Welcome to another Small Business Update, oh, and it’s with me! I always take the unpopular between Christmas and New Year slot for myself, because it doesn’t seem fair to leave someone else languishing here, but I do like to do one every Saturday. So, my last update was on 28 December 2013, and I had this to say about my plans for the upcoming year: “I’ve just published a short guide to transcription as a career, but I want to get my next main book, tentatively called ‘Who are you Calling Mature? Running a Successful Business after the Start-up Phase’, completed, edited and out in January or February. That should bump up my ‘passive income’ from book sales, and I might even manage a print edition of ‘Going it Alone at 40’. We’ll be married by this time next year, and I’ll not have worked on our honeymoon! I’m also hoping to have a more crafty and creative 2014. I’ve been inspired to get out the sewing machine again, and to think about taking a few courses. I made some of my Christmas cards this year, and most of my wrapping paper, and would like to continue playing around with stamps and ink in 2014!” So … how did I do with those almost-resolutions?
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
To take them in order … I got my next business book published and I also created an omnibus of the first and second business books, print editions of them both AND wrote and put out a totally new book, “Quick Guide to Networking, Social Media and Social Capital” (find out more about all of those here). So my writing plans went well.
We got married in April (hooray!) and had a mini-moon in the Lake District that month and a honeymoon in Iceland in June. I am happy to say that I did no work on either of those trips, thanks to my superb friend Laura, who covers my work while I’m away (I do the same for her).
I didn’t do any sewing courses but I did make some Christmas Bunting on the sewing machine at a Crafternoon I organised with a couple of friends as part of a bigger event in support of the charity, Mind. I didn’t make any of my own Christmas cards or wrapping paper this year, but I did do cartoon cards through the year as the inspiration took me.
One thing I didn’t put down but did intend to do was work further on my research on the author Iris Murdoch. I presented a paper on my research project getting book groups to read “The Bell” at the Iris Murdoch Society Conference in September and wrote up that paper to send to my groups.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Well, my name has changed from Broomfield to Dexter, and I had to devote some time to sorting out my SEO so looking for both of those names takes you to me! I left my books under the Liz Broomfield name to avoid having to change them all. My husband finished one job, had six months working from home for himself then got another office job, so that involved some changes in our home life!
I changed the titles of my two business books from “Going It Alone at 40” and “Who Are You Calling Mature?” to “How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment” and “Running a Successful Business After the Start-up Phase” with the two original titles as sub-titles, after doing some market research. I also created a brand new and separate website for my books, as I felt they were getting lost on this big website.
My book sales changed for the worst with the Amazon boycott that started to pick up speed in late November / early December. I have been buying what I need through other sites or direct from the authors, but other people seem to have stopped buying entirely. That mostly made me glad that my book sales do not form the major part of my income!
What’s stayed nice and constant is my on-going daily work. I’m doing editing, proofreading, transcription and localisation and enjoying having regular clients and a schedule I can predict in advance. I’m still doing slightly less work and earning slightly less than I did in my first year of full-time self-employment, but am happier and with more time for the rest of my life.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I wish I’d known a year ago that the book titles I’d chosen for two of my books were not going to work that well! I did do market research on that at the outset, but when I checked in with people on this, the attitude was that they should change. I then had to spend time and effort working on changing the records on the sites where I sell them, the cover design, the contents, links to the books in the other books, website info, etc., etc.
I’ve learned that the best thing in the whole of self-employment is having someone to cover your holidays – it worked so well this year and I’m eternally grateful to Laura, who is my cover person. It makes such a difference to know you can go away and don’t have to think about work!
I also learned recently that however well you’ve set up your systems, you can still make a mistake with your records and think you’re earning less than you are earning! I have tweaked my spreadsheets and all is fine, but it just goes to show that you need to set up checks and balances and keep an eye on things.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Don’t try to do too much at a time and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t achieve everything you want to achieve all at once.
Foster good relationships with people in the same business and find people you trust who can provide cover for you.
Trust your gut instinct – if you think someone is going to let you down or be a bad client in some way, listen to that voice and make sure you protect yourself. I’ve learnt that from my other interviewees’ experiences, too!
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I will be reading more: my reading slipped a bit this year and that’s not good. More on my reading blog on 1 January about specific reading challenges for 2015. I’m getting back into my running and hope to be running longer and more regularly in 2015. And I aim to keep up with my crafts a bit more. I’ve already ramped up my volunteering to include parkrun and I’ll be making sure I keep up with that and other volunteering activities.
I want to finish writing up a longer-form version of my Iris Murdoch research and getting that out there somehow, whether that’s placing it with a publisher or creating an indie book again.
Although sales have dropped on Amazon for everyone (lots of people blame the boycotts or their new KDP Unlimited programme but no one really knows), I’m planning to rework my business books to create a self-mentoring guide for editors, produce a mentoring guide to go with the original books and also put together a guide for authors on working with editors, all to be out in … well, let’s say the first half of the year!
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.