Business Owner – How to Improve your Website

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Have you been thinking that it’s time to improve your website?

It’s been years since you did anything with your business website. The About information is out of date and the last blog post is dated 2018. Perhaps you have some products that you should add, but you never seem to have any time. The website needs a good makeover, or at least to take part in a TV show where you will get several areas made over in 60 minutes by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen.

Your website is an important tool that will help your business if you keep it updated. The first thing that you should do, is to put aside some time to work on it. There are several areas to look at which should help it improve:

Theme

Images

Feature Image

SEO

Navigation of the website

Information about your business

Blog Content

Links to social media – making content easy to share

Improve Your Website Theme

The theme is the first big decision. You may have had your theme for a very long time and it is starting to date. Keeping your theme up-to-date is important for security, If you use a WordPress blog, then changing your theme is easy. You can browse the themes and just pick one. Each theme has an option to preview. This means that you can see how your website would look before making the move.

You can also buy a custom theme from a developer for WordPress, although you may need some support to make the website work as you want. Most of the themes are able to use custom colours and you can add your own banners. Make sure that you have saved your website to back up before changing the theme.

Which Theme?

When looking for a new theme, I take into account the ratio of content to images, the blocks available to add badges or other things linked to my work. I also look for navigation of the website and how easy it is to locate the important pages and the ability to add social media. The theme should look clean and work well with any plugins. It should also support mobile devices.

The current trend is for image-heavy themes, but I prefer more space for content as I am a writer. My current theme is 2015 for WordPress. I have used it for over a year and I like how it looks and it is easy to set up to my specifications. I do keep an eye on new themes and I will change if I find I like a theme better, or if my theme stops being supported. So choose a theme that works for you and your business and helps to improve your brand.

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Images

Using the right images help to improve your website. How you find your images depends on your budget. There are a number of free websites out there that will enable you to find topical images to suit your subject. If you are writing about a generic topic, then you will usually manage to find an image using a free website. Examples include Pixabay, Unsplash and Pexels. Many will allow you to donate the price of a cup of coffee in order to help support the website. You are also sometimes asked to attribute the image. Make sure you read the terms of use and follow them.

Some businesses take out a monthly subscription to one of the big image websites such as iStockPhoto. This can give you access to a huge amount of images, including graphics, on any subject you can imagine. I have previously used this method and it is important to choose your image carefully. Look for ones that seem natural rather than posed and make sure that the detail that you want is positioned correctly in the image. Some websites use small photos and you need to ensure that the image can be seen.

Feature Image

Do use the ‘Feature Image’ if available. This will put a thumbnail blog post image to represent the blog post. This is a feature of WordPress, which can be found on the right hand side page of the post in edit mode. The button tells you to “Set Feature Image” and gives you instructions to do so. I would always use the image that I have chosen to illustrate the blog post.

SEO

There are some great plug-ins to help you improve the search engine optimisation (SEO) of your website. I use Yoast. There is both a free and a premium version. Yoast combines the ability to adjust your SEO to help your website, with links to great information that explains why you are asked to take these steps. It gives you pointers on readability, passive voice and length of sentences. It also enables you to edit the snippet that can be seen if your blog post comes up in a search. It enables you to think about SEO while you are editing the post and this can help your website move higher in the search results. I can disagree with Yoast, but at least I know that if I am ignoring its advice, that I may be limiting my search engine ranking. The advice it gives is sound.

Yoast can cause a problem if you are running Google XML sitemaps. I found this blog by Winning WP which explains the problem clearly and what to do about it.

Easy Navigation to Improve Your Website

How the users navigate your website is key.

Can they find your ‘About’ page?

Can they find out how to contact you?

Do you need a landing page to sell a new product?

Or are you selling a service and you need to highlight the skills you offer?

Answer these questions and set up your website to highlight these services and your website will really be improved.

Readability on a Mobile Device

Can users navigate your website on a mobile device? It is good practice to check out how your website looks on a mobile device and how easy it is to navigate. You may change the navigation of your website according to offers you are promoting, or if you have a new product coming out that you wish to promote.

Think through where visitors land when they visit your website. Is it clear where they go for offers? For your blog, news or events? To learn more about your company? If it is not obvious where to go for this information, then change your website so that it is more user-friendly. Your theme should enable you to make this kind of change without too much technical knowledge.

Tip: Ask a friend to go on your website and see what they think about the navigation of it. A fresh pair of eyes can help you find where improvements to your website are needed.

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Information about your Business

Is your website getting your message across? Can visitors to your website understand what your business does? Does your website enable visitors to do what they want to do?

Customers want to know about the company they are dealing with. The information about your business should be up-to-date. It should be clear to website visitors what the business does. Include a short statement that explicitly explains what you do and what actions potential customers can take to contact you. Make it easy for them to contact you – include phone number and email if needed.

Blog Content

Writing a blog for your business is one of the best ways to improve your website. Regularly adding content can help your position in the search engines. Blog posts can be short and pithy or they can be long useful content. You can write a mix of evergreen content or content which does not date. You can also write news-type content where it is only relevant for a short space of time. Your blog should reflect your business and written for your audience. It is important that it contains subjects of interest and useful information. Blog posts can also contain a call to action that encourages the reader to respond in some way.

Thinking up subjects for blog posts can be hard at first, but the more you do it, the better you get. You can include interviews, news, events, how to posts and more. It is best to post a regular blog, but how regularly is up to you. You can also ask people to post guest blogs if they are of particular interest.

Check out this retro post from 2016 on 30 Ways to Find Blog Post Ideas

Links to Social Media

If you use social media to promote your business, then do include it on your website. Only include social media where your company is active. There’s nothing worse than a potential customer clicking on a link and the last post was 2017. If your company is active then retweeting blog post links can help bring potential customers to your website, increasing traffic.

Be careful and do have someone monitor your social media regularly. Often customers can use it as a place to get your attention and complain. If you get a complaint on social media, it is not necessarily a blot on your company. However you will want to pick up on it quickly and resolve it.

Have you improved your website recently? Which elements did you take note of? How important is it that your website gets your message across?

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Book Review: Mamaji by Elisheba Haqq

Release date: October 2020

Mamaji  by Elisheba Haqq, is a sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting memoir about self-discovery and a child’s journey from babyhood to being an adult without the guiding influence of a mother.

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The loss of her mother at 3 years old provides a poignant counterpoint to the love and laughter that fills Elisheba’s life from her six older siblings. The family have moved to Minnesota from India, and the children find it hard to fit in at school. A year after Mamaji dies, her father marries again and the children have a new stepmother in their lives. Sadly, she is not much interested in taking over the role of mother, appearing disinterested and selfish. The children of the family have a roof over their heads, but very little else and there is no love and affection for the children, apart from the love they have for each other.

Growing up without a Mother

Elisheba tells the story from her own point of view, honestly acknowledging her inability at 3 to understand what has happened, throughout her school years where she must try to fit into a school where she is an outsider, and into college and marriage, eventually having children of her own. Throughout the book, she tries her best to get on with her stepmother and maintain her relationship with her father. When Elisheba is able to visit Chandigarh, the place where her parents had spent their early married years and talk to relatives, she is able to find remnants of her mother and answers to the many questions that she has had. The book is filled with family photographs, which are memories of happy times.

The strength of a mother’s love for her daughter and that of a daughter for her mother, will stay with you long after you have closed this book.

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Do you enjoy writing book reviews? Try NetGalley

heart-shape-formed-by-central-pages-of-a-bookI have always enjoyed reading books. I am a member of a local book club and we meet up monthly to review and discuss books we have read. Reading a variety of books and authors is a really good way to improve your own writing.

An author whose blog I follow, mentioned NetGalley, so I checked it out and liked what I saw.

Read and Review

NetGalley is a website where publishers allow book reviewers and bloggers to read books before they are published, in order to get reviews. It is a UK website where you will need to create a log-in and undertake to review the books you get to read. As part of the profile creation, you are asked where you will review the books, whether on the website or on a blog. You are expected to review the book as part of it being made available to you.

There are a wide range of publishers registered there, including Faber and Faber Ltd, HarperCollins, Hodder & Stoughton and Mills & Boon. All kinds of books are there, including children’s books, non-fiction, fiction, autobiographical books and comics and graphic novels.

For the more popular authors or publishers, you might have to be approved before being offered a book to read and review, but there are also free books that anyone registered can access and read.

Digital Reviews

The downloads offered are known as digital review copies and they are similar to galley proofs. The text has been edited and corrected and proofread too. It is hoped that there are very few errors left as it is almost time to print the book. You might find one or two mistakes, but generally, the book is being offered as if it were an e-book. The aim is to bring the books to the attention of influencers in the book world and people encouraged to become a reader, include librarians, teachers, journalists and booksellers as well as reviewers and bloggers. You are encouraged to link your account to your social media, Goodreads and to verified industry organisations. The website used a NetGalley Shelf app to make the books available but other devices and apps are supported.

Readers and reviewers do not pay to use NetGalley, but publishers do. The website will also work with independent authors and marketing and PR companies. The aim is promote books and help with marketing and promotions.

My first book review for NetGalley will follow shortly. If you have a book blog or enjoy reviewing books, do check them out.

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Stronger Fiction: Should you write every day?

One of those pieces of advice given out to every writer is:

Write every day

It is given out so often that we are in danger of feeling that we are not writers if we don’t write every day. What if you find it hard to find time to write every day, however? What if you are at home with work emailing you, your children asking for help with school work and your partner locked away in another room constantly in another Zoom meeting? How can you possibly find time to write every day?

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The fact is that we are not super-women (or men). We have a lot going on at the moment and that may mean that some things do not happen. But should the thing that gives, be your writing?

To be honest, it depends on how you feel about it.

The thing about writing is that it’s like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more easily it comes to you. So if you can find some time to write as often as you can, then your writing will flow better and you will find more ideas for inspiration coming to you. If you are on the look out for ideas, they will come. Many writers carry small notebooks around just to jot down ideas as they happen, although in these days of smartphones, it is just as easy to make notes on that.

Perceived wisdom has suggested that it takes 100,000 words of practice to make a novelist. That’s a lot of words, you had better get going now. Seriously, though, most successful novelists have a rough novel or two, hiding somewhere in their house, which they have sworn will never see the light of day. That’s a lot of work for something that people will never read, but it was important to achieve to find out how a novel is structured, how you manage to sit down and write words by the thousands and whether you can actually do it. Until you try, you will never know.

Do you need to write?

When you have been away from your notebook or laptop for a few days, do you find that you are itching to write? If you find that you are missing writing, then it will be important to find time for it.

Equally, if you are in the middle of writing something and you have got stuck, then you may avoid writing. You may open up the document, stare at it for a moment and close it again, without any idea of what you want to say. It can be hard to know where to take a story, when the characters seem to have a mind of their own.

If you want to write but just can not find time:

Write down your daily routine for a few days, then look for times when you might be able to fit writing in. Look for quiet times, times when the children are busy and times when the partner is in a meeting.

You could get up earlier, when the children are not expecting to be working, and take 15 minutes for writing

Why not write at a point when you are normally slumped in front of the TV in the evening?

You may have a small amount of time between when the children are finished schoolwork and it’s time to start cooking dinner.  Why not ask your partner to cook dinner occasionally to give you a bit more time?

Your writing time does not have to be every day, but it does have to be regular. It is no good just finding time to write once a month. Writing more regularly than that will help improve your skills. However if you are not working on something that you want to get done, then you may be happy writing 3 or 4 times a week.

Plan to write

If you are working on something that you expect to finish at some point, things may take a little more planning. You will want to snatch 15 minutes here and half an hour there so that you can finish your work. You will find that you do not have time for writers’ block, and that your need to finish the piece might outweigh all other considerations.

If you are stuck at a point and you are not sure where to go from there, then  leave it for a few days and come back to it. Pick up something else for a short while.

Go for a walk or a run to clear your head.

You may decide to carry on with the story for now and then come back to it. This may help you decide what happens next.

Try plotting out what happens next to help you get past the place where you are unsure where to go

If you are not happy with the direction your story is going in, you can always change it.

So should you “write every day”?

I suggest that you take this advice as a guideline. It depends on the jobs that you have got to get completed and how busy you are. Writing every day will certainly help you to feel more like a writer, but far more important is that you are happy with your writing life. You need to be comfortable with what you are achieving.

What are you writing at the moment? Are you finding it possible to write every day? Let me know in the comments below.

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Maintaining Mental Health as a Freelancer

My mental health is very volatile at the moment. One moment I am calm and enjoying the peace, the next, I am feeling sad, then angry in a never-ending circle. Mental health is a very important issue right now because of the unusual times we are currently living in. Pandemics happen approximately once every 100 years and the living conditions that they impose on those who are living through them are not easy.

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Here are some thoughts about how you can help to maintain your mental health in lockdown times.

Attitude of Gratitude

Try to find the positive thought. Although for many people, normal life has been put on pause, this has meant that people have suddenly found the time to catch up on many things in life. People are putting this extra time, that they have never had before, to good use. People are spending time with their families, they are cooking more healthy food and they are taking more exercise than they did before, because to do so, means that they can get away from the four walls for a while. Be thankful for what you have. Do you have your family around you? Be thankful. Have you been able to cook more regularly? Be thankful. Have you saved some money because you no longer have to travel to work? That’s a good thing. We have been blessed with this time, so enjoy it.

Acknowledge the hurt

There are some families that have lost a lot during lockdown and it is important to acknowledge that and if it is within your power to help someone then you should do it. Whether it is sending a card to keep in touch, a gift to remember a birthday or for some other reason, it can help you to feel better about yourself and it can help someone else to feel better too.

Everyone is having off-days at the moment. The most important thing to do is to own the feelings and allow yourself to feel sad for a while. The second most important thing you can do is not to wallow in them. There will come a point when you feel better and take pleasure in something again. Finding ways to comfort other people will help your own feelings too.

As a freelancer, you may have lost some clients as the lockdown took hold. Believe that you will be able to replace them with better clients. Keep reaching out, sensitively to potential clients, keep networking and following up potential leads.

Enjoy the time off!

Craft your way to mental health

Our family have enjoyed finding time to try new crafts. Our daughter, who has had to deal with the abrupt end of her second uni year, has crafted a paper sloth, done some colouring and doodling and this week we have tie-dyed some T-shirts. We have enjoyed finding new things to try and found it peaceful to create some craft.

Home-schooling to suit your children

Children who have had to find new ways to do their school work, will not have been the poorer for it. It will help their independence as learners to work out which way to revise suits them best, to have to ask their teachers questions about the work required and to manage deadlines. Although the UK Government is hoping that children go back to school soon, the fact is that many will not go back straight away, because of the reduced numbers involved and the importance of keeping them safe. I have enjoyed working with my son and encouraging him to get his work done. It’s hard to hide at the back of the class when it’s one-to-one.

Find new ways to connect

One of the best things to come out of this time, is the way that we have found new ways to meet up with others. People who are very unconfident with technology have found themselves able to meet up in Zoom rooms, virtual pubs and virtual pub quizzes have become a thing and churches and other religious organisations have had to find new ways to connect. My parents have successfully navigated the world of online supermarket shopping, but they have not tried FaceTime yet – one thing at a time!

Which new ways have you found to connect with others? My book group have met more regularly during the lockdown. We just talk about the books we are reading at the time. The church I attend has prayer telephone conference calls and services for download on YouTube via the website. We can also hold deacons’ meetings on Zoom. I notice that both Facebook and Google have started offering meeting options – more help for us to stay in touch.

Get in touch with Mother Nature

One of the most amazing things about this lockdown has been the weather in the UK – it has been gorgeous most of the time. You have to ask whether it would have been quite so nice, had things been normal!

The lovely weather has meant that it has been quite pleasant to get out for a walk every day. I am lucky enough to have a garden and have enjoyed having some time to go in it and do some work there. But what if you don’t have a garden and cannot enjoy going for a walk because you live in a city?

There is some research to suggest that even houseplants can enhance your living space, so do some research and find a plant or two that you can live with.

Now that we can go further away to exercise (in England), find a green space to head to and enjoy. Look for the unusual places, look on maps for small paths and ways to exercise away from the crowd, find some new favourite spots to go to. Think outside the box and find canal paths, disused railways, ride a bike, go for a run.

Find a way out

Some people are finding it hard to be in lockdown because their home is not a safe place to be. If this is you, then find a way to reach out. People are aware that this could be the case. Find a way to talk to someone about your worries and try to find a way out.

Some UK numbers for you:

The National Domestic Abuse Network can be called any time, day or night, by all women or concerned family and friends:

0808 2000 247

You can leave a voicemail and a good time to call you back. There is also support information available on the website.

If it is an emergency, call 999.

Plan your next move

As a freelancer, you should always be planning what to do to keep the jobs rolling in, but it can be too easy to lose sight of this when you are just trying to get the work done. Many people have had some jobs cancelled or slowed, but this time is not going to last forever, so look out for courses to enhance your skills, overhaul your website and improve the SEO and make sure that you continue to network online.

Now could be a good time to change tack, change what you want to do in your business or plan to take it up a notch. Planning for your business can only enhance what you offer and help you to reach your business goals.

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Five tips to get a clear message across

How clear is your message on your website? Can people tell what you do? Can they work out what you are selling or offering? Or does your website leave them confused? Here are 5 tips to help you make sure that you get your message across.

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Know the message you want your clients/customers to get

So, what’s the message in this post? I definitely wanted readers to understand that they need to ensure that the right message is being put across. Are your blog posts the kind of message that your customers expect to see or do they not really relate to what you are trying to do? The worst thing you can do is to confuse the message with extra padding. Decide on a message and how you are going to get it out into the wide world. If you are trying to ensure that your message is heard, then keep it consistent throughout the next few posts. Try to avoid language that will obscure the message or detract from it.

For example:

“It is vitally important that during these days of the Coronavirus pandemic that you do not stop communicating with your customers. It is more important than ever that your customers hear from you.”

or

“Talking to your customers could be a good thing, what if they needed your services during this time of pandemic? If you keep in contact with them then they will know that they can count on you.”

I feel that the second  message is more woolly: it uses words like ‘could’ and ‘what if’ rather than the stronger language of the first one. It could be argued that both get the message across, but which is more likely to make you take action?

Know which customers you want to get the message

Do you know who your customers are? What kind of people they are, what they do and what factors make them buy from you? If you know this information, then crafting a message for them is so much simpler, because you can appeal to them directly. If you are looking to design websites for people, then you need to post case studies that show how you have helped people to achieve the website of their dreams. A photography website needs to be full of gorgeous images to showcase your talent and a writer website needs to show a variety of writing that reflects the kind of work that you are looking for.

Know the actions you want customers to take

And make sure you tell them. Don’t leave people guessing as to what you want them to do – tell them. Explain what you are offering, explain the T&Cs and make sure that they have all the information that they need to make a decision. You could set up a landing page just for those clients that you are targeting to make sure that they have access to the information in one place. Make it easy for them to find the information so they can act on it.

Keep it simple

Keep the message clear and simple.

Here is the offer.

It is worth this much.

It is currently priced at this much for a short time only

Buy before (date) to get this offer

Here is what you get

Here are the bonuses for buying by this date.

Finish with a clear call to action

Make sure that your customers are in no doubt as to the action that you want them to take next. The rest is up to them.

Are you looking to get a clear message across? What are the best ways to engage with your customers? Comment below to share with others.

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Which Businesses are thriving in Coronavirus times?

Whenever there are tough times, some businesses will still thrive. Even in the banking crisis of 2008-9, some businesses were able to survive and even find ways to grow during that time.

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If that seemed like an unprecedented time, then this time is more so. Thanks to Coronavirus, people are staying home, children are working from home, people who were considered the lowest in society are now raised up – all this is so new. Yet there is still a need to earn and make a living.

I have noticed that some businesses are doing better than others. Businesses that already had an online model are selling more. Look at Joe Wicks – from body coach to the nation’s PE teacher. Some normal people have found that what they do is interesting to others – my son’s Hospitality & Catering teacher is doing ‘how to’ cooking videos and they have been a great success. Supermarket deliveries have really taken off and the shops have been recruiting lots of shop workers to help fulfil those deliveries, while footfall is limited or down.

Here are some industries that are on the rise:

Craft businesses

Those businesses that can produce ‘how to’ videos and link it to an online shop are doing really well. People are looking for time away from screens and taking up a craft or hobby can help fill the long hours at home. Some companies are still able to post out resources and kits. Creativity releases feel-good hormones in the brain, and some people are using their hobby to create PPE for health workers, for example face masks. Some of the businesses that I have found include:

Paper sculpture from Flamingo Paperie. Make a sloth, a unicorn head, a pug or a llama 3D paper model

Instagram: @mycrochetplace offers free patterns and patterns for sale on Etsy for people who crochet

The Stitchery is a physical shop that offers online ordering. This quirky website is designed for people who are looking for sewing supplies.

The Little Crafty Bugs sell kids’ and adults’ craft supply kits including bulk orders and party supplies

These are just a few businesses – check out Facebook for your area and see who you can find. Local businesses often prefer to deliver locally.

Sending Cards

Home delivery businesses are doing really well. Particularly places that allow you to create cards and send parcels and packages as presents to save people going out. They also help you to stay in touch with friends and family. These include MoonPig, Funky Pigeon and some photo companies.

Work Out Videos

Workout videos that you can follow at home have become popular. The clever companies will make some content free and some available to subscribers, or sell kit to go alongside the videos. The need to exercise is very important and the weather is not always good enough to go for a walk outside.

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Farm and small shop deliveries.

Our local refill shop has been doing great business locally. They have had supplies of pasta and flour when the bigger supermarkets did not. There has also been a surge in the ability to order from local farm shops, butchers and similar shops. Sometimes smaller is better.

Switching to making PPE

Companies making PPE or personal protective equipment in response to the Coronavirus have also been doing well. I have seen those trusts that need PPE reaching out to companies to make more. Local people who have access to 3D printers have crowd-funded and created visors to help protect NHS staff. Small sewing places have been making face masks – a shop local to me has made over 1000. They have donated to NHS staff and carers and sold them to members of the public. Larger companies have changed their whole way of working and started to make things like hand wash, protective gowns and face masks as well as ventilators.

Cooked Meal deliveries

Ordering a cooked meal is still possible. Some local pubs have turned to delivering cooked meals and it is still possible to order food from Just Eat or Deliveroo. However at busy times, you can be left waiting for a long time for your meal, as I know from personal experience.

Streaming Services

Demand for streaming services has never been higher with people having to stay home. Netflix has reported record levels of people joining their service and Disney+ chose a great time to launch. However, these levels are not sustainable and numbers will return to normal levels once lockdown eases.

Business Coaches

It’s a good time to reflect on what you have been doing with your life so far and to look into changing direction. I would never recommend picking a business coach out of a search engine. Find someone who resonates with your values, follow them for a while, join their list and check them out. Sometimes they offer free tasters. Commit your money and time to someone who can help you reach your goals.

Training

Time to re-skill yourself. There are lots of companies offering courses cheap or for free at the moment. If you are working in a digital environment, I would always recommend starting with Google Digital Garage which are courses offered free of charge. Again, if you are considering taking someone else’s course, then check them out, take your time and only commit if you consider it is worth it.

Have you found any really good businesses that people should know about during this Coronavirus lockdown? Let us know in the comments below.

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Check out an Independent Book Shop during the Lockdown

This blog post was inspired by a Twitter chat this morning all about helping out independent bookshops.

3 bookshelves containing a mix of colours and sizes of book

Here is a link to the amazing chat:

https://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane/status/1253073923916402689

although you will have to have an account with Twitter to see it. I know that Twitter can be toxic, but I also really enjoy hanging out there with other writers. On this thread, lots of independent bookshops tweeted back that they were still open for business.

You could also try a search on Facebook, as lots of bookshops will have pages there too. The aim of this post is to encourage you to use your spending power to support smaller businesses.

In this lockdown time, why not support your local small businesses? You can find a good-sized list at Indie Bookshops.

One of Jane Austen’s characters said,

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Caroline Bingley may not have been entirely honest when she said this. She was trying to compete with Elizabeth Bennett for Mr Darcy’s attention by reading a book, at a time when Elizabeth was really trying to avoid conversation with people that she felt uncomfortable with, by reading a book.

Reading a book is a great way to get away from our tablet screens.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading ‘The Tennant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte. It was bought it when we visited the Bronte’s old home last year while on holiday in Yorkshire. I had previously read ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’. It is a great read – took a while to get going, but now I am really into it and not far from the end. I am already planning which book to read next.

Five reasons to look at a smaller bookseller:

  • They really appreciate your custom
  • You may find some unusual books that you may not have found anywhere else
  • It is so easy to place an order and pay online – good for socially distancing too! Check with each shop how they would like you order – some take orders by phone.
  • Browsing books is so similar to the actual experience except you are probably wearing the right glasses already
  • You can often find unusual or specialist books at smaller bookshops.

Some Midlands independent bookshops that are open for postal business:

The hive offers a selection of books and supports local booksellers through the purchases made. You can choose an independent to send some money too. The hive offers both books and ebooks and book-related gifts.

AbeBooks offers a network of independent booksellers which offer rare, used and out-of-print books which can be posted to people through internet orders. Books are shipped directly from the seller.

  • Astley Book Farm in Bedworth, Warwickshire offers the ability to buy online. It looks an amazing place to visit and seems to have a vast array of books
  • Warwick Books in Warwick are currently selling books online. You can request books through email from this page, and they are putting together book bundles too.
  • The Chaucer Head Bookshop, Stratford-upon-Avon are selling through AbeBooks or you can call them directly from the number listed on their website, including a number for overseas visitors
  • The Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham is able to sell existing stock. They are also offering mystery boxes. You can email them from their website.

I have only been able to include bookshops with an online presence. Many independent bookshops have bricks and mortar only and so I could not include them. This is a list for Midlands-based booksellers and I will be doing more blog posts about other areas of the country. If you have had good service from an online bookseller, do let me know in the comments below.

The fact is, that we need independent sellers as well as the big giants. If the big giants are able to capture all our sales and shut the independents down, then the lack of choice will make us all captive audiences. Bigger is not always better.

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Writing a CV, online networking, avoiding scams and losing a freelance writing job – the best of the last 9 days of the 30 day blogging challenge

I had great fun taking part in the 30 day blogging challenge this year, writing about a number of different subjects and adding 30 posts to my blog. My new challenge is to carry on taking it forward and keeping it up to date. So in the spirit of this (after a few days off to rest and recover) here is a round-up of the best posts in the last 9 days.

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Freelance CV help

Writing a freelance CV is an essential part of being a freelancer. Job opportunities often require you to send one off. You should never just drag up an old CV however, you need to tailor it to the requirements of the person description. My CVs have got me a lot of interest over the years, so here’s one way to write a good one.

Write what you know

That old adage should you write what you know, brought a lot of interest from the other bloggers in the blogging challenge group. It was a different way of looking at an old subject.

How to avoid scams

Avoiding scams should be on everyone’s radar, particularly in these days, when it can be difficult to know who is contacting you and whether their intentions are good or not. Always question everything.

Things to do during lockdown

Some great ideas to get involved in while you stay safe at home, were the subjects of two blog posts during these 9 days. I have already started taking a look at my old photos and enjoying the memories.

Lost a freelance job?

Lost a freelance writing job? Here is a personal post with my take on it. There are many people losing their jobs at the moment and it is important to take time for yourself, to grieve and to come up with a new plan. Since this post was written, I have been let go completely, thanks to the lockdown. I choose to look at this positively. There will be someone else who will appreciate my skills – I just have to find them.

Other bloggers who managed to finish

Shout outs go to Cindy Fox from Hearth at Home, Jacqueline Redmond, Your Story Works and Regina Byrne from Leadership & Management Coaching who also managed to finish their challenges.

Finally, I looked at my transformation through the 30 days of blog posts process. I have gained confidence and enjoyed interacting with other bloggers. I would definitely do it again and I would recommend that you do, too.

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My transformation through 30 days’ blogging

30 days ago, I was not quite at the beginning of my 30 day blogging challenge. You see, it has taken my longer than 30 days to reach 30 posts. I was at Day 7, thirty days ago, but it has still been a transformation.

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I love writing, but producing content for my own blog is a struggle. Sometimes I have lots of topics and can write easily, but at other times, ideas come more slowly. Signing up for 30 days of consistent blogging is a test of faith, but I managed it with my trusty editorial calendar by my side!

I have really enjoyed creating the round-up posts and the weird titles they create. Both round-ups consisted of a wide variety of subjects which probably best reflect my brain and the way it flits around! I found that people still commented on the round-ups, even though they had had the opportunity to see the post first time round.

The blog post that got the most attention was Blogs Interrupted, which was the week the world changed. The schools closed, most people were told to stay at home and stuff got real! None of us have ever known a time when the world as we know it changed so dramatically, and I got behind on my blogs for a few days as we learned to deal with our new reality.

Blog with a group

I wanted to join the blogging challenge in March, because I could see that lots of people were signing up for it and I wanted to be part of a group. It’s no fun blogging in isolation, you need people to take part. So many of the people I was blogging alongside, inspired me. People like Vaishakhi, who created Beads of Hope and Regina Byrne Coaching as well as Melina Abbott and Dale Darley. The people you meet while taking the challenge are wonderful and you get to read so many different types of blogs.

You learn so much on this challenge. Some of it I knew and had forgotten, other pieces of knowledge were brand new. Each email arrives jam-packed with information, things to do and actions to take. I learned how to use Canva (and pick the free images), I installed Yoast (and I still have arguments with it on SEO vs my style) and relearned the art of the round-up post (bit difficult to do when you post so infrequently but easy when you have 30 days’ worth of blogs).

Do Yoast & I have a future?

So, what of my future plans? Obviously I plan to blog more and want to work on a content series. I hope to continue with a mix of topics, completely confusing Google and I look forward to reading even more diverse blog posts on the 30 day blogging challenge group. I also intend to take the challenge again some time in the future, but possibly not yet! Yoast and I will also try not to break up, but just be like that annoying warring couple that everyone knows and tries to ignore.

Should you take the 30 day blogging challenge? Absolutely! It will hurt as you stretch your writing muscles, but it will feel so good after! Go on! You know you want to!

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