Monthly Archives: August 2014

Small business chat update – Julia Walton

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update, and I’m sorry it’s a bit late but I had commitments to clients and had committed the terrible blogger’s sin of not scheduling in advance. Today we’re catching up with Julia Walton from J. Walton Restoration  who we first met in July 2013. When I asked her then where she wanted to be now, she replied “Hopefully contentedly plodding along much as I am now (maybe with a bit more money coming in, though). I can only do as much as I can so don’t want to increase my workload too much. I’d rather enjoy my work and do it well: I might as well be doing something different and have a job that pays more money if I’m not going to enjoy myself”. That sounded like a good plan to me, so let’s find out how she’s been getting on …

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

I don’t feel things have changed that much in the past year as much as I’d hoped. I’m still working on increasing my client base. I have some things in the pipeline and am hoping for some good feedback on a large job I have coming in soon.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
One big change which actually occurred this summer is that I’m breaking up a working relationship with a joiner I’ve been working with. I’m taking a chance of dropping the client because the work really doesn’t suit my skills. This way I’m giving myself more time to devote to work that will stretch and improve my skills.

What have you learned? 

I’ve learned that taking on a job that’s not really in my field just because it pays is not always a good experience. By stepping outside my comfort zone I’ve learned new skills and how to transfer the skills I have, but on a couple of occasions I’ve really regretted not trusting my initial instincts and have wasted a lot of time worrying over jobs I shouldn’t have started.
What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
About a year ago I took on a client that was pretty toxic. If I could go back in time I’d definitely make sure I told myself not to be so trusting and set a very short limit on working with outstanding payments!
Any more hints and tips for people?
Take time to assess each and every job before saying yes. Even if it’s from a client you deal with all the time, if the job is not what you feel comfortable doing just say no rather than worry about it after you’re committed. Remember to give the customer what they want, nothing more and definitely nothing less, if you can’t do that then don’t take on the job.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I’m really not sure. Permanent workshop space is an issue and I think that’s something I need to look at, however relocation back to the north of England is niggling away at the back of my mind, we’ll see.

It looks like some good lessons learned there. It is often a few years in to a business that a) you start to look more carefully about which clients and opportunities to say yes to, and b) you start to explore diversifying and looking at new areas to grow into – but as Julia comments, it is vitally important to make sure that you assess those opportunities and check whether it’s something that you want to do again. I wonder where Julia will be in another year’s time – both with her business and her location! I’m looking forward to finding out!
You can find Julia online at and email her if you want to discuss any restoration or other work.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 


Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat, Uncategorized


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How do I stop pictures jumping around when I edit a Word document? Combining words and pictures 2

More from my own editor, Catherine Fitzsimons, creator of educational materials and community magazines, on the tricky task of controlling how images behave in Word documents …

Last week, we looked at the ways in which Word can wrap text around pictures. To control how close the text is to the edge of a picture we opened the More Layout Options window from the right click menu. You may have noticed there are two other tabs in this:

Diagram 9One lets you control the size of your picture, but there are easier ways to do that (see How do I change the size of pictures in Word? on my website). The other, Position, provides some detailed options for controlling where your pictures go and is the key to stopping them from jumping around. It looks complicated, but I don’t think I’ve ever, in years of creating worksheets and doing magazine layout, had to resort to changing anything in the sections labelled ‘Horizontal’ and ‘Vertical’ – I’ve just used the ‘Options’ section.

Diagram 11Before we go on to that though have a look at the ‘Allow overlap’ button. This is useful if you want to get two pictures closer together than their boundary boxes would otherwise allow. For example, here you can see that although the books themselves don’t overlap, the boxes round them do. Notice also how the Tight-wrapped text goes inside the boxes because these images have a transparent background.

Diagram 12

Why do pictures move? How do I stop pictures moving?

Basically, pictures can either be locked in position on the page or moved around with the text.

In Word 2013 ‘Move with text’ and ‘Fix position on page’ appear as options on the Wrap Text menu and on the little pop out Layout Options menu (so long as your picture isn’t in line with the text).

Diagram 5Diagram 4bIn earlier versions you have to go into More Layout Options|Position and check or uncheck ‘Move object with text’ – it’s checked as default. If you have a picture exactly where you want it on a page, all you have to do is uncheck the box (or make the appropriate selection from one of the menus in Word 2013). That picture will then stay exactly where it is when you edit or add to the text or insert another picture – it will move only if you grab it and place it somewhere else yourself (or play with the numbers in the ‘Position’ tab of More Layout Options).

Allowing pictures to move with text is a little more complicated and depends on understanding the idea of anchors.

When you whizz a picture around the page, Word makes a decision about what text to tie it to: it generates an ‘anchor’, usually at the beginning of the paragraph nearest to the top left corner of the figure (working up). If you then move or delete that bit of text, the image will move or be deleted with it — that’s why pictures sometimes vanish unexpectedly. They usually jump because an anchor and its picture have to be on the same page. That means that if you type an extra paragraph and the anchor moves to a new page, the picture will jump to that new page too. It’s Word trying to be helpful, aiming to keep pictures and the writing about them together, but it does feel pretty random if you don’t know the logic.

Word 2013 helpfully shows you the anchors whenever you’re clicked on a picture, but it is possible to see them in earlier versions: since they are formatting marks, they will show up if you click the symbol that looks like a backwards P in the Paragraph group on the Home ribbon. If you can see them, they can help you work out why a picture won’t go where you want it or keeps disappearing altogether.

Diagram 13

In Word 2010 or 2007 you can also get the anchor marks to show all the time (without the other formatting marks) by going to File (Office button in 2007)|Options|Display|Always show these formatting marks on the screen, then ticking ‘Object anchors’ and OK.

Once you get the hang of how the wrapping styles and the anchors affect where the pictures go, it becomes much easier to put a picture in the right place and make it stay there. Here’s the order I suggest for creating a document that has words and pictures:

  • Write and type all the text first (or work a page or two at a time).
  • If possible, get the pictures as close as you can to how you want them (size, resolution, cropping, colours) before you add them to your text – either use image editing software or get it right in a blank document then copy and paste into the one you’re working on.
  • Once you have a picture where you want it, with the right sort of size and wrapping, consider locking it in place.
  • If a picture that has to stay with the text appears to be misbehaving, go in search of its anchor to track down the problem.

Still can’t get the pictures where you want?

If you’re creating something with a lot of images, or need more complex layout — such as for a brochure or worksheet — then there are alternatives to putting the text and pictures straight into the document. I explain how to use a table to combine text and pictures in How do I organise a lot of pictures on a page? over on my own blog where, in future posts, I will look at alternative solutions, and other issues to do with using pictures.

Other useful posts

On this blog:

How do I make pictures go where I want them to in Word?

On Catherine’s blog:

How do I organise a lot of pictures on a page?

How do I change the size of a picture in Word?


Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Short cuts, Word


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Small business chat update – Tammy Ditmore

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update, and it gives me great pleasure to publish my second update post with fellow editor Tammy Ditmore of eDitmore Editorial Services. We first met Tammy back in June 2012, and read about her growth and achievements in June 2013. At that point, here’s where she was thinking she’d be by now: “I’m not quite sure, actually. I feel I’ve taken initial steps in several different directions that may pay long-term benefits. I’m hoping to remain flexible enough to pursue the best opportunities that come along—let the business grow more organically, to use a bit of jargon. Even though I’m not quite sure what eDitmore Editorial Services might look like in a year, I feel confident that I’m on a good path and am looking forward to what this next year will bring.” So, where is she and how’s she doing? 

Hi, Tammy! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Well, a year ago I didn’t want to predict where I would be, so I have to say that, yes, I’m right there! Seriously, my business has continued to be steady, and I continue to gain clients from expected and unexpected places. I am usually booked several weeks in advance, even though I’m not doing a lot of active marketing, which is good. The downside is that I’m often overbooked, and I wind up working long, frantic hours to finish everything by the clients’ deadlines.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I think for the most part things are pretty much the same. I’m still thrilled to get to work on a wide variety of projects. This year I added some new clients, including working on a federal grant application for the first time. I also got a chance to speak to several groups about editing, and I enjoyed that experience very much and discovered I would like to do more of that in the future.

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

I recognized earlier this year that the majority of my clients have come from word-of-mouth referrals from friends, co-workers, and clients. So I feel if I keep pleasing my clients, then my stream of work will probably stay steady. A lesson I have been learning, and continually re-learning, is that I can’t do everything. There is always more to learn, more people I could talk to, more social networks I could join; there are better ways of recruiting clients, better computer apps and programs that might make my life easier, more productive habits I could adopt. But I find myself getting so wrapped up in trying to make everything better that I actually make it harder on myself just to do the work that is in front of me.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I was really surprised this year when I stepped back and analyzed where my clients had originally come from and saw how many of them were from personal contacts. (I wrote a blog post about my findings if anyone is interested.) Since then, my advice to any independent business owner is to tell everyone you know what you’re doing and ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of anyone looking for the kinds of services you offer. Some of my favorite clients have found me from what I would have considered very unlikely sources.

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

Probably in about the same place as I am today. I recently stepped back and took stock of my current family and life responsibilities, and I realized I just need to focus right now on keeping my business steady so that I have the time and energy to take care of these other obligations. I do have some dreams for expanding into other areas at some point, but I don’t think this will be the year for that. Admitting that I needed to take a step back — or at least not try to move forward — was hard at first, but it’s given me a greater sense of peace and helped me focus on what’s most important to me right now. I believe there are seasons to life, and I don’t want to miss this particular season by trying so hard to launch myself into the next one.

Tammy’s only about 18 months “behind” me on the freelance editing journey, so I always find her updates very interesting. I urge you to go and read her post about where she’s found her clients – very interesting. It was at about the point Tammy’s at that I took stock, too – I recommended some clients transferred over to colleagues as the way they needed me to work and I wanted to work didn’t gel any more, and I have a much more relaxed and flexible life now, with slightly (but not much) less income but much more time. I wrote about how to achieve that balance here. Update: Tammy wrote a lovely blog post of her own about the process of doing these interviews!

Tammy’s website is at and you can of course contact her by email. She’s based in Califormia.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 


Posted by on August 23, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat, Uncategorized


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How do I make pictures go where I want them to in Word? Combining Words and Pictures 1

Today and next week we have guest posts from Catherine Fitzsimons on placing images in Word documents. This is a tricky topic and one I’ve been wanting to write about for ages: Catherine does a lot of work with newsletters and other complex documents, which makes her the ideal person to write these posts for me!

How do I combine text and pictures?

Have you ever tried to put a picture in Word and found your text, which started at the top of the page, suddenly moves down? And then, as you type more, or change the size of the picture* to make it fit better, things move to unexpected places? Or the picture stays where it is, but leaves you lots of blank space on the page? Then, when you try to move it around, things only get worse and you end up with something like this:

Diagram 4

This is because Word assumes two things:

  • That you want the picture (or, to be precise, the bottom left of it) to be placed where the cursor is. That means it goes immediately after the last thing you typed before choosing Insert|Picture and, when you try to move it, you can see a vertical line where it believes you want it to go.
  • That you would like the text to run right up to the picture and carry on straight after it.

In other words Word treats your picture like an outsize character and refers to this option as having the picture ‘In Line with Text’.

However, you can change your picture to what is known as a ‘floating figure’ so you can put it where you like but, before we delve into all that, have a look at a handy shortcut in the ribbon versions of Word. If you select your picture, go to the Picture Tools|Format ribbon that appears and click the down arrow by Position, you will get a choice of nine places to place your picture without any fiddling around at all.

Diagram 4a

In fact, in Word 2013 some of these appear in a little pop-up menu that you can call up by clicking the thing that looks like a rainbow drawn on lined paper which hovers at the top right of a picture when you select it.

Diagram 4b

All wonderful, but what if you need more flexibility? Read on.

Once again, select the picture and go to the Picture Tools|Format ribbon but this time click the down arrow by Wrap Text. (Alternatively, or in older versions of Word, right click on the picture and choose Wrap Text from the menu that appears.)

Diagram 5

Doing that brings up another menu which lets you choose the relationship between your text and picture. The icons helpfully explain the options:

Square means that the text will wrap all the way around your picture (strictly speaking around the ‘bounding box’ – the rectangle that appears when you select it). When you move the picture around the page the text flows above, below and to the sides – or one side if you put your picture up against a margin. Notice, though, that it doesn’t make text down the sides into columns – it reads across the picture. (If you want your picture in the middle of a page like this, it’s probably best to make your text into two columns first.)

Diagram 6

Top and Bottom does exactly that. It looks just the same as if you had typed Enter before and after inserting your picture but with the important difference that the picture moves as an object, not a character, so it’s easy to place it somewhere new.

Tight only works with images which are not rectangular or, like some clip-art, have a transparent background. It wraps the text around the edges of the image (assuming these ‘wrap points’ have been defined) rather than around the bounding box.

Diagram 7Through is a complicated one and I don’t know anyone who has used it. It works the same way as Tight except that it will also put words right down into any transparent sections of the picture that are linked to the background, again, providing that the wrap points have been set up properly.

Behind Text makes the words go over the top of your picture (which can work well so long as the image isn’t too detailed or too similar in colour to the font), whereas In Front of Text means that non-transparent parts of your image obliterate the words. Why might you want to do that? If you insert a an ellipse that has Shape Fill as ‘No Fill’ and Shape Outline red, and float it in front of text then you have a useful little shape for circling things you want to highlight.

Diagram 8You can refine Square, Tight and Through further in Picture Tools|Format|Wrap Text|More Layout Options. As you can see, you can tell Word to put text on one side of the picture only – Left, Right or whichever has the most space for text. This is also the window you use if you want to make your text squish up closer to your picture — if it already has a lot of white space around it for example — or back off a bit if the words run right to the edge of your picture. Unsurprisingly, you can also adjust the spacing above and below for Top and Bottom wrapping.

Diagram 9This version has text wrapped Tight to largest side only and the Distance from text adjusted to 0cm on Left and Right as well as top and bottom.

Diagram 10So, that’s the official way to put the pictures into the correct place in your document. And, more often than not, it works. However if you are adding more than one image, or later add a text box or table (anything that Word calls an ‘object’), or if you revise what you have written then pictures you’ve put in sometimes jump around or even disappear. You can minimise the chances of that happening by typing all your text before thinking about layout and images but, even then, it still sometimes happens. I’ll explain why, and suggest how to stop it next week.

*But how do I change the size of a picture? See How do I change the size of a picture in Word? on my own blog.

Catherine Fitzsimons has the unenviable job of being my own editor for my books on business and other careers topics. Ever since she first started using Word she has been finding ways of getting pictures and text to sit together exactly the way she wants: first as a teacher making worksheets then doing layout for community magazines.

Other useful posts

On this blog:

How do I stop pictures jumping around in a Word document?

On Catherine’s blog:

How do I organise a lot of pictures on a page?

How do I change the size of a picture in Word?


Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Short cuts, Word


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Small business chat update – Diane Grogan and Pat Wilkes

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Update. Today we’re catching up with two interviewees, Diane Grogan and Pat Wilkes, to see what they’ve been up to during the last year. Diane’s had some hurdles to face this year, but has taken them on, moving premises to cut costs and helping her volunteer staff to get qualifications and stay with her long term. Reading between the lines, Pat has also faced some issues this past year, but she’s steadily evaluating what works and what doesn’t (a vital task in those early years of a business) and is pressing on with her plans, too. Craft-orientated readers will find her points particularly useful.

Diane Grogan

We first met Diane from Kanine Kampus and Pet Au Purrs, a dog day-care centre in Oldham, in May 2013  When she was asked where she planned to be with the business in a year’s time, she had fairly modest ambitions: “I hope that the business keeps growing and we could maybe have another branch of Kanine Kampus in another area.” As I said above, Diane’s had some setbacks this year, but she’s moving onward and keeping going, and has some good advice for those readers who are committed to using premises rather than a home-based office. 

Hi, Diane! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

We have had quite a few setbacks during our first couple of years trading, such as higher than average costs due to business rates electricity etc, so this has slowed down our venture somewhat, we moved premises to cut costs and are still playing catch up, and this has had an impact on where we though we would be by now.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We have taken on more staff than expected, due to having some wonderful volunteers who we didn’t want to lose – we have managed to get them onto some free training programmes with a fantastic company called Keyed Up Training. All our volunteers are now on animal care courses and have all completed other courses in Cleaning principles and Customer services.

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

Think twice before putting any money into advertising, it’s really not needed. Facebook and word of mouth have been our lifelines.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Look at all the options and check, check, check business rates they are a killer for small businesses who need a larger building and don’t get the same discounts as small buildings.

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

We are seeing a light at the end of a very long tunnel, and if we keep our heads down and work hard we will be on track to continue and expand towards the end of next year.

After a tricky time, looks like things are getting back on track for Diane … let’s hope the coming year is a bit more simple! Find out how she was doing in 2015 here.

You can visit Kanine Kampus and Pet Au Purrs at, phone Diane or Paddy on 07942 892 728 or visit their Facebook page.

Pat Wilkes

Pat runs gift company Starlight Gifts By Pat, and she’d really only just started concentrating on the gift side when we met her back in June 2013. At that point she was already dreaming about getting out of the day job, although planning sensibly and accepting that might not happen right away: “I would like to have either reduced my day job hours right down or have stopped doing the day job altogether. This is a long-haul dream, not something that I expect to work in a few months.” So, how’s she doing now?

Hello again, Pat! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

No, I haven’t achieved my goal of not having a day job, however I still feel I have come a long was and am steadily raising awareness of my business and building a customer base. I did say that it would be more of a long-haul goal which would not take place over night. So I am happy with how the business has moved forward this last year and hope it carries on over the future.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I am still doing events, although not as many so this has only changed slightly, I still have stock in outlets, currently holding stock in three shops although I am a lot more choosy about which outlets I stock. I now choose which fairs to attend and try new locations rather than stay in the same places which I used to do.

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

I have learned that smaller fairs appear to work best for sales, something I did not realise last year when I was doing lots of fairs. I have learned to stop doing events that have lots of resellers, as handcrafted cannot compete with mass-produced cheap items. I now know my target audience and the ideal outlets for my sales. I have also learned that social media is great but you need to be prepared: people will copy your ideas and pass them off as their own.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Use fairs not just for sales but for promoting your business and always dress your stall well: after all, it’s your shop front so be creative. Promote , promote, promote and be prepared to change the business in response to what your customers want.

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

Hopefully the business will continue to grow and I will be looking for more outlets to sell from and reduce the number of fairs again. I want to try selling online at some point. I would like to think that eventually I will reach my goal of using my creativity to make a living.

It sounds like Pat has had a few issues to contend with this year, however she’s taking the very sensible approach of evaluating what she does and constantly checking that she gets value out of what she does and pleases her customers, an attitude which should provide her with a very good backing over the next years of operation. Let’s hope she’s managed to reduce those day-job hours this time next year! Find out how Pat was doing in 2015 here.

You can visit Pat’s website at and view her products, or visit her Facebook page. Click to email Pat, too!

If you’ve enjoyed these interviews, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 


Posted by on August 16, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Infographic – social media etiquette

Today I have a guest post with a difference – an infographic, for the first time on this blog. It’s from writer and infographic specialist Ivan Serrano, and talks about many different kinds of social media and how to interact with them. It acts as a complement to my more detailed social media posts.

What do you think? Should I have more infographics on this blog? Do comment below with any thoughts …


“Have you seen what (insert important person or business here) posted on (insert social network here)?” seems to be a question that people hear quite often nowadays. Depending on how you word your message and conduct yourself on social media, it can go viral and your business can get brand recognition, or, on the flip side, it can go viral for all the wrong reasons.

That’s why it’s important for businesses to conduct themselves properly on social media. In addition to following general social media etiquette, certain social media networks have their own rules of etiquette as well. Businesses must remember that they have a reputation to consider—one inappropriate tweet or post could leave your reputation reeling, and that may take quite a while to recover from depending on how well you handle it. The infographic below gives you a guide on how to present yourself on the numerous social media networks.

social media etiquette infographic

Ivan Serrano is a writer and infographic specialist from Northern California. Ivan covers topics ranging from global business to tech and social media. He is an avid “Bay Area” sports fan and tries to attend as many games as possible.


Posted by on August 13, 2014 in Business, Social media


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Small business chat update – Kathy Ennis

mugs Welcome to a new update from Kathy Ennis of Kathy Ennis: Your Brand is You, business mentor and brand consultant. I first interviewed Kathy back in May 2012 and updated her story in July 2013. At that point, this is where she wanted to be in a year’s time (i.e. now):

  • I want to continue the increase in turnover (40%)
  • I want to have finished the current book and have the second ‘on the go’
  • I want to increase the number of group mentees I work with
  • I want to finally get to grips with webinars
  • I want more training and speaking engagements
  • I want to have a bit more spare time – I really need to get to the gym more often
  • I want my clients to grow and develop brilliant businesses”

Hi, Kathy, so, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes, and more so. This past year has been really good. Still more development needed (isn’t there always?), but I am really happy with progress over 2013/14.

  • Turnover is up by 40% (maybe a bit more but you catch me just before I finalise some end of year figures)
  • My book has just been published and I am working on a series of e-books
  • Didn’t go down the webinar route but I am doing some training on Google+ and using that as a tool (particularly for video)
  • Training bookings were up on the previous year (hurrah!)
  • One of my clients owns The fat Girls Guide to Running ( – official launch was on 14th July) and she is inspiring me to get fit / into running
  • I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people this past year and I am looking forward to all of the other lovely people I will have the opportunity to assist in gaining secure, repeat, profitable income in the next 12 months.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I made two big decisions. Firstly, to move away completely from groups / organising my own training and development courses (I only do these now when booked by external organisations). Secondly, to stop offering ‘by the hour’; now people work with me for either full or half days.

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

My biggest learning has been really getting to grips with knowing, understanding and working with the numbers in my business. Knowing (and owning) my own value, as well as keeping a firm hold on costs, is having a significant impact on my bottom line.

Any more hints and tips for people?

1.     The numbers don’t lie! Many of the business owners I work with blinker themselves to the numbers in their business (I know, because I was one) – but they are so crucial and they don’t lie. You need t know precisely how much it costs to run your business in order to understand how much you need to charge. Simple? Yes. But often ignored

2.     Get a mentor who is interested and involved. My business is mentoring / consulting but I still have a mentor who acts as a sounding board as well as source of inspiration, ideas and a spare pair of hands.

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

Bigger, better, bolder!

Some good points from Kathy there – I’m always amazed when I watch those Dragon’s Den type programmes and people don’t know their own numbers. It’s only sensible to keep your records up to date and keep an eye on the income and outgoings, especially if your business incurs the type of expenses that need to be watched. It’s great that Kathy’s finding time to keep her fitness up, too – I’d add “faster” to her plans for the upcoming year!

You can email Kathy Ennis or phone her on 020 8529 0726 or 07815 951 585. Her website is at and she can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 


Posted by on August 9, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat


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How to leverage your social capital

handshakeHow to leverage your social capital, eh? What a lot of jargon! I thought you didn’t like jargon, Liz? – Well, I don’t, and that’s why I’m going to take a few minutes to explain what this little chunk of jargon means.

Social capital is a fancy term for the people you know and, to be blunt, the favours they owe you. You build it up through networking, doing things for other people, being a linking person, an information provider, a helpful person. You build it through knowing people, through having worked with people, through keeping in touch with people. Then, when you need it, something like karma springs into action, and the work you’ve put in comes back to you in bucketloads.

Now I’m sounding cynical as well as jargon-filled! Goodness me! Let’s break it down with some heavily disguised but based-on-reality examples, to show you that leveraging your social capital isn’t really the cynical and shallow procedure you might imagine, but a new way for an old process that is made easier to build and use through social media and our networked society.

Social capital gets leveraged, everyone goes away happy

Here are some examples of people leveraging their social capital to gain freelance jobs and repeat clients. Note that in NONE of these cases does Person A directly ask for something. Instead, the connections they’ve built up do it all for them.

Example 1: Person A, Bob, ‘meets’ Person B, John, online via a mutual interest group that’s applicable to the industry they’re both in. Bob is about to go full-time with his freelance career but doesn’t have many clients. John is a full-time freelancer of a few more years’ experience. He’s looking for people to recommend enquirers on to when he can’t fit them in. He’s also keen to get some holiday cover set up so he can go and play golf without worrying about his graphic design clients. They make friends and build trust – they even start to meet up to play golf together. When John gets yet another enquiry about leaflet design, it’s easy for him to recommend Bob. Bob worries sometimes that all of his jobs come through John’s recommendations, but soon he has his own string of client referrals because he does a good job. And when Bob goes on holiday, he passes John a big project that he hasn’t got time for – from a client originally recommended by John!

Who benefits: both of them. Bob gets new clients and builds his customer base. John has people he can refer clients on to and that all-important holiday cover.

Bonus social capital leverage: When Bob, now nice and busy himself, finds out that a friend he’s made at a networking event is looking for clients, not only can he recommend his own overflow to Tony, but he can advise John to, as well!

Example 2: Person A, Millie, used to work with Jeremy before they both left and went their separate ways. But they’ve kept in touch via Facebook and chat online every month or so. Jeremy moves between jobs and continents, so knows lots of people. When he hears from Simon, an ex-colleague in Australia that they’re looking for someone with the skillset Millie possesses, and that they don’t need someone on the spot, Jeremy puts Millie in touch with Simon, and they work on the project together.

Who benefits: both of them. Millie gets a job out of it, and Jeremy maintains contact with an ex-colleague and does them a favour, which could well be repaid in the future.

Example 3: Person A, Tim, meets person B, Shona, at a local networking event. They’re not in the same line of work at all, but they have a good chat and get on well. They say hello at a few other monthly events. One day, Tim is contacted by Sean, who wants to use him for a major new contract; he’s been recommended by Shona, even though she has no direct experience of his work (of course, Sean has checked out Tim’s website and references before contacting him). Not only does Tim get the job, but Sean recommends him on his website and to other clients of his.

Who benefits: In this case, it looks like it’s mainly Tim, however, he is so grateful to Shona that he goes out of his way to retweet and share messages Shona sends out on social media, and to introduce her to useful people at the networking events they attend.

How to build social capital

So, how do you build this social capital? Note that it’s not social MEDIA capital, although social media makes it easier to do. But you can build social capital through networking and more old-fashioned face-to-face contact, too. In both Examples 2 and 3, the initial contact was in person, and social media only comes into play to make the contacts between the people who want the work doing and lucky old Person A.

Building social capital shouldn’t be a cynical process, but a natural one that involves making a bit of effort. Ways you can increase your social capital include:

  • Getting out there – the more people you meet, the more people can help you
  • Telling people what you’re looking for – whether it’s announcing to your Facebook friends that your violin-making business is looking for commissions or joining a networking group and explaining what services or products you’re promoting
  • Making yourself memorable – whether you’re the “good hair lady” (true example) or the person who always brings cakes to the meetup, make yourself memorable in a good way
  • Making yourself easy to explain – this comes down to your elevator pitch. Do people know you as “the man who makes violins on commission” or “that music chap”? The more precise your description, the more likely you are to have people sent your way who you can actually work with
  • Being gracious – if someone is introduced to you who you can’t help (or with whom you’re not interested in working), see if you can recommend them on, or have a chat anyway. You need to leave a positive impression on everyone you meet if you possibly can
  • Do things for other people – this should go without saying, but I’m going to say it. More below on this one

It’s cynical to say that someone “owes you one”, and it can be far more complex than that, but it can’t be ignored: the more you help other people, the more they will help you in return. How can you do things for other people?

  • If they’re in the same business as you, see if you can pass overflow work to them
  • If they’re in a closely related business to you, mention them to your clients as someone who can help them – e.g. the violin maker might know a musicians’ agent who they can recommend to their clients
  • If they’re in a fairly different business to you, bear them in mind and mention them – e.g. the violin maker might be chatting to a musician and mention that he knows an event organiser who’s looking for entertainment for a summer party
  • If they’re in a completely different business to you, still bear them in mind and suggest them – e.g. the violin maker is chatting to a musician whose wife needs a web page to be designed
  • You could create a Links page on your website with links to known and trusted contacts in your field and others
  • You could put a poster for their event in your shop window or volunteer at an event they run
  • You could introduce a friend with a different kind of business to one of the networking events you go to
  • You could share tweets and Facebook posts by your contacts with your audience (you should be doing this anyway)
  • You could cross-guest-post on each other’s blogs

 What has worked for you?

Knowing and trusting people + getting out and about and meeting them face to face or online x helping people out yourself = increased social capital

Have you got good examples of your contacts creating opportunities for you with third parties? I’d love to hear about your successes and how they came about …

Further reading on this blog:

Reciprocity and social media

Networking and social media marketing

Networking for newbies

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful, please comment below or use the sharing buttons to share it with your network. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.


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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Business, Social media


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Small business chat update – Alison Thompson

mugs Welcome to another Small Business Chat update, and I’m pleased to have another second update (so, third interview) from Alison Thompson from The Proof Fairy, fellow BookCrosser and proofreader/editor, although she’s branched out in all sorts of directions since we started out doing almost the same job a few years ago. We first met Alison in this series back in 2011 and updated in July 2012, and when she updated us in July 2013, her plan was this: “I will be working with between 6 and 10 people every month, helping them to write books. Once I have a few clients, I want to start outsourcing the proofreading and formatting work as far as possible so that I can concentrate on the coaching side and also spend more time writing myself. I also want to run regular workshops and webinars, and continue to raise my profile as an expert in ADHD parenting.” Did she get there, or did she change direction again? Read on to find out … 

Hello again, Alison! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

I’m a long way off where I wanted to be in terms of numbers of clients, but my “butterfly mind” has kicked in and taken me in different directions again! The good news is that I have continued to move the business in the direction I wanted to take, and the majority of my services now are targeted at authors. I have coached two clients to write their books, and have started offering complete self-publishing packages where I handle the editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design and upload to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (ebook) and CreateSpace (print on demand) services. By doing this I have started to build a reputation for being someone who knows about publishing, which has led to many more enquiries and new clients. The coaching side of the business has, admittedly, not grown as fast as I wanted, but I am still marketing it and hope to develop the perfect coaching package eventually!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The direction of the main business, The Proof Fairy, has stayed the same, but I find I still get people wanting the “old” stuff – e.g. copywriting, web design, newsletters, web maintenance, etc. I’m still continuing to offer everything I’ve ever done, though I don’t promote the fact that I do so many different things – and I’ve also recently taken on an assistant who is handling a lot of the day-to-day tasks such as managing my own and clients’ social media accounts and blogs.

However, I also have a second “business” which I’m in the process of shaping. Following publication of my book on parenting a child with ADHD last year, I spoke at several big events, including ADDISS’s national conference’s Teachers’ Day, and I realised that I really want to do more to help families struggling to cope with ADHD, and to dispel the myth that ADHD doesn’t exist. So I have set up ADHD Kids (, which is an umbrella for various things, including writing and speaking. However, the biggest change is that I have been taking an NLP and coaching diploma and I want to start offering coaching to parents of kids with ADHD. I should qualify in September, and to launch the coaching business I am organising an ADHD Inspiration Day in October, with speakers and workshops. It’s all very exciting, and I’m enjoying the new challenges it’s posing!

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

I’ve learned to have more confidence in myself and in my abilities. If you’d suggested a year ago that I would be training as a coach and about to launch an entirely new business, I would have laughed! I’ve also learned that I do need to tame my butterfly mind and focus more. I’ve spent so long being all things to all people and while that has been successful, it’s meant I haven’t been following my heart. Now I have two clear areas that I am passionate about – working with authors, and supporting ADHD families – and I feel sure that by focussing on those two specific sectors I can grow and develop businesses that will not only be financially successful but will also keep me interested and make a real different to other people’s lives.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Be open to new opportunities, but don’t feel you always have to say yes, even if it is something you can easily do. Some of the jobs I do now on a regular basis are not particularly fulfilling, but I took them on because I knew I was capable and I thought I ought to do them. Try to work out what it is that makes your heart sing and your soul soar, and focus on that.

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

Every time I’ve predicted where I’ll be something has changed along the way! As The Proof Fairy I would like to be doing more book coaching and I definitely still want to have a freelance proofreader working for me, so I can pick and choose the projects I want to handle myself. I have a couple of books I want to write, if time allows.  And in terms of the ADHD stuff, who knows where the next 12 months will take me? All I can say is that I feel like I am entering a really exciting period of my life … So watch this space!

Inspiring words from Alison there, and she’s a good example of how saying yes to new projects and keeping an open mind on what you do for a living can take you in a whole new direction and open up loads of possibilities. Alison has also started a podcast series in which she interviews authors about their writing and publishing – I’ll be doing my own interview with her soon and I’ll note on this blog when it’s available – a nice opportunity for writers to be heard on her platform for other writers! I can’t imagine what Alison and the Proof Fairy will be up to next time we catch up, but I’m looking forward to finding out! And here’s how she was doing!

Contact Alison by email or at – or call her on 01367 888229 Mob: 07927 330293. Here’s Alison’s book,The Boy from Hell: Life with a Child with ADHD.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 


Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat – Lindsey Gordon

mugs Today we are welcoming another new small business chat interviewee – this latest crop of new ones have been really interesting, haven’t they, and I hope we have them to stay on the roster for a good few years to come. Lindsey Gordon is the proud owner of the I Want Something … Gift Shop, which she only started at the beginning of this year – however, as you’ll see, Lindsey has run  her own business before, selling children’s clothing, so she wasn’t a complete novice. I’m seeing an interesting theme about employers not being flexible or understanding for their workers, and I think this is a great loss to those employers, although a good thing for the self-employed community. Why does this still happen when there are more regulations than ever encouraging employers to be flexible? Anyway, rant over, let’s meet Lindsey and see how she’s doing …

Hello, Lindsey! What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

I set up I Want Something… Gift Shop in January 2014

What made you decide to set up your own business?

Since having my first child in 2006, and not having the most understanding or flexible employers when I returned to work, I always wanted to work for myself so that I could spend valuable time with my children, but keep myself (relatively) sane with something for myself, too.  I’ve never been the most confident person, but after our middle child was born sleeping in 2008, I knew life is just too short, and I wanted to show my children that when you put your mind to it, anything is possible.

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

I had been selling children’s clothing online and was finding it increasingly difficult to find quality, unique clothing that didn’t break the bank. In 2012 I purchased my first embroidery machine, sourced quality blank t-shirts and started creating unique embroidered children’s clothing. It didn’t take long before I expanded from children’s clothing to adults, then bags, towels, and lots of personalised gifts.

Had you run your own business before?

I originally started Belle Bambini, selling children’s clothing, but once I expanded my product range I decided that the name didn’t really suit what I was doing anymore and with a little inspiration from my then two-year-old daughter, I Want Something… was born.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

At the moment I work around the children.  Our youngest goes to nursery 1½ days a week and between us we juggle school runs so that I get 2 days to work on my business and the rest is done around the children in the evenings, etc. Once our daughter starts school full-time in September this year, I’ll have more time.

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

Hmmm…nothing really that I can think of. I always knew running my own business would mean long hours, a lot of juggling, hard work and a rollercoaster of emotions. Everything else I think you have to learn as you go along – the good and the bad.

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

Don’t let what other people are doing distract you from your own goals and plans. It’s very easy (especially if you’re not very self-confident) to get disheartened when it’s very quiet and your competitors seem like business is booming. You have to push through those ‘wobbly’ days and keep focused on what it is you’re creating for yourself.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  If I knew then what I know now there are suppliers I wouldn’t use, products I wouldn’t buy in, and more research I’d of done. I think you have to learn from your mistakes as you go really.  I do wish I’d planned better and been more organised from the start.

What are you glad you did?

Took the chance.  It would have been much easier to not take that initial leap but I wouldn’t have met some of the amazing people who I’ve met (both customers and other business owners) or had that buzz of creating something that (hopefully!) makes your customers just as happy.

What’s your top business tip?

Plan.  Have a clear idea of what you want to do, where you want to get to, and how you’re going to get there. Sure, not everything will work out exactly how you initially think, but when you have clear goals it keeps you focused and gives you a measure of what’s working and what isn’t as you grow.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
I’ve definitely diversified. Now, children’s t-shirts are just a small part of what I do.  It’s difficult to grow at the moment as I’m restricted by time and I’d rather not take on more work at the expense of customer service, but I’m happy to have such a wide range of products that keep every day different.

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

In a year’s time I’ll have more working hours which will hopefully have allowed me to expand my customer base. I’d like to be well on the way to being able to afford a larger embroidery machine, which will cut down on the time it takes to embroider each item and allow me to introduce some new products that my current machine just can’t work with. Hopefully I’ll have been able to attend more markets and fairs, allowing me to spread the word about I Want Something… face to face locally.

What a sensible lady, and with good, sensible plans going forward. It’s always good to look to the future and push yourself a little bit, but not over-extend yourself, and it looks to me like Lindsey’s got that sorted out. What a good example to her children she’ll be as they grow up with their entrepreneurial mum (and supportive dad, of course). I hope we’re hearing more about that new embroidery machine this time next year!

You can find the I Want Something … Gift Shop online at and also on Facebook. You can email Lindsey if you’d like to talk about any orders.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources. 

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Posted by on August 2, 2014 in Business, Small Business Chat


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