them with McFly.”

Now, confound does carry a meaning of to surprise or confuse,  but it’s more used in the sense of proving something wrong or causing it not to work, defeating a plan, a hope or an aim “Her hopes of living off her savings were confounded by the low interest rates”; “Ha! With my intelligence and wit, I have confounded your dastardly plot!” A useful and flexible word, it can also mean to mix up with something else: “in his formula, x is confounded with y, and that makes it come out wrong”.

Special bonus word: to confute – is to prove to be wrong (shall we do confute and refute next time?)

So, a simple rule – confuse if you want to perplex or mix up; confound if you want to ruin the dastardly plans. Got that?

“She was confused by the bright lights, and he confounded her plan for escape by tripping her up.”

That’s probably the last troublesome pair for 2011 – will anybody be on the internet reading blogs next Friday?

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


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Top Time Management Tips: For Santa … and You!

Cartoon of Liz dressed up as Santa

Liz or Santa?

This time of year is a busy one for Santa, but maybe not for you. Maybe you’re off work for the seasonal holiday now, on vacation from your studies, or your clients are on holiday so you are too, by extension. Maybe it’s time to have a bit of a think about how you’ll manage your time more successfully in the New Year. As it’s Christmas, as well as sharing some tips on time management in general, I’m going to relate them to Santa’s life, too. If you’re reading this, F. Christmas, I hope they’re helpful!

Work to your strengths

I think this and the next point are key. You should know by now when your good – and not so good – times are for concentrating and getting things done.  The key is then to arrange your day to match these peaks and troughs, aligning your work patterns to your personal patterns. This is easier when you work for yourself, but is manageable when you’re employed, too. I hope Santa’s best late at night, as his main workflow is obviously when he can zip through the dark skies! I’m best in the early mornings, so now I like to get a chunk of work done before breakfast, and when I was working, I liked to start as early as I could. I have a slight lack of concentration after breakfast, so I am scheduling in some down time or some smaller, achievable tasks for then, and I’m hopeless after lunch – but I can work fine if I have a big deadline, so I either work to a deadline there or accept it’s not a great time and do something else. People think ‘larks’ can be annoying and smug, but I’d love to be able to work late into the night. I know I will make mistakes then, as I’m not a ‘night owl’, so if I have a big project to push through, I’m more likely to get up extra early. When are your good and bad times? How can you tweak your work schedule to get the most out of them?

Blocks of time

This is the other important one, in my opinion. Say you’ve got presents to wrap, letters sent to the North Pole to read, and deliveries to make. Don’t hop from one to the other: put aside a block of time to concentrate on one thing and that thing only, whether it’s catching up with emails for half an hour, spending 15 minutes reading Twitter, or putting in an hour on that big project. When I was a training manager I learnt (from theory and experience) that people can’t concentrate for more than 45 mins to an hour at a time, so make sure you work in a 5 minute break after each hour-long block. If you have something that you don’t fancy doing, set a timer to 30 or even 15 minutes and do just that thing for at least that length of time. Often you will get into the swing of things and may be able to carry on longer.

No distractions

When you’re concentrating on one thing, don’t let the others distract you.  Santa doesn’t screech to a halt just above your chimney to answer his elf and safety hotline, and if he does, he needs to stop doing that (wear and tear on the reindeer, for a start!) There’s rarely something that won’t wait an hour. Phone calls, OK, but if you really need to concentrate, turn voicemail on, too. I keep my BlackBerry on my desk: it alerts me if an email comes in and I can very quickly check if it looks urgent without opening and reading it on my PC – works for me! Doing something wholeheartedly for that block of time will work far better than swapping to something else part way through.

Lists and priorities

It seems so obvious, but write a to-do list, either at the end of each working day, or the beginning of the next one. I split mine into work to do, work admin and other – as someone working from home there is always something like posting letters to do, and even if you work with other people you may need to pop out on an errand. As for Santa, well, his to-do list will vary according to the season, but I doubt there’s ever only one task, even on Christmas Eve (stock up on reindeer fuel, schedule toilet stops, get red suit dry-cleaned … ). I tend to write one set of lists then actually order the things for the day, with closer deadlines taking priority over more distant ones (I use a Gantt chart to record those).

Not all time is billable time

I record my billable hours in a diary every day. That’s hours I’ve worked on projects that I’m getting paid for. I can then see how much I’m making per hour, per day and per week, to make sure I’m on track with my targets. Santa needs to get a certain number of presents delivered to a certain number of houses per hour. But I’ve learnt that, just because you’re sitting at your desk for 7 hours, you’ll rarely do 7 hours of billable work (unless you’re a lawyer or suchlike and every single task is assigned a project code). You’ll have emails to answer, blog posts to write, social media to engage with, toilet breaks – and if you work at home, that mid-afternoon shower, gym session, answering the door to salespeople … Even Santa has to refuel the reindeer and restock that sleigh. So don’t beat yourself up and feel unproductive if you haven’t done 7 hours billable work in 7 hours at the desk. But do use chunks of time for the non-paid work and even take a note of it to see where you can refine the process.


This is a posh word for putting systems in place – whether on paper or using the computer and various bits of software. Santa has a production line of elfs taking care of gift wrapping and labelling. When I do a transcription, I upload the tape into my software and create and save the Word document. Every time I finish a project, I put it on my invoice spreadsheet, generate and send the invoice (or add the line to the client’s monthly cumulative invoice) and change the colour of the red line on my Gantt chart. Morning, lunch and evening I check my bank balance and enter anything that’s come in or gone out on my spreadsheet. On the last day of the month I prepare and send my monthly invoices. If you have systems you don’t have to think about, you won’t waste time reinventing the wheel every time you come to do something.

Take advantage of other people’s peaks and troughs

I know that not many of my clients are up early, so when I’ve dealt with anything that’s come in from America or Asia overnight, I will have a good few hours without interruptions to get on with projects on which I need to concentrate. I also know that a lot of emails are likely to come in just after lunch – both from awakening North Americans and other people who seem to work hard in that hour or so. Santa, of course, needs to take advantage of his clients’ hours of sleep. So I can plan around that, and also use other phenomena, like the gym being quieter and more pleasant to visit (and more efficient to get round) in the daytime – the other Saturday I got what amounted to a free personal training session because I went early and no one else wanted the Lower Body Workshop class on the mats!  Use your knowledge and experience to take advantage of what you know about how other people work – and use it to help you be more efficient.

Build in breaks

If you’re working in an office as an employee, the Working Time Directive (or your country’s equivalent) comes into effect, telling you when to take rest breaks and how long you should work for in a day/week. If you’re a student, self-employed, or packing presents in your own Lapland factory, it’s harder to make yourself do this. But it’s vital to take breaks, to get yourself moving, get away from the screen and revitalise yourself. I recommend taking some exercise every day – be it a gym trip, a run, a walk in the park or some energetic hoovering. You’ll get a better perspective on things, too – I’ve written many blog posts while out running that I couldn’t think up in front of the computer! And get away to eat something at lunchtime, rather than snaffling a sandwich at your desk.

So, I hope these tips have helped you – and Santa – plan your time a bit more efficiently and use it more effectively. If you have any more tips, I’d love to hear about them!


Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Business, New skills, Organisation


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Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays from Libro!

Just a quick post to say Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays from Libro – and thank you to friends, Matthew and my lovely clients for making it a happy and successful year. I hope 2012 is full of health, happiness and success for all of you!


Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Celebration



That, Which or Who?

That, which or who? This is a set of words that I see used incorrectly all the time, especially using “that” instead of “who” (although there are a few debates, it’s normally quite clear). I’ve also been asked for help on that/which a number of times, and I have to admit that I wouldn’t have been able to reel off the rules without checking it. Of course, I do check all of these, even when I think I know the answer, just to make sure I’m giving you the correct information!

So, to start off, you can use that OR which if you are introducing clauses that define or identify something (the fancy name for these is “restrictive relative clauses”) and it doesn’t seem to matter which – it’s a question of style preferences or what feels better in the sentence (wouldn’t you know: another one without a proper rule!) So: “A book which aims to explain all human life”, “a book that aims to explain all human life”.

Which is officially used (instead of that) if the clause gives additional information. “The book, which costs £15, has sold 1000 copies”.

Although it’s not officially specified in my reference books, I would therefore use them like this:

– If you’re just saying what the book (or whatever) does in general, use that: “these are the books that will tell you about the stars”.

– If you’re explaining something in comparison with something else, use which: “This is the book which explains all human life, unlike this other one, which just explains about men”.  The way to remember this? “Which is which?”

Moving on to who, we use who when we’re talking about a person or something that’s personified such as a group of people or a named animal. “The man who said yes”, “The proofreaders, who were all a bit pernickity”, “Felix the cat, who was very naughty” (and possibly, “the cat, who was very naughty”, if it’s a specific cat, but “the cats that lived in the barn”, “the cat that I saw on my way to work, which was white with a grey tail … “).

Things do get a bit confusing when you get to a group of people, as a group is non-personified, but the people are – you can do it either way but someone will argue with you, whichever path you take (“The group of men who were going to the ball”, “The group of men that was going to the ball” – I prefer the former, personally. Remember to make the verb agree when you do this – it depends whether you’re referring to the singular group or the plural members of the group).

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Networking for Newbies

A while ago I wrote a short guest post on networking for another blog but I had a lot more ideas that I wanted to fit in.  Now I’m full-time with Libro, I can hopefully go to more networking events, as they are a good way to meet new people, discuss new ideas and, well, get out of the house! And I’ve had actual, qualified success in making money from business I’ve gained, not from someone I met at a networking event, but from someone they met afterwards.  So I highly recommend popping a bit of networking into your marketing and social mix, and here are my top tips for networking …

Networking can be a scary and daunting idea. We all know we need to do it … but how, where and why do we do it, and what can we get out of it, and bring to it?  Here are 10 handy hints for making networking work for you, all tested by me, myself – and I certainly didn’t think I was a natural networker when I started out! Here are my top tips for successful networking.

Do be scared … but realise everyone else is too!
Walking into a room full of people you don’t know is daunting to all but the most extrovert of people. The key to conquering this fear is knowing that 90% of the people around you, even people who have been to the event before, are at least a little apprehensive, too.  So, first of all, be understanding if people seem a bit aggressive or over-wordy or, indeed silent. Maybe it’s just how they are when they’re nervous. And secondly, let yourself off the hook if you do the same. Take a deep calming breath, look around you calmly, and chat to someone.  Ask them about themselves – that old one, but it does really work.

Dress for success
You don’t always need to be all suited and booted, but it’s worth finding out from the event organiser what kind of outfits people normally turn up in (of course, “what you usually wear to work” isn’t always suitable if you normally work from a home office … ). Most of us feel more comfortable when we fit in with the crowd, and knowing how to pitch your outfit is part of that. It goes without saying – doesn’t it? that you should be ironed and mud-free and your hair shouldn’t be standing on end unless it’s supposed to.

Try before you buy
There’s a huge variety of networking events and organisations out there. Some of them charge a fee to be a member of their club. That’s fine – but most of them will let you try out a meeting or two before you commit to that expensive membership. Take advantage of this, try a few different local meetings before you join up, and you’ll know you’ve spent your money in the right place.

The huge range of networking events available means that there’s one – or more – to suit everyone. From a national organisation to a hyperlocal event, from market sector-themed meetings to Women in Business, try out a few and see what you like – and try to visit a range of different ones every month. Of course, there are also online networking groups; forums, LinkedIn groups, etc. Give those a go, by all means, but do try and get out and about – especially if you work alone all day! If you’re chatting to someone at a networking event and you seem to get on and have similar views, ask them which other meetings they go to. Other ways to find out more include social networks, including, Facebook and Twitter, notices in your local library, and articles in business magazines. People are usually fine to tell you about the other ones they go to and might even arrange to meet up with you first to take the edge off that first entrance into the room.

Go local
I recently joined my local High Street Business Association.  I’ve got a small ad on their website, a listing in their directory and I’ve already been to a breakfast meeting at a local café.  You’ve always got something to talk about when you’re all local!  And you might be able to help your local community too, with fund-raising events, Business Enterprise Zones and mentoring schemes.

Keep at it
Most networking events happen regularly and some take a while to work your way in to. Some might have different attendees every time, some might  have lots of familiar faces every month, and some might have a mix of the two. I’d suggest that you need a little time to get used to the particular group and how it works – plus repeat appearances will keep you in people’s minds.

Don’t expect to make direct sales: do expect to get recommendations
You may well not sell your services to the people you meet at a networking event. Sometimes you might even meet a rival business who – gasp – does the same as you! Just because you’re not going to get a sale doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to these people. You can talk about general business matters, get all sorts of tips and hints … and you don’t know who they know … I’ve won a few clients now through people I’ve met at networking events. One lady recommended me to a contact on Twitter, after I’d met her at a Social Media Café.  It’s always worth actually asking people to think of you if they come across anyone who needs whatever it is you do.

Do team up with “rivals”
I have a small network of other editors who I can rely on to pass work on to if I’ve got too much to do. Similarly, they pass work to me or recommend me if one of their clients comes to them with something in which I specialise.  So if you meet someone who’s in a similar line of business to you, don’t bristle and walk away, but think how you can benefit one another.

Connect people
Don’t just think about what you can get out of these events. If you meet enough different people, chances are that you’ll meet someone and realise you know just the person that can help them. If they’re both at the event, take the time to introduce them. They’ll both thank you for it – and remember you. At a recent networking event, a local film-maker I’ve known for a while described me (in front of a group of other people) as an “oracle” and made sure everyone knew how I was always introducing him to interesting and useful people. Great word of mouth marketing!

Follow up
You will undoubtedly come back from networking events with a fistful of business cards. Don’t just shove them in your filing cabinet, your pocket, or your handbag (or man bag!). Get them all out when you get back home, and go through them. Email everyone you met, even if you don’t think you’ll get a direct sale from them, to say that you enjoyed meeting them, and establish that contact. You never know when one of you might come in useful to the other one. My friend and fellow small business owner Alison Mead of Silicon Bullet has just published some excellent tips to use at this stage: read her blog post here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and that they prove to be useful to you. Do give networking a go – more than one go, in fact, so you can get used to how it all works. In no time, you’ll be striding confidently in to the room, greeting familiar faces, making other people feel comfortable, and making useful contacts and/or helping other people.


Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Jobs, New skills


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Ron is on a break

Hello everyone!

No Ron’s Rant today: it’s my last day in employment (as opposed to self-employment), and I’ve been incredibly busy over the weekend (which reminds me why I need to take this step) and didn’t, erm, get the time to write down what Ron’s been ranting about!

You can find out how I get on with this exciting move on my new blog started just for that purpose – this one will continue to try to inform, educate and entertain people on the subjects of words and business …

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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Blogging, Business


Till, ’til or until?

Another troublesome pair from my friend Gill’s enormous holiday list – if you have any more you’d like me to look at, do let me know …

Today we’re looking at till (or more properly, ’til, although the Oxford Dictionaries no longer include a listing for ’til) and until, which I do see being used interchangeably by both native and non-native English speakers (this is quite rare, actually: most of the pairs I’ve been talking about are usually only found in native English speakers, in my experience. Non-native English speakers have all sorts of other common issues, but  not these.) (That gives me an idea for a new series of posts!).

Anyway: till and until. I have consulted the dictionaries and reference books and … they are the same. They mean up to a particular point in time or an event that is being mentioned (“He wasn’t able to take any holiday days until Christmas”), but in a sense that’s more concentrated on that particular date or event, as opposed to a word such as by which is more about the period itself. (“He was told to take all of his holiday by Christmas but he didn’t manage to do it until the gap between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve”; “You can’t play on the Playstation until you’ve finished your homework”).

Until is considered to be more formal, occurring more often in written English. Till is, wouldn’t you know it, more informal, and occurs more in spoken English. Till is also used as a noun (a cash register or a glacial deposit) or a somewhat archaic agricultural verb to do with preparing the soil before planting a crop.

However, there is one important distinction: you always use until when starting a sentence.

“She gave him the pills till he felt better” or “She gave him the pills until he felt better” but always: “Until he felt better, she continued to give him the pills”.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.


Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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