Archive for the ‘Business Tips’ Category

Network, network, network

May 16, 2018

Networking Tips

Studies show that 80% of all new business comes from networking, not to mention career opportunities, so use your time at the networking event wisely.

Here are some top tips to help you make the most of every networking event.

Prepare – Make sure you arrive at the event feeling calm and friendly, so know where you are going and for what time, with plenty of business cards and if there is a guest list have a look at this and highlight names of people you would like to chat to.

Make the First Move – Take responsibility and don’t come away from an event feeling you have missed an opportunity because no-one talked to you.

Start with Small Talk – Calm your nerves by making small talk with someone equally alone about something general: the venue, the parking, the weather or the refreshments.

Be Interested – Find out about the person you are talking to by asking questions, so that you can build a picture of them and in return they will be more receptive in hearing about you.

Concentrate on Giving – Look for ways you can help others; advice, referrals, even friendship instead of focusing on selling to them as this will naturally follow.

Keep your Mind Open – Resist the urge to dismiss a contact if they don’t seem to fit your needs because you never know when you might need them in the future.

Always Follow up – If you’ve promised somebody information, an introduction or a phone number, make sure you keep your word or you risk damaging your reputation.

Build Relationships – Be consistent and regularly attend events so that you become known and build trust with fellow attendees.

Have Fun and Relax – Most networking events are social occasions, so treat them as such.

Enjoy the Event – If you enjoyed the event then tell your friends and colleagues, bring them along next time and help them network too!

See you at the next event!

Angela MacAusland


Leave work at work

October 30, 2017

Sometimes its hard to switch off from work when you leave the office on Friday, and many people are still thinking about work issues all over the weekend, meaning they give less attention to their family friends, and their own downtime.

Not everyone works 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, but most of us do get some downtime, even if its a few hours in the evening.  Being self employed or a business owner can mean there is no distinction between work life, home life and social life – but we only get one life, so make the most of your down time.

If you find it hard to switch off, and are constantly distracted by work in your downtime, here are a few ideas to help you to focus on your own R&R (rest and recovery, rest and recreation, rest and relaxation, rest and recuperation).

Make a note

If you forgot to do something before you left work, instead of carrying it around in your head all weekend, make a note of it or add it to your calendar as a reminder for when you return to the office.

Fix it when you can

If you make a mistake and it can be resolved, there is no point in worrying about it all weekend, make a note in your diary to fix the error when you get back to work.

Let it go

Some things you cannot fix, some errors can not be un-done.  Sometimes you need to say sorry, or apologise for an error that has been made. If you cannot resolve something, or its too late to fix, let it go, move on and try not to beat yourself up for something that cannot be changed.  Some things are best left in the past.

Save your ideas

Sometimes your creative juices only flow when you are outside of the work environment, and its easy to get distracted or carried away with things that maybe aren’t realistic. Sketch the ideas down somewhere in a book or a ‘back burner’ file, so that when the time is right you can go back to the ideas.

Try meditation

Meditation is a great way to clear your head, even if for 10 minutes, it allows you to focus on you, and notice the small things around you that make up your life. There are plenty of apps and things to try, just Google ‘Meditation’.  Its easier than you think, and surprisingly effective.

Go outside and breath in 

Get outside into the fresh air, go for a walk.  Look around you, listen, smell.  Look up at the sky, buildings, trees, whatever is around you.  Take in your surroundings, notice the colour of things, take a photo close up and a panorama image.  This is something you can do at any time of the day, not just when you have left work, try a lunchtime walk, just be mindful of your surroundings and what else is out there.

Hopefully some of these ideas will help you get some more focus.

Remember work life, business life, social life, park life. You only have 1 life.





How to be ‘Time Smart’

September 3, 2015

I am often asked how I manage my time, with so many clients to deal with, emails, phone calls and social media interactions to manage. The answer is – I plan and here are some of my tips of how to manage your time smartly, if you have lots of things to do and not enough time to do them in.

Make a ‘Weekly To Do List’

At the beginning of each week, create a list of tasks that are outstanding and give them each a priority rating.

  • 1) Urgent – Needs to completed today
  • 2) Important – Needs to be completed this week
  • 3) Not Important – Needs to completed this month
  • 4) Personal Tasks – Only do these things once 1) is done
  • 5) Low – Needs to be completed but no specific timescale

At the end of the week, re-do your list, your priority 1’s should be complete, and the other tasks can be re-prioritised, depending on deadlines. It’s worth adding a ‘deadline’ date as well.

For example:

Weekly Task List

Make a ‘busy day’ schedule

If you have back to back meetings, phone calls, things to do, places to be and still have to fit in walking the dog and meeting your friend for a drink after work, plan your day around your scheduled appointments and fill in the gaps with things you can do on the way or in between.

For example

Busy day schedule

Learn to estimate how long it takes to complete a task

Work out how long a task is going to take so that you can schedule in your time more accurately. Keep a record of how long you estimate a task to take and record how long it actually took, so that you know for future planning. Don’t under-estimate how long something takes and then end up with tasks still not completed at the end of the week.

If necessary build in extra slack into you day or allow 50% more time than you originally estimated to complete a task. Conversely do not get into the habit of using up 2 hours of time if you can finish the task in an hour, don’t ‘waste’ time if you have over-estimated.

Use a stop watch or alarm to remind you every 30 minutes, so that you can check if you are on track with your timings.

For example:

Task Estimation

Plan your day in sections

Your mind cannot concentrate for 8 hours at a time and stay focussed all that time. If you are planning to be in your office all day, break up your day into 90 minute ‘productive time’ periods and work through your tasks during that time.

Then every morning and afternoon plan in 30 minutes of ‘non-productive time’ so that you can move aside from your tasks and schedule. Use this time to either get out of the office, grab a coffee, take a walk or just move away from your computer screen or the phone.

Also plan in one 30 minutes session every day for ‘quick wins’ where you can work really fast through lots of smaller tasks, to enable you to clear your backlog.

For example

Daily Planner

In summary

  • Have a weekly to do list and tick off tasks, re-prioritise throughout the week
  • Only create a day list for really busy days that take you out of the office or you have back to back meetings, phone calls etc.
  • Estimate how long tasks will take, record how long they actually take and plan better for the future
  • Plan in ‘productive’ and ‘non-productive’ times into your day and don’t get distracted by email, social media and the internet

If you need some coaching on how to organise your time, get on top of your tasks and generally make a bit of time for yourself, get in touch. These are only some of the techniques we use, and for once a month over a 6 month period, we work with you to help you learn some of these techniques. Let us organise you.

How to bill out your time

June 4, 2015

One of the first things new clients ask is ‘how do you charge out your time?’ so I thought I would write a blog post on this.

I have also created a video blog here

There are several ways in which we bill out our time here at AM PM PA.

  • Hourly rate
  • Daily fee
  • A set project rate
  • Monthly retainer

The other option would be on a part-time self, employed contract, but we generally don’t do that as most clients don’t want us as an extra member of staff and overhead.

Here’s how they work, with examples of each.

Monthly retainer
This would be an agreed set monthly fee, where we are tasked to carry out specific duties throughout the duration of the month. Usually agreed over a 12 month period and reviewed annually. E.g. Marketing Activities

Set project fee
Useful when there is a specific piece of work that needs to be completed within a set timescale and the fees are estimated by us beforehand and agreed with the client. E.g. Formatting and proofing a 250 page training manual.

Daily fee
When we are required to work off site for a full (or half day) we charge a set fee for this, the actual hours may vary but on average a half day is four hours and a full day eight. E.g. To carry out our on-site ‘Blitz the Backlog’ service.

Hourly rate
When clients ask us to bill them for the actual time spent, either on a project or an ongoing basis. We use a kitchen type timer for this, but you can also use a stopwatch or your computer clock, and we then record the actual hours on a spreadsheet timesheet – which we use to create our client bills at the end of each month. You could also use a time logging app such as Toggl

One last thing to explain is the difference between billable and non-billable time.

If you are an employee, you get paid for when you are at work, and this includes the time when you are making a cup of tea or chatting to a colleague about what they are doing at the weekend.

When you are self employed and are working for clients who pay you for the work you do, you only charge them for your billable time (when you are carrying out work for them). When you go to make a cup of tea, have a comfort break or pop into the bank to pay in some money, these are all non-billable times.

We have a non-billable category on our timesheet, so that we can keep an eye on how much time we are spending not working.

I hope you found this interesting and hopefully you will be able to use some of these yourselves to become more efficient in your workplace.

Supporting other entrepreneurs

January 15, 2015

Setting up and running a business can sometimes be a very daunting prospect, but the spirit of entrepreneurship can be seen in and around Bath, in communities of all ages, backgrounds and levels of education.

Being an entrepreneur does not necessarily mean starting up a high-tech, high growth export business. The changing nature of business and technology is allowing more and more entrepreneurs to set up and run a business from home. We shouldn’t also forget the growing number of student entrepreneurs that are starting businesses whilst still in full time education.

Entrepreneurs can be found anywhere and although a lot of hard work is involved in turning an idea into a business, it is also one of the most rewarding things that someone can do and can be one of the most positive changes someone can make for themselves and the community they live in.

Think of the local butchers, hairdressers, shop owners, electricians, plumbers and florists (to name but a few) who start up small businesses and become the heart of the local community.

They generate wealth, employment and opportunity. Independent businesses on and off the high street brings growth and income to communities and celebrates the diversity that small independent businesses can deliver.

But starting up a business is not always plain sailing – with business rates, lack of suitable premises, inadequate broadband and the rising costs of power, public transport and parking – being cited as some of the barriers to growth.

It is clear that we need to support the entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow as small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy.

We also need to make sure Bath as a city has the provisions to be able to help start up businesses stay in the city and have the ability to expand as they grow. The last thing we want to see are our homegrown entrepreneurs leaving the area to set up elsewhere.

This is one of the reasons why I am a member of and the current Branch Chairman of The Federation of Small Business as they are there to campaign on behalf of all small businesses and entrepreneurs, not only locally but regionally and nationally.

Angela MacAusland

Federation of Small Businesses Bath Branch Chair

Why networking is important in business

October 24, 2014

On of the things that brings people together in communities is having something in common, whether that is where they live, or what their interests, beliefs or backgrounds are. Since the internet became part of our lives the word ‘community’ now describes more of a social unit that shares common values, and sadly some of the face to face contact is now non-existent.

Studies show that nearly 80% of all new business comes from networking, so meeting people face to face really is a time effective, engaging and informal way of doing business. But you can’t just turn up once and hope to make lots of contacts, you need to build relationships and trust by being there in person, regularly. And remember to have fun, most networking events are social occasions too, if you focus on building friendships, referrals will follow.

So why not step away from your computer, grab a handful of business cards and head off to a networking event, make it a goal to go to one a month at least.

Its not about how many followers or likes you have on social media platforms, its about real people, because we do live in a society, where ‘real’ people do business with ‘real’ people.

To Do List Tips

August 15, 2014

Here are my top tips to help you create and use a TO DO LIST

  1. Create a TO DO LIST at the end of every day, so that when you start the following morning, you have something to focus on straight way before getting distracted.
  2. Prioritise your TO DO LIST tasks into things that need to be done today, or those that can wait – have a weekly and daily TO DO LIST if that helps.
  3. Split larger tasks into smaller more manageable ones, and tick off your TO DO LIST when complete – you gain a small sense of achievement when you see what you have done.
  4. Plan in time in your TO DO LIST for emergencies or things that crop up unexpectedly.
  5. Add a diary note for tasks that don’t need to be completed until a specific date, so that you don’t have to keep looking at them on your TO DO LIST every day.
  6. Make a note on your TO DO LIST of how long a task took you to complete, from start to finish, this should help you get less distracted.
  7. Don’t get bogged down by reading and responding to all your emails that come into your inbox, not all emails need to be reacted to straight away, so add to your weekly TO DO LIST if not urgent.
  8. See if some of your TO DO LIST tasks can be completed together, for example if you have to go to the bank, post office, get petrol and drop off dry-cleaning, save all of the tasks up and do together, rather than as they crop up.
  9. Give yourself 30 minutes a day (15 in the morning, 15 at lunchtime) to spend on web-based activities (social media, entertainment, news, weather, shopping, holidays etc) and be strict; this is probably one of the biggest time wasters of the 21st Century
  10. Add your allotted time to your TO DO LIST if necessary.
  11. Keep your desk and work area as clear as possible, if your TO DO LIST extends over many pages, keep the information in a file, so that things are easier to find when you need them.

Good luck in getting yourself organised. If the thought of a TO DO LIST fills you with dread, get in touch with us – we can at least get you started !

The ying and yang of customer service

January 9, 2014

One of the things I strive to receive in my work and personal life is good customer service, yet all too often I find myself having to complain about awful service. I don’t like to name and shame companies but when my experience has been shockingly bad, I feel compelled to tell others, so they too can be on the watch out.

On the other hand, to balance things up, this morning I received an excellent level of service from another company, so I have given below some of details, so that you can see the differences.

Company 1
I have an i-Phone and I have phone insurance, I also run a business and have to complete VAT returns every quarter, so naturally everything I pay VAT on, I need to have copies of. So I phoned my insurance company to retrieve this information.

2 phone calls later, totaling around 45 minutes (mostly on hold with ear-bleeding loud hold music) I was initially informed that the monthly premiums ‘included VAT’ but when I asked if I could be sent a copy for my VAT return, I was informed that a) they didn’t usually do this and b) they couldn’t provide anything showing the VAT breakdown, but c) that VAT was definitely included in the monthly payments and d) they could send me a statement but it would only show payments, not VAT.

Both people I spoke to didn’t really understand what I was asking of them and had to keep ‘putting me on hold’ so they could ask ‘their manager’. I thought the request was simple enough, so after not receiving a resolution, I ended the conversation (and contract) by saying “I’ll make this easier for you, I would like to cancel the contract” to which the answer was ‘OK sorry about that, let me take some details’.

The result, I didn’t get a resolution to my query, they lost a customer (and I don’t think they even cared about it either – which was worse).

The company was: The Geek Squad (Part of Carphone Warehouse).

Company 2
Being a keen runner, I rely on my equipment, so when the USB connector for my GPS running watch failed to work, I phoned the company, explained the situation. They asked me for my serial number, email address and postal address and informed me they would send out a replacement. Gave me a case number and asked ‘is there anything else I can help you with today?’. I was put on hold, but only for seconds, and the total time of the phone call was less than 5 minutes.

The result, a happy customer, who will tell all her running friends how good the company was at dealing with the issue.

The company was: Garmin

So 2 sides of the coin there, 2 different days, 2 different companies, 2 different experiences. I do ask myself if this was down to the experience (or inexperience) of the customer service advisers or whether ‘company policy’ comes into play at all in these situations.

If I do receive bad service on the phone, I usually ask if my phone conversation is being recorded ‘for training purposes‘, and I will say ‘I hope this is being recorded, and that you will use it in future to teach your staff how not to treat your customers’.

I may be a tough cookie, but after having spent a lot of time developing and teaching people in the workplace, and working with call handlers in customer service centres, I know that most companies would cringe if they heard the way their front line staff are talking to their customers.

In summary, don’t put up with bad customer service.

An interview with Angela MacAusland

March 4, 2013

Jan Morris – who is just about to start up as a Virtual Assistant interviewed me recently, to find out a few tips before she started.

Here is the transcript of the interview as I thought it might help some other VA’s or PA’s get started.

How and when did you get started as a VA – what made you decide to do it?

I set up as a sole trader in 2008, and changed to a Limited Company in 2011. I knew my strengths laid in organising things and that’s what I love doing, so I set up a business around that.

Are you glad you became self-employed and what are the pros and cons?

Yes I am very glad, I am my own boss and being a control freak, that really was the only way forward. The pro’s are that I answer to me, and I choose who I work for and when and where. The con’s are that I don’t have a big team behind me if something goes wrong, but I have set up a network of people that I can trust and rely on – but that took time, which I didn’t have in the beginning.

What was the most helpful pieces of advice you received about starting up your business?

‘I written books on marketing – cheque books’ – Lord Alan Sugar

‘You’ll be great at whatever you do – you always are’- My Dad

Did you get any help in setting up your business and if so from friends/family or professional advisors?

I did go on a free setting up in business course, and joined the Federation of Small Businesses, but no family help, only encouragement.

How did you find your first client and did you get most of your subsequent clients from referrals?

My first client was my old boss, most new work comes from referrals, or my website. This is a people business so I also get out and meet new  people all the time at events etc.

Can you remember what your first job was for your first client?

After I left my full time job I went back to cover staff sickness, which led to quite a few more similar jobs in the early days.

Do you have a preferred job/role and if so why do you prefer it to other jobs/roles? 

There is no defined role in this job, you match what you can offer to what the client needs, I know my limitations and skills, and adjust my role accordingly. But that has taken years to hone that skill.

Are there jobs you hate and refuse to do and if so what are they?

Making sales calls.

What has been your most fun role/job?

Some of what I do is teaching and training (I used to be an IT trainer years back) and I really enjoy that – helping others learn new skills. Probably social media and marketing training or team building skills.

Did you struggle to make a living in your first year or were you able to make a profit?

I made a small profit in the first year, but most of my income was spent on kitting out my office – laptop, printer, phones, desk, office stationery etc. Most of this was offset for tax, so even though my income was less than my salary, at least I wasn’t paying much tax.

What made you decide to work with your associates and was it easy to work out all the logistics, etc?

I needed to bring in associates to help with the work that was coming in, as I was unable to manage everything. I had quite a bit of new (and still ongoing) work come in during the second half of my first trading year.  My associates work from their own offices (only very occasionally from mine) so the logistics are not hard, the difficult thing is finding not only good people but exceptional people.

As you are the boss/owner, do they take their lead from you, or are there arguments/spats?

I thoroughly vet every associate – sometimes taking months to decide if they are right to work with me, I have only been wrong once and we parted company amicably. Other than that everyone is so nice and I get on well with all of them.

Do you work from home or an office and if from home, is it easy to communicate with your colleagues?

I work from a home office, and communication has never been an issue for me, phone, email, skype are perfectly adequate, we meet only when we have to as time is precious.

If you are busy do you turn work away, or do you sub-contract?

I don’t turn work away if the work is something we can manage, that’s why I have associates to take on the extra work. If necessary I will work over the evening/weekend to meet a deadline, but I am proud of the fact that I am super organised so everything does get done on time.

If you do sub-contract, is it easy to manage, or do you spend time chasing them up?

I only sub-contract out small portions of work at any one time and always give a deadline, I know that my associates will deliver on time and if they cannot do this they let me know before they take on the work. I trust them, but its taken years to gain that confidence.

What is the normal split of rate with a sub-contractor?

There is no normal ‘split’ and in fact I take a small percentage rather than split, this is agreed in advance so that everyone is happy.

Do you spend a lot of time typing or are you more hands-on and go to the client’s office/home to physically sort out their filing system/email account, etc?

Not much typing for clients, not even much filing, everything is pretty much done over the phone and email these days. Most work is virtual but some clients like to see me in person once a month

Are you involved in affiliation schemes – Amazon page, etc?  If not, would you consider it, or do you think it cheapens your brand?

I do have an Amazon affiliates account but hardly use it, I wouldn’t say it cheapens my brand, I just have better things to spend my time on.

Do you ever do any pro-bono work for charities, etc?

I already do a lot of fundraising for local and national charities, usually through running, I am also a member of a few charitable organisations that I pay a membership fee to, so I sleep at night knowing I have already done a lot.

Did you have to spend a lot of money on advertising?

I do most of my own marketing, but I did have to spend a bit when I got started on my branding/logo/website/letterheads/business cards etc. I called in a few business favours to keep the costs down.

Do you still spend money on advertising?

I don’t advertise – people find me, plus I go to a lot of events so meet people who know people, and you get your name around that way.

I have found a long list of documents on sale at a VA Association – do you use a lot of contracts/forms or is everything online?

I try to keep things simple, a lot of what I do is based on trust and I have found that a one page letter of agreement has been enough for me to form a ‘contract’ with my clients.

Do you sign a contracts and terms and conditions with your clients?

I have never been asked to sign a contract or terms and conditions with any of my clients. I am very discreet when working in similar sectors and never cross over different clients in different sectors, I wear many hats but never all at the same time. Its up to me to ensure I keep them organised.

Do you sign a contract with a subbie?

As above I have a letter of agreement – which is signed by us both.

If you do work virtually can you recommend software that you use for online “collaboration”?

I use a Mac and a huge variation in different sharing software. You have to be willing to fit in with what the client uses. I find Dropbox useful but generally speaking people still are sharing files via email. I have Mac and PC compatible software – its easier that way, but I am sure you will come up against some problems, the world is not standardised in terms of platforms, software etc.

Do you use Project Management software and if so can you recommend it?

No, but I have done in the past, Microsoft Project is quite easy to learn. I also used to be a PRINCE2 Practitioner – and Project Management is not really something I like or relish, so I steer clear.

I hear a lot about QuickBooks, Sage and lately Xero – have you used any of these?  If so, any good?

I used KashFlow for a while, but I also use software that my clients like to use, so I have to learn those as I go on. For my own accounting I just use Excel, its adequate for my needs.

If you do your own bookkeeping invoicing, can you recommend your software – is it a “cloud” system?

Again I use Excel but Kashflow is easy to use, recommend if you do to use it from the start, it takes a while to set up.

How do you access clients diaries remotely?

Some use Google Calendar, others via a CRM system, but I keep a master diary on my laptop of all my client movements, luckily I only have 2 clients who travel a huge amount and both of them have their own travel agents.

Have you ever been scammed by a client – i.e. not been paid?

Yes once, but I learnt my lesson from that, and its what made me decide to set up as a Limited Company. Where ever possible I meet new clients, or if they are at the other end of the country I at least have a long phone chat with them. I also look them up on Facebook/LinkedIn etc.

Do you get would-be clients trying to knock your rate down?  If so, do you manage to persuade them that you are good value and “convert” them?

This is harder when you are starting up, but I am completely up front at the start what my rate is and my negotiated rate is only available for longer term clients. I offer new clients a free one hour trial session, so that they can see the quality of my work. I let the quality of my work speak.

Would you ever turn work down/clients away (even if you are not busy) and if so why?  Assume there might be some work you don’t want to do?

I have turned work down that I didn’t want to do, there is some element of a gut feeling when a new client makes an enquiry. Some things I am not suitably qualified or insured to do, for example collecting clients children from school, I am not a child minder or taxi service.

Do you have a strict checklist procedure for when new clients join you?

Again – and I am prepared to take the small risk – I go by my instinct. I don’t think its necessary to carry out for example credit checking on all new clients. Generally most of my clients come as referrals and recommendations so its not something I worry about.

Do you have a script ready to use when would-be clients call you?  If so, any tips as to what to include?

No I am afraid it all comes from my head/heart. Probably best to do less talking and more listening, find out what they want, and come back with solutions. I always take notes while on the phone – even if its some-one I know.

Do your clients pay in advance – i.e. retainers, or do they pay 50% up front and then you invoice for the balance?  If both, is it hard to keep on top of your billings?

My terms and conditions are that I ask to be paid within 30 days of the invoice date. I do my own invoicing once a month so that each client only gets one invoice a month. This is more difficult if you are working with associates, but they invoice me in a similar way. I know its not a water-tight system but it works for me and my clients.

What’s your best tip to obtain clients AND to hold onto them?

Be superb, be amazing, be invaluable, be there for them.

Are most of your clients based in Bath?  If so, does that mean that you do not have to work “virtually”

Less than half of my clients are based in Bath, but even the ones that are I only actually see about once a month in person, the rest is virtual.

Did you find clients via networking orgs/groups?

Not directly but I have built up fantastic networks of people I trust and businesses that have become suppliers. I don’t go out to meet new clients, I just go out to meet new people and make business friendships.

Do you do your own bookkeeping for your business or do you pass it all to bookkeeper/accountant?

I keep basic Excel spreadsheets and send to my accountant once a quarter – she has been my accountant for 3 years so knows how I work and how my business works, its all done virtually and we meet once a year to talk about profit and loss, fees etc.

Is everything you buy for your role tax deductable -including solicitor/accountant, etc?

I can’t give tax advice but a lot of things are offset against tax, the best thing to do is keep records of everything. Also you should be able to go on an HMRC tax course – I did when I started up.

Do you invoice your clients yourself or do you sub this out?

I do it, I don’t have hundreds of invoices each month so its quite straightforward.

Is joining the FSB and/or Chamber of Commerce worthwhile?

Yes the Federation of Small Businesses, I have been a member since start up. Free banking, free legal advice, discounts etc.

Have you gained clients from joining the FSB/CoC?

Not directly, but I have made some excellent contacts through events, some of which may or may not turn into work in the future. I don’t try too hard.

Jan interviewed Angela over lunch in Bath on Friday 1st March 2013.

Proof reading tips

February 13, 2013

Don’t rely just on your spell checker, typo’s, grammatical errors and plain spelling mistakes shout out that you do not pay attention to detail. Whether it is writing for the web, on a leaflet or via social media, it is not acceptable to send out messages that contain errors. Here are a few tips and tricks that I have picked up along the way.

Edit first
Make any changes to your text first, then go through and proof read for errors, not the other way around. Use a spelling and grammar checker – always, but don’t depend on this as the only tool.

You go first
Before you ask some-one else to give your text the once over, make sure you have done so first, pick up the obvious errors and allow some-one else to pick up the harder to spot ones. Check your work at least 3 times before you let some-one else see it.

You need to concentrate to proof read well. Walk away from your text, have a break, do something else, then go back to it. Always give yourself plenty of time, proof-reading cannot be rushed, and try to avoid distractions. Preferably proof read when you have a fresh pair of eyes and are not falling asleep in a low-light lull.

Hard copy
Print out the text and read it through, have a red pen to hand and make the changes on the paper. You see and read things differently on paper and on-screen. Use your finger to point to each word as you read. Try printing in different fonts if you have to re-read lots of times through, you see different word shapes with different fonts.

Out loud
Read your work out loud, slowly and clearly. Some people say to read your work backwards, this stops your brain filling in the gaps for often read words.

Titles, footers, headlines – not just the main text. Also double-check if some-thing doesn’t look quite right, never assume your command of the language is infallible. Also keep your formatting consistent. Also pay attention to how numbers are written and make sure you have the correct formatting.

Learn from your mistakes, you will find that you tend to make the same ones, know your faults and spot them next time, don’t train your brain to overlook them. Also train yourself to look for one type of error at a time, spelling, grammar, formatting etc, this will stop you skipping over subtle errors in favour of the big ones.

Look out for words that share spellings or pronunciations but have different meanings complement / compliment ; stationery / stationary ; their / there ; bear / bare etc. Also make sure you use apostrophes correctly its / it’s ; your / you’re ; their / they’re. Also pay attention to punctuation, words with capital letters and the correct use of quotation marks etc.

Final check
Even if you have carried out all the advice above, always check again one last time, especially if some-one else has edited the original copy.

If you would like a review of any of your printed collateral, just let us know, or if you would like some-one else to proof-read text you have created – get in touch 01225 443483 or visit our website for more details of some of the ways we can help you

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