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How to Make the Switch to Fiction Editing (by Sophie Playle)

How to Make the Switch to Fiction Editing (by Sophie Playle)

I’d like to welcome Sophie Playle from Liminal Pages to my blog today: Sophie is a fiction editor and also trains other editors to do what she does. I tend towards working on non-fiction, marketing, informational and academic texts myself, but if you’re interested in moving into fiction editing, Sophie outlines here the ways to start going about this. I hope you enjoy reading this excellent article; do post a comment or share the article if you’ve found it useful. Over to Sophie …


So you’re a freelance editor. You’ve done the training, built up your business, maybe even tucked a few years’ experience (or more) under your belt. By day, you edit textbooks. Or technical papers. Dissertations. Journal articles. But by night … you lose yourself in the latest Man Booker Prize winner, or perhaps a heady romance or a brain-tingling sci-fi.

And you wistfully think to yourself: I wish I could spend my days editing books like this. Editing novels. But you don’t have the right skills, you tell yourself. And besides, you’ve already built your business, and fiction editing doesn’t really come into it. (Other than the occasional proofread that comes your way.)

If you harbour the desire to become a specialist fiction editor but are worried about changing your business model, I’m going to tell you step-by-step how you can make the switch. Really – it is possible! What you need most is a shift in focus and a plan.

Step 1: Change your mindset

We build our identities around a number of factors. One of the more dominant is what we do for a living. It’s often the first question we’re asked when we meet new people. ‘So, what do you do?’ Changing our profession feels like changing a core part of our existence. Scary stuff, no?

But you’re more than your job; your job doesn’t define who you are. We grow and change throughout our lives. Just because you’ve set yourself down a certain path doesn’t mean you have to stick to that path forever. ‘I’m a biomedical-sciences editor’ can become ‘I’m a fiction editor’ if you want it to.

If you’re not entirely happy with the business you’ve built, you can change it. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed at building the right business for you. It simply means the time has come for a change. Your business has served you well to this point, but you’re ready to steer it in a new direction.

Big change can be scary. But if you’re feeling stuck in a rut and wish your professional life were different, it’s scarier to think you’ll be in the exact same position feeling the exact same way ten years down the line.

Step 2: Build your confidence

Editing fiction can be quite different from editing other kinds of text. You need to pay extra-close attention to the author’s style. Different characters will have different voices, too – you can’t make them all consistent. Then you might have to consider whether the author has deliberately deviated from convention for effect. (Did the author mean to use the passive voice continuously throughout this passage?)

But don’t panic. I want you to remember two things.

  1. You’re already skilled. Proofreading and copy-editing focus on the technical side of writing rather than the artistic side of writing. A misplaced modifier is still a misplaced modifier whether your editing a thriller or a journal article. And a homophone is still a homophone. You already possess the skills to spot and correct these mistakes. And if you’re proofreading or copy-editing a novel, that’s still exactly the kind of thing that’s required.
  1. If you’re an avid reader of fiction, you’re already an informal expert. Reading fiction might seem like just a hobby, but I bet you’ve subconsciously absorbed a whole lot of information about what makes for good writing in fiction. If you know your stuff as a reader, you can apply this knowledge to editing novels.

For more tips in this area, read my guest post on Louise Harnby’s blog: How to edit fiction with confidence.

Step 3: Increase your knowledge

A lack of confidence almost always comes down to a lack of knowledge. I hope the above points will make you realise that you know more than you think, but there’s even more you can do.

  • Learn about all the different types of fiction editing. The path to publication for novelists is not quite the same as it is for other types of writers, and editors can come into the fold at different points along the way. You might already possess the skills to provide proofreading and copy-editing at this point, but perhaps line or development editing interests you, too – in which case, you’ll likely need to bolster your knowledge.
  • Learn how to adapt your editing style. I’ve already touched on this point, but generally being open to rule-bending to allow for style while still applying a degree of consistency is key. This is where your informal knowledge comes most into play, and where you’ll need to both exercise your judgement and hone your querying skills!
  • Study the craft of writing. There are many excellent books out there on how to write fiction. If you want to develop your copy-editing skills, focus on books that talk about style, self-editing and point of view. (Try The Art of Fiction by David Lodge, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne and The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley.) If you want to develop your line or developmental editing skills, read books on bigger topics like plot, story and characterisation. (Try Monkeys with Typewriters by Scarlett Thomas, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated by Roz Morris.) You could also take a fiction writing class and learn by doing!
  • Read novels analytically. As an editor, you might find you do this already. (I know I always have ­­– I can’t seem not to!) Read slowly, carefully and thoughtfully. Take notes in the margins and underline passages, if you like. Keep a reading log and write out your thoughts. You’ll learn so much about fiction editing by simply reading with awareness. Grab a copy of Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose for more advice on how to do this.

Step 4: Re-do your website

Now that you’ve built your confidence and knowledge, it’s time to take the leap. If you want to edit solely fiction, I strongly advise that you market yourself as a specialist fiction editor. Not as a generalist who also happens to edit fiction. But as someone who just edits fiction.

Why? Imagine for a moment that you’re an author who wants to self-publish. You have a crime novel that’s ready for copy-editing and you’re looking for someone to take on the job. Who do you choose? An editor who works on business flyers, cook books, journal articles and the occasional novel? Or the editor who focuses solely on novels? It makes sense to choose the editor who has their head firmly in the novel-editing game.

It makes sense to make fiction editing your niche.

The most important thing you can do now is totally re-do your website. Your website is one of your key marketing tools, and you want it to attract and engage the right clients – people looking for a fiction editor. This may seem like a big task, but it’s essential if you want to make the switch to fiction editing.

Step 5: Build your client base

It would be short-sighted to immediately sack all your current clients and expect a boatload of fiction clients to land straight in your lap. I know you don’t think that. In fact, it’s probably one of the things stopping you from making the switch.

Instead, keep working with your current clients – even though you’ve now totally changed your website. (They probably won’t notice anyway.) As the fiction editing enquiries start trickling in, start dropping your existing clients. You can always keep the ones that bring you the most benefits if you really want, but eventually you’ll be able to transition to full-time fiction editing, at your own pace.

Of course you’ll also need to start marketing yourself as a fiction editor. Most people won’t land on your website by chance, so you need to start point prospective clients towards it – through directory entries, online and in-person networking, advertising, content creation and so on.

And there you have it!

Switching your business model to specialise in fiction is perfectly doable but requires a little courage and some careful preparation.

If you’d like to know more about setting up a fiction editing business – and would also like some guidance and feedback as you make the transition ­– my online course, Start Fiction Editing, goes into much more detail and is open for registration until Wednesday 1st February.

 Come and join us – and make the switch! Visit www.startfictionediting.com to learn more.

Sophie Playle runs Liminal Pages (liminalpages.com), where she offers editing to authors and training to editors of fiction. She’s a Professional Member of the SfEP and often packs her laptop into a rucksack to run her business while traipsing around Europe.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Copyediting, Guest posts, New skills, Reading, Skillset

 

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How Video Can Help Your Blog or Website

Today we have a guest blog post from Markus Wilson of Phink Video Productions, who talks about the added value that video can bring to your blog or website. A lot of people do have video content on their blogs now, and it’s something I’ve been considering doing myself for a while – maybe this will be the impetus that I need to look at it in a bit more detail …

This article is about how you can use video content to help your website or blog as part of a digital marketing strategy. No matter how big or small your websites audience maybe, video is a powerful tool to up your profile and reach a wider fanbase.

It’s a fact that our brains respond more effectively to communication that combines visual and audio stimuli. Therefore improving the retention of information we are trying to divulge. While it’s interesting to know that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine online. It has been found that 60% of online users prefer video than text, and having video content on your website or blog increases the likelihood of first page Google ranking by 53%. Not only that, but people that reach your site are likely to spend at least two minutes longer browsing a site with video on it.

As we know today more and more people are using online video to learn about products, services, and tutorials. What’s great about online videos is that so many people are creating and watching them nowadays. Whether they are evaluating products, showing us how Coca-Cola can clean the rust off your car or just checking out the best supplier for a job. Video really is a great way to engage your audience. Another great feature about online video is that it can help you stand out in the search results! As long as your video listed is marked up with the appropriate title, tags and descriptions Google will always value video content over written.

One of the best ways to utilise online video for your website or blog is to create an explainer video. Explainer videos are great if you have something very complicated to get across, as you always have to fight for every second of your web users attention.

Another great use of video for businesses or service providers is to incorporate Testimonials from your former or current clients. Testimonials direct from the horse’s mouth and not just a quotation at the bottom of a webpage are a great way to gain that much needed social proof about you and your service.

A third good use of video for your website or blog is to create a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ piece. This can be yourself presenting to camera or just something simple involving text and music. If you always come up against the same questions from your potential customers, by you anticipating the question, its an efficient and easy way for them to be reassured that your are the right person for the job!

Online video use continues to grow with 81% of marketers using video in their digital marketing activity and 76% planning to increase online video spend. At the current rate 69% of all internet traffic will be purely video by 2017.

So what will your story be?

Markus Wilson is Co-Founder of London-based video production company Phink TV. Markus has been in marketing for the past 8 years, first with data processing company Pumasource and starting up Phink TV in 2009. Since then he has produced video content for the likes of Coca-Cola, Unilever and Sony Music.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Skillset

 

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Spring cleaning your budget for the new financial year

spring clean your financesToday we have a guest post by Chinny Ogbuagu from Pitney Bowes, who’s going to share with us her tips for spring-cleaning your budget as you submit your tax return and move through the new financial year. It’s always good to get other people’s views on these matters, and it’s timely for me as I sort out my bank statements and records and get them all sent off to my accountant. You don’t leave it until January, do you? Read on for plenty of handy tips and hints … 

Many of us think of spring cleaning as dusting away those cobwebs, sorting out your clothes and tidying up your house. Many business owners don’t often think about the new financial year: here are some top tips on how you can start planning by streamlining your budget for the coming year.

Review Your Budget

Have you ever heard of the saying “in with the new and out with the old”? You may want to spend a day going over your expenditure during the past few months and work out if there is anything you aren’t putting enough money aside for or maybe areas where you are spending too much. Look at areas in which your company can save costs such as business phones or internet providers, and maybe even costs of office rent and stationery. It’s always a good idea to review this on a monthly basis, as it can save you time and money in the long run.

Sort out your paperwork

This is the perfect opportunity to look thorough all of your paperwork and files and shred any documents you no longer need, especially if they contain any personal information such as names, bank details, addresses or phone numbers. You might need to invest in an industrial shredder for this and there are a number of affordable options for you to choose from at a number of office suppliers such as Pitney Bowes. Do take advice from your accountant on what you are allowed to shred and what you must keep for a statutory number of years.

Create Your Own Financial Calendar

Create an online financial calendar. This will help you to set reminders throughout the year to do things such as review policies and outlines tasks you should complete every month. You can even set this up in Gmail and set reminders to your mobile phone, or alternatively invest in an online financial calendar so you don’t forget when something important needs to be paid for or relooked at.

Go Paperless

You know that you have made progress when you clean out your sock drawer and you can finally close it after years or months of storing items you no longer wear.
According to the HMRC, you are advised to hang onto tax records for a particular accounting period for normally six years from the end of that period. For example, if the accounting period ends on 31 December 2012, the records have to be kept until 31 December 2018.

It might be easiest to keep the hard copies of those. But things such as bank and credit card statements, as well as pay stubs, can be scanned and stored in a cloud-based filing provider, such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

An article on Learnvest claims that you should keep your documents for the following before shredding (again, do check with your accountant and note that this can be different for different regions of the world):
Destroy in a few days:
• ATM receipts, once you record the transaction
• Bank deposit slips, once the funds appear in your account

Destroy after 1 month:
• Receipts for things you bought on a credit card, once you get your statement, unless you need it for a return or a warranty
• Credit card statement, unless it has a tax-related expense on it

It’s important for businesses to keep on top of this so that you don’t spend more than you have to:: just like you would with your shopping or household expenses, look at the best value for money. This will help to you keep up with today’s rising costs.

This article was written by Chinny Ogbuagu who works for Pitney Bowes helping small businesses to save time and money with their range of equipment and services. She’s also an avid social media user, following and commenting on industry trends.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Organisation

 

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Developing your Business: Expanding into Regional Offices

Sneak preview of the image from my new bookWelcome to another expert post in my series on growing your business. Today we’re going to take a look at why it makes sense to have a physical presence around the country (or beyond), written for us by Juliet Martin, representing Regus. Linked to this post, you can read about small business owners’ own experience moving out of the home office here, and Sam Barnes’ post about what to consider when planning to move outside the home here. Juliet’s going to share with us the value of renting offices in different places.

Advantages of Renting Corporate Settings around the Country

Today’s ever-growing business world is taking with it the ability for any one enterprise to be localised in a particular place. This means you should at least consider setting up new branches or virtual offices in multiple locations across the nation. Even though you will have to then manage a number of settings, you will gain plenty of benefits in the long run. Adapting to these modern, global times will provide you with the following five corporate advantages.

A commercial building

It pays to have more than one branch for your business Image

1. Access to Local Resources

If you produce any kind of goods, you may find that the various materials and components required are sourced from multiple areas around the country. For example, you may find the following are located in different regions:

• Mines
• Factories
• Ports
• Plantations
• Refineries

By opening up small branches near each of these facilities, you will then give your company greater access to a range of materials and services directly from the source. This means you won’t have to rely on a third party to bring these essentials to you.

2. Lowering Your Monthly Rent

Believe it or not, it may actually be more cost-effective to run a number of bare-bones offices around the country than a fully functional corporate setting in a single location. After you have negotiated to reduce the rent of your many branches, you can then look forward to even more savings thanks to the smaller and more compact premises that your company is now working from. If you can simplify how your work settings are planned out, eliminating excess features and only renting what is necessary, you can streamline your outgoing cash flow and still benefit from a number of corporate environments located around the country.

3. Honing Your Corporate Marketing

One difficulty that any localised business has is that its target audience is fairly limited, being restricted to a single geographical area. You can get around this by working from several different locations across the country. In general, people will wish to work with a business that has a presence in their neighbourhood because:

• It provides a local face to the company
• Contacting the enterprise is much easier
• Delivery times won’t be needlessly long
• Employees will be much more relatable

By branching out across the nation, you can tap into a wider consumer base than ever before, enabling you to find additional customers and boosting your sales to help cover the rental costs of your various corporate locations.

4. Added Convenience for Clients

Another advantage to the consumer is that it is far easier for them to come and visit your workplace if you are found scattered across the country. To cater to all your client’s needs, rent some office space at business centres around the nation. This will give them additional convenience as they can deal with your company in a number of ways thanks to your now local business setting. For example, they should be able to:

• Visit your office without driving for hours
• Post parcels and letters to you cheaply
• Phone without expensive long distance rates

There are times when your clients want some personal attention. In these cases, email won’t suffice. Video conferencing can be difficult to set up properly too. A better solution is just to have a local branch available so they can arrange for an appointment with you or a company representative without having to go through a lot of hassle to get there.

5. Broadening the Talent Pool

Lastly, by making the effort to rent corporate premises around the country, you will then have access to a greater range of skilled workers for your business. The truth is that having the right resources is crucial to helping you identify new talent. In this case, the resources in question are your local offices which can then tap into the growing number of potential candidates found in those local regions. People may not want to relocate to another city to work with your company so having multiple branches will give them a reason to sign on with you even though your main office is found halfway across the nation! In this way, you can increase the sheer talent within your organisation and grow your products and services accordingly.

As a brief recap, we can see that renting workplaces across the country can indeed provide many benefits to any enterprise. These advantages include the following:

1. Ease of access to national resources
2. More cost-effective rental payments
3. Effective locally targeted advertising
4. Increased consumer convenience
5. Wider talent pool for new employees

We would recommend that you get out there and expand your business operations as soon as possible to reap all of the above rewards. By occupying some of the best corporate spaces around the country, your company can grow and your customers will get even better service as a result! To make the process easier, get in touch with a provider such as Regus for assistance on renting suitable spaces at cities or regions you have interests in.

Author Bio: Juliet Martin is from Regus, a global office space solutions provider. Founded in 1989, Regus is a global organisation that aims to provide only the best office spaces and meeting venues to all kinds of businesses.

This post is part of my series on growing your business. Read more here and read about my own business journey in my books.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Organisation

 

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Developing your Business: Moving Into Office Space – How, When and Why?

Sneak preview of the image from my new bookAs part of my series on growing your business., we’re taking a look today at the expert’s view on moving into office space. You can read about other people’s personal experience of moving out of the home office here, and today I’m delighted to welcome Sam Barnes from Easy Offices, who is going to run through things to think about when upgrading from your home office from an expert’s perspective.

Many people choose to start their businesses from home. It’s cheap, convenient and comfortable. For some businesses, that’s all that’s required and they never feel the need to break out of the home office. For the majority of businesses though, office space becomes an essential as revenues grow. We’ve helped all manner of businesses find office space, from single person start-ups to massive corporations. However, there’s no doubt that with the advice you’re about to read, the process of selecting and moving into your brand new office, will be made substantially easier.

Why does my business need office space?

Your office space is the centre of your business.

Without offices, you’re running the risk of not being taken seriously by other businesses or consumers. Imagine if the next time you wanted to go the bank you ended up at a home, not an office. Commercial premises are a necessity of business.

The practical side of getting your own office space is extremely important too. You’ll have your own phone systems, postal address and meeting space. All of these things will be vital as you grow your business, providing the infrastructure that will drive you forward.

When should my small business move into offices?

This is a slightly more difficult question to answer. There are lots of reasons that you might need to look into choosing office space:

•    You’re outgrowing your existing office space.
•    You’re taking on more staff.
•    You need a meeting room for clients.
•    There are too many distractions at home.
•    You’re unsatisfied with your current office space.
•    You need better facilities, i.e. better internet, private rooms, reception area etc.

There could be hundreds more reasons on this list, but the vast majority of office moves are instigated by a lack of physical space, specifically when taking on more staff.

If you find yourself thinking, on more than one occasion a day, that a bigger office would make your work more effective or allow your business to grow more easily, then I would say it’s time to take the plunge!

As your revenue grows, you’ll find that justifying the cost of an office becomes easier and easier. Having the cash to be able to fund an office move is an absolute necessity.

How do I go about choosing office space?

There are three main kinds of office space available to small businesses in the current market:

1.    Co-Working Office Space

Co-working spaces can be a great fit for some businesses. They’re the cheapest of the three main options available. Essentially you’ll rent a couple of desks in a room or part of a larger office. This gives you the ability to separate your work and home lives while keeping costs low while your businesses is in the early stage of development.

You’ll never know who you might be sharing with and you can make some amazing new businesses contacts while sharing office space. We’ve heard lots of fantastic success stories about relationships formed in shared environments. Equally you’ll want to know before you choose a certain office, what kinds of businesses you’ll be working alongside. If you need a really quiet environment, make sure those around you feel the same.

You’ll also have access to shared mail, printing and catering facilities.

If you’ve only got a couple of staff and you work as one well-oiled machine, a co-working space would be ideal.

2.    Serviced Office Space

Serviced office space is more expensive than co-working office space, but not quite as expensive as a full-blown office lease.

It’s the perfect choice for companies with a few staff who need room to grow. You’ll have a dedicated space for your business (no co-working here). You’ll have all the kitchen, printing and mail facilities that I mentioned before, plus some added features. These normally include security, some kind of reception area, cleaning services and usually the ability to rent extra infrastructure such as improved internet connections.

You’ll get to put your own stamp on things too! The simple branding of your office through posters, mugs and pens can turn the feeling in your office from start-up to established business.

A fantastic choice for businesses growing quickly who know they’re going to need space to meet clients and further expand their operations.

3.    Office Lease

The only option for larger businesses, an office lease lets you rent an entire office. This is necessary when your business has outgrown your existing solutions or needs to centralise.
As this post relates to small businesses, I won’t go into too much detail here. What I will say is that you’ll need to be making substantial revenues before choosing a fully leased office. The costs involved are substantially higher than serviced or shared offices.

Some Top Tips for Choosing Office Space

Here are a few questions that you’ll need to ask yourself before making your choice to move offices:

•    Price – Can you afford it?
•    Space – Does the office you’re looking at give you enough room for meeting clients and working as a team?
•    Infrastructure – Do you need a dedicated phone line and Internet? Does the office you’re interested in office this as a service or do you have to organise it yourself?
•    Facilities – Can you and your staff park here if they drive? Are the kitchens clean?

They might sound like simple, fairly obvious questions, but if you fail to take one of these things into account you’ll be paying for it for months to come.

The best advice I can give you when attempting to choose an office space, is do your research.

Start out with a list of criteria that you need from your office. If any one of the office spaces you go to look at doesn’t meet even one of them, keep looking. There’s a space out there for everyone!

sam barnesSam Barnes is from Easy Offices.

The company works tirelessly to help businesses of all shapes and sizes find the perfect office space for their needs. He is interested in everything small business related with a particular interest in marketing. He works in the digital marketing sphere.

Outside work, he’s an avid football fan, with Arsenal being his lifelong obsession. He also has a passion for music and film. He’s currently rattling through the IMDB top 100 as a personal challenge.

You can also find Easy Offices on Twitter.

This post is part of my series on growing your business. Read more here and read about my own business journey in my books.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Organisation

 

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Growing your business – moving into premises (case studies)

Sneak preview of the image from my new bookWhen you start to grow your business, it can become obvious that you need to move out of the dining room or even home office and into your own premises. I was lucky enough to be able to dedicate a room in our house to Libro, and I work quite happily up here and don’t intend to move out. But if you don’t have space to put aside a dedicated and undisturbed area of your home (or you don’t want to work from home), you are making something that you want to be able to leave out overnight, or you are planning on seeing clients, it can become a matter of necessity.

Here we meet three people who have expanded into their own new premises, and learn how and why they did it, and what happened next …

Jennifer Woracker of Twinkleballs, who makes cake toppers and is one of my Small Business Chat interviewees, has just moved into a workshop in the garden. She and her family recently moved in with her parents in Wales, and her mum helped her to convert the summer house, paying for the initial work, which cost around £1000. Jennifer is now paying her mum back in monthly instalments.

By doing this, Jennifer has none of the disadvantages of paying business rates and rent on a premises, and all  of the advantages of having her own studio to work from, which has made the world of difference to both her business and her home life.

Before getting her own space, she had to work from the kitchen in my home, which meant that she couldn’t start work until the family were fed and all the cleaning up done, she could only work at night and had to clear everything away before she could go to bed, “often at 2am!”. She also had to kick out all the pets and make sure the area was spotless before work could commence. What about now?

My purpose-built studio has everything I need to store my tools and materials and I can leave my work out to come back to as and when I want, this means I can pop in and work for an hour or so during the day when the children are other wise occupied. When the children go to bed I escape to my little shed in the garden and get down to doing the work I love, I use a baby monitor so I can be sure the children are safe and sound while I am working.  My studio is a lovely fresh, clean and pet free environment that is a pleasure to work in, it has a sink with a water heater, a huge work top and loads of cupboards. I also have a kettle for the all important tea brakes and my laptop with Spotify playing my favourite tunes. It is great to have a place of my own to explore and develop my creativity!

John Ellery of Ellery Consulting, a firm that specialises in grant making and fundraising, has taken one private and one government-initiated path to having premises. Why did he take this route? After trying for a short period to work from home, with a young family and many distractions, he realised that working from home wasn’t ideal for him. As he was a relatively new business with the associated cash-flow concerns, he wasn’t keen on paying out an expense for an office initially.

His initial solution was signing up for a Regus Goldcard, which he did in his second month of operation. This allowed him use of Regus Business Lounges across the country (he picked up a free Goldcard with his membership of the Federation of Small Businesses. It looks like you get a different level of free membership these days: do check before joining either service). His assessment of these spaces:

Whilst these do not provide private space they offer a professional environment, a place to go to work to – separating work and home environments – and free tea and coffee. The Business Lounges were still a fairly informal work environment, with sometimes Lounges being very busy and noisy and the annoyance of having to pack and unpack everything if you wanted to nip out to get lunch.

Looking for something more private as he grew the business, John then found the government ‘Spaces for Growth’ scheme, offering free space for start-ups, SMEs and social enterprises through the use of empty government buildings. This gave him a permanent space of his own, an offer of additional desks as the business grew and a formal office to invite contacts and partners to. In his words, “This gave the business a great saving as we attempted to grow”.

John says of his adventures in low-cost premises:

I have used both of these schemes in order to provide myself with a work space, a place away from home that I can go to do a day’s work, with this separating the work and home environments. Through these two approaches I have managed to do this at a minimum costs allowing me to focus use of business funds on growth opportunities.

They both have the additional and unexpected benefit of mixing with other people and businesses in a similar situations, with this network found to be vital as he faced the challenges of being a new business owner. The biggest issue was the lack of meeting or private space in these environments, “However, this is easily overcome through meeting partners in their offices or going out for a coffee!”

Would John recommend these two schemes? “Definitely. The Spaces for Growth is an especially strong and under-used scheme which will be of great benefit to help the business grow”.

Karin Blak of Interrelate has taken a slightly more conventional approach to business premises. She’s a psychosexual and relationship therapist in private practice but also runs a training business providing courses in emotional first aid, listening skills for teachers, emergency workers, etc.

Karin founded Interelate in 2005 but only offered the training on an ad hoc basis, so premises were not a priority. However, when she started to run this side of the business seriously, she realised that something would have to give:

At the moment, any work relating to Interelate is done at the dining room table at home, which now is no longer appropriate.  Having to clear all my work into piles on the floor every evening when the family sits down for dinner is not good and does not encourage my family to realise that this is a business not just something Mum does to keep her occupied.  For me, it will instill a working day rather than working from the moment I wake until going to bed at night.  I so look forward to regaining my home and having to get out of the door to go to work.

She does already have a practice room in town for her private practice, but there is not enough space there for her desk, books, papers and stuff that is needed to run a training business. So she began to look at other businesses and how they were going about expanding or moving. Having noticed that some were getting some good deals on rent or getting landlords to include additional services, “I realised that I needed to be cheeky, so when I went looking at premises I began to bargain with landlords and managed to get a really good deal without too much haggling”.

The upshot of this haggling is that Karin is currently moving into a lovely room in the centre of town with enough space for both therapy and training, and paying less than she did for just her therapy room. Although she had the experience of running the therapy room before, it’s clear that looking at others’ experiences was really helpful for her [as I hope this series of expert opinions and case studies is for you!]. She has some useful things to say about the financial side of things:

The cost side has become more important than before because of launching Interelate and having to invest in business development services, updating the website, telephone answering services, equipment and so on before I have earned any serious income.

Karin admits that she didn’t do as much budgeting as she now thinks she should have done, and suspects, “I could probably have got more out of my little pot of money if I had”. She did go to her bank, but, while they were willing to help, could only contribute half of what she was asking, mainly because the business wasn’t creating an income yet.

Would Karin do it again? It’s early days and, as she says, it was a leap of faith but in going about the process of research and evaluation, she has already made some valuable connections who are going to be helping her by selling and even buying her training courses. Like John, she’s found a side benefit to getting out of the home office and into the wider world in terms of networking and connections. Her final comment:

My message is that I would always take that leap of faith again because a. I am enjoying all so much b. I am meeting some fantastic people c. I will never be able to say that I didn’t try hard to make it work.

So, we have three ways here in which you can expand your business by expanding into premises. You can build a garden office/workshop, invest in various schemes that give you more or less temporary space, or take the leap of faith and trust that your business will make enough in its new home to pay those rental and service fees. All of them take planning, and you must continually check that you’re getting value for money.

Thank you to Jennifer, John and Karin for their input into this article. I’m hoping to find an estate agent to contribute an expert post on this topic – if you are one or you know one, please do get in touch with me!

Jennifer Woracker TwinkleballsFacebookTwitter

John Ellery Ellery ConsultingTwitterFacebook

Karin Blak Interelate

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This post is part of my series on growing your business. Read more here and read about my own business journey in my books.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Organisation

 

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Growing your business – employing staff and outsourcing (case studies)

Sneak preview of the image from my new bookOnce it’s time to grow your business, you will need to make a decision on whether to employ staff. Duncan Brown has given us the expert’s view on this topic, and now we’re going to hear from two people who have approached this in two very different – but equally successful – ways.

Nathalie Rush runs Six Star Group, which is an insulation business. She has been employing people right from the start, and has used a variety of different methods to find them, and gained a lot from employing people directly, although she does still use sub-contractors when needed.

Nathalie reports that in her line of business, job websites are cheaper to use than local newspapers, but she doesn’t think that tradespeople use the websites so much. Word of mouth has been quite successful. It’s important when advertising for staff to use the channels that the kind of people you’re looking for are likely to use, otherwise you’ll waste money on costly adverts when a word in the ear of the local university’s careers centre or just putting the word out that you’re looking for people might be just as effective.

Nathalie has found that one hands-on approach works really well for her:

Paying someone to work with you for a week’s experience can often be a good way of finding out their qualities. You’ll quickly know if you’ve got a rising star or not.

She has also developed a working relationship with a training centre in her industry, which she says is “proving to be a great way of finding hard-working, professional people”.

What is the advantage of having full-time employed staff for her business? “It means we can serve customers when we want and we don’t need to rely on sub-contractors”, although, as I mentioned, sub-contractors are brought in for the larger jobs. And she’s enthusiastic about the process, too. ”

It’s a joy to give someone a job. I get the biggest kick out of it and spend a lot of time training and motivating my team. After all, we are a business that sells a service and what good is that if the people can’t deliver what the company promises!

On the topic of sub-contractors, you do have to be careful when sub-contracting, especially if you’re in the construction industry. Nathalie explains: “Because of the line of business we’re in, I have to register every sub-contractor through the Construction Industry Scheme. This ensures everyone is taxed and it’s reported monthly to HMRC”.

And while she outsources the work on occasion, she is also careful not to take on too many admin tasks in-house that can be done by an external supplier: “Employing people comes in all shapes and sizes and it’s certainly handy to be able to outsource any paperwork you can that comes with running a business”.

What’s Nathalie learned from the process? As Duncan explained in his expert’s view, it is vitally important to outline all rights, roles and responsibilities up front. Nathalie says:

I’ve employed people in the past and it took me a while to work out exactly what the responsibilities of different roles should be. It’s clearer if you can explain the role, working times, use of mobile phones, holidays, etc. from the offset and not change things like this as it can be de-motivating.

John Ellery of John Ellery Consulting, a firm specialising in grant fundraising and grant making, has taken a different approach.

Six months on from setting up his business, he found that he was struggling to keep up with the work coming in from his clients and his growing to-do list, and it was clear that he needed some support. However, he was concerned about the sustainability of employing someone when his business was so new and he wasn’t yet able to predict the peaks and troughs:

Whilst the obvious option was to investigate employing someone my cash-flow situation would be very tight and whilst I had too much work at the moment who knew if this would still be the case in say three months time – last thing I would want as a new business is have an employee sitting around with no work to do.

His solution was to start using people who were happy to work on a freelance basis. To date, the work he has outsourced in this way has included admin support, consultants, marketing/sales and web design. Each time that he has started working with a freelancer, he has initially outsourced a single piece of work with no promises of on-going or future jobs. As he reports, “This has been extremely effective with the vast majority of freelancers I have used already very much used to this arrangement and were able to pick up my business, ethos and approach extremely quickly”, and he has continued to use this method of supporting his business and thus allowing it to expand.

How has he found freelancers? Mainly online, through Google searches and websites such as People Per Hour or Elance and even FiveSquid and Fiverr [the last two offer usually limited projects for £5 or $5; while this can lead to price undercutting, many reputable freelancers use them and ramp up the price to an acceptable and sustainable level for freelancer and client once a more complex project is in the offing].

The advantages are clear: being able to pick and choose, using people who are accustomed to this way of working and can mesh with the company’s objectives and style, and not having the overheads, legal issues and paperwork associated with employing staff. Are there any disadvantages? John says, “At times I have found that freelancers are not keen to show their work in progress and prefer to contact you when a job is completed. Whilst usually this hasn’t been an issue the occasional freelancer has produced a piece of work that was unsatisfactory and could have been easily addressed if the work was being done by an employee at the desk next to me”.

And does he recommend this method of using other people to expand your business?

Absolutely, however the secret is to find those tasks that can be outsourced. These may be tasks that you usually complete yourself, but by outsourcing these they will free up your hands.

So, two different ways of going about expanding your business through using the support of other people, whether using directly employed staff and officially registered sub-contractors or outsourcing to a series of freelancers. Both companies have profited from these methods, and it just goes to show that there is often more than one way to achieve your business aims.

Thank you to Nathalie and John for their input into this article.

Nathalie Rush Six Star Group – Twitter

John Ellery John Ellery ConsultingTwitterFacebook

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This post is part of my series on growing your business. Read more here and read about my own business journey in my book, Going It Alone At 40.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Business, Guest posts, Organisation

 

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