Monthly Archives: April 2012

Advise or advice?

There are lots of other word pairs with an -s- and -c- (for example, practise/practice) that are differentiated by the fact that one is a verb (the -s- one) and one a noun (the -c- one). This one gets mixed up just as much, so it’s time to talk about it!

Advise is the verb. It means to offer advice to or to recommend. “‘I would not advise you to climb the steep face of the mountain: walk up the slope, instead,’ said John.”

Advice is the noun. It’s what’s advised: a recommendation or guidance offered with respect to future actions by the person being advised. “We took John’s advice, and took the easy way up the mountain.”

It should become easier to remember these once you have established that (in UK usage):

The word with the s is the verb, and involves doing something

The word with the c is the noun, and involves the thing itself.

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


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Annabelle Beckwith

Welcome to Saturday Business chat. I’ve got a great sister-brother series coming up over the next two weeks: how exciting! And this also happens to be two people who I’ve known for over 20 years … So first of all let’s find out all about Annabelle Beckwith from Yara Consulting.

I met Anna on our first day at University. I’d like to say “Who would have thought that we’d both end up running our own businesses?”, but although that’s true to some extent, I think everyone thought Anna would end up in a people-based, lively, possibly acting- or media-orientated role, and I thought I was going to be a librarian or a writer … and now Anna’s training people in all sorts of unorthodox and exciting ways and I am a writer, amongst other things, so …

One of the things I love about Anna is that she is honest, humble, and open about the different lessons she’s learned along the way – which makes for a great Saturday Small Business interview! You should have a look at her blog, too, which often feeds out of her personal experiences and always has a new and interesting perspective on business and life matters. I’ve been privileged enough to help out with the Yara blog (she does the ideas and the writing and I do the tidying: friends and colleagues who complement each other very well!) but I enjoy reading it, too. Anyway, let’s meet Annabelle!

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

My business is called Yara Consulting and I set it up last year.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I’d worked with another friend several years, in an arts-based training company that we had set up together. We decided to go our separate ways a couple of years ago, as I wanted to continue in training and development, and she wanted to pursue her interest and flair for drama.

I had also been working as an associate trainer for a much larger organisation, and felt that there was a bit of a gap in the market for a non-mainstream approach to training that involves developing new ideas, methods and approaches.

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

I’d been involved with training off and on over the years, mainly in the areas of presentation skills and personal impact, stemming from my drama training. Gradually, that training element became more and more part of my work until it was time to focus on it completely.

Had you run your own business before?

Yes – I’d been working as a freelance for a few years before setting up Yara Consulting, and several years ago I’d provided marketing services as ‘Incognito Consultants’. I was last in full time employment about 7 years ago, so I felt it was time to make the change from ‘freelancer’ to business owner / entrepreneur.

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 first became freelance because I’d been made redundant! In fact, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me (although it didn’t feel like it at the time!). I suppose sometimes life forces decisions on you that you should have been brave enough to make on your own.

The job I was in was quite a specialised one, and there were few opportunities at the same level in the same field.  Training had always been part of what I did, so I decided to go for it rather than look for another job.
I think that the fact I’d burnt my bridges proved an advantage because there was no going back and no safety net – it was do or die!

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

There are lots of pieces of advice that I’d give myself, looking back. The main one, though, would be to be yourself, and not to be afraid of adopting a unique approach. When you start out its tempting to benchmark yourself with everyone else  and not to stick your head above the parapet in case you make a mistake. In fact, the market – ANY market – wants fresh original ideas and approaches rather than re-hashes of existing products and services, so I think it’s important to make your own mark as quickly as possible.

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

I’d also tell myself to get out and network, and make contacts and friends! You could be working on your own quite a lot of the time, which can be difficult to get used to if you’ve been used to working in an office with colleagues.  Facebook has actually proved enormously useful in keeping up with people  – especially other freelancers – on a day-to-day basis!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Looking back, I wish I’d started out on my own sooner. I’d be further ahead than I am now.

What are you glad you did?

That said, I’m glad that I did take the plunge and decided to go it alone and take control of my own future rather than get another job.

What’s your top business tip?

My top business tips mirror the Yara Method that I developed with my associates: set your goals high, and develop a strong sense of self belief. Be prepared to learn as you go, and develop resilience and momentum.

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

Since starting out, I’ve refined what I do, and narrowed it down to a few keys areas. I’ve also started to offer coaching: in fact, I was approached by several people asking if I’d coach them so it seemed like a natural progression.

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

A lot can happen in a year! I plan to keep growing, and to turn some of my training programmes into online products to generate another income stream.

I find it so interesting how some of us hone and concentrate in and others of us expand our offering – but whichever way you go, it’s clearly important to do it in an organic manner that’s responsive to the needs of your client base. Anna has been tremendously inspiring to me, especially in the early days of Libro, when she encouraged me to be brave and go for it. I can’t wait to see how Yara is going this time next year!

The Yara Consulting website can be found at  and don’t forget to take a look at the blog, Anna can be contacted via email, too, of course. You can now read Anna’s brother, Tone’s, interview, and their cousin, Sam’s one, too. And did Anna do what she said she’d be doing in a year’s time? Read her update interview and find out!

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 April 28, 2012 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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New ways to navigate the resources on the Libro blog

I’ve built up loads of information on all sorts of topics on this blog over the past few years, so I thought it was time to put together a resource to help you find what’s most useful for you. I ran a poll, people said yes, so I did it!

I put this new guide together about a week ago, and it’s proved popular so I thought I’d let you know about it quickly.

I’ve put together one simple resource guide with three main sections:

  • Resources for business – these include posts on how to set up a small business, things to do to grow your business, hints on networking, motivation, etc.; then some information about tax and finally an additional link to my small business interviews (note that business formation and tax posts are relevant to the UK although the rest of it will translate anywhere)
  • Resources for students – how to write an essay or dissertation, plagiarism and quoting sources, and lots more to come
  • Resources for Word users – all sorts of tips and hints to make your documents more consistent and easy to write, change and navigate, including tabs, margins, headings, contents pages and more obscure matters like how to put text in alphabetical order. Also includes a few notes on PowerPoint and other applications,

The whole resource guide offers a good way to find out what you need to know – do have a look and a play around, and let me know if you’ve found anything particularly useful!  I’ll be adding both resources and entries to the resource guide as I go along, of course. Watch this space …

And of course, we still have the index to the Troublesome Pairs and index to all the Saturday Small Business Chat posts.

I hope you enjoy the resource guide and indexes, and the resources they guide you to!


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How to count the words in a PowerPoint 2007 presentation

I recently needed to know the word count in a PowerPoint presentation. In my case, this was because I charge my clients by the word, in the main, and needed to know how much to charge someone for editing her PowerPoint text. But I’m sure it will be useful in other cases, too, for example if you’re a student with a word count target.

And it’s NOT obvious. Plus it’s different in Word 2007 and Word 2010, of course.

So, this is what you do …

How do I count the words in a PowerPoint 2007 presentation?

Open your document and click on the big Office button in the top left (1)

Click on Prepare (2) (like that’s obvious!) then Properties (3). This will give you some of the document properties in a bar along the top (these vary according to how you set up your document in the first place):

And because nothing ever shows you what you want immediately, you then need to click on Document Properties then choose Advanced Properties from the drop down. Then, finally, you get …

A lovely dialogue box with all the properties you could ever want, including the word count.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Powerpoint 2007, for PC. Mac compatible versions 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!

Related posts:

How do I count the number of words in a PowerPoint 2010 presentation?

How do I count the number of words in a PowerPoint 2013 presentation?

Find all the short cuts here


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Diffuse or defuse?

Two more words that look similar and sound similar but mean different things. Will there ever be an end to these?

To defuse means to reduce the tension or danger in something. This could be a physical something, like a bomb, or a less concrete thing, like an argument or a situation. “To defuse the fight situation that was building up, Tom jumped forward and kissed Dave on the nose.”

To diffuse means to spread out over a wide area. It’s what one of those room scenter things does, in the concrete form. Again, there’s an abstract – you can diffuse an idea and help it spread around the world. Diffuse, the noun, means spread out over, well, a wide area. The group of people from Kent was diffuse now, a few in each neighbourhood. The adjective can also mean lacking in clarity: “That was a bit of a diffuse argument you presented there” – the sense is carried over in the idea of it being all over the place, spread out, rather than precise and targeted.

If you defuse an idea, you render it harmless, eliminate it. Fewer people will hear about it. If you diffuse it, you spread it to more people.

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


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Angela Wiseman

Welcome to Saturday Business chat. If you’re following these posts in order, we’re going from books to bunting today with Angela Wiseman from The Shetland Bunting Company. I “met” Angela on Twitter and as I’m thinking about Bunting myself at the moment (being Bunting Monitor for our Jubilee Street Party) it seemed very apt to have this one come in (in fact I did wonder about saving it for June!).

Angela’s used skills and an interest she had already (or an addiction to fabric, as she puts it) to boost her income while living somewhere with limited employment resources. Although the things she wishes she had done are quite specific, we can draw general principles from them too, about thinking ahead and profiting from economies of scale.

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

My business is called The Shetland Bunting Company and I set it up in February 2012.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

Needs must: life on the UK’s most remote inhabited island comes at a very high financial cost, yet with little opportunities for income outwith small businesses.

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

A lifetime love of and addiction to textiles/sewing/fabric shopping … using one’s best skills?

Had you run your own business before?

Nope but my husband has for 14 years.

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 jumped in with both feet and a sewing machine running overtime.

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

Just how busy I would be.

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

Buy two more sewing machines and have all three set up for different operations to save time resetting the same machine.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Bought wayyyy more fabrics in than I had.

What are you glad you did?

Took the jump, I love sewing and I now have the best excuse ever to buy more fabrics.

What’s your top business tip?

If you have a skill, use it, but don’t hoard it: share it with the next generation.

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

We are really busy and adding to our stock range all the time with a growing customer base.

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

If we keep going at this rate, I’ll be looking to employ some part-time help.

I do like to think about brightly coloured bunting making its way down from Shetland all over the UK in time for the Jubilee and other celebrations! And it’s lovely to think that The Shetland Bunting Company might be in a position to give employment to other Islanders by the time we come back to see how they’re doing.

Angela’s website can be found at and you can get in touch with her via email.

Angela didn’t provide any further updates after this first interview. As far as I know the website is still live as of September 2013.

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. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.


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Why I do my tax return in April

Many people I know who are self-employed or run small businesses submit their tax returns – and find out what they owe – AND pay what they owe – at the end of January each year.

I have just done mine this morning. Not to be smug, I promise, although I am feeling a little smug about it right now, but because a) I have all the information ready, and b) I want to know what I owe the taxman, especially as this is the year I will have to start paying my tax on account (AKA “The double tax year”). You can read all about that in my guest post with Emily Coltman.

And, I am pleased to say, I had a nice surprise. I went a bit wrong and wildly overestimated when I worked out what I thought I was going to owe. But even if it had been a nasty surprise, I’d still rather know what was going on and what I owed: wouldn’t you?

What did I do wrong when working out my tax?

I really thought that, given the Payment on Account thing, I was going to give back around 65% of my income from Libro. This was based on the following fallacies:

  1. I thought I’d earned my personal allowance at my library job and that was that – actually I overpaid tax on that job, and I thought it would be refunded to me personally, whereas actually it just (sensibly)   came off the total tax amount I owed
  2. You know when you are employed and the general rule is that if you knock 25% off your gross pay you’ll pretty well come up with what you’ll end up with after tax? Well I was working on that assumption, forgetting that includes National Insurance payments that I don’t pay now (don’t worry: I do pay others!)
  3. I thought that NIC 4 National Insurance payments, which I have to pay now I’m earning a certain amount, a) were 12% and b) applied to my full profit. Actually they are a) 9% and b) apply to all profit over a certain threshold

Basically, I have ended up needing to give the tax man about 49% of my Libro income, rather than 65%. Which is quite a difference.

Why do my tax return in April?

So I can put aside my tax and know I’ve got it there when I need to pay it. As I said, the main reason is that I want to know what I owe and make sure I put it aside. I’m not going to PAY it until it’s due (in January 2012 and July 2013), but it’s put safely aside, as of this morning, in an account that pays interest.

To release funds to live on. I could also do with some more money to live on for the year. Now I know what the tax bill is, I can happily withdraw the rest of the money in my Libro account to my personal account (NOTE: this is because I’m a Sole Trader: it’s a bit different if you’re a Limited Company), and I now know what I’ve got to live on until next April. Sure, I could take money out as I go along, and lots of people do that, but personally I like to know exactly what I can take – especially in this slightly confusing double tax year.

Because I could. I’m lucky in that I have a simple business model and I do my accounts as I go along, and I’m not VAT registered. So I could finalise my end of year accounts quite easily, and just had to wait for my statements of interest from my banks to come through (you have to state all interest earned from bank accounts on your tax return, even though they are already taxed. The HMRC takes this into account when it tots it all up). Other years, I’ve had to wait for my P60 to come from the library, but this time I had a nice P45 from December and copied the numbers from that. Next year, I won’t even have to worry about that!

How the Payment on Account has worked out

I was really pleased and relieved to have a screen come up at the end of submitting the figures, which states very clearly:

  • my tax burden for 2011-12 and how much I have to pay by 31 Jan 2013
  • the half of my Payment On Account amount for 2012-13 that is also due by 31 Jan 2013
  • the half of my Payment On Account amount for 2012-13 that is due by 31 Jul 2013

It’s all very clearly set out, which was something I was wondering about.

So that’s it: done. Minimal fuss.

My suggestions for you

If you run your own business (and surely you won’t have read this far if you don’t??!!), I strongly suggest you …

  1. Register to complete your self-assessment online if you haven’t done so already
  2. Finalise your 2011-2012 accounts
  3. Order your Statements of Interest from your banks (some will print these off, some need to send one for each account through the post) and get together any other documentation you need
  4. When you’ve received your letter confirming your online registration, complete your self assessment online
  5. Set aside the amount of tax you now know you will need to pay
  6. Relax, knowing what you’ve earned and what you owe
  7. Avoid the frenzy in January 2013 because YOU’VE ALREADY DONE IT!

Note: I am not your tax advisor. I am not an accountant. This information is for personal illustrative purposes only. Please consult an accountant or tax advisor or the HMRC if you have any questions, worries, queries or complications. I am not responsible for anything you do with your tax return or tax affairs.


Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Business



Harry Bingham

Welcome to Saturday Business chat.  Today’s chat is with Harry Bingham of The Writers Workshop, a business based in Oxfordshire that works with authors to offer them editorial advice through a network of freelancers (full disclosure being the order of the day, I do not work with this company myself, but may do in the future).

Harry really did stick with what he knew when he set up his business: he’s an author, and he wanted to help other authors and also support his own writing with another income stream. I’m all for authors being the ones who offer these services, as I think they’re more likely to understand their clients and provide them with the service they need, and also they are less likely to try to rip them off or pull the wool over their eyes. I do worry about writers I work with falling prey to some of the less scrupulous people out there, so it’s good to know that there are decent companies I can recommend if people come to me for advice.

So, let’s meet Harry.

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

My business is called The Writers Workshop. I set it up in 2006. We started out offering editorial advice to first time authors. First it was just me and a friend. Now we’ve got about 80 freelancers working for us, all of them professional novelists, non-fiction authors, screenwriters or commissioning editors. We handle almost 1000 manuscripts a year and large numbers of our clients have gone on to get published. Some have even won prizes, got film deals, and/or become bestsellers.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I was (and am) an author and wanted a more stable source of income to set alongside my writing.

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

I’m an author: I stuck to what I knew.

Had you run your own business before?


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 with a £1000 investment in a website and I’ve always treated the job as part-time. We now have an office of three people (two part-timers) and hordes of freelancers. I still spend most of my working hours as a writer, not as the WW-owner. It’s a wonderful life.

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

Nothing really. I started out small and have (nearly always) felt in control. I knew that starting a business would be a lot of work, so wasn’t surprised by that aspect of things.

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

That it would be OK! The business would get there in the end.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

We started out very dependent on Google Adwords for our marketing. That worked well for us for a long time, but grew to become cripplingly expensive. I wish I’d diversified away from Google sooner than I did.

What are you glad you did?

We have been strictly web-based from the start. So nearly all our advertising and marketing efforts have been internet based. Although we used to do a little print advertising, we do essentially none at all these days. Our strategy has, of course, been really consistent with the way things have evolved.

What’s your top business tip?

Always deliver a fantastic service. We’ve always tried to be the absolute best at what we do, and if the quality of your service is right, I do believe that every other aspect of the business will be fixable. That’s certainly seemed to work for us. We’ve also worked hard to make lots of top quality advice available free on our website. We believe that if you give people a good quality service without charging, that’s a terrific advert for what you’ll do when you do charge.

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

Our core service has always been manuscript appraisal and editorial advice – and we’ve also always been very active in helping people find literary agents when their work has been strong enough.

In the last two or three years, we’ve added writing courses to the mix – which are starting to work really well – and we run the Festival of Writing, which combines short writing courses and workshops with intense interaction with literary agents and publishers. It’s a genuinely heady weekend.

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

Overall, it feels like we have a good, coherent package of services. I think we’ll focus now on expanding our reach and less on adding new services. The real trick will be to go on developing our web presence: something that just takes huge amounts of patience and work.

It sounds like Harry’s got everything set up just as he wants it, and has got the writing / business owning balance just right. I firmly believe in giving people helpful information and building your reputation that way, too. I look forward to seeing how everything is going in a year’s time!

The Writers Workshop is based in Oxfordshire but working online means they can look after clients wherever they may be! Their website is at and they can, of course, be contacted via email.

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 April 14, 2012 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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Wander or wonder?

This Troublesome Pair was suggested by a reader of one of my previous posts. Do keep your suggestions coming if there’s one you are confused about yourself or notice other people mixing up!

Wonder and wander is probably another pair that gets mixed up because the two words sound (fairly) similar, or exactly the same in some accents.

To wander is to move around aimlessly, to walk or move in a leisurely manner through or over an area. You might “wander lonely as a cloud” across the Lake District, for example (thanks to Wordsworth). A wander (the noun) is an aimless walk.

To wonder is to feel curious or desire to know, or to feel wonder, as in surprise and admiration caused by something unfamiliar, unexpected or beautiful (wonder (noun) being that feeling). “The sunset caused a sense of wonder in the onlookers”; “Mary wondered where her lamb had got to”.

To distinguish the two: “Mary wandered all over the farm, wondering where she had left her lamb”.

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


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How to put text in alphabetical order in Word

I was inspired to write this post after having to put yet another student’s bibliography into alphabetical order. I know the quick and easy way to do this – but I don’t think a lot of people know that you can do this!

So, you’ve got your bibliography, and you’ve been very good and followed the rules for setting it out (I’ve used Harvard method here) but it’s not in alphabetical order by author surname, and, except in certain cases,* it really should be.

*A very few referencing systems ask for the bibliography to be in the order in which the references appear in the text. I’ve hardly ever had to deal with them. But I like completeness!

So, a lovely list of books but not in order by the authors’ surnames. How can we resolve this without swapping all the lines around?

First, highlight all the text you want to alphabetise. Then, make sure you’ve got the Home tab at the front. See that little button you’ve never even seen before, next to the paragraph mark?

Press the A-Z button and up pops a dialogue box.

There are all sorts of ways in which you can order the text, which are very similar to the ways you can order text and numbers in Excel. You can even specify whether what you’re sorting has a header row (I’m not sure why you’d want to do that, as you can just exclude the header row when you’re doing the highlighting, but I suppose it would be useful if you realise you’ve accidentally highlighted the headers too). I’ve sorted by Paragraph, Text, and in Ascending Order here, and to be honest, that’s what I always do. Click on OK, and look what you get:

Here’s our bibliography in order by author surname with just a highlight of the text and a few clicks – much quicker and with far less risk of human error than doing it manually.

Note: if your results come out a bit odd and have split your entries up into two halves, reverse your alphabetising by either hitting Control-Z or the Undo button, and check there aren’t any pesky hard returns hiding out in the middle of paragraphs (the best way to do this is to click the Paragraph button, to the right of the A-Z button and look out for bent arrows signifying carriage returns). Get rid of those and alphabetise again to your heart’s content!

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.

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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