Monthly Archives: October 2017

Small business chat update – Alison Thompson

Small business chat update – Alison Thompson

It’s Small Business Chat update time with Alison Thompson from The Proof Fairy, proofreader, editor, and author. We first met Alison in this series in July 2012, and  she updated us in July 2013, August 2014 and August 2015, Last year, when we spoke in August 2016, Alison had just had a tricky period in her business when some big clients moved on, through no fault of her own (these things happen, they’ve happened to me, particularly when agencies lose a big contract and you can’t do anything about it), so she’d taken on a part-time job to keep things stable. When I asked about her plans for the year, she had this to say: “Whatever I say in this section, I never seem to get there! So I think I’m going to leave this really open and just say that in another year’s time I want to be financially comfortable and doing something I really enjoy. And I will DEFINITELY have written that erotic novel!” So, what happened next? Read on to find out …

Hello again, Alison. Last time we talked you had just started a part-time job and had some fairly open plans. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Well, I was pretty vague about my plans for the next year, so I guess I’m where I thought I’d be! The part time temping job because permanent at the start of 2017, and then full time in May. I’m now responsible for health & safety, facilities management, temp recruitment, training and HR admin for a retail fulfilment company. It’s taken me into areas I’d never dreamed of working – who’d have thought I’d spend most of my day in a hi viz vest and safety boots! I’ve also been learning lots of new things so my “portfolio” of skills has grown substantially.

However, I still do a little bit of freelance work. I’ve kept a couple of long-term clients and do monthly newsletters, blog posts and proofreading for them, plus I take on other projects as and when I can. I’m currently proofreading and formatting a travelogue, which is quite an enjoyable job, and I have a website redesign coming up too. It’s been much harder than I thought to juggle the two roles though – I’m usually tired when I get home from the day job, and then want to relax at the weekend rather than work! I’m gradually starting to find a new routine.

I’ve still not written that erotic novel though …

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

See the above answer! I’m working a full-time job, dabbling in freelance stuff on the side and trying to fit in a social life too. I guess the biggest change is that I’ve pretty much dropped my plans for any sort of coaching business, partly because I don’t have the time to give it to do it justice, but also because, especially with the ADHD parent coaching, I found it too draining on me emotionally.

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

The biggest lesson has been to never say never. Twelve months ago, I was starting the temping job fully expecting to hate working fixed hours, hate working with other people, hate having to get changed out of pyjamas in the morning and hate being told what to do! But actually, I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of a more traditional job and have made good friends. I’ve also thrown myself into areas I had no previous experience of and have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Be honest about how things are. When my business was struggling, I stuck my head in the sand for a long time in the hope that things would pick up. If I’d been honest with myself I could probably have turned things around much faster. And be open to opportunities, especially those where you can transfer your skills to a new area. You never know what you can do until you try!

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

I’m enjoying the “proper” job at the moment and I hope that will continue, but who knows what’s around the corner? In terms of the business, I’d like to have found a way to promote my ADHD online parenting course so it makes a regular passive income, because that would be a far more efficient way of supplementing my salary than spending every weekend proofreading!

As for the erotic novel … I live in hope of doing it one day!

I admire Alison for her positivity and tenacity and for doing so well in her part-time temp to full-time permanent role. I completely know where she’s coming from with the coaching: I’ve had people approach me for career coaching, especially in transcription, and I’m just not keen on spending all that energy doing that one-to-one, it’s just not my forte. I can’t imagine how hard that would be in the ADHD area. Like Alison, I’ve created resources instead, which helps other people without exhausting ourselves. Good luck with that erotic novel, Alison and thanks for sharing your story with all its ups and downs!

The Proof Fairy: Helping You Take Your Book from Possibility to Plan to Publication Tel: 01367 888229 Mob: 07927 330293 Skype: alisonthompson555

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 October 28, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat


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How do I set expectations with my professional services provider?

When you’re hiring a professional services provider, you need to set expectations for your project before you even agree the contract. If you don’t agree the terms and conditions and specific requirements upfront, in the worst case, you might find that your project is cancelled before it starts, or you may get a result which doesn’t match your expectations.

In this article, I’ll share a few points to consider and ways to make sure that you have a good start to your relationship with your service provider and a good experience (for both of you) throughout the project.

I’m addressing this issue as a provider of editing, proofreading, transcription and localisation services, but I’d welcome comments from service providers in other fields, too.

In this article, I pay specific attention to people who work at agencies which work as a middle-provider between the client and the professional services provider. All of the points apply to agencies, too – some of them are specific to agencies and I highlight when that is the case.

Think about what you want before you seek a service provider

Before advertising, searching boards or doing a Google search, think very carefully about what you’re looking for and the kind of person you’re looking for. Write down the parameters of what you want, in detail. This can include, but not be limited to:

  • The scale of the work – whether that’s in words to be translated, minutes of tape to be transcribed, number of receipts and invoices to go to a book-keeper. This must be honest and measured, not a guess. Typically, you will underestimate what you need to be done. It’s a good idea to check it.
  • The deadline for the work – both your ultimate deadline and one for your service provider which will enable you to ask questions or make the changes that might arise. For example, I recommend a Master’s student keeps at least 24 hours aside for checking my suggested corrections. Bear in mind that you will need to interact with whatever is provided to you in some way (for example, following up unclear names on a transcription; answering an accountant’s queries on your plastic bag full of receipts). Note, if the deadline is “two weeks from when I finish writing the book” be clear about when you intend to do that!
  • The details of the work – this is one you need to think really carefully about, and not make any assumptions. Does your manuscript have to be in US English or fit a particular journal’s article submission requirements? Do you require your transcription to be time-stamped every minute?
  • Get a sample of the work ready – an extract from your document, part of the tape you want transcribed, a scan of what your receipts are like.
  • If you are working at an agency and preparing to tender for a job for a third-party client, try your best to gather this information from them in advance.

Note: a good service provider will know about this stuff and is likely to ask you about it. But it’s best to be prepared and to provide this information up-front when you’re looking for someone to do the work for you.

Provide potential service providers with full information

However you contact potential service providers, do give them all the information you worked out above. They will need it in order to be able to assess the project, give you a fair quotation and let you know whether they can fit it in. If you give them all the information at the start, it will:

  • Save time as they won’t need to ask for any further information.
  • Lead to a fair price (fair to you and the service provider) because it’s based on the full parameters.
  • Lead to an achievable turnaround time which is not going to slip – if you change the parameters or explain the project in full once the work is underway, it may take the provider longer to do it.

This is such an important point that I’m going to put it in bold: If you’re working at an agency and this is an enquiry to allow you to bid for a project yourselves, please inform the service provider when you make the initial enquiry. Most people will still give you the information you need, but promising a project you haven’t yet got yourself isn’t very kind or transparent, and multiple examples are likely to put people off working with you.

Answer any questions from the service provider as fully as you can

If your potential service provider comes back to you with questions of their own, or with a questionnaire to fill in, make sure that you answer it as fully as possible. Explain your terms in detail. For example:

  • What you call “line-editing” or “proper time stamping” can mean many things to many different people. Explain exactly what you mean.
  • One person’s “flexible deadline” is another person’s “one more job I can’t fit in in the time”. Be clear on dates and times.

If you don’t understand what the service provider is asking you, ask them to explain rather than making an assumption or ignoring the question. We all have jargon we think is clear, and I’m always happy to explain a term a potential client is unfamiliar with.

Set expectations on the process and be fair and transparent

You can find information on booking in an editor and handling the process in this article and my advice here is basically the same:

  • Tell the service provider you’re negotiating with when you expect to make your decision.
  • Don’t play multiple service providers off against each other: examine each offering on its own merits but don’t try to start a bidding war.
  • Tell all of the service providers when you’ve made your decision, even the ones you don’t offer it to.

If you are working for an agency, it’s really important to:

  • Tell the service provider when you expect the client to make their decision.
  • If your agency gets the job, tell the service provider who will be doing the work and inform anyone else you were talking to who you haven’t chosen to work with.
  • If your agency doesn’t get the job, still inform the service provider(s) you’ve been discussing it with.

Typically, your potential service provider(s) will be holding open a slot in their schedule for your project, in case you assign it to them. So it’s only fair to make sure that you tell them when they’ve haven’t got the job, as well as when they have. Otherwise, they may continue holding the spot open, turning down other enquiries in the meantime.

Once the project is confirmed and underway

You may need to do contracts, either from your end or the service provider’s end, at this point.

  • Make sure everything you’ve discussed and agreed matches the contract.
  • Do not change anything once the project is agreed, if you can possibly help it (I do understand that agencies’ clients can add demands; if this happens, consult with the service provider and get back to the client with any changes in deadline).
  • Accept that any changes you do make will affect the deadline.
  • Understand that the service provider has set aside a time slot for you. This means
    • you must deliver the project to the service provider when you said you would.
    • if you increase the parameters of the work, the service provider might not actually be able to complete the job if it goes outside the amount of time they’ve set aside for it.

If you follow these guidelines, I think you will have a higher rate of success in interacting with professional service providers and engaging their services, and everybody will have a fairer and smoother time.

Thank you for reading this article on setting expectations with service providers. Please do share and comment if you have found this useful, or share other hints and tips. I will put together specific guidelines for dealing with transcribers and localisers soon.

Other useful articles from this blog

Working with an editor 1: Asking for a quote

Working with an editor 2: Negotiating and booking in

What does my transcriber need to know?

What information does my localiser need?


Posted by on October 26, 2017 in Business, Copyediting



Small business chat update – Annabelle Beckwith

Small business chat update – Annabelle Beckwith

Here’s a lovely update with my friend Annabelle Beckwith of the consultancy, learning and development organisation, Yara Journeys. I’ve known Anna since our very first day at university, and now here we are, both running our own businesses, me working on my own and interacting with almost all of my clients remotely, Anna out there interacting, training, facilitating and helping people to grow. I first interviewed Anna in 2012 and again in May 2013, September 2014 and February 2016. Her goal has always been to keep growing personally and in her business, and she’s also been working on side projects such as books and online materials. Let’s see how she’s doing now …

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

Yes and no: I’m still writing and delivering training programmes and travelling the world, but I’m now focused on productising my knowledge. I’m writing a book and setting up a branch of my website to sell training products and business games and scenarios

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’ve grown a LOT in the last year in a personal development sense. I’ve realised that there’s more I can do if I just push myself out of my comfort zone a bit, so that’s what I’m doing. I’ve also realised that I don’t want to grow a huge company which I them have to ‘manage’ – I enjoy working with a range of colleagues and associates from project to project, so I’m going to carry on doing that, rather than succumb to the pressure of being an employer.

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

I’ve learned a lot about mindset and about finding one’s purpose and following that, rather than trying to plan life to the nth degree (and it never plays out that way anyway) In some respects I wish I’d figured this out years ago – on the other hand, if I’d come across the people and information and learning that have come my way this year, I’d have missed them because I wouldn’t have been ready to learn, if that makes sense!

Any more hints and tips for people?

INVEST in your own personal development. And do it properly – not just a few piecemeal workshops here and there or freebies from the local business enterprise agency. Invest in YOU because that’s who’s driving your freelance business!

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

I’ll still be writing and delivering programmes and travelling – but I’d like to be speaking at more events…and of course my book will be finished and my online business will be up and running

It’s always a difficult decision when you get good and well-known and then you need to choose how to grow. I’m like Annabelle, I don’t want to become an employer, and I don’t even contract work out or work in partnerships and collaborations myself – although, to be fair, that’s easier to manage when you’re in the training and development field than editing and transcription. I’m sure Anna’s chosen the right path, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she develops her new materials.

The Yara Journeys website can be found at . Anna can be contacted via email.

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 October 14, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Small business chat update – Susannah Davda #smallbusiness

Small business chat update – Susannah Davda #smallbusiness

Welcome to the second update from shoe guru Susannah Davda from The Shoe Consultant. What does being a Shoe Consultant mean? Susannah explains: “I help people to start shoe brands in a strategic way. I also work on research, development and range planning projects for established footwear brands and retailers”. She joined in June 2015, and I interviewed her again in August 2016, this was where she wanted to be by now: “I’d like to take on more consultancy clients, grow my other services, and be taking a salary”. Lee’s see how she’s doing now!

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

Yes, pretty much. I’ve gained additional consultancy clients and taken on some exciting new projects. The B2B side of The Shoe Consultant is really the focus of most of my time at the moment. Regarding salary, I’m in a position to pay myself but have adopted the strategy of investing profits back into the business first. In a few months’ time, I’ll put myself on the payroll.

Sounds good. What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m busier than ever. Since my son started nursery in January, my workload has expanded to fill the available time and then some! I still have the same focused approach. I only work with shoe-related things, and always keep the company mission in mind: shoes should be comfortable and beautiful.

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

That persistence pays off when it come to late payments from clients. If somebody is late paying according to the due date on the invoice, don’t let it go. Just calmly explain to them that as detailed on the website, you’ll be charging daily interest on the money owed. I had no idea I could even charge interest until an accountant friend of mine told me.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Take time away from your desk to think. Some of my best business planning is done away from my desk. Running or going for a walk is good for gaining a little perspective.

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

I would like to be in a position to be more selective about the projects I choose to work on.

I can certainly back up the idea that going for a run is good for business – it clears the head and things you’ve been mulling over can suddenly work themselves out – a bit like sleeping on a problem. It’s also good for us desk-bound people, too!

You can find The Shoe Consultant online here: and on Twitter and email. You can buy her new Shoe Shopping Kit on Amazon here.

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 October 7, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat


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Mink or minke?

This Troublesome Pair was suggested to me by my friend Julia quite a while ago – thank you! I’m always open to suggestions! Oh, and do you like the new picture for these posts – now I have managed to capture all my new editions in all their glory?

So, two animal words (and I feel some more coming on, now I’ve thought of these).

A mink is a semi-aquatic carnivore which is a bit like a stoat, and is unfortunately bred for its fur. It has Eurasian and North American variants, and the word is used to describe the fur, too. I’m sad now, thinking about poor fur-farmed animals. Moving on, no arguing about the plural, because it can be mink OR minks! Shocking!

A minke is a type of whale – a rorqual whale in fact. It’s grey on top and white underneath, and apparently the name only originates from the 1930s. A rorqual whale is a baleen whale which has pleated skin on its underneath, and the group includes fin, blue and humpback whales. A baleen whale is one of the ones with the whalebone sieve in its mouth to filter food. I’m going to stop there …

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


Posted by on October 4, 2017 in Errors, Language use



Desk bikes – the Tour de Your House

Desk bikes – the Tour de Your House

My friend and colleague Laura Ripper talks about her desk bike in this interesting article.

Laura Ripper | Proofreading and copy-editing

Last Wednesday was National Fitness Day in the UK.

Keeping fit’s a doddle if you work from home, isn’t it? You start the day with yoga. Go swimming at lunchtime. On sunny days you put down your pen (or keyboard) and head to the hills for a long walk – because you’re your own boss and you can do what you want.


It’s not always easy to find time to exercise when you’ve got a business to run.

You might rather keep working on something you’re really enjoying. There’s only you to get the work done, so sometimes you need to keep going to meet all your deadlines. And there isn’t always enough time to go to the gym and be there to sort out [insert home repair job of your choice]. Today, for example, the plumber’s here in the morning and the electrician’s coming in the afternoon. (Stop…

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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in Uncategorized