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  Of course it has continually changed and now more and more our pens have been superseded by keys.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? 

Happier January

Happier January

Happy New Year!

 

I am sure most of us were happy to see the back of 2020 and have some hope, if a little hesitant right now, that 2021 will be better. It has to be right?

How many of us also have big plans for a more positive, healthy and happier year – I certainly do!

Action for Happiness have been creating and sharing these monthly calendars for a few years. We used to print them off and stick them on our noticeboard when I worked in an office.

Here’s to a Happier January and many more happy months to come.

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!

Sending your first invoices – what you need to include

Sending your first invoices – what you need to include

If you are just starting out on your small business and about to send your first invoices – congratulations! It is exciting to be finally putting a value on your time and work and you deserve to be paid for it.

Sadly you may find not all your clients will pay quickly. However, you can make it as easy as possible for them to do so by ensuring you include all the important information on your invoice.

You can create your own invoice template or use the ones on Word or other packages or download them. You may want to use some simple accountancy software, some of which include invoices.

For a standard (non-VAT) invoice you must include:

  • Your company name, address and contact details
  • An invoice number (this should be unique)
  • The date of the invoice
  • The name and address of the client
  • The date the goods or service were provided
  • A clear description of the good or service
  • The amount (s) being charged
  • The total amount to be paid

You should also:

  • Include the word ‘Invoice’ at the top of the page – you want it to go in the ‘to pay’ pile and not get lost among the client’s other correspondence
  • Include the client’s customer/account number if you use them
  • Quote the client’s order number if you have been given one
  • Itemise your description if necessary
  • Add expenses on as a separate item if appropriate
  • Use sub-totals to make the calculations clear
  • Make it obvious how you expect to be paid – bank details, who to make cheques payable to
  • State your payment terms
  • PDF your invoice before emailing
  • Keep a simple spreadsheet, if not using accountancy software, and ensure you mark it when payment is received
  • Send receipts
  • Send reminders – you earned the money, do not be afraid of chasing payment

You may find invoicing is taking up too much of your time, or you are uncomfortable chasing payments. If so drop me a message and find out how I can help.

 

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!