This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.
An Excel shortcut, how to set up multiple monitors, how to reflect domestic costs in a tax return, how to stay well in lockdown. These are just some of the issues that members have brought to the CIEP forums, looking for help and practical advice. It is a reflection of the age we live in that the responses often recommend an app, a macro, a program or some other automated tool as the solution.
Perhaps inevitably, most posts seeking help or advice are about grammar, punctuation, usage or other language-related problems. But there is a wealth of expertise among the membership on the broader practical aspects of running a business. Most of us are freelancers. So, without admin, secretarial or IT support, multi-tasking has to become second nature.
Business tools for digital marketing
A great example of the forums acting as a resource for business tools comes in the area of website building. Most members count a website as a key element of their marketing. There have been a number of threads over the years with advice on the best website hosts, tools and servers for newcomers. One request for advice on website builders elicited views on six different options and an additional resource for templates – all in just 24 hours! The advantage of the forums is that you get suggestions from people in the same line of business who will be facing many of the same challenges. Other threads discuss resources for logo design and blogs, even links to courses on how to improve SEO.
However we approach our business, there is no escaping the need to keep careful and accurate accounts. CIEP members shared knowledge and advice about key business tools in a thread on accounts software where members – crucially, with similar business needs to the original poster – weighed in with advice on a number of different accounting packages. They have also touched on the pros and cons (in the UK) of setting up as a limited company or a sole trader, how to handle specific tax issues like PAYE or allowing for domestic costs in a tax return.
All the answers
No discussion about boosting business efficiency would be complete without a mention of macros – the one topic that has a forum all to itself. Its threads reveal that we have members at all points on the spectrum, from programming experts to absolute beginners. But the help and advice available – and freely offered by some members – has enabled many to conquer their initial fear of macros and discover the huge improvements and time savings that can be achieved with them. You can also find discussions on the forums about other editing software packages, such as PerfectIt.
And if you can’t find what you want, just ask! Earlier this year a member said they couldn’t find much information about Linux on the forums, so they posted a question and set off a thread with competing views on the usefulness of Linux as an operating system.
Training, an essential part of maintaining our professionalism and standards, is another area in which the forums are a major source of ideas and inspiration. Many CIEP newcomers have come to the forums for advice on how to negotiate the maze of courses available from the CIEP and other providers, to boost their chances of finding the right course for the career path they have chosen.
Tips for productivity
There are always new forum threads on a wide range of products, programs and tools with a common theme of boosting productivity. Topics covered include:
- the pros and cons of laptops and desktops
- the benefits of different time-tracking apps
- ways of enhancing cybersecurity
- cloud storage options.
As we all wish 2020 a (probably not very) fond farewell, it is also worth noting that the forums were a healthy source of advice about maintaining our mental health and dealing with the stresses that have come our way. Members have shared ideas and tips on loneliness, difficulties with concentration and a range of self-care ideas, including walking, resting, meditation and cookery.
Many members cite the forums as one of the greatest benefits of CIEP membership (and some of us probably spend too much time on them – see the recent blog post on productivity!). They can be a veritable gold mine of help and advice, and their value comes from the fact that it is members, many with similar experiences and facing the same challenges, helping each other.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.