Cash flow issues hurt, don’t they?

Hi again,

This is a subject that has been very much on my mind of late, so you may find the pointers below of interest.

When you run a small business, and I mean small – how about one employee… me – cash flow issues can really hurt. I really enjoy proofreading and copy editing and get a lot of satisfaction out of doing a good job for someone, but I hate chasing for payment.

I ask for 14 days payment and I have so many lovely clients (mostly running small companies themselves and who know the score), who pay up within a few days; this is marvellous :)

Trouble is, you do become used to your invoice being whisked quickly out of the due section to the paid section, and it is more of a shock when they are – shock horror – paid late.

I think this is probably more the case with larger companies, who have specific days when they pay their invoices. I have one client who is paid by her own client after six weeks. I nearly fell over when she told me that was how long I was going to have to wait to have my invoice paid.

What can you do to help manage your cash flow? This article by The Guardian Small Business Network has some useful tips to help you and I am outlining some of them here:

http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2013/oct/30/cashflow-top-tips-small-business

Agreeing clear payment terms from the outset is important

Suzannah Nichol, Chief Executive of the National Specialist Construction Council, explains.

“If you don’t start off knowing what your payment terms are, it is difficult to know when you are going to get paid,” she says. “If you don’t know when a payment is overdue, how are you going to manage your cash flow?”

 Invoice as soon as the work is completed

Marion Thomson, of Embarc Ltd Accountants, advises SMEs to invoice clients as soon as the work is completed.

“If you wait two weeks after the work has been complete, then it should be fairly obvious that it will take a further two weeks before that cash arrives in your bank account,” she says. “Issuing your invoice by email will mean it will get there immediately and you will have a record of it being sent.”

Make payments easy for customers

Making payments should be made as easy as possible for your customer, Thomson advises. “Try to avoid being paid by cheque as it will result in delays before the money arrives in your bank account,” she says. “Online payments are a much better option.”

Offer clients fixed rate payment packages to ensure good cash flow

Yva Yorston of Boost Business Support has adopted this for her clients.

“… I have developed retainer packages for a fixed number of hours each month, which are billed in advance,” she says. “This way, I get paid up front rather than in arrears, and I can plan my spending and business growth more easily. The peace of mind this gives me is priceless.”

Establishing payment arrangements that minimise debtor days

Powwownow’s, Andrew Johnson, suggests the following to minimise the gap between invoicing and payment:

“One excellent way to ensure these remain stable is to establish direct debit as a business norm for collecting receipts. It allows a business to scale without increasing the costs required to collect the debt, while also providing a stable inflow of cash from which all payments can be made from.”

Use technology to manage cash flow

Andy Harrold, of Aberdeen Gardening Services, said cloud-based accounting is the biggest time-saver for his business:

“Not only has it given me flexibility on where I can view my accounts, but it has also removed the worrying hassle of backing up all that data. I can now view my accounts on the move via my laptop, tablet or mobile phone and keep up to date with my financial situation.”

Keep the bank informed

Banks can offer businesses useful services like overdrafts or credit, particularly when they are starting out. Andrew Selmes of Hire or Buy Art, says that keeping the bank informed over any unforeseen outgoings and changes in forecasts, has been crucial.

I must admit, I only follow some of these at present, but it is food for thought isn’t it?

Until next time…

Do grammar pedants make the best copy editors?

I have not blogged for a while, as have been too busy with work – which is great, but I thought I would start 2014 with a cheeky blog to get me back in the swing of things.

To answer the question above, you might think the obvious answer was a great big resounding YES! I mean who better to check your work than someone who is an absolute stickler for grammar, right?!

I would have to partly disagree with you though. Why?

To help me explain, here is a fun little definition I found in the Urban Dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com)

Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome

Grammatical (or grammar) pedantry syndrome is an illness or a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder where someone has a compulsive desire to correct any grammatical errors one has made and is obsessed with taking this peculiar, constant, and vexatious (from the target’s perspective) action.

“Me and mark ate cookies!”
“You mean, ‘Mark and I ate cookies!’”
“Stop it!”
“Sorry, I have Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome.”

In informal writing, slavish addiction to ‘correct’ forms of grammar can sometimes mean that the piece comes over as stiff, boring and inflexible. Inflexibility in this case can mean that the writer (or the editor who is checking over the work), is unwilling to move with the times and to follow – for example – the increasing trend to abbreviate etc. In formal writing of course, there should be a greater adherence to what is considered to be the best grammar.

I do proofreading and copy editing for a few copy writers and I check their marketing, copy and of course their blogs. More and more, I am coming across informal use of contractions, for example:

Don’t (rather than the more formal do not),

Isn’t (is not) and

Would’ve … well it should of course be would have (and not, as is so frequently written – although not by grammar pedants, clearly - would of)! That is just so wrong.

It would perhaps be hard for a grammar pedant to let contractions such as these go, and yet in many cases this informal way of writing is a deliberate choice and the ‘chatty style’ is seen as more likely to appeal to the target market.

If as a proofreader or copy editor, you deliberately set out to change things because they are not traditional or do not sit quite right with the way in which you were taught, you are going to quickly be out of work.

It is so important to not correct for correction’s sake and to resist the desire to bring out the metaphorical red pen. Sometimes, you have to let some things – particularly where there are no real hard and fast rules – go.

In my opinion, to be a good editor you have to bear this in mind, and more importantly, you must be consistent and honest with the writer.

No one wants an editor or proofreader who hasn’t (see what I am doing here!) a clue about the correct use of grammar, but grammar pedants probably do not make good copy editors, as they are not flexible and open-minded enough.

Until next time…

It is not just writers who get writer’s block!

Some days you just cannot find any inspiration – divine or otherwise, to be creative.

I know that my job as a proofreader/copy editor is mainly about making other people’s creative efforts read better or at least read more accurately, but I too need to be creative.

How so? Well I have to be creative on this blog don’t I? I certainly have to be creative in my social media activities and marketing activities.

It is not enough and will get dull if I continue to post up the same line – “for all of your proofreading and copy editing needs, use Copy-proof” or “for peace of mind – use a proofreading and copy editing service like Copy-proof’s” etc.

You have to be interesting and witty and original (or at least try to be) and that is where the creative block often creeps in.

Think on it, you are tired, your eyes are fuzzy with staring at the screen all day, the kids are being demanding, the dog needs walking and dinner needs to be prepared… how can you be creative with all that going on?

Actually, I take my hat off to all of the authors out there, who are creative and do have to do all of those things. I guess it is about getting into the zone and dropping everything (not literally) when the creative mood does strike!

I am not one of those people who find it particularly easy to just drop everything and at the back of my mind are all the chores and other domestic drudgery that await me!

When I think about it, I do have to be creative as a proofreader/copy editor, because I have to be creative with other people’s words. To a point anyway – I can’t change everything otherwise you lose the ‘essence’ of the story, or the piece of marketing you have been asked to ‘tidy’ up.

I do get a particular kind of buzz out of making something read better – perhaps it is the creative author that may be lurking in there somewhere, trying to come out.

What it does boil down to though is… words! Lots of them and I just love them.
Perhaps if you love them, you will never truly get writer’s block as your head is just too full of them and they will come out sometime, somewhere.

Keep writing friends and I will keep editing (creatively, or not!)

Freelancing is not for everyone, but I love it!

So you are thinking of working as a freelancer? It is not for everyone, but it may be for you!

How do the following considerable benefits sound to you?

-        You can choose a career that offers something that is in demand.

-         You can be home-based – no more sitting in traffic jams or waiting for a train on a freezing cold platform!

-         You can set your own hours – if you are a parent you can work school hours and can possibly do away with day care,  completely. This of course will save you money.

-         You can have job flexibility.

 -         You can even work in your pjs if the mood takes you – unless you are worried about window cleaners and visitors…oh and maybe not if you have to do a school run…but still!

-         You can decide not only when to work, but for whom – well if you are lucky to have that choice of course!

-         You can be your own boss and make decisions that are important for you and your family rather than conforming to a company’s ideas/ethos etc.

 

For me, the decision to become a freelancer came at a time, when I was being made redundant from an industry I had been in for years – recruitment – and I needed to work part-time because of the children. I had to identify what it was that I was good at and I enjoyed doing.

 Et voilà the idea of becoming a proofreader was born!

I was a bit of a frustrated proofreader when I worked in recruitment, although there were plenty of opportunities to use my red pen on applicants’ CVs!  

So… I decided I would finally go it alone as a proofreader, signed up to do a professional proofreading/editing course and set up Copy-proof.

There are of course, downsides to freelancing work and I won’t pretend otherwise:

-         Freelance work can be likened to waiting for buses – none for ages and then they all come at once!

-         You can have super months when you have earned a lot and then there are others when it is much quieter. Be aware of this before you start.

-         You can get lonely from time to time too and you may miss the camaraderie of an office. Make sure you meet with friends/family and find something you enjoy doing to break up the day.

-         The buck stops with you of course as well – if you don’t put the effort in to market yourself for example, you won’t succeed.

Nearly four years on, I am still enjoying it.

There could be more work of course at times and at others, when I am swamped with deadlines to meet, I think,

“I wish I was working 9-5!” but, the flexibility it gives me, makes it all worthwhile…most of the time.

Until next time…