Category Archives: Articles

A Simple Backup Routine for Freelancers and Micro-Businesses

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]There’s nothing that strikes fear into the heart of a freelancer quite like that ominous clunk of a hard drive that’s decided it has had enough of this world.  And all the while we have hard drives with moving parts, it’s not a problem that’s going to leave us.

Six months ago, I replaced my desktop PC and, not long afterwards, my external hard drive.  Thank goodness for regular backups and a pair of hard drives that decided to die two months apart and not in a suicide pact.  I have, however, since updated my backup regime to cope with such an eventuality, a good thing too as my 6-month-old PC sounds as though it may need to go back to the manufacturers.

There is no fail-safe method for protecting your data but you will save yourself a lot of pain if you back up your data every day that it changes and to a separate physical device from the one where it normally resides.

To minimise the impact of a catastrophic failure without breaking the bank:

1. Purchase an external hard drive (external HDD).  Buy the biggest size that you can afford, even bigger than the storage space on your PC – you may upgrade your PC or at least its hard drive before you know it!  I own this one and it is under £50 now, with free delivery.

2. DON’T start copying things randomly.  Go to this fantastic website and download the Freeware version of Syncback – if you love it, as I’m sure you will, you can always make a donation or upgrade to one of the paid versions of the software.

3. Install Syncback and start creating profiles to copy your data to the hard drive, starting with ‘My Documents’.  Set it up to back up at the same time every day, preferably when you have finished working and when your PC and hard drive are still switched on and connected to each other.

Don’t forget to look out for data files that may be hiding on your C: drive – search for Outlook and Windows Live Mail files, for example, and then create a new profile to back up the parent folder to your hard drive.

You now have a daily back-up routine!

4. Consider backing up your files to a second hard drive for extra security, perhaps on a weekly basis.  Or even look at online services – that way, your data will even be safe if your house burns down or is burgled!  I am currently using the 2Gb of free disk space provided by Dropbox and I’ve just signed up for a free trial with Mozy.

If you’re unconvinced of the benefits of online back-up, why not check out Mozy’s cautionary tale of two air crash survivors?![tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]


The Rise of the Freelancer – 5 Reasons to Hire One and 5 More to be One

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]Tough times often result in tough decisions and if you have ever been called in to see your boss and watched him or her squirming uncomfortably and using words like “consultation”, “at risk” and “best of luck”, then you belong to a growing army of experienced and valuable workers whose skills are “no longer required.” 

Or are they?

How many of us offer ourselves straight back to our former employers?  You may think you’re the last person they want on the team but it’s not necessarily the case.

How often have you had to let valuable members of staff go and wished you could have them back, if only for a few hours a week?

I found out almost by accident that my last two employers had work for me when I asked them for references and happened to mention that I was thinking of freelancing and they went on to become my first two clients.

Five Reasons to Hire a Freelancer

  1. Make savings without compromising the high standards your clients have come to expect.
  2. Gain immediate control of your finances by hiring people only when you need them.  Some freelancers will be willing to work without a weekly minimum number of hours because they know it will encourage repeat business – I’m one of them.
    Note: This is not the same as taking someone back as contractor – a practice that will invariably cost you a small fortune and could land you in trouble with HM Customs and Revenue!
  3. Benefit from an increase in productivity and quality – your freelancer values repeat business and will make every hour count.
  4. Relax, knowing that you can end the arrangement whenever you like and without causing offence – a good freelancer will know that it’s just business.
  5. Focus on doing what you do best.

Five Reasons to be a Freelancer

  1. Be your own boss – a particular boon if you don’t enjoy office politics.
  2. Work flexible hours and achieve work-life balance without feeling guilty.
  3. Choose your clients – you’ll be happy and they will as well, knowing that you really want to work for them.
  4. Enjoy every minute that you are working knowing that you don’t have to accept projects that don’t interest you.
  5. Focus on doing what you do best.

Can Anyone be a Freelancer?

No, but if you enjoy variety and can accept some uncertainty, it could be the best move you ever made!

Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to RedditAdd to StumbleUponAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Twitter[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]

My Recipe for Success!

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]This article was originally published on the Success Network blog, a great resource for women in business!

My Greatest Success in Business

I measure my success on an ongoing basis by the amount of repeat business I get.  There are individual achievements that stand out though and one was when the BBC published a press release of mine unchanged on its website.

My Greatest Challenge in Business

When you run your own business or work as a sole trader, you take on everything and become MD, employee, PA, IT Consultant, Sales and Marketing Director and HR Manager all at once!  Sometimes it can be frustrating when all you want to do is focus on what you do best, whilst keeping your overheads down. However, it has given me a greater understanding of the challenges that my clients face and, if I’m honest, I took a lot of these support services for granted when I was an employee.

Just over a year ago, I joined one of Success Network’s Inner Circles and when I’m really stuck, I look to my fellow members for ideas and support. I’m also considering hiring a virtual PA.

What I do Outside of Work

When I’m not working, I am looking after my children, aged 4 and 2, and ferrying them to and from swimming and music lessons – I never realised that the taxi days would start so soon!  I try to get out in the garden when I can; my grandfather was a professional gardener and I like to think I have inherited his enthusiasm, if not all of the talent!

After writing, music is a real passion for me.  It’s not so easy to spend time playing the piano with two `helpers’ at my side but I am a member of the Elentone Singers, based in Cox Green, and this means I can indulge myself with a bit of `me time’ every Thursday.

I also enjoy photography.  I have an entry-level digital SLR, which produces great results, but I still go to my friend and fellow IC member, photographer Alison Crown, for the really clever stuff.

How I Achieve Work-Life Balance

It’s hard!  When I first started out in business, I was working evenings so that I could look after my son during the day.  It was stressful because my husband couldn’t always be home early, so I would sometimes be working into the night.  We also missed out on valuable time together.  Now that I have part-time childcare, the pressure has eased.  It’s not easy with small children though and you really do need to feel passionate about what you are doing to make the sacrifices worthwhile.

Words of Advice for Women in Business

  1. Working from home can be great, but you need to be careful not to be distracted by domestic pressures.  Even when you plan your day really well, you can be knocked off track by appliances breaking down, unexpected visitors and calls, sick children or building projects.  Yes, all of these things have happened to me!
  2. Don’t count on being able to work and watch your children at the same time – you can’t. Try to arrange childcare and/or work in the evenings when they are asleep.  The biggest mistake I ever made was to take on a project on the basis that my son had two naps a day.  On the first day, he decided to switch to one!
  3. Try to switch off when you have finished.  If you can work in a spare room and shut the door at the end of the day, so much the better.
  4. Value yourself and your work – it is important, not just a hobby.
  5. Seek support from other businesswomen who will all be facing similar issues and challenges.

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]Catherine Osborn is a freelance writer who helps to take the pain out of creating well-written, compelling copy.  Find out more at

“Shaping Progress” – Why Women in Business need International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March has been marked by women’s groups around the world for 99 years. IWD’s is held in honour of the day, in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York demanding better pay, shorter hours and voting rights.

International Women’s Day is a day that inspires women everywhere to achieve their full potential whilst celebrating major achievements in the struggle for equality, justice, and peace. Recognised by the United Nations, some countries even have a national holiday on 8 March!

Significant progress and change has been achieved in society’s attitude to women’s equality, but despite offering women more choices than they may have had two or three decades ago, this special event is by no means obsolete.

We may have more women in the boardroom and many highly-visible female role models in every aspect of our society, but it is easy to forget that women still don’t benefit from equal pay, nor are they present in equal numbers in the higher echelons of business or politics. Worldwide, women receive 30 to 40 per cent less pay than men for the same work, they have more limited access to education and proper health care and are exposed to higher levels of violence.

Recent research* has also shown that women in this country are still finding it hard to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ to get positions on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies. In fact, the number of female CEOs decreased in 2006. Part of the reason may be that many women have an ‘inner inhibitor’: with success coming at too high a personal price, they shun the boardroom as a consequence.

Where women business owners are concerned, research in Scotland* has shown that men are 72% more likely than women to be the owner or manager of an entrepreneurial business over three-and-a-half years old. Although the number of women starting businesses is actually far higher than five years ago, women are still facing barriers that prevent them from achieving long-term success. It is also thought that women are less likely to believe that they have the skills to start a business and that they are more likely to fear failure.

In 2004, Aurora was commissioned by the DTI’s Small Business Service to identify the barriers women face and their needs when starting and growing a business. These include having knowledge about finance, gaining access to women-owned business networks and successful women business-owner role models.

The Success Network for women in business was founded in 2005 with the aim to fill a gap between networking and personal & professional development in order to help women progress their businesses. Success Network not only connects professional and business women but provides a stimulating learning environment that offers women vital stepping stones to success:

  • exchange of information
  • peer-level support, encouragement and motivation
  • knowledge and skills to overcome challenges and barriers in business, and
  • personal development to help women achieve their full potential

Success Network has teamed up with Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce and Businesslink this year, to host its fifth celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March 2010. Called “Essential Business Secrets for Success”, the event will again be packed with motivational learning, inspirational speakers, including Liz Jackson MBE, fun and plenty of opportunities to connect with like-minded women.

Details are available on or for further information, please contact Ute Wieczorek-King, or 07729 212299

*Research and figures provided by UN and TUC websites as well as


About the Authors:

Ute Wieczorek-King, business coach and co-founder of Success Network –
Catherine Osborn, freelance writer –

Don’t Leave it Too Late – How Social Networking can Kick-Start your Writing

This morning, we woke up to the news that Boyzone’s Stephen Gately had died suddenly, at the age of 33. 

When young people die, it is always shocking but particularly so when it is unexpected.  It is not so much the reminder that we are mortal or that life is short – we all know that don’t we? – but the realization that this was not in their immediate plan.  Like Michael Jackson earlier in the year, Stephen was on the verge of a world tour.  Dying wasn’t on his agenda just like it isn’t on mine.  It’s the thought that I could pop out for milk and never drink that cup of tea on the worktop that I find particularly chilling.

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20 Goto 10: Memories of the Technological Revolution

I’m not terribly old but still, I grew up in the pre-internet era.  We used the landline to speak to our friends but mostly, we would take the opportunity when we were together, to make plans for the next time. 

If we didn’t see each other for a few days, we might write each other letters on brightly-coloured note paper and hand them over to read during lessons.  The 1980s equivalent of an SMS would have been a hastily-scribbled note passed under the desk.

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Four Tips to Avoid Email Misfortune

Doh!If you want to send a newsletter to your clients, there’s nothing simpler – you can sign up to a package and manage your newsletters online. 

When HTML newsletters were new, however, these services did not exist and it fell to me to design a template to be used with the company’s two email clients – Outlook and a sales database with an email add-on.

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Knowing your Audience

When I worked in IT, one of our US clients, who was completely unaware of that variety of English often referred to as ‘British’ or ‘International’, wrote to us to say, “If you can’t even spell properly, how do you expect us to trust your products?” 

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Grammar Cops and Crooks

Concerned about my finances, perhaps, a French pal of mine hesitated to teach me the difference between fine wine and the cheap plonk that I was more accustomed to glugging on a Friday night. “If I teach you to appreciate a good wine,” he said seriously, “you’ll never be able to drink that cheap rubbish again.” I decided to take the risk and that sparkling wine with real strawberries, not just nuances, became a distant but happy memory.

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