Monthly Archives: February 2014

10 things that you can do to prepare for self-employment

Things to do today bookI’ve been going through these points with a few friends recently, and it struck me that it would be useful to write them down.

Here’s the situation: you know you’re going to be going self-employed / become a freelancer, but that time hasn’t come yet for whatever reason. Maybe you’re working out your notice, maybe you’re waiting to hear when you’re going to be made redundant, maybe you’re in negotiations, maybe you’re moving to a new city and will be setting up there.

Whatever the precise situation, you have some time now to prepare for the future. Use it wisely and you can hit the ground running (sorry for the cliché) and be in the best possible position to start picking up work and collecting clients.

1. Do any local courses and register as self-employed

Whatever country you’re in, you should be able to look into going self-employed, make sure you have all the paperwork and details you need, perhaps take a course (in the UK, the HMRC courses are now run online) and even register as self-employed (you need to do this within x time of your first income from self-employment, so why not sort it out now?). ALso remember that if you want to submit your tax return online, there’s a separate process to do that and you need to do it as early as you can (more info here).

2. Get business cards

These don’t need to be complicated. They can just include your name, email address and phone number and maybe a website url (see Point 3). Get them from a relatively inexpensive site like VistaPrint (I get mine done there, you can tweak them to not include the VistaPrint logo and get relatively good quality).

In time, you can get fancy cards with logos. You don’t want to be in the situation where you attend training on setting up your business, meet a potential contact and don’t have a card, or be passing out your wife’s card with your name scribbled on the back. Be ready to meet opportunities.

3. Set up a website

Get the basics up now so you have somewhere to point people. It doesn’t have to be fancy: just one page with your contact details, an idea of what you do and a photo will do for now. You can expand on it later on. This is also a place where you can collect testimonials and start building your reputation.

If you use a platform such as WordPress, you can buy your domain name from them, so you don’t  have “WordPress” in the URL. But I don’t think that matters as much as it used to, so if you’re not sure that you’re going to be self-employed long term, by all means just register the type URL.

If you haven’t thought up your business name and haven’t got time to sort out a URL and any hosting issues, there’s no harm in writing up the text for your first pages so you have it to hand when you’re ready to set up the website.

Do not, at this stage, get tempted into paying thousands of pounds for an all-singing, all-dancing website. You don’t that at this stage, and you will end up radically changing your website in the first year of trading anyway. Save up for that until you know exactly what you want. This point is about web presence and having somewhere to point to right now.

4. Start reading up and doing research

I recommend reading a couple of small business books and also picking out some blogs to follow. Choose a couple in your line of business and a couple of general business blogs. You might even start interacting on the comments and asking advice, even making some small business friends.

5. Work out some basic terms and conditions

This is the one that most small business people find trips them up in the first years of trading. Certainly, my terms and conditions have been forged through mistakes, panics and worries. I really wish that I’d had statements on what I will and won’t cover in terms of subjects, specific information for students, information on how I invoice and when I expect payment, etc., set out somewhere. I meet many people who learned this the hard way.

To get these together, it’s worth looking at other people’s in your industry, or turning to services like those of the Federation of Small Businesses, who offer members template customer agreements and terms & conditions.

6. Get your finances in order

The two basic points here are:

a. Make sure that you have a separate bank account to run your business through. This can be an untouched current account, again, you don’t have to have a fancy and expensive business account to start off with, but make sure you can keep the business separate from your personal money. Your accountant will thank you for this, and it will make it easier come tax assessment time, too.

b. Make sure that you have some living money for those early days. Tighten your belt now, if you can, and put aside as much money as you can. The general recommendation is three to six months’ worth of basic living money (rent/mortgage and bills) put aside to see you through. By going part-time, I got myself a year (of very basic living) ahead of myself. It just gives you that breathing space.

7. Set some targets

While you’re working out what your basic living expenses are for Point 6, it’s worth setting some targets for your monthly earnings. Make them cumulative, so that if you have a bad month, you can still see that you’re doing OK. For example, if you want to earn £24,000 per year after tax, you’re going to need to earn at least £32,000 before tax. That’s £2,666 a month. If you earn £4,000 in January but only £1,350 in February, it’s useful to know that you’ve made just over £2,666 a month on average.

I like to set three targets a year: one to cover basic living expenses, one comfortable one and one to aim for, as this gives you room to expand faster but not on just impossible target.

8. Get to grips with social media

You’re going to end up using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as a business person, you can’t help it. So get to grips with them now before you’re faced with a Twitterstorm after an unconsidered Tweet!

9. Get testimonials

While you still have access to colleagues and even perhaps clients who might be able to give you a testimonial, ask them for it. If you have a LinkedIn account set up, you can use that to request references. If you’re doing bits of the same work you’ll be freelancing in for free, ask for testimonials.

Always ask if you can use the testimonial on your website, and check if it’s OK to put the person’s name and company next to the testimonial (the more traceable the reference, the more powerful it is).

This way, you’ll start off with some visible backup and proof that you are who you say you are. Going into a different industry than the one you’re employed in? Keep it general – everyone likes a cheerful, reliable hard worker, don’t they!

10. Speak it out loud!

Tell people what you’re doing. Not a million people, not everyone all at once, and of course there may be situations at work where you can’t talk about it. I know how powerful it was when I started saying “I’m going to go full time with my business by this time next year”, and I’m sure that it helped me to do that.


Thank you for reading my top 10 tips for preparing for self-employment. Have you got any more? Do you madly agree or wildly disagree with any of them? Do post a comment and if you’ve found this interesting, please do use the share buttons to share this on whatever social media channel you fancy – it all helps to help people!

If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, you will find plenty of careers resources on this website (click on that link or surf around the category cloud in the sidebar). Or why not take a look at my books, which have loads of information about starting and maintaining a freelance career.


Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Business, Organisation, Social media


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Dryer or drier?

A commonly confused pair, this is in fact confusing when you start to look into it, too! Perhaps that’s why I’ve left it until now!

Drier is the comparative of the adjective dry. So, today it didn’t rain very much, so it was drier than yesterday, when it poured with rain all day. This white wine is drier than that white wine. Liz’s laundry has been on the washing line in her North-facing garden all day and is no drier than when she put it out. You get the idea.

A dryer is a device which dries things. So you have a tumble dryer or a hair dryer. Simple.

But: drier is also an alternative or variant spelling of dryer. How disappointing. But we don’t need to use it as such, do we? Let’s keep those two alternatives going strong, and get our laundry drier by using our tumble dryer!

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


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Setting up a WordPress blog 4 – Adding slideshows and galleries to blog posts and pages

In this series, we’ve already learned how to set up a WordPress blog, and how to add pages to make it into a WordPress website.  Last time, we talked about adding images to your blog posts and pages. This time we’re learning how to create galleries and slideshows and add your image to your user profile in WordPress.

Why would I want to add a gallery or slideshow to my blog post or page?

If you have a lot of images to accompany a blog post or web page, perhaps of artworks or craft items that you have created, and especially if you don’t have much text to accompany those images, so it’s going to be hard to format them on the page, consider adding a gallery (a grid of images) or a slideshow (one image shown at a time, with navigation buttons for the user).

Adding images to a WordPress blog post

When you’re in the blog editor, you can use the Add Media button, with your cursor is in the position where you want your image to appear, to select and add the images of your choice.

1 add media

You can download multiple images at a time, and they will then appear on your Insert Media page. Viewing your Insert Media page, if you’ve already downloaded images and want to use or re-use them, these will appear in your Media Library tab.

15 gallery

How do I insert multiple images into a blog post or web page?

If you want to insert multiple images, the most simple way would be to tick all of the images that you want to use (see screenshot above) and press Insert into post. However, this will typically give you a jumble of images that looks really messy:

16 gallery

Here’s how to do it properly and neatly.

How do I add a gallery of thumbnail images to a blog post or web page?

In the Insert Media page, click on Create Gallery in the left-hand menu bar:

17 gallery

Select the images that you want to add to your gallery by clicking in the box at the top right of each image until it shows a tick, and click on Create New Gallery at the bottom of the screen:

18 gallery

This will take you to the Edit Gallery screen. Here you can select how many columns your pictures display in and what format – here “Thumbnail Grid”, and then click to Insert Gallery:

19 gallery

This will bring you back to your Edit post (or page) screen. The gallery doesn’t display in the edit screen, as it will pull the pictures from your gallery when the post is live. Click on View Post (or Page) to check how it’s looking …

20 gallery

When you View post, you can see the grid of images. In this case, because I’ve used screen shots as the images and they’re not all the same size and shape, the grid is a bit odd, but you can see the idea. It’s all much neater, which is the main thing:

21 gallery

How do I add a slideshow to a WordPress blog post or page?

if you want a slideshow rather than a gallery, back in the Edit Gallery screen, click on the dropdown arrow by Type to view the different options. Choose the bottom one, Slideshow:

22 slideshow

When you’ve inserted your gallery and chosen View Post, you can see a single image at a time, with navigation buttons for forward, back and pause visible when the mouse hovers over the screen: a slideshow:

23 slideshow

Today we have found out how to add multiple pictures to your blog post or web page using a gallery or slideshow.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article and have found it useful. If so, please take a moment to share and comment – it helps to make other people aware of the help that they can find here. For more posts on blogging, social media, WordPress, Word, business and more, please have a look at the Resource Guide, or explore the categories to your right.

Related posts on this blog

How to set up a WordPress blog

How to add pages to make your WordPress blog into a website

How to add images to your WordPress blog posts and pages

Linking your blog to your social media

WordPress 6 – sharing buttons

WordPress 7 – adding an avatar picture


Posted by on February 19, 2014 in Blogging, Business, WordPress, Writing


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Faint or feint?

DictionariesHere we go with another Troublesome Pair. We have a slight spelling issue going on with the second of these two, as well, just to add extra value!

Faint as an adjective means barely perceptible, slight, and in medical terms, close to losing consciousness: “Even the faint whiff of eggs was enough to make me feel faint”. The verb to faint indicates a sudden loss of consciousness: “She saw the horrible sight and fainted, falling to the floor, out cold”. Faint hearted – means lacking conviction or courage – another of our extensions into metaphor.

A feint (not a fient) is a pretended or deceptive thrust or blow in the sports of boxing fencing (or in general fighting). “I feinted a punch to the left and ran around him as he ducked”. It is also, in my favoured usage, the term for paper which has been printed with faint lines to give a guide for handwriting – you will see “Narrow feint” or “Wide feint” printed on the front of notebooks or pads of paper.

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


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Find and replace in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013 3: finding formatting

In this series of articles on Find and Replace in Word, we’ve looked at basic Find and Replace and advanced Find and Replace (wild cards and the like). Now we’re going to have a look at finding and replacing formats.

Why would I want to search for formats?

There are lots of reasons why you might want to search for formats. I’ve used this particularly when working with anything that has specific formatting for specific words or phrases. For example, you may have decided to italicise all book titles in your thesis bibliography, only to find that they’re supposed to be in no italics and bold. You can search for all text that’s in italics and change it to being in bold using Replace All (or Find Next – Replace, which, as we discussed in the first article, is a safer option just to be sure). Another way I use this is if I need to look for manual page breaks that have been inserted into a document, or section breaks: it’s much quicker than scanning through hundreds of pages looking for formatting marks.

How do I search for formats in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013?

Some good news here first of all: once you’ve found your way to the Advanced search dialogue box, the procedure from here onwards is exactly the same for Word 2007, 2010 and 2013. Phew!

To search for JUST a format, rather than a particular word in a format, you need to leave the Find what search box blank. Then click the Format button at the bottom left, to bring up the familiar Format menu that you find if you right-click on any text in the document itself:

1 Find format

Click on Font, for example, and you can search for text in any Font, Font Style (marked here as I’m searching for Bold text) or Size:

2 Find format

When you’ve clicked on Bold (or whichever format you’ve decided to search for) you will be returned to the standard Find dialogue window. You can see that “Format: Font: Bold” appears underneath the Find what search box. I find it useful to select Highlight all – and as you can see, this has highlighted all of the text that’s in bold in my document:

3 Find format

How do I search for a word in a particular format?

You can combine format search with the standard text search. For example, here I’ve chosen the format to be Bold and have then entered the word “troughs” into the Find what box. As we can see from the text behind the box, this has searched for the word troughs in bold:

4 Find format with a word

How do I remove format search from my search?

If you want to remove the format search, you will need to press the No Formatting button at the bottom of the screen. This will remove the “Format: Font: Bold” or whatever note from your Find What search box. If you don’t remove it, Word will continue to only find text in that format, whatever you enter in the search box.

5 remove Find format

How do I replace a format with a different format?

Once you’ve found all of the text with your required format, you can move to the Replace tab and replace one format with another. In the Replace tab, press the Format button just as you did in the Find tab:

6 replace format

Here I’m choosing to change the Bold text I highlighted earlier into Italic text:

7 replace format

I’m being brave and hitting Replace All, and here’s the effect: those sections that were in Bold are now in Italics:

8 replace format

How do I search for page breaks and formatting characters?

You can also search for different kinds of page formatting using the Special button at the bottom of the Find and Replace dialogue box. This gives you a whole range of formatting characters that you can search for, including paragraph marks, section breaks, etc.

9 special

I find this very useful for searching for manual page breaks – you can do this with formatting marks turned on or off (if you have then turned on, it will highlight the formatting mark; if they’re turned off, just the space where it would appear). Here I’ve searched for manual page breaks (where I’ve pressed Ctrl-Enter to force a page break):

10 special

You can see that it’s highlighted a space where the page break is hidden from view – but there:

11 special

If I turn on Show Formatting, you can see what Word is highlighting:

13 special

In this article, we’ve learned how to Find and Replace formats in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013, and how to search for breaks and other formatting characters. If you’ve enjoyed this post or found it useful, please do take a moment to share or comment – your comments and shares are always appreciated!

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

How to use Find and Replace 2 – advanced find

Formatting marks and how to turn them on and off

1 Comment

Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


Bimonthly or semimonthly / semi-monthly? Biweekly or semiweekly / semi-weekly?

I covered biennial or biannually quite a while ago now, but Guy K Haas commented on my index to all of these Troublesome Pairs that I should cover bimonthly or semimonthly, and biweekly or semiweekly. And so I shall.

However, one caveat before we begin: Try not to use these. There is so much confusion about words like these, that it is almost always so much better to write “Every two weeks” or “Twice a week” rather than using the more complex term. After all, these terms are usually used when one is scheduling something, and you don’t want your scheduling to go awry, do you!

Bimonthly actually means, in the dictionary (all of them), taking place or appearing twice a month … or every two months. So that’s no use, is it!

We find the same issue with biweekly – it can mean either (both) taking place or appearing twice a week … or every two weeks. Useless, again!

Moving on, semi-monthly and semi-weekly do mean occurring or appearing twice a month / twice a week (and notice that hyphen: that’s a bit annoying in itself, isn’t it!).

So, my recommendation: leave these well alone. State the exact times the whatever it is will be doing whatever it does. “My magazine is going to come out every two months” – “Oh, mine’s coming out twice a month, or every two weeks”. Job done.

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


Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Setting up a WordPress blog 3 – Adding images to blog posts and pages

In this series, we’ve already learned how to set up a WordPress blog, and how to add pages to make it into a WordPress website. Today, we’re going to learn how to add pictures to blog posts and pages and how to edit images in WordPress. And here’s how to create galleries and slideshows and add your image to your user profile in WordPress.

Note: March 2014 – I have updated this post to take into account the new way to edit images that has just been implemented in WordPress.

How do I add an image to a WordPress blog post?

When you’re in the blog editor, you will find a button marked Add Media to the left. Making sure that your cursor is in the position where you want your image to appear, click on Add Media:

1 add media

This will take you to an Insert Media page, and if you’ve already downloaded any images and want to re-use them, they will appear in your Media Library tab. But for now, we want the Upload Files tab. Hit the Select Files button:

2 add media

Select Files takes you into the File Explorer section of your computer. Here you can navigate around your folders and pick the photo that you want to insert into your post.

NOTE: You might think that you can just right-click and copy an image from the internet or your Facebook timeline, etc., then paste it into your blog. This might work temporarily, but, from experience, these images tend to be unstable and disappear. If you want to use an image from the Internet or elsewhere, save it into your own folders first and then insert it using this method.

Navigate to your chosen picture and double-click on it or single click and press the Open button at the bottom of the screen:

3 add media

Your picture will be pulled across into your Media Library tab in WordPress.

Note: if you select more than one picture, they will all move into the Media Library, which makes them easy to select. In the next step, only keep the picture you want right then ticked, and untick the others, otherwise they’ll all merrily pile in to your blog in one place.

Making sure that the photo you want to use is ticked, choose the Attachment Details on the right-hand side. This specifies the caption, size and positioning of the image …

4 add media

Let’s look at that in more detail. You can place a caption on the picture if you want one to appear in your blog post – I don’t often bother, but it can be useful. It’s important to include Alt text, as this is what anyone using an audio describer will hear if they’re unable to see the image. It’s basically good accessibility practice. Link to allows you to link just to a larger version of the image, or you can choose URL to link to an external web page.  Alignment can be Left or Right (text flows around these to the other side of the image, if there’s room) or Center (like this blog post). Size is up to you: note, you can make an image smaller but not bigger once you’ve inserted it.

5 add media

Once you’ve chosen your picture and your settings and alignment, etc., hit the Insert into post button to place the image in your blog post.

6 add media

And here it is, in my blog post, medium-sized and left-aligned (so you can see that the text I’ve typed appears to the right of the picture and will flow around it. The top of the picture starts where my cursor was, at the beginning of that first line of type. If I chose Right alignment, it would be the other way around; if Center, the text would be underneath.

7 add media

How do I edit an image in my blog post? (including WordPress’s new image editing process)

Note: this section has been changed to reflect the changes implemented by WordPress in March 2014.

Once you’ve placed your image and written your post, you might want to edit the image. Left-click on your image using your mouse, and two icons will appear – edit and delete. Click on the right-hand, red, delete icon and your picture will disappear (no warning). Click on the left-hand icon that looks like a pen, and you will be able to edit your image.

01 new editing

On clicking the edit icon, you will be taken to an editing screen. This looks a bit different to the old editing screen, and it appears that you can’t do everything that you used to be able to do. But you can! With the help of my old friend Clare Lauwerys at The IT Fairy, I’ve been able to work out what to do and share it with you.

The basic editing screen now allows you to change the Caption text, Alt text, alignment, link and basic size. What about scaling it up and down and adding or changing description text? Don’t fear: it’s all still there.

To add or edit the description text, you need to click on Replace image. Yes, I know that doesn’t exactly make sense, but it’s what you have to do …

02 new editing

Once you’ve hit Replace image you’ll be back in the screen you use to add an image and give it its attributes in the first place:

03 new editing

You can see that the image you’re currently working on has remained ticked in the Add image screen, and you are able to add or amend your description text here (that’s important for your SEO, and I’m going to have Clare guesting on here soon to tell you all about that). When you’ve done that, hit the Replace button and your new image information and old image will be safely in your blog post.

To change the size of the image, stay within the blog post edit screen, click on the image once and then use the standard image changing frame to pull your image out or in with the mouse and cursor to make it larger or smaller:

07 change size

If you want to edit the picture to flip, rotate or crop it, click on the edit button and once you reach the Image Edit screen, click on Edit Image:

05 new editing

Once you’ve clicked on Edit Image, you can access the ability to flip, rotate and crop your image:

06 new editing

… remembering to press Save when you’ve finished.

Note: you can no longer choose the size of the border around your images. The standard border that you get is an aspect of the theme you choose for your blog. You do get a border of sorts if you add a caption to the image.

How do I preview what my images look like in my blog post?

Click the View Post button to view your post as if it was live on your blog. This can save you from a nasty surprise, as the Edit Post screen does not display exactly as your blog post will in real life (of course, this will display differently on different screens, especially on mobiles and tablets, but this gives you a better idea than just looking at the Edit Post screen).

I’ve added another picture, with Right-alignment, and I want to see how the text flows around them.

13 check

And there we go. It looks different from the editor, but I’m happy with the result.

14 check

How do I add images to a web page on WordPress?

Fortunately, adding images to web pages works in exactly the same way as it does for adding images to blog posts. So just look for the same buttons and icons, but note that you start off from New Page or Edit Page, not New Post or Edit Post.

You’ve learned how to add pictures to WordPress blog posts and pages, and how to edit those images once you’ve got them into your post/page.

If you’ve found this useful, please add a comment below, and please share this post using the sharing buttons below. Thank you!

Related posts on this blog

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

WordPress 2 – adding pages to create a website

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


Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Blogging, Business, WordPress, Writing


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Slight or sleight?

This one was suggested by Matthew, Mr Libro. I’ve got to the point where I can’t remember whether I’ve covered a particular confusing word pair or not (see the link at the bottom of this post for the index to them all) but it is indeed a new one …

Slight is an adjective meaning not very sturdy or strong, or inconsiderable, small: “The rider was so slight that they feared he could not control the larger horse”; “There is a slight problem with your use of their and there, have a look at Liz’s Troublesome Pairs posts”. A slight (noun) is a kind of insult which is based around not showing someone the appropriate level of respect or attention: “He never bothered to read her blog posts, and she felt this slight keenly”.

Sleight is only actually ever found as part of the phrase ‘sleight of hand‘. This means manual dexterity, usually in the context of someone doing magic/conjuring tricks. By extension, it has also come to mean skilful deception of any kind, as more of a metaphor.

“He gained a slight advantage by employing sleight of hand and misleading the other runners as to the direction to take. However, as it was only a slight advantage, they soon caught up and beat him”.

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


Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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