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Is your marketing message causing confusion?

We all know how important it is to get our marketing messages across clearly, and some of you eagle eyed readers may have spotted this recent picture on my Facebook page

odd text

At a first glance, this suggests to me that presenting the voucher will get you one free child, and at a saving of £9.50, that’s a bargain for a completely new member of the family!

My mother has been picking me up on any and all misuse of the English language since I was a child, and that’s probably why I’m such a pedant now (I should point out she still tells me off for using the word ‘hopefully’ incorrectly in a sentence, so I’m very careful not to use it in her presence). One of her bugbears is the use of the phrase, ‘for free’, when it should be ‘free of charge’ or ‘for nothing’. The picture above commits a similar wording crime, so my suggestion is that it should be re-worded as ‘1 free child place’ or ‘1 child goes free’ – what do you think?

This is why it’s so important to get somebody else at least to glance over your copy and content before it goes out to the wider world. If there’s any chance that what you’re saying could be misconstrued in any way, you might have looked at it so many times that you’re no longer noticing the mistakes, and somebody else will be seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes. I know I will be reading this post several times over before hitting ‘publish’, and even then I will worry about the odd typo.

And if you’re at all unsure about your spelling, punctuation and grammar, regardless of what you’re writing, it goes without saying that you should be getting somebody to proofread your work.

I’ve still been busy looking out for misplaced apostrophes on my travels, and this one is a recent favourite.

apostrophe alert

They nearly made it! So near and yet so far….plus you only get one cappuccino.

I’d love to see some more #apostrophefails, so if you spot one when you’re out and about, please pop over to my Facebook page and share your findings!

How can transcription help your content marketing?

It’s an inescapable fact these days that we’re constantly bombarded with information and it’s difficult to get noticed in a huge and sometimes bewildering marketplace. This is especially true if you’re a one person business and you’re often trying to do everything yourself!

How do you get your message across in a way that’s not constantly sell, sell, sell, and is actually helpful to your existing and prospective customers?

I attended the newly launched Content Marketing Workshop in Fife last week along with a good number of other business owners, keen to find out more about how blogging and podcasting can help businesses communicate better. Although most of those attending had no experience of podcasting, there were a fair few who were already blogging, so this got me thinking about the different stages of content marketing and how transcription can help content marketers from beginners to experts.

Let’s say you want to start a blog, but you struggle with writer’s block and you just can’t seem to get those words down on the page. If you find it easier to articulate what you have to say verbally, try picking up your smartphone to dictate your thoughts before getting them transcribed and edited into a readable format.

If you’re a seasoned content marketer and you’re already regularly recording podcasts or YouTube videos, you might want to think about re-purposing that content to use again. Once a piece of audio or video is intelligently transcribed (i.e. taking out all the ums, ers and repetitions), you’ve got yourself a blog post, a set of social media posts or a chapter for an ebook.

You could also try putting a transcript alongside your video posts – not only is this good for SEO, but it means your content will appeal to different learning styles. After all, not everyone wants to watch a video, some prefer to skim over a piece of text and pick out the bits that interest them most.

This thinking also works for audio learning tools such as webinars – how many times have you signed up for a webinar, only to find you never get round to listening to the recording? Providing a transcript solves that problem in one fell swoop.

I’d love to hear your ideas about how you might re-purpose your content, so please either leave me a comment or head over to my Facebook page and let me know how transcription might help you.

The problem with apostrophes…


It was brought to my attention the other day that International Apostrophe Day happened to fall on 15th August, and it completely passed me by! Despite missing the momentous day itself, I decided to mark the occasion with a small celebration of this important and useful, yet often misused, punctuation mark.

Anybody who knows me well will appreciate that I am a bit of a pedant when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar, and my pet hate is the misplaced apostrophe. I took the attached picture a few months ago in a well-known Scandinavian furniture superstore, which only goes to prove that no-one is immune to this particular problem.

So what are some of the simple rules to remember when it comes to the apostrophe?

“Apostrophe s” (’s) is used for the contracted form of is and has, and also for the possessive (i.e. belonging to someone) e.g. Catherine’s finally got round to writing another blog post or Catherine’s blog post on apostrophes is really useful. Don’t forget that if a noun is plural, e.g. pizzas, the apostrophe should NEVER go before the ‘s’, and is only needed after the ‘s’ if it’s possessive e.g. the pizzas’ toppings were delicious.

Returning to the cringeworthy photograph above, please note that ‘it’s’ is short for ‘it is’, and not ‘its’, which is the possessive form of ‘it’. If read in full, the first few words of the above statement actually say, everything in it is place…doesn’t make sense, does it? 

I’ve come across a few exceptions to the rule recently and I’m not sure I agree with some of these, the bookshop Waterstones being one example. Apparently they decided to drop the apostrophe before the ‘s’ to make it more accessible online, but since Sainsbury’s still manages to retain its apostrophe on its website (although not in its URL), I’m not sure this argument can be upheld!

I’m always on the lookout for pictures of apostrophe and punctuation fails, so would love to hear from you if you’ve come across any howlers on your travels. Please share with me here or on my Facebook page.

Are you ready for the summer holidays?

It’s the time of year where parents across the land wonder where on earth the time has gone and how it’s already the end of the summer term! Business owners in particular will be used to a certain routine which will invariably go to pot once children are added to the mix. 

Yes, I know it’s still a few weeks ’til term finishes south of the border, but the Scottish holidays always seem to creep up on me, and due to a quirk in the calendar this year they are seven and a half weeks long! That’s quite a stretch of time when you’re trying to run a business and want to keep things ticking over but not at the expense of spending time with your children while they’re off. 

So how can you lessen the load and make the holidays easier to cope with if you’ve got school age children? 

1. Set your priorities

Can you work less over the holidays? Are you already being productive with the time you have available? Make a list of what absolutely needs to be done and focus on the most urgent or important tasks when you have time. If your time is limited, my advice is to use a timer. It’s amazing what you can fit into half an hour when you set yourself a mini deadline! There’s a good chance your clients will be aware that your time is limited over the holidays, so don’t overload yourself with extra work and make sure everyone is aware of what can be achieved realistically. 

2. Automate, automate, automate

Applications such as Hootsuite and Buffer are a godsend when it comes to automating your social media, so it’s well worth setting aside a period of time at the start of each week to schedule your Facebook and Twitter posts. If you need to write blog posts or newsletters over the holiday period, why not spend one evening doing a ‘blog bootcamp’ and get a whole bunch of them written and scheduled. 

3. Childcare swap

Unless you’re planning on spending every single evening working, ask one of your business owning friends with children if they fancy setting up a reciprocal childcare arrangement that works for both of you. 

4. Holiday and activity clubs

Every time I empty my children’s school bags another leaflet falls out advertising a summer activity club, so there’s certainly no shortage of them! If you know you want to try and have at least one really productive week over the summer, it’s worth looking into an activity or sports club where children will be occupied during school hours or mornings, at the very least.

5. Outsource!

If you’re really struggling, can you outsource some of the burden to someone else? If you need help setting up your automatic systems or you’re struggling to get those blog posts or newsletters written, or you just can’t handle the admin, a virtual assistant could help by taking some of these tasks off your hands and give you the freedom to enjoy more time with your family over the long break.

Enjoy the summer, whatever you’re up to!




Are you making yourself memorable?

Have you ever taken part in speed networking? It can be quite good fun! I was at an event last week where we sat in little groups of five, the organiser blew a whistle and we all got to speak to the others at the table for a minute before everyone switched and joined another table.

The only problem was that by the time we got to the end of the session, I’d pretty much forgotten what half the people did, and to be honest, I was so busy thinking about what I was going to say that I wasn’t always paying attention to the others anyway!

This got me thinking about the way we communicate our business to others. How can we make ourselves memorable with what we say to help people understand how we can help them, especially when we have to get it across so quickly?

For instance, I might tell the throng that I specialise in intelligent transcription.

So what? How does that help me?

So instead, I might change that to…I help creative people make their audio and video content more valuable with intelligent transcription.

Better, but what on earth does intelligent transcription mean?!

It occurred to me that while some people might have an idea of what transcription is, they might be baffled at the ‘intelligent’ bit, so I decided to explain briefly that it basically means taking out the ums, ers, hesitations and repetitionsfrom a piece of audio or video when you’re getting it down on paper. I got a few nods and smiles at this realisation, so I must have been making some sense!

Just because you’re an expert in what you do doesn’t mean others are, so if you’re able to explain your product and service in a way that gives others an ‘a-ha’ moment, so much the better!

How do you get across what you do to make your business and yourself memorable?


Do you use labels to describe yourself?

How would you describe yourself to someone? How would you explain who you really are?

I was asked this question recently, and I found it quite a hard one to answer. Do you define yourself by what you’ve achieved and the successes you’ve had in life? Do you define yourself by what you give out to other people? Do you define yourself by your role within your family, as a parent, a partner, a daughter or son? Or do you give yourself labels, such as extrovert/introvert, or perfectionist/procrastinator, to give a couple of examples?

Having thought about this for a wee while, I realised that I had fallen into the trap of labelling myself as both an introvert and a procrastinator, and I started to wonder if this was actually resulting in limiting thoughts such as, ‘Oh, I’m no good at speaking in public because I’m too much of an introvert’, or, ‘I’ll just put off that scary big job that I don’t want to do ‘til tomorrow’. You see, by telling myself that I was these two things, I was perpetuating the myth, thus creating my reality!

Of course we all have different personalities, and it would be a very dull world if we were all outgoing life and soul of the party types or, at the other extreme, wallflowers, but are we only behaving in these ways because we’ve been conditioned to be like this? It’s also true that we sometimes have different masks that we put on in various professional and social settings, and this can be very unhelpful if we’re pretending to be something we’re not. For example we might be working in a job we hate just because we don’t feel capable of stretching ourselves or we might want to fit into a certain social group, so end up drinking too much or attending parties we don’t really enjoy.

At the risk of not practising what I’m preaching, I would still consider myself to be more of an introvert than an extrovert, but that’s because I mostly enjoy working on my own, I prefer socialising with smaller groups of people and you won’t find me auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent any time soon. However, having said that, as I talked about in my last blog post, I did recently get up and speak in front of a group of people at a networking event without fear and these days I will happily go along to meetings where I don’t know anybody and introduce myself to complete strangers.

And if you’re struggling with procrastination, why not do what I’m doing today and work with an accountability buddy to crack the habit. Break up what time you have available into chunks, set yourself achievable goals and see what you can manage to get off your to do list. It’s working for me! 


What gets you out of your comfort zone?

I did a brave thing last week. I got out of my comfort zone and spoke in public at a networking event!

Now, I know your definition of brave might not be the same as mine, but to me, doing something that scares you is a brave thing. When I started my business just over three years ago, the very thought of networking and actually having to go out and speak to other business owners scared the hell out of me. I remember taking a friend to my first event (I was too scared to go on my own!) and my hands were shaking when I poured my first cup of tea. I found out we were doing speed networking and I was absolutely horrified, but in the end it was actually quite fun. You weren’t stuck talking to the same person for more than five minutes at a time, and there was the opportunity to return to people you really wanted to talk to at the end of the meeting.

Actually standing up and talking to an audience for ten minutes though, well, I pretty much discounted that from the very start. Until last week, that is.

I attend a local networking event once a month which includes what’s known as a ‘soapbox’ feature, where one regular attendee gets the opportunity to tell everyone about their passion for what they do. Being a regular attendee, I kind of knew it was only going to be a matter of time before my name was picked out of the hat, and I’ll admit it, I nearly chickened out when I was given the nod, but I realised that this would get me nowhere. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it’s that to move forward in your business, you have to get out of your comfort zone in some form or another, otherwise you’ll never grow, either personally and professionally. I knew I wasn’t exactly selling my services, I only had to be convincing about the passion I have for words and the belief I have that it’s important to make content available to ALL learning styles (I do this with intelligent transcription, by the way, just in case you didn’t know!). 

I see now that the fear I was feeling was fear of the unknown. It was fear that I would trip over my words and be tongue-tied, that my mouth would dry up, that I might fall over in front of everyone and make a fool of myself or that I might get a poor response. I realised that fear of what might happen wasn’t going to serve me in any way, and why on earth would bad stuff happen anyway? I convinced myself that because I knew what I was talking about, some people would resonate with it, and some might not, but they wouldn’t be my ideal customer anyway. When I stood up to speak last week, my nerves evaporated, and I actually enjoyed it. Yes, the crowd wasn’t massive (around 17), but considering I haven’t stood up in front of that many people since I was at school, that was a biggie for me, and I know now that if I can do it, anybody can! 

What’s your biggest fear when it comes to your business, and what would get you out of your comfort zone?

Who’s your ideal customer?

If you’re reading this, chances are you might run your own business, you offer a range of services and/or products and you have a customer in mind that you like to sell to and they love to hear what you have to say. Or are you struggling to find the right people to work with?

Okay, I’ll admit it. When I started my business three years ago, I really didn’t know who I wanted to target. I went into business purely as a lifestyle measure at the time, as I no longer wanted to return to the traditional workplace after my children were born, but I still wanted to earn some money. I didn’t really have much of a plan although I knew I was good at what I did, but I also didn’t really know how I was going to get my clients. I realise now that I should have asked myself questions like:

  • What sort of VA business do I want to have?
  • What sort of services do I really want to offer (not just what I think people might want or what other VAs are offering)?
  • Who do I want to sell to in particular?

And most importantly…

  • How am I going to target the people I really want to work with?

It took me until about a year ago to realise that I didn’t have to target absolutely everyone. I was introduced to the phrase ‘spray and pray’ marketing, whereby you fire your message out at random and hope someone (anyone) will buy. If you’re trying to target all and sundry, however, then at best you’ll get a load of work that takes up all your time for not much return and at worst you’ll get the nit pickers who are incessantly demanding, query your rates and often pay late (if at all). I know, I’ve been there!

So where do you find that ideal customer? What did I do to narrow down my search?

What’s worked for me is narrowing down what I offer to a more niche market. After all, if you’re a jack of all trades you’re a master of none, and if you’re a specialist in something, you can market yourself as such and thus get yourself known in the marketplace as the ‘go to’ person for that particular service or product. It also helps enormously to be much clearer on who you really like to work with by thinking about your ideal client as an actual person who has a problem he or she needs help with. You can then try to get inside the mind of this person in order to focus on the problems and issues you can help solve.

 Your ideal customer will see and appreciate the value in what you’re offering, will come back for more and will refer you to others.

What could be more ideal?

A fun way to do business (and life) planning

When it comes to your business (and life), what springs to mind when you think about forward planning? Perhaps you have a few ideas about what you want to do in your business (and life!) in the coming year, but it all seems a bit, dare I say it, overwhelming, to think about goals, actions and accountability.

And yes, I know it’s already the end of January, so shouldn’t we already have got our plans in place and be raring to go with achieving the goals that we should have had written down by no later than the final chime of midnight as Hogmanay turned into January 1st?

But planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming and something to put off ’til next week. Last year I discovered a business AND life planner designed and created by Leonie Dawson, an Australian businesswoman and mentor whose target market is largely creative and spiritual women, but I get the feeling she would probably appeal to anybody who likes something a bit different and left field and is a bit bored of the usual planners and calendars. It’s not going to be for everyone, but it’s bright, it’s colourful, it’s inspiring and most importantly, it’s fun! I would definitely recommend clicking on the link below to check it out if you fancy reflecting on the year that’s just passed and if you’d like to get inspired for the year ahead.



Why has it taken so long?

A few months ago, I commented on a blog that I read on a regular basis. I received a reply back which was telling, to say the least. The owner of this particular blog told me that she wanted to leave a comment on my blog, but that it still wasn’t there. Despite there being a ‘blog’ page on my website, something that’s been there since – whispers – the end of last year, it has remained resolutely empty.

So why has it taken me so long to get started? If you’re like me, you probably wonder if you have anything interesting to say. You might think, well, what should I be talking about? My business, my life, my work/life balance, my interests or perhaps if all else fails, my children? What if nobody reads it? What if – the horror – nobody comments and it just sits there in the ether gathering virtual dust?

I admit it, I’m a serial procrastinator. The main reason I’m writing this blog post is that I was given a challenge by a good friend of mine to get it written and sent back to her for feedback within 24 hours – no mean feat, when you’re the queen of putting things off! But I had to ask the question, why do I keep putting things off? Why has it taken me so long to start this, when I could have had a whole series of the things written by now?

I think it’s the fear of it not being quite right. I know the adage, don’t get it perfect, get it done, but it’s so easy to write something, then look back at your words and feel the need to re-tweak and re-write again and again, without ever actually producing a finished document. But I’m starting to realise that this doesn’t get you anywhere.

I know that I’ve got things to talk about that relate to my business that other people haven’t got a clue about. I know that I can talk about juggling my business with my other job as mother of two primary school age children. I know that I can relate to a lot of other people out there who are in a similar position and that’s a heartening thought, as it means that some of you might actually be interested in what I have to say! I don’t know why it’s taken me so long, but – yay! – I’ve managed to complete my first blog post. Here’s to the next one!