Monthly Archives: March 2012

Paul Brook

Welcome to Saturday Business chat. Who would have guessed that I was planning to have a mind reader on here? (Sorry, just my little joke: Paul must get this all the time and actually he is quick to explain that it’s psychology and not psychic business that lies behind his shows!). Let’s say hello to Paul Brook, Mind Reader. I think I came across Paul on Twitter and he’s a nice supportive Follow Fridayer and all of that.

Once again, we see there’s nothing new under the sun, with Paul using a skill set he’d already built up, discovering the power of networking, etc. But I do like his mention of making sure you save up your money, and I’m not sure if anyone has brought that up yet. As a small business owner, I am certainly glad of the savings I built up right at the start of this process as I come up to a rather tricky year financially and tax-wise (keep reading this blog next week to find out why!). So there’s some really sensible advice in here – don’t just think you’re going to find out about performing!

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

My business is Paul Brook Mind Reader, which was set up around eight years ago. I perform psychological mind reading as a form of entertainment around the United Kingdom and the world at large. It’s not psychic mind reading, but more the use of non-verbal communication and psychology to give the appearance of genuine mind reading.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

After many years as a psychologist, I wanted to entertain people using the skills that I had cultivated over many years of study and application.

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

As a person who is quite happy entertaining friends and family, it was always the natural progression for me to make. Starting off my career as a psychologist helped me to go down the path of entertaining with the skill set that I had already developed.

Had you run your own business before?

Yes I previously had a psychological therapy practice, however, while it was successful, I didn’t feel it was emotionally fulfilling for me.

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 off performing mind reading part-time and very occasionally. Then it began to snowball and I found myself doing more psychological mind reading than psychology in the therapy practice.

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

That you need to work hard to market the business, not just do a few things and hope that lots of business will come your way. The first stages of a business are the most critical, and also where the most amount of marketing and advertising would be of the greatest benefit. Ironically, often new businesses scrimp on the advertising when working out a budget.

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

If I could go back to the young Paul Brook Mind Reader and give him some advice it would be to remain unrestricted by what people tell you won’t work. There are always people who will shoot down any dream, or tell you that your idea won’t work. At the end of the day, none of us can see into the future, so nobody knows. The only way we can know if something will work is to go ahead and do it. Never let anyone tell you something won’t work: when they do, go and do it and find out for yourself. I remember so many lost opportunities that would have given me so much more of a boost in my early years, all just because of listening to naysayers.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I had understood the power of networking earlier. I tried a networking meeting years ago and it was terrible. But the networking meetings these days are completely different and diverse compared to when I first tried them. These meetings are so plentiful that you could network in a different meeting every day of the week if that were your wish.

What are you glad you did?

Being self-employed and in an industry in which work is sporadic, the thing I am glad that I have always done is save. It would have been easy in the plentiful months to spend like there was no tomorrow. But then the lean months would have left me struggling and worrying. By saving the money on the abundant months there is always money to use in the ‘dips’. This of course is good financially, but also emotionally, as you can still focus on the business and the generation of new leads, rather than worrying about food, shelter, etc.

What’s your top business tip?

In two words … social networking. A lot of businesses have not realised the power of social networking and how it can boost your business. It can allow a business to have a personality; an emotional side that people can connect to. The people who follow you can build a real trust in your brand by becoming friendly and interacting with real people. If you don’t use Twitter and FaceBook, then get stuck in and build your friendship circles.

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

Each year my business is ever expanding. I not only perform mind reading for some of the biggest companies in the world, but have had eight books published on the field of mind reading for fellow performers and also a book for the public called ‘Mind power Secrets’. I have changed from a single guy who does some amazing things, to a complete brand where I am THE product.

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

Even busier than this year. Despite the recession, my business hasn’t fared too badly over the past couple of years. As we begin to move out of the economic downturn, I can only see the entertainment budgets of business increasing and more couples wanting to have a wedding. Corporate work and weddings are my two main income areas, so I predict that I will get up toa  25% increase in bookings as a psychological mind reader over the next 12 months.

One thing I really like is that Paul’s very much taken on board my little twist of checking in on all my interviewees in a year’s time, commenting, “I would love to be reminded of what my previous year’s thoughts about my business were and how accurate my predictions were”. We look forward to finding out, too!

Find out what happened next – Paul’s second interview.

Do visit Paul’s website at

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.

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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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Homogeneous or heterogeneous?

Well, I have to admit that I don’t often see these two mixed up as such, but because they look quite similar, there is a need, in my opinion, to have a quick and easy way to distinguish them laid out. And that’s what these Troublesome Pairs are for, after all. I do monitor how many searches I get on the pairs, and it’ll be interesting to see how many people search for these in a search engine and come through to here. (If you have a website or blog, statistics are your friend, and can give you surprising results, too!)

Anyway …

Homogeneous means of the same kind, consisting of parts all of the same kind (it is also the name for a chemical process involving substances in the same phase, i.e. all liquids or all gases, if that helps you remember it). It comes from the Greek for same race or kind. Yes, the same as homosexual. The way I remember this is that homogenised milk is the one where the cream is mixed into the milk rather than sitting on the top (that made me feel a bit nauseous for a moment, as I only drink skimmed milk, myself!)

Heterogeneous, on the other hand, means diverse in character or content (a heterogeneous chemical process is one involving substances in different phases, e.g. mixing a gas with a liquid, in case that helps you remember). It comes from the Greek, again, for other race/kind. And, yep: heterosexual.

Note the spelling, by the way: -geneous, not genous. Not even if you’re in the US, I believe.

So a word pair and a pair of prefixes defined for you today: extra value!

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

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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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How to quote sources without plagiarising

I work with a lot of students, and one of the things that seems to be an issue is how exactly to use your sources when you’re writing an essay. So I thought it was time to write some notes to help you.

How will this article help you?

This article will help you to avoid plagiarism. I’m going to take a text I’ve written and re-write it in some different ways. Because, and this is important, if you just take text from somewhere else and dump it into the middle of your essay … that’s plagiarism. Plagiarism is serious. It’s passing off someone else’s work as your own. And most academic departments use plagiarism detecting software. If they run your work through the software and it shows you’ve plagiarised,  you may well have marks deducted or the whole essay may be returned unmarked.

What’s wrong with just cutting and pasting stuff I’ve found?

I know that in most cases, you don’t mean to plagiarise. You’re pushed for time, you’re often not writing in your native language, and it’s easy to take that text and put it into the essay. But these are the reasons you shouldn’t do it:

  1. It’s morally wrong to plagiarise.
  2. You won’t gain an understanding of the text if you just paste it into your essay.
  3. You will get caught.

How do I use source material in the correct way?

There are two ways to use source material you’ve found in your research:

  • use direct quotations, which you’ll need to indicate using quotation marks ” … ” or ‘ … ‘
  • talk about what the author has said, but put it in your own words

So, how do we do it. Here is a passage I’ve copied from one book and some notes I’ve made from another one. These are the sources for my essay.

Using quotations to talk about your source

This is direct quotation. A simple example:

Mary says “I am going to the park”

I write: “Mary said, ‘I am going to the park'”

An easy way to talk about your source material is to use quotations. You don’t need to re-write what the authors say, however you do need to show you understand what you’re talking about and to link the quotations in a sensible way – you also need to make sure they’re all within quote marks and referenced properly. With the notes you’ve taken (above) you might end up with something like this:

So what I’ve done here is take sections from the text, put them in quote marks, noted where they’re from, and linked them appropriately so it’s clear I understand what I’m talking about.

Note that if you start off in the present tense, “Broomfield (2011) says that there are … ” you need to continue in the present tense; if you start off in the past “Broomfield (2011) said that there were … ” you need to stick with that. You can pop into the present tense if you are talking about a universal truth rather than something rooted in the time frame, so “Broomfield (2011) said that people are always likely to plagiarise” but “Broomfield (2011) said that the results of her study were not clear and she was not able to draw conclusions from them”.

Rewriting source text to talk about what the author is saying

This one is slightly more tricky. You need to do “indirect quoting”, or reporting what the author said. Simple example again:

Mary says “I am going to the park”.

I write: “Mary said that she was going to the park.”

What we have to do here is retain the sense of the original, while writing it in our own words. Here’s what I came up with. Note that I can now use the notes I made on Dexter, too, as I don’t have anything in his words but can talk about what he said and I noted down:

Here I have used a number of different techniques. In no case, though, do I use more than a couple of the original source’s words exactly as they appear in the original. Instead I do this:

  • using synonyms: “hard discipline” instead of “rigorous discipline”
  • simplifying the words but getting the same sense across: “involves” instead of “basically boils down to”
  • reporting what the source said and using that to link the essay together: “she recommends using”
  • expanding on what the source says: “This could be through” rather than “you might”
  • summarising and synthesising (summing up and putting together) “Software such as Word or Excel could be used”, and “keeping a record of the author, title, journal information and date”.
  • Introducing the other research but linking it to the first idea: “Dexter (2012) agrees … “
  • Expanding notes into full sentences: the notes taken on the Dexter text.

Oh: please note here that you use “Broomfield (2011) says this is the case ” or “According to Broomfield (2011) this is the case” but never “According to Broomfield (2011) says this is the case” – I see that last one all the time.

Combining direct and indirect quotation

Of course, the best way is to combine them – some direct quotations, some reported speech or indirect quotations. This has the benefit of breaking up the text a bit, giving some interest, and allowing some use of the authors’ words to save having to rewrite everything.

Note that here I have shuffled around the order of what the first author says, too.

Rewrite, don’t copy and paste

I hope I’ve now managed to explain

  • What plagiarism is (see more in this post)
  • Why it’s not a good idea
  • Different ways to avoid it
  • Direct and indirect quotations
  • Some tips on how to rewrite text

Please do let me know if you’ve found this useful – or if there is more detail you’d like to know about. And do share using the buttons below if you’d like to tell your friends and colleagues about this information.

If you want more … here is a whole article on plagiarism, here is one on essay writing in general and one on writing dissertations and theses, and if you click on the students or writing or Word categories in the right hand column of the blog, you’ll get loads more hints and tips.


Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Ethics, New skills, Punctuation, Students, Word, Writing


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Though or although?

Here is another pair of words with an identical meaning but subtly different uses. There’s a style warning at the end, too. We like a style warning, don’t we!

Both though and although mean” in spite of the fact that”, “however”, “but”. “Although he’s messy at home, he’s very organised at work”, “She was a plainly dressed woman, though with a flamboyant taste in hats”, “The dogs, though fierce in appearance, were friendly”.

Although is the more formal of the two. I prefer it to though at the beginning of a sentence, which is the traditional way of doing things. “Though he was firm, he was fair” just looks better to me as, “Although he was firm, he was fair”.

You cannot replace though with although in adverbial uses – “it was nice of him to write, though”. or with as or even – “she doesn’t look as though she’s reading that book, even though she says she is”

And finally, you shouldn’t start a sentence with either of these if it’s actually acting as a linking word between the previous sentence and this one: “He was firm. Although he was fair too”, or if it’s making a link between two concepts in the upcoming phrases: “Although he was firm. He was fair too”. Make sure both of the linked ideas are in the same sentence.

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


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Kaitlyn Hatch

Welcome to Saturday Business chat. We’re finding out about a brand new business today: Kaitlyn Hatch has only just launched Me First Life Coaching! Kaitlyn’s one of those natural entrepreneurs, finding out what the word meant when she was 12 and has been producing and selling art and engaging in various business ventures since she was very young. Now she’s a Life Coach, helping other people achieve their goals – although she hasn’t done this particular job before, she can draw parallels between how this business will work and how other endeavours have worked in the past, showing that you can switch emphasis and move between areas in a freelance career.

Kaitlyn’s following the path I took, working full time in a day job at the moment, but planning to transition to part time and then fully self-employed soon (sooner than I did it!). So let’s find out what she’s doing!

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

I just launched Me First Life Coaching in January 2012, although I did a soft launch of my website in November 2011.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I have alway been very entrepreneurial. I remember taking a test in a magazine when I was about twelve which said I was extremely independent and self motivated so I’d do well to be an entrepreneur. That was the first time I heard the word and I had to ask my mum what it meant. When she explained it. I remember thinking that owning your own business was a lot of work. I’ve since come to realise that there is a lot of reward in the work involved and, ultimately, I’m better suited to being my own boss than to working for someone else.

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

Life coaching is a natural choice for me. I love helping people realise their potential and I really enjoy showing people how they are their own greatest teacher. It’s second nature for me.

Had you run your own business before?
Sort of. Since I was a kid I’ve been really good at selling things. I used to hand draw colouring books and sell them door to door in my neighbourhood. From the age of nineteen for four years I set up a not for profit organisation in Canada. For the past three years I’ve been doing my own self marketing as an artist. I’ve held two successful gallery shows, one in Calgary and one in London.

I like making things happen, setting stuff up so it works and can carry on and then moving onto the next thing. This will be a bit different from my previous experience but the principles are the same.

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’m still in the process really. I’ve done a soft launch and then a hard launch. Now I’m working on spreading the word, getting networked through my blog and advertising for clients. I believe goals are super important but I also believe in keeping your eyes wide open. If you focus too much on a single goal you might miss another opportunity that will get you the same end result. For the time being I’m still working full time for someone else, but I’m cutting back my hours and have plans to be fully self-employed by the end of the summer.

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

Nothing really. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had a lot of positive support my entire life. I’ve always believed that you need to just get on and do it. If there’s something you want in life, some direction you’re looking for, a path you want to take, then do it. Now. Life isn’t next week or next month or in a year. Life is right now and it’s up to us to make it what we want it to be.

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

I think I’ve always been entrepreneurial but I think I’d go back to my younger self and say, “Remember who you are.” I wasted a few years when I forgot who I was, what I was passionate about and what mattered to me. Of course, if I hadn’t have gone through that loss I wouldn’t have learned the lesson and when older me popped up in front of younger me and said such sage words of wisdom, I’d have been more baffled than appreciative. Thing is, I really love myself, who I am and the life I’m leading. I wouldn’t be this person if not for the mistakes and hiccups of the past so I can’t really say I would go back.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Not a thing. Regrets shouldn’t be about ‘what ifs’ or trying to change what cannot be changed. They’re about learning from your mistakes by promising not to repeat them in the future.

What are you glad you did?

I’m super glad I’ve done it. End of. Full stop. I’m happy to have made the opportunity and taken the plunge.

What’s your top business tip?

Know what you’re worth. I think a lot of people undersell themselves. Whether you’re working for someone else or working for yourself, what is the value of your time?

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

I certainly hope it doesn’t stay the same. Change is constant, growth is important.

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

I don’t know that I have a really specific idea of where the business will be in a year’s time. On general terms I see it as self-sustaining, growing at a manageable pace and providing me with a stable income as well as feeding my passion for helping people.

That’s an enviable goal, and what a positive and forward-thinking lady! I’d say these were good attributes for a Life Coach, wouldn’t you?! I wish Kaitlyn every success in her new venture, and look forward to seeing where her new path has taken her in a year’s time …

Note: Kaitlyn’s websites are now not available so I can only assume that the business is no longer running.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.


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Pore or pour?

Another pair of words that sound the same but don’t mean the same, and that get mixed up more times than I’d care to mention. Read on to find out how to differentiate between pore and pour.

First off, the more uncommon one. To pore (over) something is to be absorbed in the reading of it. “She was so busy poring over the article on semiotics that she missed her stop on the Tube”. A pore is also a minute opening in the skin (etc.) through which liquids and gases can pass. But I don’t think that’s the usage that gets mixed up with this pair.

To pour (over, out, etc.) is to flow or cause to flow in a steady stream. “Water poured down the wall as the shower leaked from above”; “she poured herself a cup of tea”.

Short but sweet. The same sound, but different spellings, meanings and, well, words.

“As she pored over the ancient manuscripts, it began to pour with rain”.

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


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My short cuts – how to create a contents page in Word

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Today we’re going to look at how to create a contents page or contents list in Word. I am breaking this series up into small pieces, so we have already learned about setting up headings and then numbering them.

You will use this to save yourself time and ensure consistency when you’re setting up a large document and you want it to have a contents page. You can do it manually, but it is FAR easier to do it this way.

First, have a look at the two headings articles to make sure you understand how to assign headings and how to number them (if you want to).

Now, for the purposes of making a more interesting contents page, I’ve popped each heading onto a separate page (and we all know how to do that, don’t we!)

So the text is all set up, with headings that are also numbered, and each heading is on a separate page. Now we’re going to put our cursor at the beginning of the document, and make sure we’re in the References tab.

You can see the Table of Contents button highlighted – click on that and have a look at the box that comes up:

Here we have lots of different styles of contents page to choose between. Either double click on the one you want – I clicked on the first one – or click once to highlight it and then Insert Table of Contents. And look what appears! Magic!

You can see lots of lovely headings and their numbers, all laid out nice and clearly (imagine if this was a PhD or another long document with lots of sub-headings.

But what happens if we need to change something in the text? Look – there’s a problem with the document here …

I can see that I should have typed “How Much it Costs” for section 3, and it’s on page 8 along with Section 2, when it should be on page 9. Oh no!

So let’s go to page 8, move the heading onto page 9 and amend the heading itself:

Great – so now the text is sorted out and the heading is on page 9, where it should be. How do we update the Table of Contents to reflect this change?

Go back to the Table of Contents and highlight it (it all comes up in blue if you click on one bit of it). Left click and you should find it puts everything in grey and gives you a little tab at the top like this.

You can use this to change all sorts of attributes on the contents page, or you can just click on Update Field from here or left click when you have the contents list in blue in the last step, and you get this choice:

I always choose Update entire table, just in case. And with one click, it’s updated the Contents list to match the document.

So, no more fiddling around doing a contents page by hand. As long as you set up your headers, you can insert and update your Contents page however you want and whenever you want – so much easier!

This is why, if you use my proofreading services, I will put a note on your contents page reminding you to update it at the last minute, to take into account any changes we might have made to your pagination or heading numberings. Update the Contents page at the very last stage, and it’ll be completely accurate and up to date.

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, please click on the “share” buttons below or tell your friends and colleagues about it! Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here


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Peek, peak or pique?

We have an extra value Troublesome Triplet today, with a look at peek, peak and pique. These all sound the same, but not only are they spelled differently, they mean very different things, too.  But this doesn’t stop them getting mixed up – presumably the fact that they sound the same overrides all other factors!

To peek is to look furtively or quickly, and the noun means a quick or furtive look. “I’ll just take a peek at your first chapter but I’ll read it properly later”; “She peeked in through his window and saw him reading a book”. Going along with this shifty, round-corners type of feel, to peek can also mean to protrude slightly so as to be just visible: “the end of the dog’s tail peeked out from under the duvet, revealing his location”.

Moving on (or up) to the peak, this is the pointed top of a mountain (or refers to a mountain with a peak) and in a similar way, a point of highest achievement or activity (“The peak of his achievement in running was winning a gold medal”), point in a curve or on a graph that is highest point, and, well, the brim at the front of a cap (it sticks out/up). The verb to peak means to reach the highest point (“the hits on my website peaked at 229 in one day and never achieved that heady height again”) and the adjective peak refers to maximum or utmost – “he’s at peak fitness right now, just in time for the big athletics meeting”) or characterised by maximum activity or demand – “phone call charges increase at peak hours”.  There is a secondary, archaic, meaning, from the 17th century, to decline in health and spirit – we use this one when we refer to someone as looking a bit peaky, if they look a bit pale and unwell.

Pique has two linked meanings to do with prickings and prickliness: it’s either a feeling of irritation or resentment resulting from a slight especially to one’s pride – “he stormed off in a fit of pique” – or refers to stimulating interest or curiosity, again with a little prick or prod: “he piqued her interest with his fascinating talk of shower sealant, and she resolved to take a plumbing course”.

So, in essence, “She piqued his interest in mountaineering when she scaled the highest peak in the range and peeked at him from behind the cairn at the top”.

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


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Stephen Tiano

Welcome to Saturday Business chat. It’s time to chat to another contact I’ve made via the Copyediting list I belong to, Stephen Tiano, of Stephen Tiano: Book Designer, Page Compositor & Layout Artist. As I’ve probably said before, I love books, and I love my small part in their production, but how marvellous to be able to design a functional and beautiful object, both the book as a whole and the individual pages.

Stephen is another person who’s taken a skill developed in employment and taken it freelance, having identified a way he’d like to work that wasn’t quite the same as when he was employed. Not over-promising is vital: I have only done that once, and having worked through the night to make sure I didn’t miss that deadline, never again! And, like me, the solo option is what he wanted – it’s good for me to see that this is possible long-term as I look at my own options for the future

Enough about me: hello, Stephen!

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

I do business under my own name, Stephen Tiano, as an individual (I guess this would be considered a sole proprietorship?). On my website and in all communications I list myself thusly: Stephen Tiano, Book Designer, Page Compositor & Layout Artist.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I’d worked for a very badly run, family-owned computer typesetter in the late 1970s. I was with them as an employee, then as a freelancer, on and off until about 1993. One thing I decided there was that if they could run a business typesetting books, I certainly could, too—and better, if I kept things to a one-person operation that didn’t take in and promise more than I could deliver on time.

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

Again, I’d worked for a computer typesetter, so I knew how words ought to look on the printed page.

Had you run your own business before?

I’d actually been a partner in a gourmet shop once. So I knew I wanted things small enough that my input was all I needed.

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’ve always freelanced “with a net”. That is, I had a full-time day job in civil service when I started and the two have always meshed nicely, giving me the perfect combination of security, artistic output, and income.

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

That at least half my time freelancing would be spent finding the next book project.

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

Not to sell my services short and accept jobs at prices less than I think they’re worth just to keep working.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

I wish I could have spared myself the angst I felt, early on, each time I turned down a job.

What are you glad you did?

Going the Macintosh route in terms of my tools, so that I was always able to learn how to do my work, instead of how to deal with my computer.

What’s your top business tip?

Make sure you go into business with enough money to get the proper tools and services you need to make a go of being in business.

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

My book design practice has grown steadily in the twenty or so years I’ve had it. Of course, income has fluctuated, sometimes sliding backward from one year to the next. But I’ve been able to cultivate a business and my reputation and work fairly steady on interesting projects. And then there’ve been times when I’ve taken work that was more interesting than profitable, but having the full-time day job allows me to do that.

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

Hopefully, much busier as the economy continues to recover and move forward. My aim is to retire from the civil service job at some point, collect that pension, and focus on my book design practice full-time.

Some great tips there, especially around having the courage to turn jobs down. And Stephen’s story shows that you don’t have to freelance full time, with the worries and insecurity that can bring, to have a successful, flourishing and enjoyable freelance career. Find out how things were going in March 2013!

Stephen’s website is at and you can email him or call if you’re in the USA on tel. & fax: (631)284-3842 / cell: (631)764-2487 or Skype him using stephentianobookdesigner. Read Stephen’s blog and follow him on Twitter!

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.


Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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Comprise, compose or consist?

Comprise, compose and consist have come to my attention quite forcibly this week, as I keep coming across examples of them being used incorrectly. Or, rather, comprise being used incorrectly. “Comprise of” and, in the past tense, “comprised of” seem to be getting more and more common, and the three words do have a similar meaning, in that they are all about larger things being made up of smaller things. But the way they are used, and the constructions that are built around them, are different and do need care. There is also a subtle shift in emphasis from the parts to the whole, which I’ll describe as I go through them.

The problem creeps in when they are not adequately differentiated in the writer’s mind, in which case the constructions leak across from one to another, causing (gasp!) incorrect sentence structures. And yes, there is a school of thought that says “if you can understand it, it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit incorrect or clumsy”, but I don’t think there’s any need to be incorrect and clumsy if you don’t have to be. There, I’ve said it. Anyway, here goes!

To comprise is to consist of (yes, I know), be made up of: “the country comprises four regions”. But not (please!) “the country comprises of four regions”. If you are desperate to use “of”, then you can turn the verb around and make the country the subject, so: “the country is comprised of four regions”. But I’ll repeat again, it’s not comprises of, and really I don’t much like is comprised of much, either, when it comes down to it, and if you write that in something I’m editing, I’m likely to suggest changing it!

The emphasis here is very much on the smaller constituent parts. We’re talking about what the larger thing is made up of, and they are the important things, rather than the whole.

Note that the large thing comprises the small things. The small things don’t really comprise the big one, or at least we don’t write it that way round.

To consist of means to be made up of – “the country consists of four regions”.  You can use that “of” as much as you like with consist! The emphasis here is on the parts that make up the whole, but also on the fact that they do make up a whole, so there’s an equal balance of importance.

And a little bonus: to consist in means to have as an essential feature – “Bob and Tom look very similar: their difference consists in the way they talk”.

If you can replace “consists” with “lies”, then use in. If you can replace “consists” with “is made up” then use of.

To be composed of, again, means to be made up of, although the emphasis shifts here subtly to the whole: the parts compose the whole, and the whole is what is important. “The work is composed of four movements”.

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


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