DIY, until you need some help

Today’s post is about how I managed to turn a simple computer upgrade into a week’s lost work and the equivalent cost of a brand new machine. And though I may have also ground another layer of enamel off my teeth in frustration, it got me thinking.

As a small business owner or sole trader you’re often expected to juggle all sorts of skills that would be the responsibility of specialists in a larger workforce. You’ll often manage your own books, market and promote your own services, manage your tax – the list is long and if you’re a sole trader it may be unwritten and endless – everything’s your responsibility.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t outsource. For some things it’s a necessity. Knowing where to draw the line is the art and science of running a business.

Whether you decide to throw time or your money, at your problems, neither approach is wrong. It depends on the stage of your business and which you have more of.

It also depends on your skill set. BUT how well can we judge our own skills in areas we’re not familiar?

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing

Here’s the rub – not being a subject expert, it’s the things you don’t know that you don’t know, that’ll hurt you in the end.

I like to think I understand how to put PCs together. But the reality is that I do to a point. (After laborious investigations, it seems my hard-drives don’t like my new motherboard – thanks to Geeks 2 U for eventually coming to the rescue).

Knowing when you’re beaten

We all have our specialities and we all live in a world of incredible complexity, that’s mostly hidden from us.

IT folk probably know this better than most, but as someone who works in the publishing industry, I see it too. Publishing information on the web or in print is a process and you get better at it the more you do it. If it’s your job and you do it for many years, you can expect to learn a thing or two.

At face value it looks like the sort of thing everyone could do for themselves. And it is. But if your specialty is somewhere else, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Maxmise your time with macros

Macros are one-click magic tricks that many software programs can be taught.

Even a little time exploring how to use them can save you a LOT of effort.

Macros are simply sequences of commands that you can record & replay. They provide a fantastic way to clean up common errors & formatting problems.

If you’re an editor or performing any of the many mundane tasks involved in publishing, Macros are one of best time saving features of Word. Even a little time exploring how to use them can save you a LOT of effort. Macros are simply sequences of commands that you can record & replay. They provide a fantastic way to clean up common errors & formatting problems.

How do you do it?

The easiest way is to just switch on the Macro recorder (Choose Tools > Macros > Record New Macro). A dialogue box allows you to name & save your macro & to choose whether to assign it a keyboard shortcut or add it to the toolbar.

The next step is to manually perform the actions that you’d like Word to repeat. For example, do a global search for double spaces & replace them with singles. Once you’ve got the hang of it you can create more complex macros that take care of several style & formatting inconsistencies with a single click.

The possibilities are endless. Once you’ve finished simply switch the recorder off. Word uses a language called Visual Basic to record your macros. If you’re willing to invest a little more time you can learn to edit macros as scripts & really create some amazing tools.

Ready to Run

When you’re ready to unleash your creation on your next unsuspecting file, simply choose Tools > Macro > Macros & select Run in the dialogue box, or use your shortcut or toolbar.