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Small business chat update – Debbie Copas

Small business chat update – Debbie Copas

Good morning, if you’re reading this “live” and welcome to another Small Business Update with an interviewee we’ve been talking to for a good few years now, Debbie Copas from Norfolk Coastal Holidays. We originally met Debbie in March 2013, and checked in with her in March 2014, May 2015 and June 2016 (about those dates; it’s not usually my interviewees being late with their replies but a scheduling thing on my part, as I tend to do the updates in the order in which they came in. It suddenly struck me that readers might think my interviewees weren’t organised: not the case!). When I asked Debbie last time where she wanted to be in a year’s time, she replied “I am just embarking on a 100 day challenge; my goal is to get my accounts up to date and then put in place a system to ensure I complete all necessary tasks on a monthly basis. I’m fed up with the annual rush in January to get things up to date! If I achieve that, I plan on rewarding myself with an online course to learn more about creating a travel guide. I hope I will be making more regular visits to Norfolk (assuming my youngest gets to University) and being more proactive in looking for properties to add to my portfolio. Maybe I will have achieved last year’s goals too, with a logo and so on, but I won’t beat myself up if I haven’t. Life’s too short!” Let’s see how she’s got on with those plans …

Hello again, Debbie, just when you’re busy but sometimes have last-minute availability on your properties, and thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

This time round, I think I can say I’m much further forward than I thought I’d be but in a completely different direction!

Exciting! What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Where do I start? So many changes that it’s no longer possible to predict where things will be, it really is a case of rolling with the punches. The business is just starting to expand in a way I’d previously hoped for, but that hadn’t quite fallen into place. I have just taken on two new properties to manage the bookings in the last two months, Church Cottage and The Barnhouse. They are both inland rather than right by the coast, but it’s still only a short drive to the many wonderful beaches along the Norfolk coastline. I find that my guests always go about and about exploring so they both combine the best of the Norfolk countryside and the coast. One is a beautiful Grade II listed thatched cottage and the other a 220 year old converted single storey barn. Such beautiful buildings that encompass the wide variety of properties on offer when you choose to stay in Norfolk.

Even more exciting and not publicised at all yet, is that we have just bought another holiday property ourselves. It is in need of a full renovation as it has damp and so the plaster needs stripping off before we start to build it back up. I’m sad that it’s too far away to do the renovation ourselves but am hopeful that the builder, when he eventually starts, will do a great job. More than that I won’t say at this stage. All to be revealed in due course!

Changes at home have been monumental and that also has a huge impact on my business. My husband left the company he was working for in October. He has now started his own company, something he never thought he’d do, in consultancy work. It’s allowed him some time out as he thinks about how he wants the final years of his career to pan out, which may possibly not be another full time job. So he’s at home a lot sharing my workplace and that’s a BIG change to adjust to!

My youngest is just back from university after a year with plenty of ups and downs. My daughter is back from her global travels earlier than planned and the eldest is still thinking about buying his first home. Brexit, elections and more have not helped him with that decision! So I’m definitely not an empty nester and that also impacts on my work life. Your children are never too old to need your time and love, but that’s what being a mum is all about. A lifetime job and let no-one tell you otherwise!

What’s the same? I still don’t have a logo, although I experimented with one and have the concept in place. That’s a procrastinator for you! I didn’t get to do that online course I was thinking about either. The one constant is that we still live in the same house and hopefully will do until it’s time to downsize. It’s nice to be in our forever home to provide the stability a family needs in this constantly changing world.

Wow – busy times! What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I’ve learned not to panic when life throws curveballs, but I think I already knew that! I’m calm by nature when dealing with a crisis and there have been lots of those this last year. Another loss, when a friends husband died after a battle with bowel cancer, so life really is too short.

I got up to date with my accounts as planned, but am steadily falling behind again. I have researched accounting software but have found it a very difficult process. I bought a package on the advice of a salesperson but it was completely wrong for my business and didn’t do most of the things that I needed it to. I took out a trial on another but didn’t have enough time to devote to it so barely scratched the surface before the trial ran out. My email to the salesperson who was so keen to sign me up has gone unanswered. I’m not impressed with the customer service which falls so low below what I’m proud to offer in my business. I’m really surprised how difficult it is to find the right answer. I’m now at the stage where I think I may need to pay someone to find me the right package and give me some advice on how to set it up.

I’m glad I didn’t know that something I was involved with on Facebook would implode in a way I didn’t dream possible. It was a very unpleasant period in my life when you realise how much your work in cyberspace can impact on you as an individual. The upside was that I had more support than I could have hoped for from my cyberfriends. The positive from hanging out in cyberspace was that I enjoyed a short break in Wales in the company of some of the wonderful owners I have met online in the last couple of years, where we exchanged news and generally enjoyed being in each other’s company; people who all understand the business of holiday rental and who don’t think you rude when you have your head down in your phone or computer because you’re busy answering enquiries!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Not to try to do everything yourself as your business expands? I’m not good at keeping up with paperwork and general admin. I employed my daughter between her return from travels and starting a new job and she was such a help. Between us we were able to move forward on a really big project that I had put off for ages, updating my welcome folder or rather creating a new one from scratch. Now it’s in place, I’ve thought of more things to add and will make further changes to the layout. I have always known I’m a procrastinator so anything that helps me focus is a good thing. This year I’ve read The 15 Minute Rule: How to stop procrastinating and take charge of your life. I think I need to reread it regularly to keep me on the right path!

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

This next year will be all about the new property, getting it ready for guests, sourcing furniture etc plus getting the marketing and welcome folder ready. Hopefully the new properties will find their niche as they are both bigger properties than I currently offer, so I need to build up a customer base of larger families and group bookings for those. They’re both great for a cross generational family holiday for example, where mum and dad and the kids take along granny and grandpa! Maybe more owners will approach me to manage theirs, who knows, but it’s exciting not knowing quite where the future will lead!

Goodness me, what a busy year! It’s interesting that I have a lot of interviewees who have small children, but obviously that worry doesn’t stop as they grow up! I have seen quite a few Facebook issues with small businesses (see my last interview with Stevie Maiden in a different field altogether) but indeed, there are those support systems, too. And as for admin, I think we all suffer there, don’t we. I’m up to date with everything for the business, of course, but do need to sit down and update the indexes on this blog … Anyway, good luck to Debbie as she enters maybe a quieter year and well done for slowly expanding and keeping hold of all the reins!

Instagram: www.instagram.com/norfolkcoastalholidays/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/NorfolkCoastalHolidays

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NorfolkCoastal

Website: www.norfolkcoastalholidays.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 July 22, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Sere, seer or sear?

Sere, seer or sear?

 

This Troublesome Trio was suggested to me by the ever-helpful Linda from Linda Proofreads – thank you! Those among you with good memories will recall that she’s suggested pairs before – they can’t be infinite but I certainly haven’t thought of them all yet.

So three words with very different meanings that are spelled differently but are all pronounced the same.

Sere is an adjective (and a literary one at that) which means “withered” and can also be spelled sear, and I always thought it meant dry and kind of nobly so, so that shows it’s always worth looking things up in a variety of sources before you confidently bung down what you think something means from your vast experience, etc. It’s also a fairly new word (only around 120 years old) for a series of animal or plant communities which have been formed from succession, for example the endless lavender plants that my garden produces, one from the other but still in the same area.

A seer is a person who can see visions of the future, a prophet or the like. Seer can also be used in a very old-fashioned way to describe someone who sees a specific thing, but I would shy away from using it in that sense, to be honest. It’s also an Asian unit of weight. Who knew?

To sear (a verb) means to burn or even scorch something with an intense and sudden heat, and is often used to describe browning meat or other foods at a high temperature. As an extension into a metaphor, something can be seared into your memory of mind, fixed there, the vision of something which you can’t now “unsee”, for example. A searing pain is a strong and sudden burning sensation.

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

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Errors, Language use

 

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Small business chat update – Stevie Maiden

Small business chat update – Stevie Maiden

It’s update time with Stevie Maiden from Maidens Fayre. When we first met Stevie in June 2013, she ran a small business Facebook group and was building up her jams, chutneys and pickles business. Updates in July 2014 , 2015 and 2016 she shared the ups and downs of life at fairs and shows while she tried to achieve that delicate work-life balance. In 2016, this was her plan for this year: “I hope to be selling into more retail outlets and doing less standing in fields in the rain,” but unfortunately life had something different in store.

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

Sadly not. I had a nasty fall after I completed last years answers. It’s meant I’ve had to cut back considerably.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m still working, but I’ve lost heart in it. I’m considering putting the business up for sale. My deteriorating health has meant that I can’t work as hard as I did. It’s still my only source of income, so I have to stick at it

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

Well, I’ve learned that if you advertise your ideas on Facebook, your competitors WILL copy them.

What hints and tips do you have for people?

I’d say have a back-up plan. I loved this business so much and I never thought I would stop. Be prepared that it might happen to you.

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

I really hope I get my enthusiasm back and if not, I really hope to sell the business as a going concern

I’m so sorry that Stevie’s had a hard time this year and has lost enthusiasm as a result. I am grateful for her honesty in sharing this with us – it’s good to remember times can be hard and scary as well as easy and fun, and it is indeed important to have a back-up plan. I hope there’s no selling of the business and lots of selling of jam and chutney involved this year!

You can find Stevie online on the Maidens Fayre Facebook page and get in touch with her there.

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 July 15, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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How do I deal with spam comments on my blog 3: How do I prevent spam comments from being posted on my blog?

How do I deal with spam comments on my blog 3: How do I prevent spam comments from being posted on my blog?

In this article you’re going to learn some general tips for avoiding getting spam comments on your blog. Hopefully you’ve already read Article 1 in the series and understand what spam comments are and why you should stop them, and you’ve looked at some examples of spam and learned how to tell a spam comment from a real comment in Article 2.

How do I stop spam getting published in my blog comments?

There are two ways to stop spam appearing in your blog comments, and you do need to use them together to be completely effective:

  1. Make sure your blogging software’s spam filter is turned on to its highest level
  2. Make sure you moderate comments before displaying them

There are of course variations within both of these, so I’ll talk about them one by one.

Setting up your spam filter

This is general information, and I don’t have access to all of the blogging platforms, but most platforms (WordPress, Blogger, etc.) will have spam filter in place already. This will stop anything hugely obvious, like millions of links in a comment or keywords that we can all think of that we see a lot in spam emails, etc.

Often, you can set the level of spam filtering or what gets done with the spam comments.

For example, in WordPress.com, I can choose to set these options:

  • Either the worst and most persistent spam is silently discarded OR all spam is put into the spam review folder so I can review it
  • I can list keywords which I want to always make a comment go into spam (I haven’t bothered with this as my spam is very varied!)
  • I can select how many links need to be in a comment before it automatically goes into the spam folder (I allow up to two, allowing people to share information, their own book review, etc. without being penalised

How do I select the spam filter options for my blog?

In WordPress, I find the spam filter options in Settings – Discussion.

All blogging platforms will have some kind of Settings area where you can find this information. If you use another platform than WordPress.com, maybe you’d like to add a comment detailing where to find the spam filters in your platform, and I’ll add that information to this article.

Moderating comments

It’s essential to set up some sort of moderation on comments that people try to place on your blog. Although blogging platforms’ spam filters are pretty good, they won’t catch everything, particularly those cleverer ones disguised as praise with only one (or no) links that we saw last time.

When you decide to moderate comments, it means that when someone types a comment on your blog, you will receive an email with that comment, which you can then accept, delete or mark as spam. You click a link in the email, decide what you want to do with the comment, and your blogging platform will display it, delete it or note that the person is spamming (I use delete for an accidental spam or the odd duplicated comment).

There are options here, too, the most common being:

  • Moderate every single comment that is made on your blog
  • Moderate just the first comment from a particular commenter (usually defined by their email address) – each subsequent comment by someone whose first comment you’ve approved will be approved automatically

I have chosen the second option, because most spam is automated, so there’s little danger that you’ll accept someone’s comment and then find them spamming you all over the place.

I do have all comments emailed to me anyway, to make sure that I see and can respond to them, but moderating just the first one means I don’t have to click through and accept, delete or mark as spam every time I receive a comment from someone who’s commented previously.

How do I choose which comments to moderate?

In WordPress, comment moderation is in the same place as the spam filtering options: Settings – Discussion. In other platforms, look for Discussion or Comments in the Settings (again, please share where this is on your platform if you don’t use WordPress.

How do I check for comments that aren’t spam?

Occasionally, your blogging platform will get all over-excited and mark something as spam that isn’t spam. Maybe it contains a keyword it doesn’t like, or maybe it’s got more than the number of links you usually allow – but for innocent reasons.

Each blogging platform has a place to view comments which will include your spam queue, spam folder, etc. I just pop there and have a look every so often – you can mark a legitimate comment as not spam and it will show on your article.


This article has given some general information about how best to prevent spam comments from making their way onto your blog.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Do post any questions or comments below; your comments may affect the content of my next article!

Other relevant posts on this blog

How do I deal with spam comments on my blog 1: Why do people spam my blog and why should I stop them?

How do I deal with spam comments on my blog 2: How do I tell if a comment is spam?

Reciprocity and Social Media – how to negotiate social media kindly and politely

How to maintain a good online reputation – my hints and tips

10 reasons to start a blog – why you should do it now!

10 reasons NOT to write a blog – and why you should stop and think, at least!

Top 10 blogging sins – avoid these if you can!

Scheduling blog posts and keeping going – scheduling the posts and the writing of them

How do I keep people engaged with my blog? – comments and reciprocity

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2017 in Blogging, Business

 

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Small business chat update – Dick Margulis

Small business chat update – Dick Margulis

It’s Small Business Update time with  Dick Margulis from Dick Margulis Creative Services – he makes books, in effect, providing a range of services for authors. We first chatted to Dick back in February 2012, and then again in March 2013, March 2014, May 2015 and most recently, June 2016.  This time last year, this was his plan: “Y’know, I’ve been talking about our cohousing project for so long, saying that this would be the year we finally moved in, that I’m thinking I’m going to give the project the code name Jerusalem. As in “next year in Jerusalem.” <sardonic_laugh />” Let’s see what’s going on in his work life at the moment …

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

No. At least not physically. Yet more bureaucratic hurdles have delayed the start of construction on our cohousing project. In a triumph of obstinacy over common sense, though, we persist.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m still doing what I love, helping people realize their vision of a beautiful, well-made book with which to convey their ideas, their stories, their legacies. What is new is that I’ve developed a specialty—still just a small part of my practice—of recreating the look and feel of typesetting from bygone eras. By using modern digital fonts and standard software rather than the far costlier approach of reproducing old techniques with antique equipment in a museum-like environment, I can bring in these special projects within affordable budgets. Plus I have a lot of fun doing it.

You can read all about Dick’s new type project here – with images, so do pop through to have a look!

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

The things I’ve learned since the elevation of Donald Trump are all things I wish I’d never learned. Let’s leave it at that.

I’d say that was completely fair enough! Any more hints and tips for people?

The world did not spring into existence fully formed the day you were born. Your elders may actually know things you don’t know—useful things—and you should allow for that possibility before waving them away.

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

Every day brings a new outrage that I can’t have foreseen, so I’m not about to guess at what lies a year hence.

I love Dick’s new project with the bygone type – I hope you did click through to have a look as it’s fabulous work. I hope things improve regarding housing and politics, and stay just as inventive and creative in his work life!

You can find Dick Margulis here:

Dick Margulis Creative Services
284 West Elm Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06515
+ 1 (203)389-4413 office
+ 1 (203)464-3199 mobile
www.dmargulis.com (site)
www.ampersandvirgule.com (blog)

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 July 8, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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How do I save a Facebook post?

Did you know that you can save a post on Facebook so that you could return to it afterwards without having to search for it? Here’s how to save a post in Facebook (with thanks to Greg Robson for pointing this out and Dave Johnson for a note on the mobile app).

Why would I want to save a post on Facebook?

A good example came up just the other day. Someone had asked for people’s experiences using fuelling when running marathons, and lots of people chimed in. If you were a new marathoner and hadn’t contributed, you wouldn’t get notifications of new posts. But by saving the post, you could return to it to see what information the experienced runners had shared.

I’m sure you can think of lots of reasons why you might want to save a post, from saving photos of someone’s wedding to a link to a dog you’d like to adopt that you want to share with someone else later. Here’s how you do it.

How do I save a post on Facebook?

To save a post on Facebook, click on the down arrow in the top right hand corner of the post:

save facebook post drop down

Note that this arrow (or chevron) will take the form of an ellipsis (…) on your mobile device.

When the dialogue box drops down, you can choose Save post by clicking on it:

facebook save post

Click on Save post and you will see a confirmation:

post saved in facebook

This also gives you a quick route to see your saved items.

How do I stop saving a post on Facebook?

Once you have saved a post, clicking on the down arrow again will give the new option, Unsave post:

unsave facebook post

If you click this, just this post will disappear from your saved posts list.

How do I find my saved Facebook posts?

If you have just saved a post, you can click on See saved items to view all of your saved posts (see above under How do I save a post on Facebook?)

To view your saved items, go to your Home screen (not your own timeline, but Home) and look at the menu on the left-hand side. Below your shortcuts, under Explore, is a new Saved section, with the number of saved posts next to it (this only appears when you have saved at least one post):

facebook home screen saved posts

Click on Saved and you’ll be taken to a list of your saved posts, the most recent first:

saved posts in facebook


This article has shared how to save a Facebook post, as well as how to un-save it and how to view your saved Facebook posts. If you have found this interesting and useful, please do share it using the buttons below, or leave a comment.

Related posts on this blog

All articles about Facebook

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Facebook

 

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Small business chat update – Mel Carpenter

Small business chat update – Mel Carpenter

It’s a big hello to Mel Carpenter again today – Mel never stands still (literally) as she is an exercise and fitness guru who is always updating and pivoting and refining her business models – and good for her, as it’s easy to become complacent and stuck in a rut. You can find her at Cardio Central and The Mummy Trainer and she also runs a printing company with her husband, Fullfit. We first met Mel in February 2013 and then updated in February 2014, March 2015 and May 2016. Last year, she wanted to be here by now: “With a Teacher Training programme that’s up and running and providing me with an income! I’m still planning on opening that studio and I would love for it to be next year as I turn 40!” I guessed things would have changed in the meantime and I was correct: read on to find out more and pick up some good hints and tips!

Hello again, Mel! I hesitate to ask this one …Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Whenever you ask me that question, the answer is always no, lol!

Well – I am now a Personal Trainer, I’m also a Fitness Tutor and I do have my own Fitness Programme and it is launching very soon (I’m very excited)!

I don’t have my studio yet but I am still 40 for another 10 months so it could still happen in that time frame!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I’m still teaching classes, although my timetable is more varied now and I have instructors that teach for me regularly.

I still run the printing company with my husband and I now have my own Clothing Label called ‘Beatz’!

I don’t blog much on The Health Carpenter anymore, that’s due to The Mummy Trainer picking up speed, which I am very happy about!

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

I’ve learned a lot about websites, I now do 95% of my own website updates (my husband is relieved) and I’m concentrating on learning more about analytics (totally not 2016 me!)!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Learn as much as you can! I’m always studying, whether it be a course or books that I’ve bought on a particular subject! Continuous education is key when you are self-employed!

Also, Network, Network, Network!

I’ve started going to local networking meetings and I’ve recently joined an online mastermind group called Atomic (run by a Content Marketing Duo called Andrew and Pete).

My next goal is to be a speaker at these events, here’s hoping I can confirm that next year!

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

Still studying, still working and still striving to be the best that I can be!

Those are good aims, aren’t they! The exercise industry is something that is constantly changing, unlike my world, where a new use of a word form can take years to catch on. But whatever industry we’re in, it’s always wise to keep up to date and keep learning from the people and events around us.

 

www.cardiocentral.co.uk
www.themummytrainer.co.uk

www.Fullfit.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 July 1, 2017 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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