Monthly Archives: September 2017

Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

It’s a big hello again to Lyndsey Michaels, or Lyndsey Michaels Bid Writer as she’s professionally known. Lyndsey writes tender documentation for small businesses who want to increase their sales. We first met Lyndsey in July 2014 and had our first update in August 2015, chatting again in August 2016. At that point, having shared her year with her trademark openness and honesty about the ups and downs. Lyndsey’s plans for the year up to now were: “Right now, I’m working hard on making better content for my site, to draw in more visitors and increase my visibility as an expert in my field. I’ve nailed down several formal targets and simplified those into The One Thing – in my case, number of enquiries – that meeting all the other targets relies on. I’m also hoping to do more public speaking (argh!). Hopefully this time next year I’ll be feeling positive and confident and may even be a few steps nearer to my goals!” Some great goals there, so let’s see how she’s done!

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

Yes and no. My refreshed website has certainly brought in a lot more business, which is as planned and very reassuring. In terms of increasing visibility as an expert in my field, there have been some very cool developments there too, which I’m hoping to capitalise on over the next year.

I haven’t done anything in the way of public speaking! But it’s been a very busy year in other ways, so I’m not sure I would have been able to fit it in anyway.

One thing I hadn’t anticipated was that, partly as a result of talking openly about my ‘to quit or not to quit’ conundrum last year, I’ve been offered several opportunities to do other things, completely unrelated to bid writing and I’ve taken a few of those opportunities up.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

A minor but ongoing health issue has pushed me into making some changes to my day-to-day work schedule and, after a lot of trial and error, I think I have it about as optimised as it’s going to get right now. I’m much stricter with myself about which hours in the day I allocate to different types of task and that’s also led to me being much clearer with clients about what they can expect from me and when.

Taking on new, non-bid related projects has been both exciting and nail-biting! Although there are a lot of transferable skills involved, such as project management, research and training, it also means I’m looking at how organisations work from a different perspective than I do when I’m dealing with bid writing, management and coaching. A couple of those projects are for an organisation whose services can directly impact peoples’ quality of life so that’s something I’ve been keeping at the forefront of my mind. With bid writing and consultancy, my input still has an impact beyond the bottom line – on the business owners, their staff and their own customers – but it’s at least one step removed.

One project’s remit included research and purchase recommendations, installing and setting up new software, training myself on software I’ve never used before, then creating training documentation and lesson plans and training other people, at all levels, on it. The initial research element led to that project parameters being changed and the addition of another project. I’m used to the only major changes in my work being a few lines in a specification or maybe the occasional deadline extension, so this has involved a lot more thinking on my feet than usual! The project is just about to go live so I expect there’ll be more tweaks and changes to come!

It has been refreshing though, after six years of thinking only about tenders, to stretch my braincells a bit.

One major event is that I’m getting married later this year! Business-wise, it won’t change much – I’ll be keeping my company name the same and just changing my surname for non-work purposes. But I do feel it’s brought a few work and non-work related goals and aspirations into sharper focus.

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

I’ve learned AND I wish I’d known a year ago that it’s not just ‘ok’, it’s vital, to keep your health at the top of your priorities, even if it’s something that seems minor or that you – for whatever reason – feel you should be able to ‘just power through’. Committing to a few changes to my work day has greatly improved my productivity, which is not just good for my clients but also prevents me from falling down the mental hole of despair!

I’ve also come to realise that, while it’s hard for any freelancer or one-person business to separate work from home – and, in fact, I’d spent a long time deliberately aiming to do the opposite for a number of reasons – at this point in my life, it’s something I need to look into more seriously. I feel I’ve become a little ‘one dimensional’ over the last few years. Getting married seems to be a timely point to start putting more effort into my non-work life and, maybe, even letting work take a bit of a back seat for a while.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Opening yourself up to other opportunities can be really good for your existing business. I’d spent a lot of time over the last six years on streamlining my services to appeal to a very specific sort of client and that’s always paid off. I don’t think I’d want to go back to being a generalist for that type of work even if it brought in more money. However, while juggling both can be tricky at times taking on new projects that are completely unrelated to my ‘official’ business has been and continues to be a positive challenge.

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

Ah, well that’s the key question this year! For my main business, I want to look more into ‘business sustainability’ – making the best of the hours I work, the experience I’ve developed and any opportunities that come up. I’m planning on changing my billing structure and re-packaging some of the services I offer.

Beyond that, I have no idea! There are a lot of roads open to me at the moment: stick with the bid writing business as-is; aim to move more into an ‘expert for hire’ role, still within the bid and tender industry; move away from bids and tenders entirely and capitalise on the opportunities I hope will come following one or more of these other projects; or, something completely different!

On a personal level, once the wedding’s done and dusted, my partner and I have Plans-with-a-capital-P and some of those will dictate or at least affect what I do with my business. It’s an exciting year all round!

All really exciting stuff, and some great plans there. I used my marriage three years ago to pause and have a think about my work schedule, etc. – at the time, my husband was moving into a period of self-employment himself, so things changed, then changed again. I’m sure Lyndsey will continue to embrace all the new opportunities that come her way. I’m lucky in that my job is quite varied already, and I think if I only did one type of thing, I’d be looking to diversify by now. It’s hard to do that from choice, though (mine happened by accident when I added one transcription client to my roster) but I’m sure she’s more than equal to it. Oh, and best wishes for your wedding, Lyndsey!

Lyndsey Michaels

Bid Writer
07813 606033

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 September 16, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat – Megan Ronan

Small business chat – Megan Ronan

Today we’re meeting Megan Ronan from Mind Over Matter Fitness and Nutrition, based in Oxfordshire. Megan has been the personal trainer for one of my friends for a year, so I know she’s good from her reports, and she knows a lot about running, my exercise of choice (so I took the opportunity to ask her a couple of sneaky marathon and ultramarathon tips at the end, too). There’s a lot to personal training and nutrition consultancy and there are so many under-qualified people out there, so it’s great to be able to feature someone so well-trained and knowledgeable. If you’re considering going into the health and wellness industry, you’ll find this and other interviews really interesting, but I love seeing people’s paths to success whatever line of business they’re in. Let’s find out how Megan’s got where she is today …

Hello, Megan, and it’s lovely to meet you. First things first: what’s your business called? When did you set it up?

Hello! My business is called Mind over Matter Fitness and Nutrition and I’ve been completely self-employed for almost a year now, but part-time for a good while before that.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I worked for other people in this industry for a few years to gain experience as this was not my first field of work – I was in education and nutritional research before. Working for other people guarantees you an income but does not allow you much flexibility or creativity. I was fed up with working hard, offering new ideas and not progressing. Lack of organisation and structure in my previous role(s) just made me want to work for myself. I felt I could offer more and make better use of my time, as well as earning more.

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

I’m a nutritionist by original training and worked for Oxford Brookes University for 6 years in a research role. Whilst I enjoyed this job it became tedious – always working in the laboratory and quite a solitary role. Whilst working in this role I also increased my own running (moving on to ultra-marathons) and was really enjoying it. I just felt that my knowledge of nutrition and my love of exercise, specifically endurance running and weight training was where I wanted to concentrate my energy. It seemed a natural progression to train to be a personal trainer and fitness instructor and try to inspire people to love exercise as much as I do.

Back in 2003, I knew I wanted to work in the fitness field and as such signed up to a personal training course whilst also completing my degree. I studied hard but actually failed one of the modules, this knocked my confidence and I never went back to re-take the module! So it took me a few years to gain the confidence to try again and go back to the drawing board and sign up to another course.

Had you run your own business before?

Yes, when I was in my last year or university I started my own cleaning company to earn some money and have a flexible job. I expected to have just a few houses, but after a few months I had enough work for 10 others and so started my own company. The company run for 3 years in total. I sold it to go into nutrition research.

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

I started off studying at home (distance learning) to become a qualified personal trainer and fitness instructor. From there I applied to become a personal trainer at a small local gym, where I worked part-time (30 hours a week) and had a couple of regular classes at other gyms and trained my family and friends. Going for my first personal training job was a bit of a shock to the system as it was literally half my current income. It was a bit of a struggle financially to start with but other than going self-employed it’s the best move I made. It wasn’t long before I was a manager and earning a bit more.

From there I moved to Oxford Brookes University gym where I was also part time, working an average of 27 hours a week and slowly building my own client and class base around this. I was also working another job for an exam board which kept my nutritional knowledge up-to-date. Eventually in October 2016 I was working 27 hours for Brookes and had about 30 hours a week of my own classes and clients, so I had to make the huge decision to go completely self-employed before I worked myself into the ground! I still kept a few classes at Brookes to keep some guaranteed income. Now I only teach 3 classes for a small gym and run my own business full-time.

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

Learn to say no. You can’t do everything and you have to keep some time for yourself and family. There are also only so many hours in the day – try to work too many of those hours in the day, you only burn out.

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

Be confident and learn to ask for help. When marketing and selling isn’t your strong point, ask someone else professional to do it for you – it saves a lot of time and money in the long run.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Been bolder and more confident – tried to set up more classes and initiatives or set up with a like-minded friend so that you have more support and can bounce ideas off each other. There are things that are working really well at the moment that I just didn’t have the confidence to set up to begin with.

Set work and home life boundaries – by this I mean, have times where you turn your phone off and don’t answer client emails and texts and don’t feel stressed out about doing this. Otherwise work takes over every aspect of your life.

What are you glad you did?

Actually going fully self-employed – there is no better feeling than being your own boss and scheduling your own time.

What’s your top business tip?

Learn to love the cancellations and quiet days.

And – keep on top of the book keeping.

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

It’s my first full year in being fully self-employed so I am learning that the business can be seasonal, so it’s quiet in July and August due to people being away on holiday and enjoying the good weather and again in December as people are getting ready for Christmas and tend to have less disposable income. So, it is good to use these times for long-term planning and preparation for the busier months. These times are also good to implement advertising and marketing strategies that you don’t otherwise have time for.

Overall the business has grown with overall more clients and classes and my location has changed – from a small portacabin to a large commercial gym. The nutritional side of the business has picked up in the last few months which is exciting.

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

I would love to see myself (and a colleague) in our own premises but I think in reality this is more of a 5-year goal.

So more realistically I would like to see myself offering some sort of nutritional coaching and growing the nutritional side of the business. It would be wonderful to have someone else working for me to grow the business further, offering schemes linked to workplace well-being. And of course, having more 1:1 clients as well as my own classes.

And a final cheeky question: what are your marathon and ultramarathon top tips?

Marathon top tip – get the fueling right. Try lots of things during training to make sure you have sufficient energy and don’t crash on race day.

Ultra tip – Break the distance down in your head and mentally tick off the distances as you go, and be prepared to go to some dark places in your head – remember why it is you set out to do it in the first place.

Brilliant – thank you! I remember doing my first marathon I even tried out a million different hairstyles to find one that didn’t rub or annoy me. Anyway, back to the work stuff: I so remember knowing when it was time to jump ship and go fully self-employed (it was almost six years ago that I made that decision, shockingly!), and building in boundaries to work time and having one- and five-year plans is definitely the way to go. I’m looking forward to seeing Megan go from strength to strength (ha ha) and finding out how she’s doing next year. 

Megan Ronan’s Mind Over Matter Fitness and Nutrition website is at and you can email her or call her on 07773 675884 / 01865 735708. She’s also on Facebook and Instagram.

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 September 9, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat update – Zoe Austin

Small business chat update – Zoe Austin

Welcome to an update with Zoe Austin, who is a musician and voice, violin, piano and music theory music teacher, in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire. We first chatted with Zoe (an ex-library colleague of mine from a long way back) in 2011 and then updated in 2012. Having had a bit of a hiatus, we rejoined her in July 2016. Back then, this was her plan for now: “Still providing music to many different people in order to improve their lives somewhat, but with perhaps a little less travelling and a few earlier nights!” Sounds sensible to me – let’s see how she’s got on.

Hello again, Zoe! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward just one year, four years ago?

Well, no. I am now mostly self-employed and have gained some very well-paid work in Peterborough over the last year which has enabled me to gradually reduce the number of private students I see and, finally, claw back my evenings! I now actually have decent amounts of free time to myself for the first time in 6 years of this work!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I continued to work for Hunts Music School, but this has now become a charity (rather than a part of Hunts Regional College – long story) and so I now work for them freelance; I began working (employed) at a charity called Rowan last August, as the Music Tutor & Co-ordinator for our students who are adults with learning disabilities. I also do a fair amount of freelance work contracted to Peterborough Music Hub as of last September. This involves me providing whole class instrumental tuition – it is VERY hard work, but it is, as I mentioned, well-paid.

In addition to these, I have picked up some private violin tuition in two other Peterborough schools and thinned-down my private pupil base. I only travel to the home of one of my pupils now, whereas this used to be a regular occurrence: now they mostly come to me, which means I have more time and energy left for myself at the end of the day.

Some personal/professional successes this year for me have been:

My grade 8 violin student got a distinction and is off to study music and history at Liverpool University;
I tutored myself on viola and gained a distinction at grade 6;
A pupil I took the risk of pushing up to grade 5 on violin (he’s only 10 and only took his grade3 last year) rose to the challenge beautifully and passed that exam last month;
I completed my first solo concert organisation and raised around £300 for Rowan: we put on a show at the Michaelhouse Centre in Cambridge just last Saturday and showcased original compositions and improvisations by the music students;
I taught Samba for the first time;
I somehow managed to teach violin and cello to 12 different classes of around 30 children at a time. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t advanced, but we got there in the end!

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

Not to work at a certain primary school where I’ve been treated poorly by the Head and by a parent.

Any more hints and tips for people?

In the world of music tuition, something else always turns up (or will do if you put the work in to creating it!) so don’t worry about letting go of bits of work which are causing you any amount of stress or anxiety: they’re not worth it!

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

I hope to have had as successful a professional year as has been the case this year, and I hope that my contract at Rowan as been extended for the foreseeable future!

The sector Zoe’s in is full of ups and downs and can be quite unpredictable, so I’m glad she’s achieved her aim of carving out more time for herself and having a quieter time of things, while still having the interest of working for multiple organisations and people. I know she’s so happy working at Rowan, and asked me to add the link above. Onwards and upwards (or along, in a stable fashion)!

Zoe’s business Facebook page, her LinkedIn profile and profile on

You can email Zoe, or call her on 07791308536

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 September 2, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat


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