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Category: Services
Busy Times…

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on my blog, but I do have a good reason (excuse?) for that… I have a new job.

Although freelance writing is what I love to do, it just doesn’t pay the bills, plus it has meant that I haven’t written any fiction – my favourite thing – for a year or more. So I had to find something else to do; something that would suit my lifestyle, allow me to continue to write, and (hopefully) bring in some more money. Because, let’s face it, as much as we might like to, we can’t live without it.

I joined The Good Estate Agent, and I’m now covering the Sevenoaks area. Here’s a little video of what I do:

 

5 Ways To Offer Your Customers Added Value

Running your own business isn’t always all about what you want to do; sometimes (most of the time) it’s about what your customers want, which means that you need to work out how to give them everything they need in such a way that they will return time and again. Offering something of added value, whether online or in a physical store, is one way to do that.

Giving your customers added value will be hard work initially, but once you have done it (and you have systems in place to allow you to continue to do it) you will make more money, have better profits, and your business will thrive because of it. Not only that, but you will be ahead of your competition, which is always a good thing. Take a look at the following ways of adding value to your business and see which ones you can implement.

Quick And Efficient

It used to be the case that people were happy to wait for whatever it was they had ordered. It could take weeks, perhaps even months, for their purchase to be ready and for it to be dispatched. Today, no one wants to wait that long – no one really wants to wait at all. Therefore, when someone orders something from you, whether it’s a product or a service, they expect it as soon as possible. Some even require it on the same day, and most would prefer next day delivery where they can get it. If you can promise that you will deliver on the next working day, your business will stand out and you will find that more people choose to use your services.

What will really add value for your customers is getting this speedy service without having to pay for it. Whereas some companies will charge for next day delivery, you could take on those costs yourself. Although it would be a higher initial cost, over time you will find more customers so it would be canceled out. It’s important to do this because you are equating your business with efficient, inexpensive service.

The Best Quality

It’s not always possible to beat your competitors when it comes to pricing; if you start to price your goods too low, you will stop making a profit (and you might even make a loss). So if you can’t stand out due to your pricing, you will need to look at other ways to do it and the best way is to provide items or services that are of exceptional quality. If you do this, the higher price won’t matter because people will be willing to pay for something that is above average.

Remember that determining something’s quality is all down to the customer; if something is of high quality it is because the customer believes it to be do. Therefore, you will need to carry out market research to work out what it is that your customers want (and need).

Give Them A Gift

Everyone loves a free gift and if that gift happens to be able to do some advertising for you at the same time, then it is doubly useful. You don’t have to give something away to every customer who buys something from you, but if you choose to give, for example, iPhone cases to the customers who spend the most with you, or who refer their friends, or even who write a glowing testimonial, then they are going to receive even more value for money. This will go a long way and although you will need to spend at first, the return you get on this kind of investment should be excellent, and well worth the initial cost.

Choose something that has your name and logo on it, and the more the gift is used, the more your name will be noticed. This adds value to the process for you too, which will help you with lowering your marketing costs.

Be There

If you can be available as much of the time as possible, you are automatically offering your customers even more added value. You will need to be as responsive to emails as possible, and reply to comments on social media as quickly as you can. Answer the telephone within two or three rings and this will all ensure that your business appears to put the customer first. These may only be small acts when you look at the big picture, but these are the ones that can make the biggest difference.

Of course, you can’t possibly be around 24 hours a day to answer emails and comments quickly, and this is where you can utilize new technology to your advantage. You could include a chat bot on your website so that questions can be answered at all times of the day and night, or you could make an app that is intuitive and allows customers to work through the process without having to get in touch in the first place (another bonus for them).

Fix Problems

Added value comes in many forms, and one of those forms is being able to fix problems when they occur. No one is perfect, and issues will arise through no one’s fault (or sometimes a genuine mistake has occurred). What the problem is is far less important than how it is solved and what happens afterwards.

Every company is going to work hard towards fixing any problems that occur, but will every company offer something to any customer who has been inconvenienced by the problem? The answer is probably not, but you can and that will make you stand out and give your customers added value. You could give them a discount on their next purchase, or coupons that they can use or give away to their friends, for example. You might go even further and ask them to come in to take a look around your workspace to see how things are done, if that is something that would interest them.

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.

Writing Retreats – Where The Famous Went To Recharge

Writing is hard work. It is emotionally draining, mentally straining, and physically… well, sitting hunched over a computer for hours at a time isn’t good for anyone, writer or not. So it’s not surprising that, every now and again, writers need to get away from their words and recharge. Writing retreats have always been a popular idea, and there are many around today that can be booked by writers who need a little peace and solitude – they are about finding a bit of space to complete that novel or edit that selection of short stories. Sometimes that’s exactly what is needed.

 

Vita Sackville-West

It is perhaps not a surprise that Vita Sackville-West had her own Elizabethan tower to lock herself away in. After all, she was a rather wealthy woman in her own right, coming from an important family (her father was the 3rd Baron Sackville). Vita took to her tower, located in Cranbrook, Kent, when she needed a little space. There were two reasons for needing this alone time. The first was that she couldn’t write with any kind of distractions around her, and so she decided that the tower was the perfect place to complete All Passion Spent. The second was so that she could write her wonderful love letters to her soul mate, Virginia Woolf.

 

J.K. Rowling

The Harry Potter author has made no secret of the fact that she was living in abject poverty when she first started writing. Her retreat, The Elephant House café in Edinburgh, was used out of necessity rather than desire, but it worked well for her. She went there because it was warm – warmer than her home – and, even when it was no longer completely required, she liked it because of the inspiring views. It is said that from her seat at the window Rowling could see Edinburgh Castle, and this led her to create the famous Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

 

George Orwell

When you want somewhere isolated and beautiful, there aren’t many better places than some of the Scottish Isles. Jura was Orwell’s choice, located in the Inner Hebrides. He used to visit a little farmhouse in the middle of some rather beautifully desolate and bleak scenery to write. It is here that he wrote Ninety Eighty-Four.

 

The Inklings

The Inklings were a group of notable authors including C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Hugo Dyson and others. They used to meet in a pub (where else?) called The Eagle and Child in Oxford where they would discuss their works in progress and get further ideas and inspiration.

 

Retreats For You

Retreats for You in Sheepwash, Devon, is my first choice of writing retreat. I’ve visited twice now, and each time I’ve completed a novel (Perfect Murder and the soon to be published Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods). It is a wonderful place and so welcoming – I’d recommend it to everyone.

 

Beating The Back To Work Blues

It doesn’t matter whether you hate your job with a passion, or whether you have the best career in the world, that feeling of going back to work after a little time off still fills us with dread. It’s back to reality. It’s back to the daily routine. No more home time, no more holiday, no more freedom. The grindstone is waiting, and your nose has to be put right back on it.

keep your nose to the grindstone

Ouch.

No wonder we all get a little sad about the prospect of heading back to the office.

But guess what? There are ways to combat this terrible feeling and get straight back into the swing of things without too much distress…

Why Are You Feeling Like This?

That’s an important question. Ask yourself why you are feeling so down about going back to work, and you might get a surprising answer, but one that will help you make some decisions, and help you feel happier about things too.

It could just be that you’ve enjoyed your time off and the idea of having to go back to the office (or wherever) and get your brain in gear doesn’t appeal. And that’s perfectly normal. But a few hours – or even minutes – into your first day, and for the majority of people that’s all forgotten and you’ll wonder what you were worried about in the first place.

get me out of here

For some, however, it’s a deeper problem than simply enjoying a bit of freedom. Could there be something about your job (perhaps even the job itself) that you dislike enough to make you not want to go back at all? If this is more than just a form of the Sunday evening fear, it’s time to take stock. If you’re not enjoying your job, you might consider moving on. If not immediately, then at some point, once you’ve done all the sums and weighed up the pros and cons of it all. There is no point in going to work for eight (ish) hours a day if it’s not something you like. There are many forms of deathbed regrets, and working too hard in the wrong place ranks right up there at the top.

You might even consider starting your own business.

If it is one aspect of the job that is making you miserable, why not speak to your boss? They might be able to help, and it could turn out that it wasn’t such an issue after all once it’s out in the open.

Have You Made A Plan?

If the feeling of dread doesn’t dissipate after a little while, if it’s there every morning and you’re coming home more downhearted every day, you know what you need to do. Finding a new job isn’t something that can necessarily happen overnight, especially when you’ve got commitments and a family to provide for. So make a plan. Give yourself a timeframe to get it completed by (three months is a good one – just long enough to feel comfortable, but short enough that you have to get on straight away). Create targets to meet along the way such as applying for a certain number of jobs each week, or tidying up your CV by a specific date. You might even want to invest in some evening classes to top up your skills.

make a plan

Me, Me, Me

If your job isn’t the problem and you’re happy doing what you do, where you do it, and the people with whom you work, then it could be a problem within yourself. If you’re not feeling 100 percent, book an appointment with your GP and chat to them about what ails you. It could be a physical problem (lack of sleep, a weight issue, general aches and pains), or it could be a psychological one (anxiety, stress, depression, for example). Either way, it’s good to discuss these matters and hopefully do something about them once and for all. As soon as you fix your body and mind, everything else will fall into place.

And for those who are simply feeling a little run down, you need to schedule some me time. Book a fancy spa day, go for a long walk on your own, read a good book, watch a terrible movie, it doesn’t matter as long as you can relax and zone out for a while. When you come back down to the real world you’ll hopefully be feeling a whole lot better for it.

have some me time

To Plot Or Not To Plot?

That is the question. Well, it is one of the very many questions that I ask myself whenever I’m starting a new project. But it’s the one I leave until last. And that’s mainly (all right, wholly) due to the fact that I don’t like doing it, even though I know it will make the actual writing process so much easier, with far fewer tantrums and blocks and need to make excuses (to myself) about exactly why I haven’t managed to finish just yet.

Moleskine diary
Moleskine diary

But it’s painful. I sit with my notepad and pen (my Moleskine and Lamy, if I’m being accurate here) and write ‘Chapter 1’. Then I sit for a while longer, staring at the page which is being highly uncommunicative. It’s giving me nothing. I might underline my heading. I might underline it again. And circle it. And doodle a bit, which can be tricky with a fountain pen. But nothing productive happens. Unless you like doodles, that is.

Eventually words come, pulled – dragged – from my head and then dolloped rather grumpily onto the paper. I try to have four or five bullet points for each chapter or short story, ideas that will join together to become the finished thing. Occasionally I manage this. More often I don’t. And yet, I still get stuff written.

Because I get so frustrated with attempting to plot, I instead get the laptop fired up, or draw a literal line under my doodled heading (with or without bullet points) and get to writing anyway. And I make it up as I go along. With a novel, I’ll usually have a vague idea about the beginning and the end. Purists will be horrified to discover that I often have no idea about what is going to happen in the middle, but the journey from start to finish is, for me, a lot more interesting if I don’t know where I’m going, and I have no map. It’s even worse with short stories and flash fiction – they are usually based on an image, or an opening line, and I just let the words fall from my brain to my fingers to the page. Which is exactly how this blog post was written.

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In conclusion (that phrase takes me, happily, back to my school days), I know these things to be true: plotting is a wonderful idea. Plotting restricts me. Plotting would make my writing life easier and quicker. Plotting is boring.

I also know that I’ll keep trying it, just in case it ever becomes easier, or more fun. But I’m pretty sure it won’t…

The Juniper Tree… Yes, It’s A True Story

I was five when I wrote my first play. And of all the memories I have that fight for space in my head, it is that one that always wins. It is that one that comes to the front and shows itself, reminding me of who and what I am. Who and what I have always been. A writer.

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Hampshire. The New Forest. 1986. Imagine the scene on an August summer’s day when the sky was the colour of nostalgia and the sun was heavenly hot. Our annual fortnight in the English countryside was off and running, and my family – grandmother, parents, sister and me – were enjoying every second of it. Isn’t that how it always goes, looking back? There are no dull moments, no waiting for things to happen, no ‘nothing days’ when not a thing was done… Even if, in reality, there were.

It was in this place, at this time, on that one day in August that I wrote that first play of mine. We had gone out for the day to Linford Bottom, our ‘private beach’, a peaceful, somewhat secluded little area somewhere in the National Park. Lunch time had been and gone and the adults were restless. Not so my sister and I who could create a game out of nothing and keep it going for hours. But the grownups were hot and tired and they were about to say it was time to leave. To go back to our little holiday bungalow at that point was just not something we little ones would allow.

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“Watch our play!” I shouted from across the little stream. It was a distraction technique, something to keep everyone from packing up and leaving. And it worked. Suddenly intrigued, suddenly interested, they sat back down on stripy deckchairs and waited.

The plan had worked. The problem was that there was no play, nothing to wow them with, nothing to show them at all. Panic settled in the pit of my stomach as I desperately grasped around me for something – anything – to talk about. And then I saw it. ‘It’ was a gorse bush that sat plumply on the banks of the little stream.

“This is the Juniper Tree,” I said grandly. And that’s how it began.

It would, looking back, have been useful to have let my sister in on the plot of my play. That would probably have saved a lot of tears. But I was confident in my role as writer and director, and she was happy to act, so there was really nothing to worry about…

It all went horribly, predictably, wrong.

Amy strayed from the non-existent script. She began to talk to the audience, breaking the fourth wall entirely (not that I had any inkling about the fourth wall, but I still knew something was wrong), making jokes and laughing, skipping around, bringing in new characters, mugging and clowning.

My play was ruined. I could see it, the carefully constructed walls of story, plot, character, they all came tumbling down like the sad end to a fairy story, and I was left with the remnants of it all beneath my feet.

My sister had ruined it.

Which is exactly what I said. I stood there, red faced, tearful, stamping my chubby little leg and shouting, “She’s ruined it! She’s ruined it again!” before storming off to sit behind The Juniper Tree in silence. I stayed there, my parents say, for a good half an hour sulking.

I can’t remember what happened after that. I imagine we went home, dried our tears, enjoyed the remnants of the day as it drooped and dropped from its own heat into a balmy, orange-hued evening.

I imagine that’s exactly what happened.

Biography Writing Services

Biography… As a freelance writer, I’m asked to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) for a variety of reasons… But one of my absolute favourites is being asked to write a memoir or biography.

Biography Writing Service

These pieces of living history are so important. How else are we going to preserve the stories of the past if we don’t write them down? How will anyone ever know the small things, the minutiae of life, when the history books are so focused on the big things? These stories are about people – real people who lived real lives – and they deserve to be told.

Discussions and interviews

If you are interested in having your story written down for future generations, the world, or just for yourself, please contact me. This is what I love to do, and through interviews, anecdotes, photographs and memorabilia, we can tell your story together.

Why Is A Blog On Your Site Important?

Blogging And All That Jazz

Did you know that having a blog on your website can increase traffic to your site by boosting search engine optimisation? Fresh content is how Google thrives, and the more new content you put on your website, the higher you’ll find yourself in the rankings. A blog is the easiest way to ensure that you have new daily, weekly, or monthly information on your site – and using outbound links (as well as backlinks to your own content) will boost you even more.

But it’s not just about the search engines. Having a blog is a great way to develop relationships between you and your potential and current customers. It offers them an insight into how you work, allows them to comment and get involved, and blog posts are ideal for sharing on social media, which gets your name out there and pushes it further than it might otherwise be able to go. If your blog is full of helpful, interesting information then that’s where people will visit first, and each person who visits the blog is a potential customer.

And if a blog is something that you think might be of interest (or if you have any other copy writing requirements), please don’t hesitate to get in touch or check out my website (www.lisamarielamb.co.uk) for more information.

What Is A Ghost Writer?

I am a ghost writer. And it’s not actually as spooky as it sounds (although, to be fair, my favourite genre is horror).

What Is A Ghost Writer

It’s one of many services that I provide as a professional freelancer, but what exactly does it mean, and how could it help you?

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Ghost writing is the name given to the act of writing articles, blog posts, social media posts, books, stories, or anything else which is to be published under someone else’s name. I’ve produced hundreds of ghost written blog posts for various clients – many on an ongoing monthly basis – and it is their name that is seen when any reader clicks on the author link. Once I’ve written the piece (and, more often than not, posted it using the log in details I have been given), any ownership I might have had is gone; it all belongs to the site owner.

I have also ghost written a number of novels, as well as writing my own. One of these is about to be published, but it won’t be my name on the cover – it will be my client’s.

So what are the advantages to you of hiring a freelance ghost writer?

 

Your Time

Your time is important

Running a business is time consuming – there are many day to day elements that need to be considered and dealt with, and writing a regular blog might not be high up on the list, even though it is incredibly important. Hiring a ghost writer means that your web rankings can grow but you don’t have to lose your own precious time making it happen.

Once someone else is running your blog, the pressure is off you.

 

 

 

You are in control

You Are In Control

Even though someone else is writing the content for you, you as the client are entirely in control of what that content is and how it is used. The writer puts it together for you, but you are the one who uses it to your advantage.  This can be cost effective if you choose to re-use the blog post or article in a newsletter or brochure, for example.

 

 

Ability

Not everyone has the same skills

Your skills lie in your business – whatever the niche, service or product you are selling, that’s where your talent can be found. You might not necessarily also have the talent to craft an interesting, readable, thought provoking, shareable blog post as well. A ghost writer will.

And when it comes to novels and stories, the same is true – you the client could have the most wonderful plot, fully formed characters, but trying to put them all together might prove difficult for you if writing isn’t your ‘thing’. Or you simply might not have the time to sit down and craft an entire novel.A ghost writer is the perfect solution.

 

If you feel that a ghost writer would be the ideal way to grow your blog and website, to publish an article, or to write that novel you’ve always known you’ve got in you, then please get in touch.

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

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

Phone

07710 611592

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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.

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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

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DODGY DÉCOR FAILS ARE COSTING HOME SELLERS CASH INVESTING JUST £300 CAN ADD UP TO £10K ON TO YOUR HOUSE VALUE
  • Aldi teamed up with interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, to makeover a home in under two hours for just £300 adding an average of over £8k to the property’s value
  • One in five buyers say that hideous décor is one of the biggest turn-offs when looking for a house
  • Nearly half (44%) offered less for a property because the interior was not to their taste

New research released by Aldi has revealed that almost one in five (19%) Brits claim that dodgy décor can be one of the biggest turn-offs when house viewing. Aldi surveyed 2,000 UK home owners to celebrate their Kirkton House range, which features a choice of quality interior products at everyday amazing prices.

Following the research, Aldi challenged home interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, to add value to a property with a budget of only £300, and using just the Aldi Kirkton House interiors range. The three bedroom, semi-detached home in Dartford, Kent, was evaluated by three local estate agents, before and after the makeover, and the property’s value increased by up to £10,000 across each valuation* – simply thorough decluttering, furniture rearrangement and the addition of stylist interior accessories. Watch the video on https://www.aldi.co.uk/kirkton-house.

According to the survey, quick upgrades can make a big difference for 34% of home buyers who say that stylish furnishings make them more likely to buy. The kitchen came out on top, with almost three quarters (72%) stating it’s the most important room to look good during a viewing. Real estate turn-offs were dark rooms (50%), awkward layouts (36%) and overgrown gardens (32%).

After seven viewings sellers consider making changes to their home to help shift it, with desperate owners splashing out on average £900 to finally make a sale. When it comes to age, image-conscious 18-34 year olds are spending over five times more (£3,131) than the thrifty 55+’s, who on average part with just £543 to shift their property.

Home interiors star, Anna Ryder Richardson, comments: “Together with Aldi, we’ve proven that you don’t need to break the bank to spruce up your interiors and help make that sale. We spent a third of what home buyers think they need to spend and increased the property’s value by an average of over £8k! It’s easy to invest a small amount and make a big difference. Here are some tips from the makeover to try at home:

  • Define the space in each room. A beautiful woven rug can indicate how a room should be used and brighten up a space in one easy step – try placing a colourful option in the centre of the living room to create a fun colour pop like the Aldi Kirkton House flatweave rug in navy blue
  • Make sure your rooms look spacious, appealing and homely. Consider the layout of the room and whether it feels welcoming to walk into – decluttering is a must and try shuffling the furniture around to experiment with different arrangements. Aldi’s Kirkton House Adjustable Desk Lamp will help to light up any room and add a warm feel
  • For house viewers, the kitchen is key – make sure your dirty plates aren’t still in the sink and set-up table places and crockery to show viewers what your home would look like to really live in it. Aldi’s wide range of quality Kirkton House cutlery and dinnerware can help to set the scene
  • Think about the overall interior design in your house – do you have personal items on display that perhaps don’t match the décor? Take down a few personal pictures here and there for a slicker look. Aldi’s Kirkton House storage baskets will come in handy here!
  • Make first impressions count and don’t forget your hallway! Place a nice welcome mat down and tidy-up shoes lying around in the space – Aldi’s Kirkton House Designer Lounge and Hallway range has hallway-specific show stoppers from a stencilled, geometric-design mat to a fun cactus hallway doorstop
  • Make the most of your outside space and opt for bright colours for the garden – colourful, patterned cushions and garden dining ware will come to life against the organic backdrop of green grass and bright flowers. Aldi’s Kirkton House Printed PVC Tablecloth in lemon print and decorative glass balloons will look fantastic in the sunshine and spruce up any garden”

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi, said: “As the housing market is so uncertain, we’re happy that we can offer the security of consistently low prices in the Kirkton House home range. With a choice of quality and everyday products, the range can help you upgrade your home on a budget.”

THE UK TOUR OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

Lucy O’Byrne and Mark Moraghan are to join the cast of the quirky off-Broadway hit musical Little Miss Sunshine for its UK tour which begins at Churchill Theatre, Bromley on 16 May 2019.

Irish actress and singer Lucy O’Byrne will star as Sheryl, the matriarch of the eccentric Hoover family. Lucy shot to fame on The Voice (BBC) in 2015 and was the runner-up that year. Her theatre credits include Eva Peron in the Evita UK tour which ran at the Churchill Theatre in July 2018, Fantine in Les Misérables (Queen’s Theatre – West End), Maria in The Sound of Music (UK and Ireland Tour), River Woman in Therese Raquin (Park Theatre) and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof (Gaiety Theatre-Dublin).

Mark Moraghan will be Grandpa (the role that won Alan Arkin an Academy award).  Mark recently appeared as Tim Richards in Emmerdale and is perhaps best known for his roles as Adrian Mortimer in Coronation Street, Owen Davis in Holby City, Ray Wyatt in Dream Team, Greg Shadwick in Brookside and Eddie Quinn in London’s Burning.

Busy Times…

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on my blog, but I do have a good reason (excuse?) for that… I have a new job.

Although freelance writing is what I love to do, it just doesn’t pay the bills, plus it has meant that I haven’t written any fiction – my favourite thing – for a year or more. So I had to find something else to do; something that would suit my lifestyle, allow me to continue to write, and (hopefully) bring in some more money. Because, let’s face it, as much as we might like to, we can’t live without it.

I joined The Good Estate Agent, and I’m now covering the Sevenoaks area. Here’s a little video of what I do:

 

How To Ensure Your Employees Feel Valued

If you have a job that you don’t feel appreciated in and you feel that no matter what you do your efforts are just not noticed, you will begin to feel as though you shouldn’t bother working so hard anymore. You will feel as though you should even look elsewhere for a job where you can work with people who will appreciate you more. If you are an employer, this is not something that you want to happen; you want your employees to stay with you and help your company grow. To do this, they need to feel valued, so here are some ways to ensure that they do.

Talk To Them

One way to ensure that your employees feel appreciated and valued is to talk to them. This can include work details, of course, but that would happen anyway – to go the extra mile you need to talk to them about themselves. Find out about their family and their hobbies away from work, where they live and what they enjoy doing. When you speak to them again, remember what they said and bring it up in conversation where possible. This will show that you listened and that you took in what was said – and, of course, that you remembered it all.

It can also be beneficial to organize days away from work where you can get to know your employees better. These team building days are great for discovering exactly what your team is really like, and what they can do, plus they’re fun and can be seen as a reward.

Praise Them

It’s all too easy to just accept that someone has done a good job and then give them something else to do without saying much (if anything) about it. However, that won’t leave them feeling very valued, and can even make them think that you are taking them for granted. Therefore, when someone does something good, praise them. This could be simply saying well done, and acknowledging that they have achieved something, or you could go further and include the good work in a newsletter, or award employee of the month or similar.

You can also share good client feedback about a member of the team. Although it’s great to get praise from a manager, for example, it can feel even better to get it from someone from outside of the company.

Give Them Challenges

Another way to show someone that you value their input into the business is to challenge them. Giving them easy work to do all the time can get rather boring after a while, and if they don’t feel happy doing their work because they are bored, they may still want to look elsewhere. If you can give them a challenge out of their usual remit such as cold calling customers, or even designing a page on the website, they will feel as though you value them because you believe in them enough to ask them to do something they wouldn’t normally do. On top of that, they will learn something new too – and that is never boring.

5 Ways To Offer Your Customers Added Value

Running your own business isn’t always all about what you want to do; sometimes (most of the time) it’s about what your customers want, which means that you need to work out how to give them everything they need in such a way that they will return time and again. Offering something of added value, whether online or in a physical store, is one way to do that.

Giving your customers added value will be hard work initially, but once you have done it (and you have systems in place to allow you to continue to do it) you will make more money, have better profits, and your business will thrive because of it. Not only that, but you will be ahead of your competition, which is always a good thing. Take a look at the following ways of adding value to your business and see which ones you can implement.

Quick And Efficient

It used to be the case that people were happy to wait for whatever it was they had ordered. It could take weeks, perhaps even months, for their purchase to be ready and for it to be dispatched. Today, no one wants to wait that long – no one really wants to wait at all. Therefore, when someone orders something from you, whether it’s a product or a service, they expect it as soon as possible. Some even require it on the same day, and most would prefer next day delivery where they can get it. If you can promise that you will deliver on the next working day, your business will stand out and you will find that more people choose to use your services.

What will really add value for your customers is getting this speedy service without having to pay for it. Whereas some companies will charge for next day delivery, you could take on those costs yourself. Although it would be a higher initial cost, over time you will find more customers so it would be canceled out. It’s important to do this because you are equating your business with efficient, inexpensive service.

The Best Quality

It’s not always possible to beat your competitors when it comes to pricing; if you start to price your goods too low, you will stop making a profit (and you might even make a loss). So if you can’t stand out due to your pricing, you will need to look at other ways to do it and the best way is to provide items or services that are of exceptional quality. If you do this, the higher price won’t matter because people will be willing to pay for something that is above average.

Remember that determining something’s quality is all down to the customer; if something is of high quality it is because the customer believes it to be do. Therefore, you will need to carry out market research to work out what it is that your customers want (and need).

Give Them A Gift

Everyone loves a free gift and if that gift happens to be able to do some advertising for you at the same time, then it is doubly useful. You don’t have to give something away to every customer who buys something from you, but if you choose to give, for example, iPhone cases to the customers who spend the most with you, or who refer their friends, or even who write a glowing testimonial, then they are going to receive even more value for money. This will go a long way and although you will need to spend at first, the return you get on this kind of investment should be excellent, and well worth the initial cost.

Choose something that has your name and logo on it, and the more the gift is used, the more your name will be noticed. This adds value to the process for you too, which will help you with lowering your marketing costs.

Be There

If you can be available as much of the time as possible, you are automatically offering your customers even more added value. You will need to be as responsive to emails as possible, and reply to comments on social media as quickly as you can. Answer the telephone within two or three rings and this will all ensure that your business appears to put the customer first. These may only be small acts when you look at the big picture, but these are the ones that can make the biggest difference.

Of course, you can’t possibly be around 24 hours a day to answer emails and comments quickly, and this is where you can utilize new technology to your advantage. You could include a chat bot on your website so that questions can be answered at all times of the day and night, or you could make an app that is intuitive and allows customers to work through the process without having to get in touch in the first place (another bonus for them).

Fix Problems

Added value comes in many forms, and one of those forms is being able to fix problems when they occur. No one is perfect, and issues will arise through no one’s fault (or sometimes a genuine mistake has occurred). What the problem is is far less important than how it is solved and what happens afterwards.

Every company is going to work hard towards fixing any problems that occur, but will every company offer something to any customer who has been inconvenienced by the problem? The answer is probably not, but you can and that will make you stand out and give your customers added value. You could give them a discount on their next purchase, or coupons that they can use or give away to their friends, for example. You might go even further and ask them to come in to take a look around your workspace to see how things are done, if that is something that would interest them.

How To Have A Debt Free Retirement

If you truly want to retire, you will need to pay off all of your debts before you stop working – if not, you may have to delay your retirement plans and continue to work just to service those debts. When you reach retirement age, you will want to enjoy life and see and do as many things as possible – the things you couldn’t necessarily see and do when you were working. So being debt free is something you should work towards. Here are some ways to do it.

Save

The simplest way to pay off your debts is to save money. Open up a separate savings account and put all your ‘spare’ money into it. When you have enough to pay off a loan or credit card entirely, you can take the money out and do so. At the same time, you will need to stop borrowing, so lock the credit card away (for emergency use only) and don’t take on any more finance or loans, otherwise as quickly as you pay one thing off, you’ll have something else to save up for. It’s far better to buy things outright, even if you have to dip into your savings to do so, than it is to borrow because when borrowing you will have to factor in interest, and that can make things very expensive.

Once everything is paid off, continue to save and use that money to fund your retirement plans. If you start early, you will have plenty of money to enjoy some exciting trips and start some wonderful new hobbies.

Start Investing

Investment is another good way of paying off debts and funding your retirement at the same time. If you do your research first and learn as much as possible about what you are doing when it comes to investment, you can make a good return on your initial payment, and pay off your debts much more quickly. You can invest in almost anything including stocks and shares, property, and other businesses. Once you have decided where you want to put the money, finding a broker is a good idea so that you can make the most of your investment.

Downsize

If you own a property and you’re paying a mortgage on it, will that mortgage be paid off by the time you come to retire? This can be the biggest debt you owe, but you may not consider it a debt and it may not figure in your plans. However, if you’re not working, are you going to be able to continue to pay your mortgage? If not, downsizing is a good option. When you downsize, you sell your current home and buy something cheaper (and usually smaller). That way, if you choose wisely at the right time, you may not have a mortgage left at all – and you might even have money left over, which can be used to pay off any remaining debts.

4 Ways To Keep Your Employees Motivated

Having a motivated workforce can make a big difference when it comes to how profitable and productive your business is. It’s your job as an employer to ensure that your team is motivated and happy. There are a number of different ways that this can be done, and here are some of them to consider. Not all will work for all people and all businesses, so take a look and decide for yourself what will work for you.

Be A Supportive Leader

In many cases, good leadership can be a huge factor in employee motivation. If you are going to be supportive you need to work closely with your team but also allow them some freedoms to work on their own initiative. Getting this balance right can be difficult, but once you have found it you will discover that it definitely helps with your employees’ motivation levels.

A good leader always holds themselves to a higher level of accountability and will own up to any mistakes they make (which they will because, after all, no one is perfect). That means working with a data loss specialist to prevent devastating losses, and it means taking responsibility for errors made within the company when it comes to customers, for example.

Empower Individuals

When an employee feels empowered and valued as an individual, they will work harder for their employer. Make sure that you allow your entire workforce to the chance to show what they can do. Even if they don’t quite manage it as you might have liked, giving them the opportunity is what really counts and it will make them work much harder in the future too.

Have A Positive Workplace

With so much time spent at the office, the working environment needs to be as positive as possible in order to get the best out of people. If it’s dull or uninspiring or even uncomfortable in any way, your employees will simply want to leave at the earliest opportunity and it’s unlikely that they will look forward to returning in the morning. This is not conducive to great work.

Making the office a great place to be by ensuring it is well decorated and has everything that your employees might need such as tea and coffee making facilities, a comfortable break room, even indoor plants and pictures, can really help to push them to do their best.

Reward Good Work

The best employees are the ones that want to work hard for you, but those who are doing so, and getting results, without hearing anything from you in response are going to become demotivated very quickly. Therefore, you need to look out for good work and reward it where necessary. This could be as simple as calling a meeting to praise that employee, or you might want to give them something such as vouchers or flowers. It’s these small touches that will keep an employee motivated for longer.

Etiquette For Dining Out In Portugal

Whether you’re in Portugal for a vacation or a business trip, you’re going to want to eat out at least some of the time you’re there (and the food is so good in Portugal that you might even want to eat out for every meal). If that’s the case, then it’s important to know the right Portuguese restaurant etiquette so that you can be comfortable and relaxed knowing you’re not making any faux pas that could embarrass you, your guests, the other diners, or the staff themselves. Here are some of the most important pieces of etiquette to be aware of.

Should You Seat Yourself?

The short answer is no, you shouldn’t, unless you’re in a café or bar. If you’re in a normal kind of restaurant then it’s better to wait by the counter or the ‘to be seated’ sign if there is one and look for a waiter or waitress to help you. Busy restaurants mean that if you seat yourself you won’t always be spotted which results in long waiting times for you and frustrated staff because they didn’t realize you were there.

Free Food?

In Portugal, just as pretty much everywhere else, there isn’t really any such thing as free food. However, you would be forgiven for assuming that you have been given something for nothing when, after getting you seated, your waiter or waitress brings out a plate of what is called ‘entradas’. They won’t have asked you what you wanted, or even if you wanted something, but unless you tell them otherwise, it will be brought to you. This is an appetizer and will be added to your final check so be aware of this before you begin to question what is on your bill. Remember, though, that dining out in Portugal is not an overly expensive thing to do, so it shouldn’t cause too much of an issue on your budget and won’t eat into the loan (or emprestimo) you got to fund your trip.

You Don’t Have To Order Extra Vegetables

When you look at the menu of a Portuguese restaurant you’ll notice that there is very little description for each dish. Whereas in the States you’ll get lots of fancy phrases and plenty of information about exactly what comes with the meat, fish, or vegetable dish you are ordering, in Portugal it’s different. There you will find that people assume each dish will come with the right accompaniments. For example, fish tends to be served with boiled potatoes or a salad, and meat dishes will often come with white rice or fries; it will all depend on what you order and how the particular restaurant you have picked works.

Look For The Plate Of The Day

When you’re choosing your food at lunch time, you should look out for the plate of the day (the pratos do dia). This will often be handwritten on a piece of paper and stuck to the window or menu board, so it could be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, and that would be a shame. The plate of the day consists of whatever was caught fresh that morning by the local fishermen, and it will be something different each day; even if the fish is the same, how it is prepare will vary. It is always worth trying because it tends to be cheaper than other dishes on the menu and is always something interesting.

Order The House Wine

It can be a little embarrassing to order the house white or red in a restaurant at home because that wine tends to be inexpensive and not always that pleasant. In Portugal ordering the house wine makes a lot of sense because it is going to be locally produced and sourced, great value, and it will compliment the dishes you have ordered perfectly. The restaurants in Portugal take pride in being able to match their wines to their food. Ordering the house wine is what the locals will most often do, so it just shows you what a good idea it is. Don’t forget to note down the name of the wine so that you can look out for it elsewhere too.

Don’t Ask For Substitutions

In many restaurants in the States and in other places in the world you can choose a dish from the menu but ask for it to be made with this or that ingredient instead of one of the ones mentioned in the description. You might want extra cheese, or you might want the dish without capsicums, or any other changes that take your fancy. This is not the done thing in Portugal, and what you see on the menu is what you’ll tend to get served to you. Even if you do ask for something to be changed in most cases it won’t be, so it’s best just to order and enjoy rather than trying to get the busy chef to make substitutions.

Your Water

Unless you specifically ask for it, water won’t be provided to your table, so if you want it make sure you mention it to your server. You’ll have a few choices when it comes to your water, and one of these is not something you are likely to come across at home – you’ll need to choose whether you wanted the water chilled (fresca) or at room temperature (natural). In Many European countries the preference is for room temperature water, even on the hottest of days, so make sure you do ask for fresca if you prefer your water colder. You can also choose between sparkling (com gas) or still (sem gas).

No Hands

In Portugal it is seen as bad manners to use your hands to eat, even if you are enjoying a burger or a pizza. Therefore, it’s much more polite for you to use your knife and fork. This may feel a little strange, but if you don’t want to stand out you should try it – you’ll soon get the idea.

How To Choose A Good Contractor

Although working on your home yourself can be a great way to save money, not all the jobs that need doing are going to be possible for you to do; some take specialist skill or even qualifications in order to get right. When this is the case, you will need to seek out a good contractor, but this is sometimes harder than it might seem; there are lots of people out there all claiming to do a great job, but how can you choose the right one? Here are some great tips.

Ask For Recommendations

When it comes to finding a reliable contractor who is good at what they do, asking friends and family for recommendations is always a good place to start. No one is going to recommend someone who did a poor job, or who might not be trustworthy because they won’t want you to have a bad experience. Of course, you might not know anyone who has had the same work done as you want, so in that case you can always turn to online forums to get some names and advice on the right people to use.

Conduct Interviews

It’s essential that you pick the right person for the job, and for you – you need to be able to get on with whomever it is you choose because communication is going to be important if you want to make sure the job is done exactly how you want it to be. This is why conducting an interview (over the phone is fine, of course) to determine exactly how the contractor works and whether you even like them or not is important.

When you contact them, make sure you have a list of questions in front of you so that you don’t forget anything. This should be about the job itself (have they done anything similar, for example, and how long this kind of job normally takes) as well as about their company. You’ll need to know you’re dealing with someone legitimate, so take note of their company number and check they have insurance. Make sure they are fully compliant with data protection too.

Once you have all the answers you need, you will know who you want to come in and quote for you. This saves you time when it comes to being there for the contractor to assess the work and give you a price.

Look At Reviews

Before you commit to a contractor, take a look at their reviews and customer testimonials. These will give you the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to choosing the right person or company for you. Check out their website and read the testimonials there, of course (if they have any), but it’s far better to look further afield on review sites instead. The testimonials on the website are sure to be positive ones, and although they are probably accurate, what if there were many more negative ones around? It’s wise to check this out so that you at least know what to expect and, should you want to, you can avoid them entirely.

What To Consider Before Running For Public Office

Many business people and particularly, perhaps, business leaders, feel that running for political office has something attractive about it. Once they have done all they can do in their work life, it can often be that moving into politics is something that interest them, so they start a campaign and begin a new life. For some this works out wonderfully, but for others it isn’t so great and they soon realize that being in politics is not as ‘fun’ or as ‘easy’ as it might have seemed at first. It takes a lot of thought before moving in this direction, so here are some of the things that will need to be considered first.

You Will Need To Ask For Money

No matter what branch of politics you are choosing to go into, whether you are creating presidential slogans or you would prefer to do something a little more local, you are going to need money to do it. Politics is a surprisingly expensive business, which is why you will most often see those who have already made it in their professional lives (or those who were born into a wealthy family) running for political office – it is simply out of the reach for most ‘everyday’ people.

In order to be able to finance your campaign in such a way that it gets noticed, you will need to ask for money, and lots of it. Political campaigns that falter part way through because the money ran out will not be remembered fondly, if they are remembered at all. A politician who cannot budget and who spends unwisely is not going to be a particularly popular choice when it comes to picking a candidate at the polls.

It can be hard to be constantly asking for money, but it is essential that it is done. If this is not something you feel comfortable doing, you may need to look at another way to help the public because in politics you will need to ask for money time and time again.

Speak To Your Family

Although running for political office is an individual endeavor in some ways, it also needs a strong team to run the behind the scenes parts of the campaign. Some of those team members will need to be your family; they have to be on board if you are running for political office because, like it or not, they will become part of the campaign and they will be thrust into the public eye.

Although as a business leader you may have been able to and wanted to keep your personal life private, as a politician that will no longer hold true. Your opponents will be looking into your past to see if there is anything untoward there, and the press will most likely be doing the same. The more popular you are, the better you are doing in your campaign, the more digging will be done about you.

This is why it is important to speak with your family first to ensure that they understand what is probably going to happen and what might be required of them. If they aren’t happy with the idea you may need to reconsider whether your political office plan is worth risking your family over.

Be Ready For Hostility

Politics can be an ugly place to be and there is often hostility on both sides. It won’t matter how nice you are or what your intentions are, someone will also be against what you are doing. When you are running for office you need to be ready for the attacks against you that will come. If you believe in what you are doing and you are an eloquent person then you need to speak out and be strong. Not only will this wrongfoot your opponent (whether a political one or someone on the street) but it will also show others how strong your intentions are – sometimes someone else’s hostility can be what drives you on and makes you more popular.

Remember, never return hostility with hostility as that will solve nothing. It’s far better to be civil in the face of someone’s ire and anger and maintain a dignified stance as this will better enable you to put your point across and make sense to those who are listening.

Find A Good Lawyer

Having a good lawyer in side will be a useful addition to your team and can stop you from making mistakes when it comes to what you are and aren’t permitted to do during a political campaign – the rules are strict, and if you fall foul of them you might have to remove yourself from the race. This would mean your entire campaign had been a waste of time and money (and other people’s money) so no one wants that to happen. 

Be Prepared To Lose

No one is going to win all the time and in politics, although it is wise to keep a winning attitude, you should also be prepared to lose. If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that the majority of people lose when it comes to politics because there are very few positions open in the first place. That means that a huge percentage or those campaigning will walk away with nothing after the ballot, despite the good feeling created and the money spent.

If you do lose, you should have a plan in place for what you will do next with your life. It will depend on whether you felt that politics was something you desperately had to do, or whether you might now try something else. There should always be a plan, however, so that you are not left feeling low with nothing to do. It is easy to become emotionally invested in your campaign (in fact, it is expected) but this can mean problems when it is all over; you might feel depressed and deflated. So having a backup plan should you lose that means you can get on with the next thing right away will solve these issues and help you to feel better.