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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Small business chat update – Shelly Terry

Small business chat update – Shelly Terry

Welcome to another update from one of our crafty ladies – this time Shelly Terry from hand-made card company, Evelyn Mae, If you have a young family and run a business, please pop a reply down to Shelly’s special bonus question, as she’s a first-time mum and working out how to juggle things. Of course business has been taking something of a back seat, as she predicted when we last spoke in February 2015: “In a year’s time, our baby will be 7 months old, so I am hoping that I will have offered a few Christmas letters, and be readying myself to open again – whether that is full or part time. I fully intend to spend as much time as I can with our baby, so as long as I have a business plan my husband and I are happy with, I will feel accomplished”. Let’s see how this exciting year has gone!

Hello again, Shelly, and congratulations on the birth of your baby girl. Are things as you expected a year and a bit ago?

In a way. I wasn’t expecting the early days of having a baby to go so fast!!! I did offer Christmas letters, but I found it very tiring so am not really pursuing the business currently – although any organic orders that come in I will do.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Working with a baby! My daughter is now 10 months, she is very good and is such a happy girl – I don’t have the motivation to pursue work when I can spend my time with her.

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

I wish I’d sorted more of the office, I thought it last year but it’s even more important now I’m postponing work for longer!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Taking time out isn’t giving up – give yourself the time you need to look after yourself.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

How do you fit small business around a young family- especially if your baby isn’t a big day sleeper!

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

I imagine I will still be open but still only taking incoming orders, and not actively advertising. Keeping the pressure off and spending time with my daughter.

You know what – “I wish I’d sorted out more of the office” is such a common phrase to hear in these interviews – that should tell us all something, shouldn’t it! Obviously Shelly’s dialled things down at the moment, and she makes an important point about how this doesn’t mean she’s given up. I wish her another happy year with her little family, and look forward to finding out how things are going this time next year.

You can find Shelly’s work online at www.evelynmae.co.uk (with links on there to other crafting sites where she has a presence, such as Etsy). She has a blog on that site, too, and you can also find her on Facebook.

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 April 30, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Adapt or adopt? Adaptation or adoption?

This is a Troublesome Pair that I find very commonly in academic writing, across a whole range of writers. It would be expected in people whose native language doesn’t use vowels (I had a very interesting conversation about Arabic-speakers having trouble with vowels in English) but I also find it in native English-speakers (it’s actually fairly uncommon to find both groups making the same errors)

To adopt something means to take it on as it is. For example, Laura might adopt my process of editing a text, then doing a spell check, then using software to check consistency. If the UN adopts a resolution, it means it takes it into its procedures as it is, with no changes. If you adopt a dog from a shelter, you take it as it is.

To adapt something means to change it according to specific circumstances. For example, Laura might adapt my process by choosing to edit the text, then run the consistency software, then run a spell check. The UN might adapt a resolution to take into account a new world order or the creation of a new country. You might try to adapt your adopted dog’s behaviour if you don’t want it to sit on the sofa.

Adoption therefore means the act of taking on something as it is, while adaptation involves you changing, or you changing something else, to fit the circumstances.

In academic writing, a researcher might well adopt a questionnaire method, but they might adapt someone else’s questionnaire if it needs more questions on widgets and fewer on bath mats, for example.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 

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Small business chat update – Simon Forder

Small business chat update – Simon Forder

Welcome to an update with Simon Forder, who is currently juggling his Telemarketing company, RingHello, his castles project, The Castle Guy, a new addition to his family and an ongoing health issue. Simon is actually one of my original 2011 interviewees, with a catch-up in October 2012, and again in November 2013We last spoke in February 2015. At that point, when asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he replied, “Ooh, I don’t know. I plan to have made significant progress with The Castle Guy, so that I can devote more time to it, and develop it further. The more I do with it, the more I should get back, so fingers crossed for a successful 2015! With RingHello, I’d still like a bit more stability, but perhaps that’s a change in the marketplace that’s permanent. Either way I am confident that what is right will happen when it’s meant to. And I also hope to be back to full fitness by then too!” Let’s check in on what’s happened in what sounds like an eventful and challenging year.

Hello again, Simon.So, the big question: Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

No. I have devoted a significant amount of time to developing the Castle Guy website (there’s now information about more than 200 castles in Scotland on there), but I found myself falling behind with my RingHello work to the extent that I had to make the decision not to take on more work until I had cleared the backlog.

The shoulder injury has still not healed properly, and when digging deeper into the whole matter I was advised I was suffering from a form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, meaning that my body was not recovering from any stresses properly. Not only my injury, which has been causing me pain now for well over two years, but also preventing me from being able to reliably predict how much work I was able to do.

So, I had to terminate campaigns and just act in a support capacity to my wife and business partner to the best of my ability. CFS is a nightmare for someone who runs their own business. It is not recognised by the authorities except in its most extreme form, and it can literally be the case that you wake up one day and do not have the energy to get out of bed. That can last for a few days, and then inexplicably you wake up and are fine again. In the end a major contributor appears to have been an undiagnosed sensitivity to wheat, and after doing my utmost to cut it out from my diet for 6 months I am much improved.

I have recently started taking on new telemarketing clients again, and look forward to being able to get back to work properly. I’ve also taken on a few bits of historical work, and have nearly completed my second massive Castle Guide – in addition to Edinburgh I’ll be putting Stirling out there, so that will be the two biggest guides finished.

We are also developing a piece of software to enable small businesses to manage their own cold calling and business pipelines effectively. Most CRM systems just can’t cope with all the people who aren’t customers yet, and don’t help you manage your time effectively. Ours will – and is designed for small businesses specifically so there won’t be overkill like the big boys out there!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Having had our first baby a few weeks ago, EVERYTHING has changed. All priorities are under review, and time has suddenly become a far more important resource.

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

The learning has definitely been health-related. I have learned to accept that sometimes you have no option but to accept that even the simplest things can be beyond you if you aren’t well, and that ultimately you have to take your health far more seriously. I mean, who would have thought that being sensitive to wheat could be so completely debilitating – and given that it’s one of the most common food sensitivities, why is it still being used so widely in food production? I mean, next time you are shopping, just try to get a shop which is wheat free. Look at the ingredients. You’ll see what I mean. It isn’t just no bread, pasta, pastry and breakfast cereal…

Any more hints and tips for people?

Be kind to yourself. If you don’t, why would anyone else think they have to?

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

What do you think is the most cost-effective way to get mass brand exposure to consumers?

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

I’ll be in a more secure place with regular historical commission work providing a greater proportion of income, we will have the software available with a reasonable number of subscribers (50 at least) starting to provide us with a regular ambient income, and maintaining a regular income stream from telemarketing as well. Maybe baby Olaf will have regularised his sleep patterns by then as well, so fewer black bags under the eyes would be nice!

I’m always honoured when my interviewees share the not-so-great and challenging times as well as the achievements, so thank you to Simon for his honest answers and best of luck for the future. Having just had an injury after a running accident myself, which didn’t take me out of action but did make me very tired with the pain and slightly fuzzy at times with the pain relief, I cannot imagine what it’s been like for Simon – thank goodness for his wife and business partner and hopefully things will be on the up now. He’s nurtured RingHello successfully for a long while now, so I’m sure he’ll be able to pick up the reins, and knowing your capacities and capabilities is a big part of the equation.

You can find Simon online at ringhello.co.uk and thecastleguy.co.uk.

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 April 23, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Daniel Sodkiewicz

Small business chat update – Daniel Sodkiewicz

Welcome to an update with Dan Sodkiewicz from Royal Deer Design in New York and also now from GeekSeller. Last year I commented that he came across as more confident than some of my UK interviewees, and I think that still stands – there’s nothing wrong with being confident in your products, services and offerings! We first met Daniel in January 2015. He’s been going for a year longer than Libro, and I always find it so interesting to see what my actual contemporaries are up to. Last year, this is where Daniel wanted to be by now: “I will continue to run my web design firm and grow my team. Creatively, I plan to continue my side projects and be a resource for technologists and entrepreneurs. I want to continue working with clients, setting goals and milestones that we work together to achieve.” So, let’s see how he’s doing!

Hello again, Daniel, it’s good to welcome you back to the interview series! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

This has been a challenging year, full of many adjustments and pivots. The online landscape is changing. There are many new technologies that now allow businesses to build their own websites without need of hiring a web development firm. We have had to make a few adjustments to our business and expand our knowledge base to adapt to the changing times. We have to be more specific with regards to our target market. We used to look for any clients, but now we are more focused. We offer our web design and development services to mainly two types of businesses: large e-commerce sites (see our offerings and portfolio at: www.royaldeerdesign.org), and startups – that need a simple informational website. We have separated our startup web design business, and keep it as an independent part of our firm, with a separate website.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Our main source of income is still web design and development, built from long-term relationships with medium and large clients. We provide them with ongoing website maintenance and consultation services. However, when comparing to last year, we are now much more focused on our side projects, which are slowly bringing in some income. We want to make our business more independent from web design, and gravitate toward our own SAAS (software as a service) products. One of our new SAAS business is a website called GeekSeller (www.geekseller.com). It was created to help merchants sell on the new online marketplace called JET.com. We are investing a lot of resources into this project and we are planning to expand it and start supporting more marketplaces — not just restricted to JET. Resulting from this project, there will be a system that allows sellers to maintain all of their online stores and marketplace accounts from one single dashboard. Merchants can see all of their sales and inventory in one place. It’s very exciting.

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

I have learned that in order to succeed, I need to be super focused and very specific about our target audience. At the same time, it is always good to have some side-income, independent from your core business, which can help you to survive when the main business is going through a tough time.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I would suggest to pay close attention to what is going on in your industry. We are living in a fast changing world. For many businesses in the web development and design industry, it is very easy for new competition to enter the market. To stay competitive, we have to utilize the newest technology that shapes our industry. If you are unwilling to learn and innovate, you will go out of business.

BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?

How are you staying up to date with changes taking place in your industry?

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

I would like to see 80% of our income source to be from our newly developed SAAS products (mainly GeekSeller.com), and 20% from web design business. That would be the ideal scenario for my business.

I think it’s absolutely vital to both specialise and diversify when you run a small business, as it protects you. As an example, I do editing, proofreading, transcription and localisation – all about words but in different ways and with different markets. I do find that all four ebb and flow, so having all of these together (not exactly as a main and side-projects, but the idea still holds) keeps me with a fairly balanced workflow and hopefully protected from shocks. I hope Daniel’s new enterprises work well for him and show the growth he wants from them!

Royal Deer Design, LLC
New York
Email
Web: www.royaldeerdesign.com  www.geekseller.com

 

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 April 16, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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WordPress tip: How do I allow Likes on comments?

I noticed that lots of other people’s blogs allow you to “Like” comments on a post (as well as Liking the post itself). Because I had to have a little look for it, I thought it would be a useful thing to blog about. So, how do you allow Likes on comments in WordPress?

Note, this applies to WordPress.com blogs, self-hosted WordPress.org blogs may need all or part of a widget to do this.

Why enable “likes” on blog comments?

We’re all used to Liking posts on Facebook and now Twitter. It’s a good way to let the poster know that you’ve seen and approved of what they’ve said, even if you don’t comment.

We can also allow Likes on our WordPress blog posts (for info on how to do that, see this article).

Being able to Like a comment on a blog post means that you can acknowledge it without continuing the conversation infinitely. Other people can also show their appreciation of a particular comment. It adds another thread to the links between you and your commenter.

How do I enable liking on blog comments?

Go to the WordPress dashboard (the original one) and locate the Settings area.

Go to the Sharing menu.

Scroll down until you see the Comment Likes are … section at the very bottom:

Turn on likes on comments in WordPress

Click on On for all comments and Likes will now be available on all comments.

What does Liking look like on blog comments?

Here’s a screenshot from a blog post on my book review blog, showing various nested comments. People can click on the little star to Like the comment:

Likes on blog comments visible

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful, do please comment and/or use the sharing buttons below this post to share it with other potential readers who might find it useful. Thank you!

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

How to add slideshows and galleries to your WordPress blog posts and pages

Using the Publicize feature in WordPress

WordPress 7 – adding an avatar picture

WordPress 8 – setting a static landing page

WordPress 9 – setting up a Posts page

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

How video can help your blog or website

How to get back to the old WordPress dashboard in WordPress.com

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in Blogging, WordPress

 

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Small business chat – Matt Rose

Small business chat – Matt Rose

Welcome to a brand new small business chat interviewee – Matt Rose of Prestige Quoting Limited. He’s the son of a friend of mine, which makes him sound about 12 – he is a proper grown-up, I promise, and he’s made a very considered and planned move into self-employment, leveraging his experience in a particular area but keen to branch out on his own. We had a chat early on and I was impressed at the careful way he was going about things (in fact my post about starting off well in self-employment could have been written about him, too, in many ways). Matt’s been on a learning curve since he started in October last year, and here he generously shares what he’s learned so far …

Hello, Matt. It’s good to have you on the interview list! Let’s get the basics out of the way first: what’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called Prestige Quoting Limited, and it was formed on 1 October 2015.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I had at been at my previous employer for 10 years. I was getting a little bored and had started to enjoy my role in that business a bit less: I felt it was time to work for myself.

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

I had been working with QuoteWerks software for 10 years and saw the value it provides to other small businesses. Seeing companies going from manual systems to an efficient database-driven system gives me great satisfaction. I was encouraged to form my own business by the developer of the software and the UK distributor and had the support of my partner.

Had you run your own business before?

No, well, I helped out at the school tuck shop 15 years ago; does that count?!

Um…. Moving on, how did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

Looking back, it was perhaps a bit rash. I gave my 30 days’ notice and then went into my new business full-time. As I’m now, technically, in competition with my former employer, doing this alongside would not have been a viable option.

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

Don’t be afraid to outsource tasks.

Looking back, the hours I spent over trivial things that would’ve taken someone more skilled in that area mere minutes was considerable. I was (rightly?) penny-pinching, but as soon as I found http://www.fiverr.com I’ve used it for lots of small pieces of work [fiverr.com is a place where you can hire people to do small pieces of work for $5 or larger pieces for a negotiated price. I use someone I found on there for my book cover design].

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

Don’t forget to enjoy it and don’t undersell yourself.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Managed scope-creep with my first half-dozen clients. Perhaps I was so happy to be receiving orders for work, nothing was too much trouble. That non-setting of expectations is as confusing for the client as awkward it is for me, now that I have to realign their expectations.

What are you glad you did?

Made the leap! I’d been thinking about it for a number of months, but the time was never right. Looking back, the time is never right.

What’s your top business tip?

Be honest with clients and yourself.

From my experience, a client is willing to pay more for your services if you’re honest. I originally turned two projects down, because I didn’t think I could deliver the client’s scope in the time-frame they required. Both of those projects were subsequently booked in when the client was willing to wait a little longer.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

I’m thrilled.

I had a business plan (well, business ‘guesses’ and the ‘plan’ was all in my head; which is something I will rectify) with broad numbers and I hit those within 3 months of starting the business. That was very encouraging (and relieving!)

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

I’d really like to be in a position to consider taking on a 2nd person.

Managing scope creep and expectations is a key business skill when you’re self-employed, but it’s the kind of thing that you have to learn from experience, unfortunately! I find that customers are willing to wait a little bit longer than you think for a job well done and not rushed, and if you’re honest from the start, things should go fine. I tend to under-promise and over-deliver – far better that way round! I’m sure Matt’s business is going to grow and develop well, and I can’t wait to see what he’s up to this time next year!

Matt Rose’s website is at www.prestigequoting.com and you can email him or phone him on 07490 096232

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 April 9, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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How to get a good start to your self-employment

handshakeI recently did some consultation work with someone who is exploring moving into being self-employed. He was a shining example of what you should do (in my opinion), even before his chat with me – and it’s inspired me to put down some bullet points that I think give some ideas of good practice for anyone considering starting out in self-employment.

Here’s what Bob has done to get a good start to his self-employed life:

  1. He knows what he wants to do and – crucially – he’s passionate about it.
  2. He’s prepared by saving up some money to live on while he develops his business. This will save him from having to rush into things and make mistakes.
  3. He’s found some mentors, both in his business and outside it in the general small business world.
  4. He’s arranged some work experience with someone in his chosen field.
  5. He’s already understood that it’s not great to do things “for free” – far better to do them for your portfolio, for a reference, for a recommendation.
  6. He’s willing to learn – both his particular skill and about general business principles.
  7. He’s open-minded about where his business might take him and willing to grasp new opportunities.
  8. He’s prepared to outsource and ask for help, e.g. getting a family friend involved in setting up his website.
  9. He’s prepared to be accountable, planning to keep me and maybe some others updated on how he’s doing.
  10. He’s accepted that it’s likely to be an emotional journey, more than any career within a larger organisation usually is.

I think all of these things stand him in good stead for a successful and happy change to self-employment. And there are ten of them – how handy!

If you want to read about how I moved into self-employment and the freelancing life, take a look at my business category on this website, or even my books. No pressure, though – you might just want to take these principles to heart!

 

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2016 in Business

 

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