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Small business chat update – Julia Kossowska and Sam Lowe

Small business chat update – Julia Kossowska and Sam Lowe

Hello and welcome to an update with one of my new businesses from last year – although these are people I’ve known for around a decade! Julia and Sam run Magical Maths Club Birmingham, and I first interviewed them in the summer last year – we all agreed that September was a much more sensible time to update everyone on how they’re doing. When I interviewed Julia and Sam last year, when they’d only been going a little while, this is what they hoped for for the coming year: “We should be in more schools and have a bigger bank of staff to draw on. We need people who are looking for some casual work, love working with children, enjoy playing games, including games which include some basic maths, and have at least a “C” grade in GCSE mathematics. Personality is very important. We have been very lucky with the staff we have got so far. They are full of life and so enthusiastic. The children love them and it is not difficult to see why. When you contact us in a year’s time, it will be fun to see how much has changed!” Let’s see how they’re getting on!

Hello, Sam and Julia! Have things gone as expected and have you achieved those goals you set out last year?

When you interviewed us last year we were very new and had just been in a few schools.

We had hoped to be in many more schools and indeed we have been!

We love the enthusiasm with which we are surrounded. The children really do love the assemblies which the schools get for free and we also get some amazing feedback from the clubs

One parent said, “My daughter really enjoyed it. She talked about it all the way home and said she couldn’t wait until next week,” and from one headteacher, “Our children have really enjoyed Magical Maths and I think yours would too! One child asked every day if it was Magical Maths day”.

Schools are amazing places with many innovative teachers, making their classes exciting places to be, and they really get what we are offering. It’s fantastic to get this support from teachers.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Our main way of working has stayed the same. We offer school assemblies for free, and then the children’s parents sign up for our after school clubs.

We now have a bespoke software backend package behind our website to take our orders and although there were some teething problems, especially the week we changed from one system to the other, this is now working well and gives both us and the parents a better experience when booking up online.

We have now also been returning to schools for the second and even a third time, with completely new programmes so we have lots of new equipment and resources which means we have had to rethink our storage arrangements.

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

Sometimes the people who say no to you the first time they hear about you turn out to be one of your best customers.

Also, the work behind the scenes takes longer than you would imagine, so make sure you allow time for it, but also plan in some breaks!!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Reiterating what we said last year – you really do need to love what you are doing!! And it also pays to recruit people who love working for you/in the field in which you are working. We certainly have staff who pull out all the stops to do an excellent job and it makes such a difference.

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

What inexpensive ways are there to treat your staff?

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

Growing steadily and also offering some options for schools to book us in directly.

That’s all very exciting, isn’t it, and well done to Julia and Sam for building their business so well in these first vital couple of years. That’s a great bonus question, too, and one I hope we get some answers to! Best of luck to Magical Maths Club Birmingham and Julia and Sam for the next year!

You can find the main Magical Maths Club Birmingham website here: https://magicalmathsclub.com/birmingham

And you can get in touch here if you fancy working for them. They are, of course, on Facebook and Twitter.

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 24, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Chrissie Metcalfe

Small business chat update – Chrissie Metcalfe

Welcome to another Small Business Update catching up with Chrissie Metcalfe from Chrissie Metcalfe Recruitment. We first met Chrissie in February 2012, and she updated us in April 2013, May 2014 and most recently in June 2015. At that point, she was still working on her own recruitment needs, and trying to get a holiday sorted out, too: “I am currently interviewing for a new member of staff and plans are in place to bring on a fourth member in January/February next year. I didn’t get my car but I do have a beautiful new house, so I would like my convertible this time next year. I have a holiday in Milan planned this year, too …This time next year we will be a four-strong team. Very exciting times!” So, how’s Chrissie doing now? 

Hello again, Chrissie, and it’s lovely to have you back. Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Kind of, LOL. I did go to three members of staff but sadly lost one member as recruitment wasn’t right for her. There are two of us in the business with a new person joining us next month.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We have moved office now so we are now a Leeds-based business rather than being based in Pontefract, which has opened up many new opportunities for us. We have a new arm to the business covering events, staffing venues with bar, waiting and kitchen staff, and it’s going really, really well. Helen and I are still working together and we are a very strong team. I look after myself more and take a bit more time off to relax.

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

I wish I had moved to Leeds a long time ago as it is amazing how conversations have now changed when we say we are a Leeds-based Recruitment agency. Taking more time off rather than no time off should have been happening well before this year, as I am now more focused and much more productive. I am also more involved with my accounts rather than letting an accountant tell me what to pay without knowing exactly why. My new accountant is amazing!!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Yes. Keep an eye on your accounts, I know an accountant has the full knowledge but you shouldn’t rely on them for everything. You need to know the ins and outs. My new accountant is also training me so I can get 100% involved with the facts and figures and know how tax etc works…

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

When you started out in business when did you start to take time off for holidays?

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

In another year’s time the events side of the business will be standalone and I will have a member of staff looking after this full time. I WILL have my convertible. We will still be in Morley and I will be out of the office more bringing business in, as the office will be covered every day.

I find Chrissie’s comment on her accounting interesting – because I started off very small and I’m a sole trader, I did my own accounting and submitted my own self-assessment to the HMRC before I started employing an accountant to do it for me, so I’ve always kept aware of all the ins, outs and tax owed. But I can see how that can be a bit more of a mystery, especially when you’re employing people. And I love Chrissie’s question and would love to know the answer – I know I had some slightly tense holidays accompanied by a laptop in the early days! I do hope Chrissie gets that convertible this coming year …

Chrissie Metcalfe Recruitment’s new Leeds phone number is 0113 887 3786 and they can be found at

Topcliffe Mill,
Topcliffe Lane,
Morley,
Leeds
LS27 0HL

Their website is now at www.cmrecruitment.agency and you can email Chrissie or the general office address.  Chrissie@cmrecruitment.agency/info@cmrecruitment.agency.

 

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

 

You can find Chrissie online at www.chrissiemetcalferecruitment.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

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 17, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Aled Archer (was Al Hunter)

Small business chat update – Aled Archer (was Al Hunter)

Welcome to Small Business Chat Saturday, and today it’s with Aled Archer (formerly Al Hunter) from Mobile Remaps, who has been part of the series since  January 2012 and then updated in 2013, April 2014. and April 2015, when he told me where he wanted to be by now:  “We’re happy with the direction Mobile Remaps is heading at this point in time. If double-digit % month on month growth continues then for now that is what we’ll aim to continue achieving. But to do that we’ll need to refine our advertising, which is something we’re always looking at. And, we’ll need to partner up with more garages we can trust and refer business to (and vice versa).” Let’s see how he’s getting on now …

Hello again, Aled. Sounds like it might have been an interesting year! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

No! Life has gone completely full circle. Following a bitter divorce, I met someone new, moved property 3 times, got married, become a 1st time father and went to Australia to visit family; life has been one HUGE adventure! Despite all of this, business has still grown month on month by approximately 10%. With my new family life, I’m no longer looking to grow the business to franchise it off but to keep it just for the family. There is also the opportunity to return to my Mother Country, which could mean I wind the business down and relocate it in Australia. So this is an option I’m exploring right now.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

As you’ll gleam from above, very little in my life has stayed the same!

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

Support from family is crucial. The difference in my current life vs previous life is that my new family 100% encourage me to go out there and find the business. In my old life there was support for when things were going well but when times were touch it was a case of ‘when are you going to pack it in?’ That’s not support! Now if I have a concern, I can sit down with family, bounce around a few ideas and listen to their thoughts and encouragement on what direction I should take. So it’s really like having a team!

Because of the new-found support, we’re doing more trade business than ever before, we’ve won yet another award for customer service and I’m finding I no longer have time to contact all customers (which I don’t like!) within my own set time scale of 24hrs from their initial email contact. I’m also finding that because of our growing reputation, customers are contacting us and willing to pay our prices rather than trying to knock us down on price. This has led to a small decrease in advertising costs which again helps a small business to grow profit.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Get fixed costs from professional suppliers such as accountants. A few years ago I received a fixed cost quote from an accountant to do our books. Because I didn’t re-fix that cost last year the accountant doubled their fee from £900 to £1800 including VAT. That’s a huge increase! So always look to review your fixed costs on an annual basis from professional suppliers, don’t assume they’ll be the same year on year.

Because of the above, we’re now using cloud accounting software along with a new accountant that will reduce our accounting costs back down to £900pa. Cloud accounting is a revelation for us in that it cuts down the amount of office paperwork as it’s all cloud based. It makes keeping records so much easier for us that I’m recommending it to all our customers. There are several providers out there and we tried free trial period of a few of them but for us we felt Clearbooks was most appropriate. Other options small business owners might like to look at include Xero and Kashflow to name just a couple.

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

What medium of advertising to you find most useful in obtaining new customers and why? Personally we find Google Adwords most useful but I’ve heard that Facebooks is a massively growing market for successful advertising too… so I’m interested to learn more about advertising mediums and how effective they are for small businesses.

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

Honestly… who knows?! My life is such a whirlwind right now that as mentioned above, our family decides to relocate to Australia. So right now, I guess, to keep all options open for continual month-on-month growth in the UK with the potential to wind it down here and relocate it to another country is what’s most important… only time will tell which way it goes. But one thing is certain… if business keeps growing over the next 12 months as it has done for the last 12 months then I’ll be as financially happy as I am in my personal life right now.

Well, that has actually been a rollercoaster of a year (and a bit), hasn’t it! Well done to Aled for getting through all that, and I wonder where he’s going to be next time we speak! I’d love it if people could answer his bonus question – probably because of the repeat nature of my work, I’m in the lucky position of not needing to advertise, so this is a topic I’m not qualified to talk about. And best of luck to Aled and his family for the upcoming year and years!

Mobile Remaps, Unit 12, 23 King Street, Cambridge, CB1 1AH

W: www.mobileremaps.co.uk

T: 0800 051 5415

T: 01223 855 491

M: 07908 429 996

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Pat Wilkes

Small business chat update – Pat Wilkes

It’s Small Business Chat update time again: today we’re catching up with long-term interviewee Pat Wilkes from gift company Starlight Keepsakes and Gifts, (formerly Starlight Gifts by Pat) who we first met back in June 2013, then in August 2014 and August 2015. This time last year, this was Pat’s plan:  “I hope to be another year closer to retiring and being able to use my small business as an income, and I hope to be still supplying shops and doing a few events, as I do enjoy meeting my customers. I hope the business continues to grow and that I keep on learning and it all stays in the black”. Sounds like a good plan to me: let’s see how she got on!

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

I think I am happier with where I am now even more so through circumstances, I have changed my job role completely in my day job, and now work just two days which I am loving. This means I have more time to concentrate on what makes me happy which is creating and making. So I may not have to retire as early but continue with a better life balance between needing an income and ploughing time into my small business and having time to enjoy doing other things.

That all sounds very positive! What has changed and what has stayed the same?

The biggest change is of course more time to spend on the business and I am still coming to terms with limiting myself with working at home its a great temptation to work 12 hour days when I am enjoying what I am doing. So I need to work on this over the next few months as I am still quite new to all this. I have taken part in two exhibitions, which I had never thought about doing before, and also had a piece of my work used to advertise a BBC 4 programme on crafts: this was amazing and has given me the confidence to look at doing this sort of thing again. I will also now have a go at things I had never thought of making before. Some work and some don’t, but I give it a go.

What has stayed the same? I still stock a few shops and have spread my wings as far as Wales now, which is lovely, and had one stockist close to another open up, and each shop is slightly different so it gives me chance to make a variety of gifts and keepsakes and not become stale with my designs. I am doing fewer shows and fairs but choose carefully where I go now.

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

I continue to learn all the time and have learnt that it can be a cut-throat business in some respects. Not everyone will think like you, so do your research and look into things before you jump into anything.

I have learned that you need to spend just as many hours promoting and getting your work seen as you do making, including getting on social media and building a following. That will help spread the word and you can also make some wonderful new friends who have similar interests.

I think the only thing that many of us would like to have known was that we would have to work even harder to make sales with the economy, as it is making a living for the small business has become much harder as customers do not always have the cash to spend and will be more selective. Your products need to stand out and be good quality, so making people aware that what you produce is quality and bespoke and cannot be found on the High Street is a must.

Any more hints and tips for people?

Just be prepared to put in the hours and realise it can take years not months to get a business going. Some will grow fast, but slow and sure is the way to go – you stand more chance of being around longer. Make sure what you produce is good quality, and don’t copy others’ work: it’s never a good idea.

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

I would love to know tips on building a following and getting more sales how do they promote their business. Do they find websites work? Or is Social Media the way to go ??

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

I really hope in a similar position as I am now good work life balance and the business holding its own, still stocking shops and doing the odd event. Of course it would be wonderful to have more sales, as most small businesses must be thinking. Look forward to speaking to you next year.

And I’m looking forward to speaking to Pat again next year, too. I love the hints and tips, very good, solid ones for the makers out there. It’s interesting to see what people are doing as the economy doesn’t do so well: I think making people aware of the quality of your work is a must. I personally use my website and blog to promote my business, and also word of mouth: in the early days, I did actually ask people to recommend me to others, although it can be hard to do that, I know!

You can visit Pat’s website at www.starlightgiftsbypat.co.uk and view her products, or visit her Instagram and Facebook page. Click to email Pat, too!

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 3, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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Small business chat update – Alison Thompson

Small business chat update – Alison Thompson

Welcome to another Small Business Chat update with Alison Thompson from The Proof Fairy, who started off, like me, as a proofreader and editor, but then added authorship, coaching and event organisation into the mix. We first met Alison in this series in July 2012, and  she updated us in July 2013, August 2014 and August 2015, when her plans for the year were these: “Who knows! I’m hoping the ADHD business will provide a regular, almost passive source of income, leaving me free to pick the most exciting projects to work on with my Proof Fairy hat on. I’ll have had an updated version of The Boy From Hell published and I’d like to have another couple of books under my belt too – a parents’ guide to ADHD and an erotic novel!” So, has she written that erotic novel?

Hello again, Alison! Are you where you thought you’d be a year ago? What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Everything and nothing! This time last year we’d moved house and it caused a lot of upheaval for the business. This year we moved house yet again, after a pretty horrendous experience with a dodgy landlord. The whole experience has been very unsettling and it’s had a huge effect on me personally, as well as the business. Couple that with losing several long-term, established clients because they just got too successful and no longer needed my services/were too busy to provide work/took on in-house staff to do what I’d been doing – and you can imagine the result! For a long time, I pretended everything was okay, stuck my head in the sand and slogged on, but last month I finally bit the bullet and took on a part time job to supplement the income. It means I don’t have to worry about paying the bills for a while, but still have time to work with my existing clients and hopefully pick up a few new ones. And strangely, since I started the job I’ve had three really good enquiries that could lead to interesting long-term projects, so the end is definitely not nigh for the Proof Fairy!

The ADHD side has also been interesting. In October I launched an online parenting course (www.adhdkidsonline.com) which has had great feedback but isn’t selling as well as I hoped – probably as much through my own poor marketing as much as anything. And my book was “properly” published earlier this year but apart from a couple of blogger reviews, it’s not really had the increased profile I was hoping for. But there’s room for improvement in both areas I think – it’s just a case of having the time and money to take action.

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

I wish I’d known a year ago that the house we were moving to was going to be a total nightmare! It’s caused (and is still causing) no end of problems that have affected every area of life, and I really could have done without the hassle! But these things are sent to try us … we’ve learned a few lessons from the experience, and now we are in a nice house with a good landlord, hopefully things will settle back down.

I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned is to be more proactive when times are tough. Because of the problem with our house and various other personal issues, I lost focus on the business, and it took me a long time to realise what a devastating effect that had had. Fortunately, I came out of ostrich mode just in time to take action and pull things around, and the change in mindset has opened up a few interesting-looking doors! I know a lot of people in business think you should “play it big” and always give the impression that you are successful, but when you find yourself believing that when the opposite is true, it can only end in disaster!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Sometimes, being honest is the best way to go. I’ve been upfront about my situation with a few people and that has led to new opportunities that might not have come about had they believed the impression I was giving out – that I was frantically busy!

Diversify – but not too much. I think part of the problem I’ve had was that I got so excited about the ADHD business that I lost focus on The Proof Fairy, which was, after all, my “bread and butter” job. If you’re starting a new enterprise, make sure you still allocate enough time, energy and enthusiasm to whatever it is that’s paying the bills, until the new project is successful enough to take over.

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

How do you maintain focus on your business when issues in your personal life are draining all your energy?

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

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!

Wow – what a year. I think it is hard to concentrate on two very different things, and an editor friend of mine says, very wisely, that you should be marketing yourself while you’re busy as well as when you’re quiet, to close those gaps and fill in the lulls. The impression you give is very important, too – I found that having been posting on social media that I was working early, in the middle of the day and sometimes late, I gave the impression I was ALWAYS working, and driving myself into the ground, whereas actually I’m pretty sensible and take long lunch breaks for gymming or running etc. Anyway, we wish Alison all the best for a quieter but more work-filled year – and best of luck with that novel, of course!

Contact Alison by email or at www.theprooffairy.com – or call her on 01367 888229 Mob: 07927 330293.

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 27, 2016 in Business, Small Business Chat

 

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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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Small business chat update – Karen White

Small business chat update – Karen White

Welcome 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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