...it's been 'grand', as my Nanna would say. Well, maybe not so much in the world of politics but we'll leave that there shall we?
The last 12 months marked my third full year as a full-time freelance copywriter and I'm just chuffed that I still manage to keep ticking over, never mind keep busy *touches wood*.
It's been a great year for new (and existing!) clients, with some really exciting projects to get my teeth into, and a few proud moments along the way. But I don't want this post to be all about me; I wanted to give some of the people I work with a much-deserved shout-out. Here's what happened in 2016:
I've been copywriting since 2005 but my writing career began at a local newspaper. It isn't often I get to write in a 'journalistic' style these days and I was really pining for it at the beginning of last year. As luck would have it, then, the owner of a lovely glossy magazine in Lancashire got in touch to ask if I'd take over writing and editing the quarterly publication.
I jumped at the chance and have been putting together lifestyle-related copy - celeb interviews, recipes, features and travel reviews - ever since. I love it - and Tony Jennings, who runs the show, is an absolute joy to work for. He may be a Huddersfield-born man but he saw sense and moved to Lancashire some years ago, so he definitely has my vote for that reason alone.
Ah, February - the month of lurrrvve. And it certainly got a bit steamy in the Distinctive Chesterfields office in the run up to February 14.
I've been freelancing for the handmade chesterfield sofa brand for a couple of years now, since leaving a full-time role at the Holmfirth-based company a few years ago. It's literally the dream workplace, too, with a relaxed atmosphere, a boss who pokes fun at everyone and everything, and a mobile tuck shop-tea-trolley called...wait for it...'Sweets on Wheels'.
The MD there tasked me with coming up with something fun for Valentine's Day - and the result was this saucy little conceptional campaign:
The guys at Bronco agency came up with a corresponding quiz - and the idea was lapped up by Distinctive Chesterfields customers. Phew! Perhaps the biggest compliment for me, though - this was only my second conceptual piece of copywriting in my 11 years doing the job - was that the idea was later 'borrowed' by a rival sofa company. Result!
Oh and if you're looking for a brand new sofa, head over to the Distinctive Chesterfields site. I can personally vouch for how gorgeous their collection is, since wangling a cheeky discount for a piece or two from the MD. The firm now has showrooms in London, New York, France, Sweden and Germany, to name just a handful - so they can't be bad, eh?
February also saw me take on Leeds-based High Definition as a client - a big coup for me on a personal level, since I've always enjoyed writing about all things beauty. The highlight was meeting the brand's founder, make-up artist to the stars Nilam Holmes-Patel, who manages to juggle several arms to the business while being a thoroughly nice person, too.
Working on a new brochure for the company's beauty headquarters in Milton Keynes, I spent the rest of the time in the Leeds offices chatting make-up with a lovely set of girls who are all really passionate about the ever-evolving brand.
There are few things I dislike about being a full-time freelance copywriter. That said, there can be a little uncertainly from time to time with regards to work; few of my clients keep contracts with me, so it's often a case of just waiting to see what comes in at the start of the month. Scary stuff when you have bills to pay!
At the beginning of last year, though, work massively picked up (everyone in Yorkshire seemed to want a new website, or a handful of blogs writing) and I found that I could no longer manage the workload on my own. Never did I think that when I began life as a freelancer, crying into my tea after hours spent twiddling my thumbs waiting for the enquiries to roll in, that I'd have to bring in some help.
Cue Sarah McSweeney, though, who popped up to lend a hand just before I started crying into my Typhoo for a different reason: lack of sleep. Thanks Sarah, you've been an absolute gem!
Two pretty exciting things happened in April. My pal and former work colleague, Ellie, celebrated one year in business as the founder of Huddersfield's fast-growing MacComms. I remember Ellie confiding in me that she was ready to leave full-time employment and 'do her own thing' and I was right behind her. A year later, she was throwing a celebratory anniversary bash for a company that'd firmly made its mark, not just in Huddersfield but further afield too. Here we both are, laughing at our own jokes again...
The second exciting thing to happen in April was something I used to take for granted: going on holiday. When you're freelance, you not only have to think about finances (can you really afford to swan off for an unpaid week-long break?!) but how you'll manage the workload when you get back. Oh, and switching off's also a thing.
But in April I threw caution to the wind and cleared out my bank account (ouch!) to spend seven blissful nights on a paradise island. If I never take a holiday again, I'll be happy I had that one.
May was perhaps my busiest month working for The Evergreen Agency - one of my longest-standing clients. I've been working for its founder, Aaron - and later, with his lovely wife Harriet on projects for her own creative company - for some time, so it was exciting to finally meet the pair of them in Oxford over the Bank Holiday weekend.
There's never a dull moment working for Aaron; I can literally never guess what kind of project he's going to throw at me. From 1500-word guides on keeping rodents at bay for a pest control company, to social media content for big players in the alternative health industry, it's always fun. Thanks Aaron, for keeping me on my toes and adding me to your freelance team a couple of years ago; I've loved every minute.
Oh and if you're looking for an SEO guru to help spruce up your site, I can thoroughly recommend Aaron. He's done the same for me and it's given my website a real boost and increased enquiries pretty significantly.
June's my birthday month - yeeha! I'm letting you know now, so you know...you can drop some cake off when it comes round again.
Joking aside, June was a great month for Paul Shakeshaft at Yazz Hair in Leeds. I've been working with Paul for some years now and he's, hands down, one of the nicest people I know. He now owns three salons and a training academy and June was a hectic month for the salon, with a new apprenticeship scheme launched and plenty of success stories amongst the team.
If you're in or around Leeds and need a hair cut, get yourself there. You'll be given some good old Yorkshire hospitality (and a proper cuppa!) and you won't feel like you're enduring the usual hairdresser small-talk. I can always be sure of a good, non-forced chat in there and everyone's just lovely. Plus, you get one of those Biscoff biscuits with your tea. Reason enough to go, surely?
June was also the month that the lovely Charlie from Seb & Charlie popped by my blog to tell all about why you should hire a freelance designer. Charlie's a lovely lass and really blimming talented too, so you should definitely book her for a project or two. You won't be disappointed.
Around the July mark, Jordan Myers at JLM Electrical hit 'publish' on his brand new website - and it really was great to lend a hand on the copywriting side of things.
Jordan's a great guy - and he's another example of someone who took the plunge to go self-employed and has never looked back. If you need an electrican, Jordan and his team should be your first port of call. They've worked with some huge companies and they're a friendly bunch, too.
Also in July, I took on a new client in the form of Castlefield-based My Appliances. The firm was on the lookout for a West Yorkshire freelance copywriter who could put together a blog or two a week for its lifestyle branch of the site. It's been lots of fun coming up with new posts for the blog, which is read by thousands of people each week, and I reckon I've learned a thing or two about cooking as well. Good, because my failsafe evening meal is generally something on toast.
Psst! Need a new cooker? Don't miss My Appliances' January sale.
In August, an email pinged into my inbox from an old colleague. He'd recently joined Chemist.co.uk and wanted to take on a freelancer - me (cheers, Steve!) - to keep the site's blog updated with content. A jaunt to their Rochdale offices included a mini tour around the online pharmacy's huge warehouse and a few free products to take home (again, cheers Steve - and Brent!) and I was ready to tackle a pretty hefty brief of 24 blogs per month.
While the blog's yet to go live, there's plenty of content waiting to be published on the site.
If you want to stock up on paracetemol, toiletries and all those other essentials, head on over to Chemist.co.uk for quick delivery and really good prices. Apparently, this is flying (or should that be 'walking') off the shelves at the moment.
As a freelance copywriter, you can find yourself writing about all sorts of weird and wonderful topics. Wind turbines, rodent control, leeches...are just a few of the more recent briefs I've taken on.
The work may be varied but it's not that often that a request comes in that is right up your alley. But in September, the people behind the Oxford Dictionary got in touch to ask little old me to write something. I was in my element, I have to say.
Despite copywriting professionally for over a decade, I can often be found questioning my abilities and worrying over the placement of each and every punctuation mark. So a commission from the 'Kings and Queens of Words' (not their official title, of course) was enough to restore my faith in myself.
Simon Thomas of the Oxford Dictionaries site has since moved on and has a brand new role, but I wanted to thank him for sending me a few more commissions after this one. He's a really lovely chap (I hope no one's counting how many times I've said 'lovely' in this post) and someone I'll definitely be keeping in touch with.
Before I could worry that my Oxford Dictionaries commission was a writer's fluke (they do happen!), I received another brief via Simon and the team. This time, they wanted me to write about coffee - a subject I'm all too familiar with.
October was also the month I got a call from Leeds-based Success Flow, who wanted me to help out on an email marketing project or two from their gorgeous Clarence Dock offices.
Often, in the freelance writing game you can feel as though you're 'floating around' a bit- and sometimes, you don't truly feel part of a team when you're contracted to work in an office. Success Flow made sure I was right at home, though. A shout out to Laura Parker, in particular, who's a fellow copywriter and a really nice person to boot. There's a theme here isn't there? Okay, okay, so I don't work with anyone who isn't nice.
November was another busy month.
First up, I helped Steven Naylor at the Waverley Consultancy on a project for an interiors site. I worked with Stephen at Faith PR a few years ago - and if you're looking for someone to manage your marketing and communications, I can hand on heart say he won't let you down.
The penultimate month of the year also brought in new work from Bingley company, SMF Print - and I absolutely loved heading to their offices, tucked away off a little sidestreet in what was once a charming old cottage. The guys at SMF - headed up by Andrew Fletcher - made me feel so welcome. I even went away with a big tin of Teapigs tea - cheers, Andrew!
This is a brand that's doing fantastically and, realising they needed to shout a little more about their achievements (modest Yorkshire folk for you, right there!) they wanted me to get involved by crafting some copy for their new site. I can't wait to see it up and running very soon.
Alongside my usual projects for Distinctive Chesterfields and The Evergreen Agency, a new brief came in from the lady behind a new site set up to help people from the UK get the most from a trip to Poland.
Poland-born Ewelina has worked hard to create 'Poland Concierge' (the site's due to go live soon) and it points anyone visiting the country in the right direction when it comes to eveything from where to get your shoes shined to where to find a nice cup of tea.
On top of writing the copy for Poland Concierge, I received a new project from Leisure Jobs - a company I've been working with for a couple of years. I've been asked to put together 10 mammoth guides on various jobs - so if you're after a role in the leisure industry, or know someone who is, keep an eye on the site. The work comes in via Sean Revell, who is living the freelance dream...jetting here, there and everywhere with his laptop and working from wherever the mood takes him.
Not to end this blog on a low point but the latter half of December was spent in bed with the big, bad flu (tea and sympathy please?) but a walk along Morecambe promenade on New Year's Day really perked me up - would you look at that view!
So, how was 2016 for you - and what was the highlight? I'd love to know.
Oh, and I can feel it in my bones that 2017 is going to be a smasher of a year; can you?
Until next time...