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Small business chat updates – Sally Evans-Darby and Cha Haxell

03 Aug

Welcome to another Small Business Update. Today we’re catching up with two ladies with relatively new businesses, Sally Evans-Darby and Cha Haxell, and seeing how they’re getting on developing their businesses and markets.

Sally Evans-Darby

Write Sense Media logoSally is a fellow proofreader and editor, and writer at Write Sense Media, based in Cheltenham. When I originally interviewed her on 14 July 2012, her business was very new. Her plan for the upcoming year? “I truly hope to see my business flourishing and for me to feel much more in control of my life! I hope to have a diverse client base and to have built up lots of long-lasting relationships. I hope to have been to a few SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) events and to have met other people working in the same field”. So how is business, a year on?

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

First of all, I can’t believe a year has gone already. This has been probably the busiest year of my life so far, so the time has really flown by. Clock-watching is a thing of the past!

I’m very fortunate and happy to say that I pretty much am where I hoped I’d be. I hoped that my business would be doing well, that I’d have varied and frequent clients and projects to work with, and that I’d feel more a master of my own destiny. I can say that all three of those boxes have been ticked. I’m very lucky and it goes to show that if you decide to do something and put all your willpower into making it happen, it is possible.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The main thing that has changed is that I’ve gone from trying not to appear desperate when I was really trying to land my first client, to having to turn down work as my schedule’s too full. I know this happens to a lot of freelancers: they have so much on that they end up working round the clock, which is pretty much where I am now. This may put people off deciding to take the plunge into freelance work but I do find it impossible to keep fixed hours, like a 9-5 job – I work most evenings and weekends to keep on top of everything. That said, because I’m in charge of my time, I have found that I can juggle things and push my schedule around to do things that I want to do – like take an afternoon off to enjoy the sunshine, or go away for a couple of days mid-week at short notice.

What’s stayed the same is the core of the work I do, which is mostly copyediting. In fact, one of my very first copyediting clients last year is very much a regular, I’m glad to say, and I really enjoy working with them – especially as now I know their style and ways of working inside out.

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

I wish I’d known that it really was possible for my business to be successful in less than a year. I think I thought it would take a lot longer to really get things going. As I say, I’ve been really lucky to find the right clients and the right sort of work, and I just hope I can keep it up!

Also, I may have underestimated the amount of time I would actually spend at my desk, day after day. The work I do is varied and engaging and I love it, but it does mean unavoidable hours of sitting down! I’ve tried all sorts of exercise regimes that fit around work to try and get myself moving – walking, yoga, cycling, indoor aerobics – but I still have to really push myself to get away from the desk and move about at least a few times a day…!

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think self-belief is a big factor – it really helps if you have people around you who see what you’re trying to do and believe you can do it too. Prepare to put everything you’ve got into it – it can’t be a half-baked attempt. You’ll work harder and longer hours than ever before and it’s sometimes difficult to separate your home and work life when working from home. But you find ways of making it work for you, and it’s worth it to be getting up every day and making a living doing something you love and are good at.

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

In terms of editing and proofreading, I hope to be branching out a little more with some of my more specialist subjects (jazz, philosophy, film), and I truly hope my business is still going as well as it is today.

What a lovely set of responses! I think Sally will find that the hectic work life settles down as she moves through this second year of being in business. I got very busy at some points last year, but I’ve managed to smooth things out through judicious choices when it comes to accepting new clients, and building work with regulars, so that I have a less frantic time these days. Good to see she still gets out in the sunshine, though – that Vitamin D is important, as well as moving around!

You can find Sally’s website at www.writesensemedia.co.uk and, of course, email her. She’s on social media, too, for example Twitter and LinkedIn.

Cha Haxell

large cup lingerieCha’s business proved to be a firm favourite when I interviewed her on 30 June 2012. Her business, Large Cup Lingerie, had been established for a couple of years so was in a consolidation and diversifying phase; indeed, her plan was this: “In a year’s time we’ll have an even more diverse range of swimwear and lingerie brands! We offer free international delivery, so hopefully we’ll have more regular international customers too”. Did she manage to add those brands and expand internationally? Read on and see what happened next … 

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I am happy to say that yes we are. We have started stocking lots of Panache brands; Masquerade, Cleo, Panache Sport, Panache Swimwear and Cleo Swimwear. We’re now also stocking Fraulein Annie, and have our first order from new brand Tutti Rouge arriving later this month. We’ve seen an increase in international sales too, which is what we were aiming for.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We’ve had many more orders, which is fantastic, and as a result we’ve found more efficient ways of working. Also, rather than actively looking for new brands, lots of companies have actually approached us, which is a massive difference to when we started.

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

One of the main things I’ve realised is the impact of sending out newsletters. I was reticent to do it initially because my grasp of Photoshop was horrendous, but I have improved on that and find newsletters a great way to engage with our customers and to promote new stock and special offers. I am also able to find my way around the back end of the website a bit better now, so tweaking bits here and there is much quicker. I feel as though I’m always learning, which is something I embrace.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Try to keep up to date with what your competitors are doing, and if a customer requires a product or service that you can’t provide, then don’t hesitate to recommend a competing business. Your customer will be grateful for your knowledge of the industry and for assisting them in obtaining what they needed, and also it shows confidence in your own business that you would recommend they go elsewhere, because you have faith that your unique selling point will keep them returning to you. Avoid making negative remarks about your competitors.

Make the most of social media to ask your customers what they want; you need to know and they want to tell you, so it’s a perfect partnership. This can be very useful when deciding which new lines to stock as you can determine which ranges are likely to sell better than others.

Some really good points there, and I particularly like the one about recommending other providers if you can’t fulfil a customer’s needs. It’s much better, in my opinion, to work with your “competitors” rather than against them, and this is proved time and again in my own business and in others I feature in this series.

Large Cup Lingerie’s website is at www.largecuplingerie.com  and you can contact Cha by email or via the Contact Us form on the website.

Large Cup Lingerie are still going strong but haven’t been able to find the time to participate in this series on an on-going basis. We wish them well in their endeavours!

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.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 3, 2013 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat

 

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4 responses to “Small business chat updates – Sally Evans-Darby and Cha Haxell

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