Monthly Archives: November 2013

Small business chat update – Jules White

mugsGood morning! It’s Small Business Chat update time, and today we have another third interview, from Jules White (was Jules Thomas) of The Last Hurdle. We last caught up with Jules in November 2012: when asked where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she replied, “In another year I hope to be very close to the successful completion of the Franchise pilots and have a fantastic working model, to accompany the extensive training programme and support packages. The proof is in the pudding!” So, how’s she doing with that plan …?

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

Yes and a bit further, I have 2 pilot Franchises running, both doing rather well, which is very encouraging. We are about to move into a much larger office to accommodate our much larger team. I am very pleased with our progress over the last 12 months.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We have continued to grow over the last year, we now have a team of 8 business development specialists and we are looking forward to moving into our new headquarters in the next couple of weeks. We have signed contracts on a 1000 sq ft office in Towcester to incorporate the head office for the Franchisor company (Head Quarters) The Northampton Branch and one of our franchise offices. On a personal note, I am pleased to say I am expecting a new addition to The Last Hurdle in April, I have received comments that the baby will come out with a mobile phone and desk ready to join the team.

We have recently won our biggest contract to date with a letting franchise and I will be looking to duplicate this success with other franchises. We have already overachieved the targets I set for this financial year. Earlier this year, in March, our apprentice Ellie joined us and has been an absolute godsend. Ellie is due to complete her apprenticeship in the spring and I am already recruiting for another apprentice.

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

I am still on a huge learning curve and my biggest assets are the team around me. Learning to delegate when you are a bit of a control freak is not easy, as you can imagine, however, with a strong team (who at times are willing to wrestle work from me) I am confident that we can accomplish anything we aim for!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Surround yourself with positive influences, try to remove all negative influences as these have more effect than you might wish. Concentrate on the positives, you will find you will aim for what you focus on!

Consider the apprenticeship scheme, this is a great incentive for you to be able to train a member of staff to do things your way, whilst the training side of the qualification is carried out by the partner. Highly recommended.

Consistency is key to successful business development, don’t lose faith and KEEP GOING!

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

I have a lot of action points to complete in the next year, including:

  • Continuing to build upon the success of the Northampton Franchise
  • Writing our own NVQ courses, to develop our training programmes.
  • Completing the pilot schemes with our two franchisees and honing the offering for full franchises until they are ready to market.
  • Ensuring that all suppliers are secured (nearly completed) with performance agreements in place.
  • Giving birth (obviously)
  • And possibly sourcing a branch manager … I’ll let you know how I get on next year :o)

Wow – that’s a lot of achievement this year, with steady and planned growth achieving more than the planned targets – great stuff. I think we all have a lot to learn from the tight control but ability to expand that the company is experiencing. Jules also had this lovely comment to make about this series, reproduced with her permission: “This exercise is great! Really good to see what I wrote last year and the year before … I think I would probably still share if things were not so good, so keep sending them every year! A great project to be involved with.” It’s a lot of hard work publishing and following up these interviews, so it’s really, really lovely to get such feedback – thanks, Jules, and we’ll look forward to hearing your news next time around!

You can find The Last Hurdle on the web at website, and on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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.


Posted by on November 30, 2013 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Register office or registry office?

If you have anything whatsoever to do with yourself or anyone else getting married in the standard, official, council-run place, you will have been driven mad by the register office / registry office thing. Right? “It’s register office!”, you may or may not have bellowed, several times.

Well, when putting this post together, I, naturally, consulted the dictionary. And the dictionary backed me up in terms of register office: A register office, in the UK, is the place where births, marriages and deaths are recorded and civil marriage ceremonies are conducted. Phew.

However, it does allow that registry office is the “form which dominates” in informal use. Nooo! A registry is also the place where registers are kept, and it’s the noun formed from registration. So if you have a gift register, it will be kept in the gift registry.

But I’m sticking to the formal, official usage. An example, of course: “We’re getting married at the register office in April 2014. We won’t be placing a wedding list in any gift registry, as we have all that we need for the house, having been together for 12 years”.

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


Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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What is Storify and how do I use it?

Storify logoIn response to a request for information*, today I’m going to be talking about Storify: what is it, why would you use it, and how do you use it? I wasn’t already a user, so this post takes you through the stages of logging in and creating your first story through screenshots created as I did it for the first time myself!

What is Storify?

Storify is a social media tool that lets you create stories or timelines from a variety of social media resources like Facebook and Twitter, as well as other web resources. You can use it to pull together information on whatever you want, and can customise it how you want, then share your story on the site with your friends on those social media sites.

Why use Storify?

I’ve mainly come into contact with Storify in relation to events. For example, Karen Strunks pulls together a Storify after every Social Media Cafe in Birmingham. She gathers any Tweets and Facebook posts which have used the hashtag #bsms and creates a storyline showing the event through its before, during and after stages, and what people were saying about it. Here’s an example of one of her Storify stories.

So you can see that it’s a great way to pull together information and images and make a story that you can share with others. It’s useful for events, news on particular topics, or fundraising and awareness raising campaigns. You don’t have to base it around hashtags (a hashtag is a short code with a # in front of it that creates a searchable link in Twitter and Facebook, etc., which allows you to find all of the tweets on a particular topic. For example, even if you’re not a member of Twitter, searching for the hashtag #amwriting, used by authors, will give you these results, all containing the hashtag (example)).

How do I join Storify?

If you’re not already a member, you need to go to and sign up. If you don’t already have an account, you need to click the Login button at the top right:

Storify home page

You will be given the option to log in using Twitter or Facebook. Actually, you will still need to create a password and account with Storify: what this does is associate your Storify account with your social media account. You can also just create a username and password.

2 login

I chose to sign up using my Twitter account, as that’s what I use most for business and sharing. As it says, it only connects to your Twitter account and uses its authentication, it doesn’t see your password etc. And when it says it will Tweet for you, that’s only when you create a story, not randomly!

3 Twitter login

So I told it my Twitter username then added my email address and a password:

4 sign up

And that was it, I was ready to create my first story!

How do you create a Storify story?

Once you’ve created your account, you’re ready to create a story. There’s a big green button on the top row of the website, Create Story. Click that …

5 create

… and you’re taken to a slightly alarming page – alarming because it manages to look both blank and complicated! But look: little tips come up the first time you use it which guide you through what to do!

Basically you’ve got an area where you create your story on the left and a place to search for content on the right.

The first thing to do is create a name for your story. You can also press the Save Now button at this stage, which will prompt it to autosave as you go along.

6 create

I’ve given my story the edifying title “Test CBSMS story” and now I’m ready to add content, or Search for elements, as Storify calls it:

7 create

There’s a row of tabs along the top – I clicked on Twitter and then searched for #cbsms [Central Birmingham Social Media Surgery], because I knew that that was the hashtag used around the event. But you can search for anything here:

8 search

You can see that a set of Twitter results has come up, and all of them contain the hashtag. Storify now handily told me what to do: drag and drop the tweets I wanted into the story area:

9 choose

This means that you can pick up particular results but not all of them – useful if some of them are repeated or just ‘chatter’ that you don’t want to include. It also means that you can put them into whatever order you want, rather than the order imposed by the standard Twitter view (I made this one like Twitter, with the newest tweets at the top, but if you look again at Karen’s example, she switched it round to read from top to bottom).

Click on the tweet you want to include and drag it across into your story area:

10 choose

Once I’d popped a couple of items in, I was told that I could add text:

11 comment

You click on the space between your items and type whatever text you want to add:

12 comment

So I added a note explaining the last two entries in the story, where I checked it was OK to use the hashtag to create this worked example.

I then hit the Save Now button – which I mentioned earlier and should have done at the point at which I mentioned it! Just in case!

13 save

Adding more sources to your Storify

You’re not limited to creating a Storify from only one source. Along the top of the search area you can see loads of different options, including Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Google, and your own photos and links.

Note that if you choose Facebook, you will need to log in and link it to your own Facebook account (again, this won’t do anything nasty, it just appears to need to use your own Facebook timeline. Of course, you can search for anything on Facebook once you’re logged in). You don’t seem to need to do that with Google+, though.

14 connect other accounts

This time, I didn’t bother with any Facebook items, but I did pop into Google search and picked up some explanatory information about the Social Media Surgery to add to my story:

15 connect other accounts

How do I publish my Storify story?

The first step is to hit the Publish button at the top right:

15.5 publish

Just in case I had pressed it too soon, I was shown a confirmation box:

16 publish

I was ready to publish, so I clicked on Publish story.

The next step was Share & notify. Sharing creates an automated Tweet with a link to your story. I imagine that if you’ve signed in to Facebook, etc., you will also be given the option to post an automated status update.

Notify lets you autotweet anyone who’s a friend on Twitter and is mentioned in your story to tell them that their tweet has been included in your story. I really like receiving these notifications, so I left these ticked, but you can untick them if you don’t want to do this.

17 share and notify

This process creates my story in Storify. At this point, the story gets assigned a URL that I can quote in emails or add to my blog. In the case of this story, it’s, and this stays with the story on my profile for ever more.

18 live

What does my Storify look like on my Twitter account?

Finally, I popped over to my Twitter account to see what my story looked like on there. The top tweet is the automatic tweet with the link to my story, and the ones underneath are those ones that automatically tell people that they’ve been included. Exactly what it said it would do.

19 live on Twitter

What else can I do with Storify?

When you’re searching, you can refine your search to exclude retweets, etc.

You can get a paid account which is useful for large businesses or organisations. This seems to allow a lot more customisation and also real-time updates – however, I like the editable nature of the free version and I’m not sure if that would get lost if real-time updates were running. Maybe someone who has a paid account will come along to share the uses of that. But I think most people will be OK with the free version.

* I was helping the Chinese Community Centre in Birmingham at the November 2013 Social Media Surgery and they wanted to use Storify to pull together stories from their Oral History Project. We ended up talking about their blog rather than Storify, but I promised to put together some instructions for them. This one’s for you! Note: This is not a sponsored post, but an exploration of a potentially useful tool.


This post has taught you – through my own learning process – about using Storify. You can find more posts about using social media in the relevant part of my resource guide.

If you would like more detail about how to use Storify for your content marketing, have a look at this article by Fiona Cullinan.

If you’ve found this article useful and/or interesting, please do post a comment and share using the buttons below! Thank you!


Posted by on November 27, 2013 in Blogging, New skills, Social media


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Developing your business: what next?

Sneak preview of the image from my new bookSo, you’ve got through the start-up phase, you’ve got a decent business going, and you’re still getting enquiries from prospective new customers. You might be earning enough to be thinking about optimising your tax situation or even going VAT-registered. What do you do now?

You have various options: in this post I’m going to run through the main ones, then in the weeks to come, I’m going to be featuring some expert advice from solicitors and accountants, business consultants and the like, who will talk us through the options, AND real-life examples from people who’ve been there and done it and can share their experiences.

In summary, here’s what you can do:

  • Go full time if you’re not already
  • Outsource tasks to other companies
  • Turn yourself into a Limited Company
  • Get VAT-registered
  • Employ people
  • Contract out to other freelancers
  • Go into partnership with someone
  • Expand into premises – an office or workshop
  • Do nothing

Going full time with your business

If you’re not already full time, and you’re feeling pressured by having a day job and your own business, it can be very worthwhile going it alone. I’ve written a whole book on the subject, but I know lots of people who’ve done this: it can be hard to decide when to jump ship, but very rewarding when you do! Read Laura Ripper’s experiences of going full time here.


Outsourcing means getting someone else to do tasks such as

  • Admin
  • Finance
  • HR
  • Sales
  • Telemarketing

Outsourcing the admin and sales effort allows you to devote your time to working at the actual tasks that form the core of your work. More billable hours should mean more money coming in, and you can accommodate more clients. You can find articles on the Libro blog about tasks that you can outsource and how to work out whether it’s worth it. And here’s an article that includes real-life experiences of the values of ousourcing.

Becoming a Limited Company or going VAT registered

Both of these options have reputation and tax implications. Some clients in some industries find that dealing with a Limited Company or someone with a VAT number represents solidity and safety (of course, sometimes, it can be a disadvantage, for example, to be VAT registered yourself if most of your clients aren’t and won’t be able to claim the VAT back that they pay to you). Becoming a Limited Company can protect you legally and save you some tax (legally and ethically).

Read the expert’s view on becoming a Limited Company.

Employing people, contracting out work or going into partnership

These all involve getting other people into your business to share the workload. Some companies will contract out to people who do the same thing – for example, I work for a company that deals in proofreading for students, They send the work to me and pay me when I invoice them, and they invoice the customer for a bit more. If you go down this route, it involves a lot of admin on both sides, but means that you can have multiple people working for you without going down the employment route and bringing in profit on their work without doing that work yourselves (there are laws about when someone’s an employee, though, so it can get tricky). You can read more about employing people here and a case study here.

Going into a partnership involves a legal setup but can be useful if you have complementary skills.You have to think carefully about who you do this with, though, and issues like where you’ll work and who is responsible for what.

Employing people involves a lot of legal stuff and means that you’re responsible for other people’s income and taxes, but there are freelance HR companies out there that can help.

Added examples of this kind of area including offering franchises in your business to people and taking on an apprentice. Franchising has a lot of rules and regulations but allows you to replicate your brand and success with managers in place to run the businesses, and apprentices are given external training as well as working with you.

Moving into business premises

If it feels like you’ve outgrown your home office and you want more room for making the goods you sell, or you want to separate home and work life a bit better, then moving into premises can be the next step. This does involve costs, although there are offers out there that give you secretarial and reception support which can be very useful. It can look more professional if people visit you, too. Beware the treadmill that leads to getting  more office space / employing more people / getting more space / employing more people, with your overheads going up and up, unless you have a steady head and a good accountant! But it does work very well for some people.

Here are some people’s stories of how and why they did this and how it all went. We also have an expert view on how, when and why to move into office space and one on expanding into regional offices.

Doing nothing

I have to admit that this is my approach. Why? Mainly because what I do is so linked to me, my style of editing, my relationship with my clients, and because I like being my own boss, beholden to no one and responsible for no one. I’ve also looked at what some peers in other businesses have done, and realised I’d rather keep my simple model (plus most editors work like this). But I have done this:

  • Contracted out my accounting to allow me to devote my time to work, not admin
  • Developed robust business routines for the same reason
  • Optimised my customer base to give me a good mix of work and a good income stream (read more)
  • Worked on developing passive income streams (read more)
  • Developed a network of people to whom I can refer new business or the occasional bit of overflow work from regular customers


I’ve talked here about some ways to grow your business. I’ll be featuring tips from experts and case studies from people who’ve been down these paths over the coming weeks. I still have some slots free, and I’d love to have a range of opinions and experiences for each topic: if you’re an expert on these areas or a business person who’s gone down any of these routes, please have a look at this post on precisely what I’m looking for, and get in touch!

Have you enjoyed reading this post? I love to read your comments, and you might be interested in some more of the posts in the Careers and Business areas of this website …

Related posts:

Case study: going full time

Expert view: outsourcing

Case studies: outsourcing

Expert view: becoming a Limited Company

Expert view: employing people

Case studies: employing people

Expert view: moving into office space

Expert view: expanding into regional offices


Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Business, Organisation


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Small business chat update – Maxine Johnston and Nathan Littleton

mugs It’s time for another Small Business Chat update and we have another pair here, Maxine Johnston and Nathan Littleton, because I feel they’ve got a lot in common. Both started out doing their own specialised thing – parties in a box in Maxine’s case, and web design in Nathan’s, but such is their success that they’ve started to help other people to replicate it, one establishing services helping people with their marketing and the other by developing a vital new product and developing a career in public speaking. Career and business development is a big growth area, presumably because more and more people are setting up their own businesses. I’ve been asked by a few people about offering career counselling in my own industry area – but I’ve decided to stick to my core business activities. These two have branched out and are having an interesting and stimulating time with it!


Maxine Johnston

Maxine started off running Life’s a Celebration, which provides party boxes for all sorts of occasions. This is her third interview: she started off with the series back in October 2011 when her business had only just launched, and updated us in October 2012. At that point, when asked what the year ahead had in store for her, she said, “I have no idea is my honest answer. I feel blessed that I have achieved last year’s objective. At the moment I’m taking one day at a time. But I’d like to think that Life’s A Celebration is still going and is collaborating a lot more with potential partners. Perhaps I’d like to have somebody helping me and maybe be pushing and achieving more international sales“. Well, she did so well with her marketing that people started to ask her how she did it – and she’s bravely launched a whole new business on the back of that!

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

Things have changed immeasurably with me and my business over the last year. Life’s A Celebration continues to trade, however, I have also been busy setting up another business called Maxine Johnston Marketing. This has come about because I was regularly getting asked to help other businesses with the marketing aspects of their business and a lot of my time was spent taking business owners through my own approach to marketing.
As I said in my interview last year, the marketing and promotion side of Life’s A Celebration was always the aspect that I enjoyed so I decided to set up Maxine Johnston Marketing. This is taking up most of my time these days, as I am picking up clients and working closely with them to develop their marketing.

Maxine Johnston Marketing is different from other marketing companies out there in that I will also undertake the work that people just don’t get time (or have the inclination) to do. So things like newsletters, blogging, social media, press releases, key word analysis, customer and competitor analyses, etc. are all undertaken for my clients. I think that my clients are reassured that I am speaking from ‘real life’ experience, too, in that I run my own business and know the challenges that business owners face.

I also work closely with my clients. This involves regular Skype chats and late night emails! It also means that I’m not limited to a geographical area.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Well as you can see from the last question, lots of things have changed. However, what has stayed the same is that I continue to learn and grow in terms of business experience. I remain open to opportunity and continue to feel blessed that I am still in business.

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

I’ve learned that when you’re in business you have to adapt to change and not stand still. Embrace the aspects of the business that you love and jump in with both feet.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I would reiterate what I said last year. Running your own business is hard work. It’s time consuming, it’s stressful, it will give you late nights and sleepless nights and it will make you tear your hair out.

However, and more importantly, it will be something that you can take pride in and bring you rewards if you’re prepared to work hard. Never underestimate how hard you will work when you run your own business. It does make you incredibly resourceful, though.

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

I really don’t know how to answer that. I just hope that I’m still doing something that I love doing and I’m working hard at achieving that. I’d like to think that Maxine Johnston Marketing will be doing well and I continue to be happy!

Wow – exciting times this year! I love seeing how my interviewees’ businesses are growing and changing, and hopefully sharing these stories with you is inspiring you, too. I can echo what Maxine says about embracing opportunities – although my portfolio of clients and types of work is relatively stable now, it’s very different from the student proofreading work I originally envisaged doing!

Maxine’s new website is here, at and you can get in touch with her via her contact page, which lists all the email addresses and phone numbers you need.

Nathan Littleton

Nathan’s our Boy Wonder, who started Future Visions when he was just 13!Now he’s busy developing new streams of activity and income and building his career in public speaking! We first met him back in September 2011, 8 years after he started working for himself, and he was still going strong in October 2012. Then, his plans for the upcoming year were: “I’ve always struggled to create clear, specific goals, and when I started my business I didn’t start with the end in mind. I still don’t know exactly how I’ll get there, but in a year’s time I want my business to be leveraged enough that I have 2 free days in the week to concentrate purely ON the business, to speak in schools and to mentor students.” Did he get there …?

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

In some ways, yes. I’ve achieved most of the business goals I set out to achieve and have got the core business to a position I’m happy with. I now spend more of time marketing my own personal brand as a professional speaker. My personal circumstances have changed a lot in the last year, which is something I definitely didn’t expect, and in some ways that’s influenced both what I’ve been able to do and what I hold to be important.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

In the last interview, I mentioned a new product we’d developed – The Hub – an online operations manual for businesses to document the systems and procedures that are important to them. This has now become a critical product of ours which is selling very well, and we’re launching the second version of the product on a subscription model this month.

I’d also recruited Tom to work directly with clients and keep operations running smoothly. He’s since gone on to start his own business, and now works with us (and a number of other clients) on a freelance basis as a virtual assistant.

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

Similar to last year, I’m continuously learning and changing where my time is spent in my business. Every month I review where my time’s spent and trim off the bottom 10-15% and either delegate it (if it’s important) or just stop doing it altogether.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think the biggest value in any business is in its list: your customers, prospects and people you’ve met along the way. Nurturing that list and communicating with it regularly will help you to build a business where you can generate sales ‘on tap’. And that’s a wonderful thing.

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

I love speaking on stage, so the more I can do that, the happier I’ll be, and I’d like for that to be a bigger part of my income in the next year. Also, I genuinely see The Hub as my legacy. It’s the one product/service in my business that I can say is:

1. unique
2. has a clear market need
3. truly works without me

With that said, a big portion of my marketing efforts will be invested in making it available to as many businesses as possible.

So big changes for Nathan, and an exciting new project on the go, too – I hope the launch of the new version of The Hub goes well. Nathan seems very focused this year: I like the fact that he’s constantly reviewing his activities, and this is something I’ve been writing about lately, too. It’s vital to keep reviewing what you’re doing and making sure it’s optimised to get whatever return it is that you’re looking for (financial or otherwise).

The Future Visions website is at and all contact details can be found there.

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.


Posted by on November 23, 2013 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Using the Control Key keyboard shortcuts

hands typingBack in June, I wrote about the wonders of Control-F and how you can use this keyboard shortcut to find text in almost everything you would do on a computer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, web pages, WordPress back-end, etc., etc., etc). This post tells you about the other Control- or Ctrl+ keyboard shortcuts that you can use to …

  • save your mouse hand
  • do things quickly
  • impress your friends (maybe – depends what kind of friends you have …)

What keyboard shortcuts does the Control Key give you?

I’m going to categorise these into different areas for you. For each shortcut, you will typically need to highlight the text that you want to change if you’re doing something like changing its style or copying or cutting it, and pop the cursor in the right place if you want to paste. I’ll tell you what you need to do by each one. For each one, you need to press the Control key, usually marked Ctrl (and you might have more than on on your keyboard) then keep it pressed down while you press the second key on the keyboard).

Keyboard shortcuts for copying and pasting:

Ctrl-C – COPY Highlight the text you want to copy (leaving it where it is but making a copy you can paste elsewhere) and hit Control + c

Ctrl-X – CUT Highlight the text you want to cut out of your text (and maybe paste elsewhere) and hit Control + x

Ctrl-V – PASTE – pop the cursor where you want the text you’ve cut or copied to appear and hit Control + v

Ctrl-A – HIGHLIGHT ALL – if you want to highlight all of your text in Word, Excel, etc., you can use Control + a to do so

Bonus shortcut: if you want to switch between ALL CAPITALS, Title Capitals and Sentence capitals on a section of text, Shft-F3 is your friend. More detail here.

Keyboard shortcuts for bold, italics and underline

In each case, highlight the text you want to change, and press these keys:

Ctrl-B – to turn non-bold text into bold OR take the emboldening off a section of text, press Control + b

Ctrl-I – to turn non-italic text into italics OR take the italicisation off a section of text, press Control + i

Ctrl-U – to underline text OR take underlining away from a section of text, press Control + u

Keyboard shortcuts for Find, Goto and Replace

Ctrl-F – almost everywhere, pressing Control + f will open up a window to allow you to find a string of text (see this article for more detail)

Ctrl-H – in any document where you can replace text (i.e. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.), pressing Control + h will open up the find and replace window which allows you to change a particular string of text into another particular string of text (I will be writing about this in more detail soon)

Ctrl-G – in documents with pages, pressing Control + g will allow you to navigate to a particular page

Keyboard shortcuts for undoing and redoing

Ctrl-Z – UNDO – if you want to undo what you’ve just done, hitting Control-Z has the same effect as hitting that little backwards arrow in your toolbar. It also works if you typed in a URL and the page is taking ages to load – Control-Z will cancel the operation

Ctrl-Y – REDO – lots of people know about Ctrl-Z, but did you know that you can redo an operation that you’ve undone by hitting Control-Y?

Keyboard shortcuts for open / new / print / save

Ctrl-N – if you want to open a new document in Word, Excel, etc., or a new browser window, pressing Control + n will do that for you

Ctrl-O – To open a document, wherever you are on your computer, pressing Control + o will open Windows Explorer so you can find and open your document

Ctrl-S – To open up Windows Explorer and save your document, pressing Control + s will save you clicking with your mouse

Ctrl-P – Want to print? Open up a printer dialogue box using Control + p


Go on – admit it: did you really know ALL of these shortcuts? They’ll save you a few mouse clicks and I find some to be a lot quicker and more useful than the other methods you can use to get the same results. Which are your favourite keyboard shortcuts?

Related posts on this blog:

The control+ shortcuts I don’t cover here

How to find text almost anywhere

Changing from lower case to upper case

Find all of the short cuts here


Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


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Small business chat – Ellie Levenson

mugs It’s not time for another Small Business Chat, is it, because it’s a Monday! But rules are made to be broken, and I wanted to be sure to mention this lovely new children’s book publisher before their really worthwhile Kickstarter project closes. We know from The Banjo One that Kickstarter is a way of crowdfunding projects, usually of an artistic / cultural / techy nature. Lots of people chip in a bit of money (in fact you pledge the sum and only pay if it gets fully funded) and you get a little something to say thank you. Even when the initial total has been reached, most projects have a few things on their wish-list and you can still join in.

I heard about Ellie Levenson’s project with her new publishing venture, Fisherton Press, through a Tweet from one of my clients. How could I resist helping to fund a book explaining democracy and voting to toddlers? Let’s find out how this all got started … 

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

The business is called Fisherton Press. We’re a publishing company publishing books for children that adults also like reading. Fisherton was my grandmother’s maiden name and her family ran a printers in London’s East End – the name is no longer in my family so I wanted to bring it back and I liked the publishing link. I set the company up in September 2013 and we’re preparing to publish our first books in September 2014.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I’ve been a freelance journalist (alongside lecturing in journalism at Goldsmiths College, University of London) since 2005, and love being my own boss. But it’s getting harder to write the kind of articles I like doing while having young children, as I need to be able to pitch an article that morning and write it that day if commissioned, and that just doesn’t work if I want to plan our days in advance and enjoy time with my children. Then, during my second maternity leave, which has just come to an end, I had an epiphany, and Fisherton Press was born.

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

I have always wanted to combine writing with education, which is what I do as a journalist lecturing in journalism. But I would like to work more with young children and also use my ideas to encourage and source other writers and illustrators. And having young children I read a lot of children’s books – the wonderful ones are a joy and the terrible ones make your heart sink when your child asks for them again and again. I want to add to the wonderful ones.

Had you run your own business before?

No, other than being a freelance journalist.

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 intend to continue teaching and doing some freelance here and there and try to run Fisherton Press alongside this. I have had a portfolio career for nearly ten years and know I thrive on variety,

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

It’s early days so I don’t know yet but I often think of something my friend Sarah once said – she said that just because someone hasn’t done something before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be the first.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self? / What do you wish you’d done differently? / What are you glad you did? / What’s your top business tip? / How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

You’ll have to ask me these next year! [Fair enough! – Liz]

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

Having launched our first few books and hopefully seeing orders for them roll in! And preparing a big launch for our Kickstarter crowdfunded project, Democracy for Toddlers.

We haven’t had an absolutely brand, shiny, new company for a while, have we? How exciting! Note to self to ask those questions in a year’s time. Anyone who’s read books to children – their own or others’ – or tried to choose some as gifts will know that the quality does vary hugely. I’ll certainly be looking out for these books as well as receiving my own copies of Democracy for Toddlers when it comes out! And we wish Eliie all the best with her new venture!

Fisherton Press can be found online at (the website is in progress) and Eliie has a personal blog as well. Fisherton Press can be contacted by email and they have a Facebook page, too, and Ellie herself can be found on Twitter. And here’s that Kickstarter page again for more information.

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.


Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat updates – Ruth Badley and Helen McPherson

mugsToday we have updates from another two of my interviewees. I’m so pleased that so many of them are still going strong – it does mean that I have to double up some of the update posts to make sure that I can fit everyone in, though! This time we’re hearing from two women who are running and developing their businesses in the growth stage. Ruth Badley has seen good growth this year, while Helen McPherson has found life settling down a bit after a hectic year in 2012.

Ruth Badley

We first met Ruth and her PR company back in October 2012, and at that point she was working hard on developing her business, with firm plans for development for the year ahead: “I would like to be busy with the existing clients I have, whilst still working on creating new business opportunities. I find this a difficult balance to achieve”.Did she achieve that balance? Read on to find out …

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

I am honestly much further on than I thought I’d be. The last year has been a real turning point, as all my new client work has come through recommendation. I now have new clients across the UK and also work with an international corporation. It’s been an incredible 12 months.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I have more confidence in myself and my business. That means I am not afraid to turn down work if I feel it would take me in a direction I would not be comfortable with. I still don’t have a website and am now wondering if I really need one!

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

I have learned to be much more assertive about my payment terms and conditions.  I really wish I had known a year ago that the client I had taken on and worked hard for had no intention of paying me. When the situation became clear, I made the decision to walk away, rather than get embroiled in a protracted fight. That was the right thing to do and I have taken away some valuable learning points from that one–off experience.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I think when you start out in your own business, there is a temptation to over promise and it is a dangerous thing to do because you are setting yourself up to under deliver. I have worked with people in the past who do this, and it gives PR and those who work in it a bad reputation. I am always realistic (but quietly ambitious) about what I can achieve for clients. With this tactic, it is much more likely that the results will surpass expectation and that’s always my aim.

And where do you see yourself and your business in another year’s time?

I hope to consolidate and keep the clients I have. I don’t have much more capacity right now and it was never my plan to grow so big I needed to take on staff to cope. I have no wish to build an empire – doing a good job for the clients I have is enough for me.

Oh dear – I bet we’ve all built our terms and conditions on those lessons we’ve learned along the way, haven’t we! I certainly have! I do believe in having a website to improve your findability, but then it is tricky when you’re fully busy and have to turn people away. I’m going to be publishing a series of articles soon on how to grow your business, but, like Ruth, I’m not planning on taking on any staff, as both of our businesses are very much around “us”, and I don’t think either of us wants the hassle of employing people! Good luck to Ruth for a stable and successful coming year.

For more information on Ruth Badley PR see her LinkedIn profile. Ruth can be contacted via email or by phone on 07929 420 360 or you can follow her on Twitter.

Helen McPherson

Helen was a full-time hypnotherapist when we first met her in 2011. By her 2012 interview, she had moved house (twice) and had left behind her client base, but was concentrating on her CD sales. Now she’s had another change of direction, but is still persisting with her CDs. It’s very interesting to see my interviewees moving in and out of employment and self-employment, although very few of them cease doing their own thing entirely … This time last year, her plan was to be – “Hopefully in the same physical place I am in now!  I can see my CD sales going very well, with another one in the pipeline. I would like to say another two, but making a high quality product really does take time and I refuse to rush anything through that does not live up to the high standards I expect of myself”.

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

Yes, I am pretty much where I thought I would be when I looked forward a year ago.  And I am glad to say I am in the same physical place although the house has changed a bit around me, which is a very good thing!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I have retrained as a teacher of Business Studies and Economics and I have a great job in an excellent school.  My CDs are selling very well and are a passive income stream.  Achieving the business objective of survival during the recession pretty much killed me mentally, when all I wanted to do was to grow.  Eventually the boredom and lack of income made me go back to employment.  I have not brought out a new CD yet due to time constraints, but one of my CDs (The Birth CD) is on the shortlist for the Mother and Baby Awards this year in the category of Best Maternity Product, which is very exciting.  The results are announced on the 27th November and it would be a fabulous boost to win.

Retraining as a teacher was interesting but the real killer has been the 18 hour intensive days that teachers work.  If you think it’s an easy job because of the holidays, think again. The day itself is intense because you are in front of classes for most of the day and I bring work home every evening and weekend. It is half term now [as I write this] and I am working rather than taking time off.

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

What I have learnt since last year is that teachers work harder than anyone else realises!  What I wish I had known a year ago was to ask different questions at job interviews.

Any more hints and tips for people?

My advice to anyone is to do what you enjoy, be prepared to change direction if need be and to seek out a passive income stream for your business.  Many small businesses are sole traders in the service industries so all the pressure and expertise is yours.  If you can have a stream of income that does not rely on you and you alone, then you can get on with growing your business and taking it in new directions, or in my case, taking myself in a very new direction.

And where do you see yourself and your business in another year’s time?

I can see my business being pretty much in the same place in a year’s time.  I may have been able to bring out another CD over the summer, but it very much depends on how busy I am over the summer term.  CD sales have continued to grow this year and I expect further growth next year, especially if I win the Mother and Baby Award.

Passive income is a good support for weathering the storms, and of course you can earn from that while you’re doing all sorts of different things. It is hard to build that up, though, as I’ve found with my own e-books. Good luck to Helen in the awards!

Helen’s CDs are available on Amazon and you can contact her by email. The new website is not quite finished yet but the old pages are available on

If you’ve enjoyed these interviews, 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.


Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Business, Small Business Chat


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How do I change my initials in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013?

Your name and initials appear in the File Properties of your Word document, and also in any comments that you make on a document, plus in the text that appears when someone hovers over text that you’ve added or deleted. So it’s important that it’s right – usually Word pulls this over from your registration details, but you may wish to change it, for example if you want to add a general company or team name and initials rather than your own. Here’s how!

You will find the option to change your initials and name in Word Options. Word Options are accessed slightly differently in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013, so I will break this down by the version of Word that you’re using:

How do I change my initials in Word 2007?

Access Word Options by clicking the Office button at top left, then Word Options at the bottom:

1 word options 2007

Your Word Options box will open on the Popular tab and you can now change your name and initials:

1 2007

How do I change my initials in Office 2010?

Click on the File tab and select Options:

2 word options 2010

Click on Options, and you can change your name and initials:

2 2010

How do I change my initials in Word 2013?

First click on the File tab:

3a word options 2013

Select Options at the bottom of the list (use the arrow in a circle at the top left to get back to your document):

3b word options 2013

Click on Options and change your initials and name:

3 2013

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. Find all the short cuts here

Do let me know if this has helped you – and do share with the buttons at the bottom of this article.


Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Copyediting, New skills, Students, Word, Writing


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When should I say no?

Say noWhen you work for yourself, especially when you’re starting out, it’s all too easy to say “Yes, please!” to every job that comes your way. But it’s a good idea to start saying “No, thank you” early on – not to everything, but to certain kinds of job. What you say no to depends on where you are in your career and what your schedule’s looking like, but here are my top jobs to turn down …

Note, with all of these, it’s often OK to say “yes” to one of the kind of job, just to see. But you’ll probably find yourself saying no later on!

What to say no to early in your career

  • Working for free. Caveat. If someone asks you to work for free AND they are an influencer who is likely to recommend you on AND they agree to give you a reference AND you’ve got time to do it without turning down paid work, then go for it.
  • Doing something you feel uncomfortable about. It’s good to push yourself into new areas. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about content farms or writing essays for students, if you’re an editor (see this article for more on this kind of thing), or anything on the wrong side of your ethical line. Just because you’re just starting out and you’re a bit desperate for work doesn’t mean you should go against your own morals.
  • Doing something way outside your normal line of work. I think it’s a good idea to consolidate your reputation in one area and then branch out from there. By all means try something out, but if you don’t like doing it or it doesn’t fit, say no next time.
  • Working again with rude, pushy or unreliable clients. If someone’s rude to you on the first job you do for them, or they don’t pay when they say they will, it’s OK to say no next time. You are worth more than that, and a difficult client now will always be a difficult client. Demanding, fine; rude and pushy,  not fine. Don’t let your self-worth get undermined before you get started.

What to say no to at the mature stage of your business

  • Anything that will  overload you. If you find yourself saying, “Well, I could fit this in if I don’t sleep on Thursday night” or “Well, if person x doesn’t send me their chapter on time I could do this”, it’s probably time to say no and recommend someone else.
  • Small jobs that don’t look like they’ll turn into regular customers. Cruel but true – the smaller the job, the more noise to signal (admin to work) there will be. Pass the little ones on to your newer colleagues who need to build up their portfolio.
  • Discounts. You should be experienced enough to stand by your pricing. You will have discounts worked out for various sectors (I give them to students and individuals) but at this stage, you shouldn’t be in the business of buying work, and that’s what this is doing. If your prices are fair, don’t offer discounts except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Regular clients who don’t match your needs. Maybe they don’t pay well / on time or are difficult to deal with or have time scales that don’t match your own – sometimes it’s time to say goodbye and pass them on to another recommended practitioner.

What to say no to throughout your career

  • Any job with “danger” flags. To me, the main one here is “We’ve been through a lot of people and haven’t found the right partner yet” or “I’ve had problems with my previous editor / roofer / plumber”. By all means, check what the problem was. There are bad examples of every job out there, and you can be the one to fix the problem. However, if there’s an on-going pattern of problems, or they can’t be specific about what went wrong last time, my advice is to avoid.
  • Any job where you need to spend a lot of time learning a new system or skill UNLESS you really do have the time to do that and it’s going to be useful for lots of work in the future. I have had to turn down jobs that involve learning a new kind of translation software recently – I knew I had time to do the work, but not to learn the software. Best to tell the client up front!
  • Any job that goes against your moral code – however much of a dip or a bad patch you’re going through, however much it comes from a current client, if you feel uncomfortable doing it, don’t do it. (I had that situation a little while ago – I said no, I said why, they were fine with it and are still working with me.)
  • A client with unrealistic expectations. If someone expects me to write their book from their notes in a small space of time but call it (and charge for) proofreading services, or think you can transcribe 10 hours of tape in 12 hours, they are likely to be turned down. Setting and managing expectations is a whole nother post, of course …


It’s great to say yes and it’s great to be busy – but it’s also vital to be able to say no and to be able to keep your busyness to a decent level. If you’re going through a dip in your mature business, go back to those early stage nos, and keep firm about them!

Oh, and although I do say no fairly regularly, I do almost always refer the prospect on to a recommended colleague who might have the time / capacity / skills to help them better. Which makes it a win-win-win – the client will come away with a great impression of you, your colleague will have a new prospect, and you will feel reassured that you’ve done the right thing and not left them without any support.

What do you say no to in your line of work? Have I missed any? What has been your experience of saying no to customers?

Related posts from Libro

Careers index

How do I decide who to work with?

What’s the best mix of customers?

How to make more money in your freelance business


Posted by on November 11, 2013 in Business, Copyediting, Ethics, Jobs, Organisation


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