Monthly Archives: January 2014

Growing your business – employing staff and outsourcing (case studies)

Sneak preview of the image from my new bookOnce it’s time to grow your business, you will need to make a decision on whether to employ staff. Duncan Brown has given us the expert’s view on this topic, and now we’re going to hear from two people who have approached this in two very different – but equally successful – ways.

Nathalie Rush runs Six Star Group, which is an insulation business. She has been employing people right from the start, and has used a variety of different methods to find them, and gained a lot from employing people directly, although she does still use sub-contractors when needed.

Nathalie reports that in her line of business, job websites are cheaper to use than local newspapers, but she doesn’t think that tradespeople use the websites so much. Word of mouth has been quite successful. It’s important when advertising for staff to use the channels that the kind of people you’re looking for are likely to use, otherwise you’ll waste money on costly adverts when a word in the ear of the local university’s careers centre or just putting the word out that you’re looking for people might be just as effective.

Nathalie has found that one hands-on approach works really well for her:

Paying someone to work with you for a week’s experience can often be a good way of finding out their qualities. You’ll quickly know if you’ve got a rising star or not.

She has also developed a working relationship with a training centre in her industry, which she says is “proving to be a great way of finding hard-working, professional people”.

What is the advantage of having full-time employed staff for her business? “It means we can serve customers when we want and we don’t need to rely on sub-contractors”, although, as I mentioned, sub-contractors are brought in for the larger jobs. And she’s enthusiastic about the process, too. ”

It’s a joy to give someone a job. I get the biggest kick out of it and spend a lot of time training and motivating my team. After all, we are a business that sells a service and what good is that if the people can’t deliver what the company promises!

On the topic of sub-contractors, you do have to be careful when sub-contracting, especially if you’re in the construction industry. Nathalie explains: “Because of the line of business we’re in, I have to register every sub-contractor through the Construction Industry Scheme. This ensures everyone is taxed and it’s reported monthly to HMRC”.

And while she outsources the work on occasion, she is also careful not to take on too many admin tasks in-house that can be done by an external supplier: “Employing people comes in all shapes and sizes and it’s certainly handy to be able to outsource any paperwork you can that comes with running a business”.

What’s Nathalie learned from the process? As Duncan explained in his expert’s view, it is vitally important to outline all rights, roles and responsibilities up front. Nathalie says:

I’ve employed people in the past and it took me a while to work out exactly what the responsibilities of different roles should be. It’s clearer if you can explain the role, working times, use of mobile phones, holidays, etc. from the offset and not change things like this as it can be de-motivating.

John Ellery of John Ellery Consulting, a firm specialising in grant fundraising and grant making, has taken a different approach.

Six months on from setting up his business, he found that he was struggling to keep up with the work coming in from his clients and his growing to-do list, and it was clear that he needed some support. However, he was concerned about the sustainability of employing someone when his business was so new and he wasn’t yet able to predict the peaks and troughs:

Whilst the obvious option was to investigate employing someone my cash-flow situation would be very tight and whilst I had too much work at the moment who knew if this would still be the case in say three months time – last thing I would want as a new business is have an employee sitting around with no work to do.

His solution was to start using people who were happy to work on a freelance basis. To date, the work he has outsourced in this way has included admin support, consultants, marketing/sales and web design. Each time that he has started working with a freelancer, he has initially outsourced a single piece of work with no promises of on-going or future jobs. As he reports, “This has been extremely effective with the vast majority of freelancers I have used already very much used to this arrangement and were able to pick up my business, ethos and approach extremely quickly”, and he has continued to use this method of supporting his business and thus allowing it to expand.

How has he found freelancers? Mainly online, through Google searches and websites such as People Per Hour or Elance and even FiveSquid and Fiverr [the last two offer usually limited projects for £5 or $5; while this can lead to price undercutting, many reputable freelancers use them and ramp up the price to an acceptable and sustainable level for freelancer and client once a more complex project is in the offing].

The advantages are clear: being able to pick and choose, using people who are accustomed to this way of working and can mesh with the company’s objectives and style, and not having the overheads, legal issues and paperwork associated with employing staff. Are there any disadvantages? John says, “At times I have found that freelancers are not keen to show their work in progress and prefer to contact you when a job is completed. Whilst usually this hasn’t been an issue the occasional freelancer has produced a piece of work that was unsatisfactory and could have been easily addressed if the work was being done by an employee at the desk next to me”.

And does he recommend this method of using other people to expand your business?

Absolutely, however the secret is to find those tasks that can be outsourced. These may be tasks that you usually complete yourself, but by outsourcing these they will free up your hands.

So, two different ways of going about expanding your business through using the support of other people, whether using directly employed staff and officially registered sub-contractors or outsourcing to a series of freelancers. Both companies have profited from these methods, and it just goes to show that there is often more than one way to achieve your business aims.

Thank you to Nathalie and John for their input into this article.

Nathalie Rush Six Star Group – Twitter

John Ellery John Ellery ConsultingTwitterFacebook


This post is part of my series on growing your business. Read more here and read about my own business journey in my book, Going It Alone At 40.


Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Organisation


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Procrastinate or prevaricate?

Welcome back to the Troublesome Pairs after a long break full of posts on business and Word. People have been asking about them, so I’ve started writing up a few more. Let me know if you’re pleased that I’ve done this, or if you’ve been helped by a particular Pair, won’t you!

This one came up in the cafe one Sunday afternoon, as my friend Gill and I were sipping our coffees, looking things up on the Internet via our phones, talking about all sorts … and putting off venturing out into the rain. Is there a difference between these two? Do you know what it is? Really? Because we thought that we did and … well … I’m glad that I always look it up to check!

To procrastinate means to put off doing something. For example, we were procrastinating when we sat in the cafe chatting about this and that rather than going out into the pouring rain.

To prevaricate means to speak or act in an evasive way. For example, when asked whether it was going to carry on raining, a weather forecaster might waffle on about climate change and average daily rainfall in order to avoid telling the truth for as long as possible.

“He prevaricated over paying the bill yet again, claiming that he’d lost his wallet before finally getting it out and paying. So I procrastinated when it was time to ask him out for dinner again, coming up with all sorts of activities that I must do immediately, before getting around to calling him.”

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


Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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How to use Find and Replace in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013 2: Advanced Find

Hopefully, you’ve already read about simple Find and Replace in Word in my earlier post. In this article, I’m going to show you some of the Advanced Find features to do with word forms, wildcards and where you’re actually searching. Handily enough, these are the same in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013. For hints on replacing, see the previous article, and for finding formats, look out for my next post in this series (I will link it to this post once it’s live). I’m going to start by discussing the three different options for viewing the results of a simple Find search in Word 2010 and 2013, then move on to the Advanced Find options in all three versions.

Find options in Word 2010 and Word 2013 (Navigation)

When  you hit Ctrl-F to Find in Word 2010 and 2013, you are shown the Navigation side panel. This gives you three options for viewing the results of your simple search (i.e. you’ve searched for just a word or phrase, no whole word only or match case options applied).

The first tab on the left gives you the Outline view – if you have headings in your document, it will give you a run-down of those,and highlight in yellow where your search term appears. The search term “localisation” has been input into the search box at the top.

Word 2010 simple find options 1

The second tab gives you a Page view, showing only the pages that the search term appears on (you will see that it’s displaying pages 5, 6 and 14 here) with the search term highlighted.

Word 2010 simple find options 2

The third tab along gives you the Paragraph view, and this is the one that I find most useful, as it shows you the search term in its context. Click on the box and you’ll navigate to that place in the text. As you can see here, the word has also been highlighted in the actual text, and this is true for all of these views. This paragraph view is the most useful for seeing where you’ve used a word and deciding whether to change it.

Word 2010 simple find options 3

Now we’re going to look at some of the Advanced Find options. You can get to Advanced Find by clicking on the More button in Word 2007’s Search box, or by clicking the down arrow by the search input field and choosing Advanced Find in Word 2010 or 2013. Note, in Word 2010 and 2013, you can click on Options after clicking the down arrow, but that isn’t as specialised or useful as choosing Advanced Find.

If you’re confused about how to find the Advanced Find dialogue boxes, read this post for screen shots and explanations.

Advanced Find options: Find In

The Find In option allows you to specify where exactly you want to look for your search term. This is particularly useful if you are looking for something you or someone else has said in the Comments area of the text, or indeed the footnotes. Here I have a document with a main text, Comments and footnotes. I use the dropdown arrow next to Find In to access my options:

Advanced find options 1 find in

Whichever of these options you choose, it will only search in that area, saving time and narrowing down your search to exactly what you’re looking for.

Advanced Find options: Match case

Match case is extremely useful if you are only looking for a particular form of a word. For example, I might want to catch the instances where I’ve started a sentence with “And”. If I just search for “and” with no other options set, Word will usefully highlight all instances of the word. I’ve highlighted the one that I’m looking for in green here, but you can see how hard it would be to find amidst a sea of and … and … and. Note that I typed the word in with a capital letter, but unless I tell Word to take account of that, it will ignore it, and treat And, and, aNd, ANd, Andy, understanding, etc. all the same (to get rid of those last two, see the next section).

Advanced find options 2 no options

Tick the Match case box and it’s a different story. Now it’s only looking for And with a capital A. Note how the line under the search box includes a note of the option that I’ve selected:

Advanced find options 3 match case

Advanced Find: Find whole words only

As we saw briefly above, search for “and” without ticking any additional options, and Word will find the letters “and” however they may be capitalised and wherever they will be. Here, a search for and highlights the word understanding, too.

This can be really annoying, especially if you’re searching for a word that can appear as part of other words (like under, or stand!) and you want to do a Replace All on them or just find when you’ve used that particular word, not its compound. This is what happens when you don’t choose any options:

Advanced find options 4 no options

To stop this happening, tick the box next to Find whole words only. Now Word will only find the word “and” as a discrete word:

Advanced find options 5 whole words only

Note: you can use these two options together. For example, search for But using Match case and Find whole word only and you will limit what you find to sentences beginning with the word “But”, instead of all the examples of but in the middle of sentences and sentences beginning with “Butterflies” or “Butter” …

Advanced Find options: Wildcards

Lots of people know about the above two options, but Wildcards can seem a little alarming to the novice or even quite experienced Word user. Wildcards allow you to search very precisely for different forms or spellings of a word.

To use Wildcards in your search, tick the Wildcard option.

Advanced find options 7 wildcards

If you already know the special character to use in your Wildcard search, type your search term in the search box. If you need to check which special character to use, click on the Special dropdown on the button at the bottom of the screen. This will give you a huge range of choices for narrowing down your search:

Advanced find options 8 wildcards

In this case, I’m looking for words beginning with “localis”, so I choose the Beginning of Word option from the list:

Advanced find options 9 wildcards

Word inserts the special character in the search input box, and finds all of the words beginning with “localis”:

Advanced find options 10 wildcards

Now, you could just do a basic search for a bit of a word, but that’s only useful if the selection of letters you’re looking for all occur together. In the example above, we’re looking at the letters appearing at the beginning of a word, but what if you’re looking for a word and you can’t remember how you spelled it, or you fear you sometimes used an s and sometimes a z in “organisation”? Use the question mark option and search for “organi?ation” and you will find both spellings.

Note, there are many further special characters here apart from the ones used for Wildcards (which are ? – < and >) – I will be covering some of the most useful of those in future posts.

Advanced Find options: a note on Sounds like and Find all word forms

The two options at the bottom of the list can look quite tempting. But I will be honest and say that I don’t use them in my everyday work (if you do, please comment and share why you find them useful!).

Sounds like is the more useful of the two. It only works for the English language (presumably if you’ve bought a UK or US copy of Word) and it does what it says it does, finding words that sound like the word that you have entered.

Here I’ve searched for “Localize” and it has found the words that I would be looking for. They’re not spelled the same, but they do sound the same.

Advanced find options 11 sounds like

However, Find all word forms does NOT find “localisation” in the same piece of text, so I’d be careful about using this one (in fact, try not to), as it will miss out words from your search:

Advanced find options 12 all word forms

In this article, we’ve learned how to use some of the more advanced features of the Find function in Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013 in order to be able to look for the correct, specialised word in our document, including being able to choose where in the document it is and choosing fewer or more examples of words containing the letters we’re searching for.

If you’ve found this useful, please take a moment to share it, using the buttons under the article, or send me a comment, as I love hearing from my readers and knowing that I’ve helped! Thank you!


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.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013 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 of the short cuts here

Related posts on this blog:

How to use Find and Replace 1 – basic find and replace


Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Short cuts, Word, Writing


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How to set up a WordPress blog 2: adding pages to make it into a website

Following on from my posts about how important it is to have a website for your business and on setting up your WordPress blog (which you need to read before reading this if you’re a novice), in this article, I’m going to show you how to add pages to your WordPress blog to make it into a website.

This is what I did when I created this website that you’re reading this blog post on right now. I’m going to use my special test WordPress blog to show you what to do, and also the inside workings of this blog for the more complex aspects. Read on to find out how to set up web pages on your blog, and first of all, why you would do that.

What’s a WordPress page and why do I need them?

A page is a static, unchanging screenful of information, for example what you see when you go to my About page on this blog, or my page about my Business e-book on my writing blog. Where a blog post is written, published, moves down the blog page and is superseded by new blog posts, like a diary, a web page is fixed, stays the same and is visible whenever you visit its home. Where a blog is like a diary, a web page is like a passport photo or a lawn sign.

Why do you need one? Well, when someone reads your blog, they’re going to be bound to want to know something about you – that’s why pretty well all blogs have an About or Home page. And if you run a company, it’s advisable to put together a page, or a set of pages organised into some kind of structure, that tell readers about what you do, how you do it, what it costs, etc.

Website readers have a low attention span. They want to read a bit of stuff then move on. Many of them don’t even like scrolling down to see what’s lower down on the page. So a) they’re not going to want to search or scroll through your blog to look for information, and b) they don’t want everything on one web page. My website is quite wordy; imagine what it would be like if all that information you can access along the top menu bar was all on one page.

So, you’re convinced that you need at least an About page. You understand the difference between pages and posts (pages = static; posts = constantly updated diary type affair). Let’s find out how to set up a page on WordPress.

How do I set up a Page on WordPress?

You access Pages from the Dashboard (click on your blog name or the little house icon next to your blog name on your Stats page to reach it). Once in the Dashboard, go down to Pages, click, and choose All Pages. This allows you to see what pages are already there – and once you have some, you can edit them from here.

1 pages

Why have I gone here first rather than hitting the New Page option? Because every new WordPress blog has an About page set up already, to get you started.

In the All Pages view, you can see all of the pages that you have set up, and hovering over the page title with your cursor allows you to Edit, Quick Edit, Trash or View them. Here, we’re going to Edit

2 about

When you click Edit, you’ll arrive at a screen which looks very like the one that you use to create a new blog post. However, it has Edit Page at the top, and some Page Attributes to the side.

You can see that you have a title area (which includes the word “About” and a text area, which also contains some text at the moment.This can all be edited and customised just how you want it.

You can also see here that the Status is showing as Published. That  means it’s live on the Internet for all to see …

3 about

Want to see what this page looks like? Click on the View Page button just under the title …

4 about

This is likely to open in a new window – if it doesn’t, hit the back button on your browser to get back, or the Edit button at the bottom (or top, depending on your theme).

If you want to edit the text, which I do in this case, just delete the text that’s there and add some new. When you’ve edited it as you wish, hit the Update button to save. Then use the View Page button to have a look at the changes. Note: I’ve added hyperlinks here – here’s an article explaining how to do that

5 about

When you look at the page on the blog, there is all your new text, including the hyperlinks:

6 about

How do I set a web page to be my landing page / front page?

In some circumstances, you might want a static page to be the home page / landing page / front page that a visitor to your URL will always see. I do that with this website – whenever you go to, you will see my Home page. However, visit and you’ll see the latest blog post I’ve published, and you’ll need to click on the top menu to see a static page about you. It’s all about what you choose to do.

I’d recommend that if you are primarily blogging, with just one or two pages about you and your background, leave the landing page as the blog. If you’re promoting a company, product or service, and your blog is supporting that and driving visitors who you want to buy from you, choose to display a static web page when a visitor arrives.

Here’s how you tell WordPress to show visitors a page, not your latest blog post.

Go to the Dashboard, choose Settings, and then Reading. Right at the top of the page, you have a section entitled Front page displays. You have the choice of Your latest posts (i.e. your blog) or A static page. If you click on that radio button, you will be asked to choose a page to display.

7 set page as front page

I have chosen not to do that for this test website/blog, mainly so that I can change it if I’m training people face-to-face, but here’s how this Libroediting site is set up. I have chosen Libroediting as the front page, and Blog as the posts page. That means that any visitor will, as you’ve seen if you clicked the link above, see my Home page on their initial landing on the site.

8 set page as front page

How do I add a new Page to my WordPress website/blog?

If you want to add a brand new page, revisit the Dashboard and choose Pages – Add New. Note, you can Copy a Page, too. This will give you an exact copy of a page you already have – more useful for posts, but if you have special formatting that you’ve set up, or you’re splitting the text on a page over several new pages, it’s worth doing that. Click on Add New

9 add new

… and you will find yourself in a completely blank editing page. Note that now the Status reads Draft, and you also have an option to Save Draft. Please press this very, very regularly, so you don’t lose your draft posts. When you’ve finished adding the text for your new page, hit the Publish button to make it live (or you can leave it in Draft form if you want to work on it further; just do remember to Save Draft).

10 add new

How do I view and edit my pages?

You can view all of your pages by going to the Dashboard and choosing Pages – All Pages. Here is part of my page list for this website. If you hover over any page title with the cursor, you’ll get the Edit / Quick Edit / Trash / View options to allow you to make any changes you want to. If you have any pages in Draft form, not yet published, you’ll see Draft next to All / Published / Trash and you can click to see all of your draft as opposed to published pages.

11 pages

Useful pages that I would recommend including on your business website are:

  • About me (with a photo)
  • Services
  • Prices
  • Testimonials / references
  • Contact me (with a contact form)
  • Blog
  • Links (links to colleagues and recommended websites – always kind to do)

How do I change the order in which my pages appear? How do I create sub-pages?

It’s good to be able to control what order that top menu and any side menus appear in. As you get more pages published, you might find there are too many for the menu to display, and it starts to look a bit messy. You might want to arrange pages in sub-categories, under other main pages.

The place to do this is in the Edit screen for your page (click on Edit when viewing the page or select Dashboard – Pages – All Pages and click on Edit for the particular page). You will notice a section called Page Attributes. Here, we’re looking at my Student pricing 2014 page, which is a sub-page of my Pricing page. Note that I’ve chosen a Parent page from the drop-down menu of all of my pages. When you’ve completed all changes, press Update to save them. You can also choose the order … see below …

12 sub pages

It’s nice to have your landing page on the left and your About me quite prominent, with other pages such as Links down the order a little. That same Page Attributes area allows you to choose a number to define the order the pages appear in on your menus. Here, I’m giving my Links page number 6. I press Update and view the page …

13 page order

Looking at the page itself, you can see that the page name is number six in the list of pages along the top!

14 page order

Note: not all designs of WordPress blog have the menus automatically along the top. But they should appear at the top or down the side. Play with the choice of design if it’s not where you want it to be, or add a menu to the side bar, which we will learn about another day.

How do I do a quick edit?

If you just want to change the title, page order or other attributes for a particular page, view All Pages, hover over the page title and choose Quick Edit.

15 quick edit

You will get a limited number of options, but this can be a quick way to do an update. Click Update to save.

16 quick edit

In this article, we’ve learned how to add web pages to a WordPress blog to make it into a website, using hosted by WordPress itself. These basic ideas should be the same on self-hosted WordPress sites.

I hope you have found this article useful. Please share using the share buttons below, or post a comment, and do please let me know if you use this article to help you to set up your own blog, and post a link below!

Related posts on this blog:

WordPress 1 – the basics – joining and setting up a blog

WordPress 3 – adding images to your post or page

WordPress 4 – adding slideshows and galleries of images

WordPress 5 – linking your blog to your social media

WordPress 6 – sharing buttons

WordPress 7 – adding an avatar picture

Is it worth having a website for my business? – the big question (and the answer’s Yes!)

Adding links to blog posts – how to do it on the major blogging platforms (and email)


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Is it worth having a website for my business?

websiteIn my networking adventures and other travels in the world of small business, I come across quite a few people who don’t have a website. To be honest, I’m a bit shocked when this happens. Unless you’ve got a constant set of clients, with new ones on the horizon to fill in any gaps if you lose one, then you’ll want to be findable.

When you think about getting the roof done, or finding a cleaner, or sourcing flowers for an event, or buying a product, where do you look?


Even if you look for a tradesperson on a Yellow Pages style website, I bet you like to have a URL to click through to, to look at their details. Right?

If you don’t have a website, even a single page with your name / company name and information about yourself, then what will people find when they search for you?

How do people search for companies, products or services?

People come to my website in one of four ways:

  • They search for my name
  • They search for my company name
  • They search for something that I do
  • They search for the answer to a question (“is it en route or on route?” “How do I repeat the header row of a Word document on every page?”)

This is what would happen if I didn’t have a website:

  • If they search for my name, they’ll find my Twitter or Facebook feed, or photos of me socially, or mention of me on forums. All fine, but they’d probably rather find either my Facebook or my company information in one place
  • If they search for my company name, they will find my Facebook or Twitter feed, however, those mention and feed back to my website, as they’re not enough in themselves to maintain interest and get me business
  • If they search for something that I do, they’ll find someone else’s website and if they’re looking for someone to do that work, they’ll hire that someone else
  • If they search for an answer to a question, someone else will answer it, and if they’re looking for someone to work for them, they’ll hire that someone else

This is what happens because I have a website:

  • If they search for my name, they’ll find my website and my other feeds, which all link together. They’ll find out what I do and if they want to talk about work, they can contact me
  • If they search for my company name, they’ll find my website, find out what I do, and possibly hire me, getting in touch via my contact form
  • If they search for something that I do, they’ll find my website, find out that I do that, find references from people who I’ve done that for before, and possibly hire me – getting in touch via my contact form
  • If they search for an answer to a question, if I can answer it, they’ll find out that I know what I’m talking about, and note me for later or sign up to receive emails when I post, and might hire me in time, or ask me a question or engage with my blog

The bare minimum

As a bare minimum, you should have a page somewhere that includes …

  • Your name
  • Your company name (if it’s different)
  • A list of your services or products – make sure that you mention all of the forms of the things you do on that page (so I would include transcriber, transcription services, editor, editing, etc.)
  • References from satisfied customers
  • A way to get in touch with you – a contact form, a phone number (most people like to see this), an email address
  • Professionally produced text – by which I really mean have someone check it for typos and spelling mistakes. Those will seriously undermine your reputation and send people running from your services – whatever they are

It’s a good idea to have your company name in the url for your website, but personally I don’t hold it against small companies if they have the word blogspot or wordpress in their URL – you don’t need to pay extra to have that if you don’t want to.

You can use a Facebook page as your company web page, however I would hesitate to ONLY use something that changes so often and is as unpredictable as Facebook. A company Facebook page is better than nothing, however!

Optional extras

You can add these extras if you want and if they add value. If you find that you’re getting a steady stream of enquiries via your simple website, and they turn into paying customers, then only add these items if you can see a clear value in doing so, rather than doing it out of vanity or because someone’s persuaded you to buy their service.

  • A URL that’s just your company name – you will have to pay for this, probably renewing annually
  • A professionally designed website – there are so many “themes” on offer that look as good as professional websites.
  • A blog – this is GREAT for driving people to your website and setting you up as an expert in your field. If you only do one of these things, write a simple blog
  • Someone to write web text and blog posts for you
  • Search Engine Optimisation – a professional can ensure that you’re showing up in the search engines etc. But shop around – this can be expensive and there are lots of things you can do to SEO your site on your own (just have a little search engine search and see what you can find)
  • A shopping cart and catalogue – very useful if you’re producing craft items or any tangibles – but you can sign up to services like Etsy and eBay which will do this for you

The big caveat

It’s really important to have a web presence so that people can find you.

It’s really important to be super-vigilant, because unscrupulous companies prey on small businesses’ lack of expertise in this area.

  • Always ask around fellow small business owners or someone whose website you admire and see who they use
  • If someone offers to make you top of the search engine results, ask what other sites they’ve worked on (always ask for references anyway) and do a search for yourself
  • If someone offers to revolutionise your website and make you a millionaire overnight, they’re probably over-selling. Ask for references
  • If someone offers to build your website make sure – no, MAKE SURE – that you will be able to edit and update the text and pictures on that website whenever you want to. Never hand over the full ownership of your site to another person such that you can’t update it yourself.

If you haven’t got a website, and you haven’t got a steady stream of new and regular customers giving you a good income stream, I really do suggest that you get a website!

Read more here about growing your business, have a look at my advice on blogging and social media, read about how to set up a WordPress blog and website (starting with this post) and read about my own business journey in my book, Going It Alone At 40.

Related posts

WordPress 2 – adding pages to create a website


Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Blogging, Business, New skills, Social media


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Your transcription career: RSI, ergonomics and keyboards

mechanical keyboardWhen you’re a transcriber, you’re going to end up working at a desk for long periods of time, using a keyboard. This can lead to problems with your posture, and possibly to RSI.

There are loads of different arguments and positions with regard to the ideal workstation position. Here, I’m going to give a summary of what I’ve found to be good myself, and some of the ideas that are around, too. The best thing to do is:

BE AWARE – keep an eye on how you’re sitting, how you’re feeling, and any aches, pains or niggles.

Typing position

This is what suits me: the old-fashioned way I was taught at Pitman typing college back in the early 90s: back straight, knees at 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor or a footrest. Shoulders relaxed, elbows at 90 degrees, belly button a hand-span away from the front of the keyboard, hands hovering OVER the keyboard so your wrists are straight and your fingers drop down onto the keys. Eyes aligned with the top of the monitor.

However, recent research that I’ve seen has suggested that you should lean back in your chair rather than sitting upright. I’m an upright sitter anyway (years of pony riding as a child?) so I find this uncomfortable.

There is also a lot of talk about standing desks, and I have several colleagues who have adopted these to great effect. I did try this and it made my feet hurt and made me type less quickly, so I did abandon it, but it’s worth trying.

A note on laptops: laptop keyboards are really not suitable for large amounts of typing. They are very flat, even if propped up, and can really strain the hands and wrists. If you need to use a laptop as a computer, buy a plug-in keyboard to use in front of it.

Preventing RSI

The best ways to prevent RSI and other aches and pains are …

  • Be aware of any problems when they start
  • Be aware of your position at the desk (are you contorted or twisted? That’s never good)
  • Stretch and refocus every hour at least – move away from the desk, squat, stretch UP, stretch DOWN, walk up and down the stairs, do some squats
  • Exercise regularly outside the house – I find that a good rowing session at the gym helps ease those shoulders
  • If you get any suspicious pains, look at what you’re doing and see if you can change it
  • If you get a recurring pain, go to the doctor sooner rather than later

Your keyboard

Most people use the standard keyboard that came with their PC or Mac. That’s fine for everyday use, but you might find the standard shape uncomfortable to use at high speeds, and the standard keyboard mechanics might slow down your typing. Here are some ideas:

  • Try one of the “ergonomic” split keyboards. They’re split in half, with a hinge, so you can open or close them as you wish.
  • Try using an alternative key assignation. The most famous is “DVORAK” and you can read its Wikipedia entry here. This assigns different letters to different keys, and is supposed to help with RSI issues by balancing how you type (we all know that the standard QWERTY keyboard was designed thus to stop the mechanics of the typewriter getting caught up with each other by putting commonly used pairs of letters in particular positions).
  • Try using a mechanical keyboard. Standard keyboards have a membrane under the keys which transmits the keystrokes to the switches. Their technology means that you have to press each key right down to get the connection and produce the letter. But mechanical keyboards have one individual mechanism and switch per key. You don’t have to press them all the way down to produce the letter. They are much more responsive and you can type more quickly on them, and they apparently last a lot longer – but they are expensive I found a really good article about them here.

I’ve recently invested in a mechanical keyboard. Once I got used to it, it’s very comfortable, and I think that I’m typing more quickly and more accurately, although I’ll only be able to judge when I have some big, long files to transcribe.

A note on keyboard labels: If you type a lot, you will notice that the letter labels wear off your keys, especially the most heavily used ones. This seems fine if you’re a touch typist anyway (and has the added benefit of really annoying anyone else who tries to use your workstation) but is irritating if you have to look down to type in passwords, etc.

The problem arises because most keyboards have the letters and numbers applied via transfer, which can wear off. You can get keyboards where the letter is actually moulded through each key, like a stick of rock. Wear your key down all you like, and the letter will still be there. Something worth looking into if you do wear off the letters on keyboards. You can even get light-up keyboards for when you want to type in the dark …

What’s best for you is best for you

I’d suggest having a play with different types of keyboard at an office or computer supplies shop, especially when it comes to the more expensive mechanical type keyboards. Whatever you feel comfortable with and doesn’t produce any aches or pains after a week of eight-hour days typing is what you should stick with, whether you’re standing on your head or using some kind of odd keyboard that you invented. RSI can ruin your career and your health, so do take it seriously.


You can read more about transcription in these related posts.

Why you need a human to do your transcription

How do you start a career in transcription?

Being a professional transcriber – software to use to help

Ten top tips for transcribers

Or, if you want all of my transcription careers advice in one place, consider investing just £1  or the equivalent in my book on the subject: A Quick Guide to Your Career in Transcription.


Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Business, Transcription


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Growing your business – becoming a Limited Company

Sneak preview of the image from my new bookWhen you decide to grow your business, one of the popular ways to do it is to become a Limited Company (also known as incorporating your business). I’ve asked an expert to comment on this, in this case my accountant, Andrew Minsky, from Nyman Linden. Andrew got in touch with me via Twitter when I was looking for an accountant recommendation, although of course I checked out the company properly before signing up with them!

Andrew talks here about the pros and cons of going Limited, and what it means for your business and income. I’ll be posting some stories from people who’ve done this with their businesses – do get in touch if you have experiences to share on this. But for now, over to Andrew …

Should I incorporate my business? (become a Limited Company)

If you are in business, you typically have two options available to you – Self-employment (being a Sole Trader) or setting up a Limited Company.

Setting up as a sole trader is simplest, and if you are new to running a business, this can be advisable in the start-up phase, whilst you get used to the accounts and tax requirements. Furthermore, if you incur trading losses, these can be claimed against your other income (a Company can only claim against its income).

However, if you are looking to grow your business and/or are expecting profits over £35k annually, consider using a Limited Company. A typical business earning £35k profits would save around £2,500 in tax & NI as a Limited Company.

Advantages of a Limited Company arrangement

  • You can control the timing, amount and nature (i.e. dividends, salary) of your income.
  • There are numerous tax advantages, including but not limited to:
    • Assuming that you are not caught by the IR35 rules, you will remunerate yourself by drawing a small salary and draw the remainder of the profit from the Company as a dividend. These dividends do not attract National Insurance contributions, saving NIC.
    • the ability to split the company shares between a husband and wife, thus taking advantage of both people’s own personal tax allowance and basic rate band.
    • If you are earning at the high rate of tax (40%), the ability to leave the money in the Company, to be drawn at a later date at a lower tax rate. Higher rate taxpayers can save significant tax this way.
  • A Limited Company pays tax 9 months (and 1 day!) after the year-end, e.g. 31 March 2014 year end pays tax on 1 January 2015. A sole trader typically will pay their tax bill ‘on account’, so for a 30 April 2014 year-end, the tax will need to be paid on 31 January 2014 and 31 July 2014. So, a Company is better from a cash flow perspective.
  • As a limited company with a trading name you can appear more credible (from a marketing point of view) when applying for new assignments.
  • The Company is a separate legal entity to you and liability for debts is Limited to the issued Share Capital: you personally are not liable.

Disadvantages of a Limited Company arrangement

  • Increased administration of a Company, including the need to;
    • File Company annual returns (£13 online)
    • Prepare and file statutory accounts with Companies House and HMRC
    • File Company tax returns
    • File RTI Compliant payroll

This extra administration, however, will generally be carried out by your accountant.

How to register your Company

andrew minskyAndrew Minsky is a Partner at Nyman Linden Chartered Accountants, based in Barnet but operating across the country.

Andrew qualified as a Chartered Accountant (ACA) in 2008, whilst working at a top 10 international practice. His career began in audit, advising large public sector clients, before moving into a more commercially focussed due diligence role at another international practice.

However, Andrew’s real passion lies in helping small businesses, helping their owners with the ever more complex tax regime, and advising them on how to save tax. He has his own portfolio of clients and actively works to recruit more. He recently achieved the highly sought after PCG accredited accountant status. He is responsible for the firms’ social media outputs and networking activities, and has a keen involvement in the firm’s PR and marketing initiatives.

Andrew married his wife Gemma in 2008 (a week after qualifying!) and is the proud father to his son Asher, born in 2012.

Andrew is also an Arsenal fan (long-suffering), and plays football twice a week for local teams to keep fit.

If you would like to talk to Andrew about becoming your accountant, you can email him or call Nyman Linden on 020 8449 9708.


This post is part of my series on growing your business. Read more here and read about my own business journey in my book, Going It Alone At 40.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Organisation


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How to set up a WordPress blog 1: the basics

This article will help you to set up a standard, free, blog for the first time. It talks you through step by step, including setting up your account, choosing your blog name and setting up the features that I find essential when setting up a new blog.

Further posts cover more advanced topics like sharing your posts, inserting pictures and galleries, setting up web pages associated with the blog, etc. By the end of this session, you will know how to …

  • Set up a blog
  • Choose and apply a theme (background / colours / layout)
  • Set up comment moderation to keep you safe from spammers
  • Remove ads which will put off your readers
  • Write and publish a blog post

Why would I want to start a blog?

I’ve covered this in detail elsewhere, so do have a look at this index or pop to the bottom of this article to see a list of related posts on this blog.

Getting started with a blog

Please note that this all applies to a standard WordPress blog hosted on WordPress’ own servers. Some of this will look different if you’re setting up a self-hosted WordPress site. Don’t worry about that bit if you just want to set up a blog!

So, to set up your blog, first go to, where you will meet a sign-up page:

1 front page

Click on the Get Started button to set up your account:

2 sign up

Fill in your email address, a username, and choose a password, then choose the web address for your blog.

Note: although you can change the name that your blog displays, this web address should always stay the same. If people link to it, or you link to your own posts on it, or people add it to their blog reader, they use the web address. If this changes, then the links will be lost. I suggest choosing something as bland and general as you can, so that if you change the name of your blog or the way you write it over the years, the web address and the name won’t be too different.

I’m choosing Lyzzybee here – WordPress has suggested that but you can change it. Watch out for the little green tick, which means the address is available. That means that you can choose it for your blog.

Underneath the web address box, WordPress lets you know that you could buy the domain name (in this case for $18 per year. There’s a lot of discussion about this, with people claiming that seeing WordPress (or blogspot or any other blogging software name) will put people off if you’re writing a business blog or setting up business pages. I’m not sure that it does these days, but there is an option to buy the name if you want to, if it’s available:

3 sign up

If you scroll down, you’ll see some options for upgrading, too. These look very enticing and seem to offer you a lot, but upgrades cost money and you will only really need a free blog for most purposes apart from the most content-heavy and customisable blog. For our purposes, a free one will do, so click on Create Blog at the bottom of the free column.

(Note: ad free is something we will be looking at later as I feel it’s important to remove intrusive ads from your blog, so it’s not EXACTLY free. Ad removal is currently $30 per year (about £20), it is an option but I think it’s important).

4 sign up free

Confirming your email address

Before you go any further, you will need to confirm your email address in order to allow you to write posts and use your blog. This is a security measure, to make sure that no one’s setting up a blog under your email address illegitimately.

You will see a message about confirming your email address once you’ve hit that Create Blog button. You have options to change the email address or re-send the email if it doesn’t appear:

5 confirm

But, all being well, you should find an email from WordPress in your email inbox, with the subject “Confirm your email address for [your blog address]” – it might be the second one from WordPress, as here:

6 confirm

Open the email and you’ll find a Confirm Email Address button to press. Press that button …

7 confirm

… and you’ll be back in WordPress (in a new window) with the email address confirmed and able to do what you want with your blog!

Click on the blog name to go and look at your blog …

8 confirm

… and you will find the very bare bones of a completely blank and empty blog! But it’s your completely blank and empty blog!

9 setup

How do I access the dashboard on WordPress, aka how do I actually do stuff?

Whenever you’re logged in to WordPress and want to do something with your blog, whether you want to alter the settings, write a post, check your comments … you can access the Dashboard (which allows you to do all of this) by clicking on your username at the top and then clicking Dashboard:

10 setup

Now, the Dashboard looks like a pretty scary place at first glance: there’s lots of text, lots of options … lots of STUFF!

But I can tell you that you will usually only need to use a handful of areas on this Dashboard, and a few options in each one.

The ones that I find most useful and use most of the time are:

  • Site stats – accessible from the top part of the Dashboard or the dotted line on the very top line (which starts to look like a bar graph as soon as you get some people looking at your blog)
  • Posts – where you write posts, copy posts, edit them and review your drafts
  • Appearance – where you change the theme of your blog
  • Settings – where you change your blog’s name, subtitle and spam filtering options

I’ve highlighted them all here: not so scary after all?

11 setup

How to change your blog’s name and subtitle

Remember what I said above about not being able to change your blog’s web address, but being able to change its name and subtitle? I’m going to show you how to do that first, mainly because WordPress adds its own subtitle to your blog, and we want to customise it for ourselves.

Whizz up a couple of pictures to that blank white screen that says “Nothing Found” in the middle of the screen. Notice how underneath the blog name “Lyzzybee”, it says “A fine WordPress site”. Well, that’s all well and good, but this is where you can describe what the blog’s all about. This blog that you’re reading now has the subtitle “Proofreading, editing, writing, transcription and localisation”, and this field is searchable by search engines, so it makes sense to get your keywords in there and tell people what it’s all about (another of mine can be found here).

To change this, go down to the bottom of the Dashboard and click on Settings. You’ll get a sub-menu, and you now choose General:

12 setup

After clicking General, you’ll get a page where you can change the very general details of your blog. I’m not going to go into much detail about this page now, but you can see at the top the SIte Title (which you can change if you want to; I’m not going to for now), and Tagline (the subtitle). There’s the text that WordPress has automatically inserted for you, and here’s your chance to start customising your blog and telling people what you’re all about:

13 setup

So I type in “My test site for WordPress training”, because that’s what it is, and then press the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen to save that. There are lots of other things you can change on this page; do have a play with them if you’re feeling confident, but it’s not strictly necessary at this stage. Everything can be accessed and changed later on.

14.5 setup

Changing the comment settings to prevent spam

Yes, yes, I know you want to change what your blog looks like and get writing, but this bit’s really important.

Once you get up and running, lots of people who are your friends, old and new, real and virtual, will hopefully want to post comments on your blog posts. Lovely! But other people will try to post fake comments, in an attempt to either place their web address on as many other web pages as possible (this gets them up the search engine results pages, not wanting to go into too much detail) and/or want your readers to click on dodgy links in order to sell them fake ugg boots or even install viruses on their computers. People will also tend to trust your blog less if you let spam get through with its dodgy links enticing your readers to click through. You need to stop this, and although WordPress does have really good spam filters, the odd one still gets through.

By making sure that you moderate the first comment that anybody makes on your blog, you will cut out almost all of the spam. The only way that someone can spam comment is if they post a normal comment first, then a spam one. Most people won’t bother. So, make sure you catch them out and prevent them from commenting by setting up your Discussion setups in your favour, not theirs.

You access this area by choosing Settings from the Dashboard again, then Discussion:

18 setup

Now you have a range of options. Handily, the ones that are already ticked are the ones that you want. But the most important to be ticked are circled in red below:

  • Other comment settings – Comment author must fill out name and email (this means they can’t just post anonymously)
  • Before a comment appears – Comment author must have a previously approved comment (don’t tick manually approve every comment unless you get bombarded with spam and need to check every single comment and pass it manually – just approving the first comment will do)

It’s also worth keeping as many email alerts as you can, so you can add to these vital ones:

  • Email me whenever – Someone posts a comment (you will always be told whenever you get a comment. If you spot a spammy comment, you can follow the link and delete it)

19 setup

Setting up your Discussion section like this means that:

  • Every time someone comments on one of your blog posts, they will have to enter their email address and name
  • Every time someone comments on one of your blog posts, you will receive an email.
  • When it’s their first comment on your blog ever, you will receive an email asking you to approve their comment. Once you’ve done that, they will be allowed to comment whenever they like, as long as you’ve approved the first one.
  • Because you receive an email every time someone comments, you can reply back to their comment, making them feel like it’s a two-way process and you care about your readers (see more on this in my article on reciprocity and social media)

Choosing your blog theme

At last she’s letting us make our blog look nice! I know – but it’s important to set up the security aspects first, right?

At the moment, your blog is quite plain. You can choose from loads and loads of attractive themes to brighten it up. And you can change your theme any time you want (although be aware that some of them have the menus in different places and might not offer certain functions).

To set up your new theme (or change your theme once you’re up and running), click Appearance on the Dashboard, and then Themes:

20 setup

You will now see a page of lots of different designs for your blog.

Note three things here:

  • At the top, you can search for themes (flowers, etc.), choose from Trending, Popular and New themes (and on the right, choose to see only free ones)
  • When you hover over a theme, you will get the opportunity to Preview or Activate (see below)
  • You have to pay for some themes (see the double circle at the bottom). There are LOADS of free ones so certainly don’t bother to do that at the start.

21 setup

If you click on that Preview button, you’ll be shown what your blog looks like in that theme. Note that the blog name and Tagline / subtitle are there, as are any posts you’ve made.

Return to your list of themes using the back button at top left

22 setup

Once you’ve chosen your theme, press the Activate button

23 setup

You will get a confirmation that you’ve activated that theme (but you can always change it later!)

24 setup

How do I write a blog post in my WordPress blog?

Hooray – it’s time to actually write something!

To write a blog post, go to Posts on the Dashboard and then click Add New. There are some other options there but this is getting LONG and we’ll just do the basics.

25 post

Once you’ve clicked New Post, you’ll be in your post editor. I’ve added a title and some text here (click to view larger and you can see my instructions).

Once you’ve got a title in place, WordPress will create a Permalink (URL) for it. You can alter the words in this after the date, so if you don’t want to be sharing a huge URL, you can cut it down (e.g. this very post has a URL ending wordpress-blog-basics, which is not the full title of the post).

Once you’ve started writing your post, hit Save Draft and continue to press that regularly so you don’t lose your work. Once you’re ready to publish your post, press Publish!

26 post

When you publish any post, you will get a side panel that tells you how many posts you’ve done – you need to click on the little arrow before you’ll get your URL at the top and your post in full screen. Note here that there’s a little square telling you that there might be an advert appearing there – see below for how to get rid of that.

27 post

But for now, here’s our blog post, in all its glory, on the blog theme that we chose a little while ago:

28 post

How do I get back to the dashboard from my blog post?

At the top of the screen, you’ll see your username. Click on that and you’ll get a drop-down menu including Dashboard.

29 setup

How to remove ads from your blog

WordPress will automatically place adverts on your blog. Nice, eh? But they have to make some money, and people pay them to do this. Note that this is NOT the same as having a service where you choose to have ads on your blog and can choose what they’re about. This is any ads they choose to promote, flashing all over your blog, in front of the content. The worst bit: you can’t see them if you’re logged in, even if you look at your own blog. And yes, people do have ad blockers, but I know from experience that readers do get put off and won’t return to look at your blog, or subscribe to it, if you have ads all over it.

You can remove the ads for $30 (about £20) a year. It’s up to you, but I think it’s worth it as the final stage of setting up a good, solid, useful WordPress blog.

Here’s how you remove them. Go to Settings on the Dashboard and then Ad Control:

30 setup

Choose No Ads upgrade. You probably don’t need a Bundle, which is more expensive and includes high levels of customisation which you just don’t need when you’re starting out. You renew this every year, and can always add customisation when you’re more confident with what you want to do with your blog.

31 setup

You will be taken to the WordPress Store, where you can choose Get rid of Ads. This will take you to a payment screen where you can pay by PayPal or debit or credit card. As I said, well worth doing to avoid annoying people who read your blog.

32 setup

By now, you should be able to set up a blog, post a blog post, set your comment moderation and remove ads, and choose and change your theme. Future posts will cover more details such as automatically sharing your posts on social media, adding photos, and other technical details. You can find more general articles about blogging in the list of related posts below.

I hope you have found this article useful. Please share using the share buttons below, or post a comment, and do please let me know if you use this article to help you to set up your own blog, and post a link below!

Related posts on this blog:

WordPress 2 – adding pages to create a website

WordPress 3 – adding images to your post or page

WordPress 4 – adding slideshows and galleries of images

WordPress 5 – linking your blog to your social media

WordPress 6 – sharing buttons

WordPress 7 – adding an avatar picture

10 reasons to start a blog – why you should do it now!

10 reasons NOT to write a blog – and why you should stop and think, at least!

Reciprocity and Social Media – how to negotiate social media kindly and politely

Top 10 blogging sins – avoid these if you can!

Scheduling blog posts and keeping going – scheduling the posts and the writing of them

Guest posts (1) hosting – how to be the host(ess) with the most(est)

Guest posts (2) guesting – how to be the perfect guest

Adding links to blog posts – how to do it on the major blogging platforms (and email)


Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Blogging, Business, WordPress, Writing


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