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What I do when I’m not being Liz from Libro

IMG_20160823_174246954_HDRI’ve been away for a few days, running my first marathon, in Iceland (as you do). As I haven’t had time to write up a blog post on language or business for this week, I thought my readers might enjoy my report over on my personal (and usually book reviewing) blog. Do pop over to have a read!

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Celebration

 

Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

Small business chat update – Lyndsey Michaels

Welcome again to Lyndsey Michaels, who works as Lyndsey Michaels Bid Writer. Lyndsey writes tender documentation for small businesses who want to increase their sales, usually in the public sector. It’s something I know from both sides, having written tenders to get business for a library supplier I used to work for and having worked editing tender documents, so I have great admiration for her as it’s a complicated business! We first met Lyndsey in July 2014 and had our first update in August 2015. At that point, this is where Lyndsey wanted to be: “Again, more of the same! Day to day, I certainly see my routine and clients remaining much the same. I’m excited about the training programme so will continue to work on that and refine it until it’s ‘market ready’. At some point though, I will have to take the leap and just get on with it, so I’ve given myself a few internal deadlines to stick to. The launch of that service will also coincide with a refresh of my website, which I’m really looking forward to. Other than that, while I’m committed to keeping my core business focused on bid writing and closely associated services, I’m also hoping that the extra time I can now give to random side projects might result in something marketable. It’s not a key objective but it would be nice to have another basket with a couple of eggs in!” So, let’s see how she’s doing now …

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

Sort of. In terms of the internal workings of my business, I have made the changes I planned to and feel my business is much stronger for it. The type of clients I’m attracting now are very much aligned to my own ideals and my success rate for the tenders I’ve completed this year has rocketed as a result.

In terms of actual cash coming in, that’s been a tricky one this year. A lot of my work involves public sector tenders and I work primarily with small businesses, so while my success rates for the work I’ve done has increased, the overall volume of work coming in has decreased. Not by a huge amount, but just enough to mean that those side projects I talked about last year will have to wait a little longer.

Peaks and troughs in the procurement world are a given and I always take these into account. However, a combination of ongoing budget cuts across the public sector over several years has led to at least one season – which would typically be a peak time – almost flat lining this year.

There’s also been a great deal of political uncertainty in 2016 with Brexit and – as is also the case with general elections and other political events – people tend to hold onto what budget they have until they’re more certain of the political landscape.

The end result is that I’ve seen fewer tenders for certain services, particularly those that appeal to small businesses and so, where I’d aimed for an increase in personal income, it’s really just stayed more or less the same. I also had a couple of non-payers at a particularly lean time so that hasn’t helped.

Alongside all of that, we had some major work done on the house and, while all of the contractors working here were great and the work is excellent, it was incredibly disruptive! I work from home so there was no escape. My office became our kitchen, dining and living room for the duration (four months!) and I also ended up doing a fair amount of day-to-day project managing which cut into my work days quite significantly.

In the spirit of being open with other freelancers and small business owners, I will admit that earlier this year I seriously considered packing it all in. I’ve been working hard at this business specifically for five years now, with another five years before that offering more generalist services and by June this year I was about ready to quit.

In the end I took a break, went somewhere sunny and different and let my mind wander. When I came back I felt reinvigorated and ready to throw myself at it again. I can’t pinpoint any specific ‘aha!’ moment, I think it was just a process of letting my subconscious shuffle a few fears, expectations, priorities and disappointments around until the important things floated to the top and everything became a bit clearer. Funnily, one of the things that helped me figure out whether to quit or not was asking myself how I would respond to your Small Business Chat Update questions this year!

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

My new website is up and running and gives a much clearer idea of what I do and the type of clients I work with. I’m really happy with it, particularly the ‘Ask me anything’ mini message facility which seems to have hit the right note with potential clients.

My attitude has changed significantly since my break, so that’s positive! I’m now even more determined than ever to meet my professional and personal goals.

Day to day, not much has changed. I’m still keeping on top of time management. I’m trying to make sure I eat properly and not resort to the ‘freelancer’s three square meals’ (toast). I’m also trying to make myself take advantage of any slow days by doing something more interesting than refreshing my emails constantly!

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

Sadly, I’ve learned – yet again – not to rely on someone’s word or charm when it comes to payment. Maybe this time that lesson will stick!

I’ve learned not to give up even when it seems like the ‘most appropriate’ thing to do. Taking time out to listen to and address my own fears while – crucially – giving others’ opinions less weight has helped me get through this wobbly patch.

I wish I’d known a year ago just how disruptive the building work on the house would be, I think I was a little over optimistic on that count!

Any more hints and tips for people?

It’s OK to think about quitting.

Small businesses like ours aren’t just a job, they’re a fundamental part of who we are as a person – it’s impossible to separate the two.

If something’s not working, it’s important to hash it out, even if that’s just on your own. Recognising which concerns are genuine and which are just fear and anxiety is a good first step to being able to work out what you want to do next.

In fact, it’s probably useful to think about quitting from time to time even when you don’t actually feel like it! It’s a good litmus test of how happy you are with where you’re at right now and helps you see where you could make improvements.

Also, develop targets for your business that are more specific than ‘make money’. Figuring out the absolute baseline activities you need to be doing to meet your hoped for income not only gives you something concrete to work to but it takes away a lot of those nebulous worries.

I’d been tracking a lot of information on potential and actual clients over the last couple of years but had never really been that sure what to do with it. After a day or two of analysis, my focus now is on getting initial enquiries because my stats tell me that for every x enquiries, I generally send x quotes which then turn into x contracted jobs.

It is definitely better to know how near or far away from my goals I am at any given time. While it can be terrifying, it is also extremely motivational!

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

Have you ever thought about quitting? If so, how did you get to your ultimate decision (whether you carried on or did indeed quit) and do you feel like it was the right thing to do?

Sorry, that’s three questions!

Do you have an answer to anyone else’s bonus question?

I’d like to answer Andrew Donnelly’s question: ‘If you could plan the perfect week at your business what would it be like?’

On Monday I’d start a new project, with an exciting new client. By Wednesday, we’d have developed a good rapport and would both be working hard on their tender but feeling good that we were properly representing the best bits of their business and were putting together something special.

By Friday, we’d have wrapped up what we needed to do for the week and have a clear objective for the next week, so we could both enjoy the weekend without panicking!

In my personal time, I’d spend an hour or so in the park every day, walking my dog. Maybe on Thursday afternoon I’d meet a friend for a coffee and a catch up. Somewhere along the way I’d have planned and shopped for an epic cooking session for Saturday afternoon – that’s really how I get creative when I’m not working.

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

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!

I really appreciate Lyndsey’s honesty here, and this comes in a group of interviews that have all shown responses to bad as well as good times and challenges. I love that people feel they can share this stuff, because this is what REALLY helps other people decide what to do and how to do it, and means we can all see we’re in the same boat sometimes. I’ve certainly had low points, not so much when business has dipped but when it’s become too much to cope with, or I’ve had difficult or demanding customers (which doesn’t happen often, I have to say). I look forward to hearing what the year brings for 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 August 20, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Medalling, podiuming and singular they

Of course this isn't exactly what "medalling" means

Of course this isn’t exactly what “medalling” means

Languages change. If languages didn’t change, we’d be speaking like Chaucer, British and American English would be identical, or we’d still be using words like “chairman”, “crippled”, “omnibus” and all sorts. We also wouldn’t have a way to describe “selfies”, “Brexit” or “omnishambles”.

The verbs formed from nouns, “medalling” and “podiuming” have been heard again recently, as they are every four years in an event whose name is controlled so closely you’re not supposed to go around mentioning it in blog posts. Lots of people have been complaining about these, saying it’s an erosion of the English language, etc., etc.

Now, I’m one for making sure we retain two words with a close but not identical meaning in order to be able to distinguish between different concepts or things. But in this case, it’s not taking away the distinction between two different things, it’s just adding another word to say the same thing. And we form words in all sorts of ways – by blending, shortening, lengthening them and shifting the part of speech they belong to. Once, we weren’t even allowed to start sentences with and or but …

The other wordy thing I wanted to mention briefly was singular they. This is something editors and other wordy people are still arguing – quite bitterly – about. “They” used to be used just as a plural. But, just as we’ve removed words like chairman and dustman from the language to cover the fact that different genders of people do different jobs, over recent years there’s been an acceptance that binary genders – the idea that everyone is either “he” or “she”, has joined up with a common dislike of the clumsiness of using “he” and “she” in alternate chapters or “he/she”, “s/he”, etc. to promote the use of singular “they”, i.e. the use of “they” to refer to one person in the singular. An example would be, “When someone gets to the front of the queue, they should go to the first available window”.

Now, some people rail against this change, but I think that it can be made to work grammatically, it gets rid of clumsiness and it doesn’t exclude people to whom, for whatever reason, it’s not appropriate to refer using binary gender wording. This is standard in my editing, although I’d never make this kind of change without consultation if it appeared more than very sporadically.

I’m not expecting to change anyone’s mind here; I’m just setting out my stall. These are my personal opinions, but these are interesting topics to think about and they’ve been at the front of my mind recently. Thank you for reading!

I generally talk about word stuff in my Troublesome Pairs posts which do distinguish meanings between pairs or triplets of words. Have a look at the index here!

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Be careful, Errors, Ethics, Writing

 

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Small business chat update – Karen White

Small business chat update – Karen White

Small business chat interview two mugsWelcome to another Small Business Update – today I pop back into a business area close to mine, chatting to Karen White, ELT editorial project manager from White Ink Limited. Karen’s a relatively new member of the interview club, first featured in March 2014, and then again in June 2015she’s actually been going a year longer than me, though, and is in what I’d call a mature business position, although, as we’ll see, her business area has been changing recently. When I spoke to her last year, where did Karen want to be by now? “I hope that by this time next year, the third ELT Freelancers’ Awayday will have been a huge success, and that the fourth one is in the pipeline. I hope the industry will have settled down a bit, with plenty of work for everyone who needs/wants it. I hope I’m still remembering to put my desk into the stand position!” Let’s see how she’s getting on … 

Hello again, Karen, and welcome back! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Well, I’m standing up to write this! I did buy an adjustable desk (an IKEA Bekant), and I love it. The second awayday went really well, and my colleague Helen and I have had a meeting this week to plan the third one for January 2017. Otherwise, things are pretty much the same, but …

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

In the last 12 months there have been quite a number of redundancies from ELT (English Language Teaching) publishers, so the pool of freelancers has grown. I’m finding that there is definitely less work about – either because there are more freelancers for it to be spread around, or because there is less publishing being done. I’m not sure which it is. Fortunately, I’m working on a big, interesting new project, which will keep me going for some time, but I’m used to having a couple of small jobs on the go alongside a big one. At the moment the small jobs are few and far between, and I’m aware that others in my industry are experiencing the same thing. I recently carried out a survey of ELT editorial freelance rates, which showed up some interesting results. Hourly rates have barely increased in the three years since I did the last survey, even though the level of experience of the freelancers has increased, and I haven’t put my rates up for a couple of years. All of these factors are worrying, and are issues we’re hoping to discuss at the 2017 awayday.

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

I’ve learned that a sit/stand desk is a good investment. I’ve learned how to use WordPress, and have set up a blog. This is something I had been thinking about for some time, but finally got round to doing it. (Although I wish I’d know the difference between a WordPress.com and WordPress.org before I started!) I’ve also learned how time-consuming blogging is! I’m publishing one post a month at the moment, and can’t see that changing in the near future. I’ve also learned how useful Evernote is for storing blog ideas and links to useful articles.

Any more hints and tips for people? 

I still think networking is the best thing small business owners can do. As well as organising the awaydays for freelances in my field, I’ve joined a local networking group this year, which is full of like-minded people working from home and running small businesses near me. I may not meet my next big client at a meeting, but I’ve picked up lots of tips, heard some inspirational speakers, and joined some really great netwalking sessions. (No, that’s not a typo – we live in a rural area and have stunning walks on our doorstep. Some of our meetings take the form of a morning walk with some business-related chat and it’s a great way to start the day.)

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

How do you go about finding work if you’re having a quiet period?

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

Scary times indeed. Fear of work from one source drying up is what drove me to diversify in terms of the types of customers I have, their locations and the actual work I do – but that’s not for everyone and does mean it’s more difficult to get known as a specialist in a particular field. I’m sure Karen’s resourcefulness and great contacts will help her ride out this tricky time.

You can visit Karen’s new blog and her Facebook page for White Ink Limited. She has a new database for ELT freelancers and runs ELT Teacher 2 Writer with colleagues.

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 August 13, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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How do I add a dot or line above a number in Word to indicate a repeating decimal?

This is something that is used when working with maths texts – a friend who is studying maths asked me about it a while ago. This article will show you how to add a dot or line over a number in a Word document to indicate a repeating decimal.

Type your number first, then go to the Insert tab and look for the Symbol section to the right:

1 insert symbol

Click on the little down arrow below Symbol

 2 insert symbol

Choose More symbols

 3 more symbols

Drop down Subset and find Combining Diacritical Marks

 4 subsets

Scroll down a little and you will find the dot and various lengths of line:

5 combining diacritics

Highlight the symbol you want to use and click Insert to insert the dot:

6 combining diacritics

Note that this will look different according to which font you’re using.

When you want to do this again, you only need to click on the down arrow under Symbol and you will find recently used symbols showing in the first drop-down:

7 combining diacritics

This article has explained how to add a dot or line over a numeral to indicate a repeating decimal.

If you’ve found this article useful, please share, comment or like. Thank you!

Other useful posts on this blog

Inserting non-standard symbols in Word

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Word

 

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Small business chat update – Susannah Davda #smallbusiness

Small business chat update – Susannah Davda #smallbusiness

Welcome to the first update from last year’s newbie, Susannah Davda from The Shoe Consultant. She joined the interview roster in June 2015, and when I asked her where she wanted to be by now, she replied, “I’m excited to see which of my services take off and can be expanded upon, and which need to be altered or moved away from. My aim is to be able to take a salary from the business by this time next year,” which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a good way to be – we all need to be excited about our businesses! Let’s see how she’s doing now …

Hello, Susannah, and welcome back! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Yes and no. I have a better idea about the easy wins in terms of my services. These areas of my business have grown organically, whilst others still need extra promotion. I haven’t begun to pay myself a salary at this point, but my savings have lasted me longer than I thought.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The mission of my business to promote footwear which is both comfortable and beautiful has remained the same. Much has changed. I’ve gained experience in being freelance and dealing with clients, which has boosted my confidence. I’ve written a book, The Shoe Shopping Kit. The biggest change was that I had a baby in January 2016.

Wow, congratulations! What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

Having limited time to work certainly focuses your mind. I’m learning how to juggle parenthood with running a business, and I’ve learnt that even small time-slots can be productive. I wish I’d known how much time I had available pre-baby and done even more to prepare my business for the change.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Organisation is key. Schedule your tasks for each day in your diary.

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

What are your tips for balancing work and family time?

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

I’d like to take on more consultancy clients, grow my other services, and be taking a salary.

Well, that’s certainly a big change – and we of course congratulate Susannah on the new addition to her family. Balancing work and family time is turning out to be a popular bonus question, so hopefully everyone can share experiences! We wish Susannah luck, growth and a salary for next year!

I published a new book called The Shoe Shopping Kit:

You can find The Shoe Consultant online here: www.shoeconsultant.co.uk and on Twitter and email. She’s co-written a book and 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 August 6, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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How do I count the number of times a word appears in my document?

I was asked this question during the week, so here’s how to count how many times a particular word appears in a document (or spreadsheet or anything).

The easiest way to count the number of instances of a word is to use the Find function.

Access Find using Control-F (press the control key and F at the same time).

Type in the word you want to search for.

Word will find and highlight all instances of the word and highlight them for you – and will tell you how many times it appears!

Count instances of a word

Note: this search for transcription will find that word buried in other words, too – so TRANSCRIPTIONs and TRANSCRIPTIONist.

To find just the single word transcription, you need to use Advanced Find.

Click on the down arrow next to the search box and then choose Advanced Find:

2 Count instances of a word

Click the More button (which appears where Less is showing here) and then tick the box marked Find Whole Words Only:

3 Count instances of a word

Now Word will count and highlight just the instances of this exact word.

This article has taught you how to count how many times a particular word appears in your document. You can use this method in Excel and PowerPoint, etc. too.

If you’ve found it useful, please click like and share it. Thank you!

Other useful posts on this blog

How to search for anything using Control-F

How to count the words in your Word document

How to count the words in your PowerPoint presentation

Find and Replace

Advanced Find and Replace

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2016 in Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Writing

 

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