Handwriting

Handwriting

Handwriting practice. I remember it well. Having been in primary school in the 70s we were taught ‘joined up’ or cursive writing. I remember the hooks, loops and lines, descenders and flow. We started with thick chiselled pencils, tracing paper held in place with paperclips over the tattered well-used school books. A line of c’s. A line of a’s. A line of ca’s. 

Over and over. Practice makes perfect. Beautiful flowing script. 

Then one day we were given ink pens. And my handwriting came undone. Blot by smudge.

For I am a leftie. Left-handed. ‘Cack-handed’. 

I remember having a permanent midnight blue tinge to the outside edge of my little finger where it relentlessly followed my pen across the still wet words. 

At school I have saw left-handed classmates write almost upside down, their wrists contorted into hooks to avoid the ink. When in secondary school and made to write pages and pages of geography notes from an overhead projector I started turning my exercise book 90 degrees. We were using biros by then but the smudging problem remained.

One year, around the age of 10, I had some masochistic urge to learn calligraphy – I know! I even had a left-handed nib on my pen but the books were soon disappointingly discarded.

Ink splodges aside though my handwriting may not be fully cursive (similar to most adults according to the National Handwriting Association) but it is still mostly ‘joined up’ and legible, having evolved to write with the pen higher than the rest of my hand. My writing is neat when I want it to be and fast flowing when required. 

In my work, typing up others’ notes, I have seen and transcribed all sorts of handwriting from beautiful Victorian script to words that start with a letter only to become nothing more than a wavy line leaving me scratching my head. 

The written word has been around for a very long time. Over 5,000 years in fact.  Of course it has continually changed and now more and more our pens have been superseded by keys. Even the greetings cards, only a few years ago we always wrote by hand, are now easily ordered online and arrive in print form. Yet who doesn’t love to see a handwritten envelope on the door mat? 

I most certainly do!

 

National Handwriting Day for 2021 is 23 January. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Here’s a Fun little quiz to see what your handwriting says about you.

  • A look at some basic graphology to compare your handwriting personality – The Independent

  • Write someone a letter, a poem or just a few lines in a nice card

  • Sign up to a postcard group

  • Find a nice notebook and start a diary or journal

  • Try your hand at some calligraphy – there are lots of tutorials on YouTube

Take A Letter Relaunch

Take A Letter Relaunch

Out with the old…definitely!

Most of us will all be happy to see the back of 2020 and usher in 2021 with hesitant hope. I’ve been lucky business wise that I have continued to have work throughout the year. It was a little quieter but generally not bad. I know it has not been the same for other businesses, small or otherwise. For a lot of people there has been more time to dwell, reflect and consider what is important. For me I decided it was time for a Take A Letter Relaunch.

Sometime over the past few months, and not before time considering I have been a virtual assistant for a few years now, I finally decided on my niche. When I considered starting up Take A Letter I researched it thoroughly. Over and over I kept reading how it was vital to specialise but, as someone with nearly 30 years’ experience in administration, I found it difficult to pin myself down. Wouldn’t I be limiting my earning potential if I didn’t offer social media or diary management? Wouldn’t it be better to offer a little of everything in the hope of catching at least one client-shaped fish? And so I did. 

However, over this past year one of my clients needed regular typing work and then another came along. Of course most people can use a keyboard but typing pages and pages is tiring on one or two fingers and I realised that an area of expertise I had, but thought was perhaps a little old-fashioned (I learnt to type with the keys and my hands covered), was still very much needed. 

When I learned to type we were also taught how to lay out letters correctly, open and closed punctuation, the difference between yours faithfully and yours sincerely. This was also how I chose my business name. When I re-trained after a break I learned how to ‘word process’ – how to format, layout bullets, headings, insert tables. There is a huge difference between this and ‘keyboard skills’. 

Over the years I have typed all kinds of documents; building tenders, legal contracts, correspondence, research papers, publications, medico-legal reports and more. Why would I not offer this is my main service? It was where I started, I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve typed on a manual typewriter, electronic typewriter, word processor, PC and now laptop. I’m good at it and, just as important, I enjoy it. Every piece of work is different, I may be typing a subject I am familiar with or I may be learning something new along the way. 

And there it was – my ‘Duh’ moment! 

And in with the new…

I have spent the last few weeks planning, writing and developing my new typing and document admin services. My logo and colour scheme have been freshened up and the website updated. There was only one question left to ask myself really – why on earth had it taken me so long to figure this out? 

30 Unusual National Days

30 Unusual National Days

Most of us have the well-known national days/weeks in our diaries, or at least we will be prompted well in advance of them via the media, but there are many other unusual ones you might want to use as prompts for your social media posts.

Here are 30 slightly more obscure national days to see you through the first 6 months of 2020.

  1. Houseplant Appreciation Day 10 Jan
  2. National Clean Off Your Desk Day 13 Jan
  3. National Handwriting Day 23 Jan
  4. National Compliment Day 24 Jan
  5. Chocolate Cake Day 27 Jan
  6. Hedgehog Day 2 Feb
  7. Time to Talk Day 6 Feb
  8. Send a Card to a Friend Day 7 Feb
  9. National Pizza Day 9 Feb
  10. Safer Internet Day 11 Feb
  11. Random Acts of Kindness Day 17 Feb
  12. Leap Day 29 Feb
  13. British Pie Week starts 2 Mar
  14. National Grammar Day 4 Mar
  15. Learn About Butterflies Day 14 Mar
  16. Find a Rainbow Day 3 Apr
  17. Tell a Lie Day 4 Apr
  18. No Housework Day 7 Apr
  19. Look up at the Sky Day 14 Apr
  20. National Tea Day 21 Apr
  21. Honesty Day 29 Apr
  22. National Walking Month start 1 May
  23. Clean up your room day 10 May
  24. World Sleep Day 13 May
  25. Brothers and Sisters Day 31 May
  26. Hug your cat day 4 Jun
  27. National Yo-Yo Day 6 Jun
  28. World Gin Day 13 Jun
  29. World Blood Donor Day 14 Jun
  30. Wrong Trousers Day 26 Jun

Look out for the second half of the year’s list later in 2020!

25 Things I have learnt during my first year as a freelancer

25 Things I have learnt during my first year as a freelancer

This month marks the first anniversary of both my redundancy after 18 years in my job and my decision to become a Virtual Assistant. So as this is a time of reflection and celebration I thought I’d share a lighthearted look at the things I have learnt in my first year as a freelancer….

 

  1.     I work better in the mornings, preferably after a walk.
  2.     Five hours solid at the computer is not good for the eyes or back.
  3.     I can hear the washing machine finished beep from my desk.
  4.     Prospective clients do not magically know I am sitting at my desk waiting for their call.
  5.     Sometimes I can go a whole day without talking to another person.
  6.     Talking to other people occasionally is a primative need.
  7.     All the couriers have twigged I work from home.
  8.     Couriers don’t have time for a chat.
  9.     All telephone cold call centres in the world know I work from home.
  10.   I don’t want to chat to call centre callers. Even the human ones.
  11.   The family mostly think I don’t have a ‘proper job’.
  12.   The family have enough jobs for me ‘if I’m not doing anything today’.
  13.   I love the flexibility to see friends/support family/go out/babysit/pick up prescriptions/drop off returns as required.
  14.   The Wi-Fi is not good enough at the bottom of the garden, under the shade of the tree, to work.
  15.   My inside desk space is not cool-looking enough for an Insta post.
  16.   I miss my old team. A lot.
  17.   I don’t miss office politics. At all.
  18.   LinkedIn isn’t as fun as I thought it would be.
  19.   I work better the more pressure I’m under.
  20.   I can lose a day ‘researching’ on social media.
  21.   I need coffee(s) to function.
  22.   I do not need something sweet with each coffee. Maybe just one biscuit a day. Or two. Three at the most.
  23.   Selling myself can be soul-destroying.
  24.   A great client is definitely worth holding on to. Tightly.
  25.   I wouldn’t go back to working in an office again if you paid me…….err sorry how much did you say??

Happy Business Birthday to me!  Here’s to many more years of being my own boss! 

Ensure You Get The Holiday You Deserve

Ensure You Get The Holiday You Deserve

When you run your own business going away on holiday is a big deal. A very big deal.

 

On the one hand you have worked hard, harder than you ever thought you would have to and you deserve a break. However, you have built up this business and nurtured it, how can you possibly leave it unattended for two weeks?

 

If the thought of taking some time off is filling you with impending down-time doom now’s the time to plan some cover and hire a Virtual Assistant.

 

 

Tasks your VA could cover in your absence:

 

Call answering or voicemail checks. Some VA’s offer a full call answering service and others can pick up your voicemails at regular intervals. You will need to decide how often you want a summary of the calls sent through or whether you are happy for just the exceptionallyurgent to be forwarded. Depending on your relationship with your VA and how much she knows about your business you may be happy for her to follow-up on some of the calls.

 

Email monitoring. However tempting it is to stick on your Out-Of-Office message if you receive new client queries and orders via email you may prefer to have your VA to monitor your inbox. Set expectations before you leave on what should be flagged, forwarded or answered to ‘keep warm’. Create a template email your VA can use if need be.

 

Invoices. Depending on how long you are going to be away you may want invoices to raised and sent in your absence. You may also prefer that your suppliers’ invoices are paid on time rather than left for your return.

 

Social media. Having built up a good following on your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts the last thing you want is to leave it unattended for days on end. By all means tell your readers you will be away and maybe post some personal photos and updates from your holiday if you wish but spend some time beforehand scheduling posts. Your VA can help you with this and also be on hand to check your accounts and ensure the scheduled posts have gone live and that nothing has happened in the news that would suddenly make your post insensitive! If you prefer not to use scheduling tools then provide your VA with your intended posts and she can upload. A VA can also monitor comments and messages and approve new members

 

Post. Businesses do still receive post. If you are going away for a while a local VA can pop in and sort out the junk from the important mail and action if required.

 

House-check. Finding a local VA you trust means you may also have somebody who can pop round to your house or office once or twice and just check everything is safe and secure. Some VAs will drop off and collect dry cleaning, get an essentials shop in for your return or wait for deliveries.

 

Pets. Cats, goldfish, rabbits. As well as checking your premises or home is safe you may find your local VA would be happy to feed your pet.

 

How much you outsource and how often you choose to ‘check-in’ is up to you but finding a good Virtual Assistant you can trust and rely on will go some way to ensuring you enjoy your holiday and even manage to switch off. Well at least some of the time!

 

If you would benefit from some support while you are away do drop me a message or email me on trudie@takealettervirtualadmin.com and ensure your holiday dates are in my diary.

 

Handwritten letters & why you should be sending some

Handwritten letters & why you should be sending some

When did you last send, or receive, a handwritten letter? 

Predictions show that in 2019 around 293.6 billion emails will be sent and received worldwide. Emails, WhatsUp and texting are quick. They’re convenient and efficient for getting your message to its recipient. Bish. Bash. Bosh. Sent. 

However, if you want your reader to notice you and your business, sending a handwritten note is a great way of getting their attention.

According to a survey commissioned by Cunard 54% of Brits have received less than 5 handwritten letters in the last decade, and yet seeing a handwritten letter or card on the door mat is an exciting sign that someone cares.

Feelings count, yes – even in business!

Business can be grey and corporate. Even if you are in a creative industry business to business correspondence is normally formal and formulaic, and rightly so. The messages are important and need to be clear, concise and functional. But let’s be honest rarely do they set pulses racing. 

Receiving a handwritten note makes one feel important. It shows somebody felt it worth his or her time and effort to sit down with a pen and write. No spell check. No back button. No delete. 

Feeling special is always worth celebrating. Clients and customers are more likely to hold on to a hand written note or card. They may keep it pinned up near their desk or decide to share the positivity on their social media. 

When might you send a handwritten letter?

With so many prospecting emails received each day yours may not even be opened let alone read!  A hand written letter on good quality stationery stands out. It will pique your potential client’s interest. You will be remembered.

Send thank you notes and follow-ups on appropriately illustrated post cards. They will show you really did appreciate their business/help/lunch and you value the relationship.

Including a written note in with an order shows a customer their business is important to you. You may not be able to do this for all orders but consider it for high value and extra special customers.

I offer a handwriting service but it would be better coming from you!

Authenticity is important. You are breaking away from corporate formality so write naturally and not forced. Keep it short and simple and if possible write it yourself. 

(If your handwriting is truly dire, or the sentiment is there but you absolutely don’t have the time drop me a message.)