Wednesday, 21 November 2012

National Freelancers Day

It seems that everything and everyone has their own special day nowadays, and today it’s the turn of freelancers. Yes, Wednesday 21st November is National Freelancers Day in the UK.

What’s so special about freelancers? Well, for a start, freelancers contribute £202bn to the UK economy. They also provide a range of services to help both businesses and individuals, and enable perhaps especially small businesses to call upon expert skills and knowledge in a very cost effective manner: rather than employ someone who they might struggle to keep occupied even part time, and with all the associated expense, a business can buy in expertise as and when it’s needed.

People become freelancers for many reasons. Some prefer the flexibility and can fit work in around family life in a way that simply isn’t possible with a regular job. Others take the plunge after being made redundant. There are also those who just don’t want a regular job with regular hours. (I remember reading a blog post by someone who became a freelance writer just so he could have a lie in every morning!)

It has some very distinct advantages: I don’t miss the daily commute, there are no office politics, and if I want to go to work in my jammies, I can.

Having said all that, working as a freelancer is not for everyone. It’s hard work and it takes time to build up a business. A freelance hour isn’t like an employment hour, it is a solid hour of work for a paying client. The clock stops when we take a break: no more being paid while we have a chat or make a coffee. No pay for admin or accounts or looking for the next job.

And clients can be demanding. They will often ask that you do extra work on a project for the same fee, or want you to spend (often a great deal of) time exchanging unrelated emails and offering free advice. Many expect that you will be available in the evening and at weekends, too, and for the same flat rate. I’ve had clients who wanted to discuss work on Saturday or Sunday evening and there are others who’ve emailed at midnight expecting a reply.

If you prefer knowing what your hours of work will be and you like to have a guaranteed income, sick pay, holiday pay and all those other benefits that come with regular employment, freelancing probably isn’t for you. It can be a precarious existence; contracts can be very short-term and at times, few and far between. (Then you get a glut of work and can’t have a day off for a fortnight!) It takes time to get established. And rather than your boss giving you work on a regular basis, you have to go out and find it. If you hate applying for jobs, forget it!

Freelancers can also fall foul of the obsession to get everything at rock bottom prices. Because freelance workers are self-employed, there is no requirement to meet minimum wage, never mind the living wage. And while many of us do our bit to try to keep pay rates fair and reasonable, there are unscrupulous clients and desperate freelancers, or simply freelancers living elsewhere in the world for whom what constitutes pitiful pay by UK standards is enough to make it worth their while, who conspire to drive pay rates down.

People do all kinds of jobs on a freelance basis. It just so happens that we are writers, editors and proofreaders, and Steven also designs book covers. We’ve worked on all sorts of projects, both for other people, collaboratively, and individually, and we’re available for hire. Our rates are reasonable, we’re very accommodating and we work hard — including in the evenings and at weekends. Check us out here and if you think we can help, get in touch. It costs nothing to find out more and it might be mutually beneficial.

Happy National Freelancers Day!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Getting Things Done in Business

I'm absolutely delighted to announce that Getting Things Done in Business, the first in a planned series of books — the Business Shorts series from Miscandlon & Lewthwaite — has just been published at Amazon.

People who are successful in business rarely get where they are by luck alone. The best workers and managers — at whatever level — achieve success by developing their knowledge, skills and abilities in the right directions. By taking a structured approach to both your personal development, and the way you approach tasks in the workplace, you can improve your efficiency and effectiveness, as well as your career prospects.

Getting Things Done in Business provides a comprehensive set of tools and techniques that will help you succeed in business, covering topics such as managing business relationships, time management, decision making and project planning, as well as including invaluable advice on how to achieve results through effective teamwork.

Anyone who works in business will find value in the information contained in this book; however it is particularly suited to those entering supervisory or management positions for the first time. You will find the book full of practical and worthy advice that will help you to succeed in your business responsibilities, from day-to-day tasks to managing critical projects.

Contents include:

Chapter 1: Getting fit for success
Chapter 2: Establishing and managing relationships
Chapter 3: Making the most of your time
Chapter 4: Solving problems and making decisions
Chapter 5: Project planning and management
Chapter 6: Using teams to get results
Bonus chapter — Dealing with stress

Getting Things Done in Business is the first book in the Business Shorts series. Future books will cover subjects including clear business communication, coaching and training, customer care, and people management. Expect books 2 and 3 within the next few months.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Great rates on proofreading and copy editing!

We're having a summer sale on proofreading and copy editing services over at Miscandlon & Lewthwaite Writing Services. You can read all the details here. And do please get in touch if you want to know more!

Friday, 6 July 2012

An Introduction to Food Safety

I'm pleased to announce another new title, An Introduction to Food Safety, currently only available for Kindle.

Working as a food handler is an extremely responsible job: everything food handlers do, or in some cases, don’t do, while they are busy preparing and/or serving food to people can have a direct impact on their health.

The workbook takes a step by step approach to food handling instruction. It contains six sections, each looking at a different aspect of food safety management. The sections are:

1. Basic principles of food safety in catering
2. Food safety hazards
3. Storing and holding food safely
4. Cleanliness and hygiene
5. Suitable food premises
6. Legal requirements and the consequences of failing to meet them

A set of questions at the end of each section helps the reader to review what they have learned. (The answers are at the back of the workbook.) Anyone working towards a qualification in food safety in catering will find the workbook helps with that.

An Introduction to Food Safety costs £1.97 from Amazon in the UK.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Landlord's Guide to Letting

We have a new title available, currently just for Kindle: A Landlord's Guide to Letting, written by Steven Miscandlon.

Regardless of whether you are an experienced landlord or taking your first steps in the world of UK property letting, it can be a complicated business. It’s important to understand your rights and obligations, how to manage the financial side of letting, and the finer points of maintaining a let property and dealing with tenants.

A Landlord’s Guide to Letting provides a concise but informative guide to the things you’ll need to know and understand; finding a property, Buy to Let mortgages, tenancy agreements, deposit schemes, dealing with problem tenants and more. You’ll find it all in this guide, plus helpful hints and tips relating to many different aspects of buying a property and letting it out.

The book consists of a number of guides and articles that were written at the end of 2011 for publication online. Part One is intended as an overall guide and summary of the main things you need to know about letting a property in England and Wales, while Part Two comprises a series of individual articles on a variety of letting-related topics. There may be some elements of overlap between the two parts of the book, but you can be assured that all the information contained in this publication will help make your time as a landlord easier and more rewarding.

Subjects covered include:

1. Buy to Let mortgages — considering the costs
2. Understanding your responsibilities and rights as a landlord
3. Paying tax on your rental income
4. Keeping financial records
5. Using a letting agent
6. Get your property ready to let
7. Tenancy deposit protection schemes
8. Dealing with problem tenants
9. A quick guide to letting for new landlords
10. Top tips for buying a property at auction
11. Property auctions — arranging finance
12. Understanding tenancy agreements
13. Preparing a property inventory
14. The National Landlords Association
15. The Residential Landlords Association
16. Choosing a letting agent
17. Money protection schemes — ARLA
18. Money protection schemes — SAFEagent
19. Tenant referencing and credit checks
20. What is Tenancy Deposit Protection?
21. The three deposit schemes in England and Wales
22. Failing to protect a tenancy deposit
23. Dealing with damp, condensation and mould
24. Landlord’s right of access to a rental property
25. Fair wear and tear
26. Who pays for putting damage right?
27. Damage by tenants — points to prove
28. ADR — Alternative Dispute Resolution
29. Dealing with property tenants leave behind
30. The Financial Ombudsman Service

A Landlord's Guide to Letting costs just £1.02 from Amazon in the UK.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Twelve months, five books, two websites

A year ago today I wrote a post about my conversion to e-books. I think it’s fair to say that in the intervening twelve months, a great deal has happened.

First, I published Gone Bad, a collection of short crime fiction. It has had some great reviews and appeared in Grift Magazine's Reader survey: best books of 2011. It’s also currently on a Goodreads Best Noir of the 21st Century list. Not too shabby a start.

Next up was debut novel Convictions, which also got a mention at Grift (see above) and appeared on a number of end of year favourites lists over at Guilty Conscience (see December 2011 in the archives), as well as being one of Crime Fiction Lover’s top 5 books of 2011.

After that came Heartbreaker, my second novel and a raucous tale of rock ‘n’ roll. Once more, reviews have been very encouraging.

Another collection of short stories, The Writing on the Wall, followed. This time rather than crime, the genre was horror/weird fiction, and again, the reviews have been positive.

Finally, just before Christmas last year, Show No Mercy, a second collection of short crime stories, was published. With this one, I tried a new Amazon programme — KDP Select. With that, you commit to publishing your book in digital format exclusively with Amazon for a period of 90 days. When the time is up, you can opt in for another 90 days, or not, as you please. (There’s more to it than just that and there are definite pros and cons. Many people hold an opinion as to whether it’s a good idea. Google it if you want to know more.) I’m sufficiently encouraged to want to try the programme with a novel, as opposed to a collection of short crime fiction. Consequently I have unpublished Convictions at Smashwords — my gateway to wider digital distibution — and am now waiting for it to be removed from sale in the various stores where it can currently be bought.

As you can imagine, Steven and I have learned a great deal about e-books over the course of the year. We were already working as freelance writers, editors and proofreaders, but we have now added e-book formatting and — in Steven’s case — e-book cover design to our skills. And now that we have three of the books in print with Lulu as well, print-book formatting and wrap around cover design. Those are services that we now offer to authors through our writing services website, which was also developed during the last twelve months.

Another major development this year was the creation of my author website. This is Steven’s hard work and I think he has done a fantastic job.

All in all, it’s been quite a year. Not that we’re resting on our laurels.

The two non-fiction titles I mentioned last year have had to fight hard for their share of the time we have available to work on such things, but each is now fully drafted and in the process of being edited and proofread. We have plans to produce more titles in the series. Another novel will shortly be published, and the first in a planned trilogy will be next to be worked on after that.

Of course, this all has to be fitted in around work for paying clients and we really are being kept busy there, too. If you’re interested in knowing more about any of the services we offer, feel free to get in touch via the website.

Here's to another great year for all of us. I hope it's as eventful and productive as the last one has been!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Moving into print ...

I'm delighted to say that I've ventured into print! Just Convictions so far, but more titles are planned. Get the skinny here. Meanwhile, here's the new print version front cover. I think it looks pretty good!