my blog my blog

Monthly February 2017
Fantastic Mr Fox: Syndicated Interview with Composer, Arthur Darvill

How did you first become involved with the stage production of Fantastic Mr Fox, and what made you want to come on board?

Maria (Aberg) the director called me and said would you like to write some music for Fantastic Mr Fox, I said absolutely!  She then said it opens in November and this was in June, so it has been a fairly swift process but I am very glad she asked me.

Do you think Road Dahl’s writing is something that translates easily to the stage?

I don’t think anything translates easily to stage but I think his stories are so rich and full of brilliant well-defined characters that it is a real joy to see these characters, especially those from Fantastic Mr Fox jump out of the book.

How does it feel to create music for something as well known and universally loved as a Road Dahl story?

It has been a real privilege to write music for this. It is a pinch yourself moment. When re-reading the book I thought I love this book but I don’t know if I can do this, which I think is a good reaction to have.  Throughout the writing process it has been about honouring what Dahl wrote and making sure the music tells the story in the best we can tell it.

Were you a fan of the book ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ growing up?

I am a massive Roald Dahl fan. He was basically my introduction to reading. I remember reading Fox in my cabin bed that I had growing up in Birmingham. I read it in one go, in one night, and just absolutely loved it. It had a drastic impact on the way my world was shaped. Dahl made the most disgusting things in life seem like the most joyous. He also had a great sense of justice, which can only be a good thing.

Tell us about your process for composing the music?

I don’t know if I have a process. I had a clear idea in my head what I wanted it to sound like but that kind of changed and thankfully a lot of the pressure was removed when I was working with the team on the lyrics. They knew exactly what needed to happen and write with such a good sense of humour.

What did you want to capture about the story and its characters in the music?

There are a definite group of characters In Fantastic Mr Fox; humans and animals. I wanted to give them both a very different sound to start with and as the story develops, these sounds slightly cross over depending on what is happening. The farmers have a dirty earthy English sound and the animals are freer. Mr Fox is arrogant at times and Mouse sings about cheese, which is very sweet.

What do you hope audiences take away from the show?

It’s a perfect family show for all ages.  I hope audiences take away melodies that they can sing on their way home. This show is so much fun and the right people get their comeuppance. It is not black and white. You will go home discussing the moral content of the story whilst laughing at the jokes.

What’s your favourite song in the show and why?

I can’t choose one song. I’m very pleased with how the Farmers’ song (Foxy Feeling) has turned out but they are all good.

Audiences will recognise you from your acting roles in Broadchurch and Doctor Who, but they might not realise that you are also an established composer. Is juggling both careers a challenge?

It is a challenge but a joyous challenge. I couldn’t just do one or the other, I have to do both. I have a fun job and I would never complain about it.

What’s coming up next for you?

I am currently in Legends of Tomorrow and will hopefully write some more music.

UK Tour: 25 Jan – 9 July 2017

www.fantasticmrfoxlive.com

The Year of Literary Heroes

VisitEngland has declared 2017 as the “Year of Literary Heroes” – recognising the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, 20 years since the first Harry Potter book, and other publishing phenomena that have helped put England on the map.

With Britain’s extensive network of navigable inland waterways transporting canal boat holiday-makers through rural idylls, with wooded glades, sweeping farmland and sleepy villages – to exciting waterside towns and cities with connections to some of our greatest Literary Heroes, Drifters Waterway Holidays (www.drifters.co.uk) has put together its Top 5 Literary destinations for 2017:

  1. Explore Ted Hughes’ Calderdale by canal – on a short break (three or four nights) from Drifters’ base at Sowerby Bridge, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden and back, exploring the beautiful Calder Valley and passing through Mytholmroyd, where Ted Hughes played as a child, and Hebden Bridge, where Sylvia Path is buried. The journey there and back travels 20 miles of waterway, passing through 34 locks, and takes around 16 hours. ***2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Sowerby Bridge start at £415 for a boat for two people.  Prices include damage waiver, pre-holiday information, comprehensive instruction, fuel, gas, parking, buoyancy aids and bed linen.
  1. Find out about Jane Austen in Georgian Bath – on a short break from Drifters’ canal boat hire base at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, it’s a delightful six-hour journey along the picturesque Kennet & Avon Canal to Bath Top Lock and back. Here canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up and walk 15 minutes to Bath City centre, where they can visit the Jane Austen Centre to find out about the writer and the City that inspired ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’, and enjoy a truly elegant afternoon tea at the Regency Tea Rooms.  ****2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Bradford on Avon start at £580 for a boat for four people, weekly hire from £835. Price includes boat hire, cancellation protection, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week.  Actual cost is around £10-15 per day.  Second pet is £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  1. Mark the 150th anniversary of Arnold Bennett’s birth with cruise through the Potteries – from Drifters’ base at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey Canal in Staffordshire, it takes around 10 hours, travelling through 18 locks to reach Stoke-on-Trent, where events and exhibitions are being staged throughout the year to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Enoch Arnold Bennett. A prolific writer with close ties to the Potteries, Bennett’s novels include ‘Anna of the Five Towns’, which told the social and industrial history of the local people.  On a week’s holiday, boaters can continue on from Stoke to complete the Four Counties Ring, which passes through Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands, travelling a further 90 miles, through 76 more locks, and cruising for another 45 hours. ****2017 short break (three or four nights) prices from Great Haywood start at £470 for a boat for four people, weekly hire from £670. Price includes boat hire, cancellation protection, gas, car parking, tuition on arrival, buoyancy aids, bed linen, towels and first pet.  A fuel deposit of £50 is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week.  Actual cost is around £10-15 per day.  Second pet is £25 for a short break, £35 for a week.
  1. Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit with a journey through Tolkien country – Published in 1937 to wide critical acclaim, the popularity of JRR Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ endures. Tolkien spent much of his childhood exploring the village of Sarehole (now Hall Green), Moseley Bog, the Malvern Hills, and nearby Bromsgrove, Alcester and Alvechurch.  From Drifters’ base on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal at Alvechurch, narrowboat holiday-makers can travel through some of the landscapes that inspired Tolkien’s masterpiece.  On a short break, travel along beautiful tree-lined waters to the village of Lapworth and back, perfect for canal boat holiday beginners.  On a week’s holiday, more experienced boaters can tackle the Stourport Ring, travelling 74 miles through 118 locks in around 45 hours.  To celebrate 80 years since the book’s publication, Drifters will gift a copy of The Hobbit to customers quoting “Tolkien” when booking a boat departing from Alvechurch in 2017.  Please note this offer won’t be applied retrospectively.   ****2017 short break (three or four nights) hire prices from Alvechurch starts at £619 for a boat for four people, £799 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking, tuition and buoyancy aids. Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week, £140 for 10/11 nights and £180 for two weeks.
  1. Unearth infamous pirate lairs in Bristol – from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Hilperton near Trowbridge, Bristol’s Floating Harbour is a two-day cruise away, travelling 30 miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal and the Bristol Avon, passing through Bradford on Avon and the City of Bath. Once there, canal boat holiday-makers can moor-up and take time to discover Bristol’s exciting maritime history with a guided Pirate Walk, encountering Long John Silver’s treasure chest in the smuggler’s cave, Treasure Ireland’s Spy Glass Inn and Pirate Captain Blackbeard’s lair.  ****2017 short break (three or four nights) hire prices from Hilperton start at £619 for a boat for four people, £799 for a week.  Price includes bedding, towels, collision damage waiver, first pet, car parking, tuition and buoyancy aids. Fuel is extra – a £50 fuel deposit is taken for short breaks, £90 for a week, £140 for 10/11 nights and £180 for two weeks.

Drifters Waterway Holidays offers over 580 narrowboats for hire from 45 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.  2017 hire prices start at £395 for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four, £575 for a week and many boats currently have early booking discounts.

For more information about Drifters boating holidays call 0844 984 0322 or visit www.drifters.co.uk.

For more literary inspiration go to www.visitengland.com/literature For information about visiting the canal network go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

Never Forget The Cake

I used to hate tea. Not just dislike it, not just not mind it, but actually, literally, hate it. The smell, the taste, the feel of a teabag… It was almost a phobia.

A terrible phobia. A debilitating phobia. In fact, there was no ‘almost’ about it. I’d be quite happy, minding my own business, walking down the street, or sitting in a café, when suddenly, that tangy, spicy scent – the smell that made my taste buds shrivel up and try to hide – would hit me. Wafting its way past as a waitress carried a cup of the beige stuff to a nearby table, it seemed to leap out of the mug and assault my senses, slapping me round the face with its jolly old self. Jogging by me in a frantic commute, its consumer blissfully unaware that their beverage of choice had made me feel really rather unwell, it slowed down as it went by, wanting me to get a good dose of its goodness.

And it’s a strange thing, this ‘teaphobia’. Someone who is afraid of spiders gets sympathy, gets people offering to save them from the hairy little beasts. A person afraid of the dark is allowed to sleep with the light on. Anyone afraid of heights wouldn’t be expected to work up a ladder.

But I received no sympathy. Odd looks, disbelieving sniggers, shakes of the head, yes, I got those. And I was not excused from being in the same room as tea – I could not run off and hope that it was gone when I got back. I had to stay or risk being thought of as a fool. I had to listen to friends, family, colleagues slurping their way through never-ending cuppas. I had to watch them licking their lips and sighing in satisfaction. I had to, on occasion, tidy up the remains of their crumb encrusted mugs, the biscuits they had dunked leaving behind remnants that floated in the cold, brown puddle at the bottom of the teacup.

Disgusting. Isn’t it?

Or was it just me?

It felt that way.

When visiting family, all great tea drinkers, I would, of course, be offered a drink when I arrived. “Cuppa?”

I steeled myself. “No, thank you. Coffee would be great. Or something cold.”

“What? No tea?”

Every time. Every time I saw the confusion in their eyes, the worry coursing through their minds. They wondered why I was so strange. They wondered what was wrong with me.

What was wrong with me? Tea was my birthright, surely. I’m British. I should have been sipping tea until the cows came home, dunking Digestives and munching macaroons. I should have enjoyed cradling a hot mug as I sat and listened to the radio. Or gossiping through a mouthful of the stuff in the hairdresser’s. My friends had been weened on tea, had drunk it from bottles and beakers and sippy cups since they were tiny. They loved it. It reminded them of snuggling with their mothers at story time. It reminded them of feeling unwell and dozing on the sofa.

It was a part of them.

It was a part of us. Keep calm and have a cup of tea. It was – and is – the solver of all ills, and fixer of all failings.

I shouldn’t have been trying to get away from it at any given opportunity.

Should I?

But I did. And so, feeling decidedly unpatriotic and strangely alone, I carried on through life drinking coffee and cola and trying my best not to come into contact with tea.

Something changed, though.

Something big.

My husband bought me a present.

Now, at this stage I had sailed through four years of dating followed by three years of marriage without the dread ‘T’ word causing too many issues.

“I don’t really like tea,” I had said when he had offered to make me a cup the first time I had visited his house. “I’d rather have a Coke.”

He didn’t have Coke, so I settled on lemonade. And that was it. All those years later, I was still drinking lemonade in preference to tea, and Coke in preference to lemonade. I bypassed his family asking if I wanted a cuppa by offering to do the making, and thereby not sounding strange in front of them.

It was all working out rather well, and my odd little phobia was neatly tucked away in the drawer in my mind labelled Nothing To See Here.

But that present… I couldn’t get away from it then. He bought me tea at The Ritz. At. The. Ritz.

What a gift! How exciting! I was so impressed and stunned, in fact, that forgot about the tea part. At. The. Ritz. That’s all that mattered to me. I would have to find a suitable outfit – smart but not something that looked as though I was trying too hard. Nothing flouncy or flowery. A hat? Would I need a hat? Did I own a hat? So many questions, so little time to organise anything…

It was on the train to London that I started to wonder. Tea. It didn’t mean the afternoon meal. It couldn’t. The Ritz would call that ‘dinner’ and besides, this was booked for eleven o’clock in the morning.

Oh no! Tea meant tea! What was I going to do?

I started to panic. I probably even sweated a little. My husband, himself excited and pleased at the gift he had bought me, did not notice. Thank goodness. But my stomach was in knots and my throat was tight and all I could think about was how to not drink tea at The Ritz.

I didn’t think there was any way around it.

How could I ask for coffee? How could I ask for Coke? To not drink tea at The Ritz might even, as far as I knew, have been a capital offence. If I declined their kind offer, I might have been dragged off to the Tower, left there to rot until I apologised and had a nice cuppa with the Queen to prove how sorry I was.

And how could I possibly do that?

I don’t remember now whether there was even an option for choosing anything other than tea… I suppose there must have been, for form’s sake, but I wouldn’t imagine the waiter who served us had ever taken an order for anything else. His face was expectant, and he had appeared with such a silent suavity that he took me by surprise and I panicked.

The menu – a menu just for tea (and, yes, possibly other things, but nothing overly important) – was expansive. There were seventeen different types to choose from, ranging from the caffeine free Moroccan Mint, a fresh and light cup that soothes the senses, through Chun Mee, a carefully scented green tea, to the Ritz Royal English, a specially made blend only available at The Ritz, it takes the best of Kenyan, Assam and Ceylon.

But I didn’t know all of that.

As I said, I panicked.

And knowing nothing about tea, and having to choose something, I went for the only name that seemed familiar: Earl Grey.

Of course I’d heard of it. I’d never tasted it (I’d never wanted to), but it seemed the safest option. It was the most recognisable. It was harmless. Sort of. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to drink it, or pour it, and I would have to stop breathing since the room was full of the mingling aromas of lemon and mint and orange and rose petals. And, underneath all the clever, interesting, rather lovely smelling ingredients, there was tea.

Hang on a minute.

Tea.

I was surrounded by the stuff.

It was being sipped and slurped all around me.

It was being enjoyed and savoured everywhere I looked.

I could smell it. I could almost taste it, the air was so full of tea. And I didn’t mind. Actually, it was rather pleasant. Actually, I quite liked it.

How strange.

So when my lovely little teapot – made of bone china, so delicate and thin that I was worried I would break it just by touching it – arrived, full of Earl Grey, I felt ready. I would taste it. I would try it. I would see how I coped.

It didn’t look too bad when my husband poured it into my cup. It smelt good, and I gathered up some of the teeny tiny sandwiches (beef and horseradish sauce, salmon and cucumber) in a pile in front of me.

And, steeling myself, ready to run should I need to, I took a very little drink from my teacup.

Then I took a slightly larger one.

And another. And on and on and I had, unbelievably, finished the whole thing.

Not only that; I had enjoyed it.

I must have done, since I hadn’t yet touched my sandwiches.

I must have done, since I poured myself another cup.

I must have done, since I haven’t looked back.

I am now a tea drinker.

I am drinking a cup of tea (Earl Grey with just the smallest splash of milk) as I type this.

I tend to believe that my sudden about face was related to the occasion – romantic, special, possibly even once in a lifetime – and my surroundings – opulent, stunning, absolutely beautiful and so very British – and that strange thing that people do in relating smells and tastes to times and things.

When I drink tea, I am reminded of that day. I see again the chandeliers and the marble. I can hear the delicate tinkle twinkle of teaspoons on thin china. I can smell the heady mixture of tea and fruit and salmon sandwiches. And cake. Let’s not forget the cake…

Let’s never forget the cake.

RatesRates

My pricing guidlines

Type of Publication

Type of Work

£

Magazine Writing & research per 1000 400
Magazine Editor per day 250
Magazine Sub-editing per 1000 120
Magazine Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (regional) Writing & research per 1000 220
Newspaper (regional) Sub-editing per 1000 95
Newspaper (regional) Fact checking per day 200
Newspaper (national) Writing & research per 1000 700
Newspaper (national) Sub-editing per 1000 450
Newspaper (national) Fact checking per day 200
Online/digital media Writing & research per 1000 180
Online/digital media Sub-editing per 1000 95
Online/digital media Fact checking per day 200

MY RATES

Contact MeContact Me

Get in touch

GET IN TOUCH

Please contact me using the information below; I’d love to hear from you.

Phone

07710 611592

My ServicesMy Services

WHAT I CAN DO

Blog Writing

A blog is an essential tool in ensuring your website is seen. I can create regular blog posts that will move you up the rankings and give you a better placement within your industry.

Ghost Writing

Have you ever wanted to write a novel, memoir or short story but don’t have the time? Do you have the ideas, but the words don’t flow? I can help. Contact me for a confidential chat.

Articles

I am happy to carry out research, conduct interviews, and write/edit articles of any length. Contact me for more information about my rates and services.

Web Content

From your home page to your about me details and everything in between, you want a website that has snappy, interesting, high quality content. Let me create it for you.

Sales Letters

If you have a product that you want others to know about, you need a sales letter that is going to get attention – and keep it. I can write that letter for you.

Emails

Are you thinking of starting an email campaign but don’t know what to include? Or perhaps you want to send a special email to that special someone, but you can’t think of the right words. Contact me and we can discuss exactly what I can do to help.

Product Descriptions

Selling products online can be an excellent way of making a business, but if your products sound boring and your descriptions are dull, no one will want them. I’ve written thousands of products descriptions, and I can make your products shine.

Copy Editing & Proofreading

Have you written something that needs that extra level of checking? With my years of experience I can proofread or copy edit your work so that it’s the best it can be.

Social Media Management & Digital Marketing

Getting your digital marketing and social media strategy right is essential. I can provide and implement a social media marketing plan that works for you. Contact me to find out more.

About MeAbout Me

I'm a content writer

Excellent work by Lisamarie, on time, great quality and constant communication. Would not hesitate to recommend and in fact use again as soon as opportunity arises.

Andreas K
Andreas K

Lisamarie was great to work with - she did a fantastic job that completely met the brief and was delivered before the deadline.

Helena W
Helena W

Quick and brilliant, nailed the brief! Will work with her all the time 🙂

Roshni S
Roshni S

Fantastic work A++++

Rob C
Rob C

It was a pleasure to work with Lisamarie, she adjusted to our workflow and process with ease and completed work quickly and effectively.

Geoff J
Geoff J

Lisamarie is a very good writer and is very easy to work with. She reacted well to my guidance and provided me with content I'm very happy to use. I look forward to working with her again soon.

Ola F
Ola F

Great work from Lisamarie, articles are exactly what we wanted

Matthew E
Matthew E

Brilliant work from Lisamarie. I would definitely retain her again and recommend her to others.

Brad B
Brad B

REVIEWS

I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT and insideSUSSEX magazines.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of horses.

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

MY STORY

my blogmy blog

my diary
How To Choose The Right Accounting Firm For Your Business

If you run a small business then it’s important to hire an accountant to help you. Even if you have a good head for figures, the time that doing the accounts will take up is valuable time that you could be spending on other elements of the business. Therefore, you should look into hiring an accountant as soon as you can, so that you’re not suddenly having to look for one without being able to do all the important groundwork first. There are certain things that need to be considered before you start paying an accountant, and we will go through them here.

Location

In the past, it was essential that a company accountant was located near to the company’s office. They had to be able to visit when they needed to, to go through files and papers. Today, however, location isn’t necessarily a factor that will make a difference. There is cloud accounting and online discussions that can be used instead of physically having to be in close proximity. This can make your search for the best accountant for your business much easier, as you are not limited by location, although you will need to ensure that they understand the specific tax laws that relate to your business and your geographical area. If, however, you like the idea of someone coming to your place of work and being able to ask you questions face to face, then you will need to look more locally; you will also need to ensure that the accountant works in this manner, as it is becoming more and more unusual. Before choosing an accountant, you will need to have this decision firm in your mind.

Certified Accountant

Accountants are regulated by professional bodies. These bodies also provide qualifications and maintain professional standards, so finding an accountant who adheres to these standards, and who has these qualifications is important. If something does go wrong, you as a business owner will have some recourse to complain, and potentially take things even further, to court if necessary. If you have narrowed down your search to a small number of accountants then you should look into what specific qualifications they have. They should have a degree, plenty of experience, and of course the certification as well. When it comes to accountants, it is worth hiring the best you can afford right at the start, as it will serve you well and potentially save you a lot of money down the line.

Expertise

However you go about searching for an accountant, you should engage someone with the relevant expertise to work in your business. Not only should they have experience working in a business of a similar size and with a similar turnover to yours, but you’ll also ideally want someone who has worked in a business in a similar sector too. There are many different quirks and changes in tax laws that can affect specific businesses, so hiring an accountant who will already know about any changes, or be able to access the information, can save you time and money. An accountant who understands the unique needs of your business is all-important. You might also want to consider whether the accountant has worked with businesses that are bigger than yours. That way, if and when you do grow, you will be able to keep your trusted accountant with you.

Word Of Mouth

As with anything, word of mouth and a personal recommendation can be the best way to engage any kind of professional services. Ask around your friends and family, ask your business connections and your suppliers, find out who they use and how happy they are with them. Discuss the pros and cons of working with that specific accountant, and talk about how much they are charging. Although discussions like these many not be the most interesting in the world, or the easiest since you will need to talk about money, they are essential. You may find the ideal accountant this way, but remember that engaging an accountant does need to be a personal decision, and shouldn’t be done just because a friend suggests a name. It’s better to take those names and carry out the relevant research before committing to anything.

Software

Most accountants will have their preferred professional tax software to work with. There could be many different reasons for this, and it is entirely their decision. Where it could potentially be an issue is when you are using different software in the day to day running of the accounts. There might be problems when it comes to sharing information, and although there are some programs that allow for exporting and importing data from other systems, it can be a time consuming thing to do. Therefore, find an accountant who uses the same software as you do. If there aren’t very many of them, and it limits your choices, it might be time to ask yourself whether the program you are using is outdated, or simply not good enough. If this is the case, you should upgrade or change entirely. Again, this is time consuming, but once it’s done it makes organizing your finances and paying your taxes much easier.

Look For Money Savers

Some accountants really don’t do much more than complete your tax return and check through your accounts to make sure everything is as it should be. That’s fine – it’s what you are paying for – but there are other accountants to spend a little more time going through those accounts, and who can find ways to save you money. It might only be a little, but it could be a lot, and so it is something that you will definitely want your accountant to do for you. The accountant should also warn you of any pitfalls when it comes to these offsetting ideas as well. For example, there is a chance that a tax will be levied on your home when you come to sell if it you declare that you are using it as a business premises. There is a lot to consider, which is why hiring an accountant who looks at all aspects from every side is important.

The Best Use Of Time And Money

Unless you secure a fixed price deal, most accountants prefer to work and charge by the hour. Therefore, you may not want to have them do the day to day data entry tasks that need to be completed; these don’t have to be done by someone with accounting qualifications, so if you have an administration assistant, secretary, or office manager, they could do the job and save you money. You could even do it yourself if you set aside a specific amount of time per week to get it done. Make sure you do get it done though, otherwise it’s the kind of job that will just get bigger and more complicated over time, and if that happens you will probably hire an accountant to do it anyway. Having great accounting software can make a difference here; if it is intuitive to use then you will be more likely to do the work. If it is a huge effort, you’ll keep putting it off.

Interview Your Accountant

When you start to reach out for accounting assistant, you’ll receive a number of different offers. Don’t just accept the first one you see, or the one with the best price. It’s important to read through each proposal carefully, taking the time to note all the important parts that will make your life easier, and save you money on your taxes where possible. Once you have done that, you should interview each prospective candidate. This may not be possible to do face to face, but over the phone, or through a video chat, is just as useful. It’s essential that you feel you can work with the person you are hiring. Although you may only be in contact a few times a year, that contact should be polite and not something that either party dreads doing. Better – and more – work will be done if everyone gets on well.

Negotiation

There is no single method that accountants use to work out their fees. You might pay by the hour, on a ‘per job’ basis, or perhaps a monthly retainer. You might even be charged a percentage of your turnover. No matter which way it is done, you should always try to negotiate a better deal. Get written quotations from any accountants you are considering and then compare them carefully. One fee structure might make perfect sense now, but will it still work in your favor when your company grows? Or will you be spending more money than you are happy with? When you have determined what you want to pay, and to whom you want to pay it, you can begin your negotiations. It might be best to use a combined method of paying, or something on a sliding scale. The accountant may not agree to your proposals, so ensure that you have a backup plan should that happen.

4 Ways To Ensure Your Customers Don’t Stop Thinking About You

When you run a business, the last thing you want is for your customers to forget about you. You need to be the first company they think of when they need to buy whatever it is you are selling. How can you keep yourself at the front of their minds, and ensure they never stop thinking about you?

Social Media

Thanks to the leaps and bounds made in today’s technology, social media is now something that everyone has access to. For businesses, having a Facebook page, Twitter account, or Instagram account that is regularly updated with interesting and useful information is a great way to keep in your customers’ minds. Your customers will be checking their social media accounts on a regular basis (studies show that the average person looks at their accounts 46 times a day), so you need to be there, telling them about your great offers or why they should buy your goods and services as much as you can. However, just being on social media is not enough – you need to make sure you’re using the right platform (if your goods appeal to the older generation, Snapchat might not be the best account to open, for example). You also need to be consistent, and update your account every day if you can. Plus you need to interact with your followers.

Emails

Email is an efficient and relatively easy way to send out marketing information to your customers, and ensure that they remember who you are and what you do. Just having information, however, no matter how interesting it may be, is the surest way to get people to unsubscribe from your mailing list. As well as the information, make sure there are discount codes, and giveaways. Make sure that the reader knows they will only get these treats because they are signed up to your emails – they will be more likely to stick with you for more.

Blogging

Blogging is a wonderful way to keep your audience engaged on their terms, which can be the difference between success and otherwise. You get to show off what you know about your industry, or let people know about special offers and so on, but you can also use the blogs as part of your social media strategy. These can be the basis of your posts, making them shareable. Blog regularly and consistently well, and people will come to you when they need advice because they will know you know what you’re talking about.

Be Synonymous

Being synonymous with something is a huge advantage. If you want to see a ballet at Christmas, you immediately look at ticket sales for The Nutcracker. If you need ketchup for your burger, Heinz is the name that comes to mind. Think of the phrase ‘Just do it’ and Nike will be the result. If you can create a brand that becomes synonymous with whatever it is you are selling, then you won’t have to work so hard to obtain new customers. Of course, it’s still important to make an effort, but the hard work will already have been done. This will take time and money, of course, but if you do everything else on this list, you could well get there in the end.

4 Reasons Why Exeter Is Perfect Weekend Getaway

Now that Christmas is over and the new year has started, you may be thinking of a long weekend away somewhere, to brush away the cobwebs and begin 2018 in the right frame of mind. Where better than Exeter for this fantastic getaway? Here are my reasons why Exeter is the perfect weekend getaway.

Walking
If one of your new year’s resolutions was to get fitter and healthier, why not start with a mini-break in Exeter? The area contains 368 square metres of forest and moorland, and is sprinkled with gorgeous villages that are ideal for exploring and discovering. You can get to Dartmoor National Park very easily too, or the Jurassic Coast where you can walk along the cliff paths. Or maybe you’d like a guided walk of the city itself – just book yourself onto one. What’s great about walking in Exeter and its surroundings is that you can take your beloved dog away with you on your break too.

Beaches
Exeter is close to dozens of wonderful beaches. Sidmouth, for example, is known for its clean air, and the lovely pebble beach there leads out to calm water – great for kids. If you prefer sand, then you might want to try Exmouth. It can get busy there, as it’s such a great spot, but if you don’t mind the crowds and want to try your hand at some adventurous water sports, this is the beach for you. If fishing is your thing, Beer Head at Lyme Bay will be perfect for you, as you can watch the fishing boats draw right up onto the sands (there is no harbour). Whatever you’re looking for in a beach, Exeter can offer it to you.

History
Exeter is an amazing place for history buffs. The city has a Norman cathedral which features outstanding Gothic architecture – it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The historic quayside is an awe-inspiring mix of historic buildings and contemporary design, filled with boutique shops and independent cafes. You can even visit a museum to find out more about the area; the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery is free to enter and will give you many hours of enjoyment.

Outdoor Pursuits
As well as walking, there are many other outdoor pursuits for you to follow in Exeter. Why not hire a bike and ride out along the gorgeous riversides or along the cliff paths? Prefer something a little more alive? Horse riding is a great way to explore the area around Exeter, and there are plenty of places to book an hour or so, with a guide if you prefer. Or you could try your hand at kitesurfing, sailing, diving (there are many wrecks in Lyme Bay, for example, and with expert help you can dive down to them to explore), or windsurfing.

How To Keep Your eCommerce Site Secure

If you had a physical, brick and mortar store in a shopping centre, for example, you would make sure it was secure. You would have CCTV and high-tech locks. You would have shutters and alarm systems. You would never leave it unattended or accessible to thieves or vandals. A website, however, is often left wide open, allowing those will less than savoury ideas to go in and destroy it, stealing customers’ payment details while they are at it. Your business is ruined, and your customers are put in severe difficulties. How, then, can you keep your website as secure as a store in a shopping centre?

eCommerce Hosting

Spending money on the right kind of hosting for your website is a great start. You will have paid a professional to create your website, make it look wonderful, make it look like somewhere that people want to buy from. Placing that fantastic website on a cheap, unsecure hosting platform is where things can go badly wrong. You wouldn’t buy a top of the range mountain bike or sports car and fit it with cheap tyres, so don’t buy cheap when it comes to secure eCommerce hosting. Look around at the best websites, where people buy high-quality items such as theatre tickets or jewellery, and you’ll get an idea of the kind of hosting company to look into.

HTTPS

Every website URL begins with the letter HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol). If you want your entire site to be secure, change to having HTTPS instead. This used to be reserved for just the payment part of a site, but now you can use it on all your web pages, and that makes it even more secure and safe. In fact, having HTTPS in your URL will even help to boost your search engine rankings, as the more secure your site is, the higher it will appear in searches.

Secure Your Admin Area

Having a secure site that your customers are happy to use is essential, so you need to secure every aspect of your site, including your admin area. Most eCommerce platforms will have a default admin area, which can make hacking your site easy – hackers will be able to guess what your admin details are. Changing the username and ensuring that you have a password that’s difficult to guess will make hackers think twice. Why would they waste their time and effort trying to get into your site when they can easily get into another that hasn’t had the admin details upgraded?

Make Regular Backups

Should the worst happen and you wake up to find that your site has been hacked, what are you going to do? Well, if you have a backup of your site you can at least restore it, and start working again. This will limit any downtime you might have. You will still need to deal with the rest of the problems that a hacker has caused for you, but at least your site will be up and running and you won’t be losing too much revenue.

How To Dress For A Court Appearance

There are many reasons why someone might need to go to court. They might be a witness. They might be a juror. They might be the plaintiff or the defendant. Whoever they are, they need to dress appropriately. Here are some ways to work out your wardrobe for this kind of occasion.

Inspiration

You may not know someone who has been to court – after all, it’s an unusual thing that not many of us will get to experience – but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek inspiration when it comes to the clothing you should wear. Courtroom dramas have been around for decades, and if you pick something modern to take a look at, you’ll see the kinds of things that are suitable for wearing in this kind of situation.

Plain And Simple

Whatever you do, don’t wear anything that is distracting. The jury, the judge, and the lawyers all need to be able to listen to the experts, and everyone needs to concentrate. Any kind of clothing that looks out of place, is too bright, is too garish or ‘avant-garde’ will take their attention away from the person they should be listening to. If that person is you, then you definitely want them to listen to what you’re saying, not looking at what you’re wearing. Although fashion is made to be enjoyed, in a courtroom setting, that is not its function – it needs to be smart and tidy and show authority and responsibility.

Colour Splashes

Although you don’t want to distract anyone with your choice of clothing, wearing dark colours such as black, blue, or grey and then adding just a small hint of colour (perhaps a coloured tie or blouse or a pocket square) will lift the outfit and make it look even more professional and tidy. Just the right amount of colour that isn’t a crazy pattern or too bright will work perfectly, giving you the right air of restraint and reliability.

You Don’t Have To Buy New

It’s always nice to buy new when you can, but when you can’t there are ways to make an older outfit look current and smart. A suit never really goes too much out of style (unless it’s decades old, of course!) and this is a safe bet for a court appearance. Pair it with a smart shirt or blouse and shine up your shoes and you will already be looking great. If possible, make sure that your clothes are dry cleaned, or at least laundered before the big day, and please do iron everything that needs ironing. It’s these little things that really can make the difference.

Shop Carefully

If you are planning to buy a new outfit, then shop carefully. Yes, you’ll need to hunt for something appropriate for court, but if you can also make sure that it’s ideal for other occasions such as work, or job interviews, or going out for the evening as well, then it will save you money and it can be work more than once.

5 Ways To Calm Your Anxiety Naturally

Sometimes, life makes us anxious. It can be anything – big or small – that pushes our buttons and makes us feel nervous, unwell, as though we want to hide from the world. These great ways to naturally calm your anxiety will definitely help you out.

The Great Outdoors

If you are inside and the crowds or the situation is making you feel anxious, then remove yourself from that situation, and step outside. You don’t have to have a reason to go, you don’t have to have a purpose to take a walk, or simply take five and breathe the fresh air. Find a quiet location where you can sit (a park bench is great, a fence, a wall, a patch of grass) and breathe deeply. Completely fill your lungs with that crisp, fresh air. Look around you and ground yourself. You will feel serene and much calmer almost immediately.

Ask A Question

It’s important to work out what it is that’s making you anxious so that you can really work on ways of either avoiding it, or learning how to manage it. Even if those things seem small to others, they feel big to you, so you need to acknowledge them, ask yourself why it is causing such a problem, and go from there.

Take Me Time

We have all heard of ‘me time’ – the chance to literally get away from it all and be by yourself, whether that is being pampered in a spa or just having a little lie down in peace and quiet – but how many of us actually take the opportunity to do it? More of us should, as this is a wonderful way to de-stress completely naturally. Forget the chores that still need doing, don’t worry about what others will think, and just enjoy that time alone, doing something you wouldn’t normally do that relaxes you. A bubble bath, an episode of reality TV, the next chapter of your book… you’ll feel so much better afterwards.

Eat Well

Did you know that a poor diet could be making you feel more anxious than you would if you ate a little better? A good diet affects our bodies positively, and it does the same for our minds too. Foods that are bad for you may well be enjoyable at the time of eating, but afterwards you’ll feel heavy and sluggish, your mood may change, and you’ll feel irritable. Good food, however, will have the opposite effect, and you’ll feel energized and ready to take on the day, no matter what challenges it throws at you.

Smile More

Although you may not feel like smiling when you are stressed and anxious, that simple act can help you immensely. Just by smiling you’ll release endorphins into your body which relax you and calm you. Then you’ll want to smile even more.

How To Turn Your Hobby Into A Profitable Business

Hobbies are there to bring us joy, to help us to relax, and to generally make life a little better (and easier). Work, on the other hand, can often feel like the complete opposite – it’s hard, and it’s boring, and it’s just something we do to pay the bills and get through. If only there was a way to make our hobby into something that pays, and pays enough to give us a good living. Perhaps even start our own business. Well, there isn’t just one way that that can happen; there are many.

Goals

Having a goal – or goals – is essential when you start thinking about turning your hobby into a business. With no solid plan in place, and no end result in sight, you may find that you start well but fall at the first hurdle. To start with, what kind of scale are you looking at for your business? Will it be a full-time job so that you no longer have to work in your current day job? Or will it be a ‘side hustle’ so you can make money doing what you would have been doing in your spare time anyway? The more income you want to make, the more work you will need to do, so knowing in advance is important as you can then set aside the right amount of time to make your business successful, and the right amount of money too.

It’s Not Just The Obvious…

If your hobby isn’t something you think you could make a business out of, think again. Literally. Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper (do this the ‘old fashioned’ way for the best, most organic results) and start brainstorming your hobby. What are the ways it can bring you an income? Start with the most obvious, and let your mind really be free to make associations from there. Don’t be afraid to use the internet to see what other people are doing in the same or similar field. Once you start, you will soon discover that there are many different ways to make your hobby make you money. As a start, if you make something, you could sell it. Could you also, however, teach others how to make it? Could you create designs for others to follow? Could you sell accessories that go with whatever it is you’re doing?

Hobby Is Fun, Work Is…

You enjoy your hobby because it’s fun. You enjoy it because you’re good at it. You enjoy it because it gets your mind away from work and the office and all those business type things that seem to take up so much time. So, the big question is, will you still enjoy your hobby as much if you’re making money from it? Answer this question truly honestly, otherwise you might find that you have spent time and money creating a business only to be in the same position as you were when you were working elsewhere, except this time it’s you having to pay all the business costs and ensure salaries are dealt with. You could test the waters by starting off part-time.

Practice, Practice

Just because you enjoy something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at it. Hopefully it does mean you have a little skill, but it’s not always the case. So before you quit your day job and plunge yourself headlong into your new enterprise, make sure you really are the best that you can be. Practice, practice, and practice some more. Take extra classes, go the extra mile. Learn all there is to learn about whatever it is you’re doing so that you can be an expert, and people will trust you with their purchases. This is also the time to really learn about business, and ensure you’ve got all the skills and knowledge in place to get it right from day one. You will need accounting software and office equipment, and you’ll need a way of publishing reports so you know where you’re going and how far you still have to go.

Business Plan

No business can really make a successful start without a business plan. Not only is it useful for your bank, lender, or investors (whether you need them at the beginning or you think you might want to utilise them in the future), but it’s also important for you. An honest business plan will help you to see where the strengths and weaknesses of your idea lie, and will show you whether your hobby really can be a viable business. It will also show you how much money you might need to get your idea off the ground, and how much you’ll make in the first year (and the subsequent three to five years, all being well). If your business plan shows that you’re not ready to begin your new adventure, don’t worry – you know what you need to get to that point, and you can work towards it.

Marketing

Starting up a business is a wonderful thing. It’s exciting. It is – in some ways – freeing. However, if you don’t know about marketing, you may find that you don’t get as far as your business plan predicts. You don’t have to be an expert, but having the fundamentals of marketing in your mind will be a good start. Read some marketing books, search online for hints and tips, and generally get marketing ready before you launch. Once you are making enough money, you can bring an expert on board who can push your business even further (and give you more time to concentrate on the running of it), but until then, you will be responsible for everything. Your marketing needs to be good at the start, or finding those first customers will be tougher than it needs to be. A good way to get going in marketing is to network and make connections. You will be able to learn from these people, and you may even get referrals.

 

The Essentials To Pack On A Family Day Out

Having a family day out is one of the highlights of any weekend or holiday. Whether it is something that has been planned for months, or it’s a spur of the moment decision to go out to a museum, a theme park, a playground, or any other kind of attraction that everyone will love, there are some things that you will definitely need to take with you – here are our suggestions for the essentials to pack on a family day out.

Extra Clothing

The weather can often be unpredictable, and so can kids. By taking a spare change of clothes with you, you can be prepared should anything happen. It might rain and everyone gets wet, or it could be muddy and a change of outfit is required before getting back in the car to go home again. Or it might be something to do with dropping ketchup or ice cream all over themselves! Whatever the reason, having clothes for them to change into is a good way to keep everyone happy and comfortable.

Custom Clothing

Custom clothing is a great way to keep an eye on everyone. Whether it’s just you and a couple of little ones, or there is a big group of you, having everyone wear clothing that matches is a handy way to spot everyone quickly – ideal for when you are going to a busy place and there are going to be lots of crowds. If anyone does get lost, it’s also easy to describe what they’re wearing – and those looking will know when they have found them.

First Aid Kit

Accidents do happen, so having a first aid kit that has plenty of sticking plasters and antiseptic wipes is always useful. Patch up any cuts and scrapes immediately, and you can continue on with your fun day out.

Journey Distractions

Sometimes, the best days out will take a while to get there. If the kids tend to get bored on long journeys, it’s best to have a few distractions up your sleeve so that they arrive happy and contented (and so do you!). A fully loaded tablet, for example, with plenty of games and movies is great. If you don’t like the idea of screen time, why not get some exercise books that have puzzles in them, or colouring or sticker books to pass the time? Another idea is to look up some games to play before you leave home – spotting certain items as you drive along is a good one, as is counting the number of yellow cars, for example.

Snacks

Even if the place you’re going to has stores or stalls to buy food from, having extra snacks (and drinks) with you is never a bad idea. The kids might get hungry before you were planning to sit down and eat, and giving them something to keep them going will save any change of plans. Snacks are especially important, however, if you’re going somewhere that might not have anywhere to get food, they’re even more important. If everyone is fed and watered, you can enjoy your day even more!

How Can Water Help You Lose Weight?

One of the quickest and easiest ways to lose weight (when you combine it with a healthy diet and an exercise regime) is to drink lots of water instead of sugary carbonated soft drinks. It is said that women should drink about 90oz (11 cups) of water a day, and men need 125oz (15 cups) a day to stay fit and healthy. Our bodies need water, and here are some great ideas on how to get enough.

Set A Timer

Drinking a lot of water isn’t always easy. Sitting down to drink 11 or 15 cups at once is all but impossible – and it will put people off drinking water in general if they get overwhelmed by having to have that much, even if it is going to keep them healthy or help them to lose weight. Instead of trying to consume as much water as possible as quickly as possible, spread your water intake out throughout the day. Set a time on your smartphone or watch for every two hours, and make sure that you take a drink of water when the alarm sounds. This will help you get enough water without having to drink it all at once.

Add Flavor

Water is refreshing, and it’s the best thing you can drink for your body to stay healthy, but it’s also pretty dull, which is why soft drinks and juices are often chosen instead – at least they taste great, even if they are bad for you. You’re supposed to be drinking water, though, so why not add flavour to it? Steer clear of fake sugars and sweeteners, and use natural flavourings instead.

Sparkling

For some people, it’s the fizz of a soft drink that they crave rather than the sugar or the taste, so if that’s the case for you, choose sparkling water instead. Carbonated water is the ideal alternative, but if you are on a low sodium diet check the sodium content of the sparkling water before you start to drink lots of it – some have high levels. If you’re unsure, you can buy a Soda Stream and make your own at home using tap water.

Fruit

If you are really not keen on the idea of drinking lots of water, you might want to consider eating fruit to make up for what you’re missing. Some fruit contains a lot of water (watermelon is 92 percent water, for example, and strawberries, cantaloupes, and grapefruits all have a high percentage too) so do some research first so you can choose the fruit that will do something good for you, and have a snack and a glass of water at the same time, effectively doubling up on your intake.

Green Tea

If you want a hot drink but also want to keep up with your water intake, try green tea. It is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, and these can boost your metabolism. You can even drink iced green tea (and the ice is another way to have more water) if it’s a hot day.

How To Have A Greener Business

There are many reasons to ‘green’ your business and become more environmentally friendly. One is that it’s good for the planet. Another is that it will make you stand out in a highly competitive commerce space (either on or offline). Thirdly, going green really can help your bottom line and save you money. With so many good reasons to have a greener business, here are some ways to get started.

Post-Consumer Waste

Post-consumer waste (PCW) is about using recycled goods as much as possible in your business. Not just paper (although paper is a huge part of PCW), but other items as well including cardboard, ink cartridges, plastic items, furniture and anything else that you can buy recycled, upcycled, or otherwise previously used. PCW is a regulated way of buying recycled goods. Unlike a container that simply has the recycled symbol on it, which may not have been recycled to proper guidelines, if you buy PCW items then you can be sure that you are buying the right thing.

Biodegradable Cleaning Products

Exchange your office’s harsh, toxic chemical cleaning products for green, biodegradable ones. There is no need to rush out right now and buy more products if you haven’t finished using your current ones, but once they are done, you can buy much kinder new ones. You can even buy in bulk, which will save you money.

Do It Yourself

Unless you are in an absolute emergency, try to do as much around your office by yourself as you can. This could be anything from fixing a printer to decorating to planting a small garden in an outside space. You can even create your own logo online with DIY Logo. The point is, if you can do it yourself, you won’t have to call anyone out to help you, thus reducing vehicles on the road. It’s a small gesture, yes, but if everyone did it as much as possible, the world would start to be a cleaner place.

Use LED Lights

LED lighting does cost more than standard lighting – but that’s only to begin with. They last significantly longer than normal bulbs, and they use a lot less energy. So by the end of its working life, your LED light will have saved you money, and will have helped the environment too. In fact, studies show that LED bulbs (or compact fluorescent (CFL) lighting) can save you as much as $200 over the life of the bulb.

Buy Energy Efficient Equipment

When you need a new computer monitor, printer, shredder, even a microwave or refrigerator for your break room, make sure you look for its green credentials before making a purchase. The better the energy rating, the better the appliance is for the environment, and your bank balance. Remember also to dispose of your old appliances safely and responsibly, and don’t just take them to the landfill or – even worse – dump them somewhere. If you are unsure how to dispose of these items properly, take a look online or contact your local area representative.